Please pardon the quotes – they have real relevance to the short discussion that follows
“A pure democracy…can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will…be felt by a majority of the whole…and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party…Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention…and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”
– James Madison (Federalist Papers)
“Democracy… while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long…There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”
– John Adams
“A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking.”
– John Adams
“The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.”
– John Adams
“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.”
– U.S. Constitution, Article IV, Section 4
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
– Francis Bellamy
Okay. That’s a lot of quotes and for that you have my apologies. But they are helpful as a framework for the short discussion that follows. They are also illustrative of the philosophical struggles our Founding Fathers had with a Pure Democracy and their attempts to find an appropriate solution.
A Democracy is Rule by the Majority – this is the singular defining feature. Stated another way it is Majority over Man. Stated even more directly it is a Dictatorship by the Majority.
A Republic is a form of government in which powers are vested in the people and are exercised through representatives chosen by the people. Republics are bound by charters, which limit the responsibilities and powers of the state.
The United States is a Republic not a Democracy – sort of.
Our Republic is a Constitutionally Limited Government – powers are separated between three branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial – whereby the people elect representatives who make decisions on their behalf. Crucially, people have – and maintain – natural rights. And people (and their rights) are protected by the Bill of Rights from the majority.
It is in our willingness to live by our Republican charter – the U.S. Constitution – that allows us to maintain our freedom. A Democracy, by contrast, is only as free as the majority’s understanding and application of the term freedom.
That being said there are areas of blurring – referendums or ballot initiatives are examples where policy is decided directly by the people – and would prove troubling to our Founding Fathers.
By way of contrast, Great Britain’s Parliamentary System is an example of Representative Democracy – no court or any other part of government can block any action by the majority in the House of Commons. The House of Commons – where power resides – is a fusion of both Legislative and Executive Powers. It is technically a Dictatorship by the Majority.
Hopefully, I have been able to succinctly sum up the great gift bestowed upon us by our Founding Fathers. We have been given a Democratic Republic that allows for representation of all while still protecting an individual’s rights. And this gift should not be taken lightly.
On to the Electoral College.
“The Electoral College is a process, not a place. The founding fathers established it in the Constitution as a compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens.
The Electoral College process consists of the selection of the electors, the meeting of the electors where they vote for President and Vice President, and the counting of the electoral votes by Congress.
The Electoral College consists of 538 electors. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President. Your state’s entitled allotment of electors equals the number of members in its Congressional delegation: one for each member in the House of Representatives plus two for your Senators.”
– National Archives and Records
The Electoral College was established for two primary purposes.
First it was meant as a meaningful conciliatory gesture to the people (remember, we are a republic) – to allow for our more direct participation in the election of the President – while (and this is crucial) still allowing for protection of an individual’s rights.
Secondly, and in some ways more a continuation, the Electoral College was put in place to protect states rights (and those of the individuals residing in them). Our Founders foresaw the growth and territorial expansion of the United States and therefore provided the Electoral College as the mechanism that kept power from remaining firmly entrenched in already populated places like Boston and New York.
Let’s quickly revisit our Congressional make-up. The House of Representatives was designed to represent states based on their population – 435 fixed seats being assigned to states based on proportional population counts every ten years in our national census – these electoral votes are assigned roughly evenly according to population. The Senate represents each state regardless of population so every state gets two electoral votes automatically – no matter its population. Therefore, voters in small states have significantly greater “clout per vote” as they represent a greater proportion of that state’s electoral vote versus a populous state. As a quick example, our smallest state by population, Wyoming, has 3.2 times the electoral clout per voter than the national average (565,166 voters per electoral vote) because their 3 electoral votes (1 House, 2 Senate) is split amongst their 532,668 census count.
The Electoral College helps maintain our federal system of government in which our national government’s power is balanced by states governmental power. Each state’s political autonomy to directly serve its own citizens is enhanced.
There are some other reasons for the Electoral College than individual states rights. The Electoral process helps dictate that no single region contains the 270 electoral votes required to elect a president. It is also a reason why presidents often select a vice-president from a differing region than their own. Candidates are require to form a loose and broad coalition of varying states and regions as opposed to promoting regional differences in order to win the presidency. Minority votes matter – given the winner take all basis used by virtually all states (Maine and Nebraska are the exceptions) a small minority vote can mean the difference in the entire electoral votes of a particular state. The Electoral process strongly encourages a two party system by the high hurdle of electoral votes required – which means that generally centrist views are reflected in each party.
And that is why the Electoral College is both a necessity and a gift to this country.
Do not allow yourself to be swayed by arguments otherwise – the Electoral College is an integral and intertwined part of your individual rights and is a an inherent protection of those rights – and of states rights as well.
And don’t forget – we are a Democratic Republic (not a true Democracy) with a Constitutionally limited government. And that is a wonderful thing.
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