The Electoral College and the Founder’s Intent

There is a movement now to encourage the electors to choose Clinton over Trump when they meet next week. “It’s what the Founders wanted,” supporters say, with backing to support it. “The whole idea of the Electoral College was to prevent mob democracy, where the people could elect someone completely unqualified.”make-america

While I agree that “completely unqualified” accurately describes our current President-elect, I have to reiterate what I have said here many times:  I don’t care what the Founding Fathers wanted. We shouldn’t be tied to the past simply because of what a bunch of rich white men thought about a world that no longer exists.

My dislike of the Electoral College could not be stronger. My blog post about it a few years ago has generated the largest comment section of anything I’ve posted here, and it still generates lots of hits. And it’s not like the Electoral College hasn’t already changed since its original inception.

If you are in favor of democracy then sure, the electors should choose the person who actually won the popular vote.

But ironically, that’s not what the people calling for the Electoral College to choose Clinton are saying. They want the electors to choose the popular vote winner but that this is the exact opposite of the will of the Founders. The Founders set up the Electoral College to stop the democratically elected winner from becoming President if he was unqualified.

Even if you accept the argument that the electors should choose who they want no matter what the vote was, that’s not the reason the electors should choose Clinton. They should do it to send a message that we’re sick and tired of an anti-democratic provision in our Constitution and that we reject the Founding Father’s idea that the will of the people can be thwarted by an elite group of electors, following an arcane procedure that rewards states over citizens.

A solution worse than the problem

Everyone has an idea on how to improve the country.  Some of them get thrown around in memes on the internet and shared by people who say “Great idea!” without ever thinking about what that idea really means.

Here’s one of my recent favorites:
1476706_10153500011730494_700077965_nIn case you can’t read it well, it says:  “I think we should have Congress take an exam on every national bill (e.g. Obamacare) to make sure they understand the bill, its positive and negative consequences, and write an essay showing their knowledge of the bill and how it affects all social classes in America.  Bring in Unviersity professors to proctor and watch for cheating, and if they don’t pass the exam, they don’t get to vote on the bill.”

What a great idea!  Now, how do we pick the university professors and make sure they are writing the exams fairly? Oh, I know! We’ll elect them! And then we can make sure they’re doing their job right by making them run for re-election every few years. And we can have debates and interviews so we can make an informed decision about these professors…

Wait a minute…

Simple solutions are often just that — simple.  And often, it boils down to the most basic question in a democracy:  Who decides?  Who decides that they passed the exam?  Who chooses the exam givers?

When people say we should limit hateful speech, the next question should be “who decides what speech is hateful?”  When someone says we should use religious law in America, we should ask “Who decides which religion?”  Who decides is what democracy is all about.

The bottom line to me though is that when someone demands that we allow college professors make these decisions, I’d like that person to be able to spell the word “university.”

Get your terms right, you totalitarian fascist!

Too many people confuse political terms, and think that if they don’t agree with a politician, then that politician’s views are communistic and therefore undemocratic and so on.  Let’s try to simplify things.

There are two sets of terms to know:  economic and political.  A government has both.


Capitalism.  This is where the market decides and government stays out of it.  No minimum wage, no health inspections, no laws against discrimination, no regulations on business at all.  This doesn’t work, because you end up with the powerful running everything, destroying the economy, and keeping people in poverty.

Communism.  This is where the government runs business.  The idea is that we should all live together in peace and harmony and share everything, and the President earns the same amount as the guy who sweeps the street.  This also doesn’t work, because it completely destroys initiative and any reason to try to improve yourself.

Socialism.  This is where most countries are, where the government regulates business to prevent the abuses capitalism can bring, and provides many services (libraries, hospitals, parks, fire departments, social security, unemployment, etc.)  This is the tough balance to meet.  You don’t want to go too far in either direction, and most of the debate in the US is over how far to go.


Democracy.  This is where the people decide, usually through representative democracy or republicanism.

Totalitarianism.  This is a dictatorship, whether individually controlled (North Korea) or committee controlled (China).  Once more, there are degrees here as well as various types (monarchy, fascism, oligarchy).  But the key thing they all have in common is that the decision-making power is not with the people.

What usually happens is that people confuse the economic with the political.  The Soviet Union was a communist country but was also a totalitarian country, and people started associating the two.  This is wrong.  You could have a democratic communist country.

It’s even more confusing when countries lie about themselves.  Just because you call yourself “the Democratic Republic of Vietnam” doesn’t mean you are a democratic republic, any more than China is the “people’s republic.” The Soviet Union was indeed a communist country, but it was a corrupt one because you know perfectly well that not everyone shared equally in that society.

Disclaimer:  This is a really quick and simple explanation and is meant to be a guideline and a start for conversation.