“The Electoral College was set up with a specific purpose in mind and we should do what the Founding Fathers want,” people say to me whenever I argue for getting rid of it.
Well, fine. If your desire is to do what the Founding Fathers wanted, then we’ll need to change a few things.
- Stop having Presidential elections. There’s nothing in the Constitution about them. The Electors are chosen by the state legislatures in any way they wish. They could choose the lobbyists who give them the most money if they wanted to.
- How the state legislatures are chosen is not provided for in the Constitution either. So we should allow states to just appoint these people, too.
- The Founding Fathers also intended that whoever came in second place would be Vice President. Nothing wrong with that, right?
- Even if the states do decide to have elections, those states should only allow white men who own property to vote. Hey, do you want to honor the Founding Fathers or not here?
Of course, in those days where it could literally take weeks to travel from state to state, each state was much more independent and unique, almost like the way the European Union is now. We were less a country than a collection of independent states (which is why we are called the “United States of America” and not just “America”).
That changed quickly. People started seeing the President as the leader of all the people and not as just some figurehead off there in the distance. (Seriously, does anyone know who the leader of the European Union is?)
And the states started having elections to choose this leader. Congress decided on a date for these elections — because that’s not in the Constitution either — and soon, the popular vote winner in that state decided who the electors were. By 1824, this led to the election of Andrew Jackson, exactly the kind of person the Electoral College was set up to prevent getting into the White House. Thus, within forty years of the writing of the Constitution, while some of the Founding Fathers were alive, we had already moved away from the original intent of the Electoral College.
So for those of you who say we should keep it in order to honor what the Founding Fathers intended: You’re 200 years too late.