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 The Cross of Freedom

The Electoral College

This is a topic hotly debated almost any time a political discussion arises.  There is a fairly significant difference between a democracy and a constitutional republic, as Iíll address below.  I also address our founding fathers and what we know about their intentions when our form of government was put in place, how this affects the citizens of such a country, and Iíll provide examples for clarification.

Democracy or Republic?

The key difference between a democracy and a republic lies in the limits placed on government by the law, which has implications for minority rights.  In a republic, a constitution or charter of rights protects certain rights (called 'inalienable' rights) that cannot be taken away by the government, even if that government has been elected by a majority of voters.  In a pure democracy, the majority is not restrained in this way and can impose its will on the minority (consider this: a gang rape is the will of the majority and so is a lynch mob).  In a republic, the government is not here to enforce the rights of the majority, like in popular democracy, but to defend the rights of everyone.

Our Founding Fathers

When our founding fathers were laying out how they wanted our government to be structured there were two competing ideas.  One group wanted each state to be completely autonomous and self-governing, with no additional governing authority over any state, and the other group wanted a federal government to represent the interests of the entire body of states in areas that would require it, like national security or settling disputes between states.

So each state has all the same governmental entities as the federal government (head of state, senate, house of representatives, supreme court, etc.) and represents the citizens who live there.  The federal government, in turn, represents the states.

The Electoral College is working exactly as the founders intended - To prevent a tyranny of the majority from steamrolling the rights and viewpoints of those with less popular politics, residing in less populous states.

The U.S. Senate was created for exactly the same reason as the electoral college. The founding fathers knew that the House of Representatives, whose members are based on population, would give a lot of power to the bigger states.  So the Senate was created to offset that, giving each state 2 votes regardless of population.  I havenít heard that anyone wants to get rid of the Senate.

How This Affects Citizens

So, in America, you are a citizen of your state first and your country second.  The electoral college was placed in our constitution in part to provide a check on more populous states maintaining a monopoly on the Executive Branch, which would create a risk that they would then ignore the needs of the rest of the republic in favor of their own.

An example of a republic being better than a pure democracy is when Jim Crow laws mandating racial segregation were deemed unconstitutional and were repealed, and in Brown v Board of Education where the U.S. Supreme Court repealed state-sponsored school segregation.  So these laws were passed by the majority at state level, but then repealed at federal level, because in a republic the constitution takes precedence.  If the majority always ruled, those laws would not have been repealed and racial segregation would have still been in place - If the U.S. was not a republic, laws passed by the majority could not be challenged.

The bottom line is that the federal government was never intended to govern individual citizens, this is the job of the states.  Each state represents all of its citizens equally, and the federal government represents all of the states equally.  You are represented at state level directly, and at federal level through the state in which you live.  If your state is not equally represented by the federal government, then neither are you as a citizen.

In Summary

This was a wise decision on the part of our founding fathers, and was made because they realized that the population of one state could be vastly different than the population of another state.  One or two large states could run roughshod over all the others Ė the tail wagging the dog, so to speak.

Even the pledge of allegiance makes it clear that we are a republic and not a democracy: "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."

An analogy might be to the world series in baseball.  If team A wins the first three games each by 3 runs to 1, and team B wins games 4-7 by 1 run to 0, then which team wins the world series?  The team that got the most runs overall or the team that won the most games?  If the series is taken as a whole, in other words the majority of runs overall, then team A would win because they have 9 runs and team B has only 7 runs.  If the series is figured by games, similar to the electoral college counting by state, then team B wins because they won 4 games and team A won only 3 games.

Another analogy is the 2016 presidential election.  There are 3,113 counties in the United States - Trump won 2,626 of them, Clinton won 487.  Seeing these numbers, who would seriously think that Clinton should have been president?  Without the electoral college, the people in the 2,626 counties that voted for Trump would have lost out to the 487 counties that voted for Clinton.  This certainly would have been exceedingly unfair.

Just considering New York, there are 62 counties in New York State - Trump won 46 of them, Clinton won 16.  In the 5 counties that encompass NYC, (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Richmond & Queens) Clinton won 4, receiving well over 2 million more votes than Trump.  That means that these 5 counties alone more than accounted for Clinton winning the popular vote of the entire country.  These 5 counties cover 319 square miles, the whole of the United States covers 3,797,000 square miles.

In a country that covers almost 4 million square miles of territory, it would be hard to justify a situation where the vote of those living in a tiny 319 square mile section of this country could dictate the outcome of a national election.

Without the electoral college, the rights of the majority of US states, and the counties they represent, and by extension the citizens that live there, would have been trampled on big time.

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