As a Republican living in the decidedly blue state of California, sometimes I feel like my vote for the presidency doesn’t count. California has been a ‘safe state’ for Democrats for decades, with 50+ Electoral College votes going right into their presidential pocket.
With numbers like those, it’s easy to fantasize about a nation that would directly elect a president, rather than go through the seemingly archaic Electoral College process. In actuality, abolishing that process would be a grave mistake.
The United States is a Republic, not a Democracy. The difference is that a Republic is ruled by law (the Constitution) while a Democracy is ruled by the majority (mob rule). As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.”
As a Republic, we the people are represented by elected officials in Congress, whom we choose to best suit our collective needs. People living in Salt Lake City will generally elect a different kind of candidate than those living in New York City, and people living in San Francisco will elect Nancy Pelosi. These politicians then make laws to keep our country running smoothly (well they’re supposed to anyway), and they make up the Electoral College, which exists once every four years to elect or reelect a president.
This is important because it gives an important voice to everyone in the United States. Every single state has at least three electoral votes, regardless of its population, because every state has two senators and one or more representatives. If we were to abandon this system in favor of a popular vote, presidential candidates would all but ignore the ‘flyover’ states and send out a fleet of ice cream trucks in heavily populated urban areas with promises of more if only people would come to the polls.
The Electoral College is consistent with the United State’s Republican form of government. We are not a Democracy, nor should we become one. In a Democracy, the majority gets what the majority wants, no matter how objectionable that something is. Hence Ben Franklin’s imagery of the wolves and the lamb deciding what to have for lunch. Our leaders are bound to the Constitution, and may make no laws that violate our God-given rights. They are held accountable by law and by the people they represent.
It wouldn’t be prudent to abandon that system. Besides, as one of my Twitter followers said, “It’s a lot harder to find an electoral voter in the cemetery.” With 1.8 million registered voters deceased, the man makes a good point.
Image via The Lawleys/Flickr