The devil’s advocate

Arguing in favor of the electoral college

Stephen G., Staff Writer

POINT:

On January 6, for the 59th time in American history, both houses of Congress assembled to certify the results of the Electoral College; the system that selects the USA’s leader every 4 years. While some champion the method as a prime example of the distribution of power between large and small states, others decry it for its repetitive rejection of the National Popular Vote (NPV) consensus.

While the Electoral College may not always accurately represent the American people, it is no less necessary for the preservation of our republic.

The embattled present system provides a permanent voice for Americans of all regions and alignments, while guaranteeing representation for residents of both small and large states, even if some receive an outsized amount. One may argue that in a NPV system, the importance of each vote compels candidates to spread focus across the country and promote an “every-vote-counts” mentality. However,  this does not take into account that much of the nation’s population lives in larger, more urban states which already receive most of the College’s power.

That said, not only would such a shift eliminate the need for candidates to consider and confront issues facing smaller communities, but it would relegate the issues facing vital groups such as rural farmers to the rearview mirror.

Furthermore, not only would the concerns of local communities be dwarfed, but so would those of entire states; states that now have little representation within the current system. According to the 2019 US Census Bureau, Wyoming, for instance, has an approximate population of 578,759, whereas New York City alone is home to an estimated 8,336,817.

This would mean that, for a presidential candidate, the issues of a Wyomingite wouldn’t even compare to the issues of a resident of one city, however large it may be. Thus, with several other large cities and towns in which a candidate may choose to spend his or her time intermingling with the locals, those who call the Cowboy State home would almost definitely face a complete shunning by national figures, with its leverage over the system depleted, and its miniscule as-is electoral significance eradicated.

Additionally, the case has often been made that Republicans benefit more from an outsized representation of smaller, more conservative states (such as the aforementioned Wyoming), while Democrats, who according to Pew Research as of 2020, make up 33% of the American electorate to the Republicans’ 29%. As a matter of fact, in the last eight elections, GOP candidates only managed to win the NPV once. This was when President Bush prevailed over then-Senator John Kerry to win reelection in 2004.

Many would see this as a motivation for reform in the Republican Party. If it wants to gain a broader support base for the future, it probably should. Yet, this only underscores the necessity of the present system, however imperfect it may be. For if the NPV were to become the method of presidential selection, then on a national scale, the GOP would likely crumble.

This presents the imminent danger of the rise of a one-party system. As we have seen in nations where such a system has prevailed over the last century (whether communistic, fascistic, etc.), no singularly prevalent political institution can protect itself from the inevitable descent into totalitarianism that ensues when it maintains absolute, unchecked control over a nation.

Thus, however flawed it may be and however hurtful it may feel to watch one’s candidate lose an election, we must remember that an abysmal four-year term is better than a mediocre life-time dictatorship.🔳


COUNTERPOINT:

On January 6, for the fifty-ninth time in American History, both houses of Congress assembled to certify the results of the Electoral College, the system which elects the United States President every four years. While some champion the system as a prime example of the distribution of powers between large and small states, others decry it for its repetitive rejection of the consensus of the National Popular Vote.

The Electoral College, in its current form, acts as an anti-democratic establishment which serves only the rights of the political minority and challenges the legitimacy of the ever- important consensus of the American voter base. While there are plenty of arguments which support this conclusion, perhaps the most straightforward and compelling way to identify the Electoral College’s problems is by looking at its history.

The Electoral College was not a flawless system agreed upon unanimously by its founders. Rather, it was a compromise between Northern and Southern States meant to preserve the institution of slavery. In his article, “The Electoral College’s Racist Origins” for The Atlantic, Wilfred Codrington III asserts that southern delegates feared that a majoritarian system would allow northerners to elect a president who challenged the southern institution of chattel slavery. This compromise is in line with the equally reprehensible Three-Fifths Compromise, which established that a slave was to be valued less than a white person by the government and Southern elites could still exploit them for unfair representation in Congress. Although some delegates rejected both of these statutes, they eventually became solidified in the new US Constitution.

Yet, opposition did not stop there. Notably, Andrew Jackson opposed the system following his loss to then Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, despite receiving the greatest percentage of the popular vote. Calls for the abolition of the system persisted throughout the nineteenth century, as two more presidents were elected without receiving the greatest portion of the popular vote.

It was only with the Nixon administration that the disintegration of the system was finally in sight. With bipartisan support and the approval of President Nixon, eliminating the system seemed an achievable goal. However, despite receiving a 379-70 vote in favor of the resolution in the house, it failed to garner the support of two thirds of the Senate. Any hopes of eliminating the system were crushed.

In the last twenty years, the Electoral College has failed to reflect the whims of the majority two more times, with Al Gore gaining less Electors than George W. Bush in 2000, and Hillary Clinton gaining less Electors than Donald Trump in 2016. Considering the current political makeup of our nation, it seems that this phenomenon may occur more frequently now than ever.

One of the main reasons given by the Founders in favor of the Electoral College was to protect against an ignorant electorate. This argument may be the most outdated out of all of them. Not only is it unflinchingly undemocratic to suggest that people should be denied a say in who becomes their president due to their education, but in the digital age, information is closer to the average American than it has ever been.

It’s not hard to understand why the Electoral College is an outdated and problematic system. All one must do is look at the history. In America, there’s already a House of Representatives to represent districts and a Senate to represent states. Now more than ever, Americans need a body which can represent their Nation as a whole.🔳