If I never read one more report of there being a President-elect Trump, it will be too soon. I’m begging here, please. Please. This is fair warning. I will not be held responsible for blaming the messenger for the message when taking out my frustration on the next person who tells me this is a fact. Even the sitting President of the United States has referred to him as the President-elect, so it is somewhat understandable that reporting outlets and other even less well-informed sources would think that perhaps this is true.
It isn’t true. Yet.
Hand-in-hand with my frustration on that score, the media is full of stories of how the electoral college is not designed to reflect the will of the people perfectly, that the majority of the population should be expected to understand that their candidate lost an election even though they won it. That their candidate would not be the person who wins the votes of the electoral college, the body which elects the President-elect.
These observations are also untrue, and I will explain why both of these are facts, contrary to the numerous sources that report otherwise.
The electoral college has a long and troubled history; in fact, it wasn’t even in the first draft of the Constitution. Originally, congress was to select the president, but this was deemed too prone to intrigue and was seen as crippling the independence of the executive branch, making it reliant on congress. At least two of the original attendees of the convention favored direct popular election of the executive, including the author of the constitution, James Madison. This idea was sacrificed in order to make inclusion of the slave states palatable,
There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections.
Something the defenders of the current electoral college should take better heed of. The numerous slaves in the Southern states, slaves that the Southern slave owners and state representatives wanted counted as people for the purpose of apportioning representation, would have skewed the college and congress towards the South, which the North objected to. The South wanted slaves counted as people, for the purpose of representation, but not counted as people, for the purpose of profiting off of their slave labor. The impasse over the problem of representation threatened the entire constitutional convention, much like the problem of slavery threatened the possibility American independence.
It was the invention of the three-fifths rule, a rule that counted each slave as three-fifths of a person, that allowed for a compromise on representation, and through that, a compromise on the election of the office of president. Changes have been made along the way to the electoral college but the essence of the college itself remains the same; that essence being a safeguard against factions having undue sway over the selection of the executive for the government.
Not the people but the factions, the parties, were to be guarded against.
The electoral college is inherently set up to reflect the population of the United States as a whole, providing one elector for every seat in the House of Representatives plus one for every Senator. Add in the three electors for D.C. and you have the number of electors in the current electoral college.
However, there is a fly in this ointment.
The representation of the House has been kept artificially low for most of the modern age, it was fixed at 435 in 1911. This has lead to an ever-increasing number of people represented by a single seat in congress, a ridiculous number of people that the framers would never have envisioned as acceptable. The original minimum population per house seat was 30,000; but the current representatives for the House each represent about half a million people, at least, with the higher population districts containing about three-quarters of a million people.
This is important, because this is how you get to the point where a candidate can win by well over a million votes in the popular election, and yet lose the election by electoral count. The electoral college is rigged against the popular vote being reflected in the makeup of the college, because the electors are not properly apportioned to the populations of the various states. For that matter, the House of Representatives no longer serves its function as a representation of the people, because it too is not apportioned correctly even though it was set up specifically to serve this purpose.
This means that there will be a House of Representatives of several thousand people if we change the rules back to what they should be. I do understand the suggestion I’m making, and I think it is a good idea. I’m betting we’ll get a better representation of the cross-section of America if we do this, ending a lot of the talk about disconnected Washington politics in the process. Will it be more difficult to get important work done? I doubt that it can get more difficult than it is already.
This latest travesty of an election is not even the first time this century that a candidate for President received more popular votes and yet lost the election as it is calculated in the college, and still I run across statements from apparently well educated people who insist that these kinds of outcomes are to be expected.
I beg to differ. If the system worked as it was intended, then as a general rule the electors would reflect almost perfectly the will of the people, provided that the will of the people is not being swayed by factions with too great a control over the system.
Factions with too great a control over the system.
It is patently obvious to anyone looking at the election results for 2016 that this election was horribly flawed on many levels. However, the presumptive winner is unquestionably the least fit person ever to be put forward as the next president, erroneously called the president-elect before the electors have even cast their votes (slated to occur December 19th) if ever there was an election where cooler heads should be allowed to prevail, this is it. Thoughtful deliberation might actually be the only thing that can save this country now.
The hope that the electoral college represents something real may seem pretty frail, but I’ll take it. I sincerely hope that it is not the formality that so many stormtrumpers insist that it is.
In any case, anyone who says the electoral college is not intended to reflect the will of the people is lying, because it was the intent of the framers to do just that. It falls to us now to insist that our will be respected, and not the manipulations of the various states and factions who wish to control this country through the selection of our next president.
Well, the votes are in and they say the Birther-in-Chief has earned the title. We won’t know for sure until the ballots are certified on Jan. 6th, but really there is little doubt that the electoral college failed to do its job on the one occasion that its job was crystal clear.
Just read back over the posts on this blog. Authoritarianism vs. Humanism. The Orange Hate-Monkey. The various MAGA posts (more of those to come) including On Presidential Tax Returns. When I penned Hillary for President? I made the observation,
I will be voting for the Democrat, because the Republican party has apparently gone over to the magical thinkers, and I don’t believe in magic. The entirety of the Republican Party has been dispatched on a fool’s errand by the Tea Party’s co-option. Until they can figure out who they are and what they stand for, I don’t have the time of day for the party as a whole. If they were to nominate someone who accepted science, wasn’t knee-jerk opposed to immigration, accepted that women have a right to medical care including abortion services, if they nominated someone who didn’t espouse belief in Reaganomics, I might have to revise my opinion of them. I don’t see much chance of that since none of the more than 10 potentials vying for the nomination meet this criteria.
Not even in my wildest dreams did I think they would be so stupid as to nominate a lunatic as their candidate. One that pretended to a lunatic, sure, not an actual lunatic. But the OHM, he’s a true believer, a nutcase. If he isn’t, he’s convinced his followers that he is, and they’ll back him even if he does shoot people in the street himself. Which makes him the equal of every tin-pot dictator that ever strutted his hour upon the stage…
But it doesn’t make him eligible to be president. He isn’t eligible to be president.
Undiagnosed mental instability aside, he refuses to comply with the constitution’s emoluments clause. Isn’t going to divest himself of his businesses. He has named appointees who will clearly gut every department of the federal government just based on their stated previous desires. Only the military will be preserved; and that will, of course, be enlarged. He’s planning to profit form being president, this swindler of a man, and he isn’t even being coy about it. We cannot allow him to take office. If he takes office, we cannot allow him to do anything unchallenged. The racist gauntlet that the GOP forced Obama to go through for six out of his 8 years has got to pale by comparison, or we will all be branded as racists along with these white supremacists who are riding into power along with the OHM.
This cannot be allowed to stand, but more on that after the holidays.
This addendum is here for one purpose and one purpose only. That purpose is to point out that the Electoral College has failed to do its only job in the one election in history that it could possibly have proved its worth. With this travesty of an election in the rear-view mirror it now becomes painfully obvious that we must amend the constitution to remove the Electoral College, or we have to legislatively render it toothless in every state legislature in the US. Since it won’t do the job intended, can’t serve the purpose intended, it needs to be replaced with a simple majority of the popular vote, or legislation that compels them to vote for the winner of the popular vote. That is the only reasonable answer left to us.
A study released this week demonstrates that the best way to influence your representative is to hire a representative to visit him, or go yourself.
It is worth noting that the findings that paid representatives visiting your congressional representative for you has positive results is based in part on the reports of those same paid representatives. No conflict of interest there, I’m sure.
But what this report does show is exactly what I said in the body of this article about the imposed limitation of 435 members placed on congress by congress itself. This is one of the easiest things that we could fix, and it would fix the electoral college at the same time. Increase the size of congress, make the representatives more focused on communicating with their much smaller groups of constituents, much more replaceable by those same groups.
A constituent base of 30,000 people means that my specific region of Austin would have their own representative in congress. A larger congress would be impossible to control externally by factional politics. It would lead to the formation of regional parties and a dilution of power in Washington D.C. We’d need to build facilities to house the additional several thousand representatives, which will be a windfall for the states and Washington itself. I don’t see how this works out as bad in any real way.
So rather than paying more money to influence my congressman I propose we pay the congressmen less money and multiply their number by about a magnitude. Require them to listen to us if they want to keep their jobs. As a bonus, the electoral college will increase in size and we won’t see a repeat of this last election again.