Electoral college reflects wisdom of Founding Fathers

By Bill Pirkle, The Pirkle Report

  • Friday, June 13, 2008 7:58pm
  • Opinion

By Bill Pirkle, The Pirkle Report

From time to time, the question arises: Why don’t Americans elect the president by popular vote?

Most elected officials are elected by a popular vote. This recently came to the surface when people argued that Al Gore got the majority of the popular vote, yet lost the presidency to George W. Bush in 2000.

Amid allegations that Bush was “appointed” by the Supreme Court, the facts before the court were simple. The state Supreme Court of Florida tried to change the deadline date, set by the Legislature, for recounting votes and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution left such matters up to the state Legislature. The state Supreme Court had no say in the matter as it does with other laws made by the state Legislature.

Thus, the rebuttal to Gore’s supporters is that this is all well and good, but we don’t elect the President by a popular vote. We use an electoral college. This is defined in the Constitution, Article II section 1, paragraph 2 to wit: Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the state may be entitled in the Congress …

This group of persons is called the electoral college, and they vote for who will be the President. The majority rules. While we are on that subject, this is a winner-take-all process. Thus, if you win the electors of a state, you win all the electors. This is important today, since many of the states that Democrat Barack Obama is winning, like Nebraska, will, as red states, have all their electors ultimately go to Republican John McCain in the general election. While the states that Democrat Hillary Clinton is winning, like California, will have their electors go to the Democratic candidate. Thus, Clinton claims that she is more electable since his states don’t matter and hers do. This will be her argument for getting the super-delegates to vote for her.

This current system was set up for a very good reason. At the time, and given the technology of the day, it would have been impossible to count all the individual votes. Many people lived in what was wilderness at the time. But there is a more subtle reason for this system. The Founding Fathers, in their wisdom, realized that a popular vote system would result in Boston, Philadelphia and New York electing the president by their shear numbers.

This is true today. A popular vote system would result in the large cities electing the president. The candidates need not even make an appearance in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota and South Dakota, and perhaps Washington state. They would simply campaign in the large cities. A majority of the largest 20 cities could elect the president.

But this has larger ramifications. Much government spending would be directed toward the large cities as payback. The good thing about our current system is that the smallest town in America has a post office. Imagine if the residents of small towns had to travel 40 miles to a large city to get their mail. Nobody would care about the less populated states.

Since large cities have all the social problems — crime, poverty, drugs, unwed mothers, failing schools — then much legislation proposed by a president elected by a popular vote would be liberal, social legislation. There might not even be a farm bill directed at states where few voters live.

So don’t sell the Founding Fathers and their wisdom short. They knew what they were doing. Our current system can, of course, be changed. But it would take a constitutional amendment, and these very arguments would surface. So this is the system and we are “stuck” with it. I put stuck in quotes because it may not be that bad, all things considered.

So when I hear that this one or that one got or is getting the most popular votes for president, I simply say “so.” It simply doesn’t matter.

But Hillary’s argument is a valid one since she has won the states that would vote Democratic in the general election. Thus the Democratic party faces a tough choice. Take it away from Obama and give it to Hillary, perhaps the most electable with super-delegates, or let Obama, who won it, have it.

For the Democrats, it only matters that they win the general election, and so they want the most electable candidate. They are thinking that all the problems that arise by giving it to Hillary in smoke-filled rooms can be patched up with Bill Clinton’s wonderful personality.

If Hillary gets the nomination like this and gets elected, then Bill’s first task would not be a whirlwind tour of the world patching up our foreign relations, but a national tour patching up the Democratic party.

This is a serious problem for their party. So what will the Clintons do? They both want back into that White House so bad that they will opt for destroying the party and patching it up later. The entire baby boomer generation is a people who have relied on forgiveness their whole lives. The Clintons assume that it will be there again for them.

Federal Way resident Bill Pirkle: bpirkle@zipcon.net.


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