*The Electoral College proves the Founding Fathers were too smart for their own good.
The Electoral College allows for a group of people in each state (electors) to cast ballots for the presidency; generally speaking the elector vote reflects the popular vote but doesn’t have to. This is because the Electoral College is designed so that the country would not be closely tied to the popular will.
Normally we don’t perceive this as an issue because the person who wins the Electoral College also wins the popular vote. But the latest poll results indicate that this year there may be a discrepancy between the Electoral College vote and the popular vote.
Since the first presidential debate, Romney’s poll numbers have risen and stabilized so that it would appear the race for the presidency is a dead heat. And while I am an avowed supporter of Obama and his policies, I find this disheartening and dangerous. The essence of a democracy is that people vote and the will of the majority matters. Yet if Obama is able to be re-elected without most Americans voting for him, that would be a problem in my mind.
Even in our republic in which we value the individuality of the states, Obama may be re-elected without a majority of states pledging their support of him. This situation arises because of the differences in population between certain states and echoes a problem the Founding Fathers tried to alleviate. They knew that the country could not survive if the most populous states could ignore the wishes of the smaller states. This is why the House of Representatives is so important in our political system which was supposed to be dominated by the legislature. Back to the present: Most Democratic presidential nominees target a few borderline states and assume they will get the electoral votes of the most populous states (California, Illinois, New York).
Basically, presidential elections in our country are currently won by not worrying about the support of a majority of Americans, nor by worrying about the support of most of the states. The last time this became evident the country became embroiled in a civil war. I don’t believe that the country is on the verge of another Civil War but the rhetoric among some right wing supporters indicate that they believe they are being abused by government and that they are helpless to change their fate.
One solution would be to mandate that the elector votes mirrored the popular votes in their states. But this would not solve the problem of big states vs. small states. A better solution would be eliminate the Electoral College altogether and allow the presidency to be decided by popular vote. I realize that this would put President Obama in greater jeopardy to not be re-elected. On the other hand it should inspire more public participation because the stakes will be higher. And it would ensure the presidency reflected the will of the people.
The Founding Fathers were afraid of the will of the people. But the Electoral College has outlived its usefulness. It is making a mockery of the voting process. There has been a shift to the executive branch being the most important element of our government. So the people’s voice in electing the chief executive should be more clear.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.