From my friend Chris M:
I wonder how many people share both of these sentiments concurrently?
Indeed. When I hear the words “more Democracy” uttered, I simply hear, “I want to impose my will on you.”
I feel like you’re oversimplifying this quite a bit. I’m not one of these people who says that we should let majorities do whatever they want, since our government correctly has many anti-majoritarian features meant to protect the rights of the minority (i.e. the Supreme Court, the high bar you have to climb to amend the constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Equal Protection Clause). But even though we put things in place to prevent the people who get more votes from oppressing the people who get less votes, usually in a democratic system what we don’t do is allow the people who get less votes to actually govern.
So that is the issue with the electoral college, since it doesn’t really operate as originally intended and just produces a mathematical oddity every once in a while where the candidate with less votes wins. The electoral college was intended to be a deliberative body rather than just adopting wholesale the vote tallies of a state. Take Federalist 68: “It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.” You can argue about whether this would have been a good idea, but I feel like it makes more sense to either be serious about what the electoral college was originally supposed to be (which I doubt many people would want today), or just to scrap it and go with full-on democracy, since otherwise you just get a situation where voters in certain states are more important than others for no really good reason. I’m not going to pretend direct democracy is necessarily what the framers really wanted, since I don’t doubt that some folks like Jefferson would have wanted to have a system where rural states get an advantage in selecting the president. But your post seems to dismiss very good arguments against the electoral college without really engaging the issue or offering anything more fair.
As for Brexit, it’s harder for me to say because if it were the U.S., the U.S. constitution doesn’t allow for nationwide ballot measures like that, so one could make the argument that a complicated decision like Brexit should not have been put up to a national vote. But assuming that a nationwide vote was the correct thing to do there, I think a revote would function less to show that the initial results were wrong at the time, but rather to allow the people to change their minds when seeing the practical difficulties of accomplishing Brexit and other issues. After all, U.S. House elections happen every two years precisely so it can respond to the changing passions of the people.
But the post has little to do with the merits, or lack thereof, of the electoral college. It is simply asking about the consistency of accepting one set of democratic rules because it leads to results one likes versus another set which in an instance may not.
As far as the usefulness of the electoral college – we are long since past having a discussion of democratic reforms – if only the issue were the electoral college. How about the way we do nominating conventions? How about the way we popularly elect senators? How about the number of representatives? And so on.
On a related note, I came across this nonsense (below) incredibly enough published in the Wall Street Journal. The author is unhappy with the fact that the Senate is “undemocratic” because every state gets 2 senators regardless of population (he simply asserts that this is a bad thing). Then he goes on to describe his Rube Goldberg redesign of the constitution in order to make it right.
It seems to NEVER OCCUR to this guy, a law professor, that if he (or anyone else) feels underrepresented in the senate he can simply move to a less populated state.
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