The final irony in an election filled with irony is the refusal of some voters to accept President-elect Donald Trump’s victory. This group includes more than mere protesters. There is a good-sized movement to persuade the Electoral College to vote for Clinton instead of Trump.
The irony is that it was Trump who said he would refuse to accept the results of the election. The Clinton camp charged that Trump was fighting against the sanctity of democracy. Now each has adopted the other’s position. Clinton herself, though, has not sought to overturn the election.
Irony aside, it should be borne in mind that asking electors to vote differently than they had pledged to is completely lawful. The president of the United States is not elected by popular vote. Nor is the president elected by the number of electoral votes.
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Presidents are elected by electors. These are the people voters actually cast their ballots for on Election Day. All electors are chosen by the parties to whom it is assumed they will be loyal. But legally, their vote is theirs. They are empowered by the Constitution to use their judgment as they see fit.
The United States was founded as a republic
The founders chose this method, and I think it is a pretty good one. You see, the United States was not founded as a democracy. The founders created a republic. A republic is a system in which voters do not govern directly. Instead, they vote for representatives to speak for them.
And the representatives are not bound to uphold public opinion. They are to use their own judgment.
The founders knew that passions could sway the public. They feared that national policy might become hostage to these passions.
Therefore, they wanted men (always men) to mediate between public opinion and national policy. And they wanted these men to be rich. They figured rich men would have more to lose from error and also be more difficult to corrupt. This mirrors Trump’s argument that he is less corruptible because of his wealth.
So, the founders did not believe in direct democracy at all. They founded a republic, a very different creature. The Electoral College comes from this idea of representation. The founders were trying to solve a serious problem.
Nor did the founders want political parties. They feared that would create factions. What could have occurred, and what might yet happen, is complete gridlock. They saw that having parties could lead to an instance when there might be many candidates—none with the majority of either the popular vote or the electoral votes.
An entity was needed that could negotiate, compromise, and create a coalition to elect a president by majority. These people had to be free to change their votes in the course of negotiations. Hence, the Electoral College.
Candidates must consider what each state wants
The United States was a coalition of sovereign states. That’s why it is called the United States. Each state is required to have a republican government. The United States is not a direct pact with the people. “We the people” are the foundation of the republic, but the states are the legal foundation.
The states wanted to be sure that one state would not override the interests of the others. And they did not want any state to be excluded. Thus, each state—regardless of size—was given two senators. That way, all states were equally powerful in one house of Congress. In the other house, representatives would be apportioned by the size of the population.
The House of Representatives would work for what the people want. The Senate would work for the interests of the states. Thus, the Senate would limit the passions of the people by blocking the House.
The Electoral College gives each state the same number of electors as their two senators, plus the number of representatives apportioned to them. No state has less than three electors.
Therefore, any state could potentially decide an election. And all regions, no matter how lightly settled, must be considered. Since any state might make the difference, every candidate must consider each state’s interests.
The system the founders produced compels all candidates to pay attention to states with fewer people. In this election, highly populated states like California, Texas, and New York overwhelmingly supported Clinton or Trump from the beginning. So, smaller states like Nevada or New Hampshire became important.
Without the Electoral College, the interests of small states would have been ignored. Then a broad national marketing campaign that did not take into account regional differences would decide the result.
But with the Electoral College, even those in the less populated states get to have their say.
Every state is different
The United States is a geopolitical invention. The 13 original colonies were very different from each other. As the nation expanded westward, even more exotic states became part of the union. Constantly neglecting or offending smaller states could undermine the national interest. The Senate and the Electoral College both stop that from happening—or at least limit it. Any state can matter in any election.
You might charge that this is undemocratic. It is. It was intended to be.
There is a good reason the founders did not create a direct democracy. It would have prevented the US from emerging as a stable union. They created a republican form of government based on representation and a federal system based on sovereign states.
Because of that, a candidate who ignores or insults the “flyover” states is likely to be writing memoirs instead of governing.
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