‘Sense of the people’? Indeed, the Electoral College Still Works

“It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided,” writes Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 68, the paper known for discussing “The Mode of Electing Presidents.”

Yet the Founders likely never anticipated Donald Trump – or Hillary Clinton, for that matter.

Since the election of Trump, calls to end the Electoral College have been on display in everything from opinion pieces, online petitions to protests in the streets. In addition, aggressive actions toward electors themselves have been exhibited.

For example, elector Michael Banerian of Michigan was lobbied and threatened with death, according to The Detroit News.

The Michigan Republican Party told the newspaper that Trump opponents “have deluged Banerian and other GOP electors with pleas and nasty emails to reverse course and cast their ballots for Clinton.”

“You have people saying, ‘You’re a hateful bigot. I hope you die,’” Banerian said, according to the newspaper. “I’ve had people talk about shoving a gun in my mouth and blowing my brains out.”

This is not what our Founders had in mind.

They chose the very nuanced approach of an electoral college, in lieu of direct election by the people or election by the legislature or election by convention. This was to ensure that all parties – specifically the people and the sovereign states – had a role in choosing the person who would be “chief magistrate” of our country. And that the president would not be beholden to special interests, such as a state, a faction or a foreign power.

The Electoral College is a “one-hit wonder.” We elect them once every four years by state. When we vote for the president, we are voting for their – the candidate’s – electors who are generally people of character and longstanding loyalty to the political party of their choice and candidate.

These individuals who have been elected will then go to their state capitol in December and officially cast their ballots for president. Once that happens, the deed is done and the elector is no longer relevant.

With very few exceptions, this process for more than two centuries has provided us with, in general, superb leaders. Simultaneously, we have also ensured the states in our federal system are provided the necessary standing in selecting the leader of our entire country.

While Clinton did win the popular vote by less than 1 percent, it is looking, as of this writing, increasingly likely that Michigan’s sixteen electoral votes will be won for Trump. That would give him an impressive final total of 306-232, carrying 30 of the states. The ratio by Electoral College and states won is effectively three to two.

When you continue to remember that ours is a federal system of government, you begin to understand just what an impressive victory – and mandate – the Republican has achieved in a vote he was supposedly losing by most polls and media accounts.

Another point to consider in the calculus of the founders is the caliber of individual who would be able to navigate the nuances of the Electoral College. Hamilton wrote that the process would give us a qualified president of “ability and virtue.” And that this same person might possibly utilize the “little arts of popularity” to perhaps win a state or two, but that it would require much more gravitas to win the confidence of the entire country.

When you look at the final vote totals in New York and California, you begin to understand just how regional Clinton’s popularity was this election: eighteen percent of her entire vote came from just those two.

However, I think it is probably safe to say that Hamilton had thoughts of George Washington and John Adams when he wrote “Federalist No. 68” 228 years ago and did not consider that the American people would be faced with the choice of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Say what you will about Trump’s character. He still did what a president-elect is supposed to do in our system: address concerns on a scale that had national appeal. Certainly, his wins from Florida to Pennsylvania to Wisconsin to Arizona do not represent a “one size fits all” approach.

Trump is the leader of a broad cross-section of Americans, which is precisely what the Founders were looking for. But I’m pretty sure no one saw this coming, except for Washington who warned us of political parties – an arrangement not designed by our Constitution.

The irony is that despite the angst coming today from national popular vote proponents, the Electoral College system was one of the least controversial elements originally debated in the creation of our Constitution. And, as a matter of principle, the system was devised particularly so that the people would have a say in electing their president.

The people did have their say. The Electoral College still works. As does America. God help us.

This column was written for The Princess Anne Independent News and will appear in the Nov. 25 edition.

  • mark Jawsz

    Sure, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote – but she did so by running up the vote in states such as NY, CA, and IL where a Republican has a snowball’s chance in hell of ever winning – which is why Donald Trump chose not to campaign there on a serious level. God knows how many illegals or resident aliens voted in those huge metropolitan areas which the Democrats TOTALLY dominate and have carte blanche to lie, steal, and cheat.

    • Stephen Spiker

      Think of it this way: Trump’s margin in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania combined was 113k votes, out of 130M cast.

      In other words, flipping 0.08% of votes cast would’ve changed the outcome of the election.

    • Warmac9999

      The estimates for illegal votes is somewhere between 3 and 5 million. Most would favor Clinton. Thus, if only citizens voted, Trump would have between a million to three million majority. But, it doesn’t matter. He got 48% of the vote and will have 100% of the power of the presidency.

      • Stephen Spiker

        Which estimates?

        • MD Russ

          The Pull-A-Number-Out-Of-Your-Ass (PANOOYA) estimates. As I have posted before here, 87% of all statistics are made up. There are 39 studies that prove it.

  • DJRippert

    I’ve often wondered about the sheer logistics of those early elections. How did people vote? How were they registered? How did candidates campaign? How were votes counted and results communicated? How did people find out who won? Sometimes I think the electoral college was non-controversial because it solved a lot of logistical issues in an era where there was no Internet, television, radio, phone, telegraph, car, truck or paved road.

  • Stephen Spiker

    Clinton’s popular vote margin is now over 1 million, and about 1.1%. Both of those are expected to grow as votes continue to be counted.

    His EV margin was the 8th lowest out of the last 10 elections, besting only Bush43 in 2000 and 2004.

    • mezurak

      Who cares. If you want to dump the electoral college then submit an amendment to the Constitution. Then we will see if the other 45 States will agree to let the 5 biggest pick the President from now on.

      • Stephen Spiker

        You care, or you wouldn’t have responded.

        I don’t want to dump the Electoral College. I’m presenting facts of the election that are more up-to-date than what’s in the blog post.

        • mezurak

          The fact is that the counting no longer matters. Trump got the 270 EC votes to be elected. Trying to separate balloting fly shit from pepper is meaningless at this stage.

          • Stephen Spiker

            It’s fairly important when speaking of things like a “mandate”. Trump is on a short leash with the American people. We’ll see if his handlers realize that.

          • mezurak

            There is another meaningless word, mandate. Unless you plan to impeach the guy, his mandate was achieved as of the morning of November 9th. Face the facts, Trump is the Duly elected president. All you are doing is sniping.

          • Stephen Spiker

            All I’m doing is pointing out that more voters wanted Hillary, as bad as she is, to be President than Trump.

  • Lawrence Wood

    Excellent article well constructed and presented. I’ve attempted to follow any seeming logical argument regarding, largely the current Democratic calls, to abolish the electoral college (a major fail so far) and it appears to me to almost totally boil down to our candidate lost, she won a very close national popular vote count, which is of course not relevant to the national presidential election methodology, therefore the electoral college is “bad”.

    The mostly ranters I’ve reviewed on the issue post election certainly haven’t referred to the founding fathers Federalist Papers for any justifications for their positions and I have a strong suspicion most don’t have a clue what they are in the first place. Being a strong follower of the writings of John Locke I am also very wary of the concept of the tyranny of the majority which most Democratic progressives find perfectly acceptable and reasonable to suppress minority opinions, speech and rights. Just visit any college campus across the nation for a clear example of my supposition today.

    Trump shattered the Democratic Party and they are flailing at any justification to explain their complete meltdown at the hands of the American voter. My personal favorite is the new found progressive righteous belief in the concept of constitutional separation of powers after two presidential terms of Obama’s record-setting pace of executive orders and new regulatory actions all circumventing congressional participation. I’m sure the Republicans capturing both houses of Congress and the White House for the first time since 1928 might have a ” little” to do with this new found fervor also. All this will pass as Democrats tend to have a very short attention span.

    • MD Russ

      Very well said, Lawrence. Changing the rules because you don’t like the outcome is just fine in the NFL, which is just entertainment. Doing so with the United States Constitution is not okay. The Democrats knew the rules in 2000 and they knew the rules in 2016. They played and they lost.

      Personally, as much as I despise Donald Trump, I don’t want a President who is elected by New York, California, Chicago, and Florida. Neither did the Founding Fathers, within their frame of reference back then.

  • Paper

    If you want this country to be ruled from the cities by an urban elite, get rid of the electoral college. It isn’t enough that urban culture, including its music, political correctness, movies, etc, sets the tone for the country, or that its entrepreneurs and business people rule our financial lives, apparently they just won’t be happy until rural people literally have no political voice at all

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