I didn’t vote for Donald Trump. There are millions of other Americans who likewise did not vote for the Republican nominee, now president elect of the United States. The greatest irony of all is that those who decried Donald Trump’s claims of a rigged election are now using the Electoral College to level their own claims of rigging. A number of articles, videos, and posts have sprung up, claiming that the Electoral College is undemocratic and should be removed from the Constitution. The logic is that whoever wins the popular vote should be our leader. Except it isn’t as simple as that.
First and foremost, America is not a straight democracy. To risk sounding like your high school history teacher, we are a representative democracy, a republic. The reason for this is not mere convenience. It’s an indispensable insulator in our balance of power that keeps citizens from enforcing a majority tyranny. Many people would stop me there, saying that Donald Trump’s election is an example of just that (using terms like white-lash, etc.), but I wouldn’t be so quick to make such an assessment. Our republic has a unique ability to protect the minority and give them a voice. That ability has not always been used in our history, but that’s because it’s a double-edged sword that has to be wielded correctly. The same power that keeps the majority in power has the ability to throw them out. We could go for the single-edged option, but it would remove a very important part of our political system.
For example, if we didn’t have the Electoral College, political candidates could put all their time and money into winning major urban centers. They would likely focus on the east and west coasts, excluding the more sparsely populated areas of our country. That would be an enormous detriment to our democracy. The small farming communities of the Midwest, the fishing towns of the northeast, and the desert towns in Nevada and Arizona all have a right to speak in and influence our republic.
The urban centers tend to hold specific political views, views that sometimes ignore some of the real problems in rural America. If a constituency who holds broadly the same views controls all the voting power, there won’t be political balance in our nation. Rural America has legitimate ideological contributions to make to American policy and culture. The policies and culture that come from our major cities aren’t the only important or even most important views in our nation. They represent a way of life that keeps the wild stride of urbanization in check, preserving our national love of nature, of family dinners, of wide open space, and countless other classic American values. It would be arrogant to dismiss small town America.
The Electoral College is unfair on purpose. The number of electors is determined by how many senators and representatives a state has. Any claim that the Electoral College is unfair must also be by implication a claim that the Senate isn’t fair. All states have the same amount of senators even though each state is very different in population. Just as the Electoral College, unfairness is exactly the point of the Senate. If we didn’t have a balanced senate, more populated states could impose policy on smaller states that were damaging to them. They would have no voice against the coastal population hubs. That would fling wide the doors of corruption, political machine-making, and tyranny.
Now the shoe is on the other foot and what has been revealed is that conservatives aren’t the only conspiracy theorists. They aren’t the only ones claiming the system is rigged against them. The left, the moderates, and the independents should take a step back and notice the disparity between the rhetoric of democracy and its actual working out in American life. Donald J. Trump is the President of the United States, for better or for worse. Saying that his election was undemocratic is just as undemocratic as his accusations of a rigged election system.
So, no, we shouldn’t get rid of the Electoral College because if the sides were flipped, if Hillary had won the electoral vote and not the popular, the complaints would be just the opposite. Instead of trying to overturn the system when it doesn’t produce the results we want, we need to understand why the system was formed the way it was. What benefitted Republicans now has the potential to benefit Democrats in the future. That’s the way the double-edged sword works. That’s the way our system should work.