With Trump’s shocking victory, the Electoral College has been fervently under attack. Some are even willing to change the rules in the middle of an election. While I’m all for intellectual debate about the pros and cons of the Electoral College, I have serious problems with those who use misinformation as a means to convince people to join their cause. In the argument against the Electoral College there are two recurring challenges: 1) The Electoral College was born out of slavery. 2) The job of the electors is to make sure an unqualified candidate doesn’t win. Here is the truth about both.
I’ve been hearing the first argument for as long as I can remember. Blacks have been told that the constitution considered us ‘three-fifths’ of a person. This belief has proven detrimental to blacks as it has been used as the primary indicator that America is a racist country at its foundation. The opposite is actually true. The three-fifths rule was solely to determine taxation and representation. Those who believe the fraction should be higher, or not a fraction at all, are enabling slavery. Here’s a simplified example:
If a slave state had a population of 300,000 whites and each state got one representative for each 50,000 people, that state would have gotten six representatives in the House. If they also had, 200,000 slaves and slaves were counted as one person each, they would have gotten an additional four representatives for a total of ten. Since they would have likely elected pro-slavery representatives, the additional representatives would have given them stronger influence and slavery would have lasted longer.
You may say, “Why the compromise at all?” Keep in mind, declaring independence was only the first step. To win a difficult fight against Britain and create a strong country, we’d need all of the states. The southern states would not join the north if they had to give up their slaves. They actually turned down the compromise until taxation was added. With the addition of taxation, it meant they would only be able to count three-fifths of their slaves for representation but they would only have to pay taxes based on that smaller number. The founders were also keen enough to add the line, “…three-fifths of all other persons.” This is key because the south considered blacks property, not people. In agreeing to the constitution as written, it actually set the stage for the basis of freeing all slaves.
The second argument is that the Electoral College was created to prevent an unqualified candidate from taking office. In a Unite for America ad, celebrities make a plea to Republican electors to vote against Trump. Martin Sheen says, “Our Founding Fathers built the Electoral College to safeguard the American people from the dangers of a demagogue…” While it is true that Alexander Hamilton said in the Federalist Papers, “that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”, he did not reference a ‘demagogue’. This is also only one argument cherry picked from many. In the very same Federalist Papers, James Madison, the father of the Constitution, was concerned about ‘factions’. He wrote, “When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens.”
The framers thought carefully about what type of country we should be. In thinking of potential problems and inevitable expansion, they chose a republic rather than a democracy specifically because they knew the dangerous pitfalls of majority rule. The primary reason for having electors was to protect small states from influence by those with large populations. This campaign to make Clinton president because she won the popular vote is directly antithetical to the basis of the country. Their argument is apparently weak when you consider this: They complain because Hillary won the popular vote by nearly three million votes that electing Trump would be against the will of the people, however, they are willing to let as few as 37 people vote against the popular vote in their state. They will then be ok with 538 picking anyone they like to be the next president; as long as it’s not Donald Trump.
We should all agree that this is flawed and dangerous. However, if we can’t all agree on this, we should at least agree that lying about indisputable facts to convince people to give you what you want is childish and abhorrent.
C. Douglas Love