“Republicans resigned to Trump losing 2020 popular vote but confident about Electoral College” - David M. Drucker, Washington Examiner, 3/22/19.
This headline grabbed my attention. The “Electoral College” never was meant to be “how our system works,” contrary to the opinion of an Arizona Republican donor who supports the current occupant of the Oval Office. The occupant himself is quoted: “I used to like the idea of the Popular Vote, but now realize the Electoral College is far better for the U.S.A.” The article relates how neither that person “nor possibly any Republican, could win the popular vote when most big states are overwhelmingly liberal.”
From what I read, most Republicans pride themselves on embracing “originalism” as a concept of interpreting the Constitution.
To state that one PLANS - as in advance - to win the Oval Office demonstrates not only an ignorance of the intent of the Framers, but a hatred of democratic principles that underlie our system.
First, there is no mention of “Electoral College” in the Constitution. That is not a semantic nicety. There is no specific body chosen to select a president. Each State determines the way in which its “Electors” are selected: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.” U.S. Const., Art. II, sec. 1.
Second, Alexander Hamilton wrote of the “mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States ... if the manner of it be not perfect it is at least excellent. ... 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. This end will be answered by committing the right of making it, not to any preestablished body, but to men chosen by the people for the special purpose and at the particular conjuncture.” Federalist No. 68. The Federalist Papers have been cited by various decisions of the United States Supreme Court as authority for interpretation of the Constitution. See Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898, 905 (1997). Hamilton’s described the electors as “men chosen by the people for the special purpose at the particular conjuncture” to choose the President. If that was how we choose electors today, one may reasonably infer, names of electors would appear on ballots and we would vote for those individuals. If one is to trust in these men—the Constitution was written and ratified at a time when women did not have the right to vote although, ironically, women were eligible to run for the office of President—a voter could choose each as to that elector’s merits and wisdom.
Third, the Framers sought an elite to select the President. “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. It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity to tumult and disorder. ... The choice of SEVERAL, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of ONE who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes.” Hamilton, Federalist Number 68.
Fourth, Hamilton also saw the electors as a check against foreign—i.e., other countries—intrigue in election of the President:
“Nothing was to be more desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union? But the convention have guarded against all danger of this sort, with the most provident and judicious attention. They have not made the appointment of the President to depend on any preexisting bodies of men, who might be tampered with beforehand to prostitute their votes; but they have referred it in the first instance to an immediate act of the people of America, to be exerted in the choice of persons for the temporary and sole purpose of making the appointment. And they have excluded from eligibility to this trust, all those who from situation might be suspected of too great devotion to the President in office. No senator, representative, or other person holding a place of trust or profit under the United States, can be of the numbers of the electors. Thus without corrupting the body of the people, the immediate agents in the election will at least enter the task free from any sinister bias. Their transient existence, and their detached situation, already taken notice of, afford a satisfactory prospect of their continuing so, to the conclusion of it. The business of corruption, when it is to embrace so considerable a number of men, requires time as well as means. Nor would it be found easy suddenly to embark them, dispersed as they would be over thirteen States, in any combination founded upon motives, which though they could not properly be denominated corrupt, might yet be of a nature to mislead them from their duty.”
Hamilton emphasized this aspect of the electors acting as a separate body created to make one decision independently:
“Another and no less important desideratum was, that the Executive should be independent for his continuance in office on all but the people themselves. He might otherwise be tempted to sacrifice his duty to his complaisance for those whose favor was necessary to the duration of his official consequence. This advantage will also be secured, by making his re-election to depend on a special body of representatives, deputed by the society for the single purpose of making the important choice.”
Fifth, Hamilton spelled out the basic purpose of the electors:
“The process affords a moral certainty, 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. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confident of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.”
Federalist, Number 68.
The Framers sought to preclude, via the Electors, the election of an incompetent and corrupt individual to the off ice of what they called “Chief Magistrate.” To use the existence of Electors as a means to elect someone to that office simply because it is a means by which popular sentiment can be thwarted shows ignorance of, and repugnance for, the Constitution and the principles upon which it was founded.