You don’t get many defenders of the Electoral College today, and my appreciation for this anachronism will come later. But here we are in election season with candidates at each other’s throats and in reality, the choice will be made by
something significantly less than 600 individuals meeting weeks after the first
Tuesday in November to pick a President based – legally – on these elector’s
My modest research and even more modest memory reminds us that it was Alexander Hamilton, a bon vivant and financial wunderkind, born in Barbados, who came up with the idea for the Electoral College. His concern was that some sweet talkin’charmer with clev er ideas but bad intentions would snooker the populace and keep the genteel land ownin’ folk from electing one of their own. Hamilton, a prototype Goldman Sachs partner ahead-of-his-time, felt that sober delegates of landed gentry would come to their senses, no matter the vote of the people, and elect a decent fella. No kidding, originally you were voting for delegates who were obligated, but not by oath, to vote a certain way. They could change their mind and nullify thousands of votes. Historically, this did not happen, but it could.
Now the other reason folks wanted the Electoral College in the first place was back in the original Constitution writing days it was a compromise to the smaller states. Every state, even the District of Columbia, had a minimum of three Electors representing their two Senators and however many Congressmen they sent to DC. This resulted in each of the three electors from an unpopulated Wyoming representing less than a third of the air breathing voters as the 55 electors from California the Mighty. Congratulations to the little guy. This type of non-direct voting for President is considered a classic Federalist move, again championed by Hamilton, the Caribbean pretty boy who practiced politics when he should have practiced marksmanship and kept ole Burr at bay. But alas, he
What is not in the Constitution is this crazy idea of winner-take-all in a state’s national election. Almost 100 years after the drafting of our coveted document, individual states started forcing their Electoral College Delegates to all vote for the winner of the popular vote in their state. This was ‘state’s rights’ in full glory and it has changed the way we elect our Chief Executive. If Joe Blow wins 50.1% of Georgia’s popular votes, he gets 100% of our Electoral Delegates. And if his opponent should gain 80% of the popular vote in a similar sized state, they both receive the same number or Electors even though ole Joe came up short in the combined two state popular tally.
Clear? Probably not, I had to type that three times. Do not argue with the logic of this illogical process! People swear that it works! Well, Al Gore doesn’t, he won the popular vote. But we’ve sorta forgotten him, right?
This brings us to the part about why I am not so dead set against the Electoral College: Swing States. In this year’s election there appear to be only a handful of states that are up for grabs. Sorry, Georgia is going to be a Red GOP winner and New York a Blue Democrat. We can huff and puff all we want, but the pollsters, book-makers and - most importantly - campaigns have made up their minds.
So states like Florida, North Carolina and Ohio will pick our President. Things could change, but I’m not bettin’ on it. But there is a big upside and that is the damned campaign commercials. Unless you are in a Swing State, your TV saturation for presidential ads will be no greater than a Toyotathon campaign. But if you are in a Swing State, you will be punished brutally for your unfortunate address. I’m not certain, but who could blame folks for voting for the guy with the fewest commercials. Just to send a message.