Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thinking about the Electoral Elementary School

Fifth-grader Olivia Samples probably ought to sue her school and perhaps all its teachers.
Poor Olivia was allowed to display her mis-education on the editorial page of the Free Press Saturday, 22 Nov. 2008, in a letter headlined "Electoral College isn't fair process."
Being in the fifth grade, she can perhaps be forgiven for not understanding the "process," but her school and, indeed, the entire mis-called "education" system are to be condemned for not teaching Olivia and all the other students just why there is such an institution as the Electoral College.
This is why: When the 13 colonies rebelled against tyrannical King George, they won and became 13 sovereign states.
Those states formed a confederation, but remained sovereign.
A faction decided the confederation wasn't working well enough (to suit them, anyway) so they met in Philadelphia and wrote a constitution, the Constitution, for a union of those sovereign states.
In order to get all 13 to go along, several compromises were agreed to, including the bicameral legislature and an (almost fatal and far less forgivable) acceptance of chattel slavery.
The Founders had a well-founded fear of democracy, and their fears were proven sound in the last presidential election (as well, come to think of it, as most of the ones before that).
They rightly feared that individuals might well vote for someone likable rather than someone capable, for someone personable rather than for someone knowledgeable of the Constitution.
Checks and balances was the approach, and among those was a filtering system for electing people to the United States Senate: Those senators were to be chosen by the legislatures of the respective states rather than directly by the people.
Also rightly fearing a centralized government, the Founders -- and remember they were organizing a union of sovereign states -- created a method of having the states directly, rather than the people directly, electing the chief executive officer, the president.
Each state would send a delegation of Electors to pick the president and vice president; and those Electors would be chosen by the people in the respective states.
Today, partly because of miserable "news" media and partly because of terrible "education" systems, people don't know and/or don't understand why there is an Electoral College.
Others, who might well understand the why, really don't like the checks and balances and want a system more vulnerable to demagoguery.
There is a movement under way to change that system, to elect the president directly by a popular vote.
Naturally, most of the success of that movement is in those states themselves susceptible to demagoguery, such as New York and California and Massachusetts.
Petr Beckmann said, in his book on "The History of Pi," that in battles between thugs and thinkers, thugs always win, but thinkers always outlast them.
Thugs might well get a democracy, but you thinkers will be around longer.