In Defense of the Electoral College, Part 1: A Check on Socialism
by Steve Farrell

Because of all the brouhaha over the Electoral College that occurred in the year 2000, when a President of the United States was elected despite the fact that he lost the popular vote, there has been a growing chorus calling for an abandonment of the electoral college in favor of a more direct democracy, one which features one person, one vote.

One person, one vote, majority rule sounds American, progressive, and fair, but here’s a reminder, it failed in Greece, it brought down Rome, and it almost crushed America under the Articles of Confederation.

Edmund Randolf, one of the distinguished delegates from Virginia, stated at the Constitutional Convention: “The general object [to which we’ve gathered together in this convention is] to provide a cure for the evils under which the United States labored; that in tracing these evils to their origin, every man had found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy.”

Eldridge Gerry, the delegate from Massachusetts, knew well what one of those turbulent follies was. He warned of democracy: “[I have] been taught by experience the danger of the leveling spirit … possessed in it.” That is, its tendency toward what we call communism and socialism.

Madison, the very Father of the Constitution, taught the same exact thing. In Federalist 10 he warned every American that among democracy’s many dangers was this chief one: “A common passion or interest will, in almost every case … [combine to destroy] … personal security or the rights of property … [and insist on] … reducing mankind to a perfect equality … in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.”

Marx, of course, told us that the chief object of communism was the destruction of the right to private property. Understanding the danger inherent in pure democracies, Communists preach democracy, everywhere they go, with an emphasis on equality of ends, rather than Jefferson’s republican principle of equality before the law. Writes Marx in the Communist Manifesto, “We have seen … that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat [the poor, or “working class”] to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy.”

That is, use democracy to concentrate all power in the hands of a minority, or a group of minorities in order to overthrow the existing political, economic, and moral order.

The cure to such dangers agreed upon at the Constitutional Convention, was the establishment of a republic with mixed modes of representation, checks and balances, separations of power, and a bill of rights.

The magnificence of the system is that it established a system which made it extremely difficult for power to combine, whether in the hands of the one (monarchy), the few (oligarchy), or the many (democracy).

The people already had a voice in the House, which was checked by a Senate elected by the state legislatures (a check devised to protect property and state rights). They did not want to then obliterate that check by having the president directly elected by the people, that is, dependent upon a majority victory only.

Thus, they insured that the president would be indirectly elected through electors (who were picked by whatever mode the states saw fit to establish), and then they set up a representative formula, identical to the one in Congress, which insured a successful candidate must seek broad support rather than big city support only.

That is why each state has a guaranteed three electoral votes, regardless of the size of the state, as a check against the second part of the formula, which focused on population.

This was an inspired move. Big cities, which are the stuff of big states, while they traditionally attract wealth, are also centers of poverty, being places where the vast majority of new immigrants trying to find their way, and old welfare recipients who never seem to find their way, are found in their largest numbers.

To then create an election formula that depends upon the popular vote alone creates candidates who will tend to focus inordinately upon the poor and uneducated to get elected. This is a prescription for socialism and communism.

The Electoral College helps prevent this. It insures a candidate must balance his approach with rural, property, and state rights issues. It is one of many checks against direct democracy found in our Constitution, and is therefore a check against socialism. It ought to be left alone.

Look for Part 2: “Protecting Minority Rights,” here at Meridian Magazine


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