Don't trust the people:
The Electoral College saves us from ourselves
Matthew E. Caster
By now, you've heard a hundred times that
this was by far the closest presidential election in four decades. Neglecting
the few absentee ballots undoubtedly lost in the mail, fewer than 300,000
votes separated the two candidates for the presidency.
However, the Electoral College vote, though
relatively close this year, does not always reflect a tight popular vote.
In 1992, for example, Clinton led in the
popular vote by only slightly more than a million ballots, but managed
to win easily in the Electoral College. Candidates can win the popular
election and still lose the presidency.
Results like those witnessed in the first
election of the new century have many calling into question the need for
the Electoral College in the American democracy.
In fact, as I watched the election coverage,
I noticed that whichever camp was leading in the popular vote seemed to
hint at the elimination of the Electoral College whenever they could.
I believe this would be a grave mistake
on the part of all Americans.
The Electoral College was included in the
Constitution by the likes of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and the other
founding fathers for one reason: They were afraid the citizens of this
nation would pick the wrong person to lead them. Sounds like a real expression
of faith in the American people, doesn't it?
It was intended as a compromise between
those at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 who wanted a chief executive
chosen by direct popular election and those who believed it would be more
prudent to use the state legislatures to fill the highest office in the
The idea behind the Electoral College was
that the electors, chosen by the state legislatures, would take the results
from the popular vote and use their best judgment to eliminate any potential
stupidity on the part of the American electorate.
Many argue that "protecting the American
people from themselves" is no longer necessary; that now, with our ever-accurate
media keeping us informed, Americans are incapable of making a "mistake"
in electing the president. These are probably the same people who gave
H. Ross Perot 20 percent of the vote in 1992.
The fact is that America still needs this
protection. My favorite quote was said to me by my father one day when
I came home from kindergarten crying because a bunch of kids had made fun
of me for one reason or another (back then, there were several reasons).
He said, "Matthew, any given person can
be smart. Get a group of people together, though, and they're just as dumb
as can be."
Then we went for ice cream -- but that's
not important. What is important is the fact that my father's reasoning
is applicable to the American people.
No, I did not just say that you were dumb.
Don't take offense, but do take a moment to realize that even in the past
decade many Americans have cast votes for some pretty strange things (Perot,
Besides, no matter what our political beliefs
may be, each of us is simply trying to pick the best person for the job.
The Electoral College was designed to help us do that, and as long as it
continues to assure we have a competent president in office, I have no
problem with allowing it to keep doing its job.
Despite the recent outcry for the obliteration
of the current electoral system in the United States, things really need
to stay the way they are.
The Electoral College is in place to ensure
that the person serving in the Oval Office isn't any more stupid than the
law requires for a life in politics. Unfortunate as it may seem, Americans
simply cannot be trusted to always make the right choice for the most powerful
office on Earth.
Consider this election as proof of two
things. First, every individual vote really can make a difference. Second,
the Electoral College is a necessary part of the American system of government.