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The Electoral College is many things (including land and wealth!) but being about all people and their votes is definitely not one of them. It's fundamentally anti-democratic, and it's that way by design. Let's talk about that.
A quick ground rule: don't @ me with the smug "we live in a republic, not a democracy" take. A republic is a representative democracy, based on the democratic idea of popular sovereignty. Res Publica is Latin for "the thing of the people" after all. We good? Cool. /2
So, the Electoral College. It was designed by the Constitutional Convention to place a filter, a safeguard, between the voice of "the people" and the choice of the President. An executive with such broad powers was a new, and potentially dangerous, innovation in a republic. /3
Thus, how that executive was chosen couldn't be left to the people at large. Every framer in Philadelphia believed that to at least some degree. They also knew Washington would be the first president, but who would come after? That was where the anxiety came in /3
The primary purpose of the EC is to remove the choice of the executive from a straight popular vote, to add a filter to the process and make sure the "right" choice was made. Thus, we vote for Electors, each state getting the same number as their congressional delegation. /4
In 1787, what this meant was that the Southern slaveholding states, which were already lagging behind northern states in (white) population growth, could be assured they wouldn't lose their clout, because of the 3/5 Compromise (already agreed to informally by the delegates) /5
The 3/5 Compromise, by stipulating 5 enslaved people would be counted as 3 free whites for purposes of representational apportionment, meant that slaveholding was incentivized politically. The slaveholding states got extra congressmen bc of it. And thus--extra Electors. /6
James Madison admitted as much, in a July 19 speech during the debate over the proposed EC. You can find that day's debates here: avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/d…
but here's Madison's main contribution, and his summary of what "problem" with the popular vote the EC "solved." /7
The key is that the Electoral College, like the Senate & 3/5 Compromise, was meant to put the brakes on straight popular democracy & build in protections for property (particularly & especially slave "property") in the constitutional framework. It's not a democratic system./8
To argue that the Electoral College has "nothing to do with land and wealth" is to ignore the words and intent of the framers. Property rights, in particular enslaved property, were a key feature of the new constitution. Southern delegates threatened to walk out if they weren't/9
To argue that the Electoral College is about 'the people and their votes' is also just plain wrong, unless you mean that the EC was about precenting the actual consequences of "the people and their votes" from happening. The EC tilts the scales, and devalues peoples' votes. /10
We know that there have been 5 times (2016 most recently) where the winner of the popular vote did not become President. In 2016, Clinton won by a larger margin than, for example, both Kennedy and Nixon did in their electoral victories. But the vagaries of the EC gave us Trump/11
Most states use a "winner take all" system, in which whoever wins a majority votes in that state, even if it's by .01 percent, receives all of that state's electoral votes. Again, the number of those votes is determined by the size of that state's congressional delegation. /12
That's hardly a recipe for equity. Wyoming has roughly one Electoral College vote per every 200,000 people. California, on the other hand, has one EC vote for every 670,000 people. One person, one vote? Nope. You can call the EC lots of things, but democratic isn't one. /13
The Electoral College is an antidemocratic kludge, created by a group of lawyers (many of them slaveowners) to prevent the will of the majority in presidential elections. It was designed to protect propertied classes (particularly enslavers) from threats to that property. /14
In short, the EC is the same as the 3/5 Compromise-a constitutional feature designed to protect slaveholder interests in order to secure southern consent to the new union. It rejects, rather than embraces, democracy. It is an aristocratic check on the vox populi. /15
We ought to ask ourselves, then, if this is really how the chief executive in our government should be chosen: do we want to be constrained by the dictates of a system designed to thwart majoritarianism, enacted by men who were afraid of what democracy would do? /16
The Electoral College was designed to maintain parity between slaveholding and non-slaveholding states. It gave slaveholding states literal bonuses for their pop. of enslaved people, bonuses that put the thumb on the scale to tilt elections where they wouldn't go otherwise. /17
To cling to the Electoral College because it's some sacred "protection of minority rights" ignores just which minority it was meant to protect. If we mean what we say about "one person, one vote," the Electoral College should be abolished, like, yesterday. /18
Want to read more about the EC? Check out Michael Klarman's excellent _The Framers' Coup_ amazon.com/Framers-Coup-M…
You can read all of Madison's notes on the 1787 convention debates here:
And I've written more on the EC here: thetattooedprof.com/2016/11/25/som…
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