What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: nshepard
The Washington Post reports on a recent bill signed by the Governor of Maryland:
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law yesterday a measure that would circumvent the Electoral College by awarding the state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes nationwide.
The bill… makes Maryland the first in the nation to agree to let the national popular vote trump statewide preference. It would not take effect until states that cumulatively hold 270 electoral votes — the number needed to win a presidential election — agree to do the same.
The Founding Fathers knew that two main threats existed to our Constitutional Republic. The first, tyranny, comes from the top down. The second, mob rule, comes from the bottom up. A democracy can lead to both. A republic safeguards against such results, as does the Electoral College.
Not surprisingly, Ron Paul understands this fact quite well. Over two years ago he wrote an article titled The Electoral College vs. Mob Rule, where he clearly explains how the Electoral College is necessary to preserving state’s rights and preventing mobocracy. The article follows in its entirety:
Today’s presidential election is likely to be relatively close, at least in terms of popular vote totals. Should either candidate win the election but lose the overall popular vote, we will be bombarded with calls to abolish the Electoral College, just as we were after the contested 2000 presidential election. After all, the pundits will argue, it would be “undemocratic” to deny the presidency to the man who received the most votes.
This argument is hostile to the Constitution, however, which expressly established the United States as a constitutionally limited republic and not a direct democracy. The Founding Fathers sought to protect certain fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of speech, against the changing whims of popular opinion. Similarly, they created the Electoral College to guard against majority tyranny in federal elections. The president was to be elected by the 50 states rather than the American people directly, to ensure that less populated states had a voice in national elections. This is why they blended Electoral College votes between U.S. House seats, which are based on population, and U.S. Senate seats, which are accorded equally to each state. The goal was to balance the inherent tension between majority will and majority tyranny. Those who wish to abolish the Electoral College because it’s not purely democratic should also argue that less populated states like Rhode Island or Wyoming don’t deserve two senators.
A presidential campaign in a purely democratic system would look very strange indeed, as any rational candidate would focus only on a few big population centers. A candidate receiving a large percentage of the popular vote in California, Texas, Florida, and New York, for example, could win the presidency with very little support in dozens of other states. Moreover, a popular vote system would only intensify political pandering, as national candidates would face even greater pressure than today to take empty, middle-of-the-road, poll-tested, mainstream positions. Direct democracy in national politics would further dilute regional differences of opinion on issues, further narrow voter choices, and further emasculate political courage.
Those who call for the abolition of the Electoral College are hostile to liberty. Not surprisingly, most advocates of abolition are statist elites concentrated largely on the east and west coasts. These political, economic, academic, media, and legal elites overwhelmingly favor a strong centralized federal government, and express contempt for the federalist concept of states’ rights. They believe in omnipotent federal power, with states acting as mere glorified federal counties carrying out commands from Washington.
The Electoral College threatens the imperial aims of these elites because it allows the individual states to elect the president, and in many states the majority of voters still believe in limited government and the Constitution. Voters in southern, midwestern, and western states — derided as “flyover” country — tend to value family, religion, individual liberty, property rights, and gun rights. Washington elites abhor these values, and they hate that middle and rural America hold any political power whatsoever. Their efforts to discredit the Electoral College system are an open attack on the voting power of the pro-liberty states.
Sadly, we have forgotten that states created the federal government, not the other way around. The Electoral College system represents an attempt, however effective, to limit federal power and preserve states’ rights. It is an essential part of our federalist balance. It also represents a reminder that pure democracy, mob rule, is incompatible with liberty.
Should the Electoral College be abolished, mobocracy will prevail in our country. This is why our government was created as a republic, and not a democracy. The latter results in tyranny or mobocracy, while the former—if implemented correctly—prevents such abuses of power.