Federation verses Nation– The Electoral College

I avoid politics on here except for political philosophy or historical comparisons. So let’s take a look at a generality that is often if not always misrepresented– the existence of the Electoral College. Ever since Al Gore lost the election to George Bush in 2000 it has been a point of contention, and as US elections become closer and closer in terms of popular vote it continues to be a problem. Even Putin has told Americans that they have this  problem, referencing that the election for president is not democratic. The meaning: stop acting like you have moral superiority and stop criticizing Russia.

In essence everybody is wrong. The Electoral College does reflect the majority. The misperception comes from one thing: believing that the United States is a nation. It is not. It is a federation. The electors from each state will proceed to the college based on the majority vote of their state. But what the people must understand is that each state’s electors must deal with the electors of 49 other states, equal and representing their own states.

It is frequently pointed out that Al Gore won the popular vote by close to 500K votes over George Bush in 2000. It is also pointed out, though not as often, that Al Gore basically won New York city by that same amount of votes. If the president of the United States was elected by the people, in essence New York city, or any other highly overpopulated city, could become the determining factor for who is to be president. No city, such as Chicago, New York or Los Angeles fully reflects the desires and best intents of this huge nation.

The attitudes of the cultures of these great cities mean very little to other Americans. What may be considered quite apt in New York is of littler interest in Wyoming. Los Angeles, though a huge cosmopolitan city, frequently expresses its contempt for New York’s perceived arrogance. New York, in turn, thinks LA is nothing but superficial glitter and philistines.  A system that allows a single city’s populace to control the federation is a dangerous system.

The people elect no Federal position. They never have, nor ever can in a federation. They elect their state officials and representatives. In turn, the states come together for the federation in Washington DC. Even US Senators and Congressmen are not Federal offices, though they are officially called that. Each actually represents their state and legislature in Washington, and each is only elected from within their states. On the other hand, the president of the United States is the only Federal officer outside of the judiciary that does not represent a state. The office is also the only one the people cast a vote for. Federal judges are appointed. Heads of Bureaus are appointed and approved by the Senate/House. Ambassadors likewise.

Despite the fact that the people are allowed to cast a vote for the president, this does not mean he is elected by them. As the only elected Federal officer, he must be approved by the states in federation. This is the Electoral College.

This is why there is confusion.

New York city may well indeed be in position to tip the scales and give a candidate the majority popular vote, but only the states in federation, represented by their electors, truly reflect the interests and makeup of this huge nation. Ultimately the states must speak. All the states. Maybe New York city didn’t like that in 2000. And those who do not know the system think it was some kind of blow to democracy. It was not. The president must be president of the whole federation, and the Electoral College alone reflects the broad interests of Americans.




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