My Proposal to Reform the Electoral College

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Roger Stone proposes a way to reform the Electoral College, turning it into a proportional representation system.

I have a better idea: Let’s go back to the system that gave us the best president in US History: George Washington.

The way it would work is as follows.

First, state legislatures choose, according to whichever method they like, electors that match the number of senators and representatives from their state. Then, on the chosen day, the electors meet separately to determine who they will vote for president. They send a sealed, certified letter to the House of Representatives with the details of their votes, who then read the votes aloud in a public session of the house. If any one person receives a majority count, they become president. If there is no majority, then the representatives choose a president from among the people who received votes.

I believe state legislatures would do well to remove the popular vote portion of the presidential election altogether. I believe select committees should be appointed to debate the issue of who should be president and make a wise decision. I believe state legislatures would be wise to choose people on that committee who can put politics aside and think about what kind of person we need to run the federal administration for the next four years. However, if the state legislatures want to abuse that power and choose electors who vote for the person they wish, and thus take on the weighty matter of who the president should be, let them consume their limited time with this fruitless debate.

I draw on logic and reason as my guide in this matter. See, we don’t have elections for CEO by the shareholders. CEOs are chosen by the boards who represent the shareholders. These board members spend a great deal of time finding good candidates and interviewing them. This kind of process is impossible on such a large scale as shareholders. Why do we think it is appropriate for all 300 million Americans to think about who should be president?

If the Electoral College process were adhered to, with the electors free to vote their conscience, then after their appointment and before the meeting, they would spend all their free time thinking as hard as they could about what we need in a president and which candidates would best serve the needs of our country. People who are likely candidates would probably be called in to interview with groups of electors. Debates would be focused on weight policy matters and issues of qualifications, not on political sloganeering or organizing mobs to rustle up votes across the country. Presidential aspirants would have to be well-versed in politics, political theory, military command, and administration, or it would be obvious that they were clearly unqualified for the job, no matter how politically appealing they are.

When the electors meet to discuss their final decisions, the debate would focus on substance, not politics. The principle question would be about our country and whether each man (or woman) would be a good president for it. All the other issues pale in comparison to these.

In the likely event that there is no majority vote, the only body which should be entrusted with deciding the president would be the house. Seeing as how the house and the president need to be united in purpose, this is the ideal scenario, and leads us to the kind of harmony that parliamentary systems have, with their chief executive chosen by the parliament. Instead of regional interests being pitted against national interests, as we are today, we would see regional interests compromise for their own good and the good of the whole.

Which of the above features are found in a democratic, mob-rule system that Roger Stone proposed? None. Roger Stone, I believe, doesn’t understand why democracy is a bad thing, and why the American system of government was never setup as a democracy. He may have a hard time understand why the country has discovered so many new problems since we adopted the system of electing our senators by a vote of the people, rather than by the state legislatures. Democracy is appealing to the masses—but the masses are not appealing to reasonable government and the protection of individual liberties. We can no more hope that an individual would, as a matter of life, constantly defend the rights of others, than we can expect the masses to do so. Thus, the system we have were democratic notions are tempered by republican aristocracy and the tyranny of an individual president.

These arguments are not new, nor are they to be ignored. These are the reasons why we have what we have today. Those who can’t argue against these particular arguments—and arguing for a more “fair” democratic process is not a starter—do not need to waste their time in thinking of changing the system.

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6 Responses to “My Proposal to Reform the Electoral College”

  1. True Epicurean Says:

    I draw on logic and reason as my guide in this matter. See, we don’t have elections for CEO by the shareholders. CEOs are chosen by the boards who represent the shareholders. These board members spend a great deal of time finding good candidates and interviewing them. This kind of process is impossible on such a large scale as shareholders. Why do we think it is appropriate for all 300 million Americans to think about who should be president?

    Because we don’t live in a corporate state, and because corporations are not in the habit of protecting basic human rights. Because an investment in a company is distinctly different from having an investment in a country that can take away your rights.

    Comparing two dissimilar things does not make an argument logical.

    If the Electoral College process were adhered to, with the electors free to vote their conscience, then after their appointment and before the meeting, they would spend all their free time thinking as hard as they could about what we need in a president and which candidates would best serve the needs of our country. People who are likely candidates would probably be called in to interview with groups of electors. Debates would be focused on weight policy matters and issues of qualifications, not on political sloganeering or organizing mobs to rustle up votes across the country.

    Absolutely, thoroughly illogical. You’re assuming that this Electoral-College-on-steroids would be immune from electioneering, from politicking, and from typical partisanship. You can propose all of the new systems that you want, but to assume that people will always act like sinners in one and saints in another is a big misread of human nature.

    Honestly, all you’re proposing is to disenfranchise a bunch of people, and shift campaign dollars from one target to another. You’re advocating for less control by the people, in the vain hope that it would mean more freedom for everyone.

    If you truly wanted to get at a more democratic system, one that would represent a wider set of beliefs but not be constrained by simple partisanship, there are a number of better alternatives. Allow for multiple smaller parties to exist with instant runoff voting and use party lists to fill a portion of the seats in a lower chamber. Provide for proportional representation of the largest constituencies in the electorate in the upper chamber — why should any state have two senators from one party unless 75% of the electorate identifies with that party?

    Heck, in an era where electronic communications are possible, perhaps even experiment with the idea that the lower house should represent proxy voting. Representatives get their power directly from the people, with several candidates from larger districts are provided voting power in the Congress based on the number of people they have supporting them.

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      I think you’ve missed the whole point, and are assuming things that simply aren’t true.

      The board members are concerned, first and only, with protecting the shareholders of the company. Their job, and the job they were elected by the shareholders to do, is to ensure that the shareholders have a firm voice in the company. If the shareholders elect board members who do not behave like this, then they are free to replace them at the next meeting.

      Your rejection of all things even remotely connected with capitalism shows you have a very shallow understanding of capitalism. Did you not know that churches, non-profits, and even social groups are organized in the same way? The United States government as well as all the state governments follow the same, representative model of organization. It is capitalism that borrows from the sensible model of representative government of republicanism, not the other way around. The republic form of government came first, and then the corporation.

      You are correct that the politics would shift to the electoral college, leaving the American voter with only the decision about which representatives and senators to send to their state legislatures. I outlined this as a good thing, because having a few people who have devoted themselves full-time to choosing the best president possible will always get a better result than having 300 million Americans who cannot devote even a few hours to the question.

      I absolutely, POSITIVELY, DO NOT WANT democracy. Democracy is a plague. It is a sickness, a disease. It is a rot, a cancer. Democracy destroyed Athens, and it destroys every culture where it has been introduced. Democracy is mob rule. It is two wolves and one sheep voting on what’s for dinner. Democracy preys on people’s ignorance and animal instincts. It brings out the worst in us, and destroys the best. Democracy murdered Socrates. Democracy corrupts all it touches. Democracy turns whites against blacks, poor against rich, male against female, old against young, taxpayer against government. Democracy divides families and communities and churches and states and nations into Side A and Side B. It turns politics into warfare. It makes violence and revolution a palatable alternative. Read what the Founding Fathers had to say about Democracy, and you’ll understand how I feel. There is no redeeming quality in Democracy. In fact, Communism cannot exist without it. Communism is really pure democracy.

      Were the people less than completely ignorant, the first vote they would have would be to abolish their right to vote, as the American people did in adopting the Constitution. We, the people, of the United States, gave power to run government to representatives, and retained only the rights to choose those representatives, leaving all other decisions of state to the representatives.

      The entire reason we are in the mess we are in today is because of Democracy. We need people who are chosen not for their political views but more especially for their ability to find politically agreeable solutions and who are wise and trustworthy to represent us in making the hard decisions like who should be president or how we should allocate our government budgets. We shouldn’t think that the American people, as a whole, are more capable of making political decisions than a group of people who represent distinct groups of American people are.

  2. tensor Says:

    So, given your rejection of (direct) democracy, in favor of representative democracy (and as little of that as you can get), would you agree to the following points?

    — Proposition 8 in California is not legitimate, because it was enacted by popular vote;

    — The New York State Assembly’s legalization of abortion (1972) and of gay marriage (2011) were both proper acts of a legislature;

    — Washington state’s voters’ rejection of full gay civil rights (1997) was not legitimate, and thus our state legislature’s addition of “sexual orientation” to our state’s anti-discrimination law (2007) was fully justified.

    If you do not agree with these points, please tell us why having state legislatures make decisions leads to better results than having voters make decisions.

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      “Proposition 8 in California is not legitimate, because it was enacted by popular vote;”

      It was enacted according to the laws of that state, so it is law.

      “The New York State Assembly’s legalization of abortion (1972) and of gay marriage (2011) were both proper acts of a legislature;”

      Again, a lawful act of law. Wrongheaded, and stupid, but law nonetheless.

      “Washington state’s voters’ rejection of full gay civil rights (1997) was not legitimate, and thus our state legislature’s addition of “sexual orientation” to our state’s anti-discrimination law (2007) was fully justified.”

      It was legitimate, as was the legislature’s actions.

      I disagree with popular democracy because it is not in the interests of the mob to respect the rights of the individual. It takes the cooler heads of the elected representatives to adequately consider all sides of the issue.

      The reason why the people are not getting what they want is because they feel like they can keep the legislators who work against their interests and bind them with popular democratic issues. This obviously doesn’t work that way. Voters should spend their primary attention on their local elected representatives, and the issues should be addressed only through their representatives. Representatives need to express what their stance is on important issues like these, and defend their actions to the satisfaction of their voters, or find another job.

  3. T. James Says:

    You ought to leave the United States and live for a while in an autocratic country if you really believe all the nonsense you write about democracy. I won’t waste my time giving you a history lesson about what the Framers wrote and what they thought about democracy. I will only say this: the “people” who established the government of the United States numbered less than two thousand, if you include every participant in the Philadelphia Convention that drafted the document, and every participant in the state conventions that ratified it, and all of them were relatively rich, white, and male. It is clear that you still think that the government should take into account only the “wise” opinions of the rich and powerful.

    But if you were capable of distinguishing between the professors of wisdom and the wisdom itself, you would recognize that if “we the people” means anything, it means that the ultimate authority over the government of the United States, and its ultimate source of legitimacy, lies in the people. To cut them out of the loop because you don’t think their opinions are valid would be to undermine the most basic tenets of the U.S. Constitutions, and recreate the political situation that was so abhorrent that it prompted the Revolution in the first place.

    As for your fallacious analogy to corporations, it speaks to your staggering ignorance of how businesses work. The Board is not tasked with representing the shareholders, no matter what your naive impression of corporate governance tells you. The Board is tasked with increasing the share value of the company, and maximizing returns to those shareholders. This isn’t a cynical read; it is an accurate read. There is no logical or reasonable analogy between this task and the task of a national government, which is to promote the general welfare, secure domestic tranquility, and protecting individual rights. Also, are you unfamiliar with the concept of limited liability? It means that a shareholder is not liable for the net assets of a corporation. If the corporation goes bankrupt, the shareholder loses only his shares. If a government goes the equivalent of “bankrupt,” or dissolves, or utterly fails in its task, there is no “limited liability” for citizens. Their entire livelihoods, even their lives, are in jeopardy. Hence the absolute necessity of their having a direct voice in how it is run.

    Finally, if you doff your ideological blinders for just one second you would realize that for all of your rhetoric you are making a deeply illogical argument about democracy.

    “It is not in the interests of the mob to respect the rights of the individual,” you say. In fact, it is, because a mob is made up of individuals, and when they violate one person’s rights, they logically forfeit their own. How else do you explain the fact that so many people with virtually no property nevertheless believe adamantly in the protection of property rights?

    In any case, in our democracy, people vote as individuals, not as mobs. It is only in the chambers of congress and in the administrative bureaucracy that you see anything like mob rule: the mobs of Democrats and Republicans, who vote along party lines to the detriment of the country at large. As for the “cooler heads of the elected representatives,” you sound like you live in a fairyland where politicians are philosophers and not bickering, pandering, self-interested fools like the rest of us.

    You call yourself a conservative, but you are not; none of the beliefs you have confessed here are “conserving” anything from our national heritage except its dark past of bigotry and elitism. In fact, you are a radical, a profoundly illiberal cynic, and your proposal is one of the most un-American things I have read in quite some time. I am embarrassed to count you among my countrymen, but I am even more proud to know that thanks to the virtues of democracy, rabid cries like yours are drowned out in the buzz of more a more moderate and reasonable population.

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      I sometimes wonder if people read what they write. Or if they even take the time to understand what someone else wrote before responding.

      I have lived for several years in South Korea. It is not a democratic nation. It is a republic much like ours, except most of the people there are wholly disenfranchised. Sure, they may vote, but they do not suffer under the impression that government cares much for their interests. It wasn’t until the mid 90’s, when I first lived there, that they experienced a government transition that didn’t involve a coup. I don’t know what you would call an autocracy, but I think South Korea could be classified as one, at least up until the point that I came there.

      At no point do I cut out the people’s authority. Having authority is quite different from ruling. While the people maintain the ultimate source of government’s power, through the constitution, they have described by what means they wish to exert their authority, namely, through representatives and such. Having the option of a democracy, the constitution rejects it, along with dictatorships and plutocracy or aristocracy. It instead propagates a government that takes elements of each and sets them in opposition to each other.

      I don’t understand where we disagree with the way corporations are structured. I said the boards represent the shareholders. You say that boards ensure the maximum return for shareholders. Isn’t that the only interest a shareholder can have in owning a corporation? I suppose some corporation may one day be formed by shareholders who are not interested in maximizing their profit. The board they elect would share their views. We have a word for these corporations, and we give them special rules to live under so that they don’t even have to pay taxes on the money they raise. Or were you excluding charities from your description of corporations? If so, then is not my description more complete?

      If you are familiar with an mob who deeply cares about the rights of individuals, I would like you to show me one. In history, contemporary or ancient, mobs have never had the interest of individual rights. The contemplation of rights is an ideological exercise everyone must complete on their own, much like calculus. It is not found in opinion polls or people’s passions.

      I am surprised that after describing our form of government, you would still call it a democracy. I really wish people would care more about eliminating this word in reference to our government. Democracy is one thing, our government is another. The “mobs” that are in our congress are hardly comparable to the mobs who killed Socrates or who murdered Joseph Smith. If you think that people in congress do as you claim, I believe you are wrong. You will find people are quite comfortable collaborating with their enemies in Washington DC. It’s an unwritten rule that even if someone is your ideological opponent, they are still your colleague, and the honor of the United States depends on you treating them with due respect. No, I do not pretend that they are statesmen or philosophers. I do suppose that they will make better decisions most of the time than the people would if a democratic vote were held, because they have the advantage of seeing and hearing more about the issue than the average man. If they make a poor decision consistently, then they will be run out, or at least that is the hope.

      Certainly, I cannot imagine that if the state legislatures appointed people to sit and vote on a single issue—who should be the next president—that they would do any worse than we have done in history. We’ve elected Obama, Carter, and Johnson, as well as FDR three times, not to mention other famously bad presidents such as Woodrow Wilson. It seems the quality of the presidents have trended downwards, on average, since the supposed first democrat Andrew Jackson ran on a popular platform. Compare the presidents we had before and after we democratized the electoral college, and I hardly think it’s an issue to debate any more.

      Let’s suppose the nation is the way it is today, except electors are not chosen in elections but by the legislatures. The country is still divided, Republican and Democrat. Some states have republican legislatures, and they choose people to support Romney. Other states have democratic legislatures, and they choose people to support Obama. Then there are states that are divided. They must come to a compromise. If there is not a majority of states in one or the other camp, or even if Romney or Obama cannot convince enough state legislatures to support them, then things get interesting. Will the divided states choose some for Romney and some for Obama, or some third candidate that would represent both people equally well? When you remove democracy from the equation, it no longer becomes a contest of passions. It becomes a calculation. The constitution says if the states cannot decide, then the house will decide for them. So it should be—it compels the states to come together and decide on what they want in a president. Regardless, either way, the state legislatures and the congress will do a certain amount of vetting, the same kind of vetting that boards can do when they look for an executive. They will inspect every component of the candidate’s character and ability, and choose not based on what will make them popular, but who will help them achieve their party goals.

      I find it amusing that you, who thinks we live in a democracy and that it is a good thing, are able to judge my conservative credentials. If you are a believer in democracy, you’ll find the Founding Fathers to have little kind things to say about your favorite form of government. Democracy is profoundly un-American. It is exactly opposite to what we set out to do. Democracy gave you the French Revolution, and the bloodshed that stills stains that country. America is a republic, the noblest form of government ever witnessed on planet earth. That means we choose people to represent us, and we choose to be ruled by laws, not men, no matter how they are organized.

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