By: George Noga – March 1, 2020
Our February 2, 2020 post about the Electoral College generated one of the highest open rates on record and left readers asking for more. We are happy to oblige. This post further probes: (1) the wisdom of the Electoral College; (2) problems innate in popular vote elections; (3) perceived inequalities in our federalist system; and (4) inherent problems of a one person, one vote system. Visit our website: www.mllg.us to read our 2/2/20 post in case you missed it the first time.
Progressives consternate about what they view as egregious inequalities in the US federalist electoral system – particularly in the Senate and the Electoral College. They are particularly fond of pointing out that California (population 40 million) and Wyoming (580,000 people) each have 2 senators. They call this undemocratic. They are ignorant that under the Constitution senators represent states, not people.
We need to go back to first principles. What is the purpose of government? Is it to actualize the will of the majority at any and every moment? If instant actualization is what you want, a popular vote system will deliver it – as in the French Revolution. Or instead, is the measure of good government whether it is effective at creating long-term justice, freedom, security and stability – like in the US for the past 233 years?
Of 195 countries in the world today, only a few, mostly in Central and South America, use popular vote; how has that worked out? Canada’s Senate has members, appointed by the Governor General, who represent regions and are not based on population. In Switzerland each canton, regardless of size, has two members. The Senate in Australia has 12 members for each state – independent of population. Most nations use a variant of the parliamentary system, wherein majorities are rare.
Majorities usually tyrannize minorities. Consider Switzerland’s solution. In a one person, one vote system, Italian or French-speaking Catholics feared tyranny by German-speaking Protestants and vice versa. To allay such concerns, the Swiss adopted a double majority system in which important matters require a majority of the popular vote and also a majority vote in a majority of cantons. The Swiss system has endured for 729 years and counting. Note: When rural Swiss go to vote today, they carry rifles and swords as symbols of how their freedom was attained and preserved.
Consider Iraq with its Shia, Sunni, and Kurd factions or Afghanistan with its many feuding tribes. Particularly relevant is the former Yugoslavia; when the Serb majority demanded one person, one vote the country disintegrated into chaos resulting in genocide and the deaths of 140,000 people. How did that work out?
When drafting the Constitution, America’s founders considered the history of majority tyranny and, on multiple occasions, rejected a popular vote. The states had stark differences. Slave states and free states were in conflict. Small states were concerned about domination by large states. Agricultural states were at odds with industrial states. Inland states worried about maritime states. Pietists in New England, Catholics in Maryland and Lutherans in Pennsylvania worried about each other.
Those demanding a national popular vote and restructure of the Senate believe things are different today. Although differences between states may have moderated since our founding, many significant chasms remain. More to the point, human nature has not changed since 1787 and tyranny of the majority remains of great concern. A present-day poster child for this is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Imagine what horrors would be loosed on America if she and her squad ever acquired unchecked power.
The Constitution of the United States of America has served us well for 233 years, including the Electoral College and the makeup of the Senate. Those advocating for fundamental change are ignorant both of history and of human nature.