Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Electoral College

Here's an opinion piece I wrote for my American Heritage class:

I am against the Electoral College. I understand the reasoning behind its creation—that the people need a filter for their voice in who will hold the executive power in this country. But I will argue that an imposed filter is not only unnecessary, but destructive.

The framers of the Constitution wisely put filters on public opinion for those who would serve in the federal government. The most genius of these is a filter surrounding the Supreme Court. The judicial branch must, by definition, be the most disinterested party in the government. The moment they fear their judgments will enflame public opinion and therefore remove them from office is the moment they have failed the people of this nation. They must be as firm and steady as the Constitution itself in their rulings, and just as the framers drafted the Constitution beyond the reach of lobbyists, so must the Supreme Court sit behind several protective barriers from the fickle flame of public opinion.

That said, the role of the President of the United States is substantially different. He himself is to be the voice of the people. He is a living, breathing filter. Of any of the governmental branches, he needs most to represent the people at large, and it’s as safe as it is necessary for him to do so. He cannot declare war. He cannot create laws. He cannot, by himself, fill the Supreme Court. Congress holds the ultimate power in all of these actions.

Furthermore, there is already a natural filter “for the people, by the people, of the people.” Here it is: less than two thirds of eligible Americans vote in presidential elections.[1] The least informed, the least interested and the least qualified citizens don’t make a difference in presidential elections, because they simply don’t vote. What better filter could we possibly devise? Adam Smith’s laissez-faire sentiments could and should be liberally applied to the economy of election.

Now, some may think that I am too consumed with rhetoric and idealism. I think most people believe that the Electoral College is a non-issue. I would invite those critics to cast their view back to what has become the crux of contemporary history—September 11th, 2001. Just a scant year before that cataclysmic event the American people raised their voice to choose their Commander in Chief.

As we are all aware, the man who won the popular votes of the people was denied entrance to the White House by the Electoral College. Without going into a discussion of the past president’s administration, I would just like to ask, at what point in modern memory would we have wanted more to be heard? When would we have wanted our vote to matter most? A discussion of what would have been different is impossible. But the point is, after the bulk of informed, interested Americans exercised their right to democratic action, an archaic institution denied them their voice. That should never happen again.

[1] This is according to a study by Penn State:

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