The recent hot topic was the election of an "unpopular candidate" by a "minority" accomplished by this rickety, outdated system called "the Electoral College". It's gotta go. It isn't democratic. It's not fair! And I have to wonder.
First, what are they teaching at this college? Is it an online college, or does it have an actual campus? Is it accredited? All to be humorous, of course, but just what is this thing? So, first, a "college" may be defined as "an organized group of people with particular aims, duties, and privileges." No, this one is not part of the Big 12 or any such thing. And where does it come from? First and foremost, it is a product of the United States Constitution -- Article II, Section 1. (Thus, eliminating it would require a Constitutional amendment, not merely a change in law.) Fine, so what is it there for?
Well, as it turns out, the founders of our country were not exactly fans of democracy. Not real democracy. Not "one person, one vote" democracy. They were concerned (as are many today) about "qualified citizens". And they were deeply concerned about what Alexis de Tocqueville called "the tyranny of the majority". That is, if you could get more than 50% of the voting public to agree, you could make life miserable for the other 49% just by popular vote. So they set out a way to deter that kind of problem. They wanted more of a State-based election than a popular vote, so each State got votes. There are two for the senators and then some based on population, amounting (today) to some 538 electors. (James Madison was concerned about demagogues. If only he knew what we were going to get in our time ...) They were concerned about the Congress doing the job because they could be more easily influenced as a standing body, so the Electoral College was a gather-once-then-disband procedure. And, of course, there was the whole problem of "qualified citizens". Some of what they meant by "qualified" was in contrast with "uninformed". We still have that problem today. The Electoral College was supposed to adjust for that.
Part of the problem can be seen today in the numbers. Over 70% of Americans live in large metropolitan areas. And, generally speaking, each of these metropolitan areas these days vote the same way. Look at a state-by-state voting map. The most heavily populated states like New York and California are blue states; most of the rest are not. And that means that the 30% that don't essentially have no voice in an actual democracy.
Consider some numbers. Wyoming has an whole 586,000 residents in the entire state. The City of New York has something like 8.5 million. That's 14 votes for each person in Wyoming. Never mind, Wyoming; we don't really need to know your votes. But then, dig into these states. Look, for instance, at a voting map of New York. Turns out, geographically, that New York is a red state with the exception of New York City, Syracuse, Buffalo, and Albany. Minnesota was a blue state ... mostly just in Minneapolis. Nevada was a blue state exclusively in Las Vegas. That is, taken in terms of geographical area versus numbers of people, the country is almost exclusively Republican.
"Oh, no," you will tell me, "Hillary won the popular vote." She did. She won because California and New York voted for her. Remove California's votes (both for Trump and Hillary) and Trump would have won the national popular election by nearly 1.5 million. Take away New York, too, and Trump would have won the popular vote by more than 3 million. In other words, without the Electoral College we'd be letting California and New York decide who is our president. Do we really want them to decide?
This election saw the greatest number of "faithless electors". The term refers to people, assigned the task of representing their state in the Electoral College to vote for the person their state voted for, who do not. Prior to this election, the largest number was 2. This time it was seven. And, really, are you surprised? There was a large call in the days following the surprise election of Trump for just such a thing. They were urged to "Vote your conscience" and to switch sides from Trump to Hillary. Two did. Five switched from Hillary to Trump. Trump won with 304 votes to Hillary's 227. Without those darn faithless electors, it would have been 301 to 230. In other words, in order for this call for electors to ignore the rules and vote for Hillary to make a difference, there would have had to be 31 faithless electors that switched from Trump to Hillary (and 0 from Hillary). Of course, that would have put the outcome into the hands of the House of Representatives ... which is Republican-dominated. Not a particularly likely plan.
Maybe not. Maybe we want a democracy. Maybe we want the largest group of people to decide who our president will be. Do we also want the largest group to decide what we do about, say, gun control? Right now the numbers look like less than 50% are in favor. A poll this year said that 49% of Americans think that abortion is immoral while only 38% did not. Gallup reports that 50% think it should be legal only under certain circumstances and another 19% think under no circumstances with only 29% thinking that it should be legal under any circumstances. Shall we put it to a vote? Oh, here's one. Apparently 43% of Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement. Vote anyone? Of course, this is nonsense. I mean, this stuff changes. Sometimes it seems to turn on a dime. The majority of Americans were opposed, for instance, to "gay marriage" until the Supreme Court made it law, and almost overnight opinions changed. Shall we really run the country on popular vote?
I'm not entirely sure that we really want a democracy. In the end it boils down to "How highly do we think of people?" If we view them as basically good, then surely we want them all to decide. If we view them as basically evil, then we would want to mitigate that evil. Of course, we know which side Scripture falls on. And, of course, we know Who is the ultimate government. Just some thoughts on that question of the day.