Our New Minority President
At the end of next week, Donald Trump will take office as the nation’s 44th president (Grover Cleveland having served twice).
I, for one, am glad about this. Not because Trump won the election, but because the transfer of power from Barack Obama will proceed peacefully. Just as it did when Obama replaced George W. Bush, and just as it did when Bush replaced Bill Clinton.
Despite the conspiracy theorists who surface every eight years with regularity, there won’t be a declaration of martial law or an attempt by our current president to seize the reins of power so he can stay beyond his term of office.
Indeed, for the past 220 years—when George Washington stepped down after the two terms that inaugurated the presidency—this same transfer has proceeded without interruption.
At the risk of being branded a Neanderthal or reactionary zealot, I believe one of the primary factors for this interrupted peaceful governance can be laid at the feet of the much-maligned Electoral College.
Yes, in my younger years I derided this system as an anachronistic exercise in lunacy that should be scrapped immediately, if not sooner. But only because I didn’t understand how it extends the philosophical underpinnings of our government’s checks-and-balances that keep any one branch of government from gaining too much of an upper hand.
The way our forefathers organized the democratic republic in which we live, the president, Congress, and Supreme Court can all check one another’s power. In so doing, we avoid the dangers of one person, party, or special interest from gaining too much power.
Balance of Power
The way this plays out with the Electoral College is that no one state or section of the country can call the shots because of its population advantage.
As a result, any candidate for the presidency must conduct a national campaign to win. Without the Electoral College, winners could spend the bulk of their time on the East and West coasts to pile up enough votes and ignore the oft-derided “flyover country.”
Case in point comes from the 2016 election results. Subtract California and Clinton’s 2.9 million vote advantage and her popular vote victory becomes a 1.4 million vote loss.
And yes, while I’m not saying that California’s vote shouldn’t count, I don’t think the overwhelming left-leaning proclivities of one state should dictate to the other 49.
Dictating the Outcome
The brilliance of the Electoral College is reflected in the makeup of the Congress, where the population advantage of large states in the House is balanced by the equal votes accorded to each state in the Senate.
Thus, a runaway favorite program, policy, or procedure in the House can’t automatically run roughshod over the Senate and its more deliberate style. Thanks to the Electoral College, the more liberal metropolitan areas of the country can’t dictate their preferences to the smaller states in the heartland.
The issue here is not whether you favor Trump or not, but whether you appreciate the fact that we don’t live in a democracy. America is a democratic republic, where we elect representatives to deal with weighty matters of state and reach decisions regarding what is best for the nation.
While the system comes in for well-deserved criticism for kowtowing to the rich, the ballot box still acts to check the unfettered excesses that would accompany all-encompassing rule for any individual, party or special interest.
Yes, it may not be perfect, but it beats the alternative.