Thursday, November 24, 2016

Electoral College: Democracy is all about majority rule; A republic is about the self-rule of a nation of free people

Clinton “won” an election we didn’t have
writes Mark Cunningham acidly in his New York Post article on protests concerning the 2016 election:
Neither side was focused on a national-popular-vote win, because both knew the rules.

And if the rules were different, the whole campaign would’ve differed, too.

Just for starters, a lot more Republicans would’ve voted in California. They had no reason to turn out when everyone knew Clinton would carry the state — and the US Senate race was between two Democrats.

It’s also just plain easier to vote in Democrat-dominated states; Oregon is entirely vote-by-mail. That runs up Dems’ national total, too.

 … Mind you, the Electoral College isn’t even remotely the most “anti-democratic” feature of our government: You could make a better case for that being the US Senate, the Supreme Court or even the states. Not to mention the Bill of Rights . . .

Heck, even the House of Representatives — the most “popular” part of the federal setup — is anti-democratic in key ways: The party that wins the most votes in House races nationwide often winds up scoring the minority of actual house seats.

The thing is, every one of these features is vital to securing our great democracy, which is actually, in the famous 1787 words of Benjamin Franklin, “a Republic — if you can keep it.”

And the whole anti-democratic package is what has allowed us to keep it these 200-plus years.
Let’s go back to “republic”: Democracy is all about majority rule; the word actually means “rule of the people.” A republic is about the self-rule of a nation of free people.

The two words yield a lot of insight into the different thinking of Democrats and Republicans — why, one side loves early voting, vote-by-mail and such schemes, for example, while the other is more eager to honor the profound ritual of going out and casting the ballot on Election Day.

This is much of why the “moral outrage” crowd outrages me: Because they generally don’t even recognize the existence of a different way of thinking, let alone understand it.

Or, God forbid, grant it a shred of legitimacy — even though it’s the actual basis of our entire system.

Look: The Founders were deeply worried about the perils of democracy — its historic instability, its record of oppressing the minority and other potential disasters.

It’s not right to let the majority have its way on everything: Hence the Bill of Rights protections for free speech, a free press and so on.
And full-on democracy — every citizen voting on every law, for example — just doesn’t work at large scale, or last long even on a small level. So we elect representatives to do the law-making, and break the country into states so that local decisions largely get made by locals.

More, the Founders focused on creating a republic that would be stable (not static) and strong: They’d actually gathered for the Constitutional Convention because the government set up after the Revolution was neither.

Yet not too strong: Small states didn’t want larger ones to call all the shots, so we got the Senate (where New York is equal to New Hampshire, etc.) to even the playing field.

And the Electoral College protects a similar value — pushing candidates to fight it out state by state, rather than relying on what today would be some godawful national advertising war. (One that, incidentally, would make money even more central to our politics.)

But here’s the biggest thing for the “morally outraged” to ponder: The whole system is set up to ensure that no single election decides all that much — particularly a “fluke” election like the one we’ve just had.