Have you seen this guy? South Korean native Nam Seok Byun can literally balance anything on top of stacked stones. Washing machines, laptops, bikes, mopeds—you name it. It almost looks unreal.
What’s the secret to this guy’s seemingly superhuman skill? It’s simple: he’s just figured out how to find the center of gravity—and aligns the objects to it. That’s it.
That means that if he’s just the tiniest bit off, none of what he does is possible. It all falls apart. The entire act relies on extremely precise balance.
Peel yourself away from the YouTube black hole I just sent you into (yes, you know who you are!) and allow me to relate this to our election process. What if I told you that balance is all the Founders had in mind when they cooked up the Electoral College?
Remember how I wrote last week about how blessedly unique our founding was?
Well, in order to keep it that way—there needed to be exceptional balance. Balance in the way our government is set up; balance in the way our government can use its power—and very importantly, balance in the way that we choose our president.
They wanted to make sure to balance our system in such a way that would make it hard to jeopardize the people’s hard-fought freedoms, well recognizing (as I explained last week) that human beings often screw up.
And that’s precisely what the Electoral College process protects.
So, as multiple calls rise to eliminate the electoral college in favor of a popular vote, let’s understand what this whole thing is about.
How does it work?
Every state automatically gets two electoral votes just for existing. That mirrors the number of senators each state gets in the United States Senate. Then, states are given a number of electoral votes based on the number of U.S. Representatives each state has—which is based on population. That, plus the District of Columbia’s 3 electoral votes, and voilà: 538 electoral votes. 51% of that is 270—the minimum required to win the election.
Why is it needed?
1. Pure democracy is actually a really scary thing.
I was watching a TV show recently where the teacher was proudly explaining to her classroom that we are a democracy. No, we’re not. We’re a Constitutional Republic—which means we citizens do participate in our government’s selection through democratic processes, but our Constitution protects us from the tyranny of pure democracy. In a pure democracy, the opinions and concerns of the minority don’t count. They just simply lose. Yes, technically winning the Electoral College still requires a majority of those Electoral votes (270). But, as we’ll discuss in #3, it is a far more robust, diverse, and fair majority.
2. States’ rights are critical to the function of our system.
The Founders knew big government. In fact, the whole world had for millennia. The Founders believed that if power could be kept largely at the local level, closest to the people—with a limited federal government unifying those states, freedom had a much better chance of survival. This is called “Federalism,” and our entire framework was set up to protect it.
Unfortunately, we did away with a big part of that when we passed the 17th Amendment in 1913, which moved elections of Senators from the state governments to the people. As a young student, I struggled with this because I couldn’t figure out why allowing people to elect their Senators was such a bad idea. Except, unlike my U.S. Representative who is there to represent individual districts of people in the U.S. House of Representatives, the purpose of Senators originally was to represent each state, because the Senate could “veto any legislation by the House of Representatives which they considered a threat to the rights of the individual states.” (Cleon Skousen, “The 5,000 Year Leap”)
With the passage of the 17th Amendment, Skousen continues, “this meant the states as sovereign commonwealths had lost their representation on the federal level, and their Senators would be subject to the same popular pressures during an election campaign as those which confront the members of the House of Representatives.” Do you see? Rather than strengthen our freedom, the 17th Amendment actually curtails our freedom by taking away a major safeguard against tyranny.
Taking away the Electoral College would have a very similar effect. It would mean certain concentrated population collections (which politicians love to exploit for political gain), and not individual states, would decide the presidential election.
3. If we’ve got states, we need an electoral college.
Without an electoral college, large population centers like California and New York would tip the election every time, and large swathes of the country would be left voiceless. Candidates would simply campaign in those few large population zones, speaking only to those people. Instead, the candidates and their surrogates had to travel to countless states and visit countless towns, speaking with countless citizens.
Remember how we talked about the dangers of pure democracy? If states are supposed to be more important than an all-powerful federal government, what happens when we ensure—through the popular vote— that states with very small populations don’t get a say in presidential elections? With the Electoral College, what those smaller states lack in population, they gain in influence. Varad Mehta from National Review put it well: “Do we want a president who wins by running up the score in one or two states, or do we want a president who wins by garnering narrower victories in a wide array of states? … He [Trump] won the Electoral College by assembling a more politically and geographically diverse group of states than Clinton did.”
What sounds fairer to you?
4. Humans are corrupt.
Remember when I wrote a few weeks back about how prone we humans are to cheat? It’s unfortunately in our nature, like it or not. The beauty of the Electoral College system is that it makes it more difficult to cheat in presidential elections. How? “First, the system makes it difficult to predict where stolen votes will make a difference. Second, to the degree that fraud and errors do occur, the Electoral College makes it possible to isolate the problem to one state or a handful of states.”
And no, the Electoral College was not created to protect slavery, boost white nationalism, or disenfranchise urban minority populations as some have taken to claiming. Our Founders were actively in the process of setting the stage to end slavery when they came up with our system. (Click here to learn more about that). We have had our racial flaws as a nation, yes—but this idea had nothing to do with how to keep some people from getting a say—and everything with helping to ensure that everyone does.
That’s the beauty of our Founder’s vision: maintaining necessary government, and protecting the God-given freedoms we’re all born with.
You see? Balance.
Mary Ramirez is a full-time writer, creator of www.afuturefree.com (a political commentary blog), and contributor to The Chris Salcedo Show (TheBlaze Radio Network, Monday-Friday from 3 to 5 p.m. ET). She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org; or on Twitter: @AFutureFree