Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Why the Electoral College?
There seems to be growing sentiment out there to abandon the Electoral College as a anachronistic relic and ensure that the candidate who wins the popular vote wins the presidency. Example: this article. Also out to end the Electoral College: no lesser a luminary than rapper and apparent presidential candidate Mos Def (who also provides some interesting ideas that I think both FDR and Karl Marx could be proud of):
Actually, the founding fathers knew exactly what they were doing. The idea is to ensure that the candidates are responsible to the whole country, and that we don't elect a "regional" candidate with overwhelming support in only a few areas.
Consider this scenario: a new but very well funded party bursts on the national scene. If there is no electoral college, they can focus all of their efforts on the top few urban centers in the country--they don't care about New Hampshire or Nebraska; they can get enough voters in just a few places to ignore most of the others. All they really need in most of the country is a small minority, say 20%, and then coupled with their strong support in the top cities that would put them over the top. With the electoral college, a candidate must work state-to-state to build broad support, and thus they are forced to be true national candidates. Smaller states matter since they cast all of their Electoral votes together and a candidate knows that 20% of votes in a state means zero Electoral votes. Candidates can't get by with only a small minority in all but a few states.
So, the Electoral College today forces viable candidates to be national candidates, and it also makes our elections far, far more difficult to buy. More than enough reason to keep it around, I'd say.