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We Don’t Have to Settle for This


The debate over the ratification of the Constitution was probably one of the most intense and divisive in the history of democracy. But one thing that was not in disagreement was the overall premise behind how to elect officers in the new national government. It was by design that only one half of one branch of government was to be chosen by “the people”: the House of Representatives. “The people,” in most places, and for the most part determined by the States, consisted of wealthy property owning white males. This was not primarily because of misogyny or racism, but because the framers (and most of “the people”) believed the unpropertied masses, easily driven by mob mentality, were unfit to govern.

The President was not (and is not) directly elected by the people. The President is selected by an Electoral College, and as the link demonstrates (Article II, Section 1), the method of choosing electors was (and, with some exceptions, is) left up to the States.

What this means is that the two party system and the methods employed to determine candidates for President today is extra-Constitutional. This is one of the reasons there has been so much controversy this year in the Primaries: each State and each Political Party can devise and has devised their own rules for selecting candidates. There is no mention of political parties in the Constitution, and most of the founders believed “faction” to be the enemy of democracy.

What this all means is that there is nothing to prevent us from revising the method of selecting candidates. Just because “we’ve always done it that way” doesn’t mean we should continue, and the repugnant choices offered up by our current method provide the best indicator that the system is broken and in dire need of repair.

The biggest problem seems to be that collectively the will is absent to effect change. But the power is there if we choose to use it. Hand-wringing and moaning won’t make things better; neither will continuously “choosing the lesser of two evils.” It’s time to stop thinking small about tweaks that might fix various symptoms of our political dysfunction, and start to consider ways to fundamentally remake — and preserve —  American democracy.

U. S. Electoral College: Presidential Election Laws

The official U.S. Electoral College web site, providing current presidential election state electors timeline and roles and responsibilities, laws and requirements, and vote distribution. Use the Electoral College Calculator to predict who will win the next presidential election. View the electoral votes, popular votes, electors, and certificates of past presidential elections.

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