James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Elect the Electoral College for Real

Every Presidential election year, there's a call to get rid of the electoral college. Supporters of Hillary Clinton this year can point to her winning the popular vote by 2 million votes over the presumptive winner, Donald Trump.

I'm loath  to suggest a fix to something I'm opposed to in principle. I think America would be great if the federal government, including the Presidency, was abolished completely. It's like taxes. Taxation is theft. Immoral. But if there are to be taxes, there are ways I'd prefer they're raised.

Electing the President is similar. There are some ways that are less bad than others. And I think "we" should choose the Presidency the same a bill becomes a law.

A bill must pass the House, which represents the people in districts of roughly equal population. Then it must pass the Senate, which is represented by two per state, regardless of the state's population.

Few ever complain about this, even though there's some imbalance to it. In strict, representative democracy terms, it's imbalanced toward less-populated states. But that's how a federation works.

The Electoral College is constituted the same way as Congress. A state's Electoral College delegation, that elects the President, is equal to its Congressional delegation. The President that signs a bill into law represents the country in the same way Congress represents the country.

The question, however, is: why should we the people even indirectly cast ballots for the President? Why should the Electoral College be constituted that way? If anything, it makes the Presidency too powerful. The President often acts with reckless abandon because he has the stamp of democratic legitimacy. But his job is largely administrative, not legislative. Neither "democratic" nor "republican" theory implies or demands the people elect their law enforcement officers, chief diplomat, or top military commander. To do so is to invite demagogues to run for the office.

But if not the people directly, then should vote for President? People that "the people" trust. Not just once, for for the long haul: elect Electors of the Electoral College to six-year terms.

To begin, there would be adjustments where some electors would be limited to two-year or four-year terms. But over six years it would adjust. To project forward, here's what we'd see:

2028: Electors representing each Congressional District would be elected by the people. They would vote in the Electoral College in 2028 AND 2032. Their obligation ends there, but their terms "expire" in 2034.

2030: One elector representing each state is elected. They would vote in the Electoral College in the 2032 and 2036 elections, after which their terms expire.

3032: Another elector from each state is elected. They would vote in the Electoral College in the 2032 and 2036 elections, and their terms formally expire in 2038.

2034: Electors representing each Congressional District would be elected by the people again. And so on.

The people wouldn't be electing the President, but would elect people to elect the President, and trust them to do it twice. The circumstances of the country, the rising stars and flashes in the pan, the politicians who fall from grace --  the Electors would be considering all of that. And just like we theoretically do with Senators with economic and geo-strategic changes, we would trust the Electors to adapt to these changing circumstances when they consider the next President.

How would this be better than the current system?

For starters, the person elected President by the Electors would probably be more "qualified" without the stench of scandal, demonstrated incompetence, or inexperience.

As the Electors' terms would be staggered, representing shifting political winds from the time they were elected, "compromise" candidates would probably come forward. The President may be both more competent but with less ability to command popular consent. He'd have a less ambitious agenda. And because he wasn't popularly elected, he'd be more accountable to Congress. The people would be more willing to see a President impeached because the President doesn't really represent "them" or their favorite party.

And most importantly, we'd build more local interest in "who do we trust to be an Elector" but no national money drain of Presidential debates and primaries that waste our time for 18 months.

A President elected by Electors, and not "The People," would probably be less powerful and less ideological. He'd take care that the laws would be faithfully executed and then get out of the way. That would be a victory for liberty.

But I'm not married to this idea either. I'm just speculating that it'd be better than the system we'd have now, and far better than a direct popular vote.

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