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People Power: The Electoral College

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Charles Mason
July 5, 2019

The founding fathers had a well-founded fear of direct democracy and rule by the majority; our representative system which uses deliberation has a tempering effect on the passions of the masses. Our representative democracy is a mechanism, which is slow and deliberate; this thoughtful pause is good public policy and administrations. Passions cloud the mind and inflame the hearts. Therefore, the founding fathers, when framing the Constitution, gave us direct action through the President, careful and deliberate action through the Congress and reaction through the Court system. This process has withstood the test of time.

However, part of the Constitution known as the Electoral College is under attack. This public policy and administration constraint is now at issue—yet, to better understand the Electoral College and its importance, we must look beyond the demagoguery calling for its abolishment. Why? To protect the freedoms and liberties of our future prosperity, we must understand that the electoral college protects us as the rule of law. It allows smaller states like South Dakota and Vermont to stand shoulder to shoulder with the colossal states such as New York and California. Therefore it levels the playing field. Without it, future candidates would refrain from venturing out to the little houses on the prairie or the swamps of Georgia and instead would only seek the votes from those who live within the megacities.

This is the beauty of our constitutional democracy; the states with the majority are limited at the federal level by legal and institutional means. Though they have the lion’s share when it comes to populations, the rights of individuals and minorities are respected and protected in the smaller states.

Direct Democracy: The Push for Mob Rule

Thomas Jefferson said, “Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51 percent of the people may take away the rights of the other 49 percent.” Either way, the Electoral College provides us with a rule of law that has preserved this nation, and it gives proper guidance to our leadership with a vested interest in the people great and small that will continue to help us prosper. As we attempt to cultivate future leaders, we as public policy and administrative scholars must first correctly teach the properties of the different methods of government, which includes direct democracy and representative government. As organizational scholars, we must provide any servant serving within the government the knowledge and means to govern peacefully by the will of the people, and through civilized methods. However, as we have seen in the French Revolution, direct democracy quickly turns into mob rule where there is potential mass brutality to everyone else that gets in the mob’s way.

An Ochlocracy in Any Other Name

In the words of Ben Franklin, “Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner.” This quote is fitting, for direct democracy can quickly amount to mob rule, which is why our republic is thought to be superior. Our form of government is not perfect. However, it is a republic that combines a representative government with a constitution. This has helped our nation prevent mobs in the past from trampling on the inalienable rights of others.

The removal of the Electoral College and other positive frameworks within our Constitution would pave the way for the multitudes of the larger states to intimidate legitimate federal powers, for any reason, moral or immoral. How would this happen? The larger states would demand primacy in our society through political parties, which would give them the right to make decisions that affect communities beyond their borders directly.

As Americans, we have achieved high levels of democracy and an excellent overall standard of living. If the Electoral College is removed, a marginalization of rural Americans will begin, as a growing divide would emerge between urban and rural areas.

The Key to Future Success

As public administrators and scholars, we all know that for a constitutional democracy to effectively function, it depends on a voting public being educated and having realistic principles as a foundation. It depends on a public that is willing to seek compromise with different parties, and who avoids groupthink. However, if the American population is uneducated, and is indoctrinated in an extremist view, the people can easily be moved into one direction or the other by their emotions. They will be more easily misled and manipulated by the elite political and media class. Lastly, if the electoral college is removed and we have a majority rule mentality, the popular sentiment of the people will no longer be restrained by the rule of law.


Author: Charles Mason MPA, is a Doctoral Candidate at Walden University in Public Policy and Administration with a Specialization in Criminal Justice. He has over 30 plus years in local law enforcement, state corrections and military service. He is currently a leadership and development coach at Mason Academy.

He can be reached at [email protected].
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DRCharlesMason

 

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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