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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.

9 Responses to People Power: The Electoral College

  1. Burden Lundgren Reply

    July 13, 2019 at 5:46 pm

    The electoral college is meant to prevent mob rule? So what happened?

  2. Charles D Mason Reply

    July 13, 2019 at 2:12 am

    To Susan Anthony,

    What I am concerned with is the representation of small states and their vulnerability to larger populated states. For rural America to stay resilient, they need to be adequately represented, and this will not happen without the Electoral College.
    Besides, the current system discourages regionalism. Therefore the eastern, western, northern or southern blocks have to support the middle of the road candidates, one that appeals to a more significant portion of the country, if their candidate is to win. Our current system, therefore, encourages a candidate to appeal more broadly as they cross the country, rather than to appeal to any single region of the country.

  3. Charles Mason Reply

    July 13, 2019 at 1:42 am

    To Karen Gracey

    This author is saying that for us to continue to have proper representation of small states and rural voters – the Electoral College must stand. The megalith cities and their ideas do not represent the nation as a whole.
    The current president’s success was due to his victories in the Rust Belt with such states as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. This allowed him to cut through the so-called blue wall.
    However, Clinton’s votes focused in a few states. Nevertheless, The President’s votes were from a broader demographical area which allowed him to obtain the Electoral College.

  4. Charles Mason Doctoral Candidate Reply

    July 8, 2019 at 9:21 pm

    My Response:

    The Electoral College is for the little person, in the tiny state that would be left powerless and unrepresented if we would abolish the Electoral College. The Electoral College is real public policy and administration in effect. There are those who want to urbanize us all, to herd us into large cities to conserve gas and other items — they want to do away with freedom of choice when it comes to how and where you live. Additionally, the Electoral College is in the US Constitution to prevent uninformed or uneducated voters for having the final say. If they are deceived by social media sponsored by Russia or China, the Electoral College is the stopgap. It is a vital part of our Representative Republic. As I stated earlier, it also prevents larger states with enormous populations from having undue influence upon our union.

  5. Charles D Mason Reply

    July 8, 2019 at 9:00 pm

    Read response:

    I fully understand what you’re saying, but Congress makes the laws and the Executive is obligated to execute those laws whether or not we would have an Electoral College. Moreover, an enduring principle of our Constitution has always been popular sovereignty. The 9th and 14th amendments make that very clear. Good chatting with you.

  6. Charles Mason Reply

    July 8, 2019 at 3:34 pm

    My answer:

    What I am saying is that without proper representation through The Electoral College, we would have a tyranny of the majority. This overrepresentation would lead to a misrepresentation in Washington, D.C., and to a situation where our federal government would overlook the needs and ideas of the smaller states. The federal government maintained by the majority in larger states would make laws, set policies, or take action serving the majority, without respect for the rights or welfare of the populations in the smaller states.

  7. Charles D Mason Reply

    July 8, 2019 at 3:25 pm

    Question from a reader.

    Are you saying that if a person stays in CA or NY they are part of the “mob,” but if that same person moves to SD or VT, then they are enforcing the rule of law?

  8. Karen Gracey Reply

    July 8, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    Is the author then saying that in our age of free public education for all Americans, we still have an uneducated populace that can be misled by the snake-oil salesmen of the 18th century? The Electoral College is an idea that has long since outlived its usefulness. It is now working against the educated middle-class populace. Four times in this author’s lifetime, the popular vote was rendered null and void by a gerrymandered Electoral College. The popular sentiment of the educated majority of Americans is being usurped by an outdated law. Its removal is the true key to future success, and not the one recommended by Mr. Mason.

  9. Susan Anthony Reply

    July 6, 2019 at 9:22 am

    [The] difference between a democracy and a republic [is] the delegation of the government, the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest.”
    In a democracy, the people meet and exercise the government in person; in a republic, they assemble and administer it by their representatives and agents.”- Madison

    Being a constitutional republic does not mean we should not and cannot guarantee the election of the presidential candidate with the most popular votes. The candidate with the most votes wins in every other election in the country.

    Guaranteeing the election of the presidential candidate with the most popular votes and the majority of Electoral College votes (as the National Popular Vote bill would) would not make us a pure democracy.

    Pure democracy is a form of government in which people vote on all policy initiatives directly.

    Popular election of the chief executive does not determine whether a government is a republic or democracy. It is not rule by referendum.

    We would not be doing away with the Electoral College, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, state legislatures, etc. etc. etc.

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