Monday, April 10, 2006

GOP: Fear the People

Jonathan Chait reports on a new attempt to discard the electoral college in favor of a popular vote. The article is worth reading on its own, but I found particularly interesting the objection raised by Rep John Doolitte (R-CA) to abolishing the electoral college:
"The left in America is nothing if not creative. Knowing that they can't beat us using existing election law, they have started a state by state effort to change the rules so their 'blue' states can unilaterally decide who will win the highest office in the land. The left-wing politicos in America know that turning the national elections into populist referendums will benefit their candidates."
I had to read this a couple of times just ot make sure I wasn't missing something in Doolittle's argument. I was not. He is basically acknowledging that a popular vote would inevitably benefit Democrats, and that Republicans are only in power through the un-democratic electoral process that gives disproportionate power to small, conservative states. And he sees nothing wrong with that.


At April 10, 2006 12:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eric Z said:

"" ... And he sees nothing wrong with that."

Of course he doesn't see anything wrong with that. The Republicans are doing what the do best, try to beat the system.

They have been remarking districts all over the country to benefit the neo-conservative right wing. Let's face it, they are on their way out, but the legacy they will leave behind will take decades to fix. Like the deficit and the Supreme Court.


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At April 10, 2006 4:57 PM, Anonymous American Patriot said...

Jonathan Chait has missed the boat completely!

Popular elections should be banned not because the Democrats will win (this point is false by the way). It should be banned because a populist election infringes upon states rights and over 250 years of Constitutional legal tradition.

Can you imagine what would happen if the United States was dominated by the masses and popular opinion? People's rights to freedom and individuality would be stiffed by mass media, pop culture, and prevailing contemporary fads.

God Bless the Founding Fathers and their forsight for creating a stable democracy built on the rule of law and not rule of the masses.

At April 10, 2006 7:05 PM, Blogger Eric Z said...

You're right...let's just do away with elections altogether right? That would ensure that we won't be "dominated by the masses and popular opinion."

And what the hell does this mean: "People's rights to freedom and individuality would be stiffed by mass media, pop culture, and prevailing contemporary fads."


At April 10, 2006 9:13 PM, Anonymous American Patriot said...

What I mean is that the laws and traditions of this country need to be shielded from popular opinion. Instead, they need to revolve around the US Constitution.

However, if indeed the times are changing, then a Consitutional Amendment should fix any problems. I am just against making rash changes to the rule of law.

At April 10, 2006 10:28 PM, Blogger Gilbert Martinez said...

Interesting take on what the founding fathers thought. Too bad it's not really what they had in mind. True, some founding fathers were elitist. But it's most probable that the electoral college was put in place for geographical balance and because of limited information.

In the late 18th century, it was nearly impossible to know about candidates who were from other states. The electoral college allowed the people to vote for electors who pledged their votes to someone they liked (if they were aware) or else someone who had access to more information and was trusted.

Personally, I think geographical considerations make a strong argument for the electoral college. But to claim that the founding fathers were really that scared of the electorate is not that accurate. If you look at the U.S. constitution, one of the things that is striking is the absence of any property requirements. If it really was as elitist as some simple minded implications, they would have included hefty property requirements--like every other state constitution of the day. The lack of property requirements is a good indication that they trusted the people.

The framers had a massive distrust of power which is why they tried so hard to dilute it. But representative democracy is necessary for any large numbers of people. But that is another story...

Ferrand's Records is an excellent source to learn more about the debate that took place.


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