Tom's Corner - Taking a look at the electoral college

Tom's Corner

As of Monday, it was official.

Donald J. Trump, one month from now will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States.

But he will be only the fourth president in history to take office after winning the electoral college, bu t losing the popular vote.

In his corner tonight , tom van howe takes a closer look at the electoral college itself.


In the wake of Donald Trump's stunning victory, despite losing the popular vote by nearly three million, there are renewed cries for dumping the electoral college.

The calls for change right now are coming mostly from democrats who have lost two elections like this in the past 16 years. Their argument is simple: it ought to be one man, one vote. Majority rules. That, they might argue, is what democracy is all about.

Why do we have to go through this seemingly byzantine process of voting for electors who then cast their votes on our behalf five weeks later?

Well, for starters, contrary to casual belief and understanding, we are not a democracy. We are a republic. And there is a difference.

The founders to great pains to avoid using the word "democracy" in both the declaration of independence and in the constitution itself.

You won't find it even once in either document.

Their commonly held view was that democracies were destined, in some fashion to, in their words, commit suicide.

When we pledge allegiance to the flag, we pledge also not to the "democracy," but to "the republic for which it stands."

The framers saw democracy as a horribly chaotic system where majority-only rules meant no one in a minority, or with a minority point of view, would have a chance. Ever. A constitutional republic, on the other hand, is designed to tale a less emotional and destructive approach by protecting the rights of the individual.

So they wrote the constitution to assign to each state a number of "electors" equal to the combined total of their state federal delegation.

Altogether, 538 electors.

Part of it was designed to distribute influence more evenly across the country, so heavily populated states wouldn't always be running roughshod over the more rural, less populated states. Another was to give slave states, where whites were outnumbered by black slaves, more of a say in national affairs--a factor that no longer applies. Another was the founders didn't really trust the average, undereducated American voter, and the college gave the electoral college a chance to overrule if, by some chance, the electorate chose to put a demagogue in the White House. The best-laid plans don't always pan out.

For the record, there were two defectors from Trump on the republican side. And five on the democratic side. Not enough to make a difference either way.

The trouble now is, despite all the high-minded rhetoric, no one seems to trust anybody anymore. We tend to see a system where regular men and women walk into the doors of Congress and leave some number of years later as wealthy people who get highly lucrative jobs as lobbyists and turn their backs on the people who sent them there is the first place.

The level of distrust and suspicion and fear seems dangerously high.

What do we do about it? The debate rages.

What do I think? I worry that a true, democratic one-man, one vote election would eventually turn into mob-rule.

Only four times in 240 years where the winner of the popular vote failed to get to the Oval Office, as frustrating as that might be, it's not that bad.

And because to do away with the electoral college would require a constitutional amendment anyway, and the chance of that happening is pretty slim, I guess I'm okay with it the way it is.

On the other hand, this could go on for a long time.

In this corner, I'm Tom Van Howe.

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