by Pat Tarzwell 10/26/18
The Journal recently had an article which featured an interview with Amy Davis from the League of Women Voters. This article starts with a fallacy in the title and is followed by numerous factual errors. Let me start with the first one: “U.S. democracy hurt by Electoral College!” We do not live in a democracy, we live in a republic and the distinction is more than just a line from the pledge of allegiance, “… and to the Republic for which it stands…”
It’s necessary to begin with a brief history lesson. The Founders knew that democracy was one of the worst forms of government. Benjamin Franklin famously described it this way, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!” That knowledge was the reason why they created a Constitutional Republic; to protect the interest of the minority and limit the power of government. So the 51% did not get to just dictate its will on the 49%.
Here is a bit more history, we have three branches of government, the Legislative, the Executive and the Judicial, (not co-equal by the way: another myth). Of those three branches the Founders created a system wherein only one half of one branch—the House of Representatives, (the most powerful branch), —would be Democratically elected, so a total of 1/6th of our government would be directly elected by the people, It worked perfectly well until the late 19th and early 20th Century Progressive movement came along. Like the Progressives of today, the progressives back then didn’t care for the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.
In 1913 they passed two Amendments to the Constitution. The first one passed was the 16th, direct Federal Income tax, followed by the 17th, direct election of Senators. Both of these were designed to take power from the state governments and to remove barriers to the growth of the Federal Government’s scope, size and power. With the passage of the 17th Amendment, they successfully moved this country from 1/6th democracy to 1/3rd democracy. If the current batch of Progressives are successful in eliminating the Electoral College and making the President democratically elected, they will have succeeded in making this government 2/3 democratically elected and thereby a Democracy. What do you think the wolves will be having for lunch then?
Progressives today argue, why should a small state get more electors per capita than a large state? The Framers had already wrestled with this question and the compromise they came up with was to give small states the same number of Senators (2) as the large states to balance the power the large states would naturally have over the small states by their greater representation in the House. The only way for these states and the new country to stay united was to protect the smaller ones from the bigger ones. That holds as true today as it did 231 years ago. If we are foolish enough to fall for this Progressive end-run around our Constitution, then the truth of John Adams quote will be proven: “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”
Fallacy #2: “Constitutional amendment would mean one person, one vote”. Is that true? Later in the article the League supports the NPVIC, (National Popular Vote Interstate Compact), until they can pass a Constitutional Amendment. In 2009 Washington State signed on to this foolishness with SB 5599, which sets up a system that has a trigger. That trigger is when states representing 270 electoral votes pass similar NPVIC legislation, (not all 50 states as Ms. Davis stressed). The outcome of the election in our state may no longer matter. Washington State’s electoral votes will go to the winner of the national popular votes, (NPV), regardless of the outcome of our state’s election. For example, if the Republican candidate wins the NPV, Washington, a safe Democrat state in terms of presidential votes, would have to give all of its electors to the Republican, even if 70% of the state voted for the Democrat. Therefore, being part of the NPVIC is the exact opposite of one person, one vote. Why vote when you know that NY, LA, Chicago and the top ten to twenty-five cities are likely to decide the outcome? Why would a candidate spend any time or money in lower population density areas? This is how you discourage voting! Talk about dividing the country. If that is your goal, then by all means, go with NPVIC.
Fallacy #3: “Fewer voters cast their ballots in non-swing states,” Davis said. Washington State contradicts this. If what she states were true why then does Washington, currently a non-swing state, have such a large voter turnout relative to the rest of the nation? Historically, voter turnout nationwide has had wild fluctuations ever since our first presidential election until today. The range goes from a high mark of 82.6% in 1876 to a low mark of 10.1% in 1820, not including George Washington’s election at 6.3%. (Source: www.electionproject.org Dr. Michael McDonald, Associate Professor, University of Florida, Department of Political Science.) So, if the Electoral College had the effect Ms. Davis is claiming of fewer votes cast in non-swing states, why the fluctuations in turnout? In 1876, by her logic, most states must have been swing states and in 1820 most states must have been non-swing states. All of those elections were carried out using the Electoral College, and yet the system still worked regardless of voter turnout. I propose these large fluctuations have more to do with a poorly inspired electorate than the Electoral College.
Fallacy #4: “The framers of the Constitution were trying to prevent Congress from selecting the president and maintain independence between the branches. They felt the people were too poorly informed to make the right decision. Electors could exercise discretion in case of a poor choice by the people.” These statements sound right, but are they? The founders did not want total independence between the branches. If so, why would they define the impeachment proceedings to require the Senate to try the person being impeached and the House to convict them? Why does the President get to appoint judges and cabinet positions but the Senate gives advice and consent? How is it that Congress can add or subtract judicial positions from time to time? The framers did not think the people were too poorly informed! If Ms. Davis is correct, we are in real trouble today. Knowledge of civics seems to be at an all- time low. Ask your average college kid a few basic civics questions and compare that to what a sixth grade student had to know just 100 years ago. A poorly informed voter was not the reason they choose the Electoral College. The Framers of the Constitution created the Electoral College as a way to minimize the risks of corruption, regionalism, and back-room deals in the election of the president. A national popular vote was rejected because it offered no protection against regional candidates and could be more easily manipulated by special interests or charismatic demagogues.
In the article she points out that, “Four times, candidates who received the most votes lost the Electoral College.” I will assume she is correct here, although I count 5, but in no way does it make the Electoral College wrong. Grover Cleveland, one of those mentioned admitted that it was his arrogance and his ignoring of the way our elections worked that caused him to lose his first re-election bid. (He re-ran and won a second term after four years out of office by knowing he had to expand his campaign to cover all states, not just the most populace ones as he had done in his first re-election bid). The Electoral College forces candidates to build national support, unifying rather than dividing the country. In fact, the Electoral College probably works even better today, than the Framers had hoped. Think of this like a sporting event going on today, the World Series. There have been a number of occasions where the team that scores the most runs in the series does not win in the end; it is games, not runs that win championships. Just as the Framers wanted, states, not just the popular vote would decide who became president.
Her statements may sound good on the surface, but do you really want mega cities making such an important decision for you? The people of NYC, LA, Chicago, Houston, Detroit, San Francisco—you get the idea—or Seattle, where riots take place, where some people cannot put aside their passions and mob mentality, are these the people you want deciding for you? If not I would also like to ask that you call your state legislators and ask them to support the efforts to repeal SB 5599 Washington’s NPVIC.
After leaving the Constitutional Convention in 1787 Benjamin Franklin was stopped by a woman named Mrs. Powell, and she asked him, “Mr. Franklin, What Sir, have you given us?” He replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” The “you” in that story is us; reminding us that it is our job to continue the work of keeping the Republic, and defending this nation.
Pat Tarzwell was born conservative, runs a successful hi-tech business, and lives a red-state life in a deep grapefruit one.
The following is the text of the article referenced by Pat:
League U.S. democracy hurt by Electoral College
Constitutional amendment would mean one person, one vote
By Gordon Weeks
Electing U.S. presidents using the Electoral College system instead of the popular vote discourages people from casting ballots in non-battleground states, and divides Americans too simply between red and blue.
That’s the stance of the League of Women Voters, which endorses an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would make every vote count in a popular election. Members of the Mason County chapter on Tuesday reiterated those recommendations, and presented a pathway to that change.
With the popular vote, “We wouldn’t be voting by state, but by person,” Amy Davis told the fellow members of her group in the Olympic College Shelton library.
Four times, candidates who received the most votes lost the Electoral College, she pointed out. They are Andrew Jackson (defeated by John Quincy Adams in 1824), Samuel Tildon (defeated by Rutherford B. Hayes in 1,876), Grover Cleveland (defeated by Benjamin Harrison in 1888), Al Gore (defeated by George W. Bush in 2000).
Fewer voters cast their ballots in non-swing states, Davis said.
“Most distressing is it creates a disinterest to vote in non-battleground states…. You know your state will be blue or red,” she said.
Those two choices polarize us, even when there are other parties placing
candidates on the ballot, Davis said. “We are a nation of red or blue, and that’s it,” she said.
But states are far from totally liberal blue or conservative red. Davis pointed out that Hillary Clinton won all of Colorado’s electoral votes in the 2016 election, and won the popular vote with 48 percent. President Donald Trump received all 16 of Georgia’s electoral votes, and won 51 percent of the popular vote.
Using a PowerPoint presentation from the national League of Women Voters, Davis explained how the Electoral College was born.
The framers of the Constitution were trying to prevent Congress from selecting the president and maintain independence between the branches. They felt the people were too poorly informed to make the right decision. Electors could exercise discretion in case of a “poor choice” by the people.
“None of these framers’ concerns are relevant today,” Davis said.
One myth suggests the Electoral College protects the rights of minorities. Yet each state, no matter what size, has two U.S. senators; the courts also protest the rights of minority groups, Davis said.
“So Wyoming gets heard just as loudly as New York,” she said.
Davis said another myth is that abolishing the Electoral College would mostly benefit Democratic candidates — the truth is that both parties have suffered from it.
The League of Women Voters calls the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) “an acceptable interim solution” until an amendment can be made to the Constitution.
With the NVPIC, states would agree to apportion their elector votes to whomever wins the national popular vote. Assigning electors proportionate to each state’s popular vote would likely result in no candidate reaching the required 270 electorate votes, which would send the decision to the House of Representatives. That scenario made many of the League members groan. Davis stressed that all 50 states have to pass the NVPIC for it to be enacted.
The NPVIC has been enacted in Washington, Washington, D.C. and nine other states: California, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont. The proposal has passed in at least one state house in Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma and Oregon.
Davis urged the League members to contact legislators and advise them to make the change.
At Tuesday’s meeting, member Cheryl Williams also gave instructions on how to find out who is funding candidates. Go to Public Disclosure Commission website www.pdc.wa.gov. type in your address, and click on “Explore all Campaigns.” • (110 views)