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College of Untruths

Nathan Phuong, Writer

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With a new round of local elections looming, and 1382 classmen (more than half of Homestead’s current student body) who will be of voting age by the November 2020 presidential election, the nationally-implemented Electoral College takes on an immediately relevant scope.

In the context of today’s American society, the United States electoral college has proven to lack the morality and applicability necessary in order to both advance democratic ideals and select the most suitable of available presidential candidate. Fortunately, a straightforward popular vote poses a quick remedy, succeeding where the Electoral College has underperformed.
In his ‘Federalist Paper 68’ of the provided article on the Electoral College, Alexander Hamilton writes that “the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station.” Yet Hamilton’s ‘most capable men’ could easily have been dubbed a more revealing title: the upper class. Lecturing himself from a position within the higher realms of the American economy, Hamilton only acted as expected, championing an electoral system that ultimately kept government within the hands of the wealthy elite. Nevertheless, his writings bore weight: American society is today still entrapped in the Electoral College system of electing a president. When Hamilton promoted the College, his concept of the alternative ‘mob rule’ – the impoverished, uninformed masses of the United States inevitably selecting the ‘wrong’ leader – found fear in the hearts of the rich and powerful within the government. Such ‘peasant uprising’ events as Bacon’s Rebellion had ravaged the aristocrat Founding Fathers’ lands at the time of the Constitutional Convention. The same Patriot farmhands who had fended off British invasion during the American Revolution had realized that their new governmental framework was hardly serving them better than the old, ‘oppressive’ British rule: the settlers were more destitute and less represented than ever. In these conditions – the same in which the Revolution had begun – working-class Americans once again prepared to destroy their leadership. And so it was that, suddenly, the Fathers were much less eager to bestow democracy upon the common people. The Constitutional Convention-goers decided on the Electoral College as a bureaucratic buffer, a last attempt to ensure that the United States would never become too democratic. Then, how can Hamilton’s faith in the educated upper class be trusted when one of the very cornerstones of the Electoral College was to dilute the all-important ‘power of the people?’ In this era of denial of the right for the ‘top one percent’ to hold political dominance, how can we preserve a policy supporting just that?
The provided article further alleges that “the Electoral College was implemented in order to ensure that the more populous cities and states did not exact tyranny over the less populous regions,” especially with the sparsely populated Southern states that needed slave ‘representation’ in order to compare with the densely populated Northern states. Yet this theory is implicitly self-contradictory: in a simple popular vote, each citizen’s ballot holds the same weight, with one vote toward a certain presidential candidate contributing directly to that candidate’s ‘pool’ of support. The popular vote is singularly emblematic of democracy, with each voter’s choice accounted for. In contrast, a tyranny has a lone absolute ruler governing as he sees fit, and generally to his sole advantage. Therefore, a popular vote should not be seen as popular “tyranny over the less populous regions,” and instead the great forces of democracy at work.
Guelzo and Hulme’s essay “In Defense of the Electoral College” reports on their attachment to the College through a historical lens. They cite a vague, inherent value afforded to the voting framework by the meticulous detail with which the Founding Fathers designed it: “The portion of Article 2, Section 1, describing the electoral college is longer and descends to more detail than any other single issue the Constitution addresses.” Similarly, they refer to the unifying effect that compromise over the Electoral College had on the “[post-Revolution] separate and quarrelsome states.” But for all the merit that the respected legislation deserves, sentimentalist mentalities must not cloud reason. Governmental practices of the late 1700s do not fit well with today’s ever more democratically populated America. It is still harder to identify with pro-Electoral College exponents after one perceives the inconsistencies within their content. “In Defense of the Electoral College” praises the display of states’ rights in their creation of the Electoral College – “[the College] made a place for the states as well as the people in electing the president” – without considering that ‘state governments’ are not distinct entities, but rather ‘placeholders’ for the American people. Guelzo and Holme note that the popular vote risks “election of regional candidates who do not have broad appeal,” glossing over the fact that there have been several presidential elections, now, in which the elected has won through the Electoral College while losing the popular vote (i.e. the elections of George W. Bush and the recent Donald Trump). In these cases, the Electoral College has overturned the will of the popular vote as the most accurate indicator of ‘broad appeal’ available.
A minority of the Founding Fathers may have intended for American society to reach its present state: ostensibly democratic, yet with four past presidents who have secured their office through the complexities of the Electoral College and a fifth commanding the White House today. But the majority more likely would have seen our nation fulfill its promised goal, becoming a hub of democratic ideals, debate, and advancement. American liberty has been challenged. The Electoral College must be destroyed with all fire and fury appropriate.

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