(Author’s note: The second book collection of my columns, Bruce’s History Lessons – the Second Five Years (2006 – 20011) is now available in book form and in e-book form on Amazon (download to either Kindle or Kindle IPad), or at Barnes and Noble . Click on the above links to go to either version on Amazon. My first five-year collection of columns, Bruce’s History Lessons – The First Five Years (2001 – 2006) is also available at Amazon. Both books can also be purchased via the book links on the homepage of my website, www.historylessons.net.)
This week (Dec. 12) in the year 2000 the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bush v. Gore resulted in George W. Bush receiving Florida’s 25 electoral votes, which made him, not Al Gore, president.
Gore’s supporters were outraged. Naturally they argued that the Supreme Court’s ruling was specious, but they also revived the age-old argument that choosing presidents through the archaic Electoral College was both unfair and anti-democratic because Gore actually had won the popular vote.
No question, the Electoral College is anti-democratic — which is exactly what the Founding Fathers intended.
As I have written before, the Founders created a republic, not a democracy, because they feared that unalloyed democratic rule would result in tyranny of the majority. With no restraints on their powers, democratic majorities, by the sheer weight of their superior numbers, could force their elected representatives to pass laws that benefitted them at the expense of minorities.
So the Founders developed various “checks” on majority rule, one of which was the Electoral College. The Founders didn’t want the president chosen by popular election because candidates would then try to appeal solely to majorities and their interests.
By contrast, the Electoral College discourages candidates from campaigning only in the most populous states and cities, where so many popular votes reside. Because every state has electoral votes to cast — one electoral vote for each of its representatives in both the House and the Senate — presidential candidates must pursue a strategy in which they receive electoral votes from a combination of different types of states, in different regions of the country, in order to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to become president. That means they must campaign in states that are both large and small; are in the east, west, north and south; are agricultural, maritime, and industrial; and so on. It also means candidates must appeal to a wide variety of interests within these states, which necessitates that they carefully craft their messages and political positions on many different issues.
This makes for a much more deliberative process. All of the people get the chance to consider and weigh in on the important issues and the candidates must respond in kind — which is exactly what the Founders intended.
As for Gore’s followers’ other argument, that the Supreme Court’s ruling was unfair because Gore won the popular vote, in truth Bush won the popular vote in 30 states, while Gore won it in 20 states. One state — ultra-liberal California — gave Gore his national popular majority by giving him 1.3 million more votes than Bush. In the other 49 states, Bush’s combined vote total exceeded Gore’s, meaning Bush was actually the more popular candidate nationwide.