In The Current Crisis and the Electoral College, Jewish Pluralist, December 16, 2016, the author, Peter Eisenstadt asks: “What would be worse? Allowing Trump to become president, and then watching him violate the rules, principles, and foundations of America’s democracy, or trying, democratically if possible, but extra-democratically [italics mine] if necessary, to prevent him from becoming president?”
His answer, yes: “But in the end, if you ask me, am I willing to do anything, including putting American democracy in peril now [my bold], to prevent a potentially greater peril to American democracy later, I reluctantly must conclude, yes.”
I don’t know what he means by “extra-democratically” because if the College was the Framers intended way of selecting a President, abiding by its choice could not logically be “extra-democratic.”
At first, his stance on the Electoral College was, for me, unclear. He says, “The electors should not select Trump as the next president…People have tolerated the electoral college … since the winner of the popular vote has generally won the electoral vote… It is time for this pernicious anomaly to be eliminated, and there’s no time like the present.”
What is the anomaly? Is he advocating for reconciling the difference by endorsing the popular vote, abolishing the College, or, as the Framers intended, isolating the popular vote from the selection of the President?
What has become clear to me after several readings is that he indeed favors the College: “And talk of something further, going beyond the electoral college to ensure the winner [by] of the popular vote[,] becomes[ing] the next president[,] is just crazy talk.” YES!
In the Federalist #68, an essential reason given for the Electoral College, was to make sure that the selection [not sic] of a President “…should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations [bold mine].”
I think that makes clear that the Framers wanted to isolate the selection of the President from a popular vote.
When considering our present plight, one could think that the Framers had a Crystal Ball!
Federalist #68: HAMILTON: To the People of the State of New York: “The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity [my bold], may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State.”
“Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly! adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils [my bold]. [Looks to me like an impeachable offense.]
The Mode of Electing the President
From the New York Packet.
Friday, March 14, 1788
Hard to imagine that they didn’t really have a Crystal Ball!
Therefore, if the Electoral College is the Constitutional means to save us, there is no “extra-democratic” solution presented in Mr. Eisenstadt’s fine article. The Electoral College is the Democratic solution intended by the framers!
(The unconscionable disingenuous use of the “Intent of the Framers” is another subject.)
Furthermore, I conclude that for the College to now choose another President would NOT be “.. putting American democracy in peril now, to prevent a potentially greater peril to American democracy later…”
On the contrary, it would be living up to our Democratic Principles. If, in trying to live up to our Democratic Principles, we failed, it would not be the failure of Democratic Principles, but the strength of out society to live by those principles.
And if we are too weak now, imagine how impotent we will be after this man takes office, destroys out society, and makes it impossible to redeem!
Joe Aronson is a husband, parent, and grandparent.