“And to the Republic, for which it stands…” (Pledge of Allegiance).
“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government…” U.S. Constitution, Article IV, Section 4.
The Meaning of Republic
The republican form of government in America operates with the people electing at the State level their representatives (senators, House members, and presidential electors) to represent them in Washington at the Federal level. The emphasis here is that the function of electing a president is not a Federal process, but a State process, just like for Senators and Representatives. That is why presidential candidates must petition to be placed on the ballot in each of the 50 States and the District of Columbia, and not make just one petition at the Federal level to be placed on all ballots in every State and D.C.
Who Empowers Whom?
This is where the Electoral College comes in to play. The founding fathers never envisioned a president elected by popular vote alone. Why? There are numerous reasons. First, we are the United States of America. The Constitution is what the original States agreed upon to invest power in a Federal government structure. Hear me here: the population at large gives power to their respective States; the States give power to the Federal government. The Electoral College is the means by which the States elect the president to represent them.
One only needs to look at a county-by-county election results map to understand why the Electoral College is so important for ensuring balanced and fair representation for the political districts in our Republic. Geographically speaking, Clinton only won about 20% (a generous estimate) of the physical area of the country by county, and mostly in the large population centers. The implication here is that, were we to elect president strictly on popular vote, this would in all practicality invest the power of the vote in those large population centers, and presidential candidates would not have to worry about campaigning in less populous States or regions.
An Indirect Process
Electing a president then, is really an indirect process when it comes to the popular vote. The popular vote for president only has meaning at the State level. Since it is the States who granted power to the Federal government in the first place, the States, in the Constitution, reserved for themselves the right to elect the president, based on how the people of their respective States voted. If we were to abandon the Electoral College, we would essentially strip the States, as political entities, of their right to determine who rules them. This would create huge legal questions, about whether the Federal government, then, would have any right to impose laws and regulations on the States.
Our founding fathers were indeed wise. They understood that the Federal government needed to be limited in power, otherwise they would become no better than the kings or tyrants the colonists were trying to escape. Unfortunately, States have slowly undermined their authority by ceding more and more of their constitutionally enumerated powers to the Federal level, and few have had the power to say “enough is enough.” At least until this past week, when we elected Donald Trump as president.
The sustainability of America depends on restoring and enacting the principles of limited government. This means returning powers to the State that the Constitution does not give to the Federal government. If we continue to grow the size of the Federal government, it can only lead to a tyranny of powerful, and the people will lose their voice altogether.
My views are my own.