The National Popular Vote: A Perfectly Horrendous Idea
The National Popular Vote is a perfectly horrendous idea that ought to be strangled in the cradle. It violates virtually every principle of the republican form of government bequeathed to us by the Founders. It represents a violent lurch toward pure democracy, which the Founders abhorred.
The NPV has now been adopted by 11 states, with New York being the latest to sign on just this week. NPV provides that, if enough states sign compacts with other states, every state which belongs to the compact will automatically award all of its electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the nationwide popular vote. New York just added its 29 electoral votes to the plan, bringing the total number of electoral votes controlled by NPV to 165, or 61 percent of the total needed for the plan to take effect.
Thus the citizens in states which cast a majority of votes for the candidate who loses the nationwide popular vote would be instantly disenfranchised. The Founders would roll over in their ballot boxes to see this monstrosity make any progress in the nation they built.
The Founders established the Electoral College instead of a direct popular vote precisely because pure democracy quickly descends into mob rule. They understood fallen humanity, and knew how easily and quickly the masses can be deceived by charlatans and populists into voting for whomever will tickle enough ears and promise enough goodies.
Said James Madison, the Father of the Constitution:
Democracy is the most vile form of government. … democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property: and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.
You naturally will ask, does this mean the Founders did not trust the collective electoral wisdom of the people? That’s exactly what it means. They knew the susceptibility of frail human beings to demagoguery and how quickly a society could unravel under pure democracy.
This is how John Adams put it:
Democracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy; such an anarchy that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man’s life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination of all the moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers of wealth, beauty, wit, and science, to the wanton pleasures, the capricious will, and the execrable [abominable] cruelty of one or a very few.
As a protection against mobocracy, in virtually every circumstance the Founders sought to insert a layer of insulation between the people themselves and the selection of public officials and the formation of public policy.
The whole point of the Electoral College was that voters wouldn’t even vote for a president. They would vote instead for electors, who in turn would select a president for them. The only, absolutely the only, public officials who were placed into office by a direct vote of the people were members of the House of Representatives.
Presidents were to be chosen by electors, not by the people. Senators were to be chosen by state legislatures, not by the people. Judges were to be chosen by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate, not by the people.
The original design of the Electoral College was that we the people would not choose a president but rather would choose the people who would choose a president for us. November elections were intended to be elections in which we chose electors, not presidents.
The intention of the Founders was that there would be, in today’s terms, 538 separate campaigns for the office of elector, in which candidates for that office would seek to convince us that they could be trusted with that most important of decisions, the selection of the next president of the United States. Once they had chosen a president, their term of office would come to an end.
This is a subject for another day, but it would be best for us to award electoral votes congressional district by congressional district rather than state by state. Nebraska and Maine already do this. Rural districts in states with huge population centers such as New York and California often feel disenfranchised, as if their votes don’t count and don’t matter. It would be far better to award one electoral vote to every single congressional district, with two additional electoral votes (for each of the their two senate seats) awarded to the winner of each state’s popular vote. We should be moving toward this as a goal, not toward the republic-destroying National Popular Vote.
The NPV is a drastic lurch away from a republican form of government and should be firmly, immediately and persistently resisted. Benjamin Franklin famously told us that the Founders had given us “a Republic, if you can keep it.” The NPV is just about the fastest way to destroy what is left of that republic.
As Founding Father Benjamin Rush put it, “A simple democracy is the devil’s own government.” I prefer the government of the Founders over the government of the Prince of Darkness. And so should you.
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