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Don’t abolish the Presidential Electors — Restore Their Proper Function!

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The power of making treaties…should not be delegated but in such a mode, and with such precautions, as will afford the highest security that it will be exercised by men the best qualified for the purpose, and in the manner most conducive to the public good.  The convention appears to have been attentive to both these points:  they have directed the President to be chosen by select bodies of electors, to be deputed by the people for that express purpose; ….

If the observation be well founded, that wise kings will always be served by able ministers, it is fair to argue that, as an assembly of select electors possess, in a greater degree than kings, the means of extensive and accurate information relative to men and characters, so will their appointments bear at least equal marks of discretion and discernment. (John Jay, Federalist #64)

It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided. This end will be answered by committing the right of making it, not to any pre-established body, but to men chosen by the people for the special purpose, and at the particular conjuncture. …

It was equally desirable, that the immediate election 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. (Alexander Hamilton, Federalist #68)

Justice Antonin Scalia was noted for his view that the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted in light of the original intention of its Framers. Now, many conservatives appear satisfied with the promise that someone who shares this view will be nominated to replace him on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Yet some of the same people appear to accept the notion that Presidential electors must simply accept the will of the majority that elected them when they vote for President.  They even maintain that the electors must vote for the candidate whose name represented the common views of the slate on which they ran for the office.

Yet anyone who ponders the thinking quoted above has to consider the fact that this latter demand appears to contradict and defeat the Constitution’s original intention in withholding the actual power to select the President of the United States from voters in the General Election.  These writings of John Jay and Alexander Hamilton, respectively, also appear to refute the notion that the institution of Presidential electors simply reflected the Founders’ contempt for the intelligence and judgment of the people.  Instead, they seem to reflect the same common sense that leads major corporations to entrust the selection of their most important executive officers to bodies (e.g., search committees and boards of directors) composed of individuals likely to have the requisite “information and discernment” to assure that the persons chosen will serve their company’s best interests.  The Framers’ aimed to make sure that government of, by and for the people would be well served.

An honest observer, free of any factious, partisan bias, would be forgiven for concluding that the Presidential election just conducted in the United States was a drama intentionally arranged to illustrate how right the Framers’ were.  A factious electoral process, entirely dominated by “cabal, intrigue and corruption”, and quite possibly contaminated by “the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils”, has left our nation feeling more than vaguely deceived and at odds with itself. 

Barack Obama recently asserted that the Presidential electors are a vestige of the past, which should be eliminated. His sly prevarication is what we should expect from someone whose actions while in office consistently displayed highhanded, dictatorial contempt for the Constitution.  His statement is not just misleading, it is directly contrary to the true state of affairs.  The elitist faction leaders in both the so-called “major” political parties have, in effect, already discarded the Constitution’s provisions for selecting the President.

People rightly preoccupied with draining the “swamp” in Washington, DC, need to consider the possibility that it is in fact a cesspool, filled by the effluvia of a political process overwhelmingly infected by a factious spirit that has utterly corrupted its proper functions.  Like a digestive tract infected with bad bacteria, it no longer nourishes the legislative and executive organs of our body politic with people of talent and integrity, bound to contribute to its common good.  Instead, self-serving talents work overtime to redefine “integrity” in ways that serve only their own selfish interests, while in substance the body of the people literally goes to waste, in material, moral and spiritual terms.

The Constitution’s provisions for electing the President epitomized the “scheme of representation” Madison spoke of (in Federalist #10) as the major innovation of the American republic, and the one that would keep it from failing as democratic republics had failed in the past.  In this respect the comparison with the digestive tract is particularly appropriate.  Aside from nourishing the body (i.e., by analogy, nourishing the organs of government with fit officers) we now know that the digestive system is a critical part of the body’s immune system. 

By analogy, the immune system of the body politic has to do with the judgment of the people, which they must exercise in order to distinguish, among themselves, between talented, capable people who will act to defend the body against harm, and those who will instead feed on the body’s substance in order to increase their own.

The Constitution’s electoral provisions are entirely focused on giving the people reasonably frequent opportunities to practice this discerning self-scrutiny.  The Framers of the Constitution applied the premise of representation to the election for the Presidency precisely to assure against tyranny, i.e., the concentration of power in the hands of a single individual or faction, adverse to the common good.  In the General Election, the people’s participation in Presidential politics was to be the occasion for focusing on the qualities of good character, judgment, talent and proven ability to be found in their own ranks—in their states and local communities (excluding sitting officials of the national government.)

So, at the same time they chose individuals to preside over the nation’s government, they would identify and select, among themselves, characters fit to be, as it were, “antibodies”: having the integrity, independence and ability to rally members of the body politic against political actors, even at the highest level, who show themselves to be working for its destruction.  It is no wonder that minions of the elitist faction, such as Obama, contrived to eviscerate, and now want entirely to discard, the Presidential electors.  Instead, anyone who cares about the survival of the American people’s republican self-government should be working to understand, recover and find ways to strengthen, their true purpose and functionality.

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