Monday, December 19, 2016

Fulfilling Its Purpose

So, with the certification of the Electoral College's votes, short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump moves one step closer to the office to which a majority of us did not vote for him (actual voters, not the population at large; back off, sophists). There is one more step, the approval of the results by Congress; that may produce some political theater but little else.

This is, in a strict constitutional sense, as it should be. It was really no more than wishful thinking to imagine the Electoral College reversing its clear majority, regardless of its disparity with the popular  vote.

Much was made, including by yours truly, of the purported role of the Electoral College in preventing an incompetent demagogue under the influence of a foreign power (to take a random example) from ascending to the Presidency. We took as our text Federalist 68, in which Hamilton touted the possibility of the Electoral College taking such action.

The only problem with this is kind of a big one: it's not really laid out in the Constitution like that. We have to remember that the Federalist Papers, as brilliant a set of political treatises as they are, were published primarily as sales brochures for the attention of the New York constitutional convention, and are not an "official" interpretation of the Constitution's intent.

Even Hamilton hedged on this. After describing the possibility of the Electoral College taking such action, he more or less said "Sure, but that won't happen because AMERICA, amirite?" I am paraphrasing.

Bottom line: the system worked as intended; it's just that the system's foundation is flawed. Three-fifths of a cheer for the Electoral College.


smrty.mrty said...

I'm not sure we have any official interpretation of the Constitution's intent. Madison's notes of the deliberations maybe? (This bugs me when separation of church and state comes up, and people quote a random letter of Jefferson. Though I agree with the conclusion, Jefferson was only one of many founders, and he wasn't at the Constitutional Convention.

I did still hold out for an electoral college reversal, just because "that could never happen!" was what I thought about Drumpf (still can't type his name) winning the election.

Dave S. said...

Doesn't the Supreme Court serve as the "official interpretation"?

Also, I would submit that EC reversal is a whole other level up from Trump winning the election.