Carte Blanche: The Democratic Hatred Of The Electoral College

Over time, we have strayed further and further from reference to the United States as plural, as it was in our founding documents. That is, a plurality of states voluntarily joined together under a federal government with strict constitutional limits. For states to voluntarily join the union, they had to have perceived that they would be better off than they were previously, with political representation in this new federal government. After all, if they were not represented by the federal government, but rather entered into a contract of bondage where the central government rules all, why would states voluntarily join the union in the first place? Hence, the Electoral College was created for presidential elections to ensure representation of even the smallest states in the union. The concept of the Electoral College recognizes that the United States is not an omnipotent government directly ruling all individuals, and therefore does not elect the executive branch with a direct national vote. Rather, it is a collection of smaller states, that elect a president as a compact.

In the Democratic Party, and among progressive voters, the idea of abolition of the Electoral College (EC) is gaining momentum. Several Democratic senators have introduced a constitutional amendment to repeal the voting system, one of them being 2020 presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand. Elizabeth Warren, another candidate, is also running with EC abolition on her platform. This would be an extremely unrealistic change through the amendment process, as it is difficult to imagine any relatively small state giving consent to its ratification. As a compromise, twelve states have already introduced non-federal methods to bypass the EC, by passing laws to allocate all of that state’s electoral votes to the candidate that wins the national popular vote, regardless of the individual state vote. It would be an oversimplification to assume the Democrats are attacking the Electoral College because it caused them to lose the presidential election with the victories of Geroge W. Bush and Donald Trump. The battle between direct democracy and decentralization has its roots in American history as well as simple political divisions.

The Nationalist Theory of the Union states that the central government was created by the whole people, which then absorbed much of the sovereignty of the states. This leaves a view of the United States as singular, as a single society under one supreme government. Under this theory, individual states belong to the Federal Government as territory, and cannot justifiably secede. On the contrary, the Compact Theory of the Union states that a collection of sovereign states created the union. This leaves the view that the name United States is plural and that association remains voluntary, as it was at the beginning. Just as the states voluntarily created the union, they cannot un-create it, as states are not bound to their own creation. Given that traditional progressivism, or any ideology that pushes for a more powerful federal government, echoes the Nationalist Theory of the Union, it makes perfect sense why Democrats would have an inherent disdain for the Electoral College, from their point of view.

If the Union is created by the people as a whole, then how is it justified that individuals in smaller states cast more impactful ballots than those in more populated ones? With this line of thinking, many progressive intellectuals and policymakers believe that equal impact of individual voters is the most important aspect in presidential elections. It is irrelevant, operating under this theory, that a state like Idaho might not hypothetically consent to an executive branch that wins the national popular vote, because Idaho does not have sovereignty, and is therefore owned by the Federal Government and the rest of the U.S. population. However, as we will see, the Nationalist Theory of the Union is incorrect and the push for direct democracy is not coherent with liberty, but is rather a pipeline to increased growth of government power.

For statist ideologies, it is not their theory of the union that has led to conclusions, but ideological conclusions that have searched for a justifying theory. The recognition of a traditionally compact union, state sovereignty, and representation among the states are nothing but barriers for the goals of centralization, economic intervention, and social control. Statist regimes throughout history have opposed decentralization to the core, and the smallest reforms pushed by the progressives in the U.S., like the abolition of state representation in presidential elections, is an example. In a hypothetical U.S. without the Electoral College, popular elections provide a far more efficient path to grow the federal government and impose it on the whole, even on those societies within the jurisdiction that reject it. This sentiment has deified the idea of the democratic majority, as gaining extra rights that override the natural rights of the minority vote, which is completely at odds with liberty.

Over time, the left has deified democratic majorities as the holistic decision maker of all things. Coercive institutions are described as democratic as if they are consensual by means that they were arbitrated by elected representatives. The growing idea is pushed that a popular majority “makes” consent and therefore an infringement on liberty by the majority is justified. The popular election is justified because a popular majority of individuals overrides dissent for minority states. However, democracy should not be a deified concept that is tied to individual liberty, because coercion by one ruler is no more coercive than that of a group. Kings and dictators are coercive because they impose policies to which the individual does not consent, not because they are single rulers or undemocratic, as the dissent would still exist had the rulers been elected. A popular vote does not give a majority the divine right to infringe on the rights of the minority as theories of natural rights to not give exceptions to majority rule.

On the topic of democracy, Jörg Guido Hülsmann writes, “To this fantasy they attached the meaning of God, which always attaches to every form of Authority, and there are still persons who believe that ‘the voice of The People is the voice of God.’ But a free society recognizes authority and control by individuals over themselves within the boundaries of their negative rights, not authority by some abstract “People”. Hülsmann continues, “The People does not exist. Individual persons compose any group of persons. So in practice, any attempt to establish democracy is an attempt to make a majority of persons in a group act as the ruler of that group.” Although progressivism will likely recognize some form of natural rights free from majority rule, the mentality describes is the one that pushes rhetoric of defending coercions as “democratic institutions” for an insidious confusion of terms, and the idea of putting all fifty states to a national popular vote.

The language they will use in this movement will make it sound like the pro-liberty position. Democracy has historically been the method of choosing leaders in the West, and we therefore associate majority rule with liberty, which is a fallacy. In reality, there is no logical connection between negative rights and rule by the people. Since every individual is naturally free in their self and their property, they cannot transfer their life and liberty to a group of individuals outside of themselves, even if this group of people is the majority and in agreeance of this transfer of power.  “Rule by the people” is a fruitful term as long as we never realize that the people is just a proxy term for the state. This abstract notion of “the people” will be used to make all actions of the state sound consensual and consistent with natural rights when the opposite is true. Business “x” is not nationalized but democratized. An excessive national debt cannot be an abuse to the individual because we owe it to ourselves. Although socialism by rule of a dictator is obsolete, the seizure of the means of production by democratic majorities is apparently consistent with liberty. In the Federalist Papers, James Madison writes, “A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies 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.”

It is for these reasons that we should vehemently oppose all efforts to abolish the electoral college. The theory of the nationalist union is a historically inaccurate view of constitutional intent, democratic majorities do not effectively protect liberty, and steps in this direction, like the overhaul of the EC, are nothing but steps to authoritarianism. Supporters will try their best to make this constitutional amendment sound more enshrined in liberty than decentralization, but every ideology that promotes intrusion on the rights of individuals requires confusion of terms. The purpose of this policy is not to ensure equal rights of individual voters, but to consolidate Democratic control of the executive branch in years to come by a change of election structure. This purpose falls back on the historic motive of progressivism, the unlimited expansion of the federal government.

In order to preserve diplomacy, the Democratic bill to overhaul the Electoral College in the Constitution should be met with a counteroffer to gain support from some of our libertarian-leaning congressmen. The counteroffer should state that the EC can be removed from the Constitution if, and only if, another amendment is added that specifies any state’s right to peacefully secede from the union, with no forced terms and conditions nor violence from the federal government. This should be easy to reckon with, because if the federal government is going to elect an executive branch without impactful representation from smaller states, then their unification should be voluntary. Although secession is possibly already protected in the Constitution, modern understanding shows the need for more specific federal restraints. Obviously, the point of this counteroffer is not to pass, as it would have no chance, but to reveal the true motives of those who would hypothetically oppose its rhetoric. A popular national vote without the state right to secession is essentially to hold dissenting states as slave societies to the popular majority, especially given the enormous power allowed to the president and the executive branch. Opposition to the hypothetical counteroffer would show that the intent of Electoral College abolition is not self-determination and liberty, but the imposition of majority rule on all people of the minority.