Federalist Paper Number 68

Another election comes and ago. In our spoils system of government, this creates a period of great change in Washington. Leadership turns over. Attorney General. Secretary of State. CIA Director. White House Chief of Staff. There have been execeptions through the years. Kissinger stayed on after Nixon resigned, but that was a bit unique (both in role and circumstance). In this age of opposing views, I doubt we see too many hold overs. Since Andrew Jackson took office, it’s how our system of government operates. Yet, these changes also trickle down to other roles as well. Staff leads, security advisors, and even interns change out. If you don’t believe in what your candidate stands for, sometimes you go and find other interests. I suppose. Personally, this much change can/does create challenges. Soon, the current President-Elect and team will go through a massive hiring process, more than 4,000 people will move into new jobs. I always chuckle when I hear change and government don’t mix. Technically, the swamp drains every administration.

But this election does feel different. Both sides claimed the other candidate was some type of Devil. It was hard fought with many ups and downs. Notably, there was little talk of issues. Now that this over, well, there is a certain amount of uncertainty. We haven’t had a true outsider enter the oval office since Dwight Eisenhourer. Although some historians felt taking the job was a step down for Ike (he did command the largest military force in world history), we are breaking new ground.

With any hard fought election, calls to change the electoral college come about. Personally, I love our system of government. Apple’s iTunes University has some great lectures. One of my personal favorites is Joanne Freeman’s class on the American Revolution. If you want to understand the climate during the Revolutionary War, this is for you. My kid’s history book somehow boils down three hundred years of history into about 50 pages. Our Founding Fathers may get 20. What I learned most from this class (after many morning runs) is that the best means to study history is to put yourself in the time period. Try to understand how people lived, their hopes and dreams, and what they thought about. It puts their world in perspective and opens up a brave new world.

What you may find is how the founding fathers studied, reviewed, and bitterly fought over government structure. They debated systems and dreamed that it would last a thousand plus years. The Federalist papers may be boring to some, but the passion is easy to find in those words. There are legitimate reasons the electoral college is in place:

  • The founders were suspicious of strong central systems of governments. There were legitimate reasons for this. They did a fight a war to escape King George. But if you read their writings and journals (they studied Greek and Latin), they often argued central systems fail to last. 
  • Hamilton was suspect of mob rule. Most of the Founding Father’s were, believing a great orator could influence the masses. Thus, America is not a democracy. It’s more of a republic with multiple systems of checks and balances. And there were numerous places throughout history where this 50% and greater approach didn’t always yield the best results. Socrates lost in court by a vote of 280 to 220. Thinking back, the mob missed that one. 
  • Our founders valued the Greek system of government. Ancient Greece was ruled by city states. Each of these operated differently. The Greeks probably wouldn’t have survived the Persian invasion without Sparta.
  • Some of the original designs of the electoral college had the House of Representatives choosing the leader of the executive branch. At face value, it’s not a bad design. Folks in Congress are elected for two year terms and representation is based on population. Yet, something about this bothered Hamilton. Since our country is somewhat skeptical of Washington, having the Electoral College isn’t a bad system. Or, you could have the current house choose our overlord. Before Republicans start jumping up and down saying let’s do it this way, note Democrats controlled Congress for 40 years before 1994. Personally, our two party system of government isn’t in our constitution either. I don’t think having this extra check is a bad thing.
  • On the final pledge, yes the Electorals can choose to vote for someone else (there are 5o different meetings across the country). It hasn’t happened before. The check is there if needed.
  • There was a constant struggle in setting up the constitution on which states had the most power. There is a reason each state only gets two votes in the Senate. Personally (my view), we don’t need four states determining the outcome of the election. That’s what a majority system would lead to. We took great care in setting up a system that gives voice to all Americans. Now, you could argue that one vote/one voice is a true democracy. However, geographic measures, at least statistically, seem to play a bigger role in voting. Let’s try and keep it that way, and really think hard before making structural changes.

Is our system perfect? No, it’s a mash of different opinions. These clash. Most importantly, it’s important to get involved at the state and local level. Take an interest. And keep it mind, this system, even with faults, has chosen some strong leaders throughout history.

Cliff Notes:

The Electoral College, how it works.

Federalist Paper 68. Note, the original paper isn’t how the system works today. It has been amended.

The Federalist Papers are 85 essays. They are relatively easy to find, free on Amazon (Kindle Format) and Project Guttenberg