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This Isn’t a Democracy, and It Never Has Been

There should be a civics course required for all members of the United States Congress before they take office. The prospect of a sitting senator not knowing what form of government this country has ought to be appalling, and, yet, yesterday we witnessed a United States Senator disparaging the Electoral College system as an affront to democracy. Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont tweeted that “Hillary Clinton won the popular vote for President by almost 3 million votes. Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the next President. That doesn’t make sense for a democracy. The electoral college system needs to be changed.”
There’s at least one thing wrong with Senator Sanders’ tweet, namely that the United States is not, nor ever has been, a democracy. The reason that we have an Electoral College system is that our founders didn’t trust the concept of a direct democracy, viewing it as a tyrannical system equally evil to an absolute monarchy. Absent constitutional protections on the rights of the political minority, a direct democracy imposes the will of the slimmest of majorities – even at the expense of the inalienable rights of those with dissenting views. John Adams summed-up the sentiment of the founding generation with regard to direct democracy when he said “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”
A republic, by contrast, incorporates the spirit of the democratic process while still limiting the excesses of majority rule. The consent of the governed is obtained through the direct election of representatives to the Congress, and through the Electoral College for the election of the president and vice-president on a state-by-state basis, but the will of the majority cannot be indiscriminately imposed. A republic is, thus, democratically inspired but restrained by the rule of law that applies equally to the political majority and minority. This has made the United States the freest and most prosperous country in the world, and has ensured that our constitutional system of government has endured more than two centuries – the longest running span of a continual form of government in world history.
When people attack a president-elect of either party as illegitimate on the basis of winning the Electoral College and not the popular vote, it is not so much an assault on the incoming commander-in-chief so much as it is an assault on the stability of our republican form of government. Every American president from George Washington to Donald Trump has been elected through the Electoral College, and six presidents have been elected without winning the popular vote. Presidents John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, George W. Bush, and President-elect Donald Trump were all elected by winning the Electoral College (in the case of JQ Adams with the aid of a tie-breaking vote in the U.S. House) while losing the popular vote. None of these presidents were any less president because they didn’t win the popular vote.
The framers of the Constitution only set-up the United States House of Representatives to be directly elected by the people. Until the adoption of the 17th Amendment in 1913, the U.S. Senate was appointed by state legislatures instead of direct election, along with the president being elected through the Electoral College. These measures were designed to give the states control over the federal government, as opposed to the federal government imposing its will on the states. Modern liberals want to scrap the Electoral College just as Wilsonian progressives abolished the appointment of senators – and for the same reason – to further empower the central government at the expense of the states, so that their progressive utopianism can be forced on every state from Washington. Lovers of liberty can never let this happen.

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