Re: US Electoral College
To join in this discussion, I'm forwarding a transcript of Chuck Colson's
Breakpoint message that tells his view of the importance of the Electoral
College. (I hope this doesn't break any rules here, but there don't seem to
be any to break that I can tell ;-)
White Bear Lake, MN
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BreakPoint with Charles Colson
Commentary #001113 - 11/13/2000
The Electoral College: What's This All About?
The scenes from Palm Beach, Florida -- crowds
protesting in the streets, banners waving, lawyers
shouting -- are beginning to look more like a banana
republic than the world's most powerful nation. If
this case is not quickly resolved, public confidence
-- a fragile thing at best -- will be badly shaken.
Among the casualties of this mind-boggling situation
could well be the Electoral College. Most citizens
haven't a clue as to why we do not directly elect
presidents, or how it is that a president could, as
it appears in this case, narrowly win the popular
vote but lose the Electoral vote. I've heard the
Electoral College described repeatedly on TV as an
"anachronism." And The New York Times op-ed Thursday
But Americans need a civics lesson. This country was
never intended to be direct democracy, nor was it
intended that the president be elected by direct
vote. And there was a very good reason for this, one
that was greatly influenced by a Christian
understanding of the form of government best
reflecting biblical values.
At the beginning, the Founders believed that ordered
liberty could best be achieved not by pure democracy
but by a republican form of government. The people
would choose leaders who would in turn rule over us.
And, powers would be balanced between the states and
the federal government. So, to make this work, the
senators were to be appointed by the states, and
electors would be elected who would in turn choose
In a republican form of government, the senators and
electors should be persons of noble character who can
rise above the public passions of the moment and who
act in the best interest of the nation.
The Founders recognized that often representatives
would have to go against the popular tide. Our
Founders, you see, recognized what Alexander Tytler
later said -- that democracies survive only until the
voters discover that they can vote for themselves
largesse from the public treasury. In this, the
Founders were deeply influenced by the political
understanding developed during the Protestant
Reformation. Scottish cleric Samuel Rutherford wrote
Lex Rex, the book that said, "the law is king," and
enshrined the rule of law.
John Calvin believed in the total depravity of man.
So, he argued not only against the "divine rule of
kings," but also direct democracy; people, no less
than kings, were predisposed to sin. He advocated a
republican form of government with representatives
chosen to lead for us -- limited government, with
powers balanced. This, he believed, would best meet
Christians, of all people, need to understand this.
And, we need to tell our neighbors why the Electoral
College is still important. It is an essential
ingredient in a republican form of government where
states preserve their individual political identities
and power. It is certainly not an anachronism. And we
must not let the Electoral College be sacrificed in
the backlash to this extraordinary election.
On a final note, I want to urge all Christians to
pray fervently. It's imperative that cooler heads
prevail in this crisis. If this election is not
settled quickly, and if the demonstrations continue
and anger increases, there's a risk that public
confidence in the greatest experiment in liberty ever
undertaken will be undermined. And that's a greater
concern than the outcome of the election itself.
A postscript from Chuck Colson:
There are great risks in weakening the republican
character of this government. Through the first 130
years of this nation, senators were chosen by state
legislatures. When the Seventeenth Amendment was passed
in 1913, making senators directly electable by the
people, we turned senators into nothing more than
representatives with longer terms and bigger egos. It
may have seemed at the time like a victory for
popular democracy. But I suspect it is no coincidence
that the federal government began to expand
dramatically -- at the expense of the states --
immediately after the amendment was passed.
For further reading:
Amar, Akhil Reed. "The Electoral College, Unfair From
Day One." The New York Times. 9 November 2000.
Rutherford, Samuel. Lex Rex: The Law and the Prince.
Tytler, Alexander Fraser. "Why Democracies Fail" in
Elements of General History, Ancient and Modern.
Concord, NH: J. F. Brown, 1837
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