Vital: The Electoral College, The real monument to White Supremacy that Should Come Down

A new book examines the racist history of how Americans pick presidents.

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Mother Jones: We are in a moment of reckoning over racism, not only taking down Confederate statues to eradicate these lingering odes to white supremacy but also examining how deeply our society has been shaped by slavery and its aftermath. Last year, the New York Times’ 1619 Project traced the influence of slavery on everything from American capitalism to the American diet. Today, individuals, brands, and lawmakers are taking stock. In this reappraisal, the Electoral College is likewise due for a second look.

In the last five elections, the Electoral College has handed the presidency to two Republicans who lost the popular vote: George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016. Looking ahead to the election this November, Democrats harbor a very realistic fear that Trump will again prevail without winning the popular vote. The political divisions and demographics of the 21st century have highlighted the undemocratic Electoral College system. But the fact that we have an election system that privileges a minority white party over a diverse majority is not a quirk of the system. That has been its purpose all along.

In his new book, Harvard historian Alexander Keyssar sets out to answer the question that is also the title of his book: Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College? Keyssar, who is an expert in surveying a topic throughout American history, including his seminal work on the history of voting rights in the United States, begins at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and works his way up to the present, examining how the framers created the Electoral College, then each successive attempt to reform or abolish it.

The Electoral College allots votes to each state based on its number of representatives in Congress—which is based on a highly imperfect approximation of population that gives short shrift to populous states, plus two for each senator. The result is that not everyone’s vote carries the same weight; in 2016, Wyoming had one electoral vote for every 190,000 residents while in California each vote represented 680,000 people.  read more…

Another Monument to White Supremacy That Should Come Down? The Electoral College

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4 COMMENTS

  1. So who could vote in the 18th century? NOT women, not slaves, only rich land owners and a few other privileged persons of pseudo importance. Hardly a national vote then or in the 19th century so it wasnt a ‘general’ election they didnt exist till after 1908!

    • In the first election of 1788-9, some 42,000 men were able to cast votes for Presidential electors, out of a total American population of over three million. In 1796, when Adams beat Jefferson, the total increased to 62,000.

      The present US government was constituted as a republic, not a democracy. In Federalist No. 10, Virginia aristocrat James Madison argued that democracies were “spectacles of turbulence … incompatible with … the rights of property.” Democratic governments gave rise, Madison felt, to “factious leaders” who could “kindle a flame” among dangerous masses for “wicked projects” like “abolition of debts” and “an equal division of property”. He was especially frightened of the mass of landless Americans, who, not unlike his own slaves, “labour under all the hardships of life, and secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of its blessing.”

      In Federalist No. 35, the future first U.S. secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, wrote, “The idea of an actual representation of all classes of people by persons of each class is altogether visionary.” Anticipating Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, he continued, the “weight and superior acquirements of the merchants render them more equal” than men of modest means.

      The customary property qualification to vote in most states was ownership of an estate worth 200 pounds, over $100,000 in our money today.

  2. The chances that the Electoral College will be removed are almost nil. Much more likely is that the Constitution will be made irrelevant by the ongoing conspiracy of a few ultra-rich, ultra-powerful and ultra-inhuman oligarchs who might be called the Davos crowd, or the Deep State, or simply the Beast, call it whatever you want.

    It started in earnest back in 2001 with 9/11 and the passage of the USA Patriot Act which permitted unlimited surveillance, arrest without trial, torture, and finally extra-judicial murder of Americans, in complete violation of the Bill of Rights. The Deep State has gone on to totally subvert the democratic process in the USA, with the two major parties beholden to these same ultra-rich entities.

    On top of that, the bio-weapon COVID-19 is now directed at the USA and might soon be the pretext for suspending the Constitution and declaring martial law. A desperate Trump afraid of being put out of office in January might just choose to do that. These are dark times. May Heaven help us all.

  3. Not taking a position on abolition of the Electoral College, one way or the other, if it were ever untaken, it would provide an immediate and robust movement to fracture the country. Congressional representation (which represent part of the formula for electors) of individual states is already apportioned by population, therefore we would be talking about the senate portion(2) for each state. Part of the inducement to join the Union was precisely the idea that the voice of smaller, rural, less populated states would not be dominated and drowned out by those more densely populated. The agreed upon remedy was the Electoral College. If you remove it, you break the original bargain. Secession will be on the table.

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