Friday, October 27, 2017

Restore the Electoral College

It’s not often appreciated that the office of President of the United States actually has a job description. Most of it can be found in Section 2 of Article II of the Constitution:

“The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

“He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

“The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.” [1]

Then there is Section 3 of the same Article:

“He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.”

So the president is to, among other things, be the commander-in-chief of the military, decide on the granting of pardons for federal crimes, make treaties, make recommendations to Congress, and ensure that all federal laws are properly executed. A job like that calls for quite a skill set. It requires a certain level of facility in military matters, foreign policy, law, and law enforcement. How will we ever find qualified people?

Let’s suppose we’re starting the country today, and that we have to decide the best method of selecting an individual who will meet the requirements. Let us further imagine that someone proposes that we will select this person by means of a nationwide vote involving every citizen, above 18-years-old, who wishes to participate, who will make their decision based on what they see on television.

That’s ridiculous. Isn’t it?

Much has been said lately about the need to abolish the Electoral College, and let the popular vote prevail. That would probably be an improvement on our current method of electing presidents, where in all but two states, a candidate who receives only a plurality of votes, no matter how narrowly, gets all of the electoral votes from a given state. But what if, instead of abolishing the Electoral College, we restored it?

As originally conceived, the electors weren’t pledged to any one candidate. They would be selected in the manner chosen by their state legislatures, and meet in their respective states to cast their ballot. In other words, electors were originally conceived as actual electors, rather than rubber stamps for political parties.

This could still be done today. Under such a scheme, the popular vote would be for the electors; the people would choose those they believed to have the judgment best suited for the selection of a president. Between the election of the electors and the presidential election, the electors could interview any number of people for the position, and not just those who were running for office. In fact, if our nation became one day truly blessed and fortunate, running for the office of president would be considered a classless act.

Such a system would have some marked advantages. First of all, we would have the comfortable knowledge that we were operating the system in the manner in which it was designed. Secondly, the electors would be capable of making the penetrating investigation that really is necessary in the selection of a president. Thirdly, we would be spared the circus we witness every four years wherein people paradoxically demean themselves in order to attain higher office. 

Of course the Electoral College system was designed without political parties in mind, and would run much better without them. But getting rid of the parties is another subject for another time.