Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A German view of our electoral college

Someone wrote, "Among the points it would make is that it is inadequate to use the notion of "Republic" as trumping "Democracy" - or many tacit versions of this notion: whether based on the history, evolution and theoretical underpinnings of the US political system and its constitution. We need to look at the underlying merits (rather than presenting certain kinds of fact as if they, without further ado, constitute adequate justification)." 

I don't think "trumping 'democracy'" is a valid concept.  Our form of government is a Republic and we use democratic means for electing our electors.  Behind the elector concept, something I didn't mention in my previous note, is the idea that the people au naturale are subject to demigods.  The 18th century "founding fathers" didn't trust the gullibility of the ordinary citizen who got to vote.   So perhaps if you want to enter into the United States experience and argue that the electoral college ought to be done away with by an amendment of the constitution, and this is true even though no one believes that you could get something like 2/3 or 3/4 of the states to vote for such an amendment, you would want to show that the American people today aren't as gullible and easily influenced as their 18th century predecessors.  I would be very interested in such an argument for I myself could not make one.  Our ordinary citizens seem to me at least as gullible and perhaps even more so than their 18th century predecessors.  Perhaps the electors don't debate the choices before them, but they could, and at least once did in the case of Hayes vs Tilden for the good of the country, or at least the good of the South by making the end of Reconstruction as part of the deal.   There are three million signatures thus far on the petition intended by die-hard Hillery followers to be presented to the electors in hope they will over-turn the Trump victory.  Hillary herself (from all reports I've seen) on the other hand has conceded defeat and is moving on.  But not even the Democrats aren't saying that the pure popular vote "trumps" the electoral college mediation.

Further down you write, "Without going further in the merits and demerits of the current US system, I do not think Lawrence's comments about the "Republic" and its relation to "Democracy" amount to anything like an adequate defence of that current US 'electoral college' system on the merits. That such comments may suit Republicans for the purpose of defending the recent outcome is, frankly, neither here nor there as far as the true underlying merits are concerned. (Fwiw, we may bet what Trump would be saying if he had won the popular vote but lost the 'electoral college'; and what he might be saying to protestors against Clinton.)" 

You should probably rephrase this to some extent because I don't think our form of government needs a "defense."   We developed the first modern democracy and all those in the west and elsewhere followed our model to some extent.  Francis Fukuyama decided upon the term "Liberal democracy" to encompass the Western nations and those others such as Japan and South Korea who have been influenced by our systems.  Fukuyama, an American, doesn't find it necessary (at least in the books by him that I've read) to rehash the details of our voting system.  He bases his devinition upon the particular freedoms that we enjoy.  Our Bill of Rights was something else adopted to a greater or lesser extent.  Nations where citizens have these rights and freedoms are considered "Liberal Democracies."    Notice that while the United States considers itself a "Republic", Britain with most of the same rights and freedoms and considered a "Liberal Democracy" by Fukuyama calls itself a "Constitutional Monarchy."   Are there some in Britain who want to get rid of Monarchy in a similar fashion to those in the U.S. who want to get rid of the Electoral College system?  As it happens there are. 

The British and German people don't get to vote directly for their Prime Ministers.  Have they need a defense of their systems?

I scrolled down several times to see who was responsible for the following site but my computer kept locking up.  In any case the distinctions it present between Republics and Democracies seem . . . valid:

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