Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Electoral College and Federalism

Today is election day and the polls all suggest that the presidential race is very close.  It is possible that Romney could win the popular vote and still lose the electoral vote, or vice versa. A tie in the Electoral College is even possible depending on how a few states go. Given that every four years we hear some pundits argue that it is time to do away with the Electoral College and just use the national popular vote to decide the presidency, I anticipate we will hear similar calls after the election.

To me, the Electoral College is one of the last vestiges of the idea of federalism in our system.  While we may be American citizens, we also are citizens of a specific state.  The United States is a federal system of a collection of states and not one massive nation along the lines of France. While we have done away with many aspects of federalism, including constitutional change that generated direct election of senators and non-constitutional changes such as the Department of Education and programs like No Child Left Behind, I find federalism very appealing.  The basic idea is that government should be as close to the people as possible.  It is impossible for the federal governemnt to be close to the people, but there are things only the federal government can and should do, such as national defense.  The local government should do all that it is capable of doing, but when the geographic area is too small for a task, then the county or state should do it, and only when the state level is too small should the federal government be involved.  This idea may seem quaint today, but would generate a more representative government than what we have.  My vote today has no impact on the presidential election but could determine a local school board election.  I can call up the mayor of Holland but would never get through to the president, and probably not to a senator.

Finally, when I hear calls for doing away with the Electoral College, I ask, why not do away with the Senate then also?  Why should South Dakota have as many senators as California?  Isn't this also antiquated if the Elector College is antiquated?  But the Senate was put in place, at least in part, so the large states couldn't run roughshod over the smaller states.  There are movements encouraging eating local and so on; I say, let our politics be local whenever possible.

No comments:

Post a Comment