To be fair, I was once an advocate of ending the Electoral College in favor of a national popular vote for President of the United States, but then I graduated high school.
The cry once again to end the system set up by the nation’s founders has been quite loud by sore losers in the past (2000 comes to mind) and has been rather incessant after the November 9, 2016 election as the most recent unofficial tally has Democrat Hillary Clinton leading by a fraction of a percentage point in the popular vote over Donald Trump, who scored a considerable victory in terms of electoral votes. One can argue similar protests and riots would not have occurred had Clinton won the electoral vote and Trump had a narrow edge in the popular vote. Perhaps many young people are fed with misinformation from anti-EC thought leaders, the education system and memes. What we have learned over the past two centuries is the original system has minimal flaws but is, as Alexander Hamilton put it, one in place due to the flaws of popular votes:
“[t]he ancient democracies, in which the people themselves deliberated, never possessed one feature of good government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure, deformity.”
On social media, many people refer to the United States as a “democracy,” but they are incorrect. The creators of the Constitution set up the nation as a republic, where representatives are elected to act on behalf of the people who vote for them. They had the foresight to understand a complete democracy would favor the most populated areas of the US at the expense of those living in rural and what would soon be known as exurban areas. On the other hand, there would still need to be some weight given to more populous states. This concept was also in mind when the legislative branch was set up. Another concern was the need to protect the nation from a Mob-ocracy, or as it was put at the time, a “tyranny of the majority.” The idea would allow larger and smaller sovereign states’ populations and representatives to work together peacefully. Therefore, the College was constructed to have each state vote for electors who would, in theory, act on behalf of each state’s popular vote.
Arguments today against the Republic’s presidential election method are not new. In 1967, the American Bar Association labeled it “archaic,” “dangerous” and “complex.” This came only seven years after accusations of voter fraud haunted the 1960 election. Also, critics point to five elections, including 2016, where a president won the election but did not win the popular vote (with 1824 and 1876 as very special cases). These contests have shown flaws, but also the importance of the Electoral College system.
While it can be argued that a straight popular vote would have averted problems, but it would have created more adverse issues. It is easy for the individual with little sense of history or civics to chant “one person, one vote” in favor of the popularity contest approach, but that is not really the case in a nation as demographically, culturally and geographically diverse as the United States. We are made up of a complex combination of people and occupations with various concerns which need to be addressed by their national leaders, many of whom are not in densely-populated areas and do not bring in a plethora of votes. A candidate for President must not ignore them, but would be more inclined to do so as a nationwide popular vote would encourage anyone running to only pay attention to the largest urban areas. Under such a system, it can be argued that seven or eight cities would always dictate who would be the President of the United States, in return reaping the majority of the spoils in return for votes. Where would that leave people who work hard and seek representation from the Executive Branch living in Montana, North Dakota and Iowa? Under the Electoral College system, concerns from those states must be addressed by those candidates as their votes would weigh more fairly against the bulk and bloc-voters from larger areas.
As for the potential mob-ocracy, perhaps the writers of the Constitution had enough foresight to see the future, where large media companies have taken more active roles in trying to elect officials. President Clinton has been both a benefactor and victim of such media manipulation: in 2008, she was portrayed as a hope for the Democrat Party presidential nomination until a presumed also-ran became the front-runner and a media darling. The potential first black President was always portrayed in a shining light, his missteps were protected by the media elite while Clinton soon became angered over his soft treatment. In 2016, the same media (CNN, MSNBC and NBC leading the way) cheer-lead Clinton’s “first woman president” drive while portraying her male opponents (Sanders and Trump) as bullies. They went further with Trump by blatantly editorializing President-Elect Trump as “racist” and “sexist.” In fact, in at least one instance it was proven that a member of the media punditry, Donna Brazille, gave Clinton debate questions in advance to help her win. This kind of media manipulation and the constant barrage of misleading political memes directly caused a large portion of the gullible public to believe Trump to be the equivalent of Snidely Whiplash or even Adolph Hitler. This created a virtually robotic mob which, in turn, went out in droves to vote against a figment of their imagination. The flaw, however, was it only worked on very large portions of the population concentrated in populated areas with very loud chanters. The electoral college protected the nation from them by allowing those who were not so manipulated to have their votes count, despite their geographic location. Perhaps James Madison put it best:
[In a pure democracy], [a] common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert results from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.
The Electoral College has been proven to avert any potential mob-ocracy, allow seven cities to dictate the presidential election and force candidates to address the concerns of states and counties considered by some of the more snobbish types as “flyover territory.” Therefore, it is effective and essential to this republic.