The question depends on which popular vote we’re talking about. The Electoral College electors are selected by popular vote—at the state level. In this election, Donald Trump won the popular vote 30 times to Hillary Clinton’s 21 times (counting the District of Columbia), giving him a solid 306-232 victory (The final vote of Electors was 304-227, with 7 defections).
As a presidential selection method, that is both fair and reasonable. America is a big and diverse nation in terms of voter concerns. A national popular vote method would be absurd. The division of the popular vote into 51 distinct voting districts acts as a check on the power of large population centers to overwhelm the concerns of smaller centers. It is not a total check on the concerns of large states as large states have more Electoral votes than smaller states. But it does provide more balance.
More importantly, the Electoral College is consistent with the fundamental principle of America. Contrary to the distortions of the so-called Progressives, the fundamental principle of America is the primacy of liberty based on individual rights, not the primacy of majoritarian authority.
Consequently, the Founders did not create an absolute, or what I call a fundamentalist, democracy. The term “democracy,” in fact, appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution’s philosophic blueprint and the document that established America as a politically independent entity. That’s no accident. Notice the hierarchy established in the Declaration of Independence. First, it is established that man has certain unalienable individual rights—including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Then, “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.” Only after establishing the imperative to recognize rights and the need for rights-protecting government does the issue of voting arise—the “consent of the governed” clause pertaining to the government’s “just powers.” The right to vote—the right of each individual to have a say in the operation of the government established by the people for certain delimited purposes—is a logical extension of our fundamental rights as human beings. It is not one of the fundamental rights: It couldn't be, given that rights precede government. The Framers created a free republic in which democracy is a constitutionally limited part. This is consistent with the fundamental principle of America, which is to protect each individual’s freedom to govern and live his own life by his own judgement, not to govern the lives of others through the vote.
The Electoral College is part of the checks and balances put into place to protect the primacy of liberty. The Founders were concerned with the rise of tyranny by preventing the concentration of political power—that is, the power of physical coercion—in any one branch or segment of government. The Founders not only feared Kings but also majoritarian tyranny. “An elected legislature can violate a man’s rights as easily as a King can,” they understood. The Founders studied history. One of the things they found was that democracies historically have given rise to factionalism, which inevitably leads to dominance by the most powerful electoral factions over weaker factions, manifested through elected legislatures or demagogic leaders—ultimately leading to violent strife and collapse.
The Electoral College provides for fair, balanced, and decisive election outcomes, while acting as a reasonable bulwark against authoritarianism and thus a protector of liberty. It’s not the most purely democratic method. But then, that’s the point.
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