Growing up with widespread and practical uses for the internet has probably been the single biggest influence on millennials and the way we perceive the world around us. For the most part, it has really done a lot of good, helping us become a more socially aware people who are less likely to have a worldview shaped by the respective bubbles we all grow up in. However, perhaps the biggest drawback from growing up in a generation where anything we want is just a click away, is the fact that we expect for the rest of our challenges to be solved with the same amount of ease. In my observations, this has made us hypercritical about institutions and processes that have been in place for a great number of years. I’ve seen videos suggesting that we should get rid of the constitution because it made it too difficult for us to enact large scale reform (I’m not lying), I’ve read articles about how we should disband the Federal Reserve because it’s too complicated of an organization (also not lying), and I’ve seen countless posts from news outlets, some reputable, some not, on how we should do away with the Electoral College. The last topic is the one that I care to discuss, since I believe that a large number of the people who may read this article share that same view, or at least sympathize with it. To begin, it is important to state that the Electoral College is not perfect, but the following article will lay out why it is far more optimal for our country than a straight up popular vote.
One of the most popular arguments against the Electoral College is the fact that the United States is the only country on earth that uses it, and that a popular vote like the ones practiced by European nations is the way to go. However, anybody who holds this view probably hasn’t fully thought their point out. Here’s why: I would like you to think of any democratic nation besides the US and keep it in mind for the rest of this piece; it can be France, Spain, Japan, Germany, or any country you care to use. Do you have that country in mind? Great, let’s continue.
Now, how is that country different from the United States? There are a few things that may pop into your mind, but I want you to think specifically about the people who live in the country you picked. Say you picked France, who lives in France? The answer is pretty straightforward: French people. The same fact applies to most every other country on earth. Danish people live in Denmark, Swedish people live in Sweden, and Mexican people live in Mexico.
But what about the United States, which type of people live here? I for one, am a Greek-American. My neighbor is an English-American, and many of my friends are Cuban-American. In short, the only people who can claim to be truly American are the 5.2 million Native Americans living in the USA today. Unless you belong to that group, then your family, at some point, immigrated to the US from another country. How does this relate to the Electoral College? To answer that, go back to the other country I asked you to keep in mind. While any country you may have picked may very well have a sizeable immigrant population, no country on earth has the immigrant population of the US- after all, we are literally a nation of immigrants. My family still goes to the Greek festival every single year, and my Cuban friends still celebrate Nochebuena on Christmas eve. All of us carry a piece of our heritage with us and that is because our our heritage is the soil from which our ideologies are grown; and it goes without saying that our country has every type of soil you can imagine.
Anyway, when US immigration reached its peak levels in the 1900s (and long before that as well), our newest citizens looked for communities filled with people who came from the same backgrounds they did. This is actually how my family came to settle in Miami, because of the large Greek community that already existed here. This is also why there is a large Mormon population in Utah, and a large Quaker population in Pennsylvania. When our founding fathers decided on the electoral college hundreds of years ago, it was to ensure that everybody had their voice heard when casting a vote for president. Because of our ancestor’s immigration patterns, different states are home to different of people who hold different values, and that is part of what makes our country so unique. Our ideologies are not evenly dispersed throughout the 50 states, but rather, they exist in clusters throughout the country.
If we were to eliminate the electoral college in favor of a popular vote, the foundation of our democracy would be irreparably damaged. All of the sudden, people living in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia would have a disproportionately large say over who we elected president every four years. All of the sudden, entire states like Vermont, Iowa, Wyoming and Oklahoma would have virtually no impact on our democratic process. And all of the sudden, the values of entire communities would cease to be important as political parties would cater their platforms to the needs of the only voters in big cities. If you don’t find this outrageous, consider the following: over 62% of our nation’s population live in our biggest cities. However, those cities take up a mere 3.5% of land area in the US. If we were to abandon the Electoral College, a candidate for President could win an election even if they literally ignored the roughly 121 million voters who lived in the other 96.5% of the country.
What is the sense in having a Democracy if every citizen’s vote is not equal? The electoral college assigns electoral votes to states based on their population, so while a state like South Dakota will have fewer electoral votes than a state like Florida, the Electoral College ensures that pound for pound, their votes have the same weight and importance. Once again, the Electoral College is not perfect, and it will at times yield results that a majority of the population finds inefficient or unfair. If you voted for Hillary Clinton, it is perfectly understandable that you’d be frustrated by the fact that she lost the election despite winning the popular vote. However, I would urge you to keep in mind that democracy is a messy, messy form of governance, in which we must tolerate occasional inefficiencies in order to ensure the long term feasibility of our way of life. One must also see the immense issues with a popular vote is it pertains to a democracy in the United States. Most other countries on earth have a much higher degree of cultural and religious homogeneity than the United States, and for this reason, a popular vote works for them. However, our country’s defining quality is our diversity, it is what makes us great, and it is what makes us unique. All of us like the idea of embracing our country as unique, there is no debating that. However, it is important to understand that because our nation is so unlike any other in the world, it is only right that our democratic process is unlike any other in the world.