The founding document of the United States is wholly unsuited for a modern democracy—and a potential danger to its survivalby William Howell , Terry Moe / February 2, 2017 / Leave a comment
For more than a year, Donald Trump warned Americans that their political system was rigged to subvert the will of the people. When the votes were counted on Election Day, the outcome did indeed subvert the will of the people—but hardly in the way Trump envisioned. Hillary Clinton won almost three million more votes than Trump did, beating him by a margin of some 2.1 per cent. Yet Trump was elected president.
How could such a thing happen? The answer lies in the Electoral College, a grossly undemocratic provision of the American Constitution. Writing in 1787, the founders wanted to avoid mob rule—and give extra voting power to small states and the slave-holding South—by putting the selection of presidents in the hands of state-chosen electors rather than ordinary people. Although voters now choose the electors, the battle for the presidency turns on who wins each state, and on winning a majority of state electors—not a plurality of the popular vote. No one today would design such an oddball electoral system. It makes no sense. It offends the most basic of democratic norms. Yet we are stuck with it—a relic of the past that degrades American democracy.
The Electoral College is not the only thing we are stuck with. In fact, the Constitution imposes an entire structure of government that is wholly unsuited to modern times, and that operates like a straitjacket on us today. America’s greatest and most consequential challenge, long term, is that it is burdened by a g…