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Why the Electoral College Elects Racist Presidents


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America's voting system cannot be divorced from its slave-owning history.


Welp! December 19th marked the beginning of the end, as the Electoral College made it official and elected Donald Trump as our next Commander-in-Chief, once again confirming to me that the Electoral College ain’t worth nan and it ain’t never gone be worth nan.

Another tradition that America knows has long outlived its purpose, the Electoral College’s very existence has been hotly debated for years. It didn’t come about until 1787, and the official high-school-history-book reason it was put in place was because our founding fathers frankly thought the people were too stupid to be trusted with the presidency. No really, it was a “compromise between whether the people should elect the president or whether Congress should.”

But a glimpse behind the curtain reveals another deep dark secret reason for its existence: racism.

The system utilized the “three-fifths compromise,” which counted slaves as three-fifths of a person, to give more voting power to slave owners and pro-slavery states. In 1787, James Madison—so-called “Father of the Constitution”—gave a speech in which he said that, with a popular vote, the slave-holding Southern states “could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes.” Back then, this unjust system helped America elect Thomas Jefferson, who owned more than 100 slaves, instead of John Adams, who was opposed to slavery.

Today, the Electoral College continues to give smaller, more conservative states opposed to racial progress disproportional voting power. At the same time, gerrymandering, racial targeting, felony disenfranchisement, and various voter discrimination laws continuously strip voting rights from the marginalized in order to uphold a racist system.

In other words, even today, our election system is rigged for the racist ruling class. The fact that a man like Donald Trump was elected via this system should come as no surprise; that means it’s working exactly as designed.

And yet, despite this egregious injustice, we’re continuously told: Too bad.

It isn’t as if reforming the Electoral College is absolutely unheard of. There have been several votes on it, including in 1934, in 1966, and in 1979, but we never quite get there. Those in favor of the Electoral College argue that it is representative of the people, as the people are the ones who elect the electors (more or less). They also argue that it protects Americans from state corruption or foreign body influence. Alexander Hamilton’s No. 68 of the Federalist Papers specifically mentions giving electors access to “possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations” (such as a really-really-really-ridiculous election), while enabling them to prevent “the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.”

Well, if there was any time for the Electoral College to show us how Alexander Hamilton envisioned it working, the 2016 election was 100% it. But even a CIA report (confirmed by the FBI) on howRussia launched several waves of cyber-attacks over the course of the election to influence the vote couldn’t get the electors to do their jobs.

To be fair, over 50 electors did request a copy of the report, and there were rumblings of a group of electors out to make sure Trump was not elected, but for Clinton to win, she would have needed 38 faithless electors willing to risk their career and cast their vote for her. Come December 19th, a record seven electors did defect (prior to this year, there hadn’t been more than one faithless elector in any one election since 1948), but Clinton lost more defectors to Sanders than Trump lost to anybody.

As a result, the United States of America has a president who not only may have been installed via a foreign entity, but who also cannot claim to have been the people’s choice.

So, will this be end of it? Will we now see the Electoral College abolished?

Oh no, definitely not. Why would America get rid of something that is working exactly the way our society’s most privileged and powerful want it to? The Electoral College continues to give us the illusion of free democracy, while continuing to give people like Donald Trump an advantage.

More than two centuries later, some things never change.

 


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