“We too [in Israel] need an electoral college,” says Avi Berkowitz (Jerusalem Post December 11, 2016).
Perhaps Mr. Berkowitz was unwittingly distinguishing between a Democracy, a regime rooted in the amorphous egalitarian principle of one adult one vote, and a Republic, which accounts for, and tries to preserve, the rich diversity among the voters of a nation, as manifested in America’s Federalist Constitution.
It may well be that Donald Trump was elected by a “basket of deplorables.” But the key to his victory does not lie in the demographic make-up of the people in the basket—the racial, cultural, religious and ethnic profile of his supporters. Rather it lies in the design of the basket which he used to gather them together. That design was calculated to allow him to stitch together enough electoral votes to defeat Hillary Clinton’s racial, ethnic, and gender driven popular majority. And for this very reason I have no doubt that that America’s founding fathers, the men who designed the electoral system which handed Trump his victory, would heartily applaud the result.
Why an electoral college?
Let’s go to the heart of the matter.
The key purpose of the electoral college, as Hamilton says in Federalist 68, was to refine public opinion. “It was desirable,” he wrote, “that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust [as the Presidency] was to be confided.”
Hamilton defense of the electoral college begins on democratic grounds: The sense of the people is to operate in the choice of a President. But he hastens to add that “This end will be answered by committing the right of making it, not to any pre-established body, but to men chosen by the people for the special purpose, and at the particular conjuncture.”
The right of choosing a President is not to reside directly in the people, but with men chosen by the people for this particular purpose and at a particular time.
Unknown to most commentators, the electoral college method of choosing a president actually manifests the crucial distinction between a homogenizing Democracy and a pluralistic Republic; and it was this distinction, institutionalized in the Electoral College, that gave Trump his presidential electoral victory over the left-wing (socialist oriented) Hillary Clinton!
For an elaboration of this subject, see my Philosophy of the American Constitution (Free Press, 1968).
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