LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Be wary of the tyranny of the one, the few, the many

In full disclosure, I voted for neither major party candidates; in fact, I wrote in my candidate for president. Thankfully, we have a system that allows us to avoid voting for a bloviating narcissist or a contentedly slithery (possible) criminal. You can decide on your own which description fits which candidate, or perhaps, you may lean towards a both/and situation.

That being said, I would consider myself significantly conservative and, as a Delaware resident, mean I rarely see my vote go to the “winning candidate.” In further disclosure, I am compelled by the argument against the Electoral College. However, I ultimately disagree with oft-common narrative, “disband the Electoral College!”

Thankfully, the Founders instituted a host of checks and balances that prevented us from running amok with, oddly enough, ourselves. Madison noted that if men were angels, no government is necessary (Federalist No. 51). But as we are not, we must have preventives in place to avoid normal jurisdictive powers to run toward tyrannical means. Many of these we know well, such as the three branches of government.

Others, like state and federal roles, the republic form of government and the Electoral College, are less known.

While many may point to elections like 2016 as a reason to revisit the college, the argument can and should be made that elections like these are exactly why we need the college.

Let’s take a look at the data (note: all the data is from the election data provided by CNN). As is well discussed by now, Secretary Clinton won the popular vote by 1.698 million votes (as of Nov. 22); a significant total, especially for those of us from a small state. It is a number like this that makes the case for the popular vote so appealing. However, if we investigate data a little closer, this concept loses some of its flavor.

Let’s take the two of the greatest and most populated bastions of left-leaning politics, New York and California. These two states have, predictably, gone Democratic for nearly a generation; 1984 and 1988 were the last times the states went Republican, respectively. But as each region and demographic cohort is not monolithic, neither are these states.

Let us look at California first. If we look at the state, county by county, it is unsurprising that Clinton won both the popular and the county count. She won the state by 3.389 million votes and the counties 33 to 25. But, as we think about the overall national popular vote, just three counties make this difference: Los Angeles, Santa Clara and Orange counties. These three counties went for Clinton at 1.703 million votes. New York likewise went to Clinton overall by 1.503 million votes.

Not surprisingly, the counties near New York City heavily favored Secretary Clinton. Seven counties — Queens, Kings (Brooklyn), Bronx, Westchester, Nassau, New York (Manhattan) and Rockland — leaned towards Clinton by a margin of 1.968 million votes, nearly 200,000 votes greater than her win over Trump in the overall state and 709 votes greater than the overall national popular vote.

More paradoxically than California, the majority — geographically speaking — of New York went for Trump. He won 30 more counties than Clinton did, most of these obviously being sparsely populated, comparatively. This is more apropos to Delaware, where Trump won the two southern counties, but due to the population of New Castle, the state was declared a victory for Clinton prior to any votes being counted. And yet, still, this data may only bolster those who call for an end to the Electoral College, but I would ask you to consider the repercussions of such an about-face.

Taking from Plato, Madison opined in a letter to the people of New York to be wary of the accumulation of the power of the one, the few and the many (Federalist No. 47). We, ever diligently, watch for a tyrant à la Hitler, Stalin or Pol Pot, or the rule of the few, whether that be some form of aristocracy, oligarchy, or the modern moniker, the political elite.

However, we neglect to watch for the tyranny of us, the many (even if it is the majority in the echo chamber of our minds). The removal of the Electoral College for a truer form of democracy would easily lead to the tyranny of the many.

Even now, we are focused on “battleground states” such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and others. We know, or at least trust, that Delaware will go Democratic and North Dakota will go Republican. The focus of the battleground states become the highlight of election night and the culmination of presidential campaigns for years.

These states get principal focus for each candidate throughout, making much of the United States “flyover country,” both to win the election and the post-election retributive process. If we left the college for the general vote, how much less of this focus would even be on states?

If a candidate knew that now, the focus was only on the greater portion of the population, would they waste time on smaller states and population zones? In order to ensure victory, a candidate would get the most bang for their buck by focusing on high-population cities, New York, LA, Chicago, Philadelphia — it’s the winning strategy. The top 10 cities in the U.S. have a population total of over 25 million people. Winning the majority of these votes would win the election every time.

The question then becomes, “How much pandering, promising and procurements would be needed from candidates to ensure that they won these centers significantly? How great would the retributive focus be on the dozen or so major cities in the U.S.? How little focus, from the executive branch, would be on the majority of the U.S. if smaller areas were unneeded to win?”

Unfortunately, moving to a truer democracy would most likely turn the majority of the U.S. into a lamenting neo-peasantry beholden and subservient to the major urban centers around. This is why the Founders set up the government as a republic and not a democracy: to avoid the tyranny of not just the few or the one, but of the many, as well. This is what has been passed on to us if, as Benjamin Franklin is said to have posited, we can keep it.

LeRoy Demarest

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