It’s been amusing watching the excellent Phil Smith at RNZ fall to pieces turning his ep-ed pieces on American politics into right old tanties.
Despite Alexander Hamilton’s earnest arguments there was another reason the electoral college won out over a straight popular vote: slavery.
In the 1780 census, slaves made up 38 percent of the six southern states’ populations, but only 4 percent of the north was black (and many of them free).
Each state is allocated power in Congress based on its population. The southern states forced a compromise where slaves, who could not vote, counted as population (equal to three fifths of a person each).
As a result, the south got more political power and paid less tax than the north (by nearly a third), and dominated government until the civil war.
Selfish political chicanery is not new. The southern states pushed for the Electoral College to elect the president because it gave them more power. They got more power because they had more slaves. The smallest states got more power and agreed to the plan. The voters themselves lost out.
Many people argue they still do. That the results of two of the last five elections have gone contrary to the will of the majority of voters feels perverse. This unfairness pushed New Zealand to adopt MMP.
This week in the US, Californian Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer has, once again filed legislation for a constitutional amendment to adopt a popular vote. It might seem like a good idea, but it is not going to happen.
History teaches us states do not agree to things that are not to their advantage.
Alexander Hamilton said, “The true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration”. History will be the judge.
The electoral college was specifically designed to prevent the red states and its numerous slaves driving the rest of the country through sheer power of numbers.
Oh the irony.
– Phil Smith, NZ Herald