The Electoral College is not to blame, we are

This past Tuesday, we once again engaged in a revolution where, through the power of democracy, we as a people decided what shape our government would take. 

By the grace of our constitutional framework, we did not awake to violent coups, but instead embroiled ourselves in the complexity of one of America’s oldest traditions: the peaceful transition of power from one faction to another.

ADVERTISEMENT
That being said, America is at a critical juncture in her history where the questions asked will decide her character for a generation to come. Political pundits sit stumped at the precedents being set, while protesters fill our streets. All the while, the reel of social media speaks of acts of hate and violence, and all of America waits with angst as to what the incoming administration will have in store for them.

As we look ahead, we also collectively reflect on our history and begin to question the political machines that constitute our unique system of government. The one, which of late, is leaving many Americans confused and angry is the Electoral College — that peculiar engine in Article II of our Constitution that is used to elect our president.

What must be clarified now, is that the problem with our current crisis is not the Electoral College, it’s us.

A lot of the flaws we claim lie with the electoral system stem from the nationwide misconception that we are a democracy. The American experiment is not a democracy. It never has been. We are a republic that uses democracy, as an engine to ensure the fabric of our government rests not on a few elite individuals or one single tyrant but instead in the hands of the people.

Our Founding Fathers drew from all the lessons of human experience in deciding this, from the lessons of Rome to Great Britain, they knew pure democracy was not only ineffective but also dangerous.

We are the inheritors of this system that is still being tested daily, and it’s natural from time to time to question the relevance of many of our political engines. So where then, does the electoral college of 1787 belong in 2016 America? Right where it stands. Contrary to what most believe the Electoral College does not exist to ensure democracy in America, it exists to check it.

The rationale for this system lies in its ability to safeguard the nation against the tyranny of the majority by providing a balance between populations, state governments, and the people.

The true crux of the problem is this. 46 percent of our population in this election did not engage in the civic process. Due to either apathy, inconvenience or in some cases a mistrust in voting rules, the democracy that we use to sustain our republic did not occur.

This is how systems die, this is how government leaves our hands and this is what the founders spoke about time and again: An enlightened people participating.

The Electoral College votes Dec.19, and come Jan. 20, we will have a new president of the United States.

Looking to the next administration with either hope or anxiety, we will collectively reap the benefits of a right few people are afforded, the right to choose what government we sit under. With that said, America has cast its vote.

She elects you: Every citizen of the United States America to become the rulers of our government. 

You have no excuse not to acquaint yourself with your state and local representatives. You have no excuse, when you witness hate, or corruption not to exercise your ancient right of protest.

Lastly, and most important, you have no excuse to not remember each other; every creed, race, and gender in America as equally entitled to the rights that belong to an American citizen.

Our Founders, though deeply flawed individuals, gave us something wonderful. They left behind wisdom for us to perfect it, but the founders are dead and the American experiment endures.

The path is open for a new generation of founders to arise, ones blessed by progress to have no distinction of color, gender or race to ensure our experiment innovates this democratic republic. It begins here, it beings now, it begins with you.

Austin is a historian with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. He has delivered lectures to members of government with a focus on the role of checks and balances.


 

The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.