President-elect Donald Trump, who has voiced his dislike of the Electoral College in the past, now thinks it's "genius," after the system favored him in the election.
The Electoral College is actually genius in that it brings all states, including the smaller ones, into play. Campaigning is much different!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2016
Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, but because of the Electoral College, he won the presidential election. Twitter users called him out for lauding a system he previously hated and has repeatedly called "rigged" now that it has worked in his favor. His most recent tweet against the Electoral College came only two days before the election.
The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012
We have come a long way from "the system is rigged" guys! https://t.co/6Zj7Ud8pcl— Tom Beasley (@TomJBeasley) November 15, 2016
Many believe that the Electoral College was put in place to protect smaller states from being overpowered by states with larger populations during elections. However, the Electoral College system was actually implemented for elitist—and racist—reasons.
Before the party system formed, our founding government was at a loss for how to run elections, political reporter Eric Black, explains. The Electoral College representatives, Black says, "would be chosen (not directly by the voters but by the state legislatures) as members of the better-informed elite."
Akhil Reed Amar of Time Magazine also explained the Electoral College's troubling roots in slavery. "One Founding-era argument for the Electoral College stemmed from the fact that ordinary Americans across a vast continent would lack sufficient information to choose directly and intelligently among leading presidential candidates," Amar confirms. The formation of the party system, however, quickly made these concerns irrelevant as the parties funded the candidates' campaigns and worked to inform the public on their platforms.
In the late 1700s and early 1800s, Southern slave-owners were allowed to count their slaves as two fifths of a white voter, giving their states more Electoral College representatives. As a result, the system became completely biased in favor of slavery and slave-holding states.
With only New Hampshire left to be called, Clinton has turned in the Democratic Party's worst Electoral College performance in 28 years pic.twitter.com/APU85Ty50q— Dan O'Donnell (@DanODradio) November 9, 2016
In 1803, when the U.S. government was given the opportunity to abolish the Electoral College which was no longer needed due to the party system's effectiveness at educating voters, they did not take it. Instead of insisting on a direct, national election, by the people, for the people, lawmakers chose to keep the Electoral College.
The Electors of today are not required by law to vote in accordance with their constituents, as was witnessed during this election when Clinton won the popular vote, but Trump won among the electorate. Not only are our representatives not beholden to us, but we don't even elect them to the important post that they hold; rather, they are chosen during conventions by the political parties themselves.
There are "very few provisions relating to the qualifications of Electors," says the National Records and Archives Administration. The electorate is not bound by federal law to follow the lead of the voters, although some states do have state-level legislature in place to enforce it. In many cases, the electorate, randomly chosen by the political parties, are simply trusted to vote in alignment with the will of the people.
While Trump may be enjoying how this system played in his favor, thousands of American citizens are petitioning to end the corrupt system. Some politicians are even getting involved, including California Senator Barbara Boxer, who filed a bill to put an end to it.
After claiming all year that the political system was "rigged" against him, it is incredibly hypocritical that Trump— who sells himself as a critic of politics as usual— is willing to let corruption slide and overlook the will of the people as long as he gets what he wants.
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters