‘Class Warfare’ Strikes Again!

The Democrats remind us, yet again, that they are pious Marxists.

Among the Obama administration’s successful campaign tactics in 2012 was the “evil capitalist” label that it slung at Mitt Romney. Given Romney’s successful business record and accompanying inability to defend the morality of capitalism, the former Republican nominee was tarred and feathered as an out of touch elitist. In the confirmation hearings for Neil Gorsuch, the Democrats are at it again.

 

California Senator Dianne Feinstein initially hoped to portray the Supreme Court nominee as an opponent of women and grilled Gorsuch on the abortion issue. With no pithy sound bites to indict him, Feinstein chastised Gorsuch for managing to “avoid any specificity” in his abortion remarks. After Feinstein’s failure, New York Senator Chuck Schumer claimed in one speech that Gorsuch is “someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology” and let on that Gorsuch’s “vulnerability” was that he possesses an “anti-worker, pro-corporate record.”

 

Not to be outdone by her peers, Massachusetts Senator and class agitator extraordinaire Elizabeth Warren was even more explicit in a recent Boston Globe editorial so laced with anti-business vitriol that it could serve as the intro to The Communist Manifesto.

 

Warren explains that “recent court decisions have let giant corporations that cheated their consumers off the hook, unleashed a flood of secret money into the political process, and made it easier for businesses to abuse and discriminate against their employees.” She adds that “If he [Gorsuch] had his way, he’d make it even easier for corporations to challenge health and safety rules that prevent them from polluting our air and water, poisoning our food, undermining public safety, or cheating people out of their hard-earned savings.”

 

In Warren’s opinion, businesses would blithely poison, extort and even murder their customers with abandon were it not for noble government bureaucrats who reign them in. In other words, government force is what keeps entrepreneurs from violently eliminating their revenue source, and customers ought to mistrust and even despise the very people that create their gadgets and gizmos. Warren’s conspiratorial suspicions indicate that she has probably never run a business in her life and likely screens her Dunkin Donuts coffee to ensure the creamer was not swapped with ricin.

 

The source for this irrational hatred is the deep Marxism that animates today’s leftist intellectual establishment. Gorsuch’s originalism, says Warren, is a cover for his true desire: to aid and abet his “right wing buddies” in their quest to defraud the common man for their own benefit.

 

On this view, society consists of warring collectives that work to gain power in a zero-sum “class conflict.” People do not have free will and are wholly conditioned by their material conditions, say the Marxists, so it is a mistake to think that judicial theories matter as much as judicial outcomes do. Gorsuch’s judicial principles, for the left, are window dressing meant to apologize for and justify what really matters: which collective gang he wants to prevail in the societal melee.

 

The attempt to portray Gorsuch as a corporate pawn is more than an attack on originalism or the Republican party. It is an attack on judicial philosophy itself.

A Day Without A Leftist

Feminism is about Marxism and left wing politics, not actual women.

When Donald Trump was elected, feminists around the country were livid that such a man could win the presidency. The day after Mr. Trump’s inauguration, several major cities in the US were flooded with women in pink hats toting signs about “pussy grabbing.” Yet, only 23% of American women identify as feminists. Further, Trump won close to 40% of the female vote, overall. What gives? Isn’t 20% a low figure for feminism in today’s America?

The fact is that feminism is not what it used to be. The original feminists in the 19th and 20th centuries were motivated by a particular political goal: the ability for women to exercise their individual rights on a par with men. In contrast, today’s feminism embraces the so-called “intersectional” approach. In the words of stand-up comedian Ava Vidal, intersectionality is the view that “certain groups of women have multi-layered facets in life that they have to deal with” and “there is no one-size-fits-all type of feminism.” In other words,  all women are oppressed but some women are more oppressed than others.

Intersectionality is the political left’s makeshift solution to what Dave Rubin aptly calls the “oppression olympics,” wherein various minority groups come forward with a narrative as to why each is the more victimized. These “class interests” do not always coincide, because some groups lobby the government more effectively than others. To prevent these pressure groups from eating one another, their leaders have unite their ire against common enemies, such as capitalism, white males, and Christians. Hence the situation we live in today.

The intersectional feminist movement has its philosophic roots in both Marxism and egalitarianism. Feminism is Marxist insofar as it divides society into classes (men vs women) and then argues that progress can only obtain by struggle between the classes. Feminism is egalitarian insofar as denies that inherent differences between men and women exist. Then, when those differences manifest, the feminists claim misogyny as the cause. In other words, justice consists in treating unequal things as though they were equal.

Marxism promises a utopia in the future where everyone is equal. Egalitarianism raises equality as the standard for what is just. The two fit together like a rusty old furnace and the inferno that roars within.

The latest intersectional feminist powwow occurred today and was advertised as “A Day Without A Woman.” The event was a planned general strike, akin to an earlier strike aimed at immigrants. That strike was a flop, but the feminists are not discouraged. They believe the “Era of Trump” is their time to shine.

The event was scheduled to coincide with International Women’s Day, itself a holiday first created by the American Socialist Party in 1909. The strike organizers encouraged women to take the day off of work, wear red in public and boycott businesses not owned by either women or minorities. A recent article in Vox illustrates the organizers’ goals and ideology clearly.

“Many women,” the piece explains, “have little use for the ‘lean-in’ style of feminism that focuses on corporate achievement or personal empowerment.” For the strikers, the feminist message is not so much about individual women doing well as it is about gaining ground for the sisterhood, a collective that has been oppressed for decades by a sinister patriarchy ruled by men.

The author continues:

“When we think of combating ‘violence’ against women, strike organizers argue that we shouldn’t limit our imagination to things like domestic violence or sexual violence. We should also think about ‘the violence of the market, of debt, of capitalist property relations, and of the state; the violence of discriminatory policies against lesbian, trans and queer women; the violence of state criminalization of migratory movements; the violence of mass incarceration; and the institutional violence against women’s bodies through abortion bans and lack of access to free healthcare and free abortion.”

For intersectional feminists, “the market” and “capitalist property relations” are forms of violence equivalent to “domestic violence or sexual violence” and “mass incarceration.” These Alinskyite she-bears conflate economic power with political power and think that the power to produce is on a par with the power to kill or threaten.

Capitalism is based on voluntary, peaceful exchange of value for value. As Ayn Rand explained, a businessmen in a free market can only exercise power of production; that is, the power to offer goods and services to whomever chooses to purchase them. Government bureaucrats, on the other hand, exercise the political power to arrest and kill others. A proper government uses its power to remove force from society and place it under objective control. Political power is coercion; economic power is creation.

The problem in America today is not that intersectional feminism has too few adherents; the problem is that it has any at all.

Have Republicans Really Changed?

In their essentials, I say no.

It has been widely reported that the party of Reagan has become the party of Trump, and that this represents a major political shift. Some say a momentous quake in the zeitgeist, or a major political realignment. Is it, really?

Recently, Teflon-Don called upon “both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth.” Earlier this year, he promised that “…we’re going to have insurance for everybody…” and that “…there was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it… that’s not going to happen with us.”

Trump is not an advocate for the free market, or limited government, or individual rights. He promotes economic nationalism. He wants to clamp down on immigration. He refuses to cut social security and medicare. Reagan fans remember when he asked the Soviets to tear down the Berlin Wall. Trump groupies swoon when the Donald tells them he will a build a wall. On the surface, Trump appears to be a divergence from the traditional Republican, a misshapen defect that somehow made it through the Reaganite, GOP assembly line.

Many Reaganites think this is true. Consider David Brooks at the New York Times, a typical conservative specimen. In a recent column, he argues that “the old Reagan conservatism was economic individualism restrained by social and religious traditionalism,” and that “Trumpism is all about protection, security and order.” For Brooks, “healthy American political philosophies balance individualism and collectivism, personal freedom and communal cohesion…”

In other words, it is “healthy” to compromise your principles and pragmatically endorse individual rights only when it is convenient to do so. The individual is self-made, except when he must serve his community. The individual is free to produce and trade, except when tradition demands he sacrifice. The individual has reason, except on Sundays when he defers to religious dogma.

Brooks rationalizes his pragmatism, but leftist commentator Bryce Covert is more forthright. In her column on the subject she points out that even Paul Ryan, supposedly a principled advocate for limited government, defines freedom as “..the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need.”

She explains that “Conservatives are typically proponents of negative liberty: the freedom from constraints and impediments” and that “…Mr. Ryan inadvertently revived an idea that desperately needs to be resuscitated — the idea that freedom requires not just a lack of barriers, but also the conditions that allow people to live their lives fully.” “Deprivation,” she concludes, “is a constraint on Americans’ freedom.”

Covert is partially correct in her assessment: Ryan’s approach to freedom leads ultimately to statism. Where she goes wrong is in expecting Ryan to properly defend freedom in the first place.

In any war of ideas, the most consistent side will emerge victorious. As Ayn Rand once remarked, “there are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil.”

The proper defense for political and economic freedom rests ultimately in ethics, an area that pragmatists like Brooks and Ryan are unable to broach honestly or consistently. One cannot defend capitalism and limited government without acknowledging their moral base: individual rights. Instead, Republicans implicitly endorse the altruism celebrated openly by the left and attempt to rationalize the contradictions that follow. In doing this they undercut the moral defense of capitalism and ultimately help their enemies expand state power.

So have Republicans changed? Sure, they have become more consistent. Too bad it is in the wrong direction.

No, Voter ID Laws Are Not Racist

But they do help prevent vote fraud, and that is the point.

The perennial debate over stricter voter ID laws is in the news again. In a controversial decision, the Justice Department has recently reversed the Obama administration’s decision to a Texas voter ID law.
Critics on the left assert that voter ID laws are inherently discriminatory against minorities and the poor. They claim that the poor are unable to afford voter IDs and that asking them to get one is an undue burden that they cannot cope with. Furthermore, since racial minorities are disproportionately poor compared to whites, voter ID laws qualify as racial discrimination. Leftists also argue that voter ID laws unfairly skew election results in favor of Republicans.
This raises several obvious questions. First, are voter IDs that expensive or difficult to obtain?  Last I checked, a valid photo ID in NYC will run you anywhere between $8 and $15 depending on how old you are and where your birthday falls. Meanwhile, surveys show that 80% of Americans below the poverty line have cell phones, 96% have televisions and 97% have refrigerators. If you can afford a television or a phone, you can certainly afford a wallet-sized hunk of government-issued plastic.
What of the charge that ID laws are racist, because more minorities are poor? To see how absurd this is, note that our society is replete with activities that require a valid ID. You need a valid ID when you use a credit card, fly on an airplane, rent a car, buy liquor, pick up concert tickets, enter a bar, join the military, donate blood, open a bank account, buy cigarettes, get married, or pick up a prescription. Even high end grocery stores such as Sam’s Club and Costco will occasionally ask for an ID in order to verify that you have a valid membership. Are minorities discriminated against in these areas, too? Funny, I never hear about that.
It is probably true that requiring photo IDs reduces voter turnout, but this is not nearly as problematic as it might seem. Voter fraud is a rampant problem in the US, particularly in so-called “sanctuary cities” that do not enforce federal immigration law. In a recent Ohio investigation, it was found that over 380 non-citizens were registered to vote and approximately 80 of them cast at least 1 illegal ballot within the last year. If that sounds like a low number, keep in mind that there were 112 elections in Ohio that were either tied or decided by 1 vote in the last 3 years. In swing states, every vote matters!
Finally, what about the charge that Republicans benefit from voter ID laws? One poll conducted by Pew Research found that illegal immigrants who voted favor Democrats over Republicans by an 8 to 1 margin. If this is true in general, it would seem that support for Democrats is higher in the illegal immigrant community than it is in the population as a whole. So sure, the results may favor Republicans but that is because a higher proportion of legal voters want to vote Republican!
The truth is that this is all a smoke screen. Voter ID laws are meant to ensure that those who vote are legally able to do so. Those that oppose voter ID laws seek to win elections by enabling voter fraud. Voting is important; this is why we need stricter voter ID laws.

Trump is Right…Health Care is Complicated!

Unfortunately, this does not prevent people from trying to use government for it.

In a recent speech with state governors, President Trump admitted that implementing government health care is a tricky business and that Republicans are having a hard time pulling the plug. One would think that the wayward health care law, which is responsible for skyrocketing insurance premiums and deductibles, would be easy to ax. Even the standard issue, rose-colored glasses worn by Democrats cannot hide the fact that the bill has been a complete failure. Whence the trouble?

I remember when Obamacare was first rolled out to the public as a 20,000 page bill that nobody in our government seemed to have read. Nancy Pelosi clumsily explained that we would need to pass the bill in order to know what was in it. Healthcare.gov ended up costing three times what was expected and was launched months after the intended date due to mismanagement. I even remember when Obama said that Americans could keep their doctors, if they wanted. We know how that ended up.

Conservative and libertarian Americans flocked to Tea Party protests to oppose Obama’s attempts to expand socialized medicine, and today Americans cite “health care” and “dissatisfaction with government” as two of the largest issues facing the country. This was a healthy reaction but there were warnings that the law would be difficult to dislodge, if it was successfully passed. Wary observers may recall one Tea Party participant’s eloquent sign: “Keep your government hands off my Medicare!” The promise for free goods can corrupt even those Americans that are most suspicious of government.

During the campaign in 2016, Trump went so far as to say he was a “fan of the [individual] mandate” and that the more popular aspects of the law would remain. Today, Republican voters that oppose “socialized medicine” clamor to keep the parts of the bill that would help them personally. As Trump aptly put it: “People hate it…but now they see that the end is coming and they’re saying, ‘Oh, maybe we love it.’” “Repeal and Replace” has become “Rebrand and Re-neg.”

Programs like Obamacare are how government expansion occurs and persists in general. Government-sponsored goodies are as potent and addictive as heroin or cocaine, particularly when people are convinced that it is a right that they are owed. To fund the largess, the government raises taxes and imposes restrictions on businesses. Hard-done-by Americans organize into pressure groups to lobby for new handouts to mitigate the ruinous effects of the old handouts. By the end, a single entitlement thread has morphed into a regulatory spider-web.

This was done by design. Leftists for decades have known that Americans would reject explicit socialism, but would handily vote it in piecemeal if couched in the proper language.

Advocates for the free market were always aware that government health care would be a train wreck. What is one to expect when a gang of government bureaucrats, armed with their pens and the entitled screeching of their constituents, takes it upon itself to try to serve a complex, modern service to a population as large and diverse as the United States?

“You know, health care is a very complex subject,” Trump said. “If you do this, it affects nine different things. If you do that, it affects 15 different things.” Couldn’t agree more, Mr. President.

Make Debating Great Again!

Advice on how to make debating with others more fun and constructive.

As we approach the holiday season after a contentious election year, many will feel themselves embroiled in dinnertime discussion with friends and family. There will no doubt be many fights that break out over champagne, apple pie and Christmas presents: brother against brother, father against child, daughter-in-law against wacky aunt. Those who seek to preserve a harmonious atmosphere will try to observe the conventional wisdom that it is rude to discuss religion and politics over supper but when the booze flows, the tension grows. Thus, the dreaded “holiday political debate.”

Debate can oftentimes generate more heat than light; rather than illuminate a particular issue, people get burned when others disagree with them. Debate serves a vital purpose, though: it allows a person to present their case before a skeptical audience and to thereby confront the premises that they may take for granted. Anyone interested in their own intellectual honesty should not be afraid to participate in a debate with honest opponents. Instead of avoiding debate, I propose people learn to engage in it constructively and get better at it.

I am interested in addressing three distinct questions when it comes to debates:

  1. What are the essential characteristics of a debate?
  2. How should one conduct oneself in a debate?
  3. What is an objective measure of success for participants in a debate?

Let’s answer the first question. A debate centers around a single issue and involves at least three distinct parties: two presenters and an audience. The presenters represent two opposing views on the issue in question and the audience represents those that are not fully committed to one of the two views. It is crucial that we have these three ingredients and if any one of them is missing, then the nature of the conversation changes and it is not longer a debate. If there is no audience and each person is giving their own take, then you have a discussion among equal participants and the necessary persuasion element is gone from the situation. If there is only one presenter, then you have a lecture where one person is educating or explaining a topic that they are knowledgeable about to an audience that is mostly listening and absorbing material.

Note that the size of the audience is irrelevant to the classification of something as a debate: so long as there is a third party to listen and be convinced, it does not matter whether the audience fills a stadium or a kitchen table. Note further that there may be more than two individuals serving as presenters per side, and there may in fact be hidden presenters lurking in the audience. What I mean here is that the moment a person advances an argument in favor of one side or another, they have moved from the audience to one of the presenters’ camps. This is typical of informal debates, when two people start the debate and bystanders start “ganging up” on one of the two presenters. In this instance, the presenters must honestly acknowledge that any person buttressing the arguments of one side at the expense of the other are no longer members of the impartial audience. In extreme examples, the “debate” may actually not be a true debate since there is no audience and everyone is already more or less dedicated to a particular position.

Shouldn’t we expect the audience to shrink as the debate progresses and people are convinced one way or another? I believe the answer to this question is no, because opinions on weighty issues are not formed overnight and people have varying degrees of certainty in their beliefs. When we take a particular issue, each audience member will likely be inclined to one side or another; this is to be expected. Audience members can have an opinion at the start of a debate and sympathize with one of the two sides. However, it takes a certain amount of conviction to be able to enunciate one’s position and advance arguments to support it in the face of a challenge.

There is a clear distinction to be drawn, in other words, between a person that simply agrees with a particular position and a person that agrees with a particular position and can rationally defend it in a debate. It is likely that the person who presents arguments to support a position has been in the dialogue and has at least a cursory understanding of the opposing position, whereas a person that merely agrees may be open to persuasion when they hear the other side. This is what distinguishes an audience member from a presenter: a presenter is confident enough in their belief to put forward an argument while an audience member is not.

Now, onto the second question: How should one proceed as a debate participant? As an audience member, it is important to raise questions and challenge those arguments that are unclear or seem incomplete. As a presenter, there are several guidelines that I think merit observation. Not only will these rules make a person a more respectable presenter, but it will also lead to fewer emotional outbursts and fights.

The first rule to observe when engaging in debate is the so-called “principle of charity” which states that one ought to interpret ambiguous arguments from opponents in as rational a manner as possible. That is, when a presenter in a debate makes an argument that could potentially have multiple meanings, we are to take the meaning that is most rational, consistent and free of falsehoods and fallacies. In this way, we avoid caricatures of the opponent and ensure that we are arguing against their actual position and not a straw man.

To consider an example of this principle, suppose Alice and Bob are arguing whether it is proper to use corporal punishment on children that misbehave. Alice may argue that it is immoral to hit children as a form of punishment and Bob may argue that spanking a child when they have done wrong on occasion is crucial to getting the child to respect authority. The principle of charity dictates that both Alice and Bob should assume that the other person has the best interests of the child in mind when they discuss whether corporal punishment is useful or not to raising children, unless there is clear evidence that this is not the case. The point in disciplining a child in the first place is to aid in his development, so the rational presenter would argue their case with this goal in mind.

The second guideline in debating properly is to recognize and respect the free will and intellect of your opposing presenters, and to let this shape your expectations. Individual presenters have a choice to participate in a debate or remain silent as members of the audience. Nobody can force a mind to operate; arguments can only be marshaled by a thinking consciousness, and people need some amount of courage to effectively present a position in front of an audience, no matter how small or familiar it is. When a person is willing to participate as a presenter, it is incumbent on their opponents to assume that they have at least some familiarity with the issue outside of their own position and that it is likely arguments will not convince them overnight.

This point is so crucial it merits repeating: do not expect to convert opposing presenters with your arguments in the heat of a debate. For each argument that you offer, your opponents have either heard it or they have not heard it. If a given argument was known to your opponent before you advanced it, then it was not sufficient to convince them before and so there is little chance it will convince them now. If a given argument was not known to your opponent, then it will take some time for them to digest the argument and come to accept the full implications of it. Thoughtful people who care about ideas need to integrate new arguments and data with their previous understanding of the world, and this takes time and reflection. People are not often willing to engage in reflection in the presence of an audience that is judging their performance as a presenter.

This leads naturally to the third rule to follow as a presenter: aim for the undecided audience with your arguments. Treat the audience as though it were a group of students, hungry for your instruction on the subject at hand. Provide the clearest case for your position, and point out the holes in your opponents’ arguments. Furnish the audience with resources they can google if they wish to learn more, such as books or articles. One encouraging indication that you have performed well as a presenter is if you get questions from the audience, because asking questions is a sign of an active mind. You should answer audience questions to the best of your ability and admit when you are not sure what the answer may be, because people who are eager for the truth appreciate genuine effort that is free of pretense and arbitrary assertions.

Finally, when a debate is over how do you gauge your success or lack thereof? Objectively, we have established that it is unrealistic to convince opposing presenters during a debate. The audience should be your target, not the opposing presenters. To this end, compare the audience after the debate with the audience before the debate. How many people changed their minds? How many people started in agreement with your opponent, only to have one of your arguments plant a seed of doubt? How many people asked questions and were genuinely interested in the implications for accepting your position? These are all important questions to ask and are the proper way to objectively assess your performance in a debate as a presenter. If one considers a situation where you are the only advocate for your position and there is no audience, it makes sense to set your expectations for immediate converts low.

To summarize, one should not view debate as something unpleasant and aggravating. Instead, one should view it as an opportunity to learn something new or to further test your own understanding. Do not evaluate your performance in a debate by whether you persuaded your opponent to surrender, but rather on whether you were able to effectively articulate your case to those undecided people. Not only is this an objective way to assess your debate performance, but it is also takes the edge off of “winning” and respects the intellect and free will of your opponents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why We Should Not Expel the Electoral College

A defense of America’s method for electing the president.

It is periodically fashionable for some Americans to question the electoral college, the mechanism used to elect the commander-in-chief. These individuals couch their position in language that portrays the staid institution as primitive or outdated. A recent petition circulated by the “progressive” MoveOn.org characteristically tries to make the case that the electoral college “has outlived its usefulness” and that it, along with the Constitution itself, was “written when communication was by Pony Express.”

This is curious rhetoric. One would do well to point out that the Pony Express point is an intellectually lazy one because that system actually came into existence in the late 1850’s, more than half a century after the Constitution was penned. The larger point, though, is that when the electoral college was installed has little bearing on how valid it is as an election mechanism. The reason for this is that the problem of political order is as old as human society itself. While our technology and culture may change with time, the core issues at stake with how human society is organized are timeless. It is my contention that the electoral college is an effective, albeit imperfect method for electing the president of the United States and that it should be preserved. To fully appreciate the brilliance of the electoral college, one must understand not only the way that it operates but the history behind its inception.

The electoral college is a system whereby Americans indirectly elect the president. Each state receives one electoral vote for each representative it has in the House of Representatives, plus another electoral vote for each of its two senators. Currently, the states possess 435 representatives and 100 senators between them. Additionally, the Twenty-Third Amendment to the Constitution provides Washington DC, the capital of the federal government, with three electoral votes. There are therefore 538 total electoral votes to allocate for president and a candidate must receive at least 270 to proclaim victory.

Though a state cannot unilaterally decide how many electoral votes it receives, it does have the ability to determine how to allocate the electoral votes that it possesses. On election day, voters cast their ballots in their home state. As the votes are tallied and the states determine the winning candidate in their jurisdiction, electoral votes are “called” for the candidates in the national election. Aside from Nebraska and Maine, all of the states employ a “winner-take-all” approach whereby the candidate that receives the most votes in the state receives all the electoral votes in that state. If there is a situation wherein no candidate for president receives at least 270 electoral votes, the president is elected by a vote in the House of Representatives while the vice president is elected by the Senate.

The individuals that cast the electoral votes in each state are known as “electors” and they take an oath to vote for the candidate that does the best in the state election that they serve. Curiously, there is a possibility that individual electors diverge from their state’s prescription; Such a person is known as a “faithless elector.” This has occurred in American history, but it is a rare phenomenon that is discouraged with state laws which levy a fine on such behavior. These laws have never been challenged in the courts, however, so there is some doubt as to whether such statutes are constitutional.

This is what is meant when it is said that America is not a democracy, but a republic. By definition, a democracy is a system of government where the prevailing power is unlimited majority rule. A society that restricts voting to specific matters can be called democratic, but it is technically not a full-fledged democracy. In a pure democracy,  the people would be able to vote not just on taxes and parades, but also on whether it is valid to dispose the life or property of specific individuals. One need only recall the story of Socrates, who was sentenced to death for “corrupting the youth” by vote in Ancient Athens, to see the dark side of unrestricted democracy. The electoral college entrusts the electors to vote as representatives of the general population.

Why allow a select group to cast the final ballots for the president rather than open it up, Athenian style, to the general populace? It is no secret that the American founding fathers, contrary to what some may believe, were not huge fans of direct democracy. Former president James Madison argued extensively in Federalist 10 that, with regards to government, “measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.” Alexander Hamilton, the man who would go on to serve as the first Treasury Secretary and inspire a hit Broadway musical, was a monarchist sympathizer of the British system of government and sharply criticized the bloodshed in the French Revolution. Fans of the musical may be surprised that Hamilton believed that the greatest threat to American liberty, apart from the return of the British army to North America, was mob rule.  Ben Franklin, never at a loss for witty aphorisms, quipped that democracy is on a par with two wolves and a sheep voting on what to eat for dinner.

The founding fathers sought to limit the “tyranny of the majority” caused by a democratic system when they drafted the Constitution. The method that they elected to use in this mission was federalism, a system of government where power is divided between a large, central governing body and smaller, regional governments. The founding fathers understood that if the United States was overly centralized the government would lose touch with people on a local level because traditions and culture differ from state to state. On the other hand, if there were no centralization at all then the states would be less able to protect themselves from foreign aggression. The US Constitution also limits the extent to which democracy plays a role in American politics by restricting what we can and cannot vote for. America can this be said to be a democratic, or representative, republic.

Apart from granting several powers to the state governments, the American founding fathers also implemented a system of checks and balances between the branches of the federal government to make it more difficult for any one person or political party to fully control it. The Congress is tasked with legislating, the president is tasked with enforcing the legislation passed by Congress and the Supreme Court is tasked with ensuring that the actions of the prior two branches are in accordance with the Constitution. Madison succinctly encapsulated the benefits of federalism when he wrote in Federalist 47 that “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” Like all federalist devices, the electoral college represents an attempt to mitigate the negative effects of democracy while still allowing for the common man to have a say in who his ruler is.

There are persistent opponents of the electoral college to this day, despite the arguments of the founders. Traditionally, these opponents have been agents of the Democratic party dating back to its creation under President Andrew Jackson. The most common objection raised by Jacksonian Democrats applies to the most recent election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, wherein Clinton won the popular vote but Trump won the election with over 300 electoral votes. The basic idea is that because more individual people voted for Clinton than for Trump the electoral college failed to account for the true tastes of the voters. Critics contend that a direct, popular vote is a better approach to elect the president.

This argument overlooks the federalist character of the USA. The Constitution was originally ratified with the understanding that the federal government was created by the states, not the other way around. When the states ratified the Constitution they delegated some powers to the federal government and retained the remainder, as per the Tenth Amendment. The federal government, then, was created not by the act of a single, united American people but rather the various peoples of each individual state. As such, it is the states that select the president, not the populace at large. It is not the people of the US that elect the president but rather the people of each state that elect the president. If there were a direct election by popular vote, the largest and most populous cities would carry a disproportionate weight in the election. The states that have more populous cities, such as Texas and California, would overshadow the states with smaller cities such as Wyoming and Delaware. The result is a complete collapse of individual state sovereignty and representation.

Advocates for the popular vote may argue that the electoral system also disenfranchises states, it just does so for a different set of them. Under the electoral system, presidential candidates spend a majority of their time and ad money in the so-called “swing states” such as Iowa and Florida and less time in stronghold states such as Alabama and New York. This view is also misguided. The truth is that the median voters in any election decide the outcome because the voters at the extreme ends cancel each other out; this is a basic mathematical fact. In a direct popular vote, a simple majority would be able to elect the president without a need to appeal to the minority position at all. The electoral college shifts this “median voter effect” to the state level and makes it more difficult to overlook those with a minority position.

To see why this is, let’s look at a short example. Consider a minority group that numbers approximately half a percent of the total population; as of 2016, this is a group of about 1.5 million people overall. In a direct popular vote their voice is a drop in the bucket and no candidate worth their salt would appeal to such a small niche group. Now suppose a modest, politically conscious chunk of that minority group moved to a state with a smaller population, say Wyoming with a population of half a million. If even one tenth of our beleaguered minority group lived in Wyoming, then they would comprise nearly 30% of the total population of Wyoming, a sizable percentage. When it comes time to campaign, the candidate that seeks to gain the electoral votes in Wyoming would be unable to simply ignore the minority group and they would have a better chance of getting their voice heard in the national election. There is a useful side effect here that the state politics of Wyoming would be more conducive to the goals and interests of the minority group. Apart from casting ballots every four years, individuals vote with their feet all the time when they move to different states.

American federalism remains an innovative solution to the problem of political order. This is not the first time in history that aspersions were cast on the electoral college system and it will not be the last. We should be suspicious of those that seek to overturn it not by refuting the arguments that gave rise to it, but by portraying it as old and outdated. Tyrannical government, after all, is older than federalism; I leave it to you to decide which is the more primitive relic.