Quantity Versus Quality

This is an old post, but it’s worth a repost with all of the nonsense this week about how Hillary should be president because she won (or is winning — I think they’re still counting) the popular vote:

It would be perfectly constitutional for the electors to be chosen by throwing darts at a phone book, by elimination from a reality show, or a mass tournament of pistols at dawn, as long as the legislature so stipulated. That was the degree to which the Founders thought that the states should have leeway in determining how they determined their electors. This is a very important point to make when arguing with modern democraphiles about ending the Electoral College and electing the president by popular vote.

Not also my broader point:

Many (in fact, many too many) in government imagine that their job is to create more government. As three examples, legislators think they’re supposed to pass legislation, diplomats think that (among other things) they’re supposed to get treaties signed and ratified, and regulators think that they’re supposed to create regulations. They are encouraged in this by many fools in the press who actually consider legislation sponsored and passed into law (particularly when it has a lawmaker’s name on it) to be a figure of merit to be touted as part of his record for reelection, or election to a higher office. Legislators who have passed lots of legislation, or secretaries of state who get lots of treaties ratified are lionized in the media, while those who do neither are denigrated as “do nothings.” All this, of course, despite whether or not the legislation passed, treaty ratified, or regulation created was actually a good idea.

But in fact, those are not their jobs. Their jobs are described in the Preamble. They are: “…to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence [common spelling at the time], promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

Passing legislation, ratifying treaties, promulgating regulations are means to those ends but, despite the title, it is not a legislator’s job to legislate per se. It is not a diplomat’s job to ratify a treaty per se. It is not a regulator’s job to regulate per se. Those are simply tools granted them by the Constitution to carry out their true jobs, as defined above.

I’d also note that, contra the more-recent nonsense about how the Senate wasn’t “doing its job” with regard to Merrick Garland, it has no Constitutional “duty” to advise and consent. It only has the power.

12 comments on this post.
  1. Karl Hallowell:

    I’d also note that, contra the more-recent nonsense about how the Senate wasn’t “doing its job” with regard to Merrick Garland, it has no Constitutional “duty” to advise and consent. It only has the power.

    And the voters get to decide, such as in the election that just happened, what the consequences are of not performing the perceived “duties”. Not much of a punishment, if you ask me.

  2. John Berntson:

    The Electoral College was set up as a way to help protect less-populated states from the more-populated states – that is, they all feared Virginia. It still plays that role.

    If we elected presidents based on popular vote, all of the campaigning would occur in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. Any appearances in “fly-over” country would likely be in the form of making use of a refueling stop.

    If that’s what you want, fine, as it would lead to fewer political commercials in the rest of the country – though I, living in New York, am not exactly comforted by that. However, as high-density housing seems to lead to a socialist state of mind – if you live on a two-hundred acre farm, you don’t really care if your neighbor turns up the stereo – we might really want to leave all things electoral as they are.

  3. Leland:

    The problem is they know this and they don’t care.

    Just remind them Trump won more states. The UN doesn’t work by popular vote either, and they love the UN.

  4. wodun:

    People forget it is not just about people but states. Each state is a separate entity that has their own concerns. The EC doesn’t just protect a minority of people from tyranny but also protects the rights of state governments to have influence over policies that affect them.

  5. Jon:

    No, Wodun, you are wrong! The state is a living body, with a heart and blood vessels and nerves. If you remove one small portion of it, the entire body dies.

    The country is a living body, made up not of living bodies, but of blood corpuscles and cells.

    I got that from Woodrow Wilson, America’s favorite Progressive.

  6. Jon:

    A little off topic: I am just old enough to remember Reagan winning in 80. In my snowflake little universe, it was the end of the world. My teachers were gnashing their teeth and pulling their hair. The news media were already biased by then and I had this smug assuredness that Reagan would be a disaster.

    Have faith in the millennials, many will switch to conservative principles over time.

  7. ken anthony:

    Not as long as they believe they have a right to other people’s money. All of these rights need to end cold turkey. Let them bitch now to improve the future faster.

    Illegals believe they have the right to vote to which Obama back handedly agreed.

    They will only come to reality when they have to face it, not otherwise. Govt. is the enabler which has to stop. Trump should have the Franklin quote ready (if he doesn’t know it, we tell him) about how welfare should never be so much that people are comfortable living on it. Incentivising children in poverty is way beyond stupid.

  8. wodun:

    There is hope as long as there is a free internet where people can explore and learn on their own.

  9. Doctor Mist:

    Given that the President is actually selected by the Electoral College, whose members are not popularly elected, can anyone tell me how we came to have popular elections in the first place? My impression is that we’ve been doing that since very early on, perhaps even since Washington. Did early electors feel an onus to follow their states’ results? Wikipedia says electors are usually named by the party, though this must be before it’s known which party wins, since I heard this year about a WA elector who planned to vote against Clinton regardless of the popular vote.

    I’d love to read something about the original theory of how the Electoral College would actually function. Any recommendations?

  10. Call Me Ishmael:

    … the Electoral College, whose members are not popularly elected …

    They are not popularly nominated, but they are popularly elected. That’s what you were actually doing when you marked your presidential ballot—choosing a slate of electors who had somehow indicated they would vote for the candidate whose name you checked.

    And no, that’s not how the electors who voted unanimously for Washington were chosen. They were chosen by the various state legislatures. The idea of letting the (white, male) citizens of each state choose the electors spread during the first couple of decades of the 19th century.

  11. David Spain:

    Had Hillary won, the Senate could easily have established hearings and held a vote on Garland’s appointment during the lame duck session. This is just good politics. The Senate is under no obligation (duty) to rubber stamp presidential appointees. It’s called “separation of powers”. Could not Obama given a Deomcratic Party win, just as easily have withdrawn the nomination? And where would that have left the so-called “duty” argument?

    We do such a bad job of educating our children they come out of high school with no clear idea of the difference between rights & powers, democracies & republics…

    Also lamentable: the total lack of knowledge of our history between the revolution and the republic. The weaknesses of the Articles of Conferdation that preceded the Constitution that nearly lead to wars between states over the rights to navigation across border waterways. The struggle of the small states not to be rolled by the big states, etc. A clearer understanding of all these issues that were hotly debated and argued in their time and still relevant today would frame a wiser view of why we have an Electoral College and not just a knee jerk reaction to a popular vote loss that would in effect turn the country into a plebiscite amongst city-states…

  12. Doctor Mist:

    Rand, I’ve just stumbled across a reference to Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which says

    Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

    This seems to at least assume that electors are chosen by popular vote. Is this amendment generally understood to rule out the “darts at a phone book” method? The wikipedia piece on Article II doesn’t seem to say so, but I’m not sure I see how a state legislature would make that change without risking that their basis of representation would be reduced to zero.