Stifling the Voice of The People – The American Way
Before we go spouting off about freedom, democracy, and the right to vote for our leaders, let’s take a look at what the Founding Fathers actually had in mind…
The great men who designed our nation’s election system were tasked with freeing us from tyrannical rule by royalty. They were certain that a) eliminating influence by special interest (including the British), was imperative; b) our Leaders should be elected by chosen electors that held particular values dear; c) political parties were to be avoided; d) candidates should not campaign for election; e) State’s Rights, a hot topic around the churches and pubs, could cause loss of control over the nation, and f) the balance between Congress and the Presidency was vital to protecting liberty and avoiding totalitarianism.
In other words, The People did not know what was best for them, and politics were to be played carefully to build the new nation—in a manner that was far from a democracy. More important than the ability to follow the will of The People, a candidate’s valued traits were prudence, financial success, vested interest, gender, race, and apparently, good connections. Basically, an all-around solid guy that met the criteria and supported their goals.
“Depend upon it, Sir, it is dangerous to open so fruitful a source of controversy and altercation as would be opened by attempting to alter the qualifications of voters; there will be no end to it. New claims will arise; women will demand the vote; lads from 12 to 21 will think their rights not enough attended to; and every man who has not a farthing, will demand an equal voice with any other, in all acts of state. It tends to confound and destroy all distinctions, and prostrate all ranks to one common level. ~ John Adams
The Constitution had been put into place to preserve liberty, protect freedoms, and limit the powers of government. Period. It was never intended to give The People a fair voice.
Electing the President
The Electoral College, a group of hand-picked gents that were held in high-esteem by the current leaders, decided who would take the seat of office. The purpose of the system was, most simply, to limit the power of the democracy and to protect The People from themselves, as well as foreign influences.
With this, they would avoid the potential of The People erroneously electing a dictator, or placing another Royal Family in charge of the country. Or making poor choices as The People tend to do.
Until 1796 only one candidate was chosen, eliminating the potential need for campaigning. The People simply voted one candidate into office, with a blessing of sorts.
Until then, it was said, and widely believed that, “The office should seek the man, the man should not seek the office.” But Jefferson contested the Federalist incumbent on the Republican “ticket,” creating the first Two-Party election, and a new way of seeking the presidency began. For better or worse.
As the new government gained breadth and girth, people really started questioning the principles of democracy, and how this election method supported the Will of the People. Granted, the electoral college system helped to avoid some issues caused by the wide spread of population, but that also favored the electorate by allowing the more populated (and modernized) states an increased presence.
“Each State shall appoint, in such a Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress; but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed as an Elector. ~ Article II, Section I U.S. Constitution
Over the next decade of elections it became apparent The People wanted more of a say in the decision. The fundamental principles of the country started to evolve away from Liberty (free from oppression) and toward Democracy (controlled by the citizen majority).
By 1828, on the heels of the great financial crisis of 1820, The People really started questioning the government and the growing power it held over them. The ever-expanding executive powers were under close scrutiny and the talk of the town. The Democrat Party was born; the two-party system was validated, and the presidency became a highly-prized position. Political campaigns by the candidates were developed to help voters choose the man who best supported their ideals. The election of 1828 drove the new two-party election period into a frenzy that closely resembles the campaign roller-coaster we know today.
It was a great step forward for democracy, but, as with all politics, the campaigning also gained attention by special interest groups. The increasing costs of campaigning, as well as the benefits of investing in them, encouraged those with an agenda to gain favor and changed the system forever.
Where do The People factor into all of this? We elect those that choose the electors. We listen to speeches and debates; we watch commercials and read media coverage from all sides of the mountain. We protest and comment and blog; we complain and yell and scream our frustrations, and we wind up voting for the lesser of two evils because we feel we have no choice. Then we vote and rush home to see what the electors have decided.
In the end, we are right where we have been placed and doing exactly what we were supposed to do.
What Will It Take?
Constitutional Amendments are within reach of our elected officials. What will it take for The People to wake up and demand we change this archaic method of determining our fate to a system that elects by popular vote? Or are we destined to suffer through indefinite four-year terms of a Government that makes our decisions for us and acts in its own best interest?