Lost Votes

“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”
John Quincy Adams

John Q. Adams was the son of our second president John Adams, and perhaps one of the most qualified men in the history of the nation to hold the office. John Q was secretary to Ambassador Francis Dana by the age of fourteen, at 26 he was ambassador to the Netherlands, besides his father having been president, John Quincy was secretary of State to James Monroe, and soon after ran for the presidency. It would have been a nearly flawless election, but this was to be historical not because of Adams, but because of Adam’s primary opponent, Andrew Jackson.

You see, John Q Adams was the kind of man many of the founders had in mind when writing the constitution, but the man of the people, the man who gained the popular vote in 1824 was Jackson. Adams ended up president due to a four way race which threw presidential selection to congress. It was at this time that John Quincy made his “corrupt bargain” according to Jackson, striking a deal with speaker Henry Clay to trade the presidency for secretary of state (a position seen as stepping stone for the presidency). Of course Jackson returned 4 years later and won the presidency, but for the first time America was given a president instead of popularly electing one.

This brings me to the point of this post- our Government is NOT a Democracy, not a pure Democracy anyway. During the first 50 years politicians referred to America as a Republic. Our government was designed to be a mix, a Democratic-Republic. Now, I want you to think about our government and founding fathers, why would they choose to create a mixed government? Why did they create an electoral college? Why did they originally have senators chosen by state legislature? And why did we change it? Why have we not booted the Electoral College?

Well, as those of you who have been following my blog hopefully realized by now, our government, for good our bad, does not function as intended. The original goal of our government was a balancing act, between the Alexander Hamilton Federalists, and the Democratic-Republicans of Thomas Jefferson political theory as to how the people would best rule themselves was split. Pure democracy is slow, mob rule becomes the norm, and the common man couldn’t read, let alone understand the subtlety of economics, or the complicated international scene. Likewise, republics created a self-perpetuating government where the elite ruled. They are prone to dictatorship, and unpopular government. A combination of the two could lead to the worst of both, or the best of both.

The power of one branch over another allowed for checks and balances, the power of the state legislators to choose senators allowed the states to retain power for themselves, create a barrier so the federal government would not attempt to legislate away the citizens’ rights. The Electoral College was created as a buffer to allow the citizens to choose people whose opinion they trust to select our president. These decisions were made in a political vacuum where there was very little existing government to compare or base this Democratic-Republic idealism on.

I think there were some flaws though which led us to where we are today, and which allowed for the “stolen election” of 1824, and the “mess” of 2000.  If it were up to me I would have kept the selection of our senators with the state legislatures, the house of representatives is the voice of the people, the Senate is supposed to be the voice of our states- remember, our state governments are selected by us, we are already saying we trust their judgment (at least more than the other guy) but allowing the senate to be selected by state legislatures gives the Senate a reason to keep power with the states. I think the state legislatures would be able to assess the legislation of the senate, and judge whether or not power is being taken from the individual states.

I think that when it comes to the Electoral College, we should either never have formed one (as they call for now) or we should realize why it’s there, our founding father’s wanted to temper the public zeal with refined controlled intelligence. The Electoral College should be a position that those who seek the office should campaign for, by telling us what they are looking for in a candidate, and then choose based upon their own standards. Now I’m telling what they should have done in the first place in order to have a smoothly working democratic republic, but that isn’t the route that was chosen do not think I am advocating we move in the direction today.

Ok, so, what’s the point right? If I’m going to tell you how our government should have been designed, but then tell you I’m not advocating for it that way today, then what do I want to see? And what does any of it have to with John Quincy Adams quote? Here goes:

1)       Give the selection of the senate to the state legislatures, it is better some times that we aren’t a pure democracy (OWS showed us how slowly pure democracy works) and public selection of our representatives actually strengthens the power of the federal government over state/local government.

2)      End the Electoral College, if we are going to vote on our president, our votes had better count.

3) Reform how we elect Presidents, and Representatives. There is an interesting form of voting known as “Score voting” amongst others which allows us to choose not just our number 1 pick for office, but number 2 and 3. By allowing us to order them, our votes really can matter, if everyone votes Democrat or Republican because they feel their vote wouldn’t count with a third party, but most people actually like the third party candidate, and then they may actually be able to choose the better person. (Also this could essentially eliminate “third parties” anyways, since we wouldn’t have to pick between two)