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11-26-16





In The Words of Alexander Hamilton

By John-Walt Boatright  — johnwaltboatright@gmail.com


We are witnessing meltdowns of epic proportions – inconsolable college students, disruptive riots in the streets, vulgarities expressed on social media lamenting the results, rampant claims of our bigoted, racist, misogynist country. No doubt, conversation around the Thanksgiving table could be exciting, perhaps rancorous. Indeed, the results shocked the nation and the world, myself included, but should it translate to outrage over a properly conducted election? Hardly.


As our elections system has produced only four similar results over nearly sixty presidential elections, a president was elected who did not win the popular vote. It is not a common occurrence, but it can happen under our current system, whereby the people indirectly elect the President via a system of state Electors determined by their number of congressional representatives. It is called the Electoral College. Now, the losing side wants to dismantle it in favor of a direct, popular election. The grass is always greener on the other side.


First, we are not a pure democracy. Our system is uniquely designed to not vest too much power in one entity, including the majority! Unlike we do today, the Framers understood the tyrannical reign of an all-powerful entity (see King George III, circa 1770).


It was Alexander Hamilton, the subject of the much-acclaimed Broadway production bearing his name, who authored Federalist No. 68: The Mode of Electing the President. This is an explanation and defense of the entire Constitution; No. 68 addresses the reasons behind our elections system specifically.


Hamilton eloquently argues the integrity of this unique system that will avoid tumult and disorder; avoid intrigue and corruption” and, contrary to advocates of its abolishment, “maintains the President independent of all but the people.” A transition to an election governed solely by the popular vote would attract candidates only to the most populous states and the most urban regions. The Electoral College encourages a more inclusive and widespread campaign strategy in which all states matter, as opposed to California, Texas, Florida, New York, and other populous states.


In his vigorous defense of the Electoral College in Federalist No. 68, it was also Hamilton who proclaimed, “the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.” This leads to the truly hysterical outcry from liberals on Trump’s Cabinet picks.
The Presidency is not a dictatorship. President-Elect Trump will require cooperation from Congress to accomplish his priorities, including Cabinet appointments.


It is in the preceding article (No. 67) that Hamilton notes “the ordinary power of appointment is confided in the President and the Senate jointly.” Because, otherwise, why give them the power? The Senate historically has proven to be an effective firewall for unacceptable nominees, and there is no reason to expect a different result today. Senate Democrats and Republicans alike have expressed resolve in opposing certain nominees, and as the world’s most deliberative body, it will vet nominees thoroughly.


Finally, in remarks in Peru on Sunday, President Obama endorsed the “wait-and-see” method in deference to the President-Elect’s prerogative to shape his Cabinet. He has also repeated the mantra that elections have consequences. I imagine the President recalls from personal experience how opposing forces can rush to harsh judgment.


The progressive left would be wise to heed the judgment of a current president they so admire and a past president exalted on today’s stage. Our method of election undeniably works, and a race to premature judgment on appointments shows a lack of faith in a multi-layered process that will continue to protect our resilient political system.


We are blessed with many inalienable rights in this great nation, granted by God and enshrined in an enduring Constitution. Among our many reasons to be thankful this season, celebrate with reverence a form of government that is as nigh perfect as an imperfect people can develop.