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Government History

A Look at The ‘Antiquated’ Electoral College and ‘Indirect Representation’

Written by Jim Bowman

A Hundred Plus Wayward Years

In the aftermath of our latest Presidential election, both the disheartened democrats and their jubilant counterparts have been subjected to a better idea. Namely, the Electoral College is now considered “prehistoric” and/or antiquated.

So, with all this modern-day criticism being leveled against such a presidential prescription, just maybe we need to realize how well the formulas of our Founders’ have worked, and why they remain applicable.

Before exercising a hasty or trendy judgment, might we review another constitutional prescription which also was deemed bothersome and passé?

Prior to the 1913 watershed year of change, each State selected its Senators by their respective State legislators. It was a time when Senators were considered as their State’s ambassadors to the Federal authority. This system was what our Founders called “indirect representation.” In other words, the people elected their State legislators, who in turn selected two Senators and by doing so connected the people “indirectly”; thus, the term and it’s inherent accountability.

Now, these Senators were immediately answerable to their State government so when budget time rolled around, care was given not to exceed the federal revenue, which was solely gained from tariffs and excise taxes. If that total happened to exceed the available funds, each State would be accessed, according to its population.

Under this system, it is obvious that the Senators would take care not to return home with the unwanted news of needing additional funding since trips of this nature would eventually result in being replaced. Thus, responsible spending at the federal level was assured through the Senator’s accounting to their State legislative bosses.

Today, one might ask, what caused this monstrous twenty-billion-dollar debt?  The answer comes in three words:  the Seventeenth Amendment. With its ratification in 1913, accountability of the State’s ambassadors, i.e. Senators, was eliminated by the Amendment’s opening sentence, “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two senators from each state, elected by the people thereof…”

Gone was the State legislator’s dismal view of federal budget overrides. With the Seventeenth’s passing, it came down to a popular vote for the favorite. Senators now only had to appeal to their constituents rather than to their knowledgeable State overseers, who in turn were responsible to their districts back home.

The promotion of such a dramatic change centered upon a public appeal for a more direct participation when selecting Senators. The chant was along the lines of, ‘We should have more say in our representation.’ No mention was given to the other House of Congress which is appropriately labeled “the people’s House.” It is here that the people’s voice is directly heard when deciding their representatives.

This scheme came about based upon two factors. First, it is clear that the Senators would much rather serve under a less accountable system. Secondly, even though this was a hundred years ago, either the people were easily swayed by authority, or they were unknowing of their citizen responsibilities and/or the makeup of government. In either case, they voted for less accountable representation which eventually produced today’s hefty debt totals.

As I noted earlier, in this post election era, there is an attempt to generate support for doing away with America’s Electoral College system. Included, but not as glaring, this would also require the elimination of our individual State elections. However, what is missing is a familiarization of our Electoral College and the reasoning for it. If only equal consideration would have preceded the public’s support of that 1913 Amendment.

During these post-election days, emotions run high, and as such, forms the perfect setting for this ignorant proposal. Also on the schedule is this insipid call for convening a “Convention of the States,” or for a Con-Con.

This so-called Constitutional Convention would result in a complete destruction of our Constitutional Republic. And yes, America is just that, a Constitutional Republic, not a democracy.

Experience should be the teacher that admonishes us against just about all that government suggests. By that I mean that at some point, government exists for its own being rather than its ordained purpose of preserving our God-given rights and freedoms. As government grows, and in contradiction to our Constitution, it becomes its own master. After all these years, and judging by its present ominous size, that master roams freely about.

So, given this truism, and when remembering that long ago hyped-up need to pass the Seventeenth Amendment, caution should prevail during this highly sensitized period.

When voices rise, in this case, to implore the need for a national or a majority vote, it might behoove us to check for the hidden motives since one hundred years ago, no one took the time to delve into the reasoning behind the Founders’ preference for “indirect representation.” And now, it’s 20 trillion dollars too late!

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com


About the author

Jim Bowman

Retired, grandfather, 71 years old, Vietnam vet, author of This Roar of Ours, over 25 year of published op/eds.

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