Many states are currently working to eliminate the electoral college and replace it with a straight democratic election of the President. This articles sums up the situation nicely.
Instead of writing new material here, I will quote from my own book, The Path to Tyranny.
On the benefits of the electoral college:
The Founding Fathers saw the benefits of keeping the three branches of government as independent of each other as possible. They therefore created the electoral college to choose the President. Instead of directly electing the President with majority rule or allowing Congress to select the President, each state held a number of “electoral votes” equal to its number of House and Senate seats. Originally, the candidate with the most votes became President and the person with the second most votes became Vice President. After the election of 1800, when no candidate received a majority and it took the House thirty-six ballots to elect Thomas Jefferson, the Twelfth Amendment altered the system so that votes for President and Vice President would be separate. Also in the original system, the electors were chosen by the states and those electors then decided which candidate to vote for. But the people began demanding that the electors vote for a specific candidate, so now the people vote for a Presidential candidate and the electors from each state are pledged to vote for that candidate. This system makes the President totally independent of Congress because they have no say in his election, except in the rare situation in which no person receives a majority of electoral votes, which last occurred in 1824. Additionally, because a candidate becomes President by winning the most electoral votes, even if he does not win a majority of the popular vote, he is somewhat independent of the people, as well. In this way, the President represents the entire country and not Congress, a single state or region, or even the majority of people over the minority.
Replacing the electoral college with a more democratic system is exactly what the Founders hoped to avoid. The Founders created a republic, but we’ve been becoming more democratic with time thanks to the increasing use of ballot initiatives at the state and local levels and with passage of the Seventeenth Amendment, ratified in 1913, providing for the direct election of Senators.
Here are some quotes from The Path to Tyranny warning about the evils of democracy:
- Aristotle calls democracy a perversion of constitutional government in the interest of the needy.[Aristotle, Politics Book 3 Part 7.] In ancient Greece, this democracy often led to tyranny, not just of the majority, but also to tyranny of a single ruler chosen by the majority to lead them.
- “Now the first of these to come into being is monarchy, its growth being natural and unaided; and next arises kingship derived from monarchy by the aid of art and by the correction of defects. Monarchy first changes into its vicious allied form, tyranny; and next, the abolishment of both gives birth to aristocracy. Aristocracy by its very nature degenerates into oligarchy; and when the commons inflamed by anger take vengeance on this government for its unjust rule, democracy comes into being; and in due course the licence and lawlessness of this form of government produces mob-rule to complete the series.” [Polybius, The Histories 6.4.7-13.]
- The key, therefore, to maintaining peace, prosperity, freedom, and stable government is to create a system balancing monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, each with checks on the other two. But as power was being distributed downward to the people, Polybius warned that giving the people too much power would result in mob rule followed by a new tyranny: “And hence when by their foolish thirst for reputation they have created among the masses an appetite for gifts and the habit of receiving them, democracy in its turn is abolished and changes into a rule of force and violence. For the people, having grown accustomed to feed at the expense of others and to depend for their livelihood on the property of others, as soon as they find a leader who is enterprising but is excluded from the houses of office by his penury, institute the rule of violence; and now uniting their forces massacre, banish, and plunder, until they degenerate again into perfect savages and find once more a master and monarch.”[Polybius, The Histories 6.9.7-9.]
- The term “tyranny of the majority” originated with Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America. (Tocqueville, Democracy in America 292.) However, Polybius, the Greek historian who lived from 203-120 BC, used the expression “cheirokratia,” loosely translated as “mob rule,” to describe this unlimited direct democracy, arguing that mob rule was a result of “the licence and lawlessness” of democracy. (Polybius, Histories 6.4.9.)
- This second principle is in many ways a contradiction of his first principle. The first includes “all to rule and be ruled in turn” whereas the second is “to be ruled by none.” The first says “the majority must be supreme” whereas second says “a man should live as he likes.” The first principle leads to the tyranny of the majority whereas the second results in anarchy. It is only by balancing the two principles that a free society can be maintained without falling into tyranny or anarchy.
- Plato warned about the evils of democracy from its birth to its death. He argues that, from the start, democracy involves killing and exiling its enemies. “And a democracy, I suppose, comes into being when the poor, winning the victory, put to death some of the other party, drive out others, and grant the rest of the citizens an equal share in both citizenship and offices.”[Plato, Republic 557a.]
- The result of this democratic uprising, Plato argues, is anarchy, mockingly calling democracy “a delightful form of government, anarchic and motley, assigning a kind of equality indiscriminately to equals and unequals alike!”[Plato, Republic 558c.] But he contends that the end of democracy is tyranny as demagogues prey on the people’s lust for wealth. “Well, then, the insatiate lust for wealth and the neglect of everything else for the sake of money-making was the cause of its undoing.”[Plato, Republic 562b.] Plato insists that this “climax of popular liberty… is attained in such a city when the purchased slaves, male and female, are no less free than the owners who paid for them.”[Plato, Republic 563b.] “And so the probable outcome of too much freedom is only too much slavery in the individual and the state… from the height of liberty, I take it, the fiercest extreme of servitude.”[Plato, Republic 564a.]
- The desire for more democracy and larger, more centralized government has turned what once was a laissez-faire representative government into a large interventionist government.
- The United States was fortunate that its Founding Fathers were so well versed in political philosophy and history. They understood that they had to design a system with checks and balances between the different branches of government and between the states and federal government. They knew that both centralized power and unfettered democracy led to tyranny and hoped to limit the power of government. At the Constitutional Convention, Alexander Hamilton said, “We are a Republican Government. Real liberty is never found in despotism or in the extremes of Democracy.”
- More than two thousand years ago, the Greeks and Romans wrote about the evils of democracy, as did the Founding Fathers just two hundred years ago. James Madison writes in Federalist No. 10, “Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” Nevertheless, Americans have ignored these warnings and history’s examples. Since the adoption of the Constitution, the United States has trended toward more democracy, exemplified by the direct election of Senators and increased use of referendum and initiative. One effect of this democracy has been the growing demand for the government to provide for the people.
- The Founding Fathers warned about the evils of democracy. Today the politicians and special interest groups use propositions to trick the voters into constantly growing government. We have to rid ourselves of the democracy in our midst and return to our republican roots.