Tyranny of the Masses

by Tiberius Gracchus on October 29, 2012

I am writing to draw your attention to the National Popular Vote movement. South Dakota Senate Bill 138 was written and tabled during the 2011 legislative session. It was the most recently dropped attempt for national election reform in South Dakota. SB138 stated that South Dakotans will no longer tie its electoral votes to its own majorities will. That means that whichever candidate receives a majority vote nationwide, that candidate will be granted South Dakota’s three electoral votes. Imagine every South Dakotan voting for presidential candidate X, and instead we are forced to grant our electoral votes for California’s choice of candidate Y. It is a stark example of what such reform can mean for South Dakota. SB138 was an attack on South Dakota’s sovereignty and the liberty and free will of her people. The Electoral College is a bulwark in our states relevance in regards to electing U.S.Presidents, our nations federalism; as well as a needed barrier against tyranny.

The Electoral College as expressed in Article 2, Section 1, of the U.S. Constitution explains that the President shall be elected by the Electoral College, which is composed of electors from all the states. It was established by our Founders so that the people of our state can decide how our electors may vote based on our people’s will. In contrast, in Great Britain’s Parliament, the Prime Minister is elected by the majority party. As Americans we hold high the need for checks and balances; therefore, we have organized the offices of President and Congress into separate branches. Our federalism is promoted by the Electoral College as a foundational element of checks and balances in our political system. The Electoral College is an expression of the Founder’s wish that we remain a republic. The Founders left it up to the states to decide whether or not to have the electors appointed by the state legislators or elected by popular vote. We act as South Dakotan’s first, and second as part of the Union, which is an expression of the fact that the original 13 states were in effect 13 countries. Consider Arizona’s struggle with the federal government over illegal immigration.

Our Electoral College is a barrier against tyranny. It is similar to our system of local and state government which insulates us from possible federal abuse, where each level by choosing whether or not to cooperate with the federal government then enables that government’s power. The institution of the Electoral College has no permanent sitting body so that corruption through bribery cannot transpire to win votes. The Founders of the U.S. Constitution feared domination of the presidential elections by states with the largest populations. In the Federalist Papers No. 68, Alexander Hamilton wrote that we need electors who will be true to their people through rules that keep them aligned with their home states. For instance, the electors could only meet once in their home state to insulate them from national pressure.

The United States of America is not a direct democracy, but rather a type of representative democracy. The Founder’s knew that unlimited power to any majority of the people through direct democracy would transform into a form of tyranny. A famous writer in American exceptionalism, whose literary passages can serve us, traveled through our country in the 1830’s. Within the traveler Alexis de Tocqueville’s, ‘Democracy in America’, we find telling words, “what I find most repulsive in America is not the extreme freedom reigning there, but the shortage of guarantees against tyranny”…if ever freedom is lost in America, that will be due to the omnipotence of the majority driving the minorities to desperation and forcing them to appeal to physical force.”

Proponents of the National Popular Voting system state that under the Electoral College System, presidential candidates do not bother campaigning in states that predictably go to one party or another. That is like blaming the American system of government for the weaknesses of the messenger. If the National Popular Vote became law in South Dakota, then we would certainly become a fly-over state. The current South Dakota Electoral College is set up to allow us to vote in a block so that South Dakota’s interests are not drowned out by a larger state’s interests. This “winner takes all” system awards our 3 electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate receives a majority of the state-wide popular vote for president. Presently, five states control over 58% of the needed 270 votes to become President of the United States. If the National Popular Vote is adopted, the presidential candidate has far fewer states to please. We would then have to hope that we as South Dakotans are greatly similar to Californians as to how we wish to be governed.

We should be promoting South Dakota’s influence on national politics, not diminishing it. As an example of how the majorities tyrannical consolidation is true even on a state political level, notice how many counties in South Dakota have been districted with counties with larger populations which ensures that little to no voice shall surface from rural areas on the legislative floor. I believe every county has an inherent right to a direct vote in the state legislative process, but that is another debate.

South Dakota owes its statehood in 1889 to the Electoral College. In 1888, the Electorate voted into office Benjamin Harrison, rather than the winner of the popular vote, Grover Cleveland. Cleveland did not want South Dakota entered as a state because of the inclusion of at least two more Republican Senators in Congress. Before his departure from office, he quickly signed into existence four states, two with Republican and two with Democratic majorities, to keep a balance between the major political parties. There you go…checks and balances in unexpected forms. Even the ancient Roman Republic used an Electoral College to preserve the rights of its people.

 In the midst of a national deficit crisis, our legislators should not be busy bypassing the Founder’s Constitutional protections for states. Our Constitution is constantly being re-interpreted to suit a politician or political groups’ special agenda, and the voters must remain steadfast to preserve our rights. The direction of our government is based on public opinion, and I urge you to voice your concerns to our South Dakota state legislature.




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