Lately, Americans have become so pissed off with the Electoral College, saying that they ought to get rid of it and return to the popularity vote. Guess what? The Electoral College, as imperfect as it is, is the one thing that has been responsible for maintaining America’s De facto two party system. Without it, America by now, would have degenerated into a Presidential system that closely resembles the Philippines and most of Latin America, and as such, they would end up with a proliferation of parties. Yes, the winner-take-all system of the Electoral College for most states can be brutal. Even if a candidate wins by a thread in the popular vote in a state like California which has 55 electoral votes, all those electoral votes are given to the candidate who wins by a thread.
Nebraska and Maine are the only two states that have a system in which their counting isn’t statewide for all electoral votes but is based on each Congressional district. So counting is done by district, whichever candidate wins in each district takes that district’s electoral vote. And then the remaining 2 electoral votes are counted by looking at the state’s total votes. Whoever wins statewide gets those two non-district electoral votes. Lots of people who’ve compared countries, wondered why is it that while Parliamentary systems are generally better than Presidential systems, America is the only one that hasn’t gone through a major Democratic breakdown in a long time. Nearly all countries in Latin America are Presidential and all have personally witnessed military juntas due to coups, or been disrupted by revolutions such as Cuba. The Philippines itself went through a period of Martial Law only to experience a revolution which got rid of then President Ferdinand Marcos, who himself, had declared Marital Law. The same can be said of the Presidentially governed nations of Africa.
As it turns out, it’s simply because America is the only Presidential system that has a Parliamentary-like “indirect system of voting” thanks to the Electoral College. Like it or not, it is the Electoral College that has somehow stabilized your system to avoid the chaos of direct popular-vote Presidential elections where the natural tendency is for a plethora of parties and candidates to emerge.
Because there is a major barrier that prevents the entry of newbie-parties. Someone who says he wants to run for President can’t simply do so because he wants to. He needs to be a member of a party that has a nationwide presence. Even if you are a natural-born American citizen, you cannot just run for President because you want to. You need to run for President and have a nationwide “party infrastructure” that will allow you to field “candidates” for each of the electoral college “slots” in each state. There are a total of 538 electoral votes all throughout the USA, and they essentially represent the total number of Congressmen which is 435, plus the total number of Senators which is 100, and then 3 electoral votes to represent Washington, D.C. which is not part of any state.
To realistically run for president, you need to find 538 people who are registered members of your party who must come from each of the 50 states, preferably from each of the districts in each of the states. Not an easy thing to do. And because the stakes are high, it discourages new parties from joining the race. That’s why there have always been only two major parties.
In essence, the Electoral College is a parallel Congress. Each state has a delegation to the electoral college that equals the number of Representatives and Senators that it has. For example: California has 55 electoral votes because California has 53 congressional district representatives and 2 senators. Add them together, you have 55. Texas has 35 electoral votes because it has 33 congressional district representatives and 2 senators. New York has 29 electoral votes because it has 27 congressional district representatives and 2 senators.
It is like a Parliamentary System in that there needs to be representatives who will be voted for per district and they in turn vote for who will be their leader — and that leader becomes the Prime Minister. The US Founding Fathers set this up because they were coming from a British Parliamentary tradition prior to Independence. This fact is what somehow saved the American system from the perils that most newer Presidential systems have gone through when they decided to follow the more chaotic popularity vote. Just look at the ongoing nightmare within Latin America and the Philippines. Thus, because they remain departed from the parliamentary system, the Americans can no longer take advantage of the superiority of the Parliamentary system’s features.
For instance: In a Parliamentary System, a party that was formerly on the Opposition can easily transition into forming the new Government because of the Shadow Cabinet. For every majority bloc Cabinet Member, there is one member from the Opposition who will be in the Opposition’s Shadow Cabinet scrutinizing and watching over everything that the Government does.
If an election occurs and the Opposition wins and becomes the new Government, the Leader of the Opposition already knows what he needs to know to become the Prime Minister because he already had access to information by virtue of his position within the Shadow Cabinet. The Opposition’s Shadow Minister for Defense will have no trouble whatsoever immediately becoming the new Government’s Minister for Defense because during his stint in the Shadow Cabinet, he would have been present in the meetings presided by the former Minister of Defense from the previous ruling party, and he would have had access to all the same informative materials.
In the Philippines and America, there is this sudden need to swiftly cobble together a “transition team” to supposedly switch from the old order to the new one. In a Parliamentary System, there’s no need! The Opposition would have already had access to what the Ruling Party was up to during the whole time. Also, a good Prime Minister and his/her team can remain in office for as long as they continue to deliver positive results. In the Presidential System, there are term limits. In America, they are given a maximum of 2 terms. In the Philippines as in many Latin America countries, they tend to allow for only 1 term, forcing presidents to alternate because they cannot continue on consecutively.
There are numerous Third World Countries can no longer afford to engage in such discontinuity. Nations such as Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and South Korea, have experienced long 20 to 30 years periods of non-stop progress and development that is consistent with a general plan. One major reason why the Parliamentary System has proven better.
If America is disappointed with the results of their recent election, and if other people from Presidential countries are equally disappointed with the results of their own elections. Maybe it’s time to consider shifting to a Parliamentary system?
No my friendly American friends, the Electoral College is not the problem. The Presidential System has now become the problem. If you believe us to be wrong? Then prove us as such. Before you do though, take a few moments out of your day, and go learn more about the parliamentary system.
Original story by: Orion Perez
Restructured to the 3rd person perspective by: Lance Sterling