Why do we elect who we elect to lead us? How do we elect them? What is it about the representative democracy that makes our elections so interesting?
Take a look at the 2016 presidential elections. While Hillary Clinton won the popular vote (65.8M to Trump’s 62.9M), Donald Trump won the election by securing 306 of the 538 electoral votes. So though a majority of Americans voted for someone else, Donald Trump became this country’s 45th president.
The electoral college system has been hotly contested before, especially in the wake of 2000 election, where George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in a narrow victory.
But the electoral college/popular vote debate was also on display following the 1876 election, in which Rutherford B. Hayes defeated Samuel J. Tilden over a matter of twenty contested electoral votes; and also in 1888, when Benjamin Harrison won over Grover Cleveland.
The 1824 election proved interesting as well, with it marking the “final collapse of the Republican-Federalist political framework.” (http://www.ushistory.org/us/23d.asp) Andrew Jackson won the electoral vote, ninety-nine to John Quincy Adams’s eighty-four. But Jackson’s votes only amounted to 43% of the electoral college, and did not secure him the presidency.
It was then that the choice fell to the House of Representatives, under the Twelfth Amendment. In what was decried by Jacksonian supporters, the corrupt bargain gave Adams the presidency, and he in turn nominated House Speaker Henry Clay as Secretary of State.
If we, in a majority vote, elect someone who then isn’t the winner, where does the burden lay? With the system? With the candidates? With the voters?
Maybe we’ll see a change to the system in the coming years. Maybe it’s time.