I’m really excited about the results of the 2016 presidential election. So much so that I’m celebrating. But not for the partisan political reasons you might think.
It took me about 12 hours after the presidential election results became clear to come to grips with what happened. I knew going into Election Day that, unlike many people I know, of the two most plausible outcomes – a Trump win or a Clinton win – I wasn’t going to be particularly excited or in much of a celebratory mood about either.
This may surprise you. Throughout the campaign I conscientiously shared publicly (at least on social media) relatively very little in terms of political commentary. That was partly due to the responsibility of my job, but also because, frankly, the world has enough noise; I figured I didn’t need to contribute to the tumult. Plus, if you know me, you probably know or can guess where I stand on things. However, I did write one blog post specifically on Donald Trump which you can read here, and there were a few other twitter and facebook posts. My thoughts on Clinton were not as public, but again, if you know me, what I think of her candidacy will not be a shock.
Not that it matters to anyone, but in the interest of full-disclosure and to prove that I’m not celebrating for partisan reasons, I cast my presidential vote for neither Trump nor Clinton. Dismaying as this may be to some of you, I can look back on this election with a clear conscience knowing that I did not have to support a “lesser of two evils,” yet still got to see Clinton (the obvious pro-abortion candidate) blocked from the presidency. Many reluctant Trump voters I know cast their votes largely on the “lesser of two evils” argument or similar reasoning. Conversely, I chose to vote for what I believe was the greatest good given the options, because ultimately I am only morally responsible for my vote, not the votes of others.
I know the issue of abortion weighed heavily in the decision making of many of you, as it should. Without getting into too much detail, all the pro-life arguments for Trump in this regard were to me unconvincing at best. I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised, but that does not mean Trump earned my support.For those arguing a 3rd party vote means more abortion, you are only morally responsible for your vote not everyone else's. @TheMightyDeeds— Fr Matthew Schneider (@FrMatthewLC) November 7, 2016
All that to say, personal political opinions aside, even though I’m not elated about the winner of our presidential election, I am celebrating the results.
Yes, I’m celebrating the United States of America and our Constitution. The brilliant electoral system our founders designed has once again proved its worth. Although many of those who are disappointed in the outcome are howling about “unfairness” and are clamoring to do away with the “arcane, insane 18th-century idea” that is the Electoral College, I want to take this opportunity to celebrate it.
Consider this: in four of the past seven elections (’92, ’96, ’00, ’16) the President of the United States of America, the leader of the most powerful nation in the world, was supported by less than half of the population yet they still won the election! In 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and now 2016, the winner actually lost the popular vote to their opponent and still became president. So, if you fall into the camp that didn’t vote for Trump and now you’re upset because “the system” didn’t “respect” the “will of the people,” get over it. This isn’t the first time less than half the people have elected a president and it won’t be the last.Don't play #NotMyPresident. Recapture a belief in limited government, separation of powers, and civic responsibility to resist unjust laws.— C. C. Pecknold (@ccpecknold) November 9, 2016
Some might look at these results and conclude that our electoral system is critically flawed. But I say it is ingeniously designed!
Because our country is a republic, not a democracy. Sadly, after years of bad education and plain ignorance or naivety, many Americans think we do live in a democracy. But under pure, majority-wins democracy, the majority wins. Period. No questions asked. In a republic such as ours, the will of the majority is tempered by the rights of the minority through a representative government. Instead of voting on everything, we choose representatives through a democratic process to vote for us on many important decisions, and more importantly the rights of the minority are respected, advanced, and can even be victorious, as we have seen! What a brilliant system!
Some might argue that under the Electoral College the votes of some are weighted more heavily than others based upon their residence. For example, the votes of those Trump supporters in California - currently one of the deepest blue states where Clinton won with 61% of the vote - seemingly don’t have as much of a voice as the Trump voters in Wyoming where Trump won 70% of the vote. But did you know that as recently as 1988, California was reliably Republican? Missouri actually voted in support of the winning presidential candidates in every election, save one, between 1904-2004. It has only been recently that Missouri has swung Republican on a consistent basis. That’s because candidates and races, demographics, economics, and any other number of factors vary from cycle to cycle.
While it may seem as though the votes of certain people in a particular presidential elections don’t have the same level of importance as other votes in choosing the president, that simply isn’t true. Remember, your votes for president aren’t actually votes for your chosen presidential candidate. Your votes are for representatives who cast the votes for president, just as we elect representatives to Congress and the Senate to vote for us on many important issues.
If you don’t think you have a voice, with relative ease you can move to a state where you will. If you don’t want to move, just wait! Depending on the candidates, geographic shifts, and the realignment of the Electoral College every ten years, the next presidential election could be dramatically different. You can also join with other like-minded residents of your state to campaign for your candidate or issue, and begin changing the hearts and minds of your community.
Some might say that the Electoral College system only works when the popular vote and the electoral vote are both won by the same person. I contend that it works best when they are split. This prevents one faction from becoming too powerful. Republicans can’t simply sit back in 2020 and assume that Donald Trump will be easily elected. For the next four years they’ll have to work very hard making the case to the American people and a majority of voters who didn’t vote for Trump that he deserves re-election. Think about this for a second. The Democrats, the party that lost the presidential election, starts off the next election cycle with presumably more popular support than the current occupant of the White House. In this case, even in defeat, the losing party has remarkable strength, which in turn strengthens our republic (unless you want to make the argument that our binary political system is a problem in-and-of-itself. That's a topic for another day).
The United States of America has a long history of characteristics most democratic societies can’t claim: peaceful transfers of power, free & stable elections, respect for the rule of law, and essentially an unchanged form of government which has lasted longer than any of the most powerful countries in the world during the same time. Besides some universal changes like women’s suffrage that all major nations have adopted, just think of how the other major nations have changed forms of government since our constitution was ratified in 1788. China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Mexico, Russia, and Spain to name a few have endured bloody civil wars, revolutions, or otherwise dramatic changes in their form of government.
What change has the United States seen in our form of government? Well, in addition to adding 37 states to our federation, and in turn dramatically increasing the number representatives in Congress, we’ve changed our constitution to allow for direct election of senators. That’s essentially about it. There is something about the American system of choosing our presidents that gives it remarkable staying power. You can thank the Electoral College in large part for that stability.
Is it perfect? No. Some tweaks could probably be made to the Electoral College to increase it's effectiveness and improve our system. But it’s for all the reasons above that I’m celebrating this crazy, whacky, shocking, unprecedented, terrifying, and demoralizing 2016 presidential election, because after all, if you’re an American the President of the United States is your president for at least four years, whether you voted for him or not.