Constitutional compromises: The Electoral College | US government and civics | Khan Academy

Constitutional compromises: The Electoral College | US government and civics | Khan Academy

Articles, Blog , , 6 Comments

– [Instructor] In this series of videos about the Constitution, we’ve been discussing all the elements of balance and compromise that
appear in the Constitution, the balance between large
states and small states and between the different
branches of government. But in this video I want to talk about one particular compromise made at the Constitutional Convention over how the president of
the United States is elected, and that is the electoral college. I think these compromises
reveal some real conflict among the framers over how they think the American Revolution did. Did they think that the Revolution went too far, had created too much equality and too much liberty for
people who weren’t ready to deal with it? Or did it not go far enough? So let’s talk about this idea that perhaps the Revolution went too far, that the average American Joe, or Jedediah, I guess, could be the Revolutionary version of Joe, had too much a sense
of his own importance, was going to tear down
the social structures that had seemed natural during
the American Revolution, the wealthy elites, the middling farmers, the rough and rowdy workers. You’ll remember that one of the incidents that led to the decision to revise the Articles of Confederation
was Shays’s Rebellion in which a group of unruly farmers, Revolutionary War veterans, had marched against the
governor of Massachusetts. So the people were used to rebelling, and they first had rebelled
against Great Britain. But now that war was over, and they started rebelling
against state governments. So there’s a real sense
throughout the Constitution that the founders were
attempting to balance democracy, a representative government, with what they saw as too much democracy or mobocracy in their words, that unruly mobs who perhaps lacked the virtue of elite, educated citizens would foolishly tear down government that they weren’t prepared to be part of. Now, you see that in
things like the Senate. The members of the Senate
were appointed, not elected, up until the 20th century. The idea that there had to be one part of the legislative
branch that was selected by the better sort of men, the sort of people who really knew what good leadership looked like, not by a mob that might be swayed by any fancy talking politician. The founders didn’t want all
white men to be able to vote. They wanted voting to be
reserved to the elite, the propertied, the educated, those who were prepared
to be virtuous citizens. It wouldn’t be until the 1820s that all white men
could vote in elections, regardless of how much
property they owned. Of course, it wouldn’t be until the late 19th and 20th centuries
that women and minorities would get the right to vote. So they had a very dim idea of the average citizen’s ability to engage productively in democracy. And another way that they
show this in the Constitution is in the process of
electing the president. Article II establishes
the executive branch, and it also discusses how
presidential elections shall work. And it’s a kinda complex
process, the electoral college. But the simple version is that
instead of having citizens vote directly for the president, the citizens would vote in each state, and then that state would have electors equal to the number of
senators and representatives. And those electors would then
cast votes for the president, and whoever got the most electoral votes should be president. And we still have this system today. This is a map of the current
number of electoral votes that each state has. And really, what the
founders intended here was to have a safeguard of the office of the president, believing that it would be possible for a mob to be swayed, even the better sorts of citizens, into voting for a politician who wouldn’t be good for the office. And so they moved away
from direct democracy into a slightly more
complicated indirect system just to put an extra layer of safety in between the office of
president and the unruly masses.

6 thoughts on “Constitutional compromises: The Electoral College | US government and civics | Khan Academy

  • Phoenix Fire Post author

    Basically, the self-appointed elite don't like democracy.

  • ACoustaDC Post author

    I have a Sal bias…. his style is much more engaging.

  • Dan Taz Post author

    Is this a communists point of view on the electoral system?

  • Cheydinal Post author

    In the beginning of the republic, for multiple elections, the Electoral College in most states wasn't actually determined by popular vote, but as far as I know just state legislatures

  • biscoito1r Post author

    I thought only farm owners voted because they were the only ones paying taxes.

  • Sara Hendrix Post author

    The electoral college restrains the majority. Majority rule/ mob rule which is the major flaw in democracy and why the founders gave us a constitutional Republic like we pledge to. None of our organic documents have the word democracy in them for good reason. We are guaranteed a Republican form. The electoral college is constitutional law we are ruled by law and not by a majority in a democracy. We do not want to have majori majority rule or it will lead to an oligarchy like in history. John Adam's said "democracies never last long they soon waste exhaust and murder itself. there hasn't been a democracy yet that didnt commit suicide"

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