Anachronistic-ology, an interesting neologism we need to describe our current form of dysfunctional government.
Two of our major institutions, the Electoral College and the Senate were designed to provide state legislatures with a direct role in the central government, making the United States of America a functioning federation. In 1787 that was a novel experiment. The evolution from a confederation of independent states to a more centralized but non-unitary form of government relied on those two institutions to guard against the perceived threat of centralized supremacy. Pressure to provide more direct popular participation in decision making soon subverted that carefully crafted balance, first informally and at the state level, and finally, at least with respect to the Senate, through a poorly thought out constitutional amendment. The result, as seen from the perspective of the early 21st century, is two dysfunctional, anachronistic institutions.
The Senate’s internal rules stymy the democratic aspirations of those who wrested its control from state legislatures transferring it to state populations. Noble as that sounded, it converted the Senate into little more than a self-perpetuating oligarchy but one where the minority is granted the power to bring the legislative process to a virtually complete halt.
The Senate’s original purpose made sense, to give the bodies most closely charged with governance (state legisltaures) a voice in the central government. Its current role does not. If it’s a popularly elected legislature we want, then the House of Representatives will do nicely, and if we need to placate the states with smaller populations, ameliorating their fears of dominance, then that is easily and inexpensively obtained by requiring that all legislation pass by majorities in both number of state delegations and number of members voting.
As to the Electoral College, not much need be said. Its only justification is to provide candidates incapable of garnering the vote of a majority of the electorate a last chance to steal the offices of president and vice president. Almost all other countries have adopted the two round system which assures that the winner has the support of a majority of those voting
At a time when reform of political institutions to cut their costs of operation and render them more efficient is even more critical than usual, it may well be past time to consider the elimantion of these two relics.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2013; all rights reserved