Fri | Oct 19, 2018

Letter of the Day | Buddan's disillusionment with democracy

Published:Friday | November 18, 2016 | 12:00 AM


In his article 'Failings of US democracy', appearing in The Gleaner of Tuesday, November 15, 2016, Robert Buddan tries to argue that the Electoral College system ought to be scrapped and be replaced with a system whereby the popular vote determines who wins the presidency.

He is clearly motivated by the fact that Donald Trump was recently elected president despite receiving fewer votes overall than Hillary Clinton. Buddan points out that this is the fifth time that a similar event has occurred. But he fails to explain why the Americans have not long since ditched the Electoral College. The reason is that they want the United States to remain as one country rather than breaking up into at least two separate countries.

The Electoral College is made up of electors sent by the various states. The number of electors sent by each state is equal to the number of senators and representatives who represent it in Congress. Since the number of senators is always two, whereas the number of representatives is related to the population of the State, the number of electors sent by States with smaller populations is somewhat skewed in their favour. This ensures that the voters in these States with smaller populations feel that they have a real impact on who becomes president. In contrast, if the presidency were determined based on the popular vote, voters in states with smaller populations would know that their impact on the decision would be minimal. If they find that they are constantly being faced with a president who does not share their views and values, they are likely to begin thinking about breaking away from the United States and, perhaps with other like-minded States, creating a new independent country.

On an international level, this has happened fairly recently in East Timor, which broke away from Indonesia, and in South Sudan, which broke away from Sudan. Somewhat nearer home, a situation developed in Scotland where Scottish leaders felt that their interests were not being properly served in Westminster in England.




The UK government agreed to the holding of a referendum in 2014 in Scotland where the voters had the opportunity of choosing to either remain in the United Kingdom or leave. In fact, they chose to remain. In Catalonia, Spain, there is a vociferous movement advocating breaking away from Spain, although this is being fiercely resisted by Spain, with the backing of the European Union.

As a result, the likelihood that the United States will ditch the Electoral College is minimal.

On a lighter note, Robert Buddan wonders if the Trump machinery managed to rig the computers used to generate the final results. His concern is based on the fact that the final results did not agree with the exit polls. A much simpler explanation is that, given the hysteria whipped up by the media, many voters who had voted for Trump told the pollsters that they had voted for Hillary just to avoid any confrontation. All in all, Mr Buddan seems disillusioned with democracy.