The EC isn’t working as intended. Why? Because electors are not doing their job of representing the people. Instead, they’re working on representing their party as a political machine.
Part of the justification of a representative system was because communication was slow to absent, and there was meant to be trust that your representative held your interests closely. Unfortunately, humans being what they are, many are susceptible to putting their own interests first. Without good communication and feedback, bad decisions could go on for quite some time, building in momentum without a good review by the population. The EC was supposed to help with that by keeping trusted electors close to the information both from the constituency and from Capitol Hill, and then making appropriate choices.
A key element of “appropriate” was preventing the election of people unsuited to the executive seat. Electors were supposed to know when their constituents were being snowed by a slimy candidate. I’m not sure they ever actually did that, outside of a few rogue individuals, mostly because electors are party representatives rather than people representatives.
So the failing of the EC is really due to allowing parties to rise as power blocks rather than true representatives. The parties, like all good unions, found strength in numbers. They forget that as those numbers get bigger, they are less specifically focused on the people – we kind of have mob rule at the moment. It’s just that there are two mobs, not one.
High population densities tend to lean more liberal for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is reliance on government to sort out resource distribution, including protection and access to services. On the psychology side, you also get exposure to more social differences, which leads to some blending of basic views, and that ultimately leads to a kind of commonality and homogeneity in the perception of government’s role.
That’s a good thing. For cities. In high population density areas, the work force, skill sets, and social demands require government support and are generally interlinked in some way. Most of the industry in cities relies on the existence of other providers – housing, restaurants, leisure, etc. High demand creates competition, which creates more opportunity.
For rural areas, however, there is less direct competition, and they don’t perceive the government’s influence the same way others view it. Yes, they get subsidies, they get financial resources, they get some legal protection. But they don’t get the kind of services you get in bigger cities, such as robust public transportation, large law enforcement bodies, or other major infrastructure. Competition is low for the services they provide, but choices and diversity are also very limited. No matter what you see from the outside in terms of federal or state dollars, the local perception is one of independence, self-reliance, and a different kind of homogeneity.
They deserve to be heard, as well. Having a popular vote for the executive branch will always favor urban centers, which eventually devalues and undermines rural regions. That’s just fact. But that’s not a problem with the EC, it’s a problem with how we’ve let politics become a religion of opposition. Need proof? How many issues are truly represented as bipartisan?
One possible solution before we try to get rid of the EC would be to eliminate gerrymandering altogether. Another would be to require distributed party representation (because we won’t ever eliminate parties) by threshold rather than winner-take-all. Any group with more than some fraction of the district population gets a representative (let’s leave aside details of population weighting for the moment). The intent is that representatives work towards constituent policy and solutions, because having more than two parties represented makes it far more difficult to negotiate by personal favor – a key failing with today’s representatives.
Of course this is not complete. Other things to consider include restricting lobby participation, term limits on all positions, and revisiting and clarifying State’s rights.
So before you throw out the system we’ve had from day one, consider what the actual failing is and what we can do today to correct it to equitable representation, not just favoring the loudest voice. If the purpose is representation, then that should go for all citizens. The American stew was always meant to churn.