In 2016, Donald J. Trump won the Electoral College by 304 votes compared to 227 votes for Hillary Clinton.
Although Clinton won the popular vote by 65,853,625 votes (48.0%) to Trump’s 62,985,106 votes (45.9%), Trump still became the President.
It is solely due to a “precaution” embedded into the fabric of American Presidential politics. Although envisioned under the guise of fairness by population, it is rooted in the sustenance of America’s original sin: slavery.
America has constantly reminded us that a color-blind political system is not possible under our current Constitution. If you are doubtful of that statement, check the Supreme Court’s evisceration of the Voting Rights Act in 2013.
The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia stated,
“Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get them out through the normal political processes.”
What Scalia didn’t say is that is why the current American system fails Afrikans born in America everyday while benefiting White citizens. From poll taxes to voter-ID laws and the historical violence and intimidation inflicted to Black people, America has constantly rewarded bad behavior.
When the Framer’s of American politics created the Electoral College, race and slavery were foremost on their minds. The idea of a popular vote for the Presidency was taken off the table when the point was made that it could result in too much democracy.
The people actually choosing their leader seemed a bit radical to them.
However, delegates from the slaveholding South understood why opposing the direct election method was ultimately beneficial.
Future President, James Madison articulated the position as diplomatically as possible:
“There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of the Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to fewest objections.”
Starting to see the picture?
The populations in the North and South were approximately equal, but about one-third of Southern residents were enslaved. That considerable nonvoting enslaved populace had less clout under a popular-vote system.
Ultimately, the solution of electors was an indirect method of choosing the president, one that could leverage the three-fifths compromise, how congressional seats would be apportioned.
Only five southern states held 93 percent of the enslaved at that time, increasing the size of the South’s congressional delegation by 42 percent.
When the time came to agree on a system for choosing the president, the delegates resorted to the three-fifths compromise as the foundation.
The system that emerged was the Electoral College.
The Electoral College gave the South’s built-in advantages. It delivered bonus electoral votes for maintaining slaves while excluding the enslaved from voting.
For instance, the Electoral College produced a tie between Thomas Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr in the election of 1800. However, the difference was made in the election outcome giving the slaveholder Jefferson an edge over his opponent, the incumbent president and abolitionist John Adams.
The third president entered the White House on the backs of slaves continuing an almost uninterrupted trend of southern slaveholders winning the White House until Abraham Lincoln’s victory in 1860.
That’s 60 years! Over half a century!
When the Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery, the South was dispatched of its windfall electors.
However, the injustice didn’t finish there.
In the 1876 presidential election, the Democrat Samuel Tilden won the popular vote, but some electoral votes were in dispute, including those in Florida.
A commission of lawmakers and Supreme Court justices was gathered to resolve the matter.
They awarded the contested electoral votes to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, who had lost the popular vote.
The agreement, known as the Compromise of 1877, removed the federal troops stationed in the South after the Civil War to maintain order and protect black voters.
It marked the end of the 14 year Reconstruction era (1863-1877) and the birth of the Jim Crow regime.
This decision to remove soldiers from the South singularly led to the restoration of white supremacy in voting through the systematic disenfranchisement of black people.
Terror and betrayal of America’s Afrikan citizens would in essence be legally sanctioned by the federal government. Disenfranchisement endured until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Injustice still remains today.
While enjoying the voting rights we all have today remember that there is more work to do regardless of what candidate you choose. If America will continue to exist in the shadow of slavery’s ghosts that still haunt us today, then how can we ever truly live in a democracy?
Make America Great Again? More like a return to its original subjugation.
That can be the only interpretation.