When one is attempting to explain our very anti-democratic electoral college to someone from outside the US, there is usually a strong desire to explain it away, to claim it is a safeguard on Democracy. We are told it is to protect minorities. As DJ said in an earlier comment thread:
“The very premise of democracy is respect for minority opinions, especially when those opinions are concentrated in geographic regions.”
Anyone serious about democracy would agree that protection for minorities is crucial. But when thinking of this we must consider what minority is protected. Our nation, according to James Madison, at the Constitutional convention, should “be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” When you consider American history it is this minority that has been protected. It is for this minority that we attack and invade other nations to open up new markets to their capital. It is for this minority that we maintain military bases across the planet in nearly every single nation for the sole purpose of protecting this minorities interests. When workers strike or take other actions to protect their interests, the police step in on the side of the owning class to protect them. The constitution was not set up to protect an abstract minority. It was set up to protect the minority of the opulent. That basic thrust has not changed much over the past 235 years.
In the Federalist Paper #10 James Madison makes his argument for protecting against democracy. He tells us all the innumerable ways that we fall into factions: religious differences, different leaders, race, just about anything really. Our propensity toward falling into different factions is an innate part of our human nature, he claims. Madison goes on to explain:
So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society (emphasis added).
We’re all so frivolous, he tells us. We’ll fight over just about anything. But he admits that the most common source of faction is the “uneven and unequal distribution of property.” The minority of the opulent who own everything and leave us the scraps. All the nonsense about frivolity aside, Madison understood the real cause of trouble was that a few owned it all while the rest did without. He warned against the leveling impulse of the masses and the need to protect the minority of the opulent.
Just look around. How are minorities doing in this country? Blacks continue to face hostile repression from homicidal police in their neighborhoods to the institutional racism of the Prison Industrial Complex that incarcerates blacks disproportionately. Native Americans have a life expectancy comparable to people in a Third World Country. Most of the work women do in our society is not valued at all. When we do value their work we pay them less than their male counterparts. Japanese Americans during World War II could have used some protection.
This nation protects one minority. The minority of the opulent. Democracy is the only cure for such a minority.