By David Davenport with Gordon Lloyd
When Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of government the newly signed Constitution established, he responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” The National Popular Vote bill, recently introduced in the California Legislature, is a poster child for how to lose the republic.
The genius of a republic is that it combines checks and balances along with structures of stability to temper pure democracy. Specific elements – such as the composition of the U.S. Senate or the functioning of the Electoral College or assigning roles to states as well as to the federal government – may seem obstructionist or even anti-democratic on their own, but they function together to assure that the deliberate sense of the people is carried out in a stable, orderly way. But with 2012 presidential politics already in the air, those who fear the Electoral College seek to circumvent it through a bill that would require state electors to vote for the winner of the national popular vote.