From Philadelphia Inquirer
Alexander Hamilton didn't burst into hip-hop rhymes in real life, but he did anticipate something else about the complicated rhythms of 21st century America. He had a plan to stop a dangerous demagogue like Donald Trump from becoming president.
His idea was the Electoral College. During the debates that led to the U.S. Constitution in 1787, Hamilton was one of the Founders who argued allowing the masses of new Americans to directly elect their president was a recipe for the eventual rise of a popular despot. The people, he argued, should instead elect a slate of wise men (because they were all men in 1787), or elites, who would use their accumulated wisdom to funnel the popular will into a beneficent president of the United States.
Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper No. 68 in support of choosing the American president through this Electoral College that "[a] small number of persons, selected by their fellow citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to so complicated an investigation."
I'll take Donald Trump for $200, Alex.
Needless to say, there was virtually no "investigation," let alone "discernment," in December of 2016 when members of the Electoral College gathered in the 50 state capitals (and D.C) and 304 of the 306 electors presumed to be pledged for Trump cast the ballots that officially made him our 45th president. To borrow Hamilton's phrasing, these electors possessed the information that the New York developer was then accused of sexual misconduct by nearly 20 women (a list that's continued to grow) and had even bragged about his assaults on an audiotape, that he'd openly asked Russia to hack his opponent's emails and that he'd called for a ban on members of the Muslim religion from entering the United States, among many problematic things. They elected him anyway.
Nor should that be any surprise. After more than two centuries of marketing ourselves as "the world's greatest democracy," the idea that the presidential ballots cast by everyday citizens in November could be tossed in the trash a month later by a member of the nation's political elite is just something that maybe made sense from a 1787 quill pen but doesn't compute today. Alexander Hamilton's plan to save America from demagoguery didn't work. Can anything?
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Will Bunch is author of the new "Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future", published by Free Press, which examines the calculated effort by the modern right wing to canonize the 40th president, (more...)