L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 300, December 12, 2004
Bill of Rights Day December 15
Save the Republic: An Open Letter to the Electoral College
Exclusive to TLE
Serving as an Elector is quite an honor. Being selected signifies that you are a trusted and respected member of your political party, and your community. You get to be a part of history, something you can tell your children and grandchildren about. You have a lot of power, toothe equivalent of over 200,000 regular voters. With that power comes an equivalent responsibility. You may have been led to believe that your responsibility is to faithfully represent the voters of your state, and to affirm their choice for President when you meet with your fellow Electors on December 13th. You couldn't be more wrong.
Your responsibility as an Elector is to select the person best qualified to serve as President of the United States of America. Period.
The Founders established the Electoral College for a variety of reasons. It was a compromise between the large and small states, but it was also meant to protect the American republic from the dangers of direct democracy. Citizens in the eighteenth century couldn't be expected to know the beliefs and character of the presidential candidates well enough to make an informed choice. An uneducated, largely rural populace couldn't be trusted to avoid the political charms of demagogues and would-be tyrants. In their place, the Founders left the decision to the natural leaders of each community, men of accomplishment, intellect, and unblemished reputationyou and your fellow Electors.
Some would argue that with the advent of 24-hour cable news and the Internet, and the rise of a better educated and more skeptical citizenry, the people should now be trusted to choose their own president. The evidence, sadly, does not substantiate this view. Many who voted for Senator Kerry wrongly assumed that he was opposed to the invasions of Iraq and our civil liberties perpetrated by the President, unaware that he gave his blessing to both in the Senate. Many who voted for President Bush wanted smaller government, unaware that the President had increased federal spending at the highest rate in four decades. Your duty remains the same as when the Founders first established itto select the person best qualified to serve as President, regardless of the wishes of the voters.
If you are pledged to vote for Senator Kerry, why waste your vote? He has already lost. Nothing will persuade the Electors pledged to President Bush to support your candidate. The majority of American voters may have underestimated the threat of an encore performance of the Bush Administration, but they wisely rejected the prospect of a first Kerry Administration. Even if you feel certain that Senator Kerry is the most qualified candidate, he has no chance. Many of those who voted for him would have preferred an anti-war, pro-civil liberties candidate anyway. The trick for you will be to find such a candidate who also appeals to the conservative Electors.
If you are pledged to vote for President Bush, please reconsider. He won a slim majority of the slim majority who actually voted, but his record speaks for itself. President Bush cannot be trusted to uphold the Constitution in even the most important areas, such as taking the nation to war or protecting the liberties of Americans. He has burdened the nation with unprecedented levels of debt, and promises to add trillions more. If you return President Bush to the White House for a second term, many of the Blue-state voters have threatened to secede. It may be an idle threat, but the animosity is deep and growing. You need a candidate who honestly stands for fiscal restraint and freedom, and doesn't threaten liberal Americans with an openly antagonistic national government.
You might be worried about breaking the law if you cast your vote for the best qualified candidate, rather than the one you are pledged to support. I have some good news for you: in 24 of the 50 states, representing 257 Electoral votes, you are not legally bound to support any particular candidate in any way. In Virginia, with another 13 Electoral votes (that would get you to the magic number of 270), the statute is only advisory in nature. In Oklahoma, with another 7 votes, you will be faced only with a misdemeanor and a $1,000 fine, a small price to pay to do your part in saving the Republic.
In the other 24 states and the District of Columbia, voting your conscience will be illegal, so you weigh the consequences for yourself. In New Mexico, you'll face a 4th-degree felony charge. In only 3 statesMichigan, North Carolina, and South Carolinawill you actually be replaced and your vote stricken from the record.
There is a precedent for making the choice yourself. In 1988, Lloyd Bentsen received one Electoral vote, keeping it from the original George Bush and Michael Dukakis. In 1972, Libertarian John Hospers received one Electoral vote, from an Elector faced with one of the bleakest choices ever, Richard Nixon or George McGovern. These were uncoordinated protests, but clearly, something more organized and widespread is required this time.
Who would make the best choice? My recommendation would be Michael Badnarik of the Libertarian Party. Bush voters would like his smaller government and pro-Constitution ideas, and Kerry voters would approve of his anti-war and anti-Patriot Act stances. Liberals would fear him less than President Bush, and conservatives would fear him less than Senator Kerry. He would work to restore the Constitutional federalism increasingly needed to hold the country together, and to ease partisan tensions.
You might argue that Mr. Badnarik lacks the executive experience to manage a two-and-a-half-trillion-dollar national government. You would be right, but when he's finished with it, the budget would be significantly smaller. The single greatest qualification for a President of the United States is the determination to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic. You need only consider the deprivations Mr. Badnarik has endured in the past two years to judge his degree of determination.
But make up your own mind. The Founders left it up to you.
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