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12/19/16

US Presidential Elections: Why our presidents are elected by a cabal of elites

American presidential elections are generally orderly affairs. People vote, somebody wins and life goes on. It’s our proud tradition of democratic self-governance.

And yet: The whole thing is controlled by a cabal of elites who actually pick the nation’s commander-in-chief, and who, theoretically, have the power to defy voters and stop Donald Trump from becoming America’s president.

We are talking, of course, about the electoral college, a 229-year-old contraption of democracy that the Founding Fathers had to cobble together because they couldn’t figure out a better way to pick presidents.

On Monday, 538 electors from the 50 states, including three from the District of Columbia, will convene across the country to cast the votes that decide who will sit in the Oval Office in January.

Trump is expected to win when the electors vote, even though more Americans cast ballots for Hillary Clinton. Trump was more popular in states that control more electoral votes. That’s the system. Regular Americans don’t get a direct say in who becomes president, and not all Americans’ votes are equal.

That’s the very intent of the electoral college, albeit a design forged from an 18th-century political struggle over how to balance freedom and slavery, elitism and populism, independence and accountability.

Read more: Why our presidents are elected by a cabal of eli

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