The Electoral College really has at least three different anti-democratic (little “d”) attributes. The first is the fact that all states do not have a number of electors directly proportional to their population, but rather equal to the number of Senators and Representatives. This increases the power of voters in smaller states, because they are guaranteed at least 3 electors rather than at least one. This tends to advantage rural states, but not necessarily conservative ones. The top ten states (which actually includes DC) in terms of Electoral-Vote-per-capita include 5 that voted for Trump in the 2016 election, and 5 that voted for Clinton.
The second anti-democratic attribute is the winner-take-all apportionment of electors from any given state. Win Michigan by fewer than 1% of its voters, win all of its significant amount of electoral votes. This also does not seem to me to disadvantage liberals or conservatives specifically.
The third anti-democratic attribute is the idea that electors have an obligation to ensure:
“… that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.’ The point of the Electoral College is to preserve ‘the sense of the people,’ while at the same time ensuring that a president is chosen ‘by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.”
This third anti-democratic attribute again does not necessarily favor conservatives or liberals, but instead is intended as a check against demagogues of all stripes. I would argue that this is intended to be the primary purpose of the Electoral College.
What good is the Electoral College if it actually installs a woefully unprepared and careless demagogue against the popular will?
This demagogue was able to take advantage of the first and second anti-democratic attribute of the Electoral College (by leveraging a demagoguing appeal to rural areas, a possibility that I suspect the Founders may not have guarded sufficiently against given that the technology making this possible did not exist at the time), and now hopes to circumvent the third.
I don’t know if the Founders had a well-thought-out plan as to what would happen if the Electoral College overturned the will of the people–did they believe that voters would placidly accept? The thought of faithless electors throwing the election to someone other than Trump is certainly attractive to me, but at the same time I fear the fallout.
Nonetheless, I believe we must do one of two things–either accept that the Electoral College no longer lives up to its real purpose and be rid of it once and for all, or accept that it can still serve a legitimate purpose of denying the presidency to a candidate so obviously unprepared for the office and unwilling to learn.
Either let the Electoral College elect someone else in Trump’s stead, or let it die an ignominious death.