It’s a truism that pure democracy only works well within a small community.

barbara boxer commenting on eliminating the electoral college
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That’s because pure democracy requires intense participation that’s not possible in larger groups with less-interested participants. So when attempted on a larger scale, democracy must be subordinated to non-democratic institutions to prevent it from turning into a mob that loots and destroys society.

To illustrate, once upon a time in a very large city, a man was holding up morning traffic in threatening suicide by jumping off an overpass. DJs on a morning talk show were taking calls from irate drivers who wanted the man to get it over so they could get to work. The DJs leveraged those callers into a pep rally in favor of the man committing suicide. That’s how pure democracy behaves when unrestrained.

The DJs were subsequently fired by their employer who feared the legal consequences of what the DJs had done. That firing exemplified how non-democratic institutions (the courts in the present example) prevent pure democracy from destroying itself and everything else.

It’s also how the electoral college functions to prevent the excesses of pure democracy that would occur if the president were elected by a purely popular vote. It’s one part of our republican form of government— it’s what the Founding Fathers intended.


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