Another Misguided Call To Dismantle The Electoral College

The issue of the Electoral College has come back again.

It seems that some folks are hell bent on turning the presidency in to a plebiscite rather than a reflection of the states' will.

The latest proponent for doing away with the Electoral College tries to use history to justify his call. Unfortunately it appears that he's twisting history to fit it to his purpose.

It was probably inevitable that eventually an academic would rewrite the history of the American Founding in his own image. Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, has selected, molded, distorted, and recreated the events of the 1800 election and its aftermath to suit his view of what the Constitution ought to be. It's a pity. Written with a vibrant narrative style, "The Failure of the Founding Fathers" highlights such overlooked or underappreciated facts as the framers' lack of judgment in putting the vice president in charge of counting electoral votes, and the truly heroic efforts of Federalist Congressman James Bayard to break the famous impasse between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.


At bottom, Ackerman simply does not understand the full reason for the Electoral College. He correctly points out that one of its purposes was to distance the selection of the president from the passions and intrigues of faction; and he claims that with the rise of parties, this "filtering" function was largely vitiated. But not entirely. One of the post-1800 Electoral College's salutary accomplishments is that it provided a clearly legitimate president when the party system had broken down, e.g., in 1860 and 1912. Moreover, political scientists have long demonstrated that the Electoral College, with the developing tradition of winner-take-all in each state, works against a multiplicity of parties. The mechanism actually forces parties to seek coalitions among factions, thereby mitigating faction's deleterious effects and fulfilling the original purpose that the framers had in mind.

The last thing we want to do is devolve our government into a mirror image of so many parliaments, multiple parties fighting among themselves in an effort to form a government. We've seen it many times in Europe, with the worst example being Italy. Since the end of WWII there have been well over a hundred administrations that have come and gone, many lasting only months before the coalition that formed them fell apart.

The biggest problem with doing away with the Electoral College is that the voters in many states would be silenced, their votes becoming meaningless as the more populous states would be choosing the president. That's something that the founders wanted to prevent. They wanted the states to elect the president, not the individual people. Were it to become a plebiscite, then states like California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Virginia would dominate the election of the president and the other 44 states wouldn't count. The Union would be in danger of coming apart because so many states would be disfranchised. The House and the Senate are where the plebiscite works, just as it was designed to do. (Yes, I know that the Senate used to be selected by the governors and legislatures of the various states, but that was changed back in 1913 with the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment).

The drive to do away with the Electoral College has more to do with gaining power when the more conventional and constitutional means have failed. The left will do anything to gain control of the White House, even if it means pushing a constitutional amendment to achieve it. Of course if they actually had a plan or program or platform that appealed to American people they wouldn't have to go this route, would they? Maybe that's something they should focus on rather than changing rules that have worked for the Republic for over 200 years because they haven't been able to win.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome. However personal attacks, legally actionable accusations,or threats made to post authors or those commenting upon posts will get those committing such acts banned from commenting.