The Electoral College: Fact and Fancy

Share on facebook
Facebook 0
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn 0
Share on reddit
Reddit 0
Share on delicious
Delicious
Share on digg
Digg
Share on stumbleupon
StumbleUpon 0
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on email
Email
Share on print
Print

 

 

My friend Cato at his blog Letters From Cato explains the real history of the creation of the Electoral College:

 

Note: I’m reposting this from my old blog thanks to renewed efforts to get rid of the electoral college based on faulty premises.

It would take an act of enormous historical illiteracy to end my blogging hiatus. Congratulations are thus in order to the New York Times for providing me with such an example. In an editorial Jay Caruso has accurately labeled “historically inaccurate garbage,” the Times has called for the abolition of the electoral college. In the process of doing so, the Times’ editors reveal an understanding of American history which calls into question whether they’ve even taken high school-level American history classes.

The Electoral College, which is written into the Constitution, is more than just a vestige of the founding era; it is a living symbol of America’s original sin. When slavery was the law of the land, a direct popular vote would have disadvantaged the Southern states, with their large disenfranchised populations. Counting those men and women as three-fifths of a white person, as the Constitution originally did, gave the slave states more electoral votes.

Let’s address the slavery as the reason behind the electoral college argument. The New York Times links to a Time magazine article written by Akhil Reed Amar in which Amar attributes the electoral college’s existence to the advocacy of the slave states. He begins:

Some claim that the founding fathers chose the Electoral College over direct election in order to balance the interests of high-population and low-population states. But the deepest political divisions in America have always run not between big and small states, but between the north and the south, and between the coasts and the interior.

Some “claim” this because, well, it happens to be true. The divide at the constitutional convention was not between slave states and non-slave states,* but rather between large and small states. Remember, the convention kicked off with a presentation of the Virginia plan. This plan, authored in large part by James Madison but presented by Edmund Randolph, set the framework for much of the debate at the convention. Among other things, the plan proposed a bicameral legislature with representation in both houses based on population. The smaller states objected to it, and put forward their own plan. The New Jersey plan called for each state to have an equal voice in the legislature, a la the Articles of Confederation.

* As Caruso correctly notes, at the time of the convention, only a handful of states had even partially abolished slavery, and only Massachusetts had totally abolished it. That’s not to say that New York and South Carolina were equally vested in the continued propagation of the institution, but in 1787 the north-south divide on this issue was not nearly as intense as it would become in future years.

When it came to the large-small divide, there was a mixture of states. The large states included Massachusetts, Virginia, and Pennsylvania – in other words a mix of predominant slaveholding states and anti-slavery states. The small states included Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Georgia – again, a mix of states with different views on slavery. Thus feelings about slavery had little to do with these respective coalitions. So already Amar is off to a poor start in actually grasping the nuances in early American history. But he’s not done.

Go here to read the rest.

More to explorer

God Made Me This Way, So I Cannot Sin

The moral logic backing up the statement above, if it can be called logic, leads to amoral confusion. If accepted, it  would

11 Comments

  1. If one were to take a moment to look at the many election results by county maps, one would quickly realize how insularDemocrat majorities really are.

    So if Fauxcahontas really cared about making every vote count, she’d embrace the Electoral College instead of deploring it.

  2. Heh:

    Liberals continued to argue for the dismantling of the system that was created to ensure anyone with at least 51% of the vote couldn’t oppress the rest of their nation, disregarding vast swathes of the populace so they could inflict their terrible ideas on everyone else.

  3. If I were a Leftist I would really be concerned with the traction The Bee is getting. The ridiculous Snopes “fact checking” site has even “fact checked” some of the posts of The Bee, which is as ludicrous as anything The Bee has ever posted!

  4. Thanks again for posting. As for the Bee, their satire is more spot-on than most news analysis. The one that Ernst linked to is particularly good.

  5. I think Amar is a law professor who was once on the contributors list at The New Republic around the time Charles Lane was the editor. It’s another instance where you have academics and editors who think in templates (and don’t really know what they’re talking about). The pomposity galls. Large swaths of our chatterati could disappear and the public would be better informed.

  6. If I were a Leftist I would really be concerned with the traction The Bee is getting. The ridiculous Snopes “fact checking” site has even “fact checked” some of the posts of The Bee, which is as ludicrous as anything The Bee has ever posted!

    Wait… what? I know Snopes has been in decline but they went that far??

  7. The ignorance of history is astounding, or maybe it is willful misrepresentation. This country was a union of thirteen nations, the original thirteen colonies, that became states. The President was to be elected by the states. It was not contemplated that the people of the United States would select the President. The electors chosen by each state, apportioned on a combination of population and statehood, cast votes based on their states preference. A strict popular vote changes the basic system of government chosen by the constitution’s framers, making a tyranny by majority rule more likely. It was a Republic, not a pure democracy.

  8. I need to go back and re-read my very o,d copy of The Federalist Papers. As I somewhat dimly recall after these many years, the arguments against a strong central government all seem to have been proven right since the great expansion of government power that began with the 16th Amendment and gained unstoppable momentum under FDR. The concept of a Republic began to wither from 1909 onwards and would be completely erased were the Electoral College to be abolished. I don’t believe that will happen, but I never would have believed much of what has transpired in our society over the past twenty years, had I not seen it. So I don’t put it past the Left to get it done. At that point, I shudder to imagine the consequences.

  9. J. RONALD PARRISH:
    “A strict popular vote changes the basic system of government chosen by the constitution’s framers, making a tyranny by majority rule more likely. It was a Republic, not a pure democracy.”
    The Constitution needs three fourths of the states to concur for change.

Comments are closed.