Monday, July 30, 2007


God save the Electoral College

I had the damndest time trying to fall asleep last night. I started poking 'round the Internet looking for a site that would cure my infernal insomnia. I made my way to Mike Gravel for President and ... I immediately became bleary eyed and sleepy.

Don't know who Mike Gravel is? Don't worry. You are not alone.

Mike Gravel was a U.S. Senator from Alaska in the late 1960s and 70s. He was bested in the 1980 Democratic primary when Alaska voters tired of his efforts to enact almost the whole of George McGovern's 1972 platform. Now, almost 30 years later, Gravel's again attempting to enact the McGovern '72 platform ... this time as a presidential candidate.

The Gravel for Prez Web site is full of standard liberal claptrap: he wants to "fully fund" this and wants new programs to "fight" that. I did find one tidbit of interest, however. I learned that Gravel is agin' the electoral college. I guess I really shouldn't be surprised. Agitating for the abolishment of the electoral college is de rigeur in liberal circles these days.

I had quite a lot to say about the importance of the electoral college a few months back. I promtly cut and pasted my post into an e-mail and dispatched it to Gravel's campaign. I'll let you know if and when he responds. In the meantime, here's my original post 'bout the electoral college:

The Maryland legislature recently enacted a law to end the state's participation in the electoral college. Said law will award the state's electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote ... if and when a bunch o' other states agree to do the same.

Maryland's decision to sidestep the electoral college is welcome news to Hendrik Hertzberg. Indeed, Hertzberg tells us in the April 16 New Yorker that the United States will not be a "mature democracy" until it scraps the electoral college entirely.

Far from being archaic, the electoral college is a crucial part of our Republic's machinery for combining democracy with constitutionalism and the rule of law. Indeed, as the Claremont Institute's Charles Kesler opined during the 2000 election imbroglio, "[The electoral college] ensures that the president will be chosen not by a plebiscitary majority but by a constitutional one, distributed by states and moderated by the need to accommodate a variety of interests and viewpoints."

Liberal bellyaching about the electoral college didn't start until it, well, worked. As you may recall, in the months leading up to the 2000 presidential election, many pundits were predicting that George W. Bush would win the popular vote and Al Gore would prevail in the electoral count. When the exact opposite occurred (we all know the story by now), Hillary Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Jr., and other lefties began calling for the abolition of the electoral college. We were then treated to months of liberal bellyaching about how democracy had been subverted and such. Far from being subverted, our nation's particular brand of democracy had worked just as the founders had envisioned.

To appreciate the electoral college's relevancy - nay, necessity - in these modern times, one need only examine a county-by-county map from the 2000 election. The famous red/blue map reveals a sea of Bush-red counties, while Al Gore's support is concentrated in a select number of large metropolitan areas. The electoral college ensured in 2000 - and again in 2004 - that the overwhelmingly liberal voters who live in and around Boston, New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angles, and San Francisco did not trump red-state America's interests. Hertzberg says eliminating the electoral college will ensure "truly national" elections. But is an election in which a president is more or less chosen by the folks living in a half-dozen or so cities really a "national" election?

Finally, I often recommend Dr. George Grant's The Importance of the Electoral College to those who express interest in the subject. Methinks Hendrik Hertzberg needs to pick up a copy as well. Here are two of my favorite passages:

“Direct popular election of the president was rejected by the Framers because it failed to protect the states from the intrusion of massed centralized forces. They reasoned that a pure democracy was more easily corrupted than a federal republic. It would essentially eliminate state borders and state prerogative, and whenever more centralized government directly governs the people, they thought that there was likely to be more opportunity for corruption. And electing the president by the Legislative or Judicial branches would violate the separation of powers. Thus, the federal solution was to elect the president by a balanced representation of the States and the people. Electors, independent from either the states or the national government, were elected in accordance with standards established by the State legislatures, and the electors then elected the president. This federal approach carefully avoided direct dependency upon either the states or the people, but kept both represented in the process. Giving each State the number of electors as they have representatives in Congress was also in harmony with this balance.”

Grant explains further: “The federal nature of the American Constitutional covenant enables the nation to function as a republic - thus specifically avoiding the dangers of a pure democracy. Republics exercise governmental authority through mediating representatives under the rule of law. Pure democracies on the other hand exercise governmental authority through the imposition of the will of the majority without regard for the concerns of any minority - thus allowing law to be subject to the whims, fashions, and fancies of men. The Founders designed federal system of the United States so that the nation could be, as John Adams described it, a ‘government of law, not of men.'"

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