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Electoral College Overhaul?

Trent England of Save Our States warns of efforts to undermine the Constitution through the implementation of state legislative actions that would permit states to skirt the original intent of the Electoral College (since no serious efforts to undo that provision of the Constitution have been able to get traction) by directing electors to ignore the popular vote of their own particular state and, instead, cast their ballots for the Presidential candidate with the highest percentage of the national popular vote.  

Efforts like this are advancing in places like New York and Massachusetts.  If the reasons why such a development would be a disaster are not immediately apparent to you, then remind yourself of the 2000 election, think about this and, above all, re-read all of these.
Categories > Elections

Discussions - 51 Comments

They have direct popular election for the Presidency in Poland, France, Portugal, Roumania, and 18 Latin American countries without 'disaster'. We have direct popular election for state governors without 'disaster' either.

We might forego concern with ancillary matters like the Electoral College and consider something innovative - like replacing first-past-the-post for executive positions with ordinal balloting. For the Presidency, you could have a national ballot or you could have fifty state ballots and distribute the electoral vote according to the statewide tally or according to the tally in each congressional district. But then again, ordinal balloting would be a nefarious Australian import and involve painting a mustache on Mr. Madison's Mona Lisa, so is therefor 'a disaster'.

Maybe Art,

I don't see the disaster either. It isn't at all clear that as a nation we were better off with Bush than we would have been with Gore, so reminders about the 2000 election seem awefully partisan. The worst thing that could happen to the electoral college is for it to be proven to have a partisan tilt or bias.

The good thing about the electoral college is that it does force politicians to pay attention to individual states, albeit this argument isn't that strong because what it really does is draw interest away from large states whose direction is already certain. Ohio almost certainly gets too much attention. A potentially bad thing about the electoral college is that when a state has a particular direction voting for president is somewhat of a moot point, that is if you are from New York, California or Massachusets it is more or less know with a high degree of certainty who will be elected. So being from a liberal state, discourages conservative participation, just as being from Oklahoma discourages one from voting for a democrat.

That said from a partisan perspective if there are efforts in New York and Massachusets to get these electors to vote according to the national popular vote instead of the state popular vote, then this is something that can only help republicans. That is 99% of the time New York and Mass vote democrat . This should everything else being equal increase the likelyhood that these would vote for a republican candidate, and should as well seek to help republican get out the vote efforts among a people for whom time is money and it is more or less known that the vote would be pointless.

Also it is unclear that the original intent of having electors was to bind them to the popular vote of the state, this is a strong supposition and tradition, but human beings as electors could easily be replaced by robots, if like judges one thinks they should just follow a black letter law. I mean CNN already more or less does this, when a state votes one way they come up and the electors are already presumed to have voted for that candidate. I mean New York is called with 1% of the vote in. Heck New York is already called on Intrade for the general election before primaries are done with. I mean it isn't called, called until the fat lady sings, but you can usually spend 50 cents on the chance of winning $10, and very few folks take even those odds.

I mean if electors decide to vote for the national popular vote that is the fault of legistlators for not requireing them to vote according to state returns, or for not eliminating the redundancy altogether. State legistlators in New York and Mass. if they do allow their electors to vote with the national vote might also in general make it harder for CNN to call an election early. I mean New York can be called democrat at 1%, but in this case they would be grayed out and the popular vote would carry with it more of a prize, since it would determine whom New York and Mass end up voting for. In terms of Bush v Gore it wouldn't have made a difference since New York and Mass both voted for Gore.

Potentially howhever it is even arguable that enough republicans in New York and Mass might have voted despite knowing it was a loosing cause, because they knew they could still impact the national total and thus influence how New York and Mass end up voting.

Supposing this is the case you would only have needed to find 600k more disenfranchized Republicans in these two states to change the numbers to a Bush popular vote win. If New York and Mass swing electoral votes to Bush, you don't have the court case Bush v. Gore, of course with a popular vote so razor thin it would have been unlikely that New York or Mass wouldn't have demanded recounts not just in FL but in OH and elsewhere were fraud and irregularities were alledged.

Potentially a better result, potentially a worse one, but supposing that the disenfranchised in New York and Mass increase the popular vote, you could have ended up with Gore winning FL, loosing the popular vote and thus loosing New York and Mass and the presidency. Of course then the democrats who considered such an idea would have been the subject of derision and scorn, and Bush might not have had to wait for 9-11 to get a measure of goodwill.

Moreover New York and Mass are large enough states, that if they themselves decided to vote according to national popular vote, it would be enough to stimulate voter interest in California, OK, TX and accross the nation in states everywhere were people might not vote because it wouldn't matter otherwise.

For the record, the Republican candidate for President carried New York in 1948, 1952, 1956, 1972, 1980, and 1984. That would be six out of the last twenty Presidential elections, or 30% of the time.

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes--that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for president. The National Popular Vote bill does not try to abolish the Electoral College, which would need a constitutional amendment, and could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President (for example, ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote) have come about without federal constitutional amendments, by state legislative action.

The bill has been endorsed or voted for by 1,922 state legislators (in 50 states) who have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. Support for a national popular vote is strong in virtually every state, partisan, and demographic group surveyed in recent polls in closely divided battleground states: Colorado-- 68%, Iowa --75%, Michigan-- 73%, Missouri-- 70%, New Hampshire-- 69%, Nevada-- 72%, New Mexico-- 76%, North Carolina-- 74%, Ohio-- 70%, Pennsylvania -- 78%, Virginia -- 74%, and Wisconsin -- 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Alaska -- 70%, DC -- 76%, Delaware --75%, Maine -- 77%, Nebraska -- 74%, New Hampshire --69%, Nevada -- 72%, New Mexico -- 76%, Rhode Island -- 74%, and Vermont -- 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas --80%, Kentucky -- 80%, Mississippi --77%, Missouri -- 70%, North Carolina -- 74%, and Virginia -- 74%; and in other states polled: California -- 70%, Connecticut -- 74% , Massachusetts -- 73%, Minnesota -- 75%, New York -- 79%, Washington -- 77%, and West Virginia- 81%.

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 30 state legislative chambers, in 20 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and Oregon, and both houses in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington. These five states possess 61 electoral votes -- 23% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

The current system of electing the president ensures that the candidates do not reach out to all of the states. Presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. In 2008, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their campaign events and ad money in just six states, and 98% in just 15 states (CO, FL, IN, IA, MI, MN, MO, NV, NH, NM, NC, OH, PA, VA, and WI). Over half (57%) of the events were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia). In 2004, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits in five states; over 80% in nine states; and over 99% of their money in 16 states, and candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits in five states and over 99% of their money in 16 states.
Two-thirds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential elections.

Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the state-by-state winner-take-all rule enacted by 48 states, under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.ma

Thanks to mvymvy, that makes more sense, but then I don't think it will pass enough states. I also think anonymous is right, but those states wouldn't really be interested in the legistlation of mvymvy then would they?

Look Art Deco, you yourself know you are being a little ridiculous in your third comment on New York.

"For the record, the Republican candidate for President carried New York in 1948..."

In 1948 It was the proggressive Dewey and Earl Warren who were Republicans. That is the equivalent of Obama today. I mean you have the Earl Warren court if you want to dispute this...I mean here is the high water mark of judicial activism, Brown v. Board of Education, Miranda v. Arizona...

A Republican is like a river, its the same river, but different water running thru it. you got to be careful about saying that a republican of the type we have today won New York.

Plus the caveat is that past performance doesn't ensure future results. Dewey learned that lesson against Truman, but in a slightly different way. The original "annointed one" won New York but lost the nation.

Of course a republican also won New York in 1980 and 1984, Of course like the 1948 ticket it featured someone who was a popular gov of California, only this time at the top. Ever hear of the Reagan Democrats?

With Reagan at least I think you have some measure of ideological continuity.

But Reagan kicked so much ass in the electoral college that if you knew his total electoral vote count: 489, 525 you would definately guess that he also won New York.

In fact in 1984 he was 3762 votes short of winning all 50 states and because New York has more than 13 electoral college votes if you knew Reagan would get 525 you would know it was logically impossible for him not to carry New York.

I don't see a candidate from either party getting a sweeping electoral landslide like Reagan anytime soon, and I don't see a republican that could come out of California without being viewed as a Rhino.

I mean change does happen, but baring some sort of Ideological flip that makes an activist court and Justice Warren a Republican, it just feels safe to project New York out fairly far into the future. Lets say that New York goes dem in 2012 at 95%. I can probably extend that out 12 presidential elections before it feels like an even money bet.

John Lewis, you made some remark to the effect that a Republican had only a 1% chance to carry New York. That is simply untrue.

Characters like Thomas Dewey and Earl Warren were found in the Republican Party in part because much of the of the Democratic Party was corralled in political clubs run by the likes of Carmine deSapio, much of the remainder was corralled into unions which were culturally alien (and typically boss-ridden as well), and the bulk of what was left made a priority of defending the South's peculiar institutions. For these reasons, the Democratic Party was as offensive to a man like Dewey as it was to Clare Boothe Luce, who was no 'progressive' (but disliked political machines and Jim Crow as well).

The liberal Republicans of that era were mugwumps first and foremost and did favor the social democratic measures which had been enacted after 1933. They were also internationalists. However, much of the social and cultural conflict of that day is simply no longer salient and much of the conflict of our own day would have been inconceivable then. Thomas Dewey was a very upright man. Strange as it may seem, liberal Republicans prior to 1964 were not given to pushing contraception and abortion. The ideological descendent of Mr. Dewey is certainly not Barack Obama. It is impossible to imagine Dewey with a goon like Rahm Emmanuel by his side. Christopher Smith of New Jersey may be the Republican in our own time whose outlook most resembles Dewey's.

Gen. Eisenhower took no interest in a project of reconstructing the political economy of 1928, but otherwise was a man of the right.

Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew represent an interesting set of disjunctions. The cultural partisanship of both men was definitely antagonistic to bien-pensants. By many accounts, Nixon looked on men like Arthur Schlesinger with loathing. Programatically, however, the Nixon Administration was liberal, though in a much more qualified and tentative way than the dominant faction of the Democratic congressional caucus preferred.

I am not sure why you think it 'silly' to call attention to the fact that Ronald Reagan carried New York twice.

What I don't understand is why each state doesn't allocate its EC votes in proportion to how its people vote, i.e. in NY (my state), instead of an "all or nothing" situation, where ALL of the EC votes go to the candidate who wins the MOST votes? That way, the purpose of the EC would be preserved, while allowing every vote to count for something.

What other parts of the Constitution do you guys think the Founders got wrong?

"I strongly feel that on a matter so basic to the confidence and structure of the country, we ought not to abandon the familiar and workable for the new and untried without the clearest demonstration of need. In my judgment, no such demonstration has been made. We should not substitute untried democratic dogma for proven democratic experience." -AG Katzenbach

I don't have enough time to do the pro-electoral college argument justice (if I was capable of that), but I highly recommend you check out the last link on the post and look at the Senate Judiciary Committee's document. Some excerpts:

Direct election of the President, we believe, would—

- Destroy the two-party system and encourage the formation of a host of splinter parties;
- Undermine the Federal system by removing the States as States from the electoral process;
- Remove an indispensable institutional support for the separation of powers;
- Radicalize public opinion and endanger the rights of all minorities by removing incentives to compromise;
- Create an irresistible temptation to electoral fraud;
- Lead to interminable electoral recounts and challenges;
- Necessitate national direction and control of every aspect of the electoral process.

"Nothing could be clearer in the Framers' thought than their rejection of a merely numerical concept of representative government. If the Constitution stands for nothing else, it stands for the idea that mere numbers have no capacity to make legitimate that which is otherwise illegitimate—whether those numbers be 51 or 90 percent of the whole. All the unique features of the Constitution are explicit departures from simple majoritarianism. This is true of the federal system, which, among other things, prevents the less populous States from being engulfed by the more populous States; this is true of bicameralism, which divides legislative responsibilities between House and Senate on grounds other than those of population; this is true of the separation of powers, whereby, among other things, great power is invested in a nonelective judiciary; and this is true of the electoral college, which incorporates the Federal principle and grants to each State, however small, a minimum weight of three electoral votes."

"It is uncanny that the burden of proof in this debate has been assigned to those of us who defend the electoral system which has served us well, and that the proponents * * * of direct election, which is untried and necessarily unproven, do not discuss the need for change but only change itself."

The whole report is full of superbly articulated arguments. I admit I haven't read the whole thing, but look forward to doing so later.

What other parts of the Constitution do you guys think the Founders got wrong?

The Constitution is not canonical literature for which to change is to corrupt. It is a law which erects a set of institutions; that law is better or worse adapted to a particular set of circumstances. The institutional architecture was not novel; it was derived from the plans of colonial governments, with modifications.

We have had over 200 years of experience with this institutional architecture and other countries have had experience with alternatives which we can observe and draw lessons. One thing we can observe is how well the archictecture had withstanding novel demands over the years and appropriately containing political conflict. We know things about how the machine actually works which Mr. Madison did not.

As it is, your sources are defending a component of the original document which has not worked as intended since 1796. It is difficult to take seriously their menu of assertions and it is baffling you do not offer some critical engagement with what they say. Consider...

- Destroy the two-party system and encourage the formation of a host of splinter parties;

Has the direct election of state governors had this effect?

Are we to believe that sociological and social psychological factors have no influence on the contours of the party system, or that the method of electing the legislature has no effect?

Given that any number of foreign countries function well enough with a multiparty system and that a comprehensive duopoly such as we have is exceedingly unusual, why should we be all that concerned that such a duopoly might be dismantled?

- Undermine the Federal system by removing the States as States from the electoral process;

No one has proposed that the electoral bodies of the states be abolished, or that members of Congress cease to be elected as part of state delegations, so what gives? While we are at it, could it possibly undermine federalism any where near as much as the pattern of intergovernmental revenue transfers so enhanced during Mr. Katzenbach's tenure as Attorney-General?

- Remove an indispensable institutional support for the separation of powers;

This is compeletly non sequitur.

- Radicalize public opinion and endanger the rights of all minorities by removing incentives to compromise;

As is this. Again, you elect your state Attorney-General by an unmediated popular vote. Exactly how does that 'remove incentives to compromise'?

- Create an irresistible temptation to electoral fraud;

Where in the United States has this happened as a demonstrable consequence of the direct election of executives? In which European or Latin American country can stuffing the ballot box be attributed to direct election of executives?

- Lead to interminable electoral recounts and challenges;

Excuse me, but we have had three or four Presidential elections threatened with this even though we have an electoral college. Close elections are close elections.


- Necessitate national direction and control of every aspect of the electoral process.

No, it would necessitate administrative changes applicable to the conduct of federal elections, not any other sort of election.

The characters who wrote this seem to have been influenced by some unadmitted considerations and wagered that vehement assertion would be an adequate rhetorical tool. It seems to have worked on you. Don't know why...

A system in which electoral votes are divided proportionally by state would not accurately reflect the nationwide popular vote and would not make every vote equal.

Every vote would not be equal under the proportional approach. The proportional approach would perpetuate the inequality of votes among states due to each state's bonus of two electoral votes. It would penalize states, such as Montana, that have only one U.S. Representative even though it has almost three times more population than other small states with one congressman. It would penalize fast-growing states that do not receive any increase in their number of electoral votes until after the next federal census. It would penalize states with high voter turnout (e.g., Utah, Oregon).

Moreover, the fractional proportional allocation approach does not assure election of the winner of the nationwide popular vote. In 2000, for example, it would have resulted in the election of the second-place candidate.

The Founding Fathers only said in the U.S. Constitution about presidential elections (only after debating among 60 ballots for choosing a method): "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . ." The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as "plenary" and "exclusive."

Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, universal suffrage, and the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all rule) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation's first presidential election.

In 1789, in the nation's first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, Only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote.

In 1789 only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all rule to award electoral votes.

There is no valid argument that the winner-take-all rule is entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. The current 48 state-by-state winner-take-all rule (i.e., awarding all of a state's electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in a particular state) is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, the debates of the Constitutional Convention, or the Federalist Papers. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all rule.

As a result of changes in state laws enacted since 1789, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states, there are no property requirements for voting in any state, and the state-by-state winner-take-all rule is used by 48 of the 50 states.

Federalism concerns the allocation of power between state governments and the national government. The National Popular Vote bill concerns how votes are tallied, not how much power state governments possess relative to the national government. The powers of state governments are neither increased nor decreased based on whether presidential electors are selected along the state boundary lines, along district lines (as has been the case in Maine and Nebraska), or national lines.

In elections in which the winner is the candidate receiving the most votes throughout the entire jurisdiction served by that office, historical evidence shows that there is no massive proliferation of third-party candidates and candidates do not win with small percentages. For example, in 905 elections for governor in the last 60 years, the winning candidate received more than 50% of the vote in over 91% of the elections.

If the National Popular Vote bill were to become law, it would not change the need for candidates to build a winning coalition across demographics.

The U.S. Constitution does not require that the election laws of all 50 states are identical in virtually every respect. State election laws are not identical now nor is there anything in the National Popular Vote compact that would force them to become identical. Indeed, the U.S. Constitution specifically permits diversity of election laws among the states because it explicitly gives the states control over the conduct of presidential elections (article II) as well as congressional elections (article I). The fact is that the Founding Fathers and the U.S. Constitution permits states to conduct elections in varied ways.

More than once, commenters here have attempted to make a strong case for a point of view or proposal by sheer volume of words, as in this case. The proponents of change are obliged to show that the direct election of the president will retain the advantages of the current system while remedying alleged defects. It serves no purpose to take the advantages for granted. Martin Diamond made the best case for retaining the electoral college, which he showed has the remarkable capacity to deliver a winner in the vast majority of elections, the greatest single contributor to presidential legitimacy and therefore stability in the system and the sought-for energy in the executive.

No one maintains that the original design could not be improved upon, as it was with the 12th amendment providing for separate election of the president and vice president in 1804. The rise of the two-party system both caused the problems encountered in 1796 and 1800 and provided a remedy for them, especially following the election by the House of Representatives in 1824 when two major parties were established permanently. The winner-take-all rule was a decision of state legislatures seeking to maximize their state’s influence over the outcome. It would be strange therefore to assert that states would not lose influence from abolishing that rule.

Extremely close elections, such as in 1876, 1888, 1960, 1968, and 2000 were converted into electoral college victories, without resort to House election. A close election in the absence of the electoral college, as Theodore White warned, would present a problem of immense proportions, given the existence of 51 separate voting entities which would cease to be safety valves as they are now but become converted into multiple flash points for extraordinarily intense campaigning in the rush to reach the elusive popular majority. States would have the political significance of counties, which is essentially nothing.

Certainly the current system is not perfect, but we are talking about exchanging the known for the unknown here. Evidently, proponents of reform have absorbed the sobering likely consequence of outright abolition, previous forms of which lowered the requirement from a majority of the electoral college to as little as 40 percent of the popular vote, which would indeed lead to the splintering of the two-party system. Minor party candidates would have great incentive to cut deeply into the major party votes as they could force a runoff and secure advantages for their party between the first election and the second.

The threat to separation of powers is not chimerical. In the short run, presidents would be weakened by their likely election with merely a plurality of the popular vote. Given the concentration of population in urban states, campaigns would concentrate more on those areas than at present because is that where the bulk of the votes are. The big cities would rule the country. (Barack Obama won the Democratic presidential nomination because he secured many delegates in many lightly populated states.) As Diamond contends in "The Electoral College and the American Idea of Democracy," several years of experience with direct popular election and minority presidents would generate a huge incentive to find ways to overcome that disadvantage, by corrupt election practices no longer, as now, confined to a few cities or states. This would probably serve to exalt the presidency to an unprecedented degree, as it would be the only branch of government elected by the whole people. Our Constitution enables the President, the Senate and the House to claim democratic legitimacy, as all are elected in distinct districts and states. Each can stand their ground with the others. The founders deliberately avoided direct election in order to avoid tendencies toward Caesarism, or as we have seen since, Bonapartism or Hitlerism. Some of our governors have been virtual dictators in one-party systems, which is a real possibility under direct election.

Proponents of change blithely assume that tinkering with our complex system for electing the president will merely correct the occasional electoral college/popular vote disparity. But currently candidates have to win states in two or more sections of the country in what Diamond called a "nationally distributed majority." Obama carried fewer states than McCain but he had broad support nevertheless. That has been a common and fully understood characteristic of our elections. I've seen no evidence that any reform proposals can accomplish the difficult fete of reconciling democratic legitimacy with constitutional stability.

Of course, no system can save a presidency which is incompetent or unpopular, but at least it gives a new president a basis for success and saves the prestige of the office. However much some believe reform would improve things, too many states prefer the existing system to enable reformers to secure a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress and three-fourths of the states.

Oops--feat, not fete

More than once, commenters here have attempted to make a strong case for a point of view or proposal by sheer volume of words, as in this case.

I will make it short and sweet: fifty states and several dozen foreign countries with presidential systems, get along passably without an electoral college. Suggest the reason for this is that it is vestigial and performs no necessary function. Your precious separation of powers manages to survive in each of our fifty states, for what that's worth. Australia survives with a parliamentary system. They just do not appreciate the excellence of Mr. Madison's carefully calibrated designs.

The federal judiciary and many state appellate panels fancy it is there prerogative to decide any social policy they care to, and never mind the rest of us. State, county, and municipal governments are hamstrung by a gordian knot of intergovernmental transfers, special district authorities, judicial decrees, public corporations, and union contracts. The specific delegations to the federal legislature in the first article of the federal constitution are a complete dead letter, to the point where 'interstate commerce' can now be said to be anything that causes minute changes in barometric pressure. Congress is a stew of incompetence and corruption, in large measure because constitutional provisions and parliamentary rules require legislation jump through the bicameral hoop and come with bribes to the Nebraska and Louisiana legislature appended in order to acquire the supermajority that is effectively required. (What's the result of the latter? Observe the behavior of one Henry Paulson throughout the his last 10 months in office). Jurisprudence on the subject of the privileges and immunities of both persons and small collectivities is a hash, and for good reason. The portion of the Constitution where such are delimited is a game of riddles.

In short, the institutional architecture is a broken down wreck and everybody can see it. And here we all are ignoring the gangrene while the world's political antiquarians offer us disquisitions on the unappreciated benefits of having an intact set of tonsils. The whole business is stupid.

We can seldom improve on the wisdom of the Founders. Nothing mystical about it -- they were just exceptionally gifted men, for the most part.

My prediction is that, with the elimination of the Electoral College, places like Montana will have seen their last national candidate zip through the country looking for votes. I would remind all that this country is called the United STATES of America. National office is not just a popularity contest, but rather a governmental system that represents territories and regions regardless of their populations. Eliminating the EC will only solidify the power of States like California, Texas, and New York, and that's not good for the long-term territorial integrity of the nation as a whole. One has only to look at the grievances generated by ignored portions of States (panhandle-itis) to understand that the glue holding polities together is much more than one-man/one-vote.

Very well said, Richard. Thank you. Would we have to resort to runoff elections in cases of pluralities? If not, I imagine we would have dozens of candidates in the race if you could become leader of the free world with 34% of the popular vote. Again, I don't see any benefit to the direct election of the president that presents itself so clearly as to dispose of the Electoral College. This nation was intentionally created to be a constitutional republic, not a democracy.

1. How often do you have state governors elected on a minority vote?

2. Exactly how is French political life harmed by the use of runoff elections?

3. How is Australian political life harmed by the use of ordinal balloting, which obviates the need for runoff elections?

We can seldom improve on the wisdom of the Founders. Nothing mystical about it -- they were just exceptionally gifted men, for the most part.

If you are not comparing political life in this country with that abroad and attempting to isolate differences derived from legal-formal institutions, you are not engaged in a serious enterprise. Something is not well adapted by definition because Thomas Jefferson thought well of it.

Thomas Aquinas may have trafficked in wisdom you can seldom improve upon. The 'founders' were not philosophers but planters and lawyers and politicians. They dealt not with eternal questions but contemporary social and political problems. They crafted institutions from extant plans; the country was founded in 1607, not 1776. They could read Sallust in the original, a degree of erudition unusual now. The same could be said of the classics professors at one of the local colleges here.

AD: I don't think "Europe and the rest of the self-governing world gets along passably" is a foundation I would build upon. But obviously you will not be persuaded.

I did not suggest you 'build on it'. I point out you can learn from the experience of our own subnational components and from foreign countries what the implications may be of adopting certain institutional forms. I see no reason to ignore actual lived experience of working political societies in favor of speculation informed by the idea that the excellence of James Madison et al was such that no part of their handiwork might be altered, even a part that worked as designed precisely twice.

While we are at it, I cannot see there is anything particularly dysfunctional about the national political institutions of Europe, except that they seem to generate elites whose moral sense suffers from a greater divorce from that of the general public than is the case with the United States. I suspect that may have more to do with the degree of centralization of political parties in Europe than anything else. I seriously doubt the electoral college has anything to so with that.

Europe (and the Far East) appears to be in the midst of a severe social-demographic crisis as well. I do not think our fertility in this country is as a result of the electoral college either.

You are free to disagree with me, of course. Nonetheless, I'd much rather put my fate in the hands of planters and such than philosopher-kings and academics. The former are more focused on how society actually works (rather than how it should work), and that is the only viable way to build a government (in 1776 or in 2010).

As for adapting to change, the Founders' system has done remarkably well. Even our civil war was between two systems who thought they were emulating the Founders.

So, turn down the snark to 6 or 7, please. I was not arguing that the Founders' blessing forgives all sins, but rather than they were extraordinary men who designed a system for the ages. Again, you are free to disagree (joining the likes of Obama and his ilk) if you so choose. Makes no nevermind to me.

First, I confess to skimming through the responses here and in the post. AD, despite the numbers and rhetoric, I don't think you are thing about this very deeply.

I like Richard Reeb's response. I also like the Madisonian reasons for the EC. It is not the matter of the historical authority of Madison or that of tradition and the Constitution, but the consideration of living in a republic and why having some safeguards against rampant democracy (tyranny of the majority, passions of the people, demagoguery of the candidates to stir emotion [Obama-fever, anyone? Really, bad enough, don't you think?] and considering the extent of the republic) -- Madison's reasoning is what his important and AD, you are not thinking in that way. You don't have to, of course, but the rest of have serious doubts about the wisdom of what you advocate because of all of those things.

Typically, I will throw in anecdote to push the conversation in a new direction. Last fall semester I had a computer tech student, really smart: a "non-traditional student" @ 35. Though an adult who had never thought much about politics, he had already been a business owner and was no slouch. He wanted to do a paper on eliminating the Electoral College and taking America to national computerized elections for the presidency. Although the talk here has not really gone to how to collect national votes, I suppose something like what this guy had in mind would be the direction this kind of voting would go.

Anyway, I said to go for it, but that I would be looking for proof that there was a system that could not be hacked to skew election results. I also talked to him about the problem of direct democracy, but for his creative & career purposes, the first question was the big one. He was thinking something like the voting for American Idol would work, though he wanted to work out something a bit more sophisticated than that.. The idea was roughly the same. I would submit to you, AD, you are proposing something very like making the presidency the equivalent of American Idol, though with broader campaigns for popularity, I assume.

My student's paper was an admission that it could not be done. The Electoral College breaks down the results of the national election by state. So, too, does having voting rules by state. Therefore, corruption in a single state can be contained within that state. A national system would be open enough that someone, inside or outside the system, could corrupt the system. My student could think of more ways to corrupt the system than ways to protect it.

It was an excellent paper, though about half again the original assignment.

Thinking about the 2000 election, if there was a dispute about the popular vote count, how would your system work, AD? I understand what you say about European nations, but they are smaller than ours. I find the whole "coalition government" thing pretty ugly, too.

Another question, as the welfare state deepens, and more people are concentrated in urban areas and dependent on the federal government, why do we want to increase democracy rather than safeguard against it at this point in time? The welfare-state mentality as a force in American politics will lead to the worst in democracy. People I know are already worrying that Obama is a Chavez-type president and always pandering to those who are federal-government-dependent and seeking to increase that dependency to increase their own democratic power.

Isn't that the problem Greece, Spain, et al. are having? They elect such presidents as promise and deliver the goods, without thought to who will pay.

Corruption on corruption? We need safeguards on democracy, not more of the same.

Art, as some point out from time to time, there is an ongoing culture war in America which is unique to this nation; throughout the rest of the West most of the political and, especially, social issues we're battling out on the field of public opinion have already been decided on in places such as France and Australia. Therefore, an executive who only won 35% of the vote and then got to appoint Supreme Court justices for life and issue certain executive orders would be very problematic for our most divided and dynamic society.

'Culture wars' are not unique to the United States. While there can be considerable evolution in this sort of thing over a modest run of time, France, Austria, the Netherlands, and Belgium had quite encompassing and intense cultural conflicts as recently as 1965, to a degree that I believe has yet to be replicated in the United States. The political spectrum was a good deal more variegated here, there and the next place in Europe. France adopted direct election of its President in 1965. I cannot see how these conflicts grew more severe over the succeeding decades, or how you would attribute the conflicts you do see to the method of electing the President.

Again, the distribution of opinion between political parties is a reflection of something of the sociology and social psychology of the populace as well as the influences of institutional form. The United States, Britain, and Canada each elect their legislatures pretty much the same way, but voting preferences cut up quite differently. To some extent it is just habit, but I would submit to you that the major distinction between the three political societies is that the various factors which go into the making of political allegiance in this country are corellated with each other to an unusual degree. The electoral college applies only to the election of the federal executive. The result of elections to executive and legislative bodies at all levels yield similar results as regards the distribution between parties. There are at any one time typically only two or three states where much goes on outside the ambit of the Democratic and Republican parties, for better or for worse.

Any sort of first-past-the-post system penalizes small parties. I cannot see how the electoral college adds much to that. Nor can I see how, were we to have them, multi-candidate races resolved by runoff elections exacerbate political conflict, or at least such political conflict as is manifest in a multiparty system to begin with.

As for adapting to change, the Founders' system has done remarkably well.

No, it has not. You merely have to consider whether the institutional structure has allowed for a repartition of function between federal, state, and local government according to law. It has not. The architecture could not accommodate social demands derived from economic development and economic crisis and the whole house was blown down. The question at hand is how to reconstruct it. That is a question that cannot be posed much less answered if discourse goes into blind alleys such as this one.

Kate, you should stop free-associating and ask yourself this question: what is it that is problematic about how Colorado elects its Governor, and how would matters be ameliorated by institution of a sort of county-unit rule of the sort Georgia used to have? Question too shallow for you?

AD says to Kate, "Question too shallow for you?"

While I can't say whether the question is, indeed, too shallow for Kate, I can say that your posts have been revealing enough to me. Maybe someone would actually consider your opinions if they didn't read so pretentiously.

Especially when we are looking at premises such as the following:

"If you are not comparing political life in this country with that abroad and attempting to isolate differences derived from legal-formal institutions, you are not engaged in a serious enterprise."

History of political philosophy isn't a serious enterprise? You might want to share with the Ashbrook Center your wisdom.

No, AD, the question isn't too shallow, I think your applying the example to the nation might be.

I also wonder if the main point of the arguments against yours is that there is not enough faith and trust in those people who would change the current system for anyone to be comfortable with talk of a change. We are not thinking the current system is the problem with America. Changing the Electoral College is not going to effect what ails us. If you are going to tell me that we will have better representation with a different system, you might get some traction. I don't really think that is true, do you?

Discussions of the discussion are generally sterile. I am tempted in this case, but I think perhaps a third party would be rather more adept at pointing out some of curious turns of thought revealed herein.

The original constitution bas derived from a set of compromises by people applying their experience of colonial institutions supplemented by discursive reasoning. You did have some history at that time of countries with federal and republican institutions (the Swiss Confederation and the Hanseatic League might qualify as examples), but it was quite unusual and applied in a political society with a very different sort of geography and society. A speculative teasing out of posited implications of designing the machine one way or another was a necessity.

You are never going to get away from that entirely. The thing is, the world has acquired considerable experience in operating electoral and deliberative institutions of various sorts on the scale of territorial state and a literature observing the implications of doing one thing or another. Declarations of fealty to Mr. Madison and carting around the assumption that he and his contemporaries must have incorporated some stroke of genius we are unable to detect (rather like Isaac Asimov's Hari Seldon and Second Foundation) are not, I submit to you, a serious enterprise.

It can be instructive to go back and attempt to understand why they did what they did, but our problems are ours. They are not necessarily anticipated by them, and likely were not. Study of a sociological and historical character should properly take priority over one of a theoretical character.

As I have said, the electoral college does not concern me much. It has been bruited about by some of the other commenters that patterns of personal campaigning and campaign strategy would be altered by eliminating the electoral college. That is of interest to Karl Rove. Since I am not employed in the campaign business, it is of no interest to me. I am not sure that John Lewis has described the problem correctly, but, again, I do not work in that trade.

What disturbs me is that our political institutions are a broken down wreck with severe implications for the course of public policy. The list of dysfunctional components is long and we cannot get to first base in a discussion of them because people cannot seem to process the possibility that some part of Mr. Madison's handiwork did not perform as intended or performed passably only in social circumstances that no longer obtain.

"You merely have to consider whether the institutional structure has allowed for a repartition of function between federal, state, and local government according to law. It has not. The architecture could not accommodate social demands derived from economic development and economic crisis and the whole house was blown down."

I think you tend towards overstatement. Compared to other countries, all we've done is to tinker with a basic system. Many would argue that no "repartition" is/was necessary, and "repartition" which has occurred has actually damaged the country I might add that such "repartition" was accomplished through war, judicial activism, and guile more often than through democratic process. If anything, the Founders underestimated the crookedness of human timber.

The system is not perfect, of course, but no system run by men can ever be perfect. The Founders had the right idea, however -- a government at "war" with itself maximizes the freedom of the people. That freedom is being eroded away as we speak, and eliminating the Electoral College will only accelerate the trend.

Now, AD, I give you permission to continue gibbering away about colonial institutions, compromises, and other tangential points that miss the forest for the trees.

Anonymous is me, of course.

Compared to other countries, all we've done is to tinker with a basic system. Many would argue that no "repartition" is/was necessary, and "repartition" which has occurred has actually damaged the country I might add that such "repartition" was accomplished through war, judicial activism, and guile more often than through democratic process.

Economic development and the declining cost of transportation and communications has been conjoined to the increasing scale of economic activity and the capacity to manipulate nature and make artifacts has brought both possibilities and problems (think, for example of the health and safety issues presented by an oil refinery on the one hand and a late 18t c textile mill on the other). This type of force generates demands on different layers of the political system. both in its regulatory aspect and in the provision of services. Attempting to contain and sluice those demands by limiting the central government's function to enumerated powers difficult to amend failed. The political elite simply ignored them and redefined everything under the sun as 'interstate commerce'. Given the exigencies of the moment in 1933, I do not blame them. We need a plan B to promote decentralization. Retaining the electoral college does nothing toward that end.

"Judicial activism" is a reference to structural defects in the Constitution. Again, retaining the electoral college addresses that defect not at all.

The Social Security Act, the alphabet soup agencies, the Wagner Act, the whole run of civil rights laws, &c. were all enacted by our elected federal legislature.


I am not sure you would find one salient element of the redefinition of functions between central and particular authorities that was enacted during the last general mobilization. The regulatory powers and expenditures of the federal government were huge during the Second World War, but all of this was dismantled by 1949. We were left with a large military establishment we did not have prior to the war, but this was a function of exterior circumstances (and the military and espionage services have been a function of the central government since 1789, like it or lump it).

There is a good deal of crud in public policy that is the product of administrative regulations, judicial opinions, and the machinations of the public interest bar and professional guilds. Again, retaining the electoral college will not help you contain any of this. Adding structural constraints to the discretion of the appellate judiciary and to the ability of central authorities to manipulate local authorities by putting conditions on shared revenue just might.

If you are saying that urbanization, communications, and affluence lead naturally to demands for a nanny state, I would agree. If you are saying that the generation of social problems by industrialism/capitalism necessitates political centralization, then I would strongly disagree. Issues like pollution, price-fixing, and interstate trade can be handled by (empowered) States. There is no compelling need to call the central government into it. I would remind you that as late as 1913 people didn't even elect their U.S. Senators, a fact that made State governments (who did elect them) far more brawny than they are today. Eliminating the Electoral College is just another step towards (in Robinson Jeffers' phrase) "thickening to empire." The Founders understood the usefulness of a central government, but they valued freedom (i.e., more localized representation) more.

Of course, today the efficacy of decentralization requires some imagination. We've had generations of centralist lawmaking, and so today for many it seems absurd to think of a far less centralized polity. But such is possible, and I would argue better! I see no compelling reason why the legions of California, Texas, and New York should micromanage the people of Idaho, New Mexico, or Georgia.

AD says, "The thing is, the world has acquired considerable experience in operating electoral and deliberative institutions of various sorts on the scale of territorial state and a literature observing the implications of doing one thing or another."

That requires a not inconsiderable proof. You have been going willy-nilly spouting off these rather dubious points with hardly a hat-tip to practical example or philosophical rigor. I find that in this instance, you are most off-base. There have been more manifestations of kinds of "operating electoral and deliberate institutions," but merely by virtue of the passage of time. I would submit that none of these differ substantially from what was experienced or pondered in earlier times, with the added caveat that the "literature" which "observes" the implications of X or Y regime do not quite reach the efforts of earlier and better men (say, for example, Machiavelli).

There is in fact another (and more fortified) reason that we should care what Mr. Madison thought, other than fealty to his, from your point of view, imagination. That is to say, I see nothing in your arguments that gives any sort of hat tip to conservatism properly understood. Nothing that distinguishes you from a progressive liberal. Laws are venerated for a couple of different reasons, not least among those reasons being that the veneration of a law is proportionate to its age. So it is one thing to say that we should follow the Constitution because Madison was really smart, quite another to say that we should revere the Founding because good self-government requires it.

Obviously there is room for debate over this, as there was among the Founders themselves (cf. Jefferson's letter to Madison of 6 Sept. 1789).

Furthermore, if the Founders merely enjoyed "some stroke of genius we are unable to detect" as you so derisively suggest of your fellow citizens imagined hero-worship, study of and interest in self-government (to say nothing of their ability as practitioners of self-government) would not be much worth it, would it?

Oh, and the following is a terrible run-on sentence:

"Economic development and the declining cost of transportation and communications has been conjoined to the increasing scale of economic activity and the capacity to manipulate nature and make artifacts has brought both possibilities and problems (think, for example of the health and safety issues presented by an oil refinery on the one hand and a late 18t c textile mill on the other)."

If you are saying that urbanization, communications, and affluence lead naturally to demands for a nanny state, I would agree.

Common provision was certainly a part of the political economy prior to 1929. It was not so generous and tended to be delivered manually by public agencies, rather than in the form of income payments and insurance re-imbursements. Except for veterans' hospitals, it was, by and large, delivered by state and local governments. Even today, salaried care givers (e.g. social workers) are seldom on the federal payroll unless they are employed by the VA.

I cannot say for my own self why, across the whole run of occidental countries, you saw similar movement in favor of enhanced common provision. I think greater mobility in the population disrupted to some degree extant informal social networks for caring for people, hence the search for regularized alternatives. One of the agreeable features of Social Security is its portability, but that is in turn derivative of the fact it is administered by the most superordinate government.

The thing is, these pressures are not just artifacts of someone's bad ideas, and they did not go away just because of the language of Article I.

Issues like pollution, price-fixing, and interstate trade can be handled by (empowered) States. There is no compelling need to call the central government into it.

They can be if the parties to the transactions in question are all in one state, and if the trade is 'inter-state', they are not, buy definition. I do recall that in the original Constitution, regulating interstate commerce were explicitly delegate. IIRC, late 19th c court decisions annulled certain state regulations of railways as usurpations of federal authority. (I think the state in question was Wisconsin). Watersheds, I might note, are seldom contained within the boundaries of a single state. Airborne industrial waste has an unhappy habit of disrespecting political boundaries as well.


I would remind you that as late as 1913 people didn't even elect their U.S. Senators, a fact that made State governments (who did elect them) far more brawny than they are today.

I don't think so. The advent of an enhanced federal government was in response to a severe economic crisis and fundamental changes in the dynamic of international politics. These occurred a generation later. You are presupposing that Senators elected by state legislators would be resistant to enhancements of federal power at the expense of the states. There is something to be said for that, but it is dependent upon the institutional culture of the state legislators themselves. One of the curios of our time is the degree to which certain agencies forego guarding their prerogatives. The willingness of legislators to tolerate the abusive behavior of the appellate judiciary is the major example.

I have a suspicion that if you returned the election of U.S. Senators to the state legislatures, you would get an upper house not beholden to the sort of folk who finance campaigns, but very much of the sort who resonate with state legislators and are attentive to their wishes. Alphonse d'Amato would be the prototype of the new Senator, and there would be no distinction between 'cornhusker kickbacks' and the ordinary run of business.


Eliminating the Electoral College is just another step towards (in Robinson Jeffers' phrase) "thickening to empire." The Founders understood the usefulness of a central government, but they valued freedom (i.e., more localized representation) more.

Again, this judgment is arbitrary, and not grounded in experience.

You have been going willy-nilly spouting off these rather dubious points with hardly a hat-tip to practical example or philosophical rigor. I find that in this instance, you are most off-base. There have been more manifestations of kinds of "operating electoral and deliberate institutions," but merely by virtue of the passage of time. I would submit that none of these differ substantially from what was experienced or pondered in earlier times, with the added caveat that the "literature" which "observes" the implications of X or Y regime do not quite reach the efforts of earlier and better men (say, for example, Machiavelli).

You had electoral and deliberative institutions in the medieval period, though, for the most part, these had fallen into disuse by the late 18th century in continental Europe.

Parliamentary government as it is understood today, was a British innovation that appeared in stages beginning around 1717. The principal of cabinet responsibility was, I think, established during William Pitt's ministries (1784-1806), so would have been very novel at the time the Constitution was being composed. Separation of powers such as we have was developed during the colonial period and codified by our own Constitution. The standardized hybrid of parliamentary systems and separation-of-powers was developed (I think) by Charles de Gaulle not much more than fifty years ago.

The same deal is true with electoral systems. Political parties (i.e. organizations of partisans, not just legislative caucuses) were an American innovation of the 1820s. They appeared in Britain ca. 1865 and Germany and France just after. I think the original development of ordinal balloting was in the 1850s and that proportional representation was not applied anywhere until after the 1st World War. One might also note that generalized suffrage was quite unusual outside the United States prior to 1867.

With all this, there is a certain literature comparing the performance of electoral systems in academic journals and teasing out their implications, including the question of what sort of system is optimal for a country with a given political sociology. Gen. de Gaulle's success was derived in part from his insight that modes of political association in France made the sort of P.R. system you had there dysfunction in ways it was not in Germany or the Netherlands, so his constitution made use of single-member districts and runoff elections. Academics like Larry Diamond and Donald Horowitz have made a career of studying these sorts of questions.

That is to say, I see nothing in your arguments that gives any sort of hat tip to conservatism properly understood. Nothing that distinguishes you from a progressive liberal.

I guess the 'progressive liberals' I have discussions with despise what I have to say just 'cuz their cussed. (Or maybe they are 'conservatives' and vote Democratic because they are confused. Or maybe...).

I do not think 'run on sentence' means what you think it means.


I understand that the way politics has emerged in practice has not remained constant. Who doesn't? The question at hand is why this fact should make, as you call it, "study of a sociological and historical character" superior to all other methods of inquiry. Your answer seems to be "they didn't think of the problems we face," but this doesn't acknowledge that a great many believe we face the problems before us precisely because we did not acknowledge our origins with the proper respect owed them.

Furthermore, I still don't really see how new circumstances, whether historical or philosophical, really damage an originalist's effectiveness or soundness of mind even if these problems absolutely could NOT be chalked up to straying into the wilderness. I'm sorry, but it seems laughable that some vague notion of "communications" or "transportation" should change the archetypal law of a nation. Is not this the very axiom which the discourse revolves around?

I guess you would reply that this should not bar us from considering the political habits of entities A, B, or C, but what sort of transcendent goal is the deviation from American political tradition meant to achieve? Efficacy?

re: Your run-on sentence...At the very least you needed to insert an 'and' between 'artifacts' and 'has.'

To better explain what I mean by "efficacy," I might cite you citing Charles de Gaulle:

"Gen. de Gaulle's success was derived in part from his insight that modes of political association in France made the sort of P.R. system you had there dysfunction in ways it was not in Germany or the Netherlands, so his constitution made use of single-member districts and runoff elections."

What type of "dysfunction" do you speak of? His remedying the modes of political association in France at the time? For the benefit of whom -- Gen. de Gaulle? (You do, after all, concede that such changes brought about his success).

Ministries under the 3d Republic in France came and went at 12 month intervals. Under the 4th Republic, they came and went at 6 month intervals. Under the 5th Republic, they come and go at 30 month intervals. Formerly, the functional chief executive was the Prime Minister. It remains so under certain circumstances, but since 1958 is usually the President. The position of functional chief executive has since 1958 changed hands at 58 month intervals. Much greater continuity of policy is possible and less delegation to the permanent civil service for want of a governing ministry. Gen. de Gaulle was in charge for 11 years; no republican executive in France had ever had anywhere near this sort of durability. No prime minister under the 4th Republic served for longer than 17 months.

Similarly, the party system under the 4th Republic was very haphazard. Gen. de Gaulle was able to assemble the bulk of the right in France into a single political party with the help of the aggregative tendencies encouraged by the revised electoral system. Francois Mitterand was able to accomplish this on the left, which has had a fairly durable spectrum of political parties since 1971. Valery Giscard d'Estaing assembled a federation of Christian Democratic, old republican, and business-oriented parties in 1978 but it later fell to pieces and the interstices between the Gaullist movement and the Socialist Party remain occupied by small and evanescent organizations.

We all speak of the Law of Unintended Consequences but some of us fancy that 55 men meeting in Philadelphia over a period of some weeks in 1787 could produce a piece of political architecture good for any contingency.

Systematic financial intermediation was pretty much unknown in British North America prior to 1792, so I do tend to think that institutional forms necessary to cope with banking crises were not much on their mind at the time.

That's sensible. Thank you for expanding! Do you think that the financial situation before us outweighs the various downturns of the nineteenth century? Remember, there were the same kinds of impulses then as now (ie, the creation of a national bank). And if today's crisis is not the greatest (which I suspect is true), do you believe that the way in which the institutional forms were altered then was adequate? I would imagine that then much more than now the discourse was framed as a question of constitutionality, with those in favor of change appealing to some extraneous good.

Still. What I mean when I say that in this kind of analysis I see nothing that distinguishes you from a progressive liberal, I mean that there seems to be no political principle beyond "well, term length is longer and so we get more stable policy." While that might better furnish results from leadership, consider the words of President Obama:

“I would have loved nothing better than to simply come up with some very elegant, academically approved approach to health care. . . . But that’s not how it works in our democracy. Unfortunately, what we end up having to do is to do a lot of negotiations with a lot of different people.”

And tell me how his frustrations with republican democracy as is are any different than yours. Obviously, I believe that you would come down opposite Mr. Obama on the healthcare principle. All I'm saying is that your way of coming to that conclusion is no different than his -- and that difference of opinion can only be guided by something that stands outside of practical politics. That is, unless the healthcare debate was about nothing other than "costs" and "delivering services efficiently" or some other morally indeterminate factor.

Progressive-liberal or not (and de Gaulle was not by any use of the term not whimsical), I do not think the quality of governance benefits when the cabinet has to be reconstituted every six months.

By the way, during the antebellum period, the Presidency changed hands every 58 months or so, quite similar to deGaulle's scheme.

This might have been the wrong battlefield to have a discussion over methodology (it was, after all, a post about the Electoral College), but it has been an interesting discussion nonetheless. And I would agree with you about the benefit of prolonged length of office. (I don't quite see how it bears on US politics, however)

Progressivism was a transnational (elite) social movement, and that more than anything else explains why we have strong centralization pressures in the Western world. I might also add that without the dynamo that is capitalism these strong central states would never have had the cash to do the things they (try to) do. I also note that the more a nation embraces this strong-state nannyism, the slower it's economic growth, the more leftist it becomes, and the more rapid its decline. Anything that enervates individual initiative, morality, and responsibility will ultimately destroy a civilization (just ask the Romans).

What we are really seeing is that same old story that all groups of humans seem to reproduce every time they get "organized." Idealist elites begin to conflate their own self-interest with do-gooder schemes, and before you know it (literally) you have major political parasitism -- one group doing most of the heavy lifting, and another group deciding on how (and on whom) it will be spent. This will always be the recipe for social stagnation and decline.

If you haven't already, I would encourage everyone to read both Mancur Olson's "The Rise and Decline of Nations" as well as Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom." In my book, anything that slows down this pernicious process (like the EC or term limits) is a very good thing.

Different people all over the world get the personal loans in different banks, because that's simple and comfortable.

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