Your Historical Analysis of the Electoral college
Saturday, November 25, 2000
As a former student of political science with a minor in history, I thank you for Mr. Berg-Andersson's incisive analysis of the history of the Electoral College. Unfortunately, the real reasons for its formation has been caught up in political rhetoric during this contested presidential election. Indeed, thanks in large to the media, people are beginning to be believe that it was created as a means to "balance" large populated states versus the smaller ones. Your analysis proves that this was just another battle that the Framers of the Constitution compromised upon as they were caught up in the process in improving the weak Articles of Confederation. Bottom line it was one which I believe resulted from the fact that they wanted the newly formed country to be a republic rather than a democracy; a fact most of the population seemingly do not know.
As a final note, your salient points prove that the "winner take all" was an evolutionary process that rooted itself by the mid-19th Century and has been left to continue to this day. Be that as it may, I only wish that the media and all the political pundits would cite the history accurately rather than allow the false assumptions to continue accordingly.
Thanks again and I look forward to reading more of your group's thoughts.
Regards and Happy Holidays,
Mr. Berg-Andersson responds:
I'm not so sure that the Electoral College itself came out of the philosophy of the Framers that we were to be a Republic rather than a Democracy (put aside the concept that the combination of the so-called "Jacksonian Revolution" and especially the Civil War and its aftermath [and the ensuing Industrial/so-called "Gilded" Age] subsequently fashioned the United States of America as more of a "Democracy within a Republic" rather different from the "Republic, not Democracy" the Framers themselves had apparently envisioned [Alexis de Tocqueville's principal tome from the early 1840s- as Jacksonianism was reaching the last surviving vestiges of the "Olde Republic", such as Rhode Island (where it touched off "Dorr's Rebellion" in 1842)- was entitled Democracy in America not something along the lines of "The American Republic" and, while the title of Lord Bryce's work The American Commonwealth comes close to that, the America Lord Bryce describes in the 1880s into the 19-teens (in subsequent editions of his book) is quite different from that de Tocqueville describes (the Civil War having been a primary cause of this difference); Bryce's description of our political institutions is, in fact, much more "modern" (as in: closer to the mark as regards our own early 21st Century Union) than that of de Tocqueville]). It seems to me much the more likely that the Electoral College was primarily derived from a simple recognition that we were (as we today remain- however modified) a Federation of sovereign States and that sectional and regional political differences had to be fairly balanced in order for the Union to survive and thrive (as is still, in my opinion, the case to this very day!) Why else would a system based on now 51 separate Presidential Elections held at roughly the same time on the same day (only one of which- Florida's- happened to, by unfortunate happenstance, become so fouled up- and in a close race where the outcome in that State alone determines the next President of the United States) still be utilized in the year 2000?
Therefore, I think this sectional/regional balance is more in play in our Presidential Electoral Process (look, for example, at how many States [of the total number Al Gore won] are in the Northeast: that is, my own native New England and my current residence of the Middle Atlantic region!) than any large state versus small state issues or any rather abstract- if not arcane- philosophical elements of "Republic versus Democracy". Nevertheless, I do not think most of our Union's smaller States will so easily go for a move to switch over to Direct Election of the President by Constitutional Amendment, as is currently being bandied about (mostly by liberal Democrats, mind you!) and that this, in and of itself, will be enough to keep three-fourths of the States from ratifying any Direct Election Amendment that could conceivably come out of two-thirds of each house of Congress (though I don't think enough votes will be available in the newly-elected Congress to even send a Direct Election Amendment out to the States). As a result, as I've stated in an earlier Commentary on this site, it is much more likely that any change (and I'm not all that sure there will, in the end, even be any change) will be one allowing the Electoral College to survive in some form or fashion- for, if the American People don't see its value, surely their politicians very well might!
We at "The Green Papers" do agree with Mr.
Saunders that the media has, more often than not, failed to properly (let alone
correctly!) inform the larger public in our Nation about various aspects of
the American Political System; of course, we at "The Green Papers" do
our level best to "pick up the slack" in this regard (and, of course, we
are certainly not above admitting that we make our share of mistakes in the
course of our attempting to do so as well)- but that's why this website is here
on the Internet in the first place, isn't it?