The United States Constitution and its Framers are rightly lauded for the way in which the democratic order they created successfully balances the competing demands of order and freedom, justice and individual rights, unity and diversity. But the peculiar mechanism they instituted for selecting presidents—the Electoral College—has been maligned for decades.
Predictably, then, even before the Presidential election of 2000 was resolved, numerous intellectuals, politicians, and journalists were calling for the abolition of the Electoral College. Critics claimed that it was an anachronistic remnant from a less enlightened time. But is the Electoral College really a useless, outmoded, and undemocratic institution? No, argue the writers assembled for this volume. By explaining its role in providing our electoral system with a measure of stability and genuine democracy, this timely volume shows why it would be folly to abolish the Electoral College.
Gary Gregg begins with an outline of the historical origins of the Electoral College, shedding light on the Founders' understanding of federalism, the rule of law, and representative government. Elections expert Andrew Busch outlines the development of the Electoral College from the great crisis following the election of 1800, and he relates the story of the controversial presidential elections of the nineteenth century, which in some ways set the stage for the electoral controversy of 2000.
James Stoner points out how important the Electoral College is to our continuing recognition of the states as something more than administrative units. He also reminds us how important the nexus between the Electoral College and the states has been in the democratization of American politics. Besides serving as an agent of democracy, Paul Rahe explains, the Electoral College has also dampened the candidacies of radical sectional candidates and demagogues. And, as Michael Barone notes, the College serves as a crucial support to our two-party systemwithout which we might very well become a nation of fractured and radical parties unable to govern.
Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan weaves historical details with philosophic nuance as he critiques proposals to abolish the Electoral College. In a similar vein, Michael Uhlmann warns that because the Electoral College plays a critical role in our constitutional order, we endanger that order's coherence if we abolish the College. Walter Berns, perhaps the one man who can claim the title of Dean of Electoral College Scholars, closes the volume by asking us to consider the outputs of our elections as much as we do the inputs. Should we not be concerned that radical changes in the process might well lead to radical changes in the character of the men who would inherit our greatest public trust?
What They're Saying...
"'If not perfect, at least excellent': that is how Alexander Hamilton described the Electoral College. Gary Gregg and his co-authors have found new reasons to confirm Hamilton's proud boast and to defend the Framers' ingenious invention today."
— Harvey C. Mansfield, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Government, Harvard University
"Where readers agree, this collection will be popular."
"Hard on the heels of an election that demonstrated the practical importance of the Electoral College comes this spirited defense of the wise political principles it exemplifies."
— George F. Will, Nationally Syndicated Columnist
"These essays in defense of the Electoral College…echo the conservative ethos: 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.'"
— Publishers Weekly
"[A] slender but intellectually high-powered book..."
— National Journal
"This book is a valuable tool."
— Metro Voice