The Electoral College is Here to Disabuse You of Your Democratic Naivete


If you still have questions about the Electoral College I would encourage you to read Kevin Gannon‘s piece “Some Thoughts on the Electoral College.”

Here is a taste:

It’s hard to deny–impossible if you actually read the historical record–that the Electoral College was an attempt to avoid the democratic implications involved in creating an elected executive. It’s a particularly egregious antidemocratic kludge in a document full of antidemocratic kludges. Hell, James Madison proposed the system as a way around the “difficulty…of a serious nature” that southerners would encounter trying to protect their interests against a more populous tier of non-slaveholding states (see his speech onJuly 19). And the subsequent history of presidential elections has borne that out. If you have assumed that whoever gets the most votes wins the election, the Electoral College is here to disabuse you of your democratic naivete. There have been five presidential elections in which the winner of the popular vote did not become President by virtue of the Electoral College system, including this most recent election, where Hillary Clinton will not become president in spite of the fact that she won the popular vote by a larger margin than, for example, John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon did in their electoral victories. And even though the three-fifths compromise no longer affects a state’s number of Electoral College votes, the legacy of slavery in terms of race-based voter disfranchisement still haunts the electoral process, in particular when those efforts in pivotal “swing states” like Wisconsin and North Carolina tip the Electoral College balance like they did in this canvass.

Read the entire piece here.

2 thoughts on “The Electoral College is Here to Disabuse You of Your Democratic Naivete

  1. No sour grapes here. Gannon is putting forward a longstanding interpretation of the Electoral College–one that goes back, in one form or another, to the turn of the 20th century. A version of this interpretation has been put forth by Gordon Wood, Woody Holton and most recently by Michael Klarman.

    I also made a similar argument in my commentary in Episode 13 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home podcast; and offer a variety of this argument in my U.S. history courses.

    What is the point of historical scholarship if you are not going to apply it to help us understand developments in contemporary life?


  2. It is hard to take these things seriously. If Trump won the popular vote and Hillary won the electoral vote I doubt you’d see so many liberals crying foul and trashing a system that has produced the greatest democratic republic in the modern world. And yes, the same is true for conservatives. Sour grapes never taste good.


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