McKenzie: The Electoral College Does Not Belong in Our World

federalist-68Over the course of the last couple of weeks I have read some excellent historical essays and op-eds on the electoral college. It is great to see historians stepping up to the plate.

Over at his blog “Faith and American History,” Wheaton College professor Tracy McKenzie argues that it is time to get rid of the electoral college.  Here is just a small taste of his post:

Americans in 2016 share few values in common with the Framers of the Constitution we claim to revere.  Generally, the Framers held to a world view that scholars term “republican” (no relation to the Republican Party): they held a skeptical view of human nature and maintained that the proper function of government office holders was to rule virtuously on behalf of the people’s welfare but not necessarily constrained by the people’s preferences in every matter.  For nearly two centuries, Americans have ascribed to a democratic worldview that rests on a positive view of humans as morally good and insists that the role of elected officials is to serve as a mouthpiece for majority preferences.

Not all of us will celebrate this repudiation of the values of the Framers.  I certainly don’t.  But this doesn’t change the fundamental reality: the electoral college doesn’t belong in our world.  It originated from a set of assumptions that the majority of Americans no longer affirm, and many would now roundly denounce.  It survives because of the difficulty of convincing both major parties, simultaneously, that neither stands to gain from its anachronistic presence.

Read the entire piece here.

8 thoughts on “McKenzie: The Electoral College Does Not Belong in Our World

  1. I can’t think of a republic that didn’t end violently either. As much as my relative Patrick Henry said, he also pointed out that the ratification of the Constitution ended state sovereignty which is why the words “We the People” are the operative words in the election process.

    Thomas Jefferson saw the growth of democracy as a good thing. He saw the people as being the ultimate check on government. As long at the power comes from the people, the country would probably survive. Take that power from them and you no longer have a nation built on freedom, equality, and liberty.

    Those ideas live on in the concept of “One man, One vote.”


  2. I disagree with McKenzie, and find a historian advocating for removing the EC troubling, to say the least. Democracies do not end well.

    I would also venture that the majority of those complaining that the rural areas have too much say over urban centers probably live in urban centers to begin with.


  3. As Patrick Henry once said, “Who authorized them to speak of ‘We the People’ instead of ‘We the States?” (I may have this off a bit). This is a nation of states (it’s right there in our name) and was indeed intended to limit democracy, particularly because the United States is a constitutional, democratic republic. Before you clamor for removing limitations on democracy, remember that – without exception, to my knowledge – democracies have ended suddenly and violently.


  4. There are three words in the Constitution which are at the heart of the definition of the United States and are the embodiment of the Revolution. Those words are “We the People.” This is not a nation of states dictating to the people nor is it a nation composed of districts. It is a nation of people where the people make the decisions. Yet, here we are once again with the relic of a system meant to inhibit democracy thwarting the will of the people.

    The urban areas are where the people are. If we are to be a true democracy, then the will of the people should be carried out. The men who wrote the Constitution wrote a fine document, but they wrote it for themselves in their time, not us. They were wise enough to put in an amending process, but unwise in kicking the can of slavery down the road for future generations to slaughter each other over. The Electoral College is another of their ideas which was put in place to inhibit democracy. It is time to remove that restraint.

    If the people of the countryside want to dominate the politics of the nation, then they need to appeal to more people. They don’t. Same thing for the conservatives and their policies. They don’t appeal to the majority of Americans. Yet here we are preparing for two years of conservative mismanagement at a bare minimum whereupon once again the liberals of the nation will be tasked with cleaning up the mess left behind by the self-centered conservatives.


  5. I haven’t seen it in the papers, so it’s not very well known that in California, there was little reason for most Republicans to go to the polls–Hillary’s win was in the bag and recent changes in the primary election laws left us with only 2 Democrats on the final Senate ballot. Further, there were no statewide office on the ballot this year either.

    Hillary’s final final margin was almost certainly enhanced by those factors.


  6. California’s voted 2 to 1 for Hillary over Trump in which she tallied more than 4 million votes than he did. If you eliminate California from the rest of the country, then Trump would have received 2 million more of the popular vote than Hillary. Here is the reality of the situation. The divide in America is between urban centers and everywhere else, just look at county by county voting maps. The major metropolitan cities have a massive say in who gets elected, while everyone else in America must kowtow to the values of those environs. The values of these major cities do not represent the rest of America. The electoral college may need some tweaking, but if you go with a straight popular vote, then only urban values will ever get represented in government offices and will thus effectively cut off the rest of the nation. I don’t see how that is a fair way to conduct elections in such a vast place as the USA.


  7. Not all of us will celebrate this repudiation of the values of the Framers. I certainly don’t.

    I think he buried the lead. The historian should first show that the values of the Framers are indeed being repudiated! Let the reader decide what to make of that sad fact.

    [That Dr. McKenzie personally is joining in their repudiation is of great concern, but still a secondary matter, as his argument for their repudiation is a matter of political philosophy if not mere political opinion, not history.]


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