Comments 1

  1. Hello Doug,
    Thanks for posting this discussion of the Electoral College. There is a need to consider the role of the states in the presidential selection process relative to the role of the voters. However, I think your argument in defense of the Electoral College comes up short because it conflates the idea enabling minorities to prevent something from happening with the idea of enabling minorities to make something happen. Let me explain.
    When the founders discuss majority tyranny, they seek to prevent it from happening. Since Madison didn’t put much stock in ‘parchment barriers’ to protect minorities, he sought to create tools the minority could use to prevent the majority from acting. To that end, the founders give the minority negative powers, blocking powers, which enable it to stop something from happening. This reasoning underlies such provisions as the concurrent majority requirement for passing a law, the supermajority requirements for approving a treaty, and the president’s veto power.
    Your argument regarding the Electoral College diverges from the founders’ thinking because it bestows a positive power on the minority. It enables the minority to impose its will on the majority. There is no provision in the Constitution that enshrines a positive minority rule power, only negative minority power to prevent majority rule from enacting its preferences if the minority believes its rights are being suppressed. So this defense of the Electoral College is based on a conception of minority power that I do not think the founders would have accepted.
    Your reasoning would be more persuasive if you were arguing for an amendment that required the Electoral College to provide a super majority (60%? 2/3rds?) to elect a president. In that case, the minority could block the majority, but not impose its will on the majority. The two (or more) contending groups of voters would have to find a more consensual candidate acceptable to more than just the bare majority.
    Also, a typo you might want to correct in your sources – as I’m sure you know, Madison wrote Federalist #10, not Hamilton.

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