The Federalist Society

Debate Comments


[Matt Pate]

I'm afraid that Tara has won this debate rather handily. While Jamie made persuasive arguments in his earliest post, the true sense of bitterness still ringing from the 2000 election came out loud and clear as time wore on, and the sidebars whining about the evils of George Bush were out of place. Neither did I denote sarcasm from Tara's points, but rather a wearisome tone of having to repeat herself in explaining that the Electoral College is a unique construct designed with a very specific purpose that has worked very well to date, regardless of the current hysteria surrounding the Bush administration.

[John Howell]

I was pleased to see this debate posted and intended to use it in my political science classes. I won't do it because Jamie Raskin is unable to carry on a debate without being snide, sarcastic, and condescending. What a shame. Well done, Tara Ross.

[Joshua Scott]

It seems to me that both of these debaters miss the real point. I agree that the College should remain, but I think Ms. Ross could have argued much more persuasively.

For example, her main point seems to be that direct democracy is bad, and therefore indirect election is a good idea. I realize, of course, that is a bit of a simplification, but it serves my purposes. While her argument may be true, it is only one, and not even the best.

In my opinion, the strongest argument for keeping the College is that ours is a federal system. This is why Mr. Raskin's argument that the one person representing the entire nation should be elected popularly fails. The President doesn't represent a "nation" at all! He represents a federal system of 50 states. His role is not to represent the people--that is the House of Representative's job, and even they are allocated by state!

The Constitution allocates Electors as it does for a reason. The framers recognized that there is an extent to which the President should be elected "by the people," but also that state interests needed to be represented. It is the latter consideration that led them to give each state 2 Electors in addition to the number of Representatives they have in Congress, as well as the power of the states to determine how the Electors are chosen.

The real beauty of the system is that it does allow for Mr. Raskin's proposal. It is not so much the College itself he objects to, but rather the way it is currently implemented. But any given state can (and some have, by his own testimony) change this at any time. Other proposals suggest that the Electors matching Representatives be chosen by the people, so that there can be a split, but that the two matching the Senators both vote according to the outright majority of the state. I personally favor that plan, but there are numerous others that have yet to even be proposed.

Ultimately, the Electoral College is the last vestige of federalism in our system. Without it, we will only descend further into complete consolidation, which, ironically, Jefferson opposed and Hamilton favored. So where now do Mr. Raskin's loyalties lie?

[DK]

I find it interesting how much time is devoted to where candidates spend time in this (very excellent, if a bit too snarky) discussion. Electoral College or not candidates will go to the place where they need votes. Today, if there were a nationwide popular vote (Professor Raskin's suggestion) candidates would still be in MO, OH, PA, FL, MI, VA, and NC. They would still only go to NY, TX, GA, and CA to raise money.

I find two arguments in favor of the status quo particularly strong.

First, is the idea that having voters participating in smaller pools of voters--their state--provides their vote with more weight relative to the overall pool of voters.

Second, it's hardly irrational for WY to have more electoral influence than its population. Professor Raskin only suggests as much because the conclusion runs contrary to his premise. One person, one vote without an Electoral College (as it currently functions) by its very nature shifts power from less-populated states to more-populated states and areas (not necessarily urban). The current Electoral College system, in effect, recognizes that rural states possess great resources and value even beyond population. Connecting their electoral influence to the number of their represntatives in congress is a good way of ensuring that they have ample say in the election of the President.

[Matt Jones]

My opinion of the electoral college has gone up and down over time. I was hoping this would be a lively debate that got to the meat of the issues. Unfortunately, while Jamie made some good points, he couldn't do so without coming off as an arrogant jerk. By the end, it was apparant that he was out of ideas and reduced to name calling. Please try this again with a more dignified opponent.
(By the way, I'm still not convinced about all of Tara's arguments, I'd just like to see them countered with a little more class.)

[J McLane]

Jamie's arguments, which are simply an anti-federalism position, are equally applied to the allocation of Senators among the States as well. Until he is prepared to also support the proposition that California and New York should have the right to each appoint 25% of the Senate, his "fairness" proposition of "one man one vote" is hollow.

It is all to commonly forgotten that for the first 100 years of our union it was "THESE" United States and not just "THE" United States. Centralized federal power arising out of the consent of state and individual power is as central to our Constitution as the Bill of Rights. I would argue that previous tampering with the Constitution has already eroded the checks of federalism. When Senators were appointed by State Legislatures they were more beholden to State power and State's rights. The direct election of Senators removed that vital check and has provided for a much greater expansion of central power than I believe our forefathers ever envisioned. Let's avoid further damage and consider the wisdom of the framers.

[Doug Buck]

I am in favor of tweaking the system a bit so that minority districts in states can still be heard: Each state should elect two electors at large, the rest by representative voting district. For example, Connecticut has seven electors. Two would be elected at large and five individually by representative voting districts. The current practice of some states having all electors vote as a block seems unfair and discriminates against districts that may have a different preference for their chief executives.

[Sherri Walton]

The subject of the Electoral College is a subject of deep interest for me. I had hoped to gain more from Professor Raskin's perspective. At first, his argument was compelling, that large states were being ignored because many were solidly blue or red, but this argument soon lost power. No presidential candidate can ignore a state with a large population. Such behavior would lead to disaster on Election Day. As Ross argued, large states like small states change from election to election. Being from Nevada, one of those small states that are up for grabs, I have been grateful for the Electoral College. Undoubtedly, without the protection the College offers, our state would be passed over by national politicians. The States East of the Mississippi, Texas, and the West Coast would decide all presidential elections. What influence in the White House would the rest of us be able to muster? Here in Nevada, we face many national issues, not only because we are citizens of this great country, but also because the Federal Government owns around 90% of our land. Where would we stand if because of our low population the White House ignored us? Nevadans could become disenfranchised from some of the political process that affects us directly. I found Ross's argument persuasive when she discussed the protections for minorities placed in our constitution, and that the Electoral College is just one of those protections. Indeed, we here in Nevada have been given small "road blocks," as Ross puts it, to protect ourselves from the possibility of tyranny from the majority.

[Eric Olsen]

Excellent debating by Tara and Jamie.

I do not in any way support the concept of direct democracy in electing a president of the United States of America. Further, I don't perceive the President as representing me in any fashion whatsoever. The role of the President is to administer the affairs of central government and mediate affairs conducted between states, such as those covered by the commerce clause.

Our contemporary concept for the role of President has placed too much emphasis, power, and authority in that office.

Tara is correct in that the Electoral College is part of the balancing of powers that make up the central government.

Jamie, I don't believe for a moment that full democracy is a must-attain goal, especially in any direct form. Socrates was a victim of direct democracy as practiced in Ancient Greece. His reward for outstanding intellect was to be compelled to drink the Hemlock.

A recent event in California had a radio personality call for the death of John McCain. I suppose that was in response to McCain's obvious opposition to most things San Francisco.

I wonder what shall be my demise by the masses when they learn that I would prefer closing the halls of the U.S. Congress, forbidding the most unfavored congress in our history to reconvene.

[Lewis Baggett]

The Electoral College would seem to become more irrelevant lately as we witness the Major Media Outlets decide the outcome and proceed to sell their choice thru overwhelmingly favorable press and negative coverage and commentary of the other candidates. By the way at what point does that unequal media coverage become illegal in-kind contributions?

[Dan]

Well done Tara! Jamie failed to outline in his argument that CA, FL, NY, and TX make up approximately 40% of the popular vote, throw in the remaining "safe" states and I believe we are down to a select few voters. Can we call them "swing" voters? The best defense of the electoral college is the protection it creates against an organized campaign by foreign powers or a radical group. The electoral college makes it extremely difficult to organize such a campaign, while the popular vote provides no protection.

[David Hoopes] http://www.csudh.edu/bpastudio/pages/faculty.cfm?tab=p&id=dhoopes

Is the petty sniping supposed to be clever? A bit of subtlety would go a long way instead of ham-handed sarcasm.

[Kevin Donahoe]

This was a one sided debate primarily because Mr.Raskin refused to construct valid retorts instead preferring to muddle the discourse with ad-hominem attacks and rampant intellectual dishonesty. Cheers to Tara for avoiding the traps and keeping it clean.

[Harry McBride III]

Unlike Ms. Ross and Mr. Raskin it is my belief that the electoral college was established to protect our country from uneducated people. The electoral college showed in 2000 that it can not represent the will of the people. Al Gore won the popular vote by over 500,000 votes but did not win the electoral college. The system continues to move further and further away from a democracy. Our form of government should be described as a corporatocracy. Individuals continue to mean less and corporations mean more. This is not the intentions of the Founding Fathers.

[James S]

The most glaring ommission in the debate is the effect of redistricting. If the approval rating for congress is in the single digits, how come we do not have a completely new set of representatives every election cycle? We need to look at the insidiuous effect of redistricting will have on the Presidential Elections and the Electoral College system in the future.

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