Jewish World Review Nov. 17, 2000/ 19 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761
In defense of the Electoral College
HILLARY AND BILL are bickering over whether the Electoral College should be overturned. She wants to
abolish it. He has mixed feelings. She's wrong. He's right.
If this presidential election has proved anything, it has validated the value of the Electoral College.
Call it a dinosaur, a remnant of a younger country, a system that fails in its purpose to be an obstacle
to partisanship, the Electoral College nevertheless achieves what our Founders wanted -- that the
consent of the governed was not totally dependent on a majority or even a raw plurality.
More important than one person, one vote, in a pure democracy, is the republican ideal of regional
complexity and sectional diversity. It's protection against the mob. Anyone who watched the Rev.
Jesse Jackson appeal to the raw intense emotions in Florida could see what rabble-rousing and
opportunistic partisan agitation might do.
If we worry about the lack of uniformity in voting standards in one state, imagine how standards
could be skewed in lots of little fiefdoms, infinitely smaller than a state, as unworthy pols contrive to
enlarge pluralities by appealing to conformity and conspiracy. Recounts would require the work of a
If there was no Electoral College, important minority voices would go unheard. The Electoral
College at its best aims at a degree of moderation by building a national consensus, diminishing the
need for regional parties while preventing any region from gaining dominance. It doesn't work
perfectly, but it's better than any number of suggested alternatives. (That's another column.)
In a provocative argument, Paul A. Rahe, a professor of American history at the Tulsa University,
who has written volumes about ancient and modern republicanism, zooms in on the crucial
advantages of the system.
"Because of the Electoral College, no party intent on victory can afford to pour scorn on the Jews
of New York, the Mormons of Utah, the Muslims of Michigan, the Catholics of Illinois, the
Armenians of Massachusetts, or the evangelical Protestants of Oklahoma,'' he writes in the
American Spectator. "In the absence of the Electoral College, if all else were left unchanged,
presidential candidates would aim at putting together for themselves a national plurality without
regard to geography, and they would, therefore, pay much less attention to devising their programs
to the remarkable religious, ethnic and cultural diversity that has always been the distinctive feature
of our nation.''
George Bush could have run up larger majorities in Texas and Al Gore could have poured it on in
California and New York, but instead they had to run off to Iowa and Arkansas and Missouri to
persuade populations with different concerns.
When presidential candidates take their message to diverse groups in diverse states, elections
remain inclusive rather than exclusive, and contribute to the national consensus, eliminating the
bitterness of losing minorities. That's why, even in elections where the president wins fewer popular
votes than his opponent, the public has closed ranks behind the victor. Nobody gets scorned or
It is no coincidence that the Democratic liberals, like Hillary, want to abandon the Electoral College.
They're the most suspicious of states' rights, but its states' rights that protects the voices of those
who may see things differently in fly-over country. Every state counts.
The defense of the Electoral College prevails in a baseball analogy suggested by Ronald D. Rotunda
of the Cato Institute. We count the number of games won, not the number of runs scored in the
World Series. Both teams start out as equals in each game. In the same way, it doesn't matter how
many more votes Gov. Bush may have racked up in Texas or Vice President Gore in California
once they achieve a majority there. They must win votes in smaller states, too, to win the Electoral
college. Let's hear it for school
11/16/00: More than one way to win an election
11/13/00: Sexual politics squared
11/09/00: A Middle East legacy
11/06/00: Filling in the dots at campaign's end
11/02/00: His own man in full
10/30/00: The Oval Office, through a glass brightly
10/23/00: There'll always be an England. Maybe.
10/19/00: The celebrity candidate
10/16/00: 'Ladies night' at the second debate
10/12/00: Gore vs. Bush: Volvo vs. Maserati
10/10/00: We weep for Rami for he is dead
10/05/00: Looking at Lieberman from inside the 'ghetto'
10/02/00: Campaigns, candidates, and kissy-face
09/28/00: Laughing and crying over Joe Lieberman
09/21/00: Targeting teenagers for money
09/21/00: Sexual politics in New York
09/18/00: Surviving the stereotypes and debates
09/14/00: Gloria Steinem runs cheerfully into captivity
09/12/00: Sex in the eye of the partisan
09/07/00: 'Sex and death' on the college campus
09/05/00: Joe Lieberman as a 'Menorah Man'
08/31/00: Rising suns of the conventions
08/17/00: Changing icons: From Loretta Young to Hillary Clinton
08/14/00: The Creator returns to the public square
08/10/00: Bursting with pride, but caution too
08/07/00: Brains, beauty and beastly politics
08/03/00: A candidate with a superego
07/31/00: The sizzling Lynne Cheney
07/27/00: The party of the aging Playboys
07/24/00 Hillary drives the Jewish wagon into a ditch
07/20/00 Conservatives gone fishin'
07/17/00: Snoop Doggy Dogg was a founding father, wasn't he?
07/13/00: When a teenager doesn't need a prime minister
07/10/00: Abortion as cruel and unusual punishment
07/06/00: Surviving 'survivor' TV
07/03/00: Independence Day with Norman Rockwell
06/29/00: Here comes 'something old'
06/26/00: Waiting too long for the baby
06/22/00: Good teachers, curious students and oxymorons
06/19/00: Wanted: Some ants for Gore's pants
06/15/00: Like father, like daughter
06/12/00: Culture wars and conservative warriors
06/08/00: Return of the housewife
06/05/00: Hillary and Al -- playing against type
05/31/00: The sexual revolution confronts the SUV
05/25/00: Waiting for the movie
05/22/00: Pistol packin' mamas
05/18/00: Journalists and the 'new time' religion
05/15/00: There's nothing like a (military) dame
05/11/00: 'The Human Stain' on campus
05/09/00: We've come a long way, Betty Friedan
05/04/00: From George Washington to Mansa Masu
05/01/00: Gore's ruthless doublespeak
04/28/00: Doing it Castro's way
04/24/00: Women's studies beget narrow minds
04/17/00: The slippery slope of anti-Semitism
04/13/00: A villain larger than life
04/10/00: When mourning becomes an economic tragedy
04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the Big Golden Apple
01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink
©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate