In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review March 9, 2009 / 13 Adar 5769

Save the electoral college

By Paul Greenberg

Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | For about as long as some of us can remember, there have been proposals around to junk the Electoral College and find some other way to elect a president of the United States. Whether a new system should be devised was a national debate question when I was in high school, and that was a long, long time ago. Yet for all the dissatisfaction with the Electoral College over the years, no one has been able to sell the American people on an alternative.

The alternatives do change from time to time, and their very prolixity is another sign that devising a better system isn't easy.

How about a straight popular vote, winner takes all, no matter how slim his margin of victory? But that change could attract so crowded a field of presidential candidates that it might take only a small percentage of the votes cast to win. Would we really want a president elected with, say, only 20 percent of the vote?

OK, how about a Plan B? Why not have a run-off if the leading candidate got less than, say, 40 percent of the popular vote? (Which might have eliminated Abraham Lincoln in a run-off, since by the best guesstimates he got only 39 percent of the popular vote in 1860 yet a majority of the Electoral College.) The French have such a system — and risk having their presidential run-off feature the two most extreme candidates, the many moderate candidates having split the moderate vote.

Then there was the proposal to elect the president by congressional district, but that approach wouldn't guarantee that the winner would have more of the popular vote nationwide, either.

This year's alternative to the Electoral College is to get states with a majority of the electoral votes to agree beforehand to cast them for whichever candidate polls the most votes nationally. Even if that candidate didn't carry all those states.

It would be hard to imagine a scheme that did more to destroy the integrity of the ballot. For it would give the winner of the popular vote nationally the electoral votes of states he didn't carry, overturning the will of the majority in those states. This plan isn't so much a reform as a legalized conspiracy to get around the Electoral College.

But here's what may be the most troubling question raised by this end run: What would happen to the two-party system? Right now, each party must achieve consensus within itself in order to nominate a candidate who can appeal to the broad middle of public opinion, and so gain a majority of the Electoral College.

But if a presidential candidate needed only a plurality of the popular vote, the candidates on the fringes would be encouraged. Because they'd no longer need the backing of a national party and a majority of the Electoral College to win — just more popular votes than the rival with the next highest number of votes.

Does anyone envy the way the French elect their president? Look what happened in that country's national election back in 2002: Between them, the three leading candidates barely managed to poll half the vote. What happened to the other half? It was divided among the remaining 13 — count 'em, thirteen — presidential candidates.

Result: The second round of voting pitted a less-than-popular conservative against a right-wing radical. It was as if a presidential election in this country had been determined by the Ralph Naders and Pat Buchanans. The principle of One Person, One Vote was upheld, all right, and it produced one big mess.

Inspector Clouseau could doubtless deliver a perfectly logical Gallic defense of such a system: Une personne, une voix! But to English speakers, at least the kind who know their Burke and, yes, their Tocqueville, the word for electing a president this way is wacky. Also, dangerous.

And if just the popular vote counted, every close presidential election could prove as messy as the one in 2000, only with the vote totals in every state as hotly contested as those in Florida were that confused year.

Edmund Burke tried to warn us: "The Constitution of a State is not a problem of arithmetic." Rather, it is a way to take into account the many dimensions of an electorate and forge a consensus that is greater than all its parts.

That's where the Electoral College comes in. It may be an antique piece of clockwork, but it usually performs its valuable function smoothly. So smoothly that lots of folks have no idea how it really works, which is a shame because the Electoral College needs every defender it can muster.

And yet the country is in danger of approving a sneaky way around the Electoral College that could have all kinds of unintended, and unpleasant, consequences. What we have here is an abstract idea untested by our actual, historical experience as Americans. Or as Mark Twain once said of another terrible idea: "It is irregular. It is un-English. It is un-American. It is ... French!"

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

Paul Greenberg Archives

© 2006 Tribune Media Services, Inc.