While there is considerable flexibility for evolution in the presidential selection system, that flexibility has its limits—the electors must elect.
Derek Muller in Law and Liberty’s Books section draws our attention to the second edition release of Tara Ross’s Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College. Ross, Muller observes, is not content to rest her defense of the Electoral College on the least worst alternative scenario among election systems. Instead, Ross prosecutes the case for the Electoral College in the affirmative by noting its deep-seated connections to the Founders’ regard for managing factions and eliciting reasonable majorities. Muller observes:
Ms. Ross opens with a basic explanation of Madisonian factionalism and the concern that an unchecked majority may tyrannize the minority. To cool the passion of a majority, the mechanisms of government would require deliberation and consensus. Support for a presidential candidate must be broad-based and national, not derived from the untempered will of a provincial majority cobbled together from “dangerous” factions of special interests. The Electoral College, Ms. Ross argues, exists to temper majority faction, because States are “safe” factions, “heterogeneous entities composed of individuals with a wide variety of interests.” Garnering majorities within States assures broad support for a candidate.
Also available at Liberty Law Talk is this podcast with Gary Gregg, author and expert on the Electoral College. We spend considerable time discussing the presidential election system’s attempt to provide for an independent executive or a leader that is not the mere servant of bare majorities. Gregg also discusses the latest challenge to the Electoral College in the form of the National Popular Vote initiative (NPV), which would have each State award its electors to the winner of the national popular vote. The NPV only goes into effect when 270 electoral votes’ worth of States enact it. Thus, the winner of the national popular vote always wins the Electoral College.