One for the reading list.

A friend of mine, with whom I have engaged in a number of debates on this very topic, pointed me to a new book on the electoral college: "Why the Electoral College is Bad for America," by George C. Edwards III.

Now on order from Amazon, rest assured I'll have some thoughts on it once it arrives.

From the review alone, I am skeptical on one point: the reliance on the anti-EC arguments from James Madison. While I have a great and enduring respect for the framer's of the Constitution, and in particular the brilliance of Madison, I think there is a tendency to look to these men as some form of oracles, from whom never ushered any poor judgements or miscalculations. These were men as given to political ambition and desire as anyone. In fact, it is precisely because they were flawed that I am even more in awe of their achievement.

In considering the justifications and decisions of the framers, I tend to give more weight to the early work of Madison, during the creation of the basic institutions of the US than to his arguments during and after Washington's first term as president. While the inciting incidents were surely the programs suggested by Hamilton, it was Madison the organizer that adroitly split the political sphere into warring factions and drove hard to oppose anything that seemed to displease Jefferson. The focus of his efforts shifted heavily, it appears to me, from the success of the foundling nation to the political career of his mentor. This just a few years after having written The Federalist letters in support of the very things Hamilton was pushing for. Jefferson's student in almost every respect, Madison quickly moved into the role of a political power-broker, working tirelessly for the support of Jefferson above all. That he came out in repudiation of the electoral college, after having given it such eloquent support strikes me as a sort of political maneuver designed chiefly to get and keep Jefferson into office. After all, the election of 1800 provided probably the first real test of the election system, with Adams and Jefferson having to rely on deals in the House of Representatives to decide the winner. Meanwhile, if Madison were truly honest about his push for a truly "democratic" election, why not attack the appointment of Senators by the House of Representatives? Obviously, I'm no historian, so there could be other sound reasons that Madison chose that time and that subject to attack; I just harbor suspicions about the reliance on Madison as clear evidence that even the "father of the Constitution" was against the electoral college.

That said, I'll suspend any judgement until after reading it. At which point I'll feel free to be as judgemental as I please.


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This page contains a single entry by published on October 29, 2004 10:18 AM.

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