Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Continued Existence of the Electoral College

Dr. Gary Gregg was invited by the Orestes Brownson Society and cosponsored by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute to lecture tonight on the importance of the Electoral College to American political life.

He first developed an interest in the Electoral College in graduate school, believing it to be jerry-rigged from the beginning. Through scrutiny of the literature pertaining to the Electoral College, he developed his positive stance on its continued existence.

Gregg began by stating that there are undermining influences at work today working to abolish the Electoral College surreptitiously. “I assumed the Electoral College could never survive 2000, but it is under assault right now in a more pernicious way” he stated. Perpetrators include Hilary Clinton (“her very first act as a senator elect was to call for the abolition of the Electoral College”) and the state of Maryland where the legislature passed a law such that whoever wins the national popular vote will be elected. Gregg expressed gratitude that a similar law had been vetoed in California. He worried, though, “Under the surface, nobody’s paying attention to it, no one’s engaged”

Gregg proffered arguments against the Electoral College, refuting each in turn. He addressed faithless electors, stating that the number of electors who have voted contrary to their word can be counted on one hand and have “never made a difference in any election.”

He also mentioned the circumstance of a contingency election in the house, replying to the objection “it has only happened a few times, it is a constitutional process, a rule of law.”

Gregg proceeded to arguments in favor of the Electoral College, emphasizing that it ensures that it does not “empower people just because they’re popular.” The Electoral College emphasizes the power and legitimacy of the newly elected president, providing him or her with a firm foundation for their leadership. Primarily, he claimed, “the Electoral College helps build a rather broad, diverse, national constituency for our presidents, and exaggerates the importance of smaller states” in the election process.

The Electoral College forces the presidential hopefuls to fight, not only for the urban and suburban votes, but for the rural contingency as well. Gregg claimed that if the Electoral College is abolished, only the votes of several large cities will be of any importance.

Gregg utilized the election in 2000 to emphasize the bad effects he foresees from such an abolition. “Gore won by ten thousand votes but because of the Electoral College, all that mattered was Florida. All the action was channeled there, if not [for the Electoral College] we would be fighting in every state, county, and precinct to pick up those ten thousand votes… if all you had to do was win one vote more then the next guy.” He believed that those votes would be obtained by unjust methods and that a prolonged and disastrous election season would be the result.

During the question and answer session, Professor Walter Nicgorski agreed with Gregg on the importance of a continued Electoral College, elucidating “It vitiates the symbolism of a nation of states.” He counterposed this to a political system where, when you turn on the TV on election night and stay up to watch, you are treated to the sight of two rapidly growing numbers as the personal votes pour in, as opposed to the map of the United States with blue and red filling in the country in unified blocks.

Best remarks of the evening:

In reference to John Kerry’s commercial from 2004, windsurfing “in his tight Speedo, what ever those things are, in front of his big yacht.”

“Without that ballast of the Democrats’s having to fight for Birmingham, they will sink down into Philadelphia and will not have to fight for the independents. It is all going to be very oriented to the big states. Hillary’s not going to be swigging beer and doing shots in some small state’s bar.”

Professor Gregg speaks with Professor Walter Nicgorski before his lecture Tuesday evening.

1 comment:

Dan Amiri said...

The lecture was very enlightening. It seems to me that the Electoral College is truly the way to go. Be it outdated, it serves a purpose that has allowed this country to flourish as it should.