Round Table Discussion

Roll Over, James Madison

To anyone who has spent some time with the Framers and ratifiers of the U.S. Constitution, most current talk about that document seems not about the Constitution at all but about some fanciful construct of wishful thinking, accumulated misunderstandings, and successful usurpations. This is certainly so in regard to the recent discussions of the Electoral College.

True, the Electoral College was, as is now complained of, in part designed to take the selection of president a remove or two from the people. The reason for this was not to thwart the people's will but to induce deliberation and mature consideration of the public good and the virtues of candidates by persons who were in a position to have some solid knowledge of the matter. This design, of course, has been rendered null by the machinations of political parties. Electors are now anonymous partyhacks whose names often do not even appear on the ballot and who would not know what you are talking about if you mentioned deliberation and judgment.

But an even more important consideration in the design of the Electoral College was the representation of the states. There was no possibility of a mass vote, since each state set its own qualifications for the franchise and chose the electors in its own manner—by the legislature or by districts in the beginning. States no longer set their franchise: The federal government now requires us to allow 18-year-olds to...

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