Abolish the Electoral College (It's Not Federal Enough)

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by Myles Kantor

I thought scrapping the Electoral College was a good idea prior to Democrats' post-election abolitionism. But whereas Hillary Clinton, Michael Dukakis, and others consider the Electoral College an impediment to democratic nationalism, I consider it an insufficient institution of federal republicanism.

A number of individuals have recently pointed out how the Electoral College recognizes the importance of states in American government, acts as a bulwark against majoritarian tyranny, etc. Nevertheless, it retains a significant nationalistic dimension insofar as electoral votes are almost entirely allocated on a demographic basis. The nationalism is federally moderated, but it still predominates.

Rather than fully nationalize presidential election, I'd like to fully federalize it. Here's my proposed 28th Amendment:

"The President of the United States shall be elected by the people of the people of the United States, the winner obtaining a majority of states; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote."

This proposal incorporates and extends the secondary method of election delineated in the 12th Amendment. Every state would now enjoy equality of influence. Imagine the headlines: "Presidential hopeful campaigns in Pierre and Casper." (A Melvillean cartoonist might see a conspiracy in this, but that's an acceptable consequence.)

Nationalists would no doubt deem this a regressive, anti-democratic move. This reflects a unitary conception of American democracy that doesn't jibe with American political premises. If anything, a state-based presidential electoral structure harmonizes with the pluralistic nature of this country.

One sympathetic objection to my proposal might be that it would spark a nationalistic backlash swallowing what federal institutions remain (the amendment process, for instance). This may very well happen, and I'd prefer such radicalism sooner than later. As Electoral College abolitionism shows, massive alterations to American constitutional order are already incipient if not imminent.

These are no times for quiescence. If New York's newest senator and friends are zealous in their desire to further nationalize American institutions, defenders of decentralized government should be no less zealous in their desire to reinforce federative freedom.

Myles Kantor lives in Boynton Beach, Florida.

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