Given the possibility – admittedly slim – of Romney winning the popular vote but losing in the Electoral College, Republicans may not feel as sanguine about the EC today as they were following Bush-Gore in 2000. But Republicans should not let mere partisanship sway them from their support for an institution that provides many functions, not least reminding us that states are meaningful political entities. Here is one of the deeper Madisonian arguments as described in this new book review of the 2nd edition of Tara Ross’s Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College:
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.
However, I wonder if 2012 will prove what Ross claims 2000 did according to the review:
So, too, did 2000 produce the right winner. Ms. Ross notes that George W. Bush earned the support of pluralities in 30 states; and he earned the support of counties containing 143 million, compared to Mr. Gore’s 127 million. She cites Mr. Bush’s broad, cross-regional support, rather than the narrower path of Mr. Gore, as, effectively, a success of the Electoral College, which buffered against regional factionalism.
In other words, would an Obama EC win really be the product of broad, cross-regional support – or at least of broader support than what Romney would achieve on the losing end? I can see the argument in the case of Harrison vs. Cleveland, but we’ll have to see about this year.