Some would say yes. After all, the presidential candidate with the most popular votes has nevertheless lost the election at least three times, including 2016.
To some Americans, that’s a scandal. They believe the Electoral College is an intolerable flaw in the Constitution, a relic of a bygone era that ought to have been purged long ago.
But that would be a terrible mistake, warns Tara Ross in this vigorous defense of “the indispensable Electoral College.” Far from an obstacle to enlightened democracy, the Electoral College is one of the guardrails ensuring the stability of the American Republic.
In this lively and instructive primer, Tara Ross explains: Why the Founders established the Electoral College—and why they thought it vital to the Constitution Why the Electoral College was meant to be more important than the popular vote How the Electoral College prevents political crises after tight elections Why the Electoral College doesn’t favor one party over the other Why the states are the driving force behind presidential elections and how efforts to centralize the process have led to divisiveness and discontent Why the Electoral College is inappropriately labeled a “relic of slavery” Every four years, the controversy is renewed: Should we keep the Electoral College? Tara Ross shows you why the answer should be a resounding Yes!
There’s really no other way to view American exceptionalism than by accepting it as a religion, i.e., not empirical, nor borne of evidence, and only sustainable through a faith-based belief system. Tara Ross “has spent much of her legal career studying and defending the Electoral College” (as per the books’ dust jacket), and it’s safe to say if you’ve spent your entire career studying an institution, you’re going to support and defend it, even at the expense of logical arguments and in the face of changing evidence against it.
It takes a special kind of ignorant naiveté to maintain that a system designed in 1787 is still the best system available while simultaneously conceding that, “the Founders did not anticipate the emergence of political parties or the states’ nearly universal adoption of a winner-take-all allocation of electors.” Really, it’s the mark of faith-based truthiness: “The facts change, but my opinions never will.” The Founding Fathers also couldn’t have anticipated the rise of Twitter and real-time election results across a nation spanning four time zones – but sure, whatever we were doing in 250 years ago is still the best way to proceed. To think otherwise would be blasphemous. The author’s frequent use of italics to drive home points is humorously juvenile (the Founding Fathers “knew better than to create a simple democracy”, “in a pure democracy, 51 percent of the people can rule the other 49 percent – all the time, without question,” “but did the average French voter really feel like he had much more choice?” in France’s election runoff).
Or what to make of this gem, written, mind you, after the 2016 elections: “As a matter of history, the Electoral College encourages coalition building and prevents America’s political process from generating into fractured, European-style, multi-party system. It raises hurdles to fraud and prevents elections from being ‘rigged’.” This, in a book written as widespread allegations of meddling in our election have now been basically proven and accepted by anyone not in a foil hat. To insist that more parties means LESS truth, transparency, or representativeness in election is tantamount to saying that people really can’t be trusted with “too much” democracy (which, she admits, the Founders pretty much did feel, somewhat undercutting a modern pillar of what most every American would say the country relies on). And coming 30 pages after conceding that most voters in 2016 “wished for a third choice,” and a few pages before saying that the “importance” of the Electoral College is “working to unify the citizens of a nation as large and diverse as America,” it is hard to keep reading with a straight face.
But Prager University is a university like Olive Garden is a garden, so it should come as little surprise that this is the type of murky, bilge-water logic that is dredged out of that shallow “think tank”. Later, Mrs. Ross dismisses the objection that elections have become primarily about swing states by saying, “No state is permanently ‘safe’ or ‘swing’.” Except that, in any given election, we know with near certainty which category 80-90% of the states fall into, making her argument sound like someone who eats only meat and fried foods because “dietary recommendations change, so nothing is ever certain”.
Her flippant disregard for the “silly” idea that there could be such a thing as “national interest” (“Of course, any argument based on “national interest” is a funny one to make”), is oddly juxtaposed with her prevailing opinion that the founding of the country was akin to a nation-building Immaculate Conception. Hamilton is quoted no fewer than 3 times (including in the final line of the book) in his Federalist Paper of 1788 when he said, of the formative legislature of the nation: “that if the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent.”
Many of the arguments and analogies here are downright risible, or at least would be, if the author wasn’t so earnest and sanctimonious in presenting them. To wit, an extended analogy positing that, as the World Series isn’t won by the team which scores the most runs, then the US presidential election does not go to the candidate who receives the most total votes. Because, just like the World Series, the US presidential election is, um, a game? (ad even baseball has been open to significant rule changes over the years.)
There is also repeated recourse to unprovable past unreal hypotheticals along the lines of, “if the candidates who won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote had needed to win the popular vote, they would have campaigned differently,” like saying that a lung cancer diagnosis is not a problem, because if the smoker had known that would be the result, he would simply have quit years earlier.
When she sticks with analysis only of the historical circumstances of the formation of our voting system, as she does in various sections of each chapter of the book, Mrs. Ross does an adequate job explaining what came to pass. But any time the text veers from the explanatory to justification of the present, she contradicts her arguments again and again, and even the historical accounts are liberally interspersed with lengthy hagiographic asides to the greatness of the formative documents of the nation.
Save yourself the trouble – just bring yourself off into a copy of the Constitution while listening to “America the Beautiful” and draped in Old Glory.
Incredible relevant in the wake of the 2016 election, The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule is a must read that reveals the inner workings of the Electoral College and how it strengthens and preserves the American republic. Extremely well-written and engaging, author Tara Ross explains the often misunderstood American presidential election system and how its roots in federalist and republican principles serves to protect the people from a tyrannical majority and overly centralized government. She goes through the checks and balances of the Electoral College that prevents any one part of government from having too much control and limits corruption. And, how by avoiding a popular vote, presidential candidates are forced to build coalitions among diverse groups throughout different regions of the country. Ross also examines the elections where the electoral winner lost the popular vote and the ones that went to a Contingent election in the House of Representatives. Additionally, she addresses the criticisms of the Electoral College and suggests that many perceived problems could be fixed if the States became more proactive in exorcising their Constitutional authority instead of ceding to the wills of political parties, debate commissions, and the mainstream media. The Indispensable Electoral College: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Country from Mob Rule provides an five star education on the election process and how it has and continues to serve the best interests of the American people.
This is an excellent look at the purpose, history, and function of the electoral college.
There are some major points of our presidential election system of which the vast majority of Americans are in total ignorance. For example, a vote for any presidential candidate on a ballot is actually not a direct vote for that person.
This is a must read for any American desiring to know how that particular aspect of our government is designed to work.
I believe it would be highly beneficial for all Americans to read and understand this book.
Tara Ross makes some reasonable points in favour of the American Electoral College. But they are not compelling. Her examination of the historical background and the reasons for including the electoral college by the founders of the constitution are fairly thorough but instead of strengthening her argument they expose the weakness of the system. The founding fathers themselves didn’t seem to be exactly clear about who would make proper electors—some evidently assumed they would be responsible individuals who could vote independently regardless of whom the actual electorate chose. Indeed it seems that a state could simply choose a board of electors without having any election involving the population at all. In fact that constitutional power still exists!
Ms Ross makes the point that electors would be very difficult to corrupt. But the 1876 election disproves this. Another point she feels significant is that using the electoral college system forces the candidates to build coalitions with disparate groups in different states and to thereby create a consensus which has a wide range of representation across the nation. But the nature of the two party system already has that feature. The protection of the rights and political power of small states is already perfectly well enabled by the Senate which gives equal representation to all states regardless of their size and population.
In the end, I feel that an electoral system devised for a group of 13 colonies with a scattered population and with little experience in governance has little relevance today.
This book is a great example of selectively choosing data that reinforces a pre-existing belief (essentially what NOT to do if you're a legitimate research analyst). I am not a fan of the electoral college, and I read this book looking forward to learning more about the argument in favor of it. Unfortunately, what I found was a defense of an institution based on one-sided data and arguments that draw direct parallels between the original structure (when there were 13 colonies) and today's system, without adequately addressing the massive changes the country has undergone in the nearly 250 years since.
To expand on my issue with the one-sided data, Ross repeatedly points to county-level data to prove that the electoral college served its purpose by electing the candidate who built the broadest coalition. Ross pointed to the fact that in 2000, Gore won just 659 counties. However, she doesn't address the fact that in 2012, Obama won a mere 689 counties, or 22% of counties in America. I would have much preferred to read a book where Ross addressed and delved into these numbers to explain why the number of counties prove that the electoral college is effective when it results in Bush or Trump winning, but is a non-issue when Obama or Clinton wins with a similarly small margin of counties.
The Electoral College is perhaps the least understood aspect of American Government. I can say that I had a basic understanding of how it functioned and its purpose but this book really opened my eyes to its history and why we have it in place. This should be mandatory reading for everyone who lives here in the U.S.
It's an easy read. Anyone can pick this up and get something from it. You don't have to be a government nerd to enjoy this book. There is also some cool "what if's" like what if a candidate dies after the election but before the the electors meet or goes insane. You'd be surprised by the answer. So, go pick this up.
Pros: Ross does a decent job at explaining how the electoral college works and it's general history. Cons: Alright, here we go. 1) The arguments to keep the electoral college are a stretch. She rarely use any citations to support the claim and they all fail to address obvious follow up arguments. I wanted to be challenged when reading this. Instead, I was constantly challenging the author and there were no answers to my questions 2) At times, Ross was selective with her facts and, at others, refused to acknowledge the problem that she presented as such. For example, she focused so heavily on the Dixiecrats desire to have more state power that the reader would be forgiven not to realize the state power they wanted was to keep segregation and Jim Crow. 3) The use of exclamation points was out of hand. 4) Ross contradicts herself a few times. For example, the idea that a nation could have a national interest is silly since the United States is such a large country. However, Ross argues that electoral college builds a national coalition. How can a country not have a unifying interest, but the reason the electoral college works is because it builds unification? Either it is possible to have a national interest or it isn't. 5) Ross likes to neglect some data as well. One example of this is when she brings up the reason Gore lost was because he didn't win enough counties, yet Obama won only 22% of counties which is only 20 more than Gore and the lowest percentage for any president. She never addresses this. Would I Recommend: No. I wanted to have my beliefs challenged, but I only found myself easily punching holes through her arguments.