- The Washington Times - Monday, November 20, 2000

Hillary and Bill are bickering over whether the Electoral College should be overturned. She wants to abolish it. He has mixed feelings. She's wrong. He's right.

If this presidential election has proved anything, it has validated the value of the Electoral College. Call it a dinosaur, a remnant of a younger country, a system that fails in its purpose to be an obstacle to partisanship, the Electoral College nevertheless achieves what our Founders wanted that the consent of the governed was not totally dependent on a majority or even a raw plurality.

More important than one person, one vote, in a pure democracy, is the republican ideal of regional complexity and sectional diversity. It's protection against the mob. Anyone who watched the Rev. Jesse Jackson appeal to the raw intense emotions in Florida could see what rabble-rousing and opportunistic partisan agitation might do.

If we worry about the lack of uniformity in voting standards in one state, imagine how standards could be skewed in lots of little fiefdoms, infinitely smaller than a state, as unworthy pols contrive to enlarge pluralities by appealing to conformity and conspiracy. Recounts would require the work of a whole nation.

If there was no Electoral College important minority voices would go unheard. The Electoral College at its best aims at a degree of moderation by building a national consensus, diminishing the need for regional parties while preventing any region from gaining dominance. It doesn't work perfectly, but it's better than any number of suggested alternatives. (That's another column.)

In a provocative argument Paul A. Rahe, a professor of American history at the Tulsa University, who has written volumes about ancient and modern republicanism, zooms in on the crucial advantages of the system.

Because of the Electoral College, "no party intent on victory can afford to pour scorn on the Jews of New York, the Mormons of Utah, the Muslims of Michigan, the Catholics of Illinois, the Armenians of Massachusetts, or the evangelical Protestants of Oklahoma," he writes in the American Spectator. "In the absence of the Electoral College, if all else were left unchanged, presidential candidates would aim at putting together for themselves a national plurality without regard to geography, and they would, therefore, pay much less attention to devising their programs to the remarkable religious, ethnic, and cultural diversity that has always been the distinctive feature of our nation."

George Bush could have run up larger majorities in Texas and Al Gore could have poured it on in California and New York, but instead they had to run off to Iowa and Arkansas and Missouri to persuade populations with different concerns.

When presidential candidates take their message to diverse groups in diverse states, elections remain inclusive rather than exclusive, and contribute to the national consensus, eliminating the bitterness of losing minorities. That's why, even in elections where the president wins fewer popular votes than his opponent, the public has closed ranks behind the victor. Nobody gets scorned or ignored.

It is no coincidence that the Democratic liberals, like Hillary, want to abandon the Electoral College. They're the most suspicious of states' rights, but its states' rights that protects the voices of those who may see things differently in fly-over country. Every state counts.

The defense of the Electoral College prevails in a baseball analogy suggested by Ronald D. Rotunda of the Cato Institute. We count the number of games won, not the number of runs scored in the World Series. Both teams start out as equals in each game. In the same way, it doesn't matter how many more votes Gov. Bush may have racked up in Texas or Vice President Gore in California once they achieve a majority there. They must win votes in smaller states, too, to win the Electoral college. Let's hear it for school spirit.

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