Truth in Media Activism: Letters to Editors

Nov. 9, 2000

Electoral College Revisited

A Law Professor Short on Law, Common Sense

Re. “Unfair from Day One” - Nov. 9, 2000 OpEd piece



November 9, 2000

Letters Editor

The New York Times

New York, NY

Subject: A letter to the editor re. “Unfair from Day One” - your Nov. 9, 2000 OpEd piece

Dear Sir,

The Yale law professor who contributed the “Unfair from Day One” Nov. 9, 2000 OpEd piece is long on history and political partisanship, but short on law and common sense.  Par for the course, I suppose, in today’s “liberal” academia.  Prof. Akhil Reed Amar deserves an “A” for his historical research into the origins of the Electoral College.  But he would barely make a passing grade on other issues.  Yet even his history was presented in a biased manner, thus bringing into question this academic’s objectivity.  He writes, for example: 

“The creation of the Electoral College… was part of the deal that Southern states, in computing their share of electoral votes, could count slaves (albeit with a two-fifths discount), who of course were given none of the privileges of citizenship. Virginia emerged as the big winner, with more than a quarter of the electors needed to elect a president. A free state like Pennsylvania got fewer electoral votes even though it had approximately the same free population.  The Constitution's pro-Southern bias quickly became obvious. For 32 of the Constitution's first 36 years, a white slaveholding Virginian occupied the presidency.”

Okay, so let’s accept Prof. Amar’s argument as stated - that the Constitution had a “pro-Southern bias.”  But what about the remaining 188 years of this Republic’s existence?  Or even for its first 90 or so years while slavery was still practiced in the South?  Obviously his argument falls flat on its face when you widen the span of years.  Which is why he chooses to use selective facts to back up his partisan opinions.  That’s hardly a mark of an objective academic or a fair historian.

It gets worse… Especially for a law professor.  “The Electoral College began as an unfair system, and remains so. So why keep it?”, Prof. Amar argues.

Well, one reason is the law.  It takes a vote by two-thirds of both legislative houses, which has to be ratified by 38 states, to amend the Constitution.  You would think that a law professor would know that.  And in a country that’s as divided as the U.S. is today - with a 0.1% margin (97,000 votes out of 97 million votes) separating the two leading presidential candidates, chances of that happening LEGALLY any time soon is about the same as seeing snow in Hawaii.

Speaking of the states like Hawaii… Prof. Amar makes another big blunder - for which he deserves a “D” in common sense - when he writes off their unique interests with the following dismissive comment:

“In the current system, candidates don't appeal so much to state interests (what are those, anyway?) as to demographic groups (elderly voters, soccer moms) within states.”

“What are those [state interests] anyway?”  This Yale professor doesn’t see the difference between the interests of a state like Hawaii, and those of a state like New Hampshire?  Or between a gargantuan state like California, overrun by legal and illegal immigrants to such an extent that white Americans are now a minority there, and a tiny and still pristine Rhode Island?  Or between an oil-rich Alaska, and a lawyer-rich Delaware?

Furthermore, while lamenting the supposed unfairness of the Electoral College and clamoring for direct elections, Prof. Amar makes the following argument:

“Direct election could give state governments some incentives to increase voter turnout, because the more voters a state turned out, the bigger its role in national elections and the bigger its overall share in the national tally. Presidential candidates would begin to pay more attention to the needs of individual states that had higher turnouts.”

Ever seen a bigger load of bull masquerading as a learned argument on the pages of a national newspaper?  To stay with our preceding state example, even if a state like Rhode Island were to somehow muster a 100% voter turnout, its half a million voters could never compete with gargantuan states like California where over nine million voters cast their ballots on Nov. 7. 

Upon reflection, make that “D” for common sense an “F” for Prof. Amar.  But give him an “A+” for double-talk.  Because appealing for direct elections based on a national popular vote is in effect an argument in disguise for preferential treatment of big urban centers at the expense of the American countryside.  Which is one of the things the Founding Fathers had tried to prevent when they created the Electoral College and an institution like the Senate in which each state has equal representation. 

One look at the color-coded map of the U.S. that your paper published today should suffice for any fair-minded person that such a system would be grossly unfair to most of the rural residents of America.  Why should the citizens of Wyoming or Montana, for example, be stuck with a president who is mostly catering to the urbanites of New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, for example?  Isn’t it bad enough already that the rural residents in the states of New York, California or Illinois have to pay for the subways and freeways or other urban utilities they don’t use or need?

What’s also typical of the sour grapes liberal losers is that they tend to marshal out their objections about the electoral process under which 53 presidents have been elected only when things don’t go their way.  Right now, it looks as if George W. Bush may get the presidency even though Al Gore may win the popular vote.  But in 1998, it was the other way around.  Two years ago, the Republicans won over 500,000 more votes in the House races than did the Democrats.  Yet they lost seats because Democrats prevailed in more close races.  No objections from the “liberals” back then.

What one doesn’t hear often, however, either from the “liberals” or the “conservatives,” is that the Electoral College, conceived in an era when there were NO political parties in our country, has been altered and abused over time by the establishment elites into a guarantee of a two-party political system.  The real travesty of this system is that a candidate who was able to woo 19% of the national electorate (almost 20 million votes) received ZERO (!) electoral votes for it (Ross Perot in 1992).

Best regards,

Bob Djurdjevic, Founder, Truth in Media, Phoenix, Arizona

Also check out... A Coup de Gore, Not a Gore Coup d'Etat?

P.S. For more on the American elections, check out "DEMO FARCE" AND THE AMERICAN CENTURY, TiM editor’s Washington Times column, Nov. 17, 1996; "Election '98: Much Ado About Nothing", Nov. 11, 1998), “American vs. Serbian ‘Demo Farce’;” and "Electoral College: Origins and History".

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