The Opinion page on Dec. 28 carried an interesting piece authored by Adlai E. Stevenson III (No. 3). The headline, “Our political system urgently needs an overhaul. Start with these 7 steps,” inspired interest. Two things compelled me to read on: the truth of the first sentence and I remember when Adlai E. Stevenson II (No. 2) ran against Dwight D. Eisenhower for president in 1952 and 1956. Who wouldn’t agree with the suggested overhaul? Additionally, I’ve associated the name Adlai Stevenson with reasonable competence. Prior to reading the article, I didn’t know there were multiple Adlais. No. 2 (No. 3’s father) was a one-term Illinois governor and two-time presidential candidate for the Democrats — twice defeated by Eisenhower.

I had no knowledge of the author (No. 3), so I dug a little. The first issue that caught my attention was his age. He is 89 years old. He could be the poster child of “the old white guy” that Democrats love to deride. He is a former two-term U.S. senator (retired in 1974) and the chair of the Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy (whatever that is). His father, No. 2, is the one who attained a level of national fame, as noted above.

The impression conveyed by No. 3’s article is that it was prompted by his party’s loss of the last presidential election. The second paragraph, however, provided hope that a fair and impartial rendering was to follow. It began, “It’s time to respond with reform of American politics and government …” Good grief! Even Donald Trump and an untold number of Americans agree with that assessment. Hope was quickly dashed, however, with the author’s first suggestion: “Abolish the Electoral College.” OK. There they go again — same old, same old. If they can’t win under long- and well-established procedures, they want to change the rules — actually, the U.S. Constitution.

The desire to eliminate the Electoral College indicates that No. 3 is ignorant of or has ignored the logic and reasoning of the Founders. Perhaps he’s forgotten. Perhaps he’s been convinced by those less knowledgeable. Perhaps he thinks the Founders were a bunch of thoughtless amateurs. There is not room here to discuss the reasoning behind the Electoral College, but there are thousands of pages written by those far more qualified than I. Anyone who is of the opinion that the Electoral College needs to be eliminated needs to familiarize themselves with the theory, background and the Founders’ arguments for the institution. Simply put, the president is elected to represent the entire country, not just isolated pockets such as the West Coast, the Northeast and a few other spots.

To his credit, No. 3 offered a few good suggestions. One was getting big money out of politics, but good luck with that. I can’t see either party getting behind that one. He also suggested reforms in the redistricting of legislative districts — and an end to gerrymandering. Surely he’ll get the support of every Republican in Maryland on that one.

No. 3 suggests the elimination of election of judges, stating, “The United States is one of the very few nations who elect judges.” First, he needs to be reminded that our form of government was the first of its kind — anywhere. We are, and have been, unique. The fact that our practices differ should not come as a surprise. It seems that he wants judges to be appointed and declares that such would “enhance the quality of ... judiciaries.” Appointment by politicians will be an improvement? Not even going there.

He also mentioned that we should “Reduce the number of elected offices ...” This sounds tempting — like reducing the size of government. What was left unsaid is the likelihood that such a move would increase the size of the unelected, unaccountable bureaucracy.

His sixth suggestion was illuminating because it pretty much identified his target audience. He wrote, “Strengthen party organization and leadership.” Is there anyone who suspects that his advice was intended for non-Democrats?

As another “old white guy” (but a decade younger than No. 3), I commend his effort to improve his party’s position with a public statement that can be examined. However, as a former student of political science and having been long exposed to the theory behind the Electoral College, I must admit to a bias against anyone who urges its elimination. Such people are shortsighted — or perhaps equitable systems annoy them.

Rick Blatchford writes from Mount Airy. Contact him at rpblatch4d@comcast.net.

(66) comments

public-redux

FWIW, “old, white guy” refers to more than a certain combination of age, race, and sex. The nuance of “old, white guy” encompasses someone who complains about the present and harkens back to a an earlier time when things were better, at least from his narrow perspective and gauzy recollection.

Thus, Adlai Stevenson is not an “old, white man”. Neither is Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden. At this time and place, “old white men” are almost exclusively found in the Republican party although not all old, white, Republican males are “old, white men”. Blatchford is, of course, and proudly so.

FCPS-Principal

Elimination of the EC should have part of the 17th Amendment. The EC is a remnant of Hamilton, Madison et al kissing the hind ends of the slave-loving states, a deal to take power from the people and give it to the 1% of the day, a pact with the Devil if there ever was one. Nobody has ever put forth a rational argument for letting the people elect the president. Not then, not now.

Comment deleted.
KellyAlzan

Trolling.

Perhaps, you were baited to prove a point? You can not resist. YOU CAN NOT RESIST!!!!!!! YOU JUST CAN’T!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Comment deleted.
gabrielshorn2013

"We’ve never been fans of that kind of discourse, which is one reason we remove the name-calling and personal attack comments when we see them under comments on our website."

https://www.fredericknewspost.com/opinion/editorial/yeas-and-nays/article_5cbdff7c-62cb-5a80-ac9e-8e96ff9fe8b0.html

Not trolling. Pointing out the obvious violation of the terms of use and the subject of today's editorial.

phydeaux994

The EC, along with the 3/5 Compromise, was a negotiated deal between James Madison and Alexander Hamilton and the 7 Southern “slave” States to preserve slavery as the Law of the Land in perpetuity a.k.a. forever. Madison and Hamilton were forced to agree with this convoluted way to give the 7 Southern “slave” States an advantage as a way to gain Representatives and elect the President in order to get the 9 of the 13 States in 1787 that were needed to ratify the new Constitution written by Madison that he and Hamilton so desperately wanted. It worked well. Slave owning Virginians were elected President 4 out of the first 5 Presidents and Virginians were elected President for 32 of the first 36 years of our great Nation. The EC never has had a thing to do with Big States/Small States, East Coast/West Coast/Middle America, Big Urban Centers/Rural America. There were 13 States, all along the East Coast or nearly so. The total population was around 4 million. The EC is a shameful remnant of the reality faced by James and Alexander in Colonial America.

shiftless88

I thought his call-out was sort of weird considering that the United States at the time did not extend to areas he mentioned.

gabrielshorn2013

Phy, your opinion is not borne out by the available evidence. I posted the link to the Connecticut Compromise (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connecticut_Compromise) previously. This was a compromise between the Virginia plan, and the New Jersey plan. If you follow the links within that link, you will have access to the official records of those meetings, including the writings of Hamilton and Monroe. Those records also contain quotes from representatives of the small states, including Gunning Bedford, Jr. of Delaware notoriously threatened on behalf of the small states, "the small ones w[ould] find some foreign ally of more honor and good faith, who will take them by the hand and do them justice." The small states, very publicly, did not trust the large states to be fair. If the compromise was not made, the small states would have made their own country, aligning with another foreign power. As for the 3/5 compromise, the slaveholding states wanted slaves to count as 100% of a person for representation in government, but the "Northern states " did not want slaves to count at all because it would give the Southern states more Congressional representation. Again, refer to the Connecticut Compromise. The part you are confusing is census count for tax purposes, but that is tangential to the EC.

rpkrauss

Mr Blatchford, in your fourth paragraph, after spending three paragraphs telling us about Adlai Stevenson III, you state “ There is not room here to discuss the reasoning behind the Electoral College, but there are thousands of pages written by those far more qualified than I.” I feel you could have better supported your argument by citing some of these sources rather than sharing biographical information about a 93year old retired politician.

DickD

A lot of gibberish, Rick and not one mention of the fact that all other offices are elected by popular vote. So, you don't like popular vote because you want our Mafia POTUS to win again with the EC? And not one mention of the Republican gerrymandering, which is just as bad.

gabrielshorn2013

Dick, as I have pointed out many times previously, the way the EC was set up (sum of Reps and Senators for each State) was a compromise between the big and small states. We elect the electors, and the electors elect the President. Nothing unfair or nefarious about it. Without the EC, there was no incentive for the small states to join the union, because their political will would be completely nullified and overwhelmed by the larger states (despite what phy keep asserting without any reference). That's how we elect the President. Don't like it? Get 2/3 of both houses of Congress to bass a bill, then 3/4 of the states to verify it. Good luck with that. It has nothing to do with Trump. Every President since Washington has been elected by the EC. Maybe the losing candidates need to spend more time in the small and swing states in order to win. That seems to be the case in the last election.

gabrielshorn2013

^pass a bill, not bass

DickD

I definitely don't like it. By your remarks I take it that you do and that devalues the one person, one vote. The idea being all votes should be equal. Under the EC all votes are not equal.

gabrielshorn2013

Election of the President and Vice-President are unlike any other elections we do Dick, and it was never meant to be. It is a result of instituting our Federal form of government. There were two proposals during the Consitutional Convention, The Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan, which resulted in the Connecticut Compromise. This is essentially what we have today. Since you're a Wikipedia fan, use this link to read up. It really is a fascinating story (well, at least to me). Follow some of the links under background and history for greater understanding.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Electoral_College

Dwasserba

Ageism. Exhibit A.

KellyAlzan

Funny how the republicans do not realize that only 8% of the presidents have been elected by the EC while losing the popular. I could be wrong about the exact percentage, it was about a year ago when I did the calculation, but it’s somewhere in that range.

Based on that low number, I’m fine with the EC.

Analysts predict trump to lose the popular vote in 2020 by 5 million. The EC is trumps only hope for a second term. I’ve been listening closely to what the political professors and analysts are saying. I find it intriguing.

KellyAlzan

Also, no president who was elected by the EC while losing the popular, has ever been elected a 2nd term by the same way. Historically, the odds are not in trumps favor. If it were to happen to him again, it would be a historical first

DickD

Right, Kelly and in 1876 Rutherford Hayes did not win the EC or the popular vote and Congress voted to change the EC vote to give him the election.  https://time.com/5579161/presidents-elected-electoral-college/

gabrielshorn2013

You are correct that the EC vote was changed, but that was due to suppression of the freedmen (former slaves) vote by the Democrats of the Southern states, and fraudulent voting by both parties. The result was the Compromise of 1877, where southern states agreed to change their votes in exchange for the occupying Union forces to leave the South.

DickD

Four of them, to be exact and the most recent two were Republicans. Gerrymandering plays a role.

gabrielshorn2013

How does Gerrymandering play a role? The votes for each Presidential candidate are tallied, and the winner gets all of the Electors for that state*. You could Gerrymander the entire state to exclude the opponent's party, but if the opponent wins the popular vote in that state, they win the Electors from that State.

shiftless88

I do not know what Dick meant, but it plays an indirect role. Gerrymandering has led to a skewed distribution of Republicans in power at the state and national levels. They have used that power to further disenfranchise voter blocs that do/might vote Dem. Things like removing names from voter rolls and closing polling stations. That reduces the Dem votes overall.

sevenstones1000

“Simply put, the president is elected to represent the entire country, not just isolated pockets such as the West Coast, the Northeast and a few other spots.”

No, that is the job of the Senate. With two senators per state, states like Wyoming and North Dakota already have outsized voting power for their population.

We do not also need to give low population states outsized power in electing the President. These “isolated pockets” that the writer is so afraid of represent the majority of CITIZENS. And the President is elected by citizens, not by non-human states.

In point of fact, the presidential contest has come down to only a handful of purple states that matter - candidates might just as well ignore the entire rest of the country. Is that what the writer thinks is a great idea?

The electoral college makes a mockery of “one person, one vote”. It was a compromise with slave states who were afraid they might lose their power as the non-slave-owning population grew. Look it up.

llrowse

You are aware that we are a Democratic-Republic, and we would no longer be such without the Electoral College, right? The Founders wanted to combine the two. In a Democracy, which was present in Ancient Athens, every male citizen was expected to show up, and cast a vote. Citizens were a limited group. They were in a limited geography, so even though it might be a bit of a pain, it was doable. The Founders were facing a different challenge. The 13 Colonies covered quite an extensive area. Expecting every citizen to show up to New York would prove impossible, and to have that many people showing up to participate in government couldn’t be done. This is where the Roman Republic came in. They had quite an expansive area, and couldn’t possibly have that many men show up to Rome to participate in government. They had representatives cover a geographic area. Those representatives were to cast a vote in Rome, based on the majority vote of qualified men. This explains our present government, which is a combination of the two. To rid ourselves of the Electoral College, is to destroy our government as designed by the Founders. No more Democratic-Republic. It’s worthy of study.

hayduke2

So Ilrowse, why not modify the EC to give each candidate the exact percentage of the popular vote they won in any particular state. If Candidate A gets 47% of the vote, they get 47% of the EC. Candidate B gets the other 53% assuming there is not independent candidate. Wouldn't that maintain the fairness?

llrowse

I addressed our Democratic-Republic, and the role of the Electoral College in our government. I didn’t approach what is fair, and isn’t fair.

gabrielshorn2013

Hay, what do you do when the math doesn't work out, and you get decimal values of a person. Round up? Round down.

hayduke2

Nope, simply take to 3 decimal places and add the up. It is simple math

FCPS-Principal

That would make the EC redundant and unnecessary. So why have it to begin with?

Boyce Rensberger

Yep. We *should* destroy that part of the government designed by the Founders. We've destroyed other parts of the system designed by the Founders such as counting black men as noncitizens politically worth only 60 percent of a white man. Oh, and didn't we destroy the part that said women should not be allowed to vote?

Obadiah Plainsmen

No, "we did not destroy the part that said women should not be allowed to vote. The Constitution does not say that women cannot vote. And it does not say that women can vote. The Founders left that decision up to individual states. Since all the power in government was concentrated in men, and only men selected those in government, there was little incentive for those in power to call for women's suffrage, even though any state could have granted women the vote at any time. Wyoming granted women to vote when it was a territory in 1868 in attempt to attract more settlers. That carried on after it became a state in 1890, long before the 19th Amendment.Jeez and you're the research guru.

jsklinelga

Boyce

Destroy??? Nothing was destroyed/ The Constitution worked. The 3/5th Compromise and Women's right to vote were areas where the super majority changed the Constitution per the methods set forth. Bravo!. But if you think the Electoral College should, or more importantly could be "destroyed" then I now have a different opinion of your intellect. This country would be destroyed first.

Your a science man. You must know that the upper atmosphere is comprised of O3. Thru a variety of causes this O3 morphs into CO2 or Carbon Monoxide or any number of various chemical combinations that effect man's health and brain chemistry. This is why people in the city, where a wide range of concentrated man made substrates create mind altering compounds, are loony tunes.. You cannot really suggest the rationale people in the rural areas should be governed by these loony tunes just because there are more of them. Preposterous! I know this last paragraph might seem preposterous but I was trying to match the logic of your original comment.

DickD

I disagree with your definition of a democratic republic because in a true democracy all citizens that are eligible t vote can, but not all citizens are eligible to vote.  For instance, age, land ownership, wealth, education, at one time slaves and at one time women.  We no longer have slavery and women were emancipated, you don't even need to be able to read English in today's world, land ownership is not needed, wealth is not needed.  Age is the only current, common, restriction, along with registration.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_republic

llrowse

We are not a pure Democracy. I did not say that we are. Wikipedia is not a source that I would rely on for clarification of a Democratic-Republic.

rpkrauss

In all fairness Iirowse you gave no citation for your definition. I would not cite Wikipedia in a research paper but when I have cross referenced with other sources it has proven reliable.

llrowse

RPKrauss - We would have to go back to 1979, when I started college, and declared my minor as American History. The textbooks, and massive amount of other books, and papers I’ve read from then to now, would be one long bibliography.

rpkrauss

llrose, to be honest I think the explanation you provide is pretty accurate, I just think Wikipedia gets a bum rap. In this time of people tossing around opinions in place of facts I don’t want to discourage anyone from citing sources of information. In the case of “Democratic Republic” Wikipedia has 12 references, which is a little lean in my opinion, but I can follow these sources to others etc, etc. so back to my original point, Wikipedia is not a definitive source of research but it can be a good starting point. It’s ironic to me that in this time where we have the sum of human knowledge at our fingertips people are doing less independent research and just rely on what they’ve seen on Facebook. Sorry you were on the receiving end of my little rant this is just a point that’s become particularly sore for me of late. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

llrowse

RPKraus - My concern with Wilkipedia is that it is a written by anyone, and everyone. Some people that throw in might not understand a topic to a full extent. It could send someone on a wild goose chase as they try to confirm information. On the other hand, the information could be spot on. However, looking for information, either way will help you gather needed knowledge. So, you’re right. It could be could be a good starting point as long as it’s understood that there will be more research.

Obadiah Plainsmen

You are wrong! The United States is a Federal-Republic with a Constitutional representative Democracy "a confederacy of sovereign states that came together to form a union". To put it another way a Federal- Republic is the system of government that allows a country to be democratic! Most of the power in this Federal-Republic is given to the States. Even the Electoral College.

llrowse

Goodness! Once the Colonies had won the Revolution, a government was needed. The initial government was brought together in The Articles of Confederation. The Articles set up a government in which there was a central government. It gave certain powers to itself, and powers to the States. Summarizing, it ended up that the central government had not given itself enough power to control the States, and make them bend to their will. The States were acting as their own little countries. They had their own currency, and so on. If another war started, the government did not have enough power to call up militia, or the ability to make the government pay taxes in order to buy all they needed equipment. They wouldn’t be able to pay the soldiers. The Founders decided that a Confederation was not working, and decided that a (-federation), Federal government was the way to go. A Constitutional Convention was called in order to create this document. One of the Founders was well prepared for the meeting, as he had laid out a document for a Federal Union, as opposed to a Confederation. Confederation would come back to haunt us, in the form of The Confederacy, or the Confederate Government. Northerners wanted a strong central government, whereas the Southerners wanted stronger State’s Rights. Back to the Democratic-Republic. It’s interesting to note that John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson referred to the government as a Democratic Republic. The thing is that you can’t refer to one source to put the story together. You have to cull many sources in order to see where all of the terms come from, and fit.

Obadiah Plainsmen

If you payed attention in HS high school history class you learned everything you wrote up to "Back to the Democratic-Republic. We have a Federation of States (Republic) that is governed by Democratic Constitution. Jefferson liked it so much that he formed the Democratic-Republican political party in 1792. It was the first political party in the new USA. FYI Jefferson and his new political party defeated John Adams.And cull all the sources you like and you still will find that the United States is Federal-Republic with a Constitutional representative Democracy.

llrowse

If you had paid attention in high school, and college, you’d have a wider base of knowledge, which would help you understand the source of the information to which I am referring. You need to cull some more books, and other references in order to widen your knowledge. You have no reason to be so rude to ANYONE, and assume you know EVERYTHING! The other topic you definitely need to study carefully is BASIC MANNERS.

llrowse

A simplification that pays heed to our differing views is that the Founders wanted to combine elements of a Democracy, and a Republic. They did so to an extent. Then the Founders moved on to create Constitutional Democracy. Democratic-Republic refers to the initial idea. Thereafter, as work continued, different descriptors were applied. There is historic precedent in referring to us as a Democratic-Republic. People do argue, and debate the point. One thing that is a recent development in our society is to respond with rage toward one with a differing point of view. This is not conducive to an exchange of information, which would lead to a greater understanding of the topic at hand. Patience. Listening. Conceding that the other person has something valuable to bring to the table.

gabrielshorn2013

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] llrowse!

Obadiah Plainsmen

IIrowse,

trust me I'am far from knowing everything, if fact I know very little I apologize for the tone of my comment.

matts853

Llrowse, your argument doesn’t translate into modern times. We no longer have logistical hurdles to voting like back in the day. Heck, there’s 3 polling places within a half mile of my home. I can be there and back in less than 5 minutes. The EC is a remnant of an anachronistic society that seems silly in today’s world.

llrowse

No, we don’t have to worry about traveling to polls. That point pertains to the fact that pure democracy would cause hardship. That practice took place Ancient Greece. In a pure democracy you would have to travel to DC for every decision government. That’s why we elect Representatives. We vote for the person that we feel will work for our desired outcome in the government. Plowman explains how our government works now. Take a look at his explanation.

hayduke2

As an aside seven, I think that getting rid of the EC would also moderate some of the bitter partisan politics that exist. Candidates would be more likely to target ALL folks, not just their party.

rpkrauss

👍

ragramm

In defending that the Constitution as originally written was fair and that no changes should ever be entertained, the author has conveniently glossed over some facts. Originally only white males who owned land could could vote, fortunately that minor oversight has since been fixed. In addition, the Constitution also originally allocated electors through a formula where black slaves counted as 3/5's of a person to appease the Southern States. This provision has also been junked. In 1776 there were no democracies where voters directly elected the leader of their country, so according to the National Archives the Founders "established the Electoral College in the Constitution, in part, as a compromise between the election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens." Numerous amendments have been made to the Constitution so it is a living document. Ultimately there is no reason not to be open to considering changes when appropriate as the fairness of the electoral college is a subjective topic.

llrowse

Only allowing white male landowners was no oversight. The Founders were an elite group. The better portion were wealthy, who owned a terrific amount of land. They foresaw the government being run by an elite group. Their reasoning was based on the idea that the wealthy would not use their political position to become wealthy and powerful, because they would already have power and wealth. The Electoral College was given the power to prevent unscrupulous people, who garnered the popular vote, from taking office.

DickD

"The Electoral College was given the power to prevent unscrupulous people, who garnered the popular vote, from taking office." It failed in 2016!

llrowse

Spectacularly

FCPS-Principal

Failed in 2000 too, but not as spectacularly. All of today's limbless wheelchair-bound veterans would probably support its elimination.

jsklinelga

Mr Blatchford,

Instead of pointing out the pros and cons of the Electoral College, oft repeated, it may have been better to discuss the only ways to change our system. One way is a convention of 3/4's of the States. The only time in recent history that has even been imagined as possible is after the Supreme Court ruling concerning Gay Marriage. This shot down the civil law of 4/5ths of the States. One that had been rejected by ballot and referendum. (Maryland has the distinction of being the first state to ban gay marriage in 1973) If a convention had been called the Electoral College system would most likely have been strengthened not eliminated. Instead the Americans went to the polls and the Federal Judiciary is undergone a rapid transformation.

sevenstones1000

You are aware of how many times the Constitution has been successfully amended, aren’t you?

llrowse

The gentleman is referring to changing the body of the Constitution, not just adding amendments.

sevenstones1000

What do you think amendments do? They change the Constitution.

llrowse

I was thinking in terms of the whole Constitution being thrown out, which was a narrow view. I should have looked at it in a wider frame.

DickD

Are you gay, Jim? [lol]

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