The debate is still raging about the electoral college, and the disagreement is falling largely along party lines.
One Democrat who was a big defender of the Electoral College may surprise you: president John F. Kennedy. He took the Senate floor in 1956 to openly defend the balanced electoral system established by the nation’s Founding Fathers.
Tara Ross, an attorney, author and expert on the Electoral College, told Faithwire on Wednesday about Kennedy’s overt support for the system, explaining how the then-senator uttered “a great analogy that still rings true today.”
“[I]t is not only the unit vote for the presidency we are talking about, but a whole solar system of governmental power,” Kennedy said on the Senate floor. “If it is proposed to change the balance of power of one of the elements of the solar system, it is necessary to consider all the others.”
And that’s a sentiment Ross wholeheartedly embraces, noting that, in her view, making a change to the Electoral College would open up the floodgates for other potential amendments and alterations to our government structure.
“Think about it. You can’t change anything about our Solar System without affecting everything else,” she said. “If you change the gravitational pull of the Sun, you will change the orbits of the planets. That would change the weather on Earth, and it might even make our planet uninhabitable!”
Using that analogy, she said Kennedy’s point was essentially the same: dismantling the Electoral College and removing it from the U.S. political system would likely have some notable consequences.
“Certainly we know that campaign strategies would change!” she said. “As prospective President-elect Donald Trump tweeted the other day, he would have spent more time campaigning in large states (ignoring small states) without the Electoral College in place. Other unanticipated consequences would be sure to follow.”
Author James Michener, writing in his book “Presidential Lottery: The Reckless Gamble in Our Electoral System,” called Kennedy “the most powerful voice in favor of keeping the electoral system.” According to Michener, Kennedy believed the Electoral College prevented any one region from having too much power, and also helped with checks and balances.
“I am very strongly opposed to any chance in the constitution at this time,” Kennedy also said in 1956. “The present system has served us well. Its advantages are well known. But the consequences of the proposed amendment, however desirable they may appear to be, cannot be foretold.”
As Faithwire previously reported, the Electoral College has once again become a hot-button issue after Republican Donald Trump crossed the 270 Electoral College vote threshold on Election Day, yet lost the popular vote to Democratic contender Hillary Clinton. As a result, some Americans are calling for amendments — or abolishment — of the Electoral College.
Ross said the most frustrating claim she’s been hearing over the past week is that “the Electoral College was established because of slavery,” proceeding to dismiss such a notion.
“I get tired of such attempts to undermine our heritage. Yes, some of our Founders owned slaves. It was a terrible, horrible flaw. But our Constitution is far more than just a ‘relic of slavery,'” Ross told Faithwire. “The delegates who met at the Constitutional Convention were well-educated, wise men. They were students of history; they’d studied political philosophy. They were relatively free of partisan motivations. The biggest allegiances that they owed were to their home states.”
She said the Founders spent months thinking deeply about these subjects while engaging in robust discussion and debate, considering the balance between state and federal power when it came to governance, the treatment of minority groups, and instilling protections from government officials who would abuse their power.
It should be noted, however, that not everyone agrees with that slavery assessment.
“They discussed everything from the number of Presidents we should have (a single executive wasn’t a given) to the best form for constitutional amendments,” Ross said. “Surely such intellectual discussions are rarely heard in the halls of our own Congress! The delegates grappled with difficult questions, and they worked out several fair compromises.”
Ross said that dismissing that work so flippantly is a problematic and improper approach. If you want to know more about why the attorney believes the Electoral College is the best possible system, read our original Q&A with Ross.
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