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tv   APSA - Electoral College  CSPAN  December 22, 2017 9:53pm-11:24pm EST

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thing of 2017. host: merry christmas. thank you for stopping by. gu announcer: c-span's washington journal live every day with issues that impact you. saturday morning, frank buckley will talk about his book "the republic of virtue." conflicts at global that experts are watching in 2018 with bernie friedman of the atlantic. be sure to watch washington journal on saturday morning, join the discussion. scholars discuss using the electoral college as opposed to the popular vote for picking the president. the claremont institute organized the discussion as part of the american political science association's annual
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meeting in san francisco. hour and a thomas: good morning, everyone. i think it is about time to start now. my name is thomas tacoma i am a , doctoral student. i am the chair of this morning's panel, the electoral college, time to reevaluate? thank you for coming out at 8:00 a.m. on saturday. thank you also to the claremont institute for sponsoring our panel discussion. our speakers today are david frisk, resident fellow at the alexander hamilton institute, adam carrington, assistant professor of politics at hillsdale college, and michael uhlmann, a senior fellow at the claremont institute. we will have 20 minutes for each speaker to deliver his remarks. then we will open up to questions and general discussion. and one note, if you do have a question please bring it to the , microphone in the center so
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you can be on camera. i think we are being recorded by c-span this morning. and without any further ado, david first. david: thanks to all of you for coming out this early morning. i will be defending the electoral college. and equally important, when we are talking about a major change, discussing the dangers of any -- really a common to almost any plans for alternatives. there always has to be an alternative. it seems to me that there are certain advantages to the electoral college, which have been stated by its defenders over the years, which have more
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staying power than others, and less dependent on the course of history or where we are right now. one of those i think, an argument made by judith best in the mid-1970's in a prominent book defending the electoral college was that the -- having a so-called direct election mandate, that is a president who is always guaranteed to represent, at least at first -- keep that in mind -- a plurality of the people, would have a greater moral claim against the legislative branch than they -- do under the electoral college system. this was in the 1970's, days of concern over the imperial presidency. i don't think that argument,
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even if it had some merit back then, is all that powerful now. i think the arguments -- i could give other examples if we have time -- i think the most powerful arguments for retaining the electoral college are, first, its requirement for a more geographically distributed majority, or plurality, or coalition. the danger of a president elected largely by a couple of sections, whether we are talking -- a -- most likely by bicoastal president under a direct vote system, conceivably one who depends on his metro areas. how you define them are not always so clear.
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face the very we real prospect that, if the electoral college were to be abolished, a president elected by the two coasts, which of , they are blue democratic. or major metro areas, same story. so i am -- i am quite sympathetic to -- and, again, i power, a of staying -- anent i would say permanence in judith best's argument that we have the creation of political majorities that are cross-sections, not sections of the nation. and a cross-section is much better, a geographical cross-section. the other argument that remains
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powerful and hard to answer is that you have to guarantee or do your best to guarantee a gainst the election by popular candidate who has much less support than any other candidate has had somebody in the low 30's. someou have to have come kind of screening mechanism to ensure the ultimate winner is at least in the 40's. well, if you have a runoff, you end up with the majority, but you end up with a rather strange majority potentially. it's so often been proposed that the way you prevent an extreme against president
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someone with only a third of the support, but everybody else has less, is you have a 40% rule, something in that neighborhood, if someone does not cost that threshold in the election, there is a runoff. i am pretty well persuaded by the argument that this does incentivize not only some third-party candidacies, but more third party candidacies in a given year, an imitation of that when a third-party candidate enters, others get into it as well. and you could easily end up with a runoff between two candidates who have significant support, to be sure, among the public. and intense support, but are , are basically factional, marginal candidates in terms of public opinion.
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i do not want to use overly loaded words like extreme candidates, but that is also something that might well be truly extreme. so you could easily have a choice in a runoff between two extreme candidates, both of had a substantial number of votes, but who the majority of the country really is opposed to. and therefore you are left, everybody who chose to vote in the runoff is left with a choice of two people they really don't like. an intensification, quite possibly, of the lesser two evils' experience that people have always had in presidential elections under our current system. but it would potentially, in some elections, be more obviously a lesser of two evils kind of situation. the argument also that this
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direct vote, particularly if there is a runoff involved, would badly weaken parties by turning the initial vote, in which you do not become president unless you cross the 40% threshold, turning it into a national primary. which would be what -- it would replace the party conventions. now, party conventions are not what they were back in the 1970's or late 1960's when the electoral college was a hot issue after the 1968 election. , as we allnventions know, they are now tv shows, social media shows, whatever. the argument that there is a deliberate process in them leading up to the convention,
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that is somehow represents a bargaining process and a process is no longer that persuasive. but i do think that there remains a serious danger of badly weakening parties and incentivizing factional, extreme, whatever you want to call them, candidacies in presidential elections in a direct vote system. something i is think we have to be quite wary of. i would like to say a few words of onehis whole concept person/one vote, and the suppose d evils of what is sometimes called a runner-up, like trump last time or george w. bush in 2000. the person who clearly got the second-most popular votes, not the most votes, becoming president. this is happened twice in the
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last 16 years and both times it was a candidate of the same party. back in the 1970's, when this was debated, at least some of the people involved in defending the electoral college said, well, it hasn't happened since 1888. it is no longer mope possibility. so you have to take serious account of the fact that there have been two minority winners, losers of the popular vote, in the last decade in a half, both of the same party. we should,ever that as defenders of the electoral college, those of us who do defend the electoral college, although obligated to take account of those recently related developments and frankly the pain on the other side, the puzzlement, the how-can-this-be,
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i do think we have to take those things seriously. on the other hand, i think defenders of the electoral college should not shy away from questioning the extent to which we, as a people or participants in public discourse, value simple majoritarianism. vote countingt a -- a ohioan's vote or the floridian's vote valued more is hard to distinguish from arguments that your vote as a in a governor race
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or a senate race if you are in the minority party, that is not really count either. and because of the sheer number of other votes that your vote is pooled with. this size, even in a district election for the house of representatives, your vote counts more than another if you live in a competitive district. look, the truth is the individual vote just doesn't matter that much under any system. it is absolutely swamped by other votes. so i think you have to look at other questions, such as the ones i've raised. yes, there is some difference --ween a candidate receiving
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what was it, hillary clinton got 48% and donald trump got 46% or just a shade under 46%, yes, that is less than hillary clinton got. how important is the difference? ,r is it just, that his life too bad, it happens. the fact is he got a great many votes. one thing that is easily overlooked in this, the popular vote, even under a system, is nonetheless counted and it therefore has a degree of moral weight. certainly for many of us, i would say it does for me a little bit, in our public discourse. everybody is aware, i think, that hillary clinton won more
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votes than donald trump. i think there was a general awareness that gore won more votes than george w. bush. it is politically significant, although not constitutionally significant, who wins the popular vote -- it is a significant factor, it is politically valuable for the winner of the presidential race won the popular vote and not just be legally qualified for the presidency by winning the electoral vote. so i think the purpose of moving to a direct vote is already served. at one time in my life i did a fair amount of grassroots political work in california. and of course people would say my vote doesn't count. ,there is no way our candidate is going to win california. and i would say, for political reasons, it is best for the
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winner to win the popular vote. and for that, a vote in california is just as good as they vote in ohio. -- as a vote in ohio. in the interest of time, i think i will probably stop there, but carriage anyone who has -- again encourage anyone who is involved in discussions of the elect oral oral college -- it is not an easy thing to justify -- . i suppose the advice would also go equally for opponents of the electoral college, who not only have to get an amendment through congress, but get it approved by three fourths of the state. it is not like it would happen in the near future.
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but nonetheless, they want to make the best argument they can, i think, on both sides. it would be best to focus on the weightiest arguments in the news. -- in those ones i said at the beginning that have the most permanent importance, as opposed to the more contingent arguments, or arguments whose is more speculative in nature. determinants, the of who becomes president -- is it so bad that the presidency in a truly close election, let's say ohio and florida, it is kind
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of a ballgame, is that so bad? because of that, because of their record as swing states tipping point states, they are diverse, cross-sections. no state is a perfect cross-section. but think about the role of the iowa caucus and new hampshire primaries. those are states that are less representative of the united states as a whole, demographically, then ohio and florida or other states that you could throw in. nonetheless, i think even egregiously white to some people's taste, ohio and new hampshire can be defended as outsize players in the
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presidential nominating process, because one, they have civic traditions, and partly because of that they have developed traditions of closely scrutinizing candidates. to requireall enough retail politicking, which i think is a useful test of some aspects of presidential leadership, and also some aspects of one's likely quality , or lack thereof, as a national nominee. so we have to look at the whole picture. we cannot be too quick to exceed, to acquiesce in simple majoritarianism, the idea of everyone's vote counting equally. there is one thing that i would get into if we had more time and
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i am sure it will be addressed at some point this morning, do you really want to create a national administration of elections by creating a truly national election for the first time? that opens up a can of worms. there is a great unknown there. so i think i will leave it at that for now. thank you for your time. [applause] adam: i would like to thank you all for coming out this morning. i would begin by saying -- friends, americans, apsa attendees, lend me your ears. i come to bury the electoral college, not to praise it. the electoral college is an honorable institution.
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you see, unlike mark anthony -- antony, i will not seek to ultimately resurrect that -- unlike julius caesar, what i come to bury is not dead. the electoral college is very much alive. instead, to bury i must defeat, in turn i must slay. i seek to do so through three arguments targeted at three audiences regarding the electoral college. to the elites and originalists, that it does not operate as originally intended. to pragmatists, it does not deliver on justifications apologists give. to -- it does not
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conform to the populism and that supporters of our president hold dear. let me begin to the elites and originals. the electors would choose the president based on their own judgment. why would they do so, instead of having a popular election? it is not as if it was unheard of in the constitutional convention, it was argued for, which i will talk about later. the reasons had to do with setting up an aristocratic-like institution, with aristocratic-like qualities. and they would be better having this kind of institution for several reasons. if we job on hamilton's argument in 68. for one thing, this would be a complicated inquiry, many persons to sift through many , factors to take into account. and if these persons -- and in these persons unlike the , population in general, would be the most likely to process the information requisite.
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they would be most likely to know the person and situation. they would be the most wise, the most likely to possess the discernment requisite. in other words, they would have the moral and intellectual virtues, above and beyond what the common populace would have, to make these kind of determinations, to refine and at in large with the public opinion would do on its own. they would be in the best situation, "they would be acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation," meaning they would be able to work together, to discuss and refine their own choice. therefore, uplifting reason, not passion. refining their opinion as it was a refinement of the people's. this is, i think from the ,erspective of the federalists
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a republican aware of its own weaknesses, with checks from other regime types, something we have lost in the discussion of the mixed regime. that does not mean that we have a mixed regime. but understanding what comes from those other types. so what is the situation? very different. a series of popular votes with the electoral college rubberstamping those votes. you could argue that the political parties took that role over, the work of julius caesar. the party would choose the two candidates that would be voted on by the electoral college. and by the people. martin van buren, that being his great innovation and contribution lasting , contribution to american politics. this would allow for the same kind of refinement, or at least
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by the i would say, founders' perspective, inferior. that is not true now. party conventions are beauty pageants. where is it decided? where do we decide who is going to be the candidate? primaries. they decide, which are themselves popular votes. they played to the same issues that the federalists warned about. so if the electoral college isn't doing remotely close to its intended purpose, which is to refine selection more than a popular vote, while still giving popular participation, what remains is the underlying -- point popular choice. shouldn't we be honest and scrap the no longer working edifice going with the underlying principle of popular vote?
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isn't this scaffolding for a wrong building? by the way, we could change this without amendments. the states are allowed to allocate their electoral however votes however they want. they could say if the national league wins the world series this year, the votes will go to a republican. if punxsutawney phil does not see his shadow, electoral votes will go to the democrat. there is nothing in the constitution stopping that, there are other factors, i promise, but nothing stopping this is the constitution. so there for the originalists and elitists. how about to the pragmatists? this is where i would say it does not help in the replacement for alternative justifications apologists give. justification -- one is it gives a mandate to
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govern, it can create a larger majority among electoral votes then popular votes as far as what a popular vote lead would be. it gives greater legitimacy, allowing for more effective governance. but this would be seen as begging the question. let's take another sports hypothetical. a basketball game between myself and one of my colleagues, pick any of them. the rules, every shot i make is worth four points. every shot my colleague makes is worth two. those are the rules and we both agree. could i win that game? i hope. i certainly have a very good chance. the fact is, even if i made less shots, barely less shots, i could rack up a commanding lead on the scoreboard. if we were tied, i would double him up. right? you see the problem. it is with the rules themselves.
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many would still find my win illegitimate. winreal test of who should it who can make more of the same kinds of shots. why would that not be the case for the electoral college? if the truest standard is the consent of individuals in casting their votes, then how would the electoral college in hands the legitimacy of a closed popular vote? -- close, popular vote? in fact hillary clinton won by 3 , million votes almost. i don't see how that is much larger of a majority than the electoral college victory that president trump won. we heard this, it will get candidates to pay attention to rural areas. and i agree that they should appear but let's take -- should. but let's take candidate visits as a marker.
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in the final two months, in the state of pennsylvania 72% of , trump and clinton visits to pennsylvania where to philadelphia or pittsburgh. 72%. from,higan, where i come all of the visit went to grand rapids or the detroit area. what matters are media markets, which are based in metro areas. even the appeal to rural voters is made in that way, and i don't see how a popular vote would not still require you to try to get out rural voters, nationally. so that is what i would say to the pragmatists. to the populists and trump supporters, i am sure that there are a number here, were thankful that the electoral college was in operation this past election. sure, it meant donald trump became president.
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-ionou really are a trump you should oppose the electoral -- trumpian, you should oppose the electoral college. the electoral college is anti-populist in its roots. , gave reasons in federal '68 but really i believe those lead to a bowing of elitism. ,or example, the popular vote what was said by those in the constitutional convention. eldridge jerry said, "a popular election in this case is radically vicious. the ignorance of the people would put it in the power of men dispersed through the union and acting in concert to delude them into any appointment" i use this twice. "the people are uninformed and would be misled by a few designing men."
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george mason, "it is a natural trigger for the choice of proper character of chief magistrate to the people as it would to refer a trial of colors to a blind man." "they would be led by a few active and designing men." in summary, people are stupid, ignorant, vicious, and they will demerits.ple of like contrast this to the voters of a popular vote in the constitutional convention. james wilson for example, "an election of the first magistrate by the people at large is convenient and a successful." morris, "if the people should elect, they will never fail to refer some man of distinguished character or services. some man that might speak of continental reputation."
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sure, these popular vote defenders compromised, but we did on slavery as well. i am not equating them, but there is a president on issues that are wrong. -- is a precedent for compromising on issues that were wrong. now, we can make the union more perfect by following their original desire, not compromising with the elitists of 1787 or 2017. by the way, haven't we already moved toward eliminating these kinds of compromises? besides eliminating the original purpose for the electoral college and making it itself more popular, we have the 17th amendment that no longer let's state legislators select, that allows the people to do so directly, a progressive populism of the times. and we did get amendment-level support for that change, and have had it for a century.
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it is now deeply ingrained its principle of populism ever deeper into the popular psyche. so we have that. and to those that say it is anti-published in the way it operates today. that it undermines the principle of consent. the declaration of independence says, and places the individual -- the source of government 's purpose is to protect individual rights, and the source of its power is the consent of those individuals. institution-like states exist to fulfill that end. but in the electoral college, we privilege the means at the extent -- expense of the end. we give power and status from on the basis of being a state and in doing so, we dilute the consent of the governed, and by such we undermined the
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claim that their constitution makes on the equality among individuals. it create elitism among individuals. to those who get more attention, whose will that we follow closer this is the idea that in , certain places, your vote is worth more in the electoral college than other places. sometimes vastly more, and we may say that, it is the good states. it is wyoming, right? i say two things to that. one, factually, that is not completely correct. one of the highest benefits of this is the district of columbia, nearly three times the voting power of its popular vote. beyond that i would say, if you are satisfied with it merely because states you like get to
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vote, or get more power, then your problem with equality is merely that you don't get to be part of the elitist group. right? i would say that does not work. second, beyond being anti-populist, the popular vote is more nationalistic. it sees us as a country. it decides as a country. and of course this desire comes , first from a worry about sectional division, that goes back to the beginning of our founding. doesn't a state-based election still do this? we have the language now that we are in a cold civil war today, which shows sparks and heat. does not the electoral college perpetuate this war? red states versus blue states, states as a whole seen as one side, california versus west virginia. you can pull us back larger to
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regions, we are more able to definitively section off entire portions of the country against each other. south versus east coast. mountain states versus the west coast. enhance a kindis of identity politics that would become more calcified in those regions. the fact is, the reality apart states, bothais candidates received over 40% of the vote. eachthe worst state for candidate, still, the percentage was not minuscule. california, here, worst state for trump. beyond the d.c. trump got 33% of the vote. virginia, hillary clinton still got over a fourth of the vote. and the reality is, the popular might take these
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distinctions, this less partisanship better into account. in fact, i'd say along these lines, the anti-nationalism of the electoral college may contribute to a newer concern populists. and that is globalism, that locals, in foementing distinctions, identify possibly with people from other countries. of this isxample that high brow show, "south park." when san francisco -- this is underbring this up -- is a cloud of smug, not smog, and part of it is that someone is walking through in a hazmat suit contaminated. one hears two people saying, you know, san francisco is not really an american city. it's more european. right? that's what we want to avoid. think that the popular vote mitigates this problem.
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it cements a national identity that can better stand up to those kind of problems. allow less balkanization. say it's what donald trump wants or at least wanted in 2012, according to our best forum for understanding him, twitter. i quote from november 7, 2012, the electoral college is a disaster for democracy. this point, i would say supporters of president trump him.d stand with 2012 him, as a fuller better representation of his own principles, as a statement of his own beliefs when not as self-interested in the result. in conclusion, thus stands my case against the electoral college. as the representative of that here, for elitists and noginally it bears resemblance to the main intention in its creation,
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placing the ultimate choice in the best men. for progress tises, those -- pragmatists, those who care about what works, it doesn't truly achieve the alternatives. mandatenot create a where popular vote -- where the vote does it does not aid in giving more rural areas. it dilutes consent and individual equality in favor of states in a form of elitism, in favor of that. not nationalistic. foement either sectionism or globalism. anthony, twomark americans i say, now let it work. take thou what course thou wilt, is ane electoral college honorable institution. thank you. [applause]
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>> good morning. thank you for coming at this early hour. this will get you a high place in heaven. i should perhaps amend what mr. tacoma said in introducing me. am a fellow of the claremont institute and proud to have a dayi also job, that is as professor of government and politics at the university,aduate of which i am also proud. that minor note, let me proceed. to beginme the place in understanding the electoral remark thatith a then senator john f. kennedy 1956, in defending the electoral college against the then conservative krir critiquef
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it. one of his arguments was that change the electoral college without changing an thel lot of other things in political and constitutional system. a solar system you're dealing with here. you alter the motion, it would necessarily alter the motion of all the others in their relation each to the other. he had particularly in mind the relationship of political to geographic -- the way in which the electoral vote is distributed geographically. democrat, he was particularly worried about any system that would alter winner all, because at the time, of urban enhancement minorities, so strongly attached to the interests of the thecratic party and to potential candidacy of one john f. kennedy. but let that pass. sociologically, i think that was a correcter observation.
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larger solara system, and that's the solar madison'sjames constitution of which the electoral college is a part. i think sometimes when we talk electoral reform, we focus too much on the procedures of it. in the certainly true classic indictments made of the electoral vote system. early, in they 1820's. the most vocal critic at the time, of course, attacked the electoral vote system as having in a smarmy deal, which contrary to the world of the presidency ined a his favor in 1824. indictment innorred is
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that as many as six states did a provision for the election of the president. the electors were still alive well, choosing the -- where to cast the electoral votes. been fullyhadn't yet democratickized. that would occur over the next eight to 12 years. party, led byatic the --van buren, secured sought to secure the presidency for democratic candidates by and encouraging the idea of winner take all. this was a development, not framers, buty the in a curious and unanticipated winner takeisive all replicates, in a kind of institutional way, some of the things that the framers thought achieve by means of allowing
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electors to cast a ballot for presidency. one could say, as adam did, that this was an aristocratic element. that's a pejorative term in our day. to look atther way it. and that is, what is it you seek to achieve in putting a man in the office of presidency? just the virtues of the office. office. it's the vices you seek to guard against. in a way, people in our time fail to understand. democracy was not always the form oforable government imagined. that eloquentall sentiment voiced in the very first paragraph of the very paper, as toist whether it was possible to a government from reflection and choice, or whether men were forever destined in their constitutions to rely on accident and force.
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it raises a question about the stability of democracy, which was characteristic of almost all political thought of a serious late 18thl the century, when the united states, thanks to the framers, developed at once that would enhance and limit the vices of democracy. the electoral college has to be seen in that context. involve the sense of the people in the choice of the chief magistrate. doeso do it in a way that not endanger the very system establishing. the problem was, as james points out,g others in federalist 10, there's a tendency in democracy for the to turn in on itself. for the majority to oppress the and produce exactly the thatdebilitating results you would get in a despotic
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tyranny. empower a majority and at the same time limit its demagogic and tyrannical tendencies? the central dilemma faced by the framers in designing a constitution that derived all of from popular sentiment. how do you express that enhances in a way that the ends sought to be achieved by a republican government but a way that enhances or entices democratic sentiment to on itself so that it devours itself and destroys process interest in the of asserting majority power? thomas jefferson caught this perfectly in his first inaugural address. the majorityill of is in all cases to prevail but rightful must be reasonable. that the minority also possess equal rights to deny which would
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be tyranny. what jefferson meant by "reasonable majorities" were majorities that, by the very their composition, oppress less likely to minorities. is theerstanding i think proper understanding of democracy. quantitativemple, mquantitative -- it's dedicated of qualitative majorityism, that is to say of a will enhance the likelihood of reasonable majorities now and in the future. and in that sense, the electoral parcelstem is part and of a litany of devices that taken together produce the features of american constitutionism, separation of staggered elections and independent judiciary, the very idea of
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representation distributed complicated geographic system. as madison famously says, this a compound republic, neither wholly national nor wholly federal. the president of the united states is not the president of a regime of an undifferentiated whole. he's the president of a regime that is a compound republic of are an integral and essential part. want a president who is a iveduct of quantity majorityism, you can get it by election of the president or its evil twin, the national popular vote plan, gained a little currency. it's basically direct election disguised means. if quantitative majorityism is -- primary value yaw seek you seek to achieve in presidential elections, that's the way to get it. and if you like donald trump, you will like direct election in
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spades and then some. risk of demagogy in a democratic regime is an ever-present danger. a very significant danger in our time with 24/7 news media. particular invitation to temperaments of a particular kind, who wish to take advantage of large crowds and the ability to rouse their passions in ways are contrary to the interests of people, rightly understood. the decisive question has been, how best do you produce in reasonable sense, majorities? majorities that simultaneously general sentiment of a majority sort but at the same to producess likely injurious consequences for those who don't accept that.
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take all accomplishes this. it does it by forcing candidates of the major parties to compete the same states, including large as well as small states. it forces candidates, generally theking, to move toward center, each having some base of a partisan sort to begin with but nevertheless push toward the center. always and not everywhere, in most elections, but more say. than not, as they it tends to moderate their rhetoric, generally speaking, have to campaign before the same voters. and it's largely winner take all forces that effect, whether the candidates particularly wish to do it or not. of the consequences of this is, as the electoral vote have an, you tend to geographically distributed the winnerch that
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can claim, with more validity not, that he represents the whole in a differentiated kind of way. froms quite different representing the whole simply counting heads and stopping when you've got to 50% plus one. of how youstion produce reasonable majorities is a tricky business. a flat election has ever been tried in a regime of this size. likelihood of doing so in a regime of this size, without think is abysmally small. if direct election is what you want, i think if you try it in a country of this size, you're going to get demagogy out the ears forever and always and it that that's ao me very good outcome, given the ends for which the american regime was established, which is to say to secure rights, to
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enhance majorityism, but in such protect minority interests at the same time. a point worth mentioning, vices of the electoral vote system, and a number of them have been cited this morning, it's better than the old ones, which are really few in number. people of conservative disposition from time to time out the district plan, which electoral votes would be accordance with congressional districts. you have a sense of what kind of would produce by electoral map, with the big bad coasts on either side. there's also the proportional plan which would divide the in accordances with the split in the vote, parties.he major but both of those screams, among aher -- schemes, have comparable vice of not being
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voteto guarantee a popular winner as they distribute electoral votes generally. the electoral vote system that anomaly, which occasionally produces outrage on but itt of its critic, produces that anomaly in the same way the congress of the united states does. you don't like the mathematical disproportion of the electoral vote system, then like the senate. and if you make a case against of electoral college because that disproposition, you must simultaneously make the case the samehe senate for reason. you must also make the same case bicameraism, if you're a quantitative democrat in that sense. it's intolerable that this disproportionate senate should say in the house of representatives. congressional districts themselves have an anti-democratic quality to them. we should have elections without regard to geographic
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distinctions and let's have parliamentary system, all the down, with one national vote, for all offices we'll elect one prime minister, who sign and head the executive branch and the legislative will all sail merrily into the 21st century. me that's not a desirable outcome. but there's where the logic goes. about the be careful consequences of one's particular indictments in the light of what alternatives might be. life, that'slar in alternative to the electoral vote system of any kind is the of direct election. but no one can quite figure out, election, how you limit the number of candidates. mechanicalgreat virtues of winner take all is it a decisive deterrent to third parties. there's no way to stop that completely. but winner take all tends
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massively to discourage them. you t go to a system of direct election, it's going to be very how you limit the number of candidates, which have the likelihood is to multiple candidates with an unproductive plurality system at that will every time require one or more runoffs in order to produce a candidate who ends up with 51% of the end. again, it doesn't seem to me is an improvement over the status quo. warts and all. something to bear in mind with all of these reforms is that reform is not neutral. it has partisan and ideological effects. if you look closely at the proponents who propose various it's thewhether conservatives and their attachment to the district plan, their embraceth of direct election or the asional popular vote plan, the revised version is called,
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these are partisans with interests. god bless them one and all. but they expect the change in the system to produce a result that's conducive to their ideological and partisan interests. no such thing as a neutral revision of the presidential election system in the united states. and we live in a time when all sorts of people across the seek to alter the system in a way that enhances their particular interests. a good waynk that's to amend the constitution, but perhaps, perhaps i'm wrong. my final word, which brings me with thisere i began compound republic thought, mechanical devices that seek to create a majority at the same to limit its tyrannical weposes, i think sometimes exaggerate the importance of presidential elections. yes, it would be nice if every
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time we could guarantee slam the electoral vote winner would be the popular vote winner. a period, be in for thanks to the explosion of the state primaries. that's a separate issue. but it's mainly the growth of the primary system that has undermined the parties, along with the federal election campaign laws that makes parties less powerful institutions in the way of limiting the kinds of nominees who run for office. the fault of the electoral vote system but it's a in the that is reflected electoral vote system. and we have had two misfires, so speak, in 2000 and last year, in which the electoral vote popular votee loser. having said that, it's also worth pointing out that mrs. clinton's advantage in the popular vote is composed entirely of the vote in california and manhattan. there is where her three million
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vote advantage was. make her any more representative of the body of politic of the united states and her lessespects makes representative in a curious way. but so i'm not impressed by mere mathematics and i don't think we ought to be impressed by mere mathematics when it comes to saying that would be a more legitimate office holder than the alternative. one of the things that happens system, weplicated elect a president, but he is a president for the time being only. and we need to remember that. he's president for the time thanks to, mr. madison and federalism and the separation of powers. the states and especially congress has any number of ways to limit the tendencies of a president who in fact does not continually reflect the sense of the people. and by the sense of the people, i mean the deliberate sense of the endle, which is toward which the framers sought
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to direct the institutions of government. the presidential election is a freeze-frame in a very complicated three-reel motion picture. thatcide on a given day we're gonna cast a ballot for a particular person with all the structures of a governmental system. and bang! the movie doesn't end there. the next fouror years. and whether it's donald trump or or george w. bush, 41 or 43 or anybody else, a president, once in office, has to wrestle with all those other devices.s pro-- he has to earn on a continuing basis the consent of the people much more complicated and deliberate way than he simply theed on the day of election when he emerges as the quantitative winner of the vote system. if he's lucky with the in the vote victory
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count, popular vote count as well. but that's the beginning of a story and not the end of it. so govern effectively and hascratically, a president to wrestle with those congressional constituencies. to wrestle with governors, with varying public same publics, the that chose him on november 8 may 8 a against him on november year later. and two years later, has a chance to undercut him in elections.allal this has happened quite frequently in recent years. toyou look what happened bill clinton in 1994, if you look what happened to george '06, if you look what to barack obama in 2010, this is the republic of expressing their ayes in nays against a president, at times an infuriating way, but oflecting in a wonderful way
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the complicated character what in a -- thankving you. [applause] >> thank you again to our panelists. we knew have time for questions or discussion. you have questions, please come to the microphone to ask them. >> i've got a question for professor carrington. uhlmann has raised an important point on an area of you, which is the electoral college is not accomplishing its original design, which is directly to refine the popular vote. he says the winner take all system has largely accomplished by other means. to hear yours response to his point there. the second piece is, you used example amendment as an
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of success and tinkering with these structures. good argument, i think. the collateral damages that have are prettyom that significant. and i think it plays into thatssor uhlmann's point this is a solar system. and you tinker with one tiny the collateral harms or effects may be profound. but something similar to that. that thee concern electoral college still provides that, i don't think you've i'd like you to, which is if we have a national popular vote with a close like in florida, one of the things the electoral college now does that i don't think the founders envisioned is to confine the chaos to a small which allows us, as the largest superpower in the world, have a transition of power beingt this chaos
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perpetuated over months and months and perhaps longer. if that had happened on a national popular vote, every single precinct in the country would be in the middle of theunts and the chaos and inability to effect a transition would be huge. potentially.hic does the electoral college, in serving to limit or avoid that risk, perform a useful function as well? >> yeah. thank you. should probably say, you like markght be more caesar on theius electoral college. i devynly respect the -- deeply work of dr. uhlmann. i was asked to do this as someone to make the argument i think needsich to be made, regardless of what my opinion is. and, you know, it was kind of because it was almost easier to make the anti-electoral college argument. think it's -- even the answer to your 17th amendment
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to something dr. uhlmann was saying and that which is itng up, really comes from a very fundamental premise about government. that fundamental premise is actually noted here. thereason it's hard to make case is we don't like politics today as sole formation. as will reflection. we don't like the idea that the way we might structure our institutions might actually make do things better than otherwise. we just want it to reflect us. premise is that really hard to undue. verya lot of the, i think, well-put and legitimate complaints, the response to that would be, well, that's not what government is supposed to do. it's supposed to reflect popular will. thei think that one of reasons we have -- that there is such a problem defending the thetoral college is inability of people to accept that premise. my argumentswhat
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come out of is the inability to accept that premise. did make a very about theical point close -- if there is a close vote. in florida, it happened everywhere. in some cases, the question is, close would it have to be? because al gore won by 500,000 votes. someone who would try to contest or -- you know, people don't always think of proportions. if you said someone won a vote by 500,000, even if it millions, a lot of would there be the legitimacy to pursue that? but you do have to have the contingency. what if out of 120 million votes, it was 500? i think that is a legitimate concern. theink the response from popular vote angle would be well, if it really is true that you need -- that a
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popular vote is the most just, then we have to deal with that contingency in the interest of justice. but that's a very good practical point, yes. >> if i could add a comment to that. first, i had no idea until he how wise professor carrington was in the selection reading materials for his students. but the florida example is a in many respects, about the sealing off of electoral difficulties. and the difference in that election, you have to go to the decimal place to distinguish between the national vote for bush and the national gore.or it's one of those statistical just what it means is that either side could govern. was.tter who it they could govern in some legitimate sense. they could claim the sense of them.ople behind in fact, that's what happened.
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what then why -- supreme court ended up doing there was accepted after 27 days, was the closeness of the election and the general sense that, well, it was a complicated anomaly and this asabout as fair a result we're gonna get. and the issue was going to be decided at the end of the day by a court of some kind. the issue would, would it be the highly politicized florida court, which proved itself incompetent to the task supremere it, or the court of the united states? in those 27 days, the supreme court in effect stood back, lowered the temperature level, showed the anomalies within the florida system and is the unlikelihood that anything better would come out of florida ballots were counted very slowly by some local and basically corrupt regimes. the public -- and the public accepted that result. my finalderscores point i made. say what you want. bush had to be careful about how
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governed, precisely because there was a kind of a cloud over his election. was theo prove that he legitimate ruler of the nation. that happens so often, we don't think about it. but 2000 showed it in a very way. kind of i would argue today that trump's loss of the popular vote is one things that constrains other way than it encourages his opponents, in a dramatic way that places limits can do.he thinks he imagine donald trump with the three million plurality and the popular vote. that's what you'll get under direct election. >> i -- especially after the comment you made just a moment ago, i admire your pluck, professor carrington, in before whats case is practically the only audience you could find in the united that is guaranteed to disagree with you. ha ha!
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at i would like to pile on little more and raise a few objections. i think there are points that caught --made that didn't make that ought to be made. you and professional uhlmann and eastman all agree that the electoral college does not close in the way that the constitution contemplates. you're all quite mistaken. work the way the constitution contemplates. if the last correct word in the constitution were the 1788 constitution. but it is not. the last word in the constitution is the 12th 1804,ent, adopted in after there had been four presidential elections, two of contested in ay manner that is pretty much the
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the electoral college works today. they were party elections. party contest in each state with the same nominee for party in each state. the -- the one who won the most electoral votes one. the reason for the 12th amendment was that once the system had switched to that, which is what we still have, glitch.s a coup led to the attempted by burr after the 1800 election. statement by jefferson -- i think it's in a letter. i don't remember now. says -- and he obviously doesn't like it, but looks like for the foreseeable future, this is what we're going to have, and we have the constitution to deal with it. so i would say that the constitution, including the 12th amendment, contemplates the electoral college just about the
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is working. second, on this national popular when you paraphrase article two on the flexibility or the -- you know, the power of paraphrased it in a way that almost everybody ever does and it's inaccurate. it's inaccurate in a way that's very relevant to this question. the actual language. each state shall appoint in such as the legislature i'llof may direct, and paraphrase, the allocated number of electors. think of that. appoints the manner in which the state appoints is legislature. the i submit that if the legislature said, the pope can decide how our state's electoral vote is going to go, that would not
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or who are going to be the electors really -- that would not be a manner in which the the appointment, if they said the queen of england shall do it, that's not the it.e appointing if they say the united nations shall do it, that's not the state appointing it. say that a majority of voters in the united states, that's not the state appointing it. if they say majority of the voters in our state, that's the state doing it. the statey legislature, that's the state doing it. if they say the majority in each district, that's the state doing it. if they say the governor, that's probably the state doing it. the national electorate is not. i believe the national popular plan is simply unconstitutional. one practicald point in addition to the one john eastman raised. and this occurred to me after some incidents in the early 2000's, the most famous of which was a senator from new jersey
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the democratic primary for re-election got involved in a campaign finance scandal that led him or the hety eventually to think couldn't win the election. withdrew. and he was replaced -- i'm blanking on the former senator, popular.uite pardon? >> harrison. >> no. >> harrison williams, wasn't it? >> lottburg. yes. now, there was another wrinkle, which was it was too late, therly too late under new jersey statutes. and -- fortunately, and i really do believe it is better that each party has a candidate. from that perspective at least, the new jersey supreme court on to weigh the interest of the democratic party statutes ofthe new jersey. but the point is this. you can have a situation after the nomination or after the
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election in which something horrible emerges with respect to the nominee or the winner of the election. it could be a health thing, stroke. could be some kind of horrible scandal. out this guy committed a murder. but --s not too likely >> sorry to interrupt. can you ask the question, please? >> my question is, will any of comment?ists i would just like to point out that the electoral college is with thatited to deal situation, because the people are there selected for their candidate.that if they decide, no, this person nott be the person, it will be a coup. we cannot -- it's a political political problem that i think could not possibly be improved on. >> well, there's a lot to respond to with that. so what i'll do is i'll cherry
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pick. kidding. one question, if we're to say it exactly now as it was of -- intended because of the 12th amendment and if we take into account political parties form almost immediately, although they were supposed to be the parties to to all parties, supposed settle a regime level debate. envisionedburen that actually permanent party distinction. if it that's the case, happened so quickly and it was such an accurate thing, how federaly are we to take 68 then? was either hamilton utterly how it was going to work? disingenuous? he was one of the guys at the convention that won a popular vote, president for life. one question i would ask related to that. as far as state appointments, i mean, something i'd love to
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a little bit more, because in some ways, maybe i'm missing it, that in some ways the legislature is acting for the state. to -- that'ske something maybe i should just talk more, because aren't they acting for the state in how it would be done? and i don't think my examples would ever happen, right? i made them as ridiculous as possible. but the way i understood it, those are massive political constraints, not legal constraints necessarily. i could be missing it. i'd love to talk about that more. and as far as new jersey goes, to quote the hamilton musical, everything is legal in jersey. [laughter] >> so the fact that he was corrupt enough that that happened is really saying something. but, yes, you would need to have contingency plans in case that happened, for that kind of situation. something? to say >> i have nothing in particular
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on that. but i'd just like to make a couple of very quick responses couple of points that adam made in his excellent presentation. his basketball analogy, whereby have a very skewed rule that one player, and eventuating in a commanding lead thehe scoreboard for winner, who by any fair standard was not the real winner of that game, trump did boast -- i don't know if he still does -- but he did, that he had a commanding electoral vote majority. know, by historical standards, that's not really the case. larger thanertainly it might have been, certainly than george w. bush was in 2000.
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thate are aware by now electoralrt lead in votes was the result of very, very narrow wins in three states, or if you count florida, really in four states. i don't think that really does much for the debate. other point, about candidates in reality, not paying -- presidential candidate not paying attention to rural seem to be true. but that's not the most important thing. eliminate the argument, and, again, i think forpowerful argument geographical distribution. it's not, strictly speaking, which are just not much of a population anymore. it's really regions of the country. that's what i mean at least by saying that the electoral part fors valuable in
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its very strong tendency to more thanmething or,onally based majorities again, bicoastal majorities, extremely bicoastal majorities. i think that is much less ofirable than winning a set states around the country. and that will vary from election to election. significanting a geographical slice of the country does have some value in anelf, because that is independent reality. and it is not just a matter of voters strictly speaking, and it's not just a matter of whether they campaign among voters. what's most important is whether rural voters and over flyover a much if you will, larger category, have -- are guaranteed a significant role, which they may not be in the
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we ever get to a direct popular vote. thank you. of quick comments. i didn't say anything particularly about the constitutionality of the national popular vote plan. insympathies are sort of your direction on it. the larger point is that it's, it's anher vices, invitation to litigation that will go on until the end of time. i might even suit up again and get involved in it. the issue you refer to about the actual nature of the power of legislatures under the is nothing compared to the chief mechanical device last popular vote plan castwould force states to all of their electoral votes for the popular winner. the state of04 new york or the state of california having to cast their favor of votes in
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george bush, who in that year won the popular vote. think that's gonna produce litigation? i'm really to suit up. you and i can form a law firm and we're going to be in business for the rest of our days. >> thank you. good morning. i'm at the university of trinidad and tobago. a littleto go to just bit on this issue of district collegeon of electoral votes and knowing the main situation, what the 2016 and have looked like if that had been applied across discounting the district of columbia, which would still perhaps be counted one. and the other issue was, after the november 8 election, there emerged in not so subtle media campaign, almost another
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campaign, for electors in the electoral college to vote a what had way, to been -- to what had happened. gained aseemed to have lot of attention. and there were in fact electors it was quite possible diverse astes as colin powell, bernie sanders, kasich, from different states, washington, hawaii, of,s -- just in the sense looking to the future, the and it of electors hadn't worked in the past. it's regarded as an anomaly. that. understand all but the possibility, theoretically does exist that something could happen that deviate from all that has gone before. and i just wanted to perhaps hear from you with regard to that. thank you very much. can first -- i haven't done the math, but i am all but sure larger would have been a
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electoral college margin if everyone did the district level voting that maine and nebraska do. thinkemember correctly, i romney actually would have won if that wouldion have happened. don't quote me on that, but i'm pretty sure i saw that, because so many 80/20 districts. republican vote is spread out more. had nopartly why if you gerrymandering, republicans could still hold a majority in the house, because of that. second thing, faithful ors, i would love that supreme court case, if someone at prosecuted for being faithful selector. i would love that, because it great constitutional test of, what do we really think of the electoral college is constitutionally?
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could you tell a faithful selector that he was being faithless, given federal 68 or not? much is it really on top of or 51?lar votes i think that would be fascinating. i would just say, very quickly in response, my basketball analogy -- ha -- goes back to before.aid it's, what do you think the rules are? if you believe as i believe the founders did, that we're actually not supposed to play fair. votes. not equal fair is to allow for ultimately stack andnsent but to channel the way that popular consent is manifested in such a that it's toward justice. that really the end of the most important thing. basically theell, consent is a subset of justice. it's not a definer of justice. but i don't know that we've made or convinced enough of the
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of that people argument. >> quick comment on the district plan. a gratuitous assumption on the part of its proponents has been that it would tilt the presidential table more in a direction.e that was certainly the argument of the 40's and 50's. in recent years, the argument revived a bit by that great conservative mischief maker for exactly the same reasons. i'm not sure. generally that's true but something you have to bear in mind is whether the voter, in for hishis ballot congressman, would have the same mind in casting the ballot for the president. if you assume an identity there, certainly get this conservative result of the presidency. i'm not sure, in the long run, be the case. i think people think differently when they elect presidents and when they elect congress persons. but, again, it produces that anomaly that there's no way of
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guaranteeing that the popular vote winner would be the electoral college winner because the anomaly of the mathematical disproportion in the distribution of electoral votes. >> i think we have time for one final question. name is eli massa. i am an associate professor at of the redwoods. the point i wanted to make, and it could be in the form of a question, but we have been encouraging democracies around the world, and as a result of encouraging democracies around up world, we've had them end having voting, but if we tried to tell them, you know, you some kind of a system like an electoral college, or if we just told set up ay, you democracy, but then if they end up setting something up like an would we notlege, say, hey, wait a second, you're not really having a real democracy? might not look like our electoral college. it might look like something toe and it might just try
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keep, like, maybe a monarch or a dictator in power, because of up, evenhey set it though technically they're having a vote of the people. formula endsheir up with a different result. getting at is, aren't we basically looking to other countries and telling up a democracy, but then if they tried to do something like our electoral we not say,ld that's not a true democracy? you're not really reflecting the formula isause your not a good formula? ahead. >> and i'd say yes, we probably it's because i don't know if we lack the knowledge of our own convictions or we lack the courage of them. often put -- when we have pushed democracies, and the ownom of that is its question, but when we have, we have pushed them in ways that
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ourally don't look like system. and i think it's having a darker nature and a higher view of the ends of shouldent and how we direct popular will toward that is something that we've lost the trying to construct and have lost the knowledge of how it was constructed for us. >> it's a nice question to end because it underscores my point about the difference and merelylitative quantitative majorityism. a you want to set up democratic regime in any serious sense of that term, you have to likelihoodst the that the majority in your toocratic system isn't going devour the minority. and we have enough of long sad democratic regimes that are nominally democratic but in fact don't produce the that protect everyone but only the results that protect the majority interests.
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that problem has always been the anomaly and the difficulty of from the timeimes of the ancients until the late 1800's. and we can thank the authors of the american constitution for distinction and showing the difference between mere democracy and reasonable democracies. and it's toward the end of the stable, reasonable democracies that protect everyone's rights and not just majority, thathe the american constitution is chiefly dedicated. we ought to be instructing, as best we can, other regimes in the world. your majorities reasonable. that requires some mechanical devices. it doesn't drop as a gentle rain heaven. >> i think that concludes our time. thank you, again, to the panelists and to the claremont institute. [applause]
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>> more now from that news conference in san francisco with assistantton, deputy to the president for strategic communications on the national security council. he joins a discussion on the of conservatism and the influence of president trump. this is just over an hour and a half. all for thank you coming to this claremont institute panel or roundtable, i say, on the future of conservatism. my name is ryan williams. i'm president of the claremont institute. before we get started, i'd like to offer a few remarks by way of introduction. it's our mission at the claremont institute to restore the principles of the american founding to their rightful and preeminent authority in our national life. fitting tohought it start coming to the american political science over 30 years ago to provide a safe space, so


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