Presidential Leadership and the Electoral College

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Presidential Leadership and the Electoral College

Americans expect their presidents to get things done, to solve problems,
to govern effectively, and to be strong leaders. The framers of the
Constitution did not envision such presidential leadership. A scholar of
the presidency points out that Article II of the Constitution gives the
president scant formal power to influence congressional policy-making
(Simon, n.d.).  He also notes that the framers intentionally designed a
process for selecting presidents that would minimize their political
power – the Electoral College. They hoped this institution would
insulate the chief executive from the public because they feared the
power of presidents who might be elected by the people. Therefore, the
Constitution provides that “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as
the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the
whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be
entitled in the Congress…” Having state legislatures “appoint” the
Electors who select the chief executive would minimize the president’s
capacity to lead on the basis of his popular support. In a very real
sense, the president would not be accountable to the people but rather
to the state legislatures who appoint Electors. This procedure was also
seen as a way to encourage the selection of statesmen with “characters
preeminent for ability and virtue” rather than mere politicians with
“talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity” (Hamilton,

The practice of state legislatures appointing Electors continued for
many years. Most American history texts do not report national
presidential vote totals before 1824 because 25% of the states were
still not holding presidential elections by that year. Even as late as
1876 the state of Colorado’s legislature appointed Electors. As states
moved away from legislative appointment to the current system of
allowing a state’s Electors to be chosen by a winner-take-all popular
vote, the primary rationale for the Electoral College was forgotten in
history. At the same time, public expectations of strong presidential
leadership were rising.  

This creates a problem well illustrated by the disputed election of
2000. George W. Bush was elected president with 271 electoral votes to
Al Gore’s 266 electoral votes. However, Gore amassed 543,895 popular
votes more than Bush. Also, because some disputed votes in Florida made
unclear which candidate should receive the state’s electoral votes, the
Florida Supreme Court ordered a full recount of the Florida vote. But
the U.S. Supreme Court intervened and stopped the recount, thereby in
effect awarding Florida’s electoral votes to Bush. While arguments
continue to this day about the legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court’s
intervention, the 2000 election illustrates a glaring weakness of the
Electoral College system – selecting a president whose authority may be
diminished by the dubious circumstances of his or her election. The
election of 2000 also has fueled a long ongoing debate about whether the
Electoral College should be abandoned in favor of method which insures
that the candidate elected has the most popular votes. Would this
outcome be more consistent with contemporary public expectations about
the president’s role as a national leader who can get things done?

Before writing your initial post, review the assigned resources. To
easily access the resources from the Ashford University Library, please
see the table located in the Course Materials section.

In your initial post of at least 200-250 words, briefly summarize how
the Electoral College works.  Explain some of the main pros and cons in
the debate about whether to keep or abolish the current Electoral
College process. Also explain one proposal to change how the system
works without formally abolishing it. Evaluate the various arguments and
the proposal. Include at least two perspectives in your assessment:

  • Your judgment about the relevance of the Electoral College’s underlying rationale to contemporary America.
  • Your judgment about its impact on presidential leadership capacity. 

Fully respond to all parts of the question. Write in
your own words. Support your position with APA citations to two or more
of the assigned resources required for this discussion. Please be sure
that you demonstrate understanding of these resources, integrate them
into your argument, and cite them properly.

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