In a syndicated column, Walter Williams quotes the Founding Fathers in an attempt to support the Electoral College. Sadly, his own ignorance distorts the context of those words. The Founding Fathers certainly feared majority rules, but most of that was rooted in aspects of factionalism and partisan politics. And even the Federalist No. 10 notes the minority can have “sinister views.”
But a greater argument was being made at the time. Professor Williams cites John Adams’ letter to John Taylor, in which the former states “There never was a Democracy yet, that did not commit suicide.” However, in that same letter John Adams writes that democracy was seemingly worse than aristocracies, and at various times believed that monarchs and aristocracies were better than the rule of the people.
Ultimately, the anti-democratic stance of our Founding Fathers focused on a pessimistic view of human nature and a belief that only certain individuals should be making decisions for the whole. The reason the majority was so feared was because it went against the interests of the landed elite of which James Madison was a part.
Even the Electoral College is rooted in this sense of elitism. In Federalist No. 68, Alexander Hamilton writes that the election of the president “should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station.” This appears to question the ability of the people to make such decisions, hence the anti-democratic approach to our indirect elections.
Furthermore, Professor Williams’ belief that the Electoral College forces candidates to pay attention to the “wishes of the other 38 states” ignores the fact that most of the energy of campaigns focuses on a handful of swing states.
Perhaps Professor Williams should be more mindful of his pseudo-intellectualism and stick with economics.