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Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College (2nd Edition) Paperback – September 3, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Tara Ross has done an outstanding job of combining historical analysis with clear-thinking logic." --Edwin Meese III, former U.S. Attorney General

"Tara Ross writes with cogency, analytical force, and practical insight." --Kenneth W. Starr, former Independent Counsel and Dean of Pepperdine Law School

"Reader friendly" - "Better still, Ross's defense is no curmudgeonly conservative plea for respecting tradition. It is a full throated roar." --Bradley A. Smith, FEC Commissioner

From the Publisher

Following the contested election of 2000, opponents of the Electoral College were swift to dismiss the institution as outdated and elitist, an anachronism that should be replaced by a direct popular vote. Many of the nation’s most prominent liberal politicians â€" from Senator Hillary Clinton to House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt â€" called for the institution to be abolished in order to "respect the will of the people."

The critics are wrong, and this book shows why. Written in straightforward language, Enlightened Democracy traces the history of the Electoral College from the Constitutional Convention to the present, and along the way it explains why the Framers took such pride in their now-controversial creation. After reading this book the case is clear: The Electoral College doesn’t ignore the will of the people, but it does protect our republic and promote our liberty. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 282 pages
  • Publisher: Colonial Press L.P.; 2nd Edition edition (September 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0977072223
  • ISBN-13: 978-0977072224
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #294,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rachael Branum on October 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Like many of my peers, I have never really understood why the Electoral College was used in the U.S. (as opposed to direct voting). The breadth of my knowledge in this area came from my schooling, and now I realize that this part of my education was left sadly unattended. Thankfully, books like this exist to fill in what the education system left out.

The Electoral College was a thoroughly researched system of checks and balances worked into the fabric of the U.S. voting system. In her study of the electoral system, Ms. Ross does an excellent job of explaining the thought processes that went behind this invention of our founding fathers. She also delves into the anomalies of such contentious elections as the 1888 and 2000 campaigns, giving thought provoking reasons as to why these elections demonstrate the success of the electoral college, rather than the demise of an anachronistic electoral machine.

"Enlighened Democracy" is a great choice for anyone who left the 2000 election worrying that our voting system is antiquated or problem - riddled. Ms. Ross deliberately explains the founding fathers' plan and shows how that plan has succeeded in its intentions time and again.
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Format: Hardcover
For years now history teachers and professors have been spreading the myth that the Electoral College was created as a buffer against democratic control, a way of taking the choice of our chief executive out of the hands of the common man and giving it to an enlightened few. Tara Ross's book debunks that myth and shows that the Electoral College was instead viewed by the Founders as a compromise between large and small states that would strengthen democratic rule while protecting minorities.

In addition to tracing the Electoral College's history and making the case that it is a valuable institution for modern America, Ross also does a good job of showing how the system has served over time. She makes the point that it forces candidates to run national (as opposed to regional) campaigns and that it has helped many a candidate with a small popular vote majority gain enough legitimacy to govern effectively (as it did for Bill Clinton in 1992).

All in all this is a fascinating book on an often misunderstood topic. From the introduction by George Will to the discussion of the Constitutional Convention, Enlightened Democracy is readable, enjoyable, and long overdue.
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Format: Paperback
We live in a large country; both geographically and in population. There is always the temptation to either extrapolate from where we live that we are the same as everyone else and also a temptation to think that everyone out there is like us. Neither is sound.

We are all Americans, it is true. But some live in cities, some have agrarian lives. There are big states and small states (again, large in size and population). Some are industrial; others are centers of banking and others of politics. Some rely on a strong presence by the military for economic survival. There are many other configurations. For too many, the few TV shows we watch become the common reality and we assume that if it makes sense to a talking head on the tube it must make sense in the real world. It does not! The perfect example is the famed movie critic Pauline Kael's reaction when McGovern was destroyed by Nixon in the 1972 Presidential election. She asked a friend, "How can this be? No one I know voted for Nixon." All of us live in a truncated subset of the real world.

The founders understood this and believed that the proper role for government was to have the work done as close to the people as possible and the various States then had much more power than they do today. Maybe there is a good reason for this change of power from the states to Washington D.C., maybe not. However, the Federal government is still a creature representing a vast array of lives. One of the strengths of our system is its ability to require compromise and to thwart rashness. Almost no one gets what he or she wants or believes is best.

One of the wonderful inventions of the founders was the use of the Electoral College in choosing our Chief Executive.
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Format: Paperback
In this heavily researched and well footnoted book author Ross begins by laying out the rationale for and history of the Electoral College. But she goes well beyond an historical narrative as she gives the arguments for and against changing or abolishing alltogether the College.

You come away from this book with a clear understanding of the importance of the Electoral College and the ways in which it protects our political systems.

A close reading of this book leaves the reader with insights into the Founders' goals and reasoning and immense appreciation of their genius in creating a form of government that has survived and met the needs of its citizens for over 200 years.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are many today who would like to get rid of the Electoral College, claiming that it is an absurd way to elect the president--they point to elections like 2000, when the popular vote loser became president, or 1968, when the election was almost thrown into the House of Representatives because a third-party candidate carried several states.

However, Tara Ross ably refutes the major challenges to the Electoral College in this volume, "Enlightened Democracy." Ross discusses the challenges the Founders faced at the Constitutional Convention and how the adoption of the Electoral College protected the principle of majority rule and minority rights; how it saw after the interests of both large states and small states; how it avoided pure democracy but still ensured that the people would decide the election; and how it was a federalist solution that ensured both the people and the states would play a role.

Ross explains the problems that would ensue with election by popular vote, and shows how the Electoral College ensures that by requiring a president to win support across most if not all regions of the country, an elected president must serve the country as a whole rather than just see after the interests of one or two regions or groups of voters. Our current system is built to try to prevent a dangerous extremist with a narrow base of support from ever being elected--as many have stated, if there had been something like an Electoral College in Weimar Germany, Hitler would very likely not have been able to come to power.

Many think that the Electoral College is an eighteenth-century anachronism, but the author shows that it is not out of date and still functions as intended in the early twenty-first century.
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