Let the people pick the president The case for abolishing the Electoral College

Jesse Wegman

Book - 2020

"A radical spirit of change has overtaken American politics, making once-unthinkable reforms-like abolishing the Electoral College-seem possible. Two of the last five elections were won by candidates who lost the popular vote, calling the integrity of the entire electoral system into question. Political passions are already high, and they will reach a boiling point as we enter the 2020 race. The message from the American people is clear: we need major reform, and we need it now. In Let the ...People Pick the President, New York Times editorial board member Jesse Wegman makes a powerful case for abolishing the antiquated and antidemocratic Electoral College, and choosing presidents based on a national popular vote. He uncovers the Electoral College's controversial origins, profiles the many attempts to reform it over the years, and explains why it is now essential for us to remove this obsolete system and finally make every citizen's vote matter. Wegman addresses objections from both sides of the aisle and presents an airtight argument that moving toward a national popular vote would reduce voter apathy and political polarization, increase voter turnout, and restore belief in our democratic system. Abolishing the Electoral College is the keystone reform that must be accomplished to improve our politics; Wegman shows that this once-lofty goal can be achieved, and charts a path to accomplishing it"--

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New York : St. Martin's Press 2020.
First edition
Physical Description
viii, 296 pages ; 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages [266]-286) and index.
Main Author
Jesse Wegman (author)
  • Introduction : A more perfect union
  • Did the Founders fear democracy?
  • The fraught origins of the Electoral College
  • Did the Electoral College ever really work?
  • The second founding
  • One person, one vote
  • Setting the record straight, part one : common Electoral College myths
  • The national popular vote interstate compact
  • Setting the record straight, part two : common popular vote myths
  • Imagining a national popular vote.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

New York Times editorial board member Wegman combines in-depth historical analysis and insight into contemporary politics to present a cogent argument that the Electoral College violates America's "core democratic principles" and should be done away with. According to Wegman, the system of voting for state electors who then cast their ballots for president was established by America's founders at a time when most citizens were ill-informed about politics and traveling to voting locations was onerous--circumstances that are no longer relevant. He notes that the Constitution's framers explicitly linked the Electoral College to slavery, and examines elections in which the Electoral College and popular vote winners haven't matched, including the 1876 contest between Samuel Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes, the 2000 race between George W. Bush and Al Gore, and President Trump's 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton. Wegman refutes several "myths" about the Electoral College's potential repeal, including that it can only be done through a constitutional amendment and that small and rural states would lose out if presidents were selected by direct vote. His extensive research and careful consideration of the issue from all angles reveal the current system's defects, though the path to reform in the face of fierce political opposition remains somewhat unclear. Nevertheless, this urgent and lucidly presented plea for change will resonate with progressives. (Mar.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

Wegman (member, New York Times editorial board) explores arguments for abolishing the Electoral College, therefore enabling the election of the U.S. president by popular vote. The author opens with the origins of the Electoral College at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, describing its shortcomings and role in subsequent contested elections as well as previous attempts to abolish it. Wegman particularly focuses on the role of slavery and voter disenfranchisement. The second half of the book focuses on the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, in which each state's electors vote for the candidate who receives a majority of the popular vote. The exploration closes with assessments from campaign experts as to the differences in the political landscape without the Electoral College. Written primarily for advocates of Electoral College abolition, this book aims to provide readers with arguments to persuade others, and addresses common misconceptions about the Electoral College and National Popular Vote Interstate Compact in a Q&A format. VERDICT A methodical, well-reasoned compilation of arguments on a pertinent subject; recommended for readers interested in historical and contemporary U.S. politics.--Rebekah Kati, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

A debut author makes the case for getting rid of the Electoral College in favor of a national popular vote.After the 2016 election, in which Donald Trump lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College, there were renewed calls to examine the country's electoral system, with numerous impassioned pleas about how the EC system no longer works and that we need to institute a simple popular vote. "The Electoral College," writes Wegman, a member of the New York Times editorial board and former legal news editor at Reuters, "has almost never operated as Alexander Hamilton pictured it would." Rather, our electors have always been "obedient partisan hacks, rubber stamps for the party's candidate." As with almost anything in the U.S., if it can be made political, it will be; our voting system is no different. Beginning with a detailed history of the Electoral College, the author examines the compromises and consequences that have always been present in our voting system. Wegman truly believes that the situation can change. Myths abound about the EC, and it's well within our interestsboth Democrat and Republican aliketo transition to a popular voting system. Throughout, the author's confidence in his argument shines through. Wegman can be forgiven for his overly optimistic approach, but if there's anything to be learned from the long history of American politics, it's that nothing is predictable. While the facts and logic of his argument are mostly sound, we know that the pillars of democracy are not as stable as anyone once thought. One measure in particularthe National Popular Vote Interstate Compactis gaining traction, but as the author himself observes, it's not a binding agreement. A simple shift in demographics or political leanings could quickly throw that compact out the door.An illuminating history and analysis but it remains unlikely that Wegman's desired audience will be swayed. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.