Good for Dan Foster of the National Review, an Electoral College supporter who presses the point even though it appears that there’s an electoral bias against his preferred candidate in this cycle. However, I strongly disagree with his case:
In short, the College reflects the formal and constitutional fact that the president is elected chief executive of a union of states — federated but sovereign — and not a glomeration of people. The executive of the Constitution, of the Founders, is president of the United States, not president of America…It affirms that we vote as citizens of the several states, not mere residents of arbitrarily drawn administrative districts.That’s a great defense for using an electoral college for the (non-existent) chief executive under the Articles of Confederation, but it doesn’t work at all under the Constitution of the United States, which is in the name of “We, the People,” and not the several states. We vote for federal offices as citizens of the United States, not as citizens of our particular states – which, after all, really do resemble “arbitrarily drawn administrative districts” quite a bit, especially outside of the original thirteen and, perhaps, Texas, at least if you squint hard enough. I mean, North and South Dakota? New Mexico and my native Arizona? Hardly. To the extent that was ever ambiguous, it was thoroughly decided by the Civil War and the subsequent amendments.
(And, no, that doesn’t kill off federalism, which has plenty of strong arguments apart from notions of sovereignty).
I’m mostly a marginal supporter of the Electoral College on other grounds, as regular readers may recall. For example, I like the Madisonian idea of overlapping but different constituencies for different offices. That case doesn't depend on any mystical reading of state's rights (why should I care that, as Foster points out, more states supported Bush than Gore? So what?). Instead, it goes back to the Framers' problem that they wanted to listen to Montesquieu, but discovered that in their Republic there were no separate estates to represent separately. There were only -- are only -- people. Nothing to be balanced!
On top of that, I still believe that the interests which benefit from the electoral college are, on balance, those that are hurt by other factors in the overall system. Currently, the states helped appear to be medium-size competitive states (Ohio most of all, but Wisconsin, Colorado, Virginia and Pennsylvania are all in Nate Silver's top ten tipping point states right now). It's not as good as when California and New York were swing states, but it's still a different set than are helped by the Senate.
And I tend to think that the chances of a “wrong” result are small enough that it doesn’t bother me – just as I’m not bothered by the chance that there will be a split between the overall vote and partisan control of the House of Representatives. If there was a persistent large EC bias, that would be a different story, but it's usually under 1% and floats between the parties. If a "wrong" result happens in an otherwise very close race, I just don't see a convincing democratic case against it. I am bothered by the Senate, but alas there's nothing that can be done about that one -- and at any rate it's the malapportionment that bothers me and everyone else who complains about the Senate, not the very real possibility that even if the states were all of identical size that a party could still win a Senate majority with the minority of the overall votes.
But again: it's good to see people making arguments they support even when it goes against the short-term interests of their party.