We are watching the playing-out of the Founders’ nightmares. James Madison, in Federalist No. 10, wrote that ‘pure democracy’ succumbs to ‘the mischief of faction’. The Electoral College is one of the strategies intended to buffer elections against the passions of the mob. As in the Roman failures that Madison feared, politicians have raised mobs against each other and the state.
The Democrats have delegitimized the Electoral College as a legacy of systemic racism; some of their elected representatives have promised to remove it. How ironic that the Democrats, to secure Biden’s victory, should now cling to the College and praise it for functioning as it is meant to function.
Republicans have denounced the Democrats for undermining the constitutional system — until the Electoral College denied them what they wanted. How appalling that Republican senators like Josh Hawley should refuse to endorse the College’s findings from conviction. How absurd that Ted Cruz should join him from cynicism.
It is, as Burke wrote of the French Revolution, a ‘monstrous tragi-comic scene’. Like the scenes of riot from last year, this scene show how a democracy ends.