This we do know: Presidential majorities are built by the electoral college as it has evolved, adapting to the two-party system. The electoral college gives the parties a distribution incentive for achieving geographical and ideological breadth while assembling a coalition of states . The electoral-vote system, combined with the winner-take-all allocation of the votes in 48 of the 50 states (all but Maine and Nebraska), serves, as scholar Herbert Storing said, “to drive all interests into one of two great parties.” This discourages a destabilizing proliferation of small ideological parties and encourages the two parties “to cast their nets very widely.”

Today’s president might not have noticed that America has 51 direct popular-vote presidential elections, in the states and the District of Columbia. This buttresses the federal system by having, as political scientist Martin Diamond wrote, presidential elections that are “federally democratic” rather than “nationally democratic” in registering the popular will, which is nonetheless registered. This “sends a federalizing impulse throughout our whole political process,” one that is increasingly useful as national politics continues to reduce states to the passive role of administering the national government’s preferences. The 17th Amendment (direct election of senators, rather than by state legislatures) was bad enough. Who thinks there is too little centralization in American governance under today’s administrative state?