The Presidency 6

8.         Insulating the President from election politics was a big part of the framer’s strategy to create a presidency that served the common good. They ruled out letting Congress always choose the President, for fear that a president would be beholden to a particular congressional faction. They also ruled out letting the state legislatures elect the President. Some feared a president in debt to one regional interest, perhaps northern states, at the expense of another region, perhaps the southern states. Direct elections were resisted as well.  Smaller states feared direct elections would allow the more populous states to dominate them. Some framers such as James Madison feared the populism that direct elections might bring.  In contrast, others feared a president beholden to Congress – or, like Gouverneur Morris, feared the partisan impact direct elections would have on Congress.  Instead, the framers decided that a group of people representing each state – an Electoral College – would vote for their preferred presidential candidates. (See Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 of the Constitution.)  The framers did this for several reasons. They expected that the electors would act as filters, supporting only the worthiest candidates. They also expected that aspiring candidates would find it difficult to mount campaigns against their opponents when the electors were widely dispersed across the states and likely to represent a wide range of regional interests.
Image: John Quincy Adams.

The idea and implementation of the Electoral College was and is controversial. More will be discussed later in this series and in a separate, in-depth course devoted to this topic.

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