The Past is Not A Perpetual Re-Run

In his 2004 book scrutinizing the electoral college, George Edwards noted that the Founders included those who had concerns about the ability of voters to discern the appropriateness of candidates in light of the size and poor communications platforms of the not-yet-formed United States, and some who understood that to get the deal done they had to create a system that protected the slave states from the risk of an antislavery president.

He pointed out that none of the factors that led to the unusual, unprecedented and flawed system for picking the president is relevant to the current American condition.

Originalists do not argue that we must pretend to be in 1789, or be confined to embrace the common denominator of the beliefs and values of the Founders. To keep our Republic, we are not perpetually replaying, as if in some fantasy land, the Philadelphia debates.

We have to examine texts for what they say and what was meant, but in terms of solving problems we look at the situation that exists today and might come into existence tomorrow.

Nothing in the Constitution bars states from reconsidering how to choose electors in light of what is happening in America today. And as the great Republican, Abraham Lincoln, memorably put it: “As our case is new so we must think and act anew.”