Date of Award


Degree Type



Political Science


Democracy in America is often guided by the visible forces of the moment. Dangers are too often seen in the context of political interest--when fire is seen, the hoses of democratic action come wheeling out. But there is no excitement in smoke alone. The near constitutional crisis of the 1968 Presidential elections, (when the strong third party candidacy of George Wallace threatened to throw the election into the House of Representatives), caused a lot of smoke and a spark of flame. The alarm was sounded and the volunteer firemen from the halls of Congress and Capitol Hill responded. The standers-by, the self-made experts, the institutional geniuses, and the media-reporters-turned-commentators all clamored together in offerings of support and advice. Though the fire is cold embers now--the smoke still trails upward because the dry tinder remains tinder still.

The Founding Fathers were tempered by Locke's justification of revolution, by Cook's beliefs in constitutionalism, and Montesquieu's theory of separation of governmental powers when they wrote the Constitution. But in no particular did they take greater pride than in the device they invented for the election of a President. They views it as a means of peaceful, continual revolution and the essence and crowning glory of the system, done by peaceful assemblies, free discussion, and the ballot.

But the system, later to become known as the Electoral College, had flaws, and was, as Thomas Jefferson has said, "the most dangerous blot on our Constitution." Today it is called an oxcart method of selecting Space Age Presidents and suffers attacks from many quarters. But as the apparent fires abated, so too did the volunteer firemen. The vices and virtues of the system can now be studied, analyzed, and debated by cooler heads, and perhaps reason, not do-something-now-expediency will prevail. At a later date, when the complexities and variables have been studied and weighed and the reports are all in, maybe, just maybe, our volunteer firemen will rush into action as once before, this time armed with an effective, but safe tool to extract the tinder forever and replace it with non-flammables. But there is only smoke now--faintly visible and growing dimmer. It remains to be seen whether the firemen will rush into action before fire rises from the smoke once more.