Sunday, December 18, 2016

Electoral College: Now or Never

On November 8th after a year and a half of stressing out about the possibility of Trump becoming president, I had finally come to the realization that acceptance was the only option. I decided that one way or another, the country needs to move forward and I hoped that Trump would be a more decent and responsible president than he was as a candidate and a private citizen. I appealed to my friends to remain calm, and promised that I would respect the outcome of the election. Even as waves of nausea washed over me and a night of sleep was lost, I promised myself that I would not be one of those "sore losers" still hanging on every last thread of hope of stopping Trump.

Even I was surprised at the number of people protesting in the streets during the following week. It was important to me that Americans make this statement to the rest of the world to show them that Trump does not represent all of America. Unfortunately, not all of the protesters were peaceful and they fed into the pro-Trump "law and order candidate" narrative. I still support the vast majority of protesters that violated no laws, but I viewed it all as nothing more than a last symbolic outcry before the transition would begin.

Over the following weeks we learned that once again, the popular vote went to the losing candidate, for the second time in my life time. I lived through the 2000 election and I remember well the controversies over the recounts in Florida. That election was won by just 1 electoral vote, so it made perfect sense to be abundantly sure that the votes were tallied properly. I supported Gore's recount efforts and I did have my doubts about the system as a whole, but I accepted that unless the recount changed the outcome in Florida, Bush must become president.

Back then, there was only a little talk of the possibility of "faithless" or "Hamilton" electors. When I first heard about the online petition to convince electors to vote against Trump, I said that it was not a good idea. I knew that Americans would never accept some faceless bureaucrats breaking the rules to stop Trump and they would assume it was another act of favoratism for Hillary. If the electors overruled the will of the people in their states, the people would be justifiably outraged. I still believe that is true, and there is grave risk in this move.

But here we are more than a month after the election, and I have little hope that Trump will be a decent president. He has chosen a cast of billionaires with no political experience for his cabinet, most of which have open disdain for the administrations they will run.  He has invented a new position of "chief strategist" so he could hire his chief propagandist. He has asserted that he has no obligation to divest or fully isolate himself from his companies and even asserted that as president, there is no such thing as a conflict of interest. He promised to outline his plans for dealing with his business interests by December 15th but then abruptly cancelled his planned speech with no announcement to reschedule. He has ignored security briefings, but watches SNL every week so he can denigrate the cast on Twitter. He demanded an apology from the cast of Hamilton simply because they pleaded with his VP to treat them fairly. He has called for revoking citizenship of people who burn the American flag. He still claims that the election was rigged against him, yet at the same time claims he won by a landslide, even though the margin of victory in the swing states he won is extremely slim. He claims credit for saving jobs in a U.S. company, but exaggerates the numbers, and gave away millions in tax breaks to do it.

And then there are the Russian hacks. When confronted with evidence that Russia hacked his opponent and leaked their secrets to influence the election, he dismisses it and claims that it is all a political attack on him. That alone is terrifying. If Trump really believes that there is a conspiracy within our intelligence organizations to stop him from becoming president, then he is talking about an act of treason. That he would cast doubt without a shred of proof on our own government for his personal defense shows me where his true allegiance lies.

I could go on and on for pages with all the reasons why I believe Trump is unfit to be president, that's not the point I wish to make. The simple question is this: if all of this isn't enough to justify an electoral revolt against Trump, then what exactly would it take? Does he have to declare Putin supreme overlord of the universe and bow down to him? Does he have to end the era of citizen-led democracy by enacting a wealth standard to hold public office? Does he have to declare the bill of rights null and void (except the second amendment of course)? Does he have to call for a purge of all Muslims and other religions that are not Judeo-Christian? Does he have to declare his intentions to start World War 3 by escalating tensions with all of our enemies to the breaking point, while renouncing our comittements to our allies?

If a candidate did any of those things openly, then I am confident that the American people would not have elected them, either by the electoral system or in a pure popular vote. So then what do we need these electors for? The job of the elector is to be the last line of defense to prevent the people from making a bad choice, to prevent them from succumbing to the manipulative ploys of a demagogue that does not have the necessary character and integrity to lead our nation. If that does not describe Donald Trump, then I shudder to think of what kind of person Hamilton was imagining.

So I call for electors to do what Ted Cruz said to do in the Republican convention: vote their conscience. If they truly believe that Donald Trump is fit to be president and there is no risk whatsoever to our democracy, then go right ahead. But
if they are voting for Trump because they really want the Republican party to completely and totally control America, then I beg them to reconsider. First of all, it should go without saying that ignoring the many risks of making him president for the sake of the party is reprehensible. Trump and his team have on many occasions overtly threatened other Republicans to support Trump "or else" which is why Ted Cruz himself ultimately caved in. The GOP has been torn apart by his candidacy, forcing people that once had integrity to tie themselves in knots desperately rationalizing supporting this man. Now that he has won them the ultimate prize, they are either ecstatic that they picked the winning team to be on, or petrified of being ostracized by a man who will not hesitate to destroy them for showing disloyalty.

Notice, I have not suggested that any of them should switch parties and vote for Hillary Clinton. I do not expect anyone who was so firmly committed to defeating her to ever switch over. To be perfectly honest, I don't even want her to be the president! Although I firmly believe she would was more capable and qualified than Trump, I always had serious concerns about her and was never fully committed to her. The Democratic Party picked the wrong candidate, and she lost. She was rejected in key states that typically support Democrats, where another candidate (ahem Bernie) could have won easily. A lot the reason was the unprecedented and unfair attacks agianst her, but a lot of it was simply her fault. But that's a subject for a whole other blog...

So if the electors don't vote for Trump or Clinton, then who should they vote for? Maybe Gary Johnson since he was on the ballot in every state, or if they insist on voting Republican, then Mike Pence or even Ted Cruz if those are acceptable to them. I don't really care who frankly, because none of them could possibly get enough votes. The point is to deny Trump the 270 votes he needs to win it outright and force the decision to the House of Representatives.

Congress is required to pick someone from among the top 3 candidates, and since all states were won by either Trump or Clinton, they cannot directly pick someone better for president. However, if they simply do nothing, the vice-presidential nominee automatically becomes president. This is a possibility that might be appealing to house Republicans, and it is one that Democrats can live with. It is certainly not an ideal solution - having a man for president who is even more ideologically rigid is definitely not my first choice, but he's still better than Trump.

But I have no illusions about the outcome. I am fairly certain that the Republicans in Congress will simply ratify Trump. But this is what I'm really after. I've said from the beginning that it was up to Republicans to stop Trump, and this will give them one last chance to turn back. This will force Paul Ryan and the Republicans in Congress to actually make a decision - take a stand or get on the Trump train once and for all. They will no longer be able to say that they endorse him but don't support him or whatever nonsense they have been serving up to avoid being tarnished by association. They can no longer hide behind the fiction that a majority of their party chose him and they have to serve the will of the people, because the majority didn't vote for him. They alone will hold the fate of Trump in their hands. They will then own complete responsibility for whatever happens during the Trump administration and the fate of the GOP will be completely tied to his. This is the choice that will define the party for a generation. Say goodbye to the party of Lincoln, it will then officially be the party of Trump.

After all the dust setttles, whether or not Trump is inaugurated, the American people hopefully will finally start to question whether this 200 year old electoral college system actually still makes sense. Maybe we can have a debate about why we have a system that deliberately skews power to less populated states and encourages candidates to spend all their energy on a few battleground states rather than appealing to all Americans. Maybe we can find a better way of choosing a president that doesn't so heavily favor the 2 major parties, and maybe we can somehow force the 2 parties not to nominate such unpopular candidates next time. To the many people who voted for Trump just to shake things up, well you got your wish. Let's shake up the electoral college system and see what happens. 

1 comment:

  1. Agreed,however the other option of a general vote, or review of all 2016 candidates would be more preferable, and fairer to our political process. I voted for Senator Sanders in the primary, I wrote him in in the general election. Wish everyone had.