Today is December 19th, the day where the Electoral College gets to decide formally whether or not Donald J. Trump will become the 45th President of the United States. There are, of course, many reasons why he shouldn’t.
- He lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by almost 3 million votes.
- He was the beneficiary of Russian hacking into the Democratic Committee’s email and the slow drop of emails released by WikiLeaks, all intended to discredit Hillary Clinton.
- He was the beneficiary of the FBI’s ineptitude/deliberate sabotage (take your pick) relative to their announcement just before the election that they were reopening the probe into Hillary’s emails.
- Since the election the Donald has repeatedly demonstrated that he is unfit to be President in exactly the ways that his critics predicted that he would.
The Russian hacking and the FBI’s behavior could easily be the deciding factors that swung the election to Trump. It hasn’t been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but if this were an ordinary criminal enterprise, one could certainly get an indictment.
A number of members of the Electoral College have asked for a briefing from the National Security Advisory relative to the Russian hacking before they deliver their vote. It appears that they’re not going to get it. But they should. Regardless, today is the day that they have to vote.
This is What the Electoral College was Intended to Guard Against
The kind of scenario we’re facing now is exactly why the Electoral College was created. But before we get there, let’s review what the Electoral College is: it’s the mechanism by which we actually elect the President and Vice President of the United States. Governed by Article Two of the United States Constitution and the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution, each elector must case one vote for President and another vote for Vice President. There are currently a total of 538 electors, corresponding to the 435 Representatives, the 100 Senators, plus three electors for the District of Columbia (as provided for in the Twenty-third Amendment). All states except Maine and Nebraska choose electors on a “winner-take-all“ basis. If no person receives an absolute majority of electoral votes for president, the Twelfth Amendment provides that the House of Representatives will select the president, with each of the fifty state delegations casting one vote.
So why do we have an electoral college? That question is open to a certain amount of political debate. Probably a good general explanation comes from Marc Shulman writing for History Central:
The Electoral College was created for two reasons. The first purpose was to create a buffer between population and the selection of a President. The second as part of the structure of the government that gave extra power to the smaller states. The first reason that the founders created the Electoral College is hard to understand today. The founding fathers were afraid of direct election to the Presidency. They feared a tyrant could manipulate public opinion and come to power. Hamilton and the other founders believed that the electors would be able to insure that only a qualified person becomes President. They believed that with the Electoral College no one would be able to manipulate the citizenry. It would act as check on an electorate that might be duped. Hamilton and the other founders did not trust the population to make the right choice. The founders also believed that the Electoral College had the advantage of being a group that met only once and thus could not be manipulated over time by foreign governments or others. The electoral college is also part of compromises made at the convention to satisfy the small states. Under the system of the Electoral College each state had the same number of electoral votes as they have representative in Congress, thus no state could have less than three.
It seems apparent that the Donald is exactly the kind of candidate that the Electoral College was designed to protect against. He is a slick conman who has, in fact, manipulated and “duped” a majority of the American citizenry. The Donald is in many obvious ways not qualified to be President. He is the man the Electoral College was designed to protect against.
Why We Should Let the Donald become President Regardless
And yet, despite all of the above, we probably should let the Donald become President. The commentator Megan McCardle wrote a piece on Bloomberg News recently with which I, reluctantly, have to mostly agree. As McCardle wrote in her piece:
I’m no fan of Trump, so it’s not self-interest when I say he should receive the Electoral College’s support and become president. And I’m troubled by the allegations that Russia is working to destabilize or sway U.S. elections, so it’s not that I see these latest allegations as no big deal. They’re a big deal. But they don’t undermine the outcome of the election. If it became known, for example, that Russia had tampered with the voting machines, so as to make them record phantom votes for Trump, I would support throwing out the results and calling another election. If the intelligence community had hard evidence that the Trump campaign had conspired with Russia to hack the Democratic National Committee, then I would be the first to call for indictments of those involved – or for impeachment and removal of the president-elect, if he knew. But that’s not what is being alleged, as far as I can tell. What is alleged is that Russia hacked the DNC and released information intended to make Clinton look bad. That’s a criminal act, and we should prosecute anyone we can get onto U.S. soil. On the other hand, it’s poor grounds for invalidating an election. “The American voter had too much information about the Democrats” is not a ringing slogan with which to argue that their party should really have won.
If the intelligence community has serious evidence that election machines were tampered with, or that the Trump campaign actively conspired with Russia to commit a felony, then that information should certainly be given to the Electoral College. But it should also be given to the rest of the American public, so that we can debate whether these circumstances rise to the extraordinary level required to invalidate an election, either through the Electoral College or through impeachment. However, if all they have is information that was widely available to the American public before the election – that someone, probably Russia, hacked the DNC and released stolen e-mails – combined with the speculation that Russia really, really wanted Trump to be president, then the electors should stick with Trump. And Democrats should say “He is my president,” even if they have to say it through gritted teeth. American voters had their chance to disagree with Russia, and didn’t take it. Maybe the deciding votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania were swayed by those DNC e-mails. Maybe not. Regardless, their vote is sacred. And if we don’t keep it that way, then the gates of political hell yawn wide indeed.
There’s good reason that we’ve never let faithless electors nullify an election. The democratic nation-state is not a natural institution. It takes a lot of work, and a fair amount of magical thinking, to get 300 million people to the point where (most of the time) they will abide by sweeping decisions made by far-away people they’ve never personally met.
I actually have to agree with most of that, except for the part where Democrats should say that “he is my President.” Sorry, I can’t say that and I never will. He is my Conman-in- Chief. That’s about the best I can do.
But here is my essential point: if, at this juncture, the Donald isn’t actually allowed to become President, I think we would literally have the potential for a 2nd civil war. Can you imagine how all of the rabid gun-toting supporters of the Donald would react if he weren’t allowed to become President? Then the force of the argument relative to a “rigged” election would actually become valid.
What all of this clearly exposes is that the Electoral College is no longer up to the task for which it was created. In this political dynamic it cannot, in fact, be the bulwark against a clearly unqualified conman that it was designed to protect against. And so, we’re going to get the Donald as President. President Kumquat, as he will forever be known in this blog.
And, painful as it is, we’re going to have to let the Donald demonstrate his incompetence bit by bit, a demonstration that has already begun to manifest. He is going to do so much damage to the working class, the middle class, and especially to his own voters (only the upper classes are likely to be spared). And we’re going to have to watch it as it happens. The slow-motion train wreck none of us can avoid. But this is the guy that a majority of American voters wanted to have. That’s how democracy works. Now we have to have him.
The Humility Donald Trump Should be Showing
I do have to add one addendum to all of this, and that is to note that any sane person in the shoes of the Donald would be behaving with extreme humility given the circumstances of this election.
Of course, the Donald is not a sane person.
– Any sane person in the Donald’s shoes would recognize that a majority of the American electorate voted against him.
– Any sane person would recognize that if the CIA (and virtually every other US intelligence agency) concluded that the Russians hacked into the DNC and other political operatives, this should be taken seriously and investigated immediately.
– Any sane person would recognize that if they benefitted (whether intentionally or not) from the hacking of a foreign power, that foreign power should be condemned, and everything possible should be done to guard against that kind of thing ever happening again.
– Any sane person would recognize that the FBI’s behavior right before the election was extremely problematic if not outright treasonous, and that this behavior should also be investigated.
But as already been established on a number of occasions, the Donald is not a sane person.
He will become the President, but not my President. And this time, over the next four years, his supporters will not get a pass from me. I will hold every Trump voter accountable for all the crazy shit that is about to go down. It was not a mystery who they were voting for. Who Trump is, and what he is about, was there for anyone to see. Anyone who bothered to look. So good luck, Trump supporters, you will now reap what you have sowed. And good luck, America. It’s going to be a crazy ride for the next four years. And we have no one but ourselves to blame.
 Candidates for elector are nominated by state chapters of nationally oriented political parties in the months prior to Election Day. In some states, the electors are nominated by voters in primaries, the same way other presidential candidates are nominated.
 Maine and Nebraska use the “congressional district method”, selecting one elector within each congressional district by popular vote and awarding two electors by a statewide popular vote
 If no person receives a majority of electoral votes for Vice President, then the Senate will select the Vice President, with each of the 100 senators having one vote. (Before the emergency of the party system, the President and Vice-President could come from different parties.)
 The result of this system is that in this election the state of Wyoming cast about 210,000 votes, and thus each elector represented 70,000 votes, while in California approximately 9,700,000 votes were cast for 54 votes, thereby representing 179,000 votes per electorate.
 Technically, about 2.8 million less than a majority, but you all get my point.
 Again, technically, about 2.8 million less than a majority, but you all get my point.
 John Shattuck, in a recent opinion piece, alleges that Trump’s behavior actually raises the specter of treason.
 Listening to Obama’s final news conference last Friday, I can only say that I’m going to miss that guy so much, I can’t even say how much. We never knew what we had until it was gone.
great piece, once again