22 November 2016

Faithless electors

Now it's Democrats turn to condemn the Electoral College as undemocratic and thus illegitimate. Earlier this year Donald Trump's people worried that their man might win the popular vote yet be denied the White House by a "rigged" electoral vote. That only went to show that many Trumpists had no clue how the electoral vote usually works to the Republican candidate's advantage so long as the least populous states, each of which still gets a minimum of three electoral votes, remain "red." Since the electoral vote makes the presidential election effectively a vote of the states rather than a vote of the people en masse, Trump won a majority of states and won the election. That result reminded Democrats that they disliked the Electoral College a decade ago when it worked twice in George W. Bush's favor. Now that it has made Trump the next president and supposedly emboldened a cavalcade of hate, some Democrats are determined to subvert the Electoral College itself if not Trump's election. A number of Democratic electors, nominally committed to vote for Hillary Clinton on December 19, hope to entice a number of their Republican counterparts to join them in repudiating their respective candidates. They claim an entitlement to vote as a deliberative body, on their own discretion, instead of according to the instructions of their states' voters. But some also suggest that they want to spark a crisis in order to persuade Americans to abolish the Electoral College altogether, either literally by amending the Constitution or effectively by getting an electoral majority of states to sign on to the National Popular Vote pact. In other words, these faithless electors hope to start a discussion rather than a civil war, but if they even come close to denying Trump the presidency the latter is most likely what they'd get. It would be the most outrageously antidemocratic act in American history since the mass secession of southern states following Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860 -- and, as I probably can't emphasize enough, it would almost certainly get some Trump supporters shooting mad. It would also be illegal in many states, including two with electors who've already declared their faithless intentions. State governments still decide how presidential electors are chosen, and in 19 states they have standing instructions for electors to abide by each state's popular vote. The relevant states ought to act preemptively to replace the faithless electors who have declared themselves, even if those who have declared themselves won't take votes away from Trump.  I have no problem with people demonstrating to express their disapproval of Trump and his supporters, even if their fears have grown hysterical, but this electoral conspiracy is where we have to put our collective foot down. Our liberal democratic republic depends on the assumption that no President or Congress can destroy the country in two to eight years' time. If people think that can happen here and now with Trump and a Republican Congress in charge, than their real problem isn't only with the Republicans but with an electoral system that permits such apparent monsters to run for office and even win, even before the Electoral College plays its part. So where does the threat to liberal democracy in America actually come from now?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

According to the news, there have now been a number of substantiated death threats against electors. And I once thought only the extreme right capable of such behavior. Live and learn. These death threats should be traced and those making them forced to give up their citizenship and deported, since they are incapable of living in a democratic society.