An Electoral College revolt is a very bad idea

It’s hard to imagine a quicker path to a civil war than if a legally elected person were denied the presidency.

For sure plenty of people are angry that Donald Trump won the presidency; how could they not be after such a vitriolic campaign?

Many of them are hoping the Electoral College steps in to deny the White House to Trump.

Electors don’t have to cast their vote for the person who won them on Election Day, and one of them — Christopher Suprun of Texas — has written an op-ed in the New York Times explaining why Trump won’t get his.

Mr. Trump lacks the foreign policy experience and demeanor needed to be commander in chief. During the campaign more than 50 Republican former national security officials and foreign policy experts co-signed a letter opposing him. In their words, “he would be a dangerous president.” During the campaign Mr. Trump even said Russia should hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. This encouragement of an illegal act has troubled many members of Congress and troubles me.

Hamilton also reminded us that a president cannot be a demagogue. Mr. Trump urged violence against protesters at his rallies during the campaign. He speaks of retribution against his critics. He has surrounded himself with advisers such as Stephen K. Bannon, who claims to be a Leninist and lauds villains and their thirst for power, including Darth Vader. “Rogue One,” the latest “Star Wars” installment, arrives later this month. I am not taking my children to see it to celebrate evil, but to show them that light can overcome it.

Suprun likely knows there’s no way the Electoral College will invalidate an election, so he has nothing to lose by withholding his vote and getting some attention.

But that’s the same line of thinking that might have helped elect Trump in the first place. Few thought he’d actualy be elected, so why bother voting? Or why not make a protest vote and write in Bernie Sanders? Or why vote at all?

Politico reports that “rogue electors” have briefed the Clinton camp on their own long-shot plan.

Backers of Hamilton Electors are also preparing a wave of lawsuits challenging 29 state laws that purport to bind electors to the results of the statewide popular vote. These laws have never been enforced or tested, and many constitutional scholars believe they conflict with the Founders’ vision of the Electoral College as a deliberative body. Courtroom victories, they hope, will embolden other electors to join their cause.

All 538 members of the Electoral College will meet on Dec. 19 in their respective state capitals to cast the formal vote for president. Trump won the popular vote in states that constitute 306 electors — easily above the 270-vote threshold he needs to become president if all Republican electors support him. That’s why anti-Trump electors are working to persuade at least 37 Republican electors to ditch Trump, the minimum they’d need to prevent his election, and join them in support of a compromise candidate, which could send the final decision to the House of Representatives. Clinton won the popular vote in states that include a total of 232 electors. As of Monday, she led in the popular vote nationwide by more than 2.6 million votes.

Who would get the presidency if the Electoral College denies Trump his election victory? Not Clinton. Politico says the effort is focused on handing the presidency to John Kasich, who may not want it in this scenario.

“There’s no question Trump won enough votes in the states to receive over 270 votes when the members of the Electoral College meet,” said Kasich’s top political adviser, John Weaver, told Politico. “I’m sure the [Electoral College] will affirm this when it gathers later this month.”

This is all a very bad idea, Ed Kilgore writes in New York Magazine.

To be fair, some of the proponents of the deny-Trump-the-presidency scheme have on occasion admitted their fallback plan is to draw attention to how weird and screwed-up the Electoral College system is, in hopes of stimulating a popular backlash leading to a constitutional amendment getting rid of the whole system or perhaps a state-level push to neutralize electors in the future via the National Popular Vote initiative (whereby states agree to instruct electors to cast their ballots for the national popular-vote winner no matter what happens in individual states).

More likely this scheme will have a very different effect: It will validate the claims of Trump and his least responsible supporters that liberal elites are still trying to “rig” an election that has already happened. Roger Stone is already labeling the efforts to stimulate an Electoral College revolt “the dying gasp of the established order.” An impossible plot to overturn an election conducted under long-established if nondemocratic rules, with Democrats (led by a professor from the Vatican of liberal elitism) as the only supporters, is a very bad idea for anyone now focused on ensuring that the Trump phenomenon is a brief if lamentable aberration in American history rather than a sudden lurch down the road to national perdition.

  • MrE85

    I agree. The best case the Democrats can make for a return to power is letting the Trump administration and this Congress have a free hand.

  • Mike Worcester

    This whole mess highlights the folly of the continued use of the Electoral College. Some of us (cough, me, cough) have been advocating its removal for over thirty years; not just since the 2000 election.

  • Gary F
    • BReynolds33

      Ah yes, Prager University. The bastion of only slightly right leaning commentary that completely ignores the Federalist papers to apply a 21st century justification to an 18th century idea.

      (I support the electoral college, and it’s continued use, but this is a poorly researched video that simply does not help.)

    • Citing “Prager University” is like citing the University of Gary.

      • Rob

        Is the University of Gary anything like T.Rump University?

      • Gary F

        Do you have issues with the content?

    • Rob

      Bonus! Second YAWN of the day…

  • BReynolds33

    In situations like this, I am left to wonder what history will think when looking back. I am not going to predict anything about the incoming President, or his administration. But let’s say, hypothetically, the worst nightmare scenarios come true. Let’s say 100 years from now, our descendants look back and ask, “Why didn’t the electoral college just vote a different way?”

    I hate to evoke Godwin’s law, but does anyone ever look back on Germany 1933 and think, “if only we had done this instead of that?” Maybe they don’t. I don’t know. There have to be countless moments never noted by history because they never happened due to someone stepping in and stopping it before it could spiral.

    Civil war sure sounds like a bad idea to me. My mind can’t help but push me to think, in 100 years, are people going to ask why we didn’t choose war over “this?”

    It’s all an intellectual exercise at this point, and surely the desire to avoid war outweighs what is only a possible way the future plays out. I think everyone hopes with every fiber of their body that we simply fall into another administration that is more in a long line of nothing really horrendous happened.

  • jon

    We seemed to come back from that whole John Quincy Adams thing… I know false equivalency…. but still he was clearly the looser in that election… and he ended up being president (though so did Jackson… just took another 4 years)

  • wjc

    More chaos isn’t going to help anything. Nullifying the election with an Electoral College revolt would just lead to more chaos.

    • Kassie

      While I agree they should revolt, I guess I’m not sure what chaos you are talking about. I don’t feel like anything has been chaotic recently, just not how I wanted things to go.

      • wjc

        1) The chaos of the transition process, 2) The chaos of an upcoming Trump presidency, 3) the chaos of the recount processes (however legal and however they turn out). Everything going on in the political world these days has a chaotic edge. Dems are planning to “Garland” Trump’s cabinet picks, for instance.

        How do you think an Electoral College nullification would be greeted by Trump voters? Badly, I would imagine. The country could edge toward anarchy and revolution, if the pattern continues.

        Do you really think the EC voters SHOULD revolt, or is that a mis-type?

        • Kassie

          No, you are right, that was a mis-type, they shouldn’t revolt. But I just find this all to be not very chaotic. 2000 was chaotic. This is all just politics for the most part.

  • Will

    Yep, I agree with you on this one.

  • Anna

    This election proves the Electoral College has outlived its usefulness and this has nothing to do with Democrats or Republicans.

    “As Alexander Hamilton writes
    in “The Federalist Papers,” the Constitution is designed to ensure
    “that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who
    is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”
    The point of the Electoral College is to preserve “the sense of the
    people,” while at the same time ensuring that a president is chosen “by
    men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and
    acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious
    combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to
    govern their choice.” FactCheck.org

    We have allowed the office of the President of the United States to “fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.” Alexander Hamilton–The Federalist Papers.

    Donald Trump is like a flag in the wind and changes his mind with every Twitter post. This is what the Founding Fathers were trying to avoid. The only thing Donald Trump is skilled in is negotiating a better deal for his bank account.

    The great presidents of the last two centuries were tested in some way that amplified the qualities they already possessed which made them good leaders and negotiators.

    Thomas Jefferson lost his wife to childbirth and all but two of his six children to fatal illness. Abraham Lincoln lost his mother and lost three of his four children before they reached adulthood. Theodore Roosevelt lost his mother and his wife on the same day. Franklin D. Roosevelt was tested by an attack of polio that confined him to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. John F. Kennedy was seriously injured in WWII and lost his brother and sister to war. George H.W. Bush lost his young daughter to cancer.

    Trump has not been tested by anything in his life. He’s gotten along by hook and by crook. He’s a con man and has convinced a lot of Americans that he can somehow restore the United States to the heights of greatness it experienced following WW II.

    He can’t. Those days of glory exist only in the history books now.

    If we do not find a way to settle our differences we will go the way of other great civilizations that have been destroyed by decay from within.

    • maross600

      blah blah blah its the system and WONT CHANGE so play by those rules and get over it.

    • Damnsloppy

      So the Federalist Papers you cite says: “by men most capable”
      So, no women in the electoral college then? LOL.
      Who decides whose most capable?
      Remember this was written prior to the information age, we are all now capable of knowing the information required to make a decision therefore the deliberative nature of the EC is obsolete.
      The anti-popular vote purpose on the other hand is not obsolete, it keeps all us country bumpkins from being ruled by our betters in the big city.

  • asiljoy

    I have a hard time swallowing any argument that can be summarized as “we don’t want make the toddlers angrier because angry toddlers are unpleasant”.

  • Veronica

    OK, yet again, let’s review: More people voted for Clinton than T****. 2.7 million more people. While we can argue about the proper role of the EC, let’s keep repeating it, because I won’t allow us to be post-facts:

    She got more votes. A lot more votes. More votes for any white guy presidential candidate. So don’t repeat the lie that not enough people voted for her. More voted for her– a lot more. But yes, on strange as hell technicalities, she was not recognized as the winner.

    • maross600

      get over it veronica, its been the system since 1787 and its NOT going to change. the rules are not new and hillary lost.

  • MikeB

    Something I learned today, in 1969 the House voted overwhelmingly the abolish the Electoral College. It died in the Senate. http://mentalfloss.com/article/13012/first-and-last-serious-challenge-electoral-college-system

  • Jerry

    What would be the problem? The people voted for Clinton, and Trump will only win on a technicality. I don’t think there’s much room for outrage if that technicality turns against him instead.

    • Frank

      It’s not a technicality. It is not and never has been a popular vote process. It is an electoral college contest and that influences how people vote or don’t vote. And it changes how you campaign. So the popular vote is completely irrelevant. And for all of you screaming to abolish the electoral college in exchange for a straight popular vote, imagine 2000 on a national scale.

      • Jerry

        Okay, so if we understand it as only “an electoral college contest”, then how could we complain if the members of the electoral college chose to nominate Clinton instead?

  • Kurt O

    Regardless of our opinions, we are bound to follow the laws as they are currently written. I like the Keiffer Sutherland show “Designated Survivor” about the Secretary of HUD becoming President after most of the government has been killed in a terrorist attack. People constantly challenge his right to be President even though it’s part of the codified succession plan. When it happens I think that he needs an aide to step up and yell “Constitution!!!!” at the person before handing them an ACLU Pocket Constitution with the appropriate sections bookmarked and highlighted.

  • maross600

    you want a civil war? then dont vote in trump because that will happen.