Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Electoral College

The electoral college votes next week, Monday December 19th. If they all vote "faithfully" based on the popular vote in their state, Donald Trump will win 306 to 232 for Clinton. However awful this seems, the orange one will be our President ... the world be damned. There is a big BUT here. Many of the state's electors are not bound to be faithful. They can choose to vote for another candidate ... anyone actually. If 37 of them decide to vote for someone else, he would not get 270 votes required to be president. Even if that happened, they'd all have to vote for Clinton for her to win. 

This is probably not going to happen, but what if it does?  What happens if the electoral college votes and no candidate has 270.  The House of Representatives gets to choose the President, among the top three electoral vote-getters and each state delegation gets one vote. The Vice President would be chosen by the Senate among the top two vote-getters. We could end up with Clinton as President and Governor Mike Pence as VP or Gary Johnson could be President and Tim Kaine could be VP.  Someone who wasn't on the ballot could be elected. The new Congress, 114th, will not be in office yet. The current make-up of the House is 247 Republicans and 187 Democrats (including the two Independents). Trump is not popular in his own party. The questions is how unpopular? Is he so unpopular that enough of them could vote against him. We could do all this and he could get elected anyway.  The Senate would most certainly pick Pence.

Why the madness?  We are the only nation that has such a system and the presidency is the only office that uses it. No state uses anything similar to the Electoral College to elect a Governor. The Founders feared a tyrannical demagogue, unfit for the office, being elected and also feared that as cities got larger, the rural voter would be ignored. What they envisioned was very different from what we have now. The political parties were in their infancy when it was created and certainly not quite so entrenched in the 18th century as they are now. They saw the Electoral College selecting from numerous candidates, debating their individual merits, and making compromises that benefit all regions and factions of the country. Under the Founder's vision, in 2016 states would have sent Electors for Trump, Clinton, Sanders, Cruz and Kasich, etc. to the college. In a close election, we would not have a President-Elect yet, and would be waiting for the result of the Electors. 

It really could happen this year. He fits the bill of an unhinge demagogue. We have had a total of 157 faithless electors in our nation's history which is not a lot. The most we ever had in any particular election is 63 in 1872 for Horace Greely who died after the November vote but before the December electoral college vote. He had a total 66 votes so three of his electors voted for him after he was dead.  

Arguments to eliminate the Electoral College and replace it with a popular vote runs across the political spectrum. This is surprising because a popular vote would really support liberals and, by proxy, Democrats.  Because it is in the original Constitution, it would require an amendment to remove it. In the last five elections, the candidate that received less popular votes became President which is bonkers.  A popular vote election would mean that candidates would spend most of their time in big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Houston and Miami. Since big cities is where most of the liberals live, it would mean a turn to the left in the executive branch at least ... and why not? If most people are liberal, a Democracy's government should reflect that.

It is a long shot, but I am looking for some history to be made on Monday. Best case scenario, 270 electors change their vote to Bernie Sanders and we have our first Jewish Socialist as president. That would make me happy.

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