Ed made his prediction on the final electoral vote count in this post, but here’s a much easier prediction: Clinton will lose more electoral votes today than Trump will. Virtually all of the agitation within the electoral college in favor of dumping Trump is coming from blue-state electors who are pledged to Hillary. If they decide to vote for John Kasich or Mitt Romney or “Anyone But Trump” instead of her, that costs Trump nothing. Those are votes that come out of Hillary’s column, not his.
At least in that scenario, though, where electors are switching from Clinton to some anti-Trump Republican alternative, the elector’s intent in casting a protest vote is clear. They don’t really prefer President Kasich to President Clinton, they’re just trying to encourage red-state electors to withhold their votes from Trump by reassuring them that someone from the GOP will benefit if they join an anti-Trump revolt. It would be much more painful for Clinton, I think, if blue-state electors conclude that the goal of thwarting Trump is hopeless and that they should vote their consciences instead, even if that means voting for Democrats they like better than Clinton. Every vote for Bernie or Joe Biden (or Barack Obama) is a slap at Clinton insofar as it suggests the party would have been better off with a different nominee. Today is supposed to be a day to embarrass Trump for blue-state electors, but it may end up as a day where Clinton ends up as the embarrassed one.
Here’s Maine elector David Bright confirming that he will, in fact, vote for Sanders instead of Clinton:
If my vote today could have helped Secretary Clinton win the presidency, I would have voted for her. But as the Electoral College meets all across this nation on this day, I see no likelihood of 38 Republican electors defecting from their party and casting their ballots for Secretary Clinton…
I cast my vote for Bernie Sanders not out of spite, or malice, or anger, or as an act of civil disobedience. I mean no disrespect to our nominee. I cast my vote to represent thousands of Democratic Maine voters – many less than a third my age – who came into Maine politics for the first time this year because of Bernie Sanders. They organized, telephoned and sent in their 27 dollars. Many stood in line for hours in order to navigate our byzantine system of caucuses and convention this Spring so they could be among the two thirds of Maine Democrats who cast a vote for Sanders…
I cast my Electoral College vote for Bernie Sanders today to let those new voters who were inspired by him know that some of us did hear them, did listen to them, do respect them and understand their disappointment. I want them to know that not only can they come back to the process, but that they will be welcomed back; that there is room in the Democratic Party for their values.
Ed predicted five defectors from Trump and 22 from Clinton. My gut is to be more conservative than that — maybe two or three from Trump and 10 or so from Hillary — but there’s a nonzero chance of mass defections from Clinton given the fact that each state’s electors vote at different times today. California, with 55 electors, doesn’t go until 5 p.m. ET. If a handful of Democratic electors in other blue states announce their intentions publicly this afternoon to vote for Sanders or Biden, just as Bright did here, that may convince California and other west-coast blue-state electors that there’s no point in sticking with Clinton and that they might as well break for a Democrat they like better too, to make a statement. I wouldn’t bet on dozens of blue-state votes going to another candidate, but I wouldn’t completely rule it out. Why, Michael Moore’s even promising to pay the fines imposed on an elector if he defies a law that requires him to vote according to the results of the state’s popular vote. Moore made that offer to red-state electors who were thinking of voting against Trump, but surely he’d be willing to indemnify a liberal who preferred Sanders to Clinton as well, no?
Even if the vote ends in disaster for Clinton, though, there’s a long game being played here by anti-Trump electors, notes Politico:
“There’s an element in the Electoral College which nobody could possibly justify these days — and that is the discretion of electors,” said George Edwards III, a Constitutional expert at Texas A&M University…
“If Monday’s results show the Electoral College has failed to meet the purpose Alexander Hamilton envisioned in Federalist Paper #68, then it should be reformed in one of two directions,” said Charlottesville, Virginia, Mayor Michael Signer, a constitutional expert and supporter of the anti-Trump cause. “Either it should just automatically mirror the popular vote. Or electors should be chosen who would truly check a demagogue and foreign interference in our government.
Any large number of electors defecting to any candidate would prove that the electoral college could go rogue at some point in the future, even if it didn’t do so this year, which is itself an argument for replacing it with a national popular vote to ensure that the will of the people prevails — or so the theory goes. If anything, I think it’s more an argument to get rid of the electoral college and let the individual state popular votes prevail. If you don’t want a national body of wise men empowered to ignore the votes of 130 million people in “extraordinary circumstances” but you also don’t want to let the national popular vote decide the president for fear that smaller states would be taken for granted, just eliminate the human element in the electoral college. Each state continues to have a certain number of electoral votes but the popular vote in that state’s election determines how they’re awarded, period. Easy peasy.
Here’s unlikely voice of reason David Axelrod noting that an attempt by the electoral college to overturn the result of the election would be “very, very destructive” to the harmony of American society, to put it mildly. Speaking of which, Pennsylvania’s 20 electors (who are pledged to Trump, of course) are under police protection as they go to vote today thanks to the volume of threats they’ve received. That’s nothing unusual this year; electors in other states have also reported being threatened. It should go without saying that if Clinton had won last month and Trumpers were threatening to kill electors for honoring their obligation to vote for her, it would be one of the biggest stories in the country as a supposed insight into the feral, febrile mind of America’s crazed right-wing. As it is, this stuff is basically filed under “News of the Weird.” Sometimes media bias is subtle, but sometimes it really, really isn’t.