Who knew the Electoral College could get this interesting? Two electors in Colorado have filed a lawsuit against the state, demanding that they be freed to vote for whomever they personally choose. Both electors are bound to Hillary Clinton, but hope to woo enough electors to join them in order to stop Donald Trump from inauguration six weeks from now.
This effort has been ongoing for a couple of weeks. However, the state’s response is noteworthy — and pulls no punches:
“Instead of honoring the will of the Coloradans who voted for them, these two faithless electors seek to conspire with electors from other states to elect a president who did not receive a single vote in November,” [Secretary of State Wayne] Williams said in a statement.
He continued: “Make no mistake, this is not some noble effort to fight some unjust or unconstitutional law; rather, this is an arrogant attempt by two faithless electors to elevate their personal desires over the entire will of the people of Colorado. And in so doing, they seek to violate Colorado law and their own pledges.
“The very notion of two Colorado electors ignoring Colorado’s popular vote in an effort to sell their vote to electors in other states is odious to everything we hold dear about the right to vote,” Williams said. “It is this type of evil that President Franklin Roosevelt warned us about when he cautioned that voters — not elected officials such as these faithless electors – are ‘the ultimate rulers of our democracy.’”
We live in a representative republic, not a democracy per se, and that confusion gets to the heart of all the nonsensical reactions we have seen since the election. A democracy would have no need of Congress or an executive, for that matter. We have democratic processes, but we express our will indirectly through representative bodies at the federal, state, and even local levels. The only real exercise of direct democracy in the US is the referendum process, which doesn’t exist at the federal level at all.
When we elect representatives to Congress, they cast a large number of votes, some of which may or may not represent what the majority of their states or districts support. That is why we have regular elections — to impose accountability for their actions and behavior. However, the chosen representatives to the Electoral College have only one job — to vote for president and vice-president based on the expressed will of the people of their states. That is the only vote they will ever cast in their public service for this assembly, and there is no expectation at all of personal choice entering into it.
These electors style themselves as “Moral Electors,” but as Williams acidly concludes, this is anything but moral. It undermines the representative body to which these electors pledged themselves, and replaces the will of the voters in that state with the whim of a few elites drunk on the shallow draughts of their own momentary power.
Time Magazine’s Mark Weston seems equally confused about the constitutional structure of a representative republic — despite having written a book about it. Yesterday, he called for a national strike on paying taxes if this happens again, “until democracy is restored”:
The approximately 65 million Democrats who voted for Hillary Clinton should pledge that in the future if a Republican wins the presidency with fewer votes than a Democrat for the third time in our era, we won’t pay taxes to the federal government. No taxation without representation!
That paragraph is so incoherent as to be comical. The Electoral College is “representation.” In fact, that is its entire purpose — to represent the states in a balance that allows less populous states to have influence on the election of an executive. What Weston actually wants is no representation, but a direct election of the executive, a system that would leave that decision in the hands of fewer and most populous states. The framers of the Constitution explicitly wanted the executive to be chosen from the broadest number of states possible. That is why the Electoral College and its representative nature exists in the first place, and why it has served the United States so well over the last 227 years since the adoption of the Constitution.
Besides, the end game of the “Moral Electors” is … what, exactly? To his credit, Weston’s scratching his head on that, too:
Mark Weston, an electoral college expert who has written a book, said the likelihood of electors defying Trump is “improbable” because it would require bipartisan coordination unheard of in these rancorous political times.
“One-eighth of Trump’s 306 electors, 38 of them, would need to desert him for another Republican, and then if the Democrats were to join those 38 — maybe vote for John Kasich, then Kasich could have 270 electoral votes,” he said. “Unless the Democrats join in, no one is getting the majority, in which case the election goes to the House of Representatives, and it’s Republican.”
Exactly. And remember that the House has to stand for election every two years, too. How many state delegations will want to cast a vote for an also-ran from the primary — or worse, someone who didn’t run and got no votes from their constituents — and ask to be re-elected? Precisely zero. It’s as pointless as Jill Stein’s recounts, but with the same purpose: falsely delegitimizing a system that works exactly as intended.
Addendum: All due respect to Weston, but this part of the tax strike argument made me laugh out loud:
Most Republicans are quite content with this system. Appeals to fairness have not persuaded them of the need to amend the Constitution to establish direct presidential elections, preferably with a runoff if no one wins 50% of the vote. Nor does the real chance that a Democrat could win the presidency with fewer votes than a Republican alarm them. Even the taunt, “Are you afraid of a direct election? Can’t you win a straight-up vote?” doesn’t faze them. Democrats must, therefore, pester Republicans where it hurts: the pocketbook.
Whose pocketbook gets hurt? The one that funds a vast bureaucracy that is overwhelmingly Democratic in nature, organized and protected by public-employee unions? Which party wants to cut taxes and spending (nominally, anyway)? Prompting a revenue crisis that would give the GOP a political opening to eliminate entire departments of the government sounds more like a toss in the briar patch than a hit in the pocketbook.
Update: Added a concluding sentence to the addendum. Also want to add one more thought: States can control this themselves by allocating electors based on the popular vote (or Congressional district) rather than allocating on a winner-take-all basis. The coastal states don’t do this because they enjoy the power that winner-takes-all gives them in theory; the rest of the states won’t do it until the most populous states do for that very reason. Perhaps Weston should start his reform in California and New York along those lines.