Am I the only one who gets the sense that there’s an absolute war going on around the Electoral College?


Over the past 24 hours, since I last posted about the drama shaping up around the Electoral College, two significant things have happened. First, Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig went public with the news that 20 Republican Electoral College voters had reached out to him to discuss the possibility of voting against Donald Trump. And, second, several Republican Electors have confirmed reports that they’re being threatened with “political reprisal” if they don’t cast their ballots for Trump on December 19, which, as others have noted, could well be a violation of U.S. law.

Given these two developments, I think it’s pretty safe to say that things are beginning to heat up for the 538 men and women whose job it is to actually elect the President of the United States in five days, especially those 306 Republican Electors who have pledged to cast their ballots for Trump… As we’ve discussed before, only one of those individuals has come out thus far and stated publicly that he would not be casting his ballot for Trump, but, as it would only take 37 to keep Trump from the White House, I’m sure you can appreciate why the Republicans might be concerned, especially as a coordinated campaign is being waged to convince Republican Electors to take their constitutional duty seriously. [If 37 Republican Electors voted for someone other than Trump, he wouldn’t receive the 270 electoral votes he’d need to win the presidency, which would then push the issue to the House of Representatives, whose members, according to the Constitution, would then select our next President.]

Speaking of Professor Lessig, who has made it known that he’ll provide free legal assistance to any Republican Electors who choose to cross their party and vote to keep Trump from the White House, he had an interesting op-ed in the Daily Beast yesterday on how all of this might play out. Here’s a clip.

…There is a strong argument—and I believe, ultimately, this is the correct argument—that if an elector cannot vote for the candidate to whom she is pledged, she ought to vote for the next best candidate among those the public actually voted for. That candidate is Hillary Clinton in every state, and especially the three swing states that ultimately decided the result. And it is my view that an elector unable to support Trump has an ethical obligation to vote for Clinton.

Yet it is the most strikingly depressing truth about our current time that partisanship renders this choice almost unthinkable. We have entered the age of “party over country,” which makes the very notion of a Republican elector voting for a Democratic candidate impossible. One would have thought that after an election, recognizing the candidate who received the most votes would not be a partisan act, but a factual acknowledgment. But that’s not how the electors apparently view their role. They, partisans, feel themselves committed as partisans, forgetting that they are actually citizens first.

This reality has led some Democratic electors to try to work out a deal. The “Hamilton Electors,” as they’ve called themselves, are working to persuade Trump electors to join them in voting for John Kasich. If at least 37 Republicans join, then the election would be thrown to the House of Representatives. And with one vote per state, the House would select the president from among the three top vote-getters. Mortally wounded by an Electoral College defeat, these Hamilton Electors hope that choice would not be Trump.

From the standpoint of high principle, and Electoral College ethics, this is a hard move to justify. Clinton electors have no good faith reason not to vote for Clinton. Electors defecting from Trump, in my view at least, have no justification for voting for anyone except someone the public has actually voted for. And moreover, the Electoral College was expressly designed to avoid just this sort of collusion. The Framers thought making electors vote on the same day in different states would make it impossible for them to coordinate. Add Twitter and email to the list of things the Framers just did not get.

Yet from the perspective of practical politics, this grand compromise is making more and more sense. If there are 37 electors who cannot in good conscience support Donald Trump, they should at least give the House of Representatives the opportunity to choose a candidate who might unite a nation fractured by a bitter and divisive campaign. That candidate would need to be a Republican. Ideally, the college would also give the Senate the chance to select a Democrat for vice president. This split ticket might unite America over the next four years, and possibly avoid a spiral into civil war…

Again, as I’ve said in the past, I fully expect that, on December 19, Donald Trump will be selected by the Electoral College to be our 45th President. Furthermore, as I’ve also said before, I’m not convinced that an electoral coup, like the one we’re discussing here, would necessarily yield a better result for the country. [Personally, I think that keeping Trump from the White House could spark a civil war.] But, with that said, I continue to find all of this absolutely fascinating, and I can’t help but watch intently as things unfold. From the growing number of Electors who are now requesting a security briefing on Russia’s role in the election, to the fact that elected officials are now stepping forward to suggest that the Electoral College vote should be postponed until such time that the Electors can become better informed as to the present situation, as well as their rights and responsibilities, I can’t look away. I’m completely captivated by the twists and turns… It’s absolutely Shakespearean. One day Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he supports an inquiry into Russian hacking during the election, and the very next he’s shielding Trump from an investigation, saying that a special congressional panel isn’t necessary. One can just imagine the threats that are being made in the halls of Congress as each of our elected representatives considers what’s in his or her best interest… Anyway, I’m sorry if I’m boring you with this, but I just can’t stop.

If, after reading all of this, you should feel compelled to get involved in some way, I’d recommend contacting your elected representatives in Congress, and asking that, if they haven’t already, they join the chorus of elected officials who are demanding that our chosen Electors be briefed on Russia’s role in our presidential election before December 19. And, if you want, I suppose you can also contact Donald Trump and ask why he had time to meet with Kanye West yesterday but had to cancel the press conference where he was going to explain to the American people, and our Electors, why we shouldn’t be concerned about his multiple conflicts of interest.

[note: The above image, for those of you that might not have caught the reference, is from one of my favorite British television shows, The Prisoner. The episode, titled Checkmate, can be seen on YouTube.]

You were right that Trump would attempt to distract. He got Kanye sprung from the mental hospital.

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  1. Ted McClelland by proxy
    Posted December 15, 2016 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Don’t kid yourself into thinking the Electoral College will stop Donald Trump. Vladimir Putin has a higher approval rating among Republicans than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Think about that. Imagine a poll taken in 1949 that found Republicans preferred Stalin to Harry Truman. Presumably, they’ll be comfortable with Putin running the United States.

  2. anonymous
    Posted December 15, 2016 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    The Resistance with Keith Olbermann: “Hamilton’s Plan to Keep Trump From Becoming President”

    We are no longer Democrats or Republicans; we are Americans.

  3. Lynne
    Posted December 15, 2016 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Oh man. I am getting fatigued with politics.

    Let’s argue about something else. Like punctuation! So what do you guys think? Is it:

    “You are, Number Six”


    “You are number six”

  4. Eel
    Posted December 15, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    The way things are going, we’ll get 37 electors to keep him from the White House and then it will go to the House where they’ll pick Trump anyway.

  5. Kim
    Posted December 15, 2016 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Hollywood has joined the cause.

  6. Donald Harrison
    Posted December 15, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    We’re so far off the usual political scripts, it’s hard to look away, which is good in some fundamental respects.

    And if/when DT gets into office, it seems clear (and, of course, crazy) that celebrities might be one of our strongest “weapons” to keep him in check. Whether it’s Leo or Kanye or Baldwin’s biting impression, those are the people that he most respects and wants to like him.

    I am not a number!

  7. Demetrius
    Posted December 15, 2016 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I’m still trying to figure out whether this is all just wishful thinking on the part of those who can’t yet accept that Trump will be our next President … or whether there really is an organized, viable effort to prevent that from happening.

    I have a sinking feeling that the window of opportunity to prevent national disaster of historic proportions is quickly closing in.

    Given recent revelations, I can’t imagine why Democrats aren’t busy filing lawsuits in every state to try to block or delay the EC vote until a thorough, independent investigation can be completed.

  8. Demetrius
    Posted December 15, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    NYT: Will Democracy Survive Trump’s Populism? Latin America May Tell Us

  9. stupid hick
    Posted December 15, 2016 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    I am too getting fatigued with politics. Does anyone read Pete’s blog? Aside from the depression, which saddens me, there is some good and INTERESTING writing about what it is like to live in Kenya. Compelling. And original music. GOOD music.

    PS – it’s got to be: “you are, number six”.

  10. blueeyedpupil
    Posted December 15, 2016 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    I thought that olbermans video was brilliant. Let the dem electors vote against hillary and with a few republicans switching it would stop this catastrophe. While i have heard a lot of other ideas this one seems more possible than many other.

  11. Jean Henry
    Posted December 15, 2016 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    The House would elect Trump. I don’t really see the point in any of this, but I understand the impulse.

  12. Demetrius
    Posted December 16, 2016 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    NYT: Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?

    We need to do whatever we can to slow down – if not stop – this runaway train.


  13. kjc
    Posted December 16, 2016 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    ” Does anyone read Pete’s blog?:

    yes. it’s fucking great.

  14. John Galt
    Posted December 16, 2016 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    You predicted that things were going to get stranger as we approached December 19 and you were right. Sheriff Joe Arpaio has just come forward with definitive evidence that Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery!!!

  15. Lynne
    Posted December 16, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    This is something that was shared with me that is a pretty good guide as far as certain tactics go

  16. Michael Moore by proxy
    Posted December 16, 2016 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    You Better Believe Trump Is Afraid of the Electoral College Vote on Monday

    Yesterday was the day Donald Trump was going to hold his first press conference in 5 months. He abruptly cancelled it on Monday with no explanation. Well, I have one…

    He has heard that there is a rumbling taking place amongst the Republican electors that some of them are growing uncomfortable with the news that the election was hacked by Russia to benefit him. This news was followed by the revelation that Putin himself directed the hack.

    And then last night, CBS News reported that the Russians had in the past committed a successful cyber-attack on the email system of the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    If you are a Republican Elector, this news is very sobering. And for some, very disturbing.

    Electors of the Electoral College know that their job is to usually rubber stamp the election – with one exception: If they need to cast their vote to protect the country from someone who is a danger to our nation.

    And slowly it has dawned on some of the electors this week that something doesn’t smell right. And now that we know that Putin himself was behind this historic assault on our electoral process — so that he could tilt the election to Trump — well, this is now for many Americans a bridge too far.

    Trump knows this, so he’s gone into hiding from real journalists. He has one mission right now: Get to Monday without the shit hitting the fan. To show you how scared he is, after my (and others) week-long shaming him for not showing up to the daily national security briefing, his aides have responded by announcing that he’ll start attending the briefings “three” times a week. As for the other four days, I guess it’s, “Sorry America — you’re on your own!” But he knew he had to do something. This is the Trumpian way of “doing something.”

    Well, WE need to do something. All of us, very loudly, need to let the Electoral College know that they MUST vote their conscience on Monday. Or postpone the vote until they have more information about Trump’s Manchurian Candidate-like behavior. Here is a site you can go to to find out what’s going on protest-wise where you live over the weekend and on Monday:

    What would Trump and the Republicans be doing today if they were ahead by 3 million votes – but the Electoral College was set to give the Presidency to Clinton? Are you kidding? THEY WOULD NOT LET THIS HAPPEN.

    We are the wimps. We sink into our despair. We feel defeated and that there’s nothing we can do. Everybody told us she was going to win! Nate Silver and 538 promised us it was in the bag! All the pundits agreed!!

    Get over it and pull yourself together. “The tanks are 20 miles outside of Paris!” Throw everything you got at this and do not relent. You’re in the friggin’ majority! Let’s act like it.

    Make your voice heard on social media and in front of your state capitol. An authoritarian regime is about to take hold in DC, and they are going to run roughshod over you, me and all that is good. Get over your election depression and fight like you’ve never fought before. Non-violently. With conviction. There are more of us than there are of them. Only 23% of all registered adult American voters showed up and voted for Trump. Come on! It’s not over til it’s over.

    Trump is worried about Monday. It only takes 38 of his 300+ electors to defect.

    These rallies he’s holding every night this week and weekend?
    They’re not because he wants to sell more hats.

  17. Jean Henry
    Posted December 16, 2016 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    And then it goes to the house and Trump is elected there. What is wrong with Moore et al. We have to accept this outcome. The persistent delusion more than a month after the election is really something. This is not strategic thinking. It’s delusion. And, from someone like Moore, it’s a calculated play to delusion. I’m not sure what he’s after, but it’s something– some political end he wants to achieve other than an overturn via the electoral congress.

    He’s holding the rallies because he likes rallies. (that’s on record from his team) Because he’s a megalomaniac. His staff let him do it, because it slows his twitter rants with adulation and gets him out of the room for the real decision making. He;s a toddler and his moods are being managed like one.

    Michael Moore is everything that is wrong with the left. He’s a misinformation machine. And he seems to buy most of his own bullshit. He doesn’t care to look at whether or not his positions are actually supported by the public– even on the left. He is determined to insist his way to victory. Which is why his positions fail miserably to convince…reliably.

  18. Ted
    Posted December 16, 2016 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    He may be everything that’s wrong with the party, but Moore was right about the election and your candidate didn’t listen. The reason we’re in this situation is that Hillary ran a bad campaign. This race was winnable.

  19. Bob
    Posted December 16, 2016 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    What has Moore been very wrong about, ever? That guy has spent his life doing great work. He’s taken as much hatred in the process as anyone ever has. Fuck you Jean. Seriously.

  20. Jean Henry
    Posted December 17, 2016 at 1:23 am | Permalink

    See the link. I agree Hillary failed to campaign enough in the swing states. I don;t think she failed miserably. At all. I certainly don;t see any proof that Moore’s strategy would have worked. There’s ample evidence it wouldn’t have (see link!). Comparing a real outcome to a fantasy one is an absurdity.
    PS Moore is a fraud as a documentarian. He makes agitpop. He’s a smart guy and he knows damn well the electoral college isn’t going to turn and that even if it did, the house would elect Trump. Why is he misleading people? Maybe he’s just obsessed and holding on to the last thread of hope, like Mark and so many others on the left. It’s not the place to put their energy. It’s triage time. We need to be preparing for a lot of damage and incoming fire. We don’t have the luxury of reviuewing the game we lost any more. It has been a largely useless conversation. Everyone thinks they are not only right, but the only ones who are right. .

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  1. By Our Electors vote on Monday on December 18, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    […] Am I the only one who gets the sense that there’s an absolute war going on around the Electoral Co… […]

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