Since Donald Trump won a majority of electors on election day while losing the popular vote by over 2.5 million, there has been a movement afoot by a small number of electors, activists, and intellectuals to try to block Trump at the Electoral College.
A group of eight Democratic electors has gotten together to try to persuade other Democrats to support a rational Republican, a Republican elector resigned rather than vote for Trump, and on December 5, the first Republican elector who pledged to vote against Trump came public in a New York Times op-ed.
The argument that the “Hamilton Electors” and a number of intellectuals and lawyers have made in op-ed pages is that the Electoral College was conceived as a check on the passions of the public were they to elect a demagogue or someone totally unqualified.
A few examples:
The electoral college should be unfaithful – Kathleen Parker
The Constitution lets the electoral college choose the winner. They should choose Clinton. – Lawrence Lessig
8 New Reasons The Electoral College Shouldn’t Vote For Trump – David Halperin
As Parker said in her column yesterday:
The Founding Fathers didn’t fully trust democracy, fearing mob rule, and so created a republic. They correctly worried that a pure democracy could result in the election of a demagogue (ahem), or a charismatic autocrat (ahem), or someone under foreign influence (ditto), hence the rule that a president must have been born in the United States. We know how seriously Trump takes the latter.
Most important among the founders’ criteria for a president was that he (or now she) be qualified. Thus, the electoral college was created as a braking system that would, if necessary, save the country from an individual such as, frankly, Trump.
Where have readers of Bombs + Dollars heard this argument before?
The founders of the United States had these questions about democracy in mind when they wrote the Constitution. They knew that many voters were uninformed, so they put in systems to deal with that, like the election of the president by the Electoral College and the election of Senators by state legislatures. Progressives and populists have steadily taken away those safeguards for reasons that were lauded as pro-democratic.
The Seventeenth Amendment, passed in 1912, turned Senate elections to popular vote. Steadily laws have been passed in many states binding Electoral College electors to the results of a state’s president elections, and in most other states, the culture surrounding voting is such that there could be mass unrest if a state’s electors voted for someone other than the person who won their state’s election.
In my article on October 30, considering the problems democracies are facing around the world, I returned to the one of the original reasons why the Electoral College was conceived. Is now the time to use the Electoral College as originally intended? Trump’s unsuitability for office is clear.
To give but a few examples,