Month: December 2016 (Page 2 of 2)

The question of the Electoral College

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,

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China is laughing at Trump’s Twitter feed

After phone call with Taiwan’s president, Trump tweets undiplomatically

Trump’s phone call with Taiwan’s president Tsai Ying-wen upended 37 years of precedent in U.S. foreign policy and potentially raised tensions with China, but his tweets afterwards didn’t help matters.

Since the phone call made the news, Trump tweeted, “The President of Taiwan CALLED ME” in an attempt to deflect some of the responsibility, and then added, “Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.” (Taiwan’s government said that both sides agreed to the call ahead of time and agreed that Tsai would formally initiate the call, according to the Straits Times.)

What these tweets show is Trump is ignorant of world affairs and doesn’t give much consideration to how his words could affect foreign relations. Does he not know the rest of the world can read his Twitter feed, too? More likely he just doesn’t care.

Since 1979, the U.S. has had diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. China demands that any country with whom they have diplomatic relations not recognize Taiwan as an independent country. While America continues to have under-the-table relations with Taiwan, America doesn’t openly recognize Taiwan as a country and doesn’t have an official embassy on the island. (The American Institute in Taiwan, technically a non-profit organization, serves the functions of an embassy.)

To call Tsai the President of Taiwan is taken by many in China as to imply that Taiwan is a sovereign nation.

Next he tweeted about the fact that America sells weapons to Taiwan. (He could have also mentioned the fact that his company is trying to develop hotels in Taiwan.)

Of course everyone knows that Taiwan has a defacto president and that America sells them weapons–he’s not sharing confidential information. But such comments and actions could unnecessarily provoke China. He could start a conflict through his own ignorance.

Moreover, the DPP, which supports greater autonomy from China and pushes for formal recognition of independence, could use Trump’s ignorance to push for its own agenda. A DPP legislator praised the call as a breakthrough in the Straits Times.

His tweets were widely shared on China’s Weibo microblog:

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B+D editor begins contributing to The Buckley Report

“Congressional Republicans have a mandate for their agenda. Trump doesn’t,” Blatt writes in first article.

Bombs + Dollars editor Mitchell Blatt published his first article at The Buckley Report, a conserverative outlet that launched this year. In it, Blatt analyzes the results of the election on both the presidential and Congressional levels and how it should impact policy if the will of the voters is heeded.

“Running on an agenda of fiscal responsibility, entitlement reform, tax simplification, and reeling in executive overreach, Paul Ryan and Congressional Republicans won at least 241 seats and well over 3 million more votes nationally than the Democrats. Meanwhile Donald Trump, running on an agenda of ignoring the entitlement crisis, spending twice as much as Hillary on infrastructure, raising taxes on consumer goods, and wasting billions on a white elephant wall, lost the popular vote by over 2.2 million.” (Read more.)

Although Trump won the most state-by-state electors at the Electoral College, many of his voters didn’t vote for him so much as they voted against Hillary Clinton. The Congressional Republican agenda and Trump’s “nationalist” agenda differ significantly in key areas of economics and immigration policy. Congressional Republicans haven’t been so keen as Trump on building an over $10 billion wall or raising tariffs to 35 percent.

Blatt argues the Republicans in Congress should pursue their own conservative agenda and resist Trump’s excesses. It remains to be seen whether they will do so or whether Trumnp will bend them to his will.

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