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“Faithless”—and Destructive

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“Faithless”—and Destructive

Democrats need to put away their anti-American fantasies about overturning Trump’s victory in the Electoral College. December 16, 2016
Politics and law

The world waits and wonders: will the cadre of “faithless” Electoral College electors seeking to upend the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States convince enough of their colleagues to “vote their conscience” on Monday and send the matter to the House of Representatives to decide?

As political gambits go, it’s a doozy. There are 538 Electoral College delegates. This year, 306 are Republicans and 232 are Democrats. To win, a candidate needs the votes of 270 electors. In other words, for the plotters to succeed, at least 37 electors must switch their votes from Trump to some other candidate. Since the election of 1832, no more than one elector in any cycle has ever has ever voted against his or her pledged candidate. Chances are more than good, then, that this insurrection will fail. What’s really troubling is that we’re even talking about it.  

“What explains Trump?” bewildered journalists and “terrified” progressives continue to ask more than a month after the election. “How could this have happened?” Easy: people liked his message and they voted for him. Enough people in the right states pulled the lever for Trump that he was able to collect the number of Electoral College votes necessary under our system of government to win the presidency.

If you don’t like that he won, welcome to our system of government—you win some, you lose some. It’s been evident since at least the late 1960s, however, that many on the progressive Left don’t care much for that system of government. They don’t like certain freedoms that the Constitution guarantees. They don’t like the federal system of sovereign states that robs them of the centralized power they desire to wield. Mainly, they don’t like that our system allows Republicans occasionally to win. To them, this is an affront to a political philosophy that sanctifies what liberals do and believe and anathematizes what conservatives do and believe.

To progressives, the original sin of slavery deeply stains the American project. Only in their hands can sin be expiated, justice expanded, and society perfected. If the system stands in the way of hope and change, then the system must be circumvented. The ends always justify the means. The transgressions of a politician who acts on this principle in service of progressive ends will always be excused. The transgressions of politicians like Trump who stand in the way of such progress must never be excused.

The faithless electors and their largely Democratic supporters want to stop Trump from becoming president, a feat that they couldn’t accomplish the old-fashioned way—or, short of that, they want to delegitimize his victory. The failure of their preferred candidate to appeal to the mood of the American electorate matters little to the desperate Left now. Nor does the stubborn fact that Bill and Hillary Clinton encouraged Trump to enter the race, hoping that he would disrupt the Republican primary and make the general election a Democratic cakewalk. The American political geniuses John Podesta and Robby Mook couldn’t engineer victory against a candidate considered a clown by the purportedly sophisticated, but the faithless electors know in their hearts that Russian president Vladimir Putin pulled off the Machiavellian trick of the millennium by swinging the Electoral College to Trump.

A little anguish is appropriate after an election defeat. Republicans who supported Mitt Romney in 2012 experienced the confusion and pain produced by the firm conviction that the better man lost that year. But the lamentation period has gone on long enough. Democratic leaders have a responsibility to put this nonsense to rest. President Obama did the right thing by encouraging Clinton to concede on Election Night and inviting Trump to the White House. These symbolic acts of conciliation are necessary to bind the domestic political wounds that elections naturally produce and to show the world that democracy is strong and stable in the United States. 

Electoral College delegates should keep faith with their pledges to back their states’ winning candidate. And Democrats and progressives should put away their destructive fantasies about overturning the 2016 election. After all, an Electoral College win is within their reach—four years from now.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

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