Monday, December 19, 2016

Faithless

 (By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
Today is the day when the 538 electors across the country cast in their respective states what used to be a largely ceremonial vote. They represent all 435 congressional districts plus the 100 seats in the Senate plus three more for Washington DC. It usually flies under the radar because our 538 electors, largely party activists, remain faithful to the balloting on Election Day. It generally attracts as much attention as American soccer league drafts because it's largely a formality. In fact, the last time more than one elector defied the Electoral College balloting was when three broke ranks and voted for a dead man, progressive newspaper owner Horace Greeley, who died weeks after the 1872 election.
     But this year, we Americans, and those abroad who care about the direction this nation takes, are paying very, very close attention to today's votes. And the very fact that we're paying so much attention to this formerly symbolic vote shows something is rotten in more than just the state of Denmark. The United States, after perhaps the most corrupt and manipulated presidential election in recent times, if not for all time, is smelling pretty ripe itself these days.
     For just the fifth time in American history going back to John Adams, the Electoral College victor in a presidential election lost the popular vote. When all those that are likely going to be counted were counted, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by approximately 2,800,000. Even in a nation of about 320,000,000, that's a substantial difference. It's giving rise to an uneasy feeling that on November 8th, we didn't have just one winner but two.
     But this isn't the WBC and WBA we're talking about here. And the ship of state can have but one captain. What's been shaping and firming up in this country since Election Day is the sort of thing one sees in banana republics, the kind that we've been monitoring through exit polls for decades.
     Adding to the historic consequences of today's voting are protests being planned in all 50 states and perhaps even in US territories such as Guam and Puerto Rico. Then there are the persistent rumors, fueled by a joint finding by the FBI, CIA and our other 16 intelligence agencies that Russia had somehow manipulated the elections. These are so-called findings that have been amplified by an unusually whiny President Obama who just days ago actually threatened Russian President Vladimir Putin, warning him not to manipulate the results (too little, too late, if the investigations are to be believed) or "we can do stuff to you, too").
     Anyone who saw the dog and pony show at the Oval Office last month could see there's no love lost between Trump and President Obama. But the transition of power needs to smoothly happen to ensure the stability of our nation in more ways than most of us can count. And when the outgoing President of the United States, in defiance of history and protocol, says the election was tainted, then many tens of millions of Americans are going to sit up and take notice, as well as billions more overseas.
     So what's more important? A smooth transition of power even if the new guy illegally usurped the presidency or the vindication and enforcement of the American electoral process? Is civil war and an open rebellion against the new president, as those seen in banana republics, necessary to save what's left of our democracy?

37
     Donald Trump supposedly won the presidency with 306 electoral votes. That means at least 37 electors will have to break ranks and leave Trump short of the 270 he needs to win the presidency. This would be unprecedented. Remember what I said about the last time more than one elector did so- It simply hasn't been done in 144 years. Although the general perception is that the electors, who are voted in by state legislatures, are autonomous, they really aren't. In 30 states, penalties can theoretically be levied against those "faithless" voters who defy the results of the electoral college balloting.
     However, none of these state laws have ever been put to the test in courts of law so no one, really, knows what would happen if more than three dozen change their votes to Hillary Clinton or some other candidate. And at first, it would seem unthinkable that many electors would do an about face and defy the results. ABC News was able to find just one Trump elector in Texas who has publicly announced he will not vote for Trump on the basis of the possibility of Russian tampering. 80 electors petitioned DNI James Clapper to give them classified briefings so they could decide for themselves if the CIA and FBI investigations actually yielded facts of Russian tampering.
     What's been put on the back burner is the massive amounts of evidence of voter fraud on the part of the GOP- Gerrymandering (a huge part of the Electoral College map, as most of the electors represent heavily populated districts such as urban areas); Crosscheck, which was used in 28 states (.pdf file) to specifically target voters of color (or those who faithfully vote democratic) and throw them off the rolls; dysfunctional voting machines in heavily African American districts that resulted in paper ballots in Detroit, Michigan, to cite just one instance, not getting counted. Greg Palast has been all over it for months. Go read his findings, if you don't believe me.
     Crosscheck, of course, was masterminded by the infamously partisan Republican Kansas Secretary of State, Chris Kobach, who just happened by some happy coincidence to be heavily embedded in the Trump campaign, which alone ought to make all 538 electors reconsider casting a vote for the multi billionaire.
     But for the time being, the specter, however real or false it is, of Putin's Russia manipulating the presidential election in an attempt to put a real-life Manchurian Candidate in the Oval Office ought to be enough to at least get them to consider changing their votes in defiance of the Electoral College results. And if by some unthinkable miracle this does happen, what then?
     When Congress reconvenes on January 6th, one of the first things they will do is count and certify the Electoral College's votes. And, should 37 or more break ranks and cast "faithless" votes for someone other than Trump and neither candidate gets the necessary 270? The House of Representatives, which is solidly dominated by the Republican Party, will vote for the next President while the Senate helplessly stands by and watches from the sidelines.
     Meaning, one way or the other, it won't be Vlad Putin who will have subverted our democracy but his cheerleaders among the GOP. And whichever way today's votes swing, this election will have a higher stench attached to it than even the infamously corrupt and manipulated 2000 and 2004 general elections, one that will never get the seal of approval from either the American people or President Obama.

2 Comments:

At December 20, 2016 at 8:57 AM, Anonymous CC said...

Remember, we don't have a democracy. We have a republic, as right wingers often like to point out, which defends against the "tyranny of the majority" because the Founding Fathers were wise.

Actually, the Founding Fathers had their own narrow interests and they didn't match those of the majority of the population then. They installed the Electoral College to safeguard their interests.

I doubt the Electoral College can be overturned in the current political climate. Too many states are Republican-controlled and the Republicans need the Electoral College as their insurance against, as Obama termed it, a "browner country".

The best alternative would probably be to award electoral votes proportionally as delegates are awarded in the primaries. That would make every vote count (as winner-take-all is also undemocratic) and still give states with fewer electoral votes a say in the election.

 
At December 20, 2016 at 9:04 AM, Anonymous CC said...

"It's giving rise to an uneasy feeling that on November 8th, we didn't have just one winner but two."

Actually, we have about 3.2 million winners, even if some of them didn't vote for Trump. Everyone else, including many who voted for Trump, lost.

 

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