Electoral College Blues

Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report has been crunching the numbers and it looks as if Hillary Clinton will win the popular vote by 2.5 million votes. That margin is greater than the following post-World War II popular vote/electoral college winners:

1976: Carter beat Ford by 1,683, 247 votes.

1968: Nixon beat Humphrey by 511,944 votes.

1960: Kennedy beat Nixon by 112,827 votes.

1948: Truman beat Dewey by 2,188,055 votes.

Our 19th Century electoral system has bitten us in the ass for the second time in five elections. Unfortunately, it’s how we elect Presidents. The only way to change the system is for a party that wins the electoral college to propose its abolition. Otherwise it sounds like sour grapes or sore loserdom. It’s terrible when, as in 2000 and 2016, the stakes are so high. In 2000, the electoral college elected a genial simpleton. In 2016, they elected a nasty sociopath. Calling the situation worrisome is a grotesque understatement, but hyperbole got us into this mess so a bit of understatement is not a bad idea.

There are some novel electoral college ideas floating around the internet. I wish I thought any of them could reverse the election but, as of this writing, I do not. There are some faithless electors who hope to blow up the system. I have my doubts there are enough of them to throw the election into the House. That’s not a happy solution either since Republicans control it and Ryan is on the verge of realizing his dream of destroying medicare. Why that should be anyone’s dream is beyond me but it’s his. Hence Charlie Pierce’s nickname for him: the Zombie Eyed Granny Starver. Much of our effort should be focused on stiffening the spines of Senate Democrats to prevent this calamity. F is for filibuster.

The disparity between the popular and electoral vote is troublesome, especially given the allegations about Russian hackers and spooks. Oh my. A voting machine audit is a capital idea BUT it’s unlikely to reverse the results. I think it *should* be done if only to lessen doubts on our side. Given HRC’s margin in the popular vote, there will *always* be doubts about the 2016 election. I harbor them myself but we’re more likely than not stuck with the Insult Comedian as our next President. Having said that, I will never accept his legitimacy. I plan to resist in whatever way that I can. Vive les Maquis.

A more promising reason to challenge the results is contained in a piece by New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman. I’m squeezing it in here because this piece was 95.4% finished.

Hillary Clinton is being urged by a group of prominent computer scientists and election lawyers to call for a recount in three swing states won by Donald Trump, New York has learned. The group, which includes voting-rights attorney John Bonifaz and J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, believes they’ve found persuasive evidence that results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania may have been manipulated or hacked. The group is so far not speaking on the record about their findings and is focused on lobbying the Clinton team in private.

Deadlines are looming so Team Clinton needs to decide before cutting the turkey. I have no idea what will come of this but it means that Trump’s legitimacy is zip, zilch, and zero. Here’s a Yiddish word to annoy Bannon and the B3 Brownshirts: Bupkis.

(UPDATE: Data nerds Nates Cohn and Silver are skeptical of the claims made in Sherman’s piece. So it goes.)

The most thought-provoking piece I’ve seen about the Electoral College mess is by the Atlantic’s Peter Beinart. Here’s the money passage:

It is “desirable,” Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 68, “that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of” president. But is “equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station.” These “men”—the electors––would be “most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.” And because of their discernment—because they possessed wisdom that the people as a whole might not—“the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

As Michael Signer explains, the framers were particularly afraid of the people choosing a demagogue. The electors, Hamilton believed, would prevent someone with “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity” from becoming president. And they would combat “the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.” They would prevent America’s adversaries from meddling in its elections. The founders created the Electoral College, in other words, in part to prevent the election of someone like Donald Trump.

It’s hard to argue that point. This situation is unprecedented. Like all Democrats, I wanted the Florida recount to continue in 2000. When it ended, I was all like: He’s Poppy Bush’s son, how bad can it be? We know how that turned out.

In 2016, we are confronted with an electoral college winner who is stupid, mentally unstable, and has authoritarian tendencies. His claim that he alone can decide not to prosecute his opponent is how dictators talk. I wish I had a clear idea of how to deal with this menace by legal, political means but I don’t. Pointing out problems is easy, coming up with solutions is hard.

Where do we go from here? I wish I knew. Resistance, in ways both small and large, to the new order is in order. It is still possible that Trump’s incompetence will save the Republic but we cannot count on it. Team Trump were somehow able to win the electoral vote.

In 2018, Democrats need to show up at the polls to express our disapproval at the ballot box. The obsession with the White House at the expense of down ballot races has become an unhealthy addiction. We need to kick it and focus on organizing at the state and local level. That’s how a party is rebuilt and how autocracy is prevented.

2016 really sucks the big one. Happy Fucking Thanksgiving.

I hate to end on such a hopeless note, so let’s play the ultimate Yes song:

It’s your move. Vive les Maquis.

3 thoughts on “Electoral College Blues

  1. Ivory Bill Woodpecker says:

    “Team Trump were somehow able to win the electoral vote.”

    You mean “Team Putin”.

    Like

  2. MichaelF says:

    Agree with you on 2016…just a lousy year all around…

    Like

  3. darrelplant says:

    So “genial simpleton” is what they’re calling Dick Cheney in your neck of the woods these days?

    I know it’s all the thing to go to Hamilton for the answers to everything, but the reason the Electoral College is there was to preserve slavery by giving the votes of low-population states a thumb on the scales, a thumb which was even heavier with the electors granted by the non-voting slave population. Same goes for the Senate.

    The EC never actually did any of the overturning of tyrants. It did a great job at what it was actually designed for, and even worked as an effective brake on the overturning of legal segregation.

    Like

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