The presidential election was a battle between populist emotion and a moderate establishment. While the pundits, journalists, and political elite all declared Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had the election in the bag, this turned out not to be the case.
And it wasn’t even close. Sort of.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, the bombastic businessman with a talent for upset, walked away with the electoral vote. He kicked down the doors at Democratic strongholds and knocked prediction models off their axis. Clinton supporters wept, Democrats were left speechless, and the pollsters defeated. How did this happen?
At President Barack Obama’s urging, Clinton conceded defeat. The game was over.
Democrats began to notice after the fact that while Trump had won the electoral vote and thus clinched the presidency, he had failed to capture the popular vote. Now while this is irrelevant because electors decide the winner, it has resurrected an old debate that raged a decade and a half ago about the electoral college’s existence.
Is it time to eliminate the Electoral College?
Elimination of the controversial electoral body is more of a long term goal, but in the short term, electors are panicking as they plan a last minute plan to block Donald Trump from becoming President. Electors haven’t yet voted, thus we technically still don’t have a President-Elect.
Now a team of lawyers led by Larry Lessig have come together to provide a way for Electors to oppose Trump. They will offer free legal services to any presidential elector seeking to oppose their state’s vote, even in states where they are bound to vote a certain way. Beyond this, they’ve also offered to facilitate the anonymous discussion of stopping Trump.
Never Trump Republicans and bitter Democrats can rejoice, because there may actually be a plan now in place to stop the President-Elect they disown. In the short-term, this would be an excellent development for them. Donald Trump is done, gone, and the nightmare is over.
But what about the longterm?
It may seem pragmatic to free the presidential electors from being bound until the entire Electoral College itself can be eliminated, but it’s actually reckless. What we’re seeing in this election is a series of presidential electors who are taking it upon themselves to overturn the results. By the aid of a team of well funded lawyers, they are making this all possible.
What kind of precedent is this setting for the future?
It’s dangerous. However noble one believes the cause of stopping Trump is, giving this sort of power trip to the presidential electors sends the message that the vote and the system doesn’t matter. Now it may be stopping a candidate who didn’t win the popular vote, but in the future electors could stop a candidate who did win the popular vote.
Is the movement to free the electoral vote really desperate enough in their short-sighted rage to create this precedent?
No doubt there is legitimate outrage. An individual is going to become president that a majority of Americans didn’t vote for. But stopping Donald Trump from officially becoming President-Elect will have its consequences. It’s time for the Never Trump Republicans, bitter Democrats, and all other concerned Americans to really think about the future here.
Are they better served stopping Trump setting bad precedents or perhaps by another means, like building opposition in Congress and preparing a better candidate for the next cycle?