Let me just explain why this is bad, because it is bad on multiple levels and thus frustrating to watch. (I checked out around, oh, Moby or thereabouts.)
1.) It is essentially impossible to do. First off, the members of the Electoral College – and particularly the Republican members of the Electoral College – are, to a one, party loyalists. That’s why they became electors in the first place. These are not people you are going to easily peel off from the Republican party, regardless of how corrupt, incompetent or awful Donald Trump is. Saying “just thirty-seven of you need to not vote for Donald Trump” is like saying “you only need to climb thirty-seven mountains.” It is not technically impossible, but for practical intents and purposes given the time frame you are working with, it might as well be. These aren’t Democrats, who consider themselves all to be precious flowers and therefore will generate electors who are oh-so-special that they can’t in good conscience vote for Hillary Clinton. When Republican electors felt they couldn’t in good conscience vote for Trump, they resigned.
2.) It is mostly pointless because there is no superior option available. At this point it seems worth reminding that the grand plan of the “Hamilton electors” (and I love Hamilton, but god, I hate the effect it’s had on political discourse sometimes) is to create a situation where the House of Representatives gets to determine who will be the next President. Firstly, it is worth remembering that the House is Republican anyway, and the most likely thing they will do is vote for Donald Trump anyway, because the GOP base loves Trump and the GOP likely understands that if they were to vote for anybody else to be President they would get slaughtered in 2018 and 2020, because they’d be under attack both from the Democrats on the left1 and from Trump and his loyalists on the right.
But let’s say the House decides to vote for somebody else other than Donald Trump. You’re not going to get anybody reasonable. You’re not even going to get Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney, who would be a right-wing conservative President but maybe not totally wreck everything. You’re going to get Mike Pence, who is a Christian dominionist in all but name and will pass laws to make it legal to discriminate against gays whenever and wherever, or you will get Paul Ryan, who will work overtime to completely destroy the social safety nets of America in favour of tax cuts for the rich, or you will get Marco Rubio, who actively advocated for a Muslim registry harder than Donald Trump did, or you will get John Kasich, who will pass anti-abortion laws throughout the country. And really, any one of these people will give you all of those things, plus destroying civil rights, environmental protections, labor laws and giving you as many far-right Supreme Court justices as they can possibly manage while gerrymandering districts and killing voter protections as much as possible to ensure that their system of minority rule can remain intact.
No matter what happens with the Electoral College, the next President will be a disaster for anybody who cares about the rule of law, because the GOP as a whole actively does not consider anybody to the left of Lindsay Graham to be allowed to govern. You’re already seeing this in North Carolina, where the GOP lost the governorship and the Supreme Court and reacted by introducing reams of emergency legislation to take away the governor’s traditional powers and give them to the gerrymandered legislature they still control. You saw it for six years of the GOP Congress under Obama, ending with their refusal to even vote on (much less confirm) his Supreme Court nominee. Now that they have power, they’re going to actively work to cement their stranglehold on political control, regardless of the fact that they’re less popular than the actual majority vote by far.
Yes, Trump will be worse than any of the other options, because he will be personally and systematically corrupt, and because he will be much more disastrous on foreign policy as tyrants seek to buy him off (and that will happen). But in the end, Trump’s move to fascism will simply be overt, as opposed to the stealthy fascism the GOP will institute, and frankly, it’s probably going to be easier to oppose if it is overt.
Finally, 3.) It is antidemocratic and democratic principles matter. Let’s be honest: if the tables were switched and Clinton had won the EC but lost the popular vote, and Trump was personally campaigning to have electors switch the vote because he won the popular vote, we would rightly call that deplorable. The election of 2016 was conducted under a set of rules to which all parties agreed2 and Trump won under those rules.3 The fact that the Electoral College has an escape switch that is archaic and has not been used in literally centuries does not mean anybody should seek to use it, regardless of whatever the fuck Alexander Hamilton wrote about it. Remember: Alexander Hamilton also helped design the Electoral College working under the impression that political parties wouldn’t exist, which was one of the stupider things he believed, so maybe let’s not be those people who fetishize what the Founding Fathers wrote because they got a lot of shit just wrong.
There’s no easy way to say this: you either care about the rule of law or you don’t. As a liberal, I care about the rule of law because I think it is important for people to have the opportunity to self-determine how they are governed. That’s literally the entire point of democracy. When I see my fellow libs and lefties growing despondent because Donald Trump won a minority of the popular vote and effectively only won on technicalities and now will move to seize power, I can understand that because it’s saddening. It actively hurts to recognize that the other side of the political spectrum has finally abandoned all pretense of comity or political principle and become motivated solely by the opportunity to exercise power.
But that doesn’t make me want to abandon rule of law. It doesn’t make me want to abandon my principles. I believe in democracy and no feeble MAGA-hat wearing motherfucker is going to make me think differently about that.4 And if you’ve given up on democracy, I don’t know why you’re wasting time supporting this fucked up “Hamilton electors” plan; you might as well just go get a rifle and start picking your targets, because if you’ve decided that all that matters is the exercise of power, you’re effectively just Che Guevara in nicer clothes.
Important: Do not go get a rifle and start picking targets, for crissake. That was hyperbole.
Instead of that, and instead of the stupid electoral college plan, what you and all other lib/left Americans should be doing is, well, all of this. Use your voice proactively to build towards 2018 (not 2020, 2018 – the governorships and Congress matter tremendously right away for protecting voter rights and preventing gerrymandering), and start right now. You know this can work, because the Tea Party used exactly these same tactics to overwhelm the GOP and turn it into a permanent clown college. There is no reason not to do the same, except for much better and more productive and fairer ends. Go on. Do the work.
- Well, hopefully; it’s the Democratic party and we should never underestimate their capacity to try to Be Reasonable And Work With The Other Side no matter how terrible the other side is. [↩]
- Granted, there was not a lot of choice about the agreement, but consenting to work within a system is de facto consent to it. [↩]
- Do not even start with the recount thing. If there was any chance the recounts could actually have turned things around, the Clinton campaign would have been on them like white on rice. [↩]
- As a Canadian I of course extend this disgust towards Kellie Leitch wholeheartedly. Fuck you, Kellie. You’re the goddamn worst. [↩]