Friday, 11 November 2016

Faith in Faithless Electors

There is a petition calling on Electors to become Faithless Electors which has garnered some 2,500,000 signatures as I write this (Fri 12:55 p.m. 11/11/2016).  It is an excellent venting of frustration, and it serves to point up the weaknesses in our democracy.  For the second time in 16 years (2 of 5 of the most recent presidential elections), the popular vote winner has lost in the Electoral College.

Respect for, and confidence in, the process is a bedrock principle. When the Electoral College provisional count is at odds with the popular vote (again!), citizens are rightly dismayed and angry.

The most recent poll I'm aware of is a 2011 Gallup Poll that found 62% of Americans favor scrapping the Electoral College in favor of a popular vote (among Republicans only, the number is still 53%). Granted, I rather doubt that number would hold in the current climate--people are unwilling to kick out the ladder that is supporting them.  Indeed, Trump himself would love to distance himself from his Twitter remarks calling for a revolution in 2012 when he mistakenly thought Romney had won the popular vote but lost the electoral college.

The appeal, in the petition, to Electors to reject their pledges and vote for the nominee who actually won the popular vote is very unlikely to sway enough Electors to make a difference (they need 38 total votes to prevail).  In normal elections (and I must stress normal), the Electors are largely anonymous long-serving party stalwarts who are being honored for their service to the party in their respective states by being named to their party's "slate" of electors.  These are not folks who will be easily swayed; and whatever anonymity they possessed will be shattered as they are denounced, vilified and ostracized by their cohort should they break their pledge. Unfortunately, for those same reasons the issues of voter suppression in Ohio, Wisconsin and elsewhere are also unlikely to have any real impact, beyond, again, appeals to fairness.

There is a ground-swell of support for the National Vote Plan, and there may even be hope of an Amendment.

Many would respond that ours is a Constitutional Republic, that the Electoral College and the Senate protect us from “tyranny of the majority” and/or “mobocracy.”  They say it protects us from despots (ironic). The 'Republic v Democracy' dichotomy is a distinction without a difference, and it obscures a key question:

  • Where and when are we prepared to say that the loser gets to win, to dictate policy?
In the end, to put faith in Faithless Electors "doing the right thing" is like Charlie Brown believing that Lucy won't pull the football away at the last moment.

For a primer on issues relating to the Electoral College and Faithless Electors, click here

 Publishers Weekly calls the novel Faithless Elector a “fast-moving topical thriller.”  Its “surprising twists add up to a highly suspenseful read.” 
The sequel, Dark Network, is coming soon.

Faithless Elector, by James McCrone is available through Amazon.
If you live in Philadelphia, pick up a copy at Head House Books -or- Penn Book Center

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