The End

This year’s elections saw a lot of unusual, unexpected, and unprecedented developments.  So nobody should be shocked at any unexpected developments when the electoral college meets on Monday.  Having said that, Democratic activists have been barking up the wrong tree by emphasizing the national popular vote.  The reason why this strategy was guaranteed to backfire is the nature of the electoral college.

The electors are not randomly chosen people.  They are local politicians and activists who are nominated by their state party.  In short, they are not the people who are likely to surrender control of the White House to the other party.  By the rules that are currently in place, the Republicans have won the White House.  So while, the Constitution, theoretically, allows these electors to vote for Hillary, practically these electors will not vote for Hillary.

What had potential (and what still might result in an unusually large number of defections) was to emphasize that Trump is not a Republican.  Republican electors are unlikely to vote for Hillary Clinton.  They might vote for Ted Cruz or Mitt Romney or John Kasich.  For Republican electors, there are a lot of competing considerations — who the voters of their party and state chose versus the traditional interests of the Republican Party versus the future of their party (both if they allow Trump to become President and if they block Trump’s election).  If enough Republican electors voted for somebody other than Trump, it would merely kick the election to the House where Republican representatives would face the same problem.  (While there would be some incentive to simply not reach a decision and let Mike Pence run things, eventually they would need to reach a decision so that they could move to other items on the agenda.)

In short, the issue for Republican electors (and perhaps later for the House) is whether to go with Trump or another Republican.  While there are certainly good reasons for the Republicans to block Trump, the default position is to vote for Trump.  By winning the election, the Republicans have gotten themselves into a position where neither choice will be good for the country or good for the Republican Party.  My hunch says that by the end of the day tomorrow, it will be official that Trump is the president-elect (as opposed to simply the presumptive winner).  While there were chances for some Democrats and Republicans to join together behind a third candidate over the past five weeks, those chances have passed.  As during the Republican primary, somebody beats nobody.

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2 thoughts on “The End

  1. SarahLawrenceScott

    I agree Trump will be President-Elect after tomorrow.

    My question: would it be good or bad if some electors broke with their states? In the current environment, what’s done once in what are considered exceptional circumstances may end up rapidly becoming part of our normal political process. What if in 2020, or 2024, the electors appear to be 270 to 268, and two of them switch?

    If that happened to be a switch to the Democrats, then perhaps it would invite some serious thinking about constitutional amendments, since at that point both the Republicans and the Democrats would have recent reason to object to the current system. If it happened to be a switch to the Republicans, though, it might tear the country apart.

    I just don’t know whether I want to see any “faithless electors” tomorrow, or not. On the one hand, it would provide an important signal that this is NOT a normal victory, and was not a normal election. On the other, it could provide precedent for terrible problems later on.

  2. tmess2 Post author

    In the end, as is the norm, most of the faithless electors (albeit more than normal) came from the losing candidates. (Reflecting the fact that it is easy to cast a protest vote when you know that your vote will not impact the outcome.) For the first time in over forty years, we did have electors pledged to the winning candidate defect, but only two of them (both from Texas) defected. Whether or not you include the elector from Georgia who resigned, the total number was unusually large, but not enough to make a difference. Whether this trend continues forward is worth watching. Clearly, 2016 was a very divisive election, but given the growth in grievance politics, I’m not sure that future elections are going to be less divisive.

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