Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Hamilton’s Electors Vote Trump

The pressure campaign fails, but Clinton has more faithless electors.

By Review & Outlook
The Wall Street Journal
December 20, 2016

The 538 members of the Electoral College met Monday in 50 state capitals, and nearly all followed the public will in the 29 states carried by Donald J. Trump by voting to make the Republican the 45th U.S. President. There will be no Electoral College coup.

On Election Day Mr. Trump won states (including Maine’s second congressional district) worth 306 electoral votes, comfortably more than the 270 needed for victory. While Monday’s final tally wasn’t known when we went to press, the count was headed toward 304 for Mr. Trump, with two dissenting GOP electors from Texas.

It is nonetheless worth noting the extraordinary lengths that Democrats and the progressive media have gone to attempt to lobby electors to vote for Hillary Clinton or a Republican alternative. “Electors under siege,” said a headline in Politico, reporting that many “have been inundated by harassing phone calls and hate mail,” even “death threats.”

So much for the calm deliberation that progressives claim to want as they lobbied electors under the rubric of Hamilton’s Electors. The spectacle of the last month has been an exercise in political intimidation, precisely the kind of pressure politics that Alexander Hamilton wanted an Electoral College to protect the country from. There’s a case for independent judgment by electors, but only in extraordinary circumstances—such as learning something new and disqualifying about a candidate.

The pressure tactics included a gambit by 10 electors, backed by Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, for a special intelligence briefing on Russian hacking before they voted. The lobbying was also notable for the number of progressive pundits who urged the electors to deny the results on Election Day in favor of defaulting to 538 electors.

Their supposedly killer argument is that Mrs. Clinton won the popular vote by some 2.86 million votes, at last count. But everyone, including the Clinton campaign, knew that the victor would be determined by electoral votes. No one ordered Mrs. Clinton not to campaign in Wisconsin, which she lost by something like 22,000 votes.

A campaign based on the popular vote would have been very different, and Mrs. Clinton spent tens of millions of dollars to roll up her popular vote margins in states she was already going to win comfortably. She did this in part because her campaign feared she might lose the popular vote but win in the Electoral College.

Beyond this year’s vote, progressives want to undermine public confidence in the Electoral College more broadly. That’s why several Democratic electors voted for other candidates before they were replaced under state law; four electors from Washington State were able to cast faithless votes, though they had been pledged to Mrs. Clinton.

They want the popular vote to determine the outcome, even though it would mean a nightmare of a national recount if the election were close and disputed. At least the Electoral College confines recounts to one or more close states. It also has the virtue of producing a decisive majority winner even if the candidate wins a plurality of the popular vote. Mr. Trump won only about 46% of the popular vote but carried nearly 57% of electoral votes.

The larger cynicism at work is the continuing attempt to undermine Mr. Trump’s democratic legitimacy. First Democrats tried a recount, which failed when the Republican gained votes in Wisconsin. Then they turned to the Electoral College, whose vote won’t technically be official until the new Congress certifies the result in January. Look for Democrats to make speeches before the vote questioning Mr. Trump’s authority to be President.

Then there are the charges that Vladimir Putin elected Mr. Trump. Mr. Podesta—perhaps still trying to purge his conscience for not campaigning in Wisconsin—even suggested on Sunday that “Trump Inc.” advisers colluded with the Russians to hack Democratic emails. That would be some story, though we’ll wait for evidence. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump will be President, but he shouldn’t anticipate a honeymoon.

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