Semper (In)Fidelis

Creative Common photo by The League of Women Voters

In the two weeks since the election, we have seen protest in the streets and the theaters, and the creation of safe spaces at schools and colleges.

We have also heard a lot of talk about the Electoral College. Some want to eliminate the Electoral College altogether, relying instead on the popular vote. Others, frustrated and afraid at the prospect of a Trump presidency, believe they have discovered a  loophole to stop that from happening. The plan is simple but risky: convince electors to switch their votes from Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton and thereby ensure the electoral vote is modified to match the popular vote. While there is a penalty for switching one’s vote, some seem to be willing to face that consequence in order to “do the right thing”. The problem is, of course, that the aforementioned “right thing” might be different to different electors.

My wife and I recently have been binge-watching the British TV show Inspector Lewis. And one thing I have learned, in addition to the fact that I don’t think the per-capita murder rate in Oxford is quite as high as the writers would have us believe, is that when people are unfaithful, all sorts of bad things happen. Asking presidential electors to betray their allegiances might have unintended consequences as well.

Yes, Article II of the Constitution, as refined by the 12th Amendment, gives electors the right to make the final decision for President and Vice President, but it is an awfully dangerous assumption to make that the Republican electors, even if they could be persuaded to vote against the current President-Elect, would instead choose Hillary Clinton. In Utah, they would likely vote for Evan McMullin, while in Indiana they might pick Mike Pence. Faithless Texas electors could vote for Ted Cruz, while ones in Florida might choose Marco Rubio and Wisconsin electors would support Paul Ryan. And can you imagine how many electors pledged to Clinton would defect and support the much more popular Bernie Sanders?

Under such a scenario, no single candidate would get the 270 votes required to win outright and the election would be decided in the U.S. House of Representatives, where each state would get one vote. Since Trump won 30 states, the Republicans would have the majority. Even if Republicans did see this as a chance to pick a less-controversial candidate, Clinton would not be that person. The most likely outcome is that Disneyworld’s Hall of Presidents would be working on making an Animatronic replica of mild-mannered Pence as the 45 President of the United States and Donald Trump would be relegated to Trump Tower where he likely would pretty much crash Twitter with his concern du jour. Of course, he could just sit back and catch up on recent episodes of Saturday Night Live.

Then again, that might not be such a good idea after all.

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