The Last Ditch Attempt to Dump Trump


Today, 538 electors across the country will meet in the state legislatures to cast their ballots for the president of the United States. Traditionally, this voting remained a formality as most – if not all – electors select the candidate who won the popular vote in the state. However, this year many party operatives have called upon electors to rethink their vote due to allegations of Russian manipulation of the American election, Donald Trump’s possibly unconstitutional conflicts of interest and his loss of the popular vote.

However, as of 4:36 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 19, Trump already received the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the presidency.

Why does the Electoral College exist?

Beginning in the days of ancient Greece, political theorists, such as Polybius and Plato, described the process in which a benevolent government devolves into a far inferior one, known as kyklos or “cycle.” For example, a democracy overtime may develop into an ochlocracy, or mob rule.

This fear of mob mentality and the destruction of government has permeated beyond the agoras of Greece. It has influenced Machiavelli and even our American founding fathers.

Thomas Jefferson referred to democracy as “nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”

Similarly, John Adams once said, “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

Thus, the Constitutional framers created a check on the power of the individual and included an Electoral College that could evaluate the decision of the “illiterate and ill-informed” American populus and officially select the leader.

Another factor that influenced the formation of the Electoral College derives from the undying conflict between states with small and large populations. Fearing the overwhelming influence of more populous states such as Virginia and Pennsylvania, the framers aimed to protect the smaller states from losing their influence to the urban centers.

Now, according to the C.I.A. World Factbook, the U.S. has a 99 percent literacy rate, which begs the question about the persistence of the Electoral College. Does the country still need an institution to check the ignorance of the American people?

Many historians and policy pundits do not believe so, but a constitutional amendment would be necessary to remove the Electoral College, requiring the approval of two-thirds of each congressional house and three-fourths of the states.

As a result, a constitutional amendment appears to be no more than a political pipe dream.

Could the electors have chosen another president?

Yes, but it may not be as easy as Saturday Night Live portrayed it on Saturday’s episode.

Currently 29 states and the District of Columbia have “faithless elector” laws that prevent electors from voting for a candidate that they did not pledge to support. (These laws in practice nullify the Electoral College’s role to evaluate the presidential selection of the people.) If electors in these states violate the law, the states however have rarely enforced the punishments – typically small fines or misdemeanor charges.

As a result, the electors in theory could have chosen another president, but state political parties choose electors in most states and refrain from selecting those who will deviate from the party. But faithless electors are not unheard of in America.

Throughout the history of America, 157 faithless votes have been cast, and four have already been cast this year. These four electors from Washington state initially pledged to vote for Hillary Clinton, but three voted for Colin Powell and one voted for Faith Spotted Eagle. Two electors, one from Maine and one from Minnesota, attempted to vote for Bernie Sanders, but faithless elector laws invalidated these votes and changed them to support Clinton.

Moreover, one Texas elector, Christopher Supron, announced on Dec. 5, 2016, that he would vote for Gov. John Kasich instead of Trump in a New York Times op-ed. He wrote, “Fifteen years ago, I swore an oath to defend my country and Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. On Dec. 19, I will do it again.”

Ultimately, regardless of the few electors who challenged the popular vote, Trump once again solidified his role as president of the United States. However, in the upcoming months, the Trump administration will need to address the lack of legitimacy he has by following a moderate approach to appease both the Trump coalition who supported him and the plurality of Americans who did not.

– Mary Orsak – Asst. News Editor –