December 19, 2016

I think it might have been a strategic mistake for so many opponents of Donald Trump to mount a high-profile campaign to keep him out of the White House by means of "faithless electors" in the Electoral College, if only for one reason:

There’s no evidence of a widespread number of Republican defections -- just one Republican elector from Texas has gone public with plans to break from Trump....

Democratic electors are the ones beating the drums for the revolt, yet they’re largely powerless to change the outcome.

A handful of electors are already planning on uniting around a Republican alternative as a protest, but it’s still unclear how many are willing to join the protest.

How embarrassing will it be if, after all this talk, after the celebrity video pleas and whatnot, more faithless electors reject Clinton than reject Trump? So far, we know of one likely defector from Trump; by contrast, there may be multiple electors planning to vote against Clinton hoping to throw the election into the House of Representatives (another exercise in futility, because Trump would actually win in a landslide there), and there are two Sandersite Democratic electors in Washington State who were talking about rejecting Clinton even before Election Day. If Trump loses one electoral vote and Clinton loses several, the right-wing gloating will never stop.

(UPDATE: And now a Maine elector says he'll vote for Bernie Sanders rather than Hillary Clinton.)

In an op-ed they wrote for The New York Times last week, Dahlia Lithwick and David Cohen were right:

Since the election, top Democrats have been almost absent on the national stage. Rather, they have been involved largely in internecine warfare about how much to work with Mr. Trump....

There’s no shortage of legal theories that could challenge Mr. Trump’s anointment, but they come from outsiders rather than the Democratic Party....

Contrast the Democrats’ do-nothingness to what we know the Republicans would have done. If Mr. Trump had lost the Electoral College while winning the popular vote, an army of Republican lawyers would have descended on the courts and local election officials. The best of the Republican establishment would have been filing lawsuits and infusing every public statement with a clear pronouncement that Donald Trump was the real winner. And they would have started on the morning of Nov. 9, using the rhetoric of patriotism and courage.

How can we be so certain? This is what happened in 2000.

If Clinton had won and Republicans had any reasonable hope of overturning the results, the campaign to do so would have come from the top.

Politico's Kyle Cheney believes that the faithless-elector effort might be the beginning of the end of the Electoral College:

Those rogue electors aren't likely to succeed in preventing Trump's election Monday, but they could succeed at something even more significant: sowing enough distrust of the Electoral College to set in motion a movement to do away with it, to be replaced by popular election of the president.

No. You know what would "set in motion a movement to do away with" the Electoral College? One election in which a Democrat lost the popular vote and won the electoral vote. If this ever happens to Republicans, they will mount a full-on campaign to overturn the Electoral College result, and they'll make it their business to abolish or alter the Electoral College legislatively or constitutionally.

In case you've forgotten, just before the 2000 election, Republicans close to the Bush campaign told us that's they planned to lead a serious fight if Al Gore lost the popular vote and won the Electoral College:


It's good to question Trump's legitimacy. The faithless-elector campaign is successful in that way. But if you want to change the outcome of the election, the fight has to come from the party.

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