December 14, 2020

CNN's John Berman was pretty happy about today's Electoral College vote.

"We wait every four years for just this moment. The first Monday after the second Wednesday in December," he said.

"You know what that means! it's Electoral College day. That bizarre constitutional quirk that lets 538 people officially choose the president. It's important this year, because it gives many Republicans a chance to stop lying about the election results. John Avlon here with a reality check."

"You probably thought Election Day was six weeks ago. You know, when Joe Biden won an unprecedented 81 million votes, giving him an electoral college victory of 306 to 232. But it turns out today is the real election, as far as the constitution is concerned, when 538 members of the electoral college meet in their respective states to ratify their state's votes," Avlon said.

"Confused? You're not alone. So let's break it down. You got to go all the way back to 1787 when the Founders intended those electors to be independent-minded citizens, who could stop an unqualified demagogue from ever becoming president. Didn't quite work out that way. You see, the Constitution doesn't mention political parties, but as they emerged, even James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, called for an amendment to end the electoral college.

"In fact, the electoral college has been targeted for reform or abolition some 700 times according to Jesse Wegener, author of 'Let The People Pick The President,' as recently as 1969, a constitutional amendment to end the electoral college passed overwhelmingly in the house, before being filibustered by segregationalists in the Senate. And because there's a tweet for everything, even Trump once blasted the electoral college as a disaster for democracy.

"But Trump's current attempts to overturn the will of the people represents something more cynical and sinister than just situational ethics. After the Supreme Court unanimously rejected not one but two of his fact-free arguments, even Republicans who have resisted recognizing Biden as president-elect have said the electoral college vote would be decisive. Here's Mitch McConnell.

I want to particularly congratulate President-elect Trump.

"I'm sorry, that's him congratulating President Trump the day after the 2016 election. Here's McConnell today.

At some point here, we'll find out, finally, who was certified in each of these states and the electoral college will determine the winner.

"Yes, but some counterfeit constitutional conservatives plan to take it further, plotting to block the confirmation of the electoral college vote when it comes before Congress on January 6th. Just imagine what they'd say if Democrats tried this stunt. Wait, they have. With a handful of protest votes after George W. Bush and Trump lost the popular vote but won the presidency. But here's the thing, not a single Democratic senator would sign on to it. And then Democratic vice presidents, including Al Gore, presiding over his own defeat, and Joe Biden, saw to the peaceful transfer of power. Unfortunately, we can't take the same sense of civic responsibility for granted.

"All of this is just more evidence why we need to strengthen democracy's guardrails going forward. That's why an initiative known as the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact has been gaining steam, with 15 states and the District of Columbia backing a plan to grant their electors to the winner of the popular vote. Trump's war on democracy and now the electoral college reflects too many Republicans' discomfort with majority rule.

"We need to reassert this democratic principle with laws, not just norms that reflect the Founders' best intents. Because as Alexander Hamilton once wrote, the fundamental maximum of republican government requires the sense of majority should prevail.

"And that's your reality check."

UPDATE: Well, here we go.

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