Our electors, ourselves

The revelations in the past few days about Russian interference in the election actually gave me great relief-because, of course, everything that happens is about me! Now those who’ve been rolling their eyes at my paranoid fantasies of Putin-inspired hacking and leaking and disabling the voter protection hotline will have to concede that paranoia is, in this case, completely justified.

More important-and more seriously-the revelations crystallized my view that the outcome of this Presidential election reflects not a simple disagreement about policy but an actual threat to our system of government. And, again, if that sounds alarmist, you haven’t been paying enough attention.

But I know you all have been paying attention; SO! What to do? A group of us who worked together on Hillary’s campaign are contacting every Republican elector in the country, asking all of them to withhold their votes from Donald Trump. We’re calling, we’re emailing, we’re snail-mailing-and we’re doing it all RIGHT NOW, because the Electoral College meets in 5 days, on Monday, December 19, and it’s our last line of defense against having a Russian puppet in the White House.

If you can spare time in the next day or so, I urge you to do the same. You will find a list of GOP electors, with all their e-mail contact information, here. My letter, which you’re welcome to crib if you find it useful, is here. The essential thing is to write now, and to treat these people with whom we disagree so strongly as fellow and sister patriots with whom we hope to ally in defense of the Constitution. What a concept: speaking civilly and rationally to our opponents!

You may well think this is a futile endeavor; but I can only quote Father Daniel Berrigan: “Start with the impossible. Proceed calmly towards the improbable. No worry, there are at least five exits.” And, as he also said, “Faith is rarely where your head is at. Nor is it where your heart is at. Faith is where your ass is at!”

Mine’s in front of my computer.

Author: Kelly Kleiman

Kelly Kleiman is a freelance writer on the arts, feminism, travel and social justice. Her reportage and essays have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor, among other dailies; in magazines, including In These Times and Dance; in the alternative press; on the BBC; and on Chicago Public Radio, where she’s one of the “Dueling Critics” and a contributor to the Onstage Backstage theater blog. She is also a consultant to charities and editor and publisher of The Nonprofiteer, a blog about charity, philanthropy and nonprofit management. She holds undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Chicago.

22 thoughts on “Our electors, ourselves”

  1. I don't understand the point. If Trump only gets 269 votes, the election goes to the House of Representatives. So they will elect Trump.

    1. It's obviously ridiculous. Here are some electors speaking: "Nashville attorney Tom Lawless, who chose Marco Rubio in the primaries, described his vow to cast his electoral vote for Trump in blunt terms. “Hell will freeze and we will be skating on the lava before I change,” he said. “He won the state and I’ve pledged and gave my word that that’s what I would do. And I won’t break it.”

      Nor will Jim Skaggs, 78, a developer from Bowling Green, Kentucky, despite deep concern about Trump. “His personality worries me,” Skaggs said. “He is not open-minded.” Skaggs knew Trump’s father through the construction business, met the son in his 20s, and “I wasn’t impressed.”

      “I hope he is far better than I think he is,” Skaggs said. Even so, “I fully intend to vote for Donald Trump,” he said. “I think it’s a duty.”"

      So Ms Kleiman must have in mind something other than denying Trump the Presidency. Showing him to the world as illegitimate, I guess. I kind of doubt this leads anywhere positive.

      1. I guess if there's anything positive to the whole thing, it's that HRC got so many more faithless electors than did Donald Trump, showing how much discontent there was with her and her campaign among the kind of active Dems who get chosen to be electors.

  2. To do this effectively will take leadership from the very top. If you can contact Hillary Clinton and ask her to publicly place all her electors at the disposal of a sane Republican, she can probably peel enough Trump electors off to get that person elected.

    I realize that's like puking to avoid dying from poison, but these are toxic times.

    1. Wouldn't it be a hoot if that Republican were Mitt Romney, and enough Trump electors peeled off to put him in the White House, where he could interview Trump to be Secretary of Commerce, and then pass him over in favor of someone else?

  3. Even if enough electors changed their votes, their votes still have to be certified by the secretaries of state in each state.

  4. Trump and his troll army are very active on this front. I gather that most of the electors have received death threats or threats that loved ones will be raped and/or killed. I think that unless the elector has someplace to go where neither American nor Russian trolls can get at them, it's pretty risky to insult Trump in this way.

  5. Sorry, what you are entertaining might lead to civil war. Trump won under the rules concerning this election, fair and square. None of the hacked information has been shown to be false, or even disputed by the parties involved.. If anything, the hacks lead to a more informed election.

    Were Trump to be denied the presidency he won under the existing rules, insurrection would likely result. Police, National Guard, and local governments would have to pick sides. And I might add, most of the official armed organizations most likely voted for him.

    The DNC ran a candidate they knew was under active investigation by the FBI (unbelievably risky on its face) with high negatives, and she ran a terrible campaign.

    She lost under the rules that govern. To suggest any other result is insurrection.

    1. But don't the rules also make the electors essentially free agents? If that's the case, it's a crappy system but it is clearly something that's baked into the crappy system.

      As for risking unpleasantness with conservatives, at this point it seems unavoidable. Ever increasing millions of Americans who live in big, heavily populated states or large cities are being subjugated by rural and Southern residents who have disproportionate voting power. Something got to give eventually so why not now before Trump can establish himself in power?

      1. Well, what she is asking for a civil war, not "unpleasantness". And the other side has most of the guns. I'm against that.

        If you think Trump is going to be repressive, just wait til what you see after there is a rebellion.

        It's a terrible idea.

        HRC lost. Look forward from that (although the DNC is doing its damnedest to avoid any responsibility or change)

        1. We are the largest, most prosperous states. We have the bulk of the country's population. Every year we get bleed more and every year we accept that the Southern and rural states have "super voter" status that give them a functional veto over everything and forces us to accept that they are the "real Americans" and their values are the authentic ones.

          One way or another, that's got to change. A good start would be for Democratic senators and representatives to refuse to vote for budget appropriations if red states receive more from the federal government than the pay in taxes and also to demand that federal and military institutions should not be located in the South. That would be a good start.

          1. Geographically, most of the country has never recovered since the GFC. Any political solution has to fix that.

            Either that or you consent to breaking up the country. Which is hard to do now. Urban/Rural boundarys are no where as clear as the old Mason Dixon line.

        2. With all respect for the good points you're making, I question the reframing of the OP as "asking for a civil war." First it's inaccurate: she's asking for the electors to do something that was envisioned as part of their job by the founding fathers, and it's not clear that a civil war (a term that needs definition in this context) would result. Second, that phrasing reframes a possible reaction by bad actors as the responsibility of their victims. Black people who sought to vote during the civil rights struggle were not "asking for a beating."

          Third, we want to avoid doing the sort of thing we're being warned against by people who grew up in repressive societies: doing the repressors' job for them by repressing our own speech and behavior.

          That said, I agree that it is probably a pipe-dream to hope that the electors would give sufficient votes to HRC, and that what we could reasonably ask and hope for under the present circumstances is that enough electors would give votes to a moderate (or even not so moderate-Kasich, for example) Republican to throw the election into the House. I do think there is something to be said for making visible elected officials take responsibility for the decision to put (or not to put) Trump in office. And I agree that we should be aware of likely responses from some Trump supporters.

          In the event of electors doing something unexpected, there probably would be some violence, probably much less than you seem to be expecting. We do have people tasked with locating and containing it. And I think there is reason to believe most Trump voters are no more supportive of the alt-right than most on the left were of, e.g., the Weathermen in the 1960's.

          1. You aren't wrong. However, most all of our systems (elections, governance, financial, justice, police) all face a crisis of legitimacy. If Trump is denied what he won in a fair election done under existing rules, that crisis will be multiplied manifold.

            You'd have something like half the country no longer believing in democracy. That's possibly death of the republic time.

          2. I agree entirely that the background to all this is a truly massive crisis of legitimacy across most of our governmental systems. However, I am not convinced that it follows that most voters will react as if Trump is denied "what he won in a fair election." There is question about the fairness of the election. More importantly (from a practical standpoint, at least), some—we don’t know the exact number-of Trump voters voted primarily against Clinton, others are, Brexit-style, questioning their vote, and there is reason to believe many of those who voted for him would be happy-in fact, happier-if they emerged with a bog-standard conservative Republican in the presidency instead of Trump: Kasich, Ryan, Chris Sununu, Asa Hutchinson. . . .

            I don't know enough about the election of Rutherford B. Hayes to be able to make a comparison, but that involved Congress making decisions about where to assign electoral votes, and it was a pretty contentious time. I do know that the decision of the Supreme Court in 2000 to stop an ongoing vote count because continuing it would do harm to their preferred candidate did a pretty good imitation of a "death of the republic" moment.

            As for half the country no longer believing in democracy, some of that is certainly due to the fact that Trump's election (a) may well not have been fair, (b) may have been "helped along" by a foreign power, (c) is being upheld by refusals to recount votes in some Republican states, and (d) was in no sense democratic, if we take "democratic" to mean "reflecting the will of the people" or even just "reflecting the will of the people who voted." How many votes is he behind at the moment?

            I also want to address the suggestion that Trump's installation will help to address the crisis of legitimacy. The systems you listed have all been skewed in favor of the side that Trump himself supports, and whose most questionable partisans are now being proposed for high positions in his team. Trump's installation as president will exacerbate, not mitigate, all of those crises.

          3. Probably no elections are "fair." In this one, HRC had all the advantages, much more money, and the support of all the punditosphere. the NYT and Wapoo had headlines every day calling out the latest "disqualifying" statement from DT.

            Certainly the SC stopping the vote for Bush Jr was a very damaging event. One of many lately. My personal guess is that the US will break apart sometime in the next 10-20 years anyway, the divisions are so sharp.

            But denying DT the presidency he won under the existing rules would tell those Trump voters (many of whom voted for him as a protest against the establishment that they feel ignores their concerns) that their concerns will *never* be registered. Hence the possibility of rebellion. They are well armed in general and I'm pretty sure would have the various armed forces on their side as well.

            Plus, the surpassing hypocrisy of the CIA complaining that a foreign power interfered with our sacred election, is just jaw dropping. Have those people done anything but for the last 50 years?

            Will the installation of Trump make the crisis worse? Who knows, I know denying him will set off a firestorm.

            My bumper sticker says "Giant Meteor-2016-Just End it Now".

            I'm not taking it off just yet.

          4. We know that the Clinton campaign spent more legally accounted-for money. Of course we don't know about legal "dark money" or about illegal foreign money.

          5. // They are well armed in general and I'm pretty sure would have the various armed forces on their side as well. //

            Well yes, of course, because despite Mr. Guthman's protestations above that "We are the largest, most prosperous states. We have the bulk of the country's population.", everyone knows from whence the bulk of the population of our various armed forces comes, and why that is.

            "Well armed in general" may actually be just a bit of an understatement. I wonder how many here can relate to the experience I've enjoyed many times, common as dirt in Middle America, of retiring to the back-pasture shooting range with your young adult children and their friends early in the afternoon before anyone has "had too many", looking on with only the slightest hint of trepidation as your pre-teen granddaughters participate in target practice with AR-15 style weapons. Yeah, we're well armed all right. If you get me, my daughter or son-in-law can pry the weapon from my cold dead fingers and carry on the fight, and if you get them, their 10 and 12 year-old daughters can do the same.

          6. There's a great James McMurtry song about the rust belt, where he sings:

            "They can join the Air Force, Or join the Corps.
            If they can't make it here anymore"

            That's long been the one possible escape from a poor dead town.

    2. This has been a campaign where Trump has broken norm after norm while everyone stood by helpless because none of them are actually codified in law. Many electors are NOT bound by law to vote for the candidate who won the popular vote, only by custom. If they want to exercise a legal right they have even if doing so would be a violation of longstanding norms, it would serve Trump right after the way he ran his campaign. I doubt they will, of course.

    3. It's weird if the electoral vote doesn't give the same results as the popular vote, but that's our system, and it's legitimate. It's weird if the electors don't vote the way the parties instruct them to vote, but that's our system, and it's legitimate.

      That you find one of these odd features to be unremarkable and the other to be a shocking violation of common sense doesn't flow from any principle you've been willing to describe. Would you be willing to take a shot at it?

  6. This is an interesting nugget. It's not an argument for or against faithless electors, just interesting. The faithless elector in Texas, Chris Suprun, who had an op-ed published in the NYT, is apparently a charlatan and fraudster, claiming to be a 9/11 first responder, among other things. Now, he's not a Democrat, which is one reason for his 15 seconds of fame* (to be followed by many more seconds of infamy). He was a Cruz supporter in the general, and obviously has some connection to Texas GOP politics, or he wouldn't have been an elector in the first place. Here's the link: http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/texas-news/no-reco

    * I'm aware that in the oh-so-slow and uneventful '60s, Warhol said everyone would have fifteen minutes of fame. That's an eternity today, and I would imagine that if someone measured it, we'd find that almost every person elevated to temporary fame suffers infamy far longer than he/she enjoys fame.

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