In their wisdom, our Founding Fathers eschewed a full democracy for a democratic republic form of government. In their minds, the tyranny of the majority was as much a danger to our young country as was a monarchy. Also in their minds was the fear that slaves might impact the vote. So, they devised the Electoral College, a system by which a few men from each state could reflect – or override – the popular vote, state by state. The system intentionally gave more power to some areas of the country. In the country’s entire history, it has never once used its power to set aside the selection of a candidate for president.
These are the reasons it should do so now.
The Electoral College is not a rubber stamp. It was given its own deliberative and voting powers. The reason newscasters can predict the outcome of an election within hours of the polls closing is simple calculations, based on the needed 270 votes and where they are located. It must be kept in mind that the Electoral College has not yet cast their votes. There is a provision in the Constitution that allows for what is called “a faithless elector.” Electors may, by law, vote against the selection their state has made. Obviously, this was not encouraged, nor expected, but it was precisely allowed.
The current President-elect is a uniquely unqualified candidate. Not only does he not have the experience to govern, he does not have the temperament to deal effectively with either world leaders or his own people. Even his self-proclaimed business acumen is suspect due to his lack of transparency and multiple bankruptcies. His cabinet appointments have shown either his inability to run the government or his desire to dismantle it. His petulant attitude toward criticism of any sort makes him a danger to those he would rule. At best, he is a thin-skinned, inept authoritarian who will use the office for his personal benefit. At worse, he is a puppet and will do irreparable harm to the country.
The President-elect’s ties to Russia are chilling. There is no nuance, no diplomacy in his approach to this long-time adversary of the United States. Instead, he has appointed a Secretary of State who is so close to the Kremlin that he has received a medal from Putin’s own hand. Worse, US intelligence agencies have found actual proof that Russia actively interfered with the election, likely on Trump’s behalf. As Trump has not released his tax returns, there is no way to see connections there, but this lack of transparency itself is also worrisome. Clearly what we see is not all we are getting.
Even setting Russia aside, the President-elect’s approach to foreign policy is clumsy, juvenile, and potential damaging, not just to the US, but to the world. His reluctance to sit still long enough for a daily intelligence briefing is troubling but his attitude that he does not need them because he is so “smart” is the kind of hubris that causes war. Challenging foreign powers on Twitter is even more inappropriate than the social media bullying for which he is so well known. This is not a man who should be anywhere near the nuclear codes.
Finally, there is the popular vote. Yes, other Presidents have taken office not having won the popular vote. However, never has one lost the popular vote so spectacularly as has Trump. With a divide of nearly three million votes, it is clear that the American people do not want this man as President. Whether it is his hubris, his sexism, his racism, his petulance, or his lack of qualifications, the people have spoken. His election so far has been based on economic anger and the lies he told to inflame it. That he will do nothing to alleviate the pain of those who voted for him, and will, in fact, increase economic hardship by enabling the dismantling of health insurance, Social Security, Medicare, and more, makes Trump a fraud.
The Electoral College was made for exactly this situation. We have an assumed President-elect whose election was influenced by an enemy nation, who failed by millions of votes to win the hearts and minds of the American people, yet who claims a mandate; who has shown an unwillingness to do the actual work of the Presidency, and in fact, intends to maintain both his business and television empires concurrent with his term; who has acted inappropriately not only personally, but also on the foreign stage before even having the authority to do so; and who has shown either ignorance of, or clear disdain for our Constitution.
If the Electoral College does not use its legal power to keep this man from the highest office, it has abdicated its responsibilities and shown itself to be ineffective and archaic. If, however, it rises to the occasion, it will cement its place in our government and prove the wisdom of its founders. Such action will, of course, require courage, but it will also go down in history as a peaceful act that may well save the most powerful nation the world has ever seen from its own demise.