In what seemed like the longest presidential election cycle in American history, the journey is officially over. The electors finally met in the state capitols on Monday to cast their ballots to elect the President of the United States. Despite all the threats, bribes, and political maneuvering to get them to switch their votes, only two who pledged to Donald Trump ended up casting their ballots for another candidate. The real surprise was how many ended up becoming faithless electors for Hillary Clinton.
Donald J. Trump will be the next President of the United States. Whether you are an ardent supporter or a fanatic detractor, it must sound a little funny reading that as it was to write it. When he launched his campaign at Trump Tower, it is safe to assume very few Americans would have ever thought he had a chance. Roughly half of the country is still in denial and a state of panic that he won at all.
Trump secured 304 electoral votes on Monday — two fewer than he earned in November, according to the Associated Press (as referenced in by NPR), which was following the balloting as it was happening.
Unprecedented Efforts Against Trump
Anti-Trump forces have mobilized in a last-ditch effort to prevent someone they characterize as the “Cheeto” from undoing eight years of progress under Barack Obama. Michael Moore offered to pay the fines electors could face from their states for voting against Trump. Celebrities made a video appeal to them. Petitions have circulated urging a historic rise of faithless electors.
A Change.org petition, now signed by more than 4.3 million people, encourages members of the Electoral College to cast their votes for Hillary Clinton when the college meets on Dec. 19. The petition argues that Donald Trump is “unfit to serve” and that “Secretary Clinton WON THE POPULAR VOTE and should be President.” – Robert Farley, FactCheck.org in USA Today
While concern over a Trump presidency may be understandable, someone explain to petitioners that the popular vote doesn’t matter. As I explained in my post The National Popular Vote Compact: Democracy or Disaster?, election night is comprised of fifty-one elections (fifty states + DC), not one. Who wins the overall popular vote is irrelevant. Our system is not set up that way.
The Bad and the Ugly
If it stopped there, it would be an understandable reaction to a contentious and divisive election. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
That’s right – electors received death threats for doing their duty and following the results of a legitimate election. Americans engaging in that behavior have decided that it’s prudent to menace electors with the specter of ending their lives or causing harm to their families.
Michigan elector Michael Banerian is one the recipients of the threats. “I’ve had people that have been talking about putting a bullet in the back of my mouth, burning myself and my family, sending pictures of nooses saying if I don’t vote for Hillary Clinton, they’ll get me,” he told the FOX Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo.
And people wonder why the right mocks the “tolerant left.” Not to mention that such threats violate federal law, not that Attorney General Loretta Lynch or President Obama himself have taken any measures to stop it. Everyone wanted 2016 to be the year of the faithless elector, and in some respects, it was.
Clinton Struggles in the College
All the hand-wringing had little effect on Trump’s electors. Countless articles from major news sources conjured up all kinds of scenarios how faithless electors could cost Trump the election, but none of them materialized. The assurances from a Harvard Law professor that he personally flipped 20 votes became laughable. In the end, only two faithless electors in Texas opted to vote for someone other than Trump.
In a twist worth of a political fiction novel (hmmm…. LOL), Hillary Clinton fared far worse than Trump did. (Much of the below was derived from the Inquisitr):
An elector in Maine voted for Hillary Clinton’s rival from the primaries, Bernie Sanders. The vote was rejected and the elector properly cast his vote for Hillary Clinton on the second ballot.
In Colorado, an elector voted for John Kasich. Colorado has a different system to deal with dissenting electors. The elector was dismissed and a replacement sworn in. All nine of the electorate cast their votes for Hillary Clinton.
Yet another elector refused to cast his vote for Clinton in Minnesota. This elector was also dismissed for an alternate, resulting in all ten of Minnesota’s electoral votes going to Hillary Clinton.
The state of Washington hurt Hillary Clinton the most. She was expected to receive 12 electoral votes in the state’s winner-take-all system, having won the popular vote by a large margin. Instead, only eight Electoral College members voted for Hillary Clinton. The remaining four votes were divided between Faith Spotted Eagle–a member of the Sioux tribe who helped block the Dakota Access Pipeline–and General Colin Powell.
Hawaii elector David Mulinix, a Democrat, cast a ballot for Sanders over Clinton.
Discord in the Democratic Party
For all that was made of divisions on the Republican side of the equation during the election, it may be the Democrats who are in more turmoil. Bernie Sanders may have tossed his support to Clinton, but it doesn’t appear that a significant number of his supporters were “With Her.”
Trump may have been the most beatable candidate in the modern era, and still he won. Yes, there are those who point fingers at Russian intervention (Read: From Russia with Love – Explaining the Russian Hacking Accusations), but even an ardent anti-Trump crowd can’t lay the blame there in its entirety. The truth is, Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate with a flawed strategy. Sanders supporters will be quick to say that he never would have lost Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and looking at it objectively, they are probably right.
The fact that, despite the massive effort to deprive Donald Trump of the 270 votes he needed to cement his election to the presidency, more faithless electors betrayed Hillary Clinton. If the Democratic Party wants to return to relevancy in American politics (it hasn’t been this bad for them since Reconstruction), they need to address the chasms that have developed in their own party.
The Final Curtain Call
The Electoral College vote and the faithless electors it produced provides a fitting coup-de-gras for the 2016 Election. It will go down in history as one of the most baffling, divisive, contentious, and bitter in American history.
America can now get on with the transition and the Inauguration, and prepare themselves for what that may mean. For Trump supporters, it’s time to start the dream of making America great again. For progressives, this is beginning of a long four year nightmare.
Time will tell whether the Trump presidency ends up being the dream or the nightmare. Considering the state of America, I’m certain our citizens will disagree about that as well.