COLUMBIA, S.C. – If you thought Donald Trump was the face of America’s anti-establishment movement, hold on to your chapeaus: A wild wind is rising.
Want to know what’s more anti-establishment than a president-elect who refuses to play by the rules? How about similarly spirited electors going AWOL and sending someone else to the Oval Office?
Could it happen? Might.
A movement headed by a mostly Democratic group calling itself Hamilton Electors is trying to convince Republican electors to defect – not to cede the election to Hillary Clinton but to join with Democrats in selecting a compromise candidate, such as Mitt Romney or John Kasich. It wouldn’t be that hard to do.
Mathematically, only 37 of Trump’s 306 electors are needed to bring his number down to 269, one less than the 270 needed to secure the presidency.
On the Hamilton Electors’ Facebook page, elector Bret Chiafalo, a Democrat from Washington, explains the purpose of the Electoral College. If you haven’t previously been a fan of the electoral system, you might become one.
Bottom line: The Founding Fathers didn’t fully trust democracy, fearing mob rule, and so created a republic. They correctly worried that a pure democracy could result in the election of a demagogue (ahem), or a charismatic autocrat (ahem), or someone under foreign influence (ditto), hence the rule that a president must have been born in the U.S. We know how seriously Trump takes the latter.
Most important among the founders’ criteria for a president was that he (or now she) be qualified. Thus, the Electoral College was created as a braking system that would, if necessary, save the country from an individual such as, frankly, Trump.
It is worth noting that 50 former Republican national security officials and foreign policy experts co-signed a letter saying that Trump would be a “dangerous president.” Do we simply ignore them?
At least one Republican elector, Christopher Suprun, has decided to pay heed. In an op-ed in Tuesday’s New York Times, Suprun, a paramedic in Texas, outlined all his reasons for not rubber-stamping Trump, saying that he owes a debt not to his party but to his children. He urged others to join him.
This, apparently, they can do, though some states may impose penalties. Hamilton Electors are raising funds to pay any such costs that may accrue.
Alexander Hamilton, suddenly a star both on Broadway and Main Street, wrote that the Electoral College “affords a moral certainty that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”
Electors would prevent the “tumult and disorder” that would result from the candidate’s exploiting “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity.” Speaking of Trump. How wise our founders were. And how unwise are we to pay so little attention to their far-keener insights.
It is, perhaps, a sign of these upside-down times that Democrats, usually preferring the popular vote, are suddenly genuflecting to the Electoral College and Republicans, who so often defer to the founders’ original intent, shift principle so swiftly, presumably in hopes of taking the ultimate escalator ride in the golden palace of King Trump. Tut-tut.
Meanwhile, those on both sides who remain opposed to Trump are dismissed as either sorry losers or as dining on crow and sour grapes. But the stakes are too high – and the evidence of Trump’s presidential aptitude deficit too severe – for such trivializing designations. His demonstrated lack of judgment and impulse control should send shivers down the spines of all Americans in consideration of the nuclear arsenal he is poised to have at his fingertips.
That’s not all of it, but it’s enough. Without consulting advisers or “sleeping on it,” for which he is not known, Trump can authorize a nuke upon the slightest provocation – or none. All previous presidents have had the same authority, of course, but all have also been experienced statesmen, nary a reality-show celebrity (nor snake-oil salesman) among them.
Trump’s friends have told me they’re confident he’ll solemnly respect the burden of such power, but nothing thus far justifies their faith. After his election win, Trump hasn’t much bothered himself with intelligence briefings. He ignored 37 years of diplomatic precedent by chatting with the president of Taiwan, upsetting China. He spoke like an inarticulate ninth-grader with Pakistan’s prime minister, according to that country’s readout. Trump apparently told the prime minister that he’s a “terrific guy” doing “amazing work” and that Trump is “ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems.” Oh, really? Which ones?
Electors are scheduled to meet Dec. 19 in their respective states to cast their final ballots. If there are 37 Republicans among them with the courage to perform their moral duty and protect the nation from a talented but dangerous president-elect, a new history of heroism will have to be written.
Please, be brave.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.