Good Tuesday Austin:
I suspect that if Donald Trump had his druthers, he would have preferred to have won the popular vote and Hillary Clinton the electoral vote rather than the other way around. That way, he could have had the satisfaction of being able to boast that he was ultimately more popular, and carry forward the banner of the aggrieved victim of a “rigged system,” and his enhanced brand, without suffering the burden of actually having to serve as president, which, if you’re not into it, is really, in every respect, a drag.
In any case, Donald Trump is on record, as recently as Sunday night, as preferring the popular vote to the Electoral College as a method for choosing a president.
In an interview with 60 Minutes that aired Sunday, Trump said that he would “rather see” the presidential race’s outcome determined by a simple popular vote.
For background, on election night 2012 — when Mitt Romney had lost in electoral votes but still briefly led Obama in the popular vote total because California hadn’t come in yet — Trump sent a furious series of (later deleted) tweets denouncing the Electoral College and calling for a “revolution.”
Naturally, CBS’s Lesley Stahl asked the president-elect about this during an interview that aired Sunday, now that he’s the beneficiary of our country’s anachronistic system. “You tweeted once that the Electoral College is a disaster for democracy,” she said. “Do you still think it’s rigged?”
Trump dodged at first, saying, “Look, I won with the Electoral College,” and adding that “some of the system” is rigged. But when pressed, he later offered this:
I’m not going to change my mind just because I won. But I would rather see it where you went with simple votes. You know, you get 100 million votes and somebody else gets 90 million votes and you win.
There’s a reason for doing this because it brings all the states into play. Electoral College, and there’s something very good about that. But this is a different system. But I respect it. I do respect the system.
By this morning, Trump tweeted that he was now happily reconciled to the Electoral College.
That said (or tweeted). it is not too late. The Electoral College does not meet until Dec. 19 to actually choose the next president. All that would be required to elect Clinton instead of Trump would be an historic, but perfectly legal and Constitutional, number of so-called faithless electors.
From Fair Vote:
“Faithless Electors” are members of the Electoral College who, for whatever reason, do not vote for their party’s designated candidate.
Since the founding of the Electoral College, there have been 157 faithless electors. 71 of these votes were changed because the original candidate died before the day on which the Electoral College cast its votes. Three of the votes were not cast at all as three electors chose to abstain from casting their electoral vote for any candidate. The other 82 electoral votes were changed on the personal initiative of the elector.
Sometimes electors change their votes in large groups, such as when 23 Virginia electors acted together in 1836. Many times, however, these electors stood alone in their decisions. As of the 2004 election, no elector has changed the outcome of an election by voting against his or her party’s designated candidate.
Despite these 157 faithless votes, and a Supreme Court ruling allowing states to empower political parties to require formal pledges from presidential electors (Ray v. Blair, 343 US 214), 21 states still do not require their members of the Electoral College to vote for their party’s designated candidate.
There are 29 states (plus the District of Columbia) that require faithfulness issue a small variety of rarely enforced punishments for faithless electors, including fines and misdemeanors
Here is a very nice explainer on how the Electoral College works:
Of the 21 states that permit electors to votes their conscience, 15 went for Trump, plenty enough to deny him the presidency if a majority of the electors in those states switched their votes from Trump to Clinton.
Enter Hannah Moskowitz, a 25-year-old prolific author of young adult fiction from Rockville, Maryland, in suburban D.C., who is one of an uncertain number of Clinton supporters who, in the aftermath of last Tuesday’s election, sent emails to Republican electors in those 15 states imploring them not to vote for Donald Trump on December 19.
Here is the email that Moskowitz sent, in this case to Texas elector John Harper of Rockwall County.
Subject: A plea to listen to your country
Dear Mr. Harper,
I know that you probably never dreamed of casting an electoral vote that went against the announced choice of your state. But I also know that you probably never imagined that a candidate as uniquely unfit to be president would have secured the electoral vote.
You know as well as I do that he didn’t win the popular vote. That more people in this country voted for someone who is arguably the most qualified person to ever run for our highest position of power. Most people want her. And you, as a person who understands politics and knows what’s at stake, have the power and the responsibility to try to stop the man who’s perpetuating the acts of violence that we’re already seeing across the country, three days after he was elected.
I don’t need to tell you about how many voters were turned away in Michigan. I don’t need to tell you how many ballots haven’t yet been counted.
I don’t need to tell you the horrendous things Trump has said about women, minorities, veterans, immigrants, disabled people, foreigners.
You know. You know what’s right. You know what you need to do.
And here is John Harper’s reply.
Yes, I am a Presidential Elector for the State of Texas.
You must not know much about Texas citizens. Why else would you foolishly suggest that I cast my Electoral College vote for Hillary Clinton, a despicable individual?
I have copied my response to your foolish and unsolicited email to the District Director of the Texas Federation of Republican Women in hopes that she can bring legal action against you and your ilk.
John E. Harper, Ed.D.
Moskowitz told me that Harper was the only elector to reply to her entreaty to dump Trump.
“I wasn’t expecting him to reply, “Oh my God, you changed my mind, I’m going to vote for Hillary,'” said Moskowitz, who wrote the electors more as post-traumatic therapy than with any expectation of success.
“I wanted to be one of voices of thousands of people who were emailing the electors in the hopes we might change somebody’s mind. Did I think we’re going to change anybody’s mind? No. But I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do everything that I could.”
Of Harper, Moskowitz said, “I was expecting him to not answer me. I was expecting he’d get inundated with emails and then vote for Trump, or maybe there was a snowball’s chance in he’d get inundated with emails and change his mind ,but not because of my email.”
Moskowitz’s effort was more about trying to channel her distress into some kind of activism to work her way out of the current conundrum:”I don’t think we can do anything, but I also think we all owe each other everything we can do to try to do something.”
But, she also expected, “silence or respectful discourse from the electors.
She was taken aback by Harper’s reply with its threat to bring legal action against you and your ilk, and his signing off deplorably yours. She took that to be an acknowledgement of an alt-right identity. But it could also be simply a defiant, back-at-you embrace of Clinton’s assigning half of Trump supporters to a basket of deplorables, an estimate that she apologized for, saying it was over-broad.
Here was how Alexander Kim of Fort Worth, another Texas elector, responded to an email from someone other than Moskowitz urging him to switch his vote.
And here is a response from South Carolina elector, Bill Conley, to a similar appeal.
I called Harper, a former mayor of Rowlett. After I explained why I was calling, he was no longer on the line. I called back, and left a message, but I have not heard a reply.
In his email to Moskowitz, Harper said he was copying the district director of the Texas Federation of Republican Women, in the hopes that she could bring legal action against Moskowitz.
Another Clintonite who emailed Harper, also received this response from Harper’s wife, Debra, who has been active with the TFRW.
It is worth repeating here that no laws are being broken here.
From Larry P. Arnn, a leading American conservative scholar and the president of Hillsdale College, writing yesterday in the Wall Street Journal. defending the Electoral College as the appropriate method for choosing presidents.
The chosen electors are bound by custom everywhere and by law in many states to support the presidential candidate who won their state’s popular vote. If they fail to vote this way, they will be “faithless electors.” This has happened but rarely in the history of the presidency.
Everything about this process is as the Constitution directs, with the exception of the last bit. Nothing in the founding document requires electors to support the candidate who wins the popular vote in their state. In America’s early years many states did not even conduct popular presidential elections.
Instead electors were picked by state legislatures or by governors. The Framers had the idea that the electors, in choosing a president, would vote their consciences after deep discussion—and sometimes this happened. Often, however, electors were selected because they had declared support for a particular candidate.
As the practice of holding a popular vote spread, it was natural that the electors would follow those results. Still, the Electoral College continues to recognize that Americans vote by state—in the same way that they elect the Senate and the House, and the same way that they voted those many years ago to ratify the Constitution
As for Soros, the billionaire investor and leading funder of Democratic and liberal causes, this from Kenneth P. Vogel in Politico yesterday
George Soros and other rich liberals who spent tens of millions of dollars trying to elect Hillary Clinton are gathering in Washington for a three-day, closed door meeting to retool the big-money left to fight back against Donald Trump.
The conference, which kicked off Sunday night at Washington’s pricey Mandarin Oriental hotel, is sponsored by the influential Democracy Alliance donor club, and will include appearances by leaders of most leading unions and liberal groups, as well as darlings of the left such as House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairman Keith Ellison, according to an agenda and other documents obtained by POLITICO.
Soros also had a cameo in Trump’s final, anti-globalist ad of the campaign.
Mike Joyce, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Texas, said he had heard from a number of electors distressed about the incoming from Moskowitz’s ilk.
In the meantime, his boss, Tom Mechler, sent this fundraising appeal out Monday – subject line, Deport a liberal.
This election, there was no shortage of liberal celebrities and politicos proudly announcing their intention to move to Canada if Donald Trump were elected.
Well, Donald Trump is our President-elect, and if Whoopi Goldberg, Lena Dunham, Jon Stewart, Amy Schumer, and Rosie O’Donnell (just to name a few) no longer wish to live within the confines of our American Democracy, let’s help send them packing!
Regardless of whether your party wins or loses an election, we all enjoy the privilege of calling ourselves Americans, who are granted inalienable rights by the democratic institution these liberals are refusing to live under.
This country has more than enough liberal constituents, so to those who want to leave the country, let’s give them the boot and say good riddance!
Thank you and God Bless Texas!
Chairman, Republican Party of Texas
I asked Joyce how the Republican Party would deliver the money raised to the deportees and he said that, actually, any money raised would stay in Texas in the state party’s coffers.
Moskowitz said she cast her first presidential vote for Obama.”
“It was fantastic. This year, I was not as excited to vote for Hillary as I was for Obama, but she is a fantastic politician and would have made an incredible president. So the fact that she lost to the least qualified person to ever make it to the general election is a slap in the face.”
She attributed the outcome to, “People who voted against their better interests.”
Moskowitz, who describes herself as “loudly and proudly Jewish,” said the outpouring of anti-Semitic sentiment in the aftermath of Trump’s election has been unsettling.
It’s what people who don’t like what she is doing fix on, she said.
“They don’t seem to care that I’m queer at all. That seems to be fine with everybody as long as you’re not Jewish.”
She said that the fact that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, is married to a Jewish man and converted to Judaism, is irrelevant.
“I don’t care if Trump loves Jews. His followers hate Jews and don’t mind saying it.”
“And then he appointed (Stephen) Bannon,” she said of Trump’s naming the former head of Brietbart News and chairman of his campaign as his chief strategist and senior counselor in the White House. Some Jewish groups have said Bannon is no friend of the faith.
But, putting aside the fact that it’s not going to happen, wouldn’t a hypothetically successful effort to deny Trump an Electoral College victory be seen as illegitimate and lead to violence.
“I was one of those people who assumed that Hillary was going to win, so what I was worried about was the violence afterward,” Moskowitz said. “So, if the electors switched to Hillary, I wold be extremely worried about violence, but I think over the four years of the Trump presidency, there would be more damage.”
Moskowitz struck what has emerged as the fundamental question for those upset and offended by Trump’s election in the week since Election Day: To accept the outcome and move on, or deny its moral legitimacy.
To normalize, nor not to normalize.
“I think what is happening now is something that has not happened before in America. We’ve never had a president like this and we’ve never had a president when we didn’t know what he was going to do. and I think it’s been a very long time since the level of hate that his supporters have been throwing out in the world has been legitimized.”
“I don’t think that anyone could have dreamed that this would be our president after the first black president. I certainly didn’t. Maybe I should have. Maybe I should have predicted that there would be this kind of backlash.”
I asked Moskowitz about the opening of Saturday Night Live this past Saturday in which Kate McKinnon, as Hillary Clinton, played a mournful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, ending with McKinnon talking to the camera, “I’m not giving up and neither should you.”
“Kate McKinnon doing Hallelujah was shattering. That was beautiful,” Moskowitz said. “I have a lot of feelings about that and they are very sad and very positive feelings. I think that was a very good choice for them. I think it tapped into what a lot of us were feeling. And I think it sets SNL apart from a lot of other mainstream media out there telling us to give him a chance. You know Oprah’s out there saying, `I’m going to give him a fresh start.’ And I’m, `No, we’re not going to pretend this is OK. Like John Oliver is telling us, `Don’t pretend this is OK..”
But, I asked, what is John Harper, and all those Americans who voted for Trump, supposed to make of SNL mourning Clinton’s loss like it’s a national tragedy? (Along the same lines, Prairie Home Companion host Chris Thile opened the post-election show with a virtual group hug for his freaked-out listenership.)
“But they got their president,” Moskowitz said, “and all this liberal media they’re complaining about is acquiescing to him.”
“This is not normal and we’ve got to not let this become normal,” she said of Trump.
And, of Harper’s response to her, Moskowitz said, “People are like, `He’s from Texas, what do you expect?'”
But, she said, lots of Texans voted for Clinton, and “I’m not going to normalize speaking to someone this way. I’m going to continue to expect better from people.”
The most eloquent rejoinder to Moskowitz and the many millions of Americans who feel the way she does, came from President Obama at his press conference Monday.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You said more than once that you do not believe that Donald Trump would ever be elected President, and that you thought he was unfit for the office. Now that you’ve spent time with him, sitting down and talking to him for an hour and a half in the Oval Office, do you now think that President-elect Trump is qualified to be President?
And if I can do a compound question, the other one is you mentioned staffing and tone. What do you say to those Americans who may not doubt that there will be a peaceful transition but that are concerned about some of the policies and sentiments that were expressed by President-elect Trump himself or his supporters that may seem hostile to minorities and others? Specifically, I’m talking about the announcement that Steve Bannon, who is a proponent of the so-called alt-right movement, what many call the white nationalist movement, is going to have a prominent role in the White House under President Trump as his chief strategist and senior advisor. What message does that send to the country, to the world?
THE PRESIDENT: Athena, without copping out, I think it’s fair to say that it would not be appropriate for me to comment on every appointment that the President-elect starts making if I want to be consistent with the notion that we’re going to try to facilitate a smooth transition.
Look, the people have spoken. Donald Trump will be the next President, the 45th President of the United States. And it will be up to him to set up a team that he thinks will serve him well and reflect his policies. And those who didn’t vote for him have to recognize that that’s how democracy works. That’s how this system operates.
When I won, there were a number of people who didn’t like me and didn’t like what I stood for. And I think that whenever you’ve got an incoming President of the other side, particularly in a bitter election like this, it takes a while for people to reconcile themselves with that new reality. Hopefully it’s a reminder that elections matter and voting counts. And so I don’t know how many times we have to relearn this lesson, because we ended up having 43 percent of the country not voting who were eligible to vote. But it makes a difference.
So given that President-elect Trump is now trying to balance what he said in the campaign and the commitments he made to his supporters with working with those who disagreed with him, and members of Congress, and reaching out to constituencies that didn’t vote for him, I think it’s important for us to let him make his decisions. And I think the American people will judge over the course of the next couple of years whether they like what they see, and whether these are the kinds of policies and this is the direction that they want to see the country go in.
And my role is to make sure that when I hand off this White House that it is in the best possible shape and that I’ve been as helpful as I can to him in going forward and building on the progress that we’ve made.
And my advice, as I said, to the President-elect when we had our discussions was that campaigning is different from governing. I think he recognizes that. I think he’s sincere in wanting to be a successful President and moving this country forward. And I don’t think any President ever comes in saying to themselves, I want to figure out how to make people angry or alienate half the country. I think he’s going to try as best he can to make sure that he delivers, not only for the people who voted for him, but for the people at large. And the good thing is, is that there are going to be elections coming up, so there’s a built-in incentive for him to try to do that.
But it’s only been six days. And I think it will be important for him to have the room to staff up, to figure out what his priorities are, to be able to distinguish between what he was campaigning on and what is practical, what he can actually achieve. There are certain things that make for good sound bites but don’t translate into good policy. And that’s something that he and his team, I think, will wrestle with, in the same way that every President wrestles with.
I did say to him, as I’ve said publicly, that because of the nature of the campaigns, and the bitterness and ferocity of the campaigns, that it’s really important to try to send some signals of unity, and to reach out to minority groups or women or others that were concerned about the tenor of the campaign. And I think that’s something that he will want to do. But this is all happening real fast. He’s got commitments to supporters that helped to get him here, and he’s going to have to balance those. And over the coming weeks and months and years, my hope is, is that those impulses ultimately win out. But it’s a little too early to start making judgments on that.
Q And your view of his qualifications. Has that changed after meeting with him?
THE PRESIDENT: I think that he successfully mobilized a big chunk of the country to vote for him, and he’s going to win — he has won. He’s going to be the next President. And regardless of what experience or assumptions he brought to the office, this office has a way of waking you up. And those aspects of his positions or predispositions that don’t match up with reality he will find shaken up pretty quick, because reality has a way of asserting itself.
And some of his gifts that obviously allowed him to execute one of the biggest political upsets in history — those are ones that hopefully he will put to good use on behalf of all the American people.
And then, this advice to Democrats.
I believe that we have better ideas. But I also believe that good ideas don’t matter if people don’t hear them. And one of the issues that Democrats have to be clear on is that, given population distribution across the country, we have to compete everywhere. We have to show up everywhere. We have to work at a grassroots level — something that’s been a running thread in my career.
I won Iowa not because the demographics dictated that I would win Iowa, it was because I spent 87 days going to every small town and fair and fish fry and VFW hall. And there were some counties where I might have lost, but maybe I lost by 20 points instead of 50 points. There are some counties maybe I won that people didn’t expect because people had a chance to see you and listen to you and get a sense of who you stood for and who you were fighting for.
And the challenge for a national party is how do you dig in there and create those kinds of structures so that people have a sense of what it is that you stand for. And that increasingly is difficult to do just through a national press story. It’s increasingly difficult to do because of the splintering of the press.
And so I think the discussions that have been taking place about how do you build more grassroots organizing, how do you build up state parties and local parties and school board elections you’re paying attention to, and state rep races and city council races — that all I think will contribute to stronger outcomes in the future.
And I’m optimistic that will happen. For Democrats who are feeling completely discouraged, I’ve been trying to remind them everybody remembers my Boston speech in 2004; they may not remember me showing up here in 2005 when John Kerry had lost a close election, Tom Daschle, the leader of the Senate, had been beaten in an upset. Ken Salazar and I were the only two Democrats that won nationally. Republicans controlled the Senate and the House. And two years later, Democrats were winning back Congress, and four years later, I was President of the United States.
Things change pretty rapidly. But they don’t change inevitably. They change because you work for it. Nobody said democracy was supposed to be easy. This is hard. And in a big country like this, it probably should be hard.