How are we all supposed to get along at this point?
In a few days, the electoral college will cast its vote for President, and everyone is freaking out that they might follow the rules. I’m spooked that so many people think they shouldn’t. Because this is bigger than 2016, and bigger than Donald Trump. Our electoral process is the common ground we all agree to meet on. It may be the only common ground left at the end of this year, and that makes it pretty dang important. I don’t want Donald Trump to be president either, you guys, but in a more bigly way, I don’t want our whole system to fall apart, and that seems to be the endgame of these petitions and letter-writing campaigns and death threats going to the electors.
Put any other name in, and imagine your honest reaction to what’s going on right now. Hillary Clinton wins the election, but Republican voters are now harassing the electors to try to convince them not to elect her. Imagine the outrage. Seriously put yourself in the scene reading stories of Clinton electors getting death threats in the midst of a coordinated campaign to keep her from reaching the office she had won.
For one thing, it would confirm in the minds of many the picture they have of backwards, violent right-wingers. Keep that picture in your head, but now realize that every political stripe has backwards, violent asshats, and we all ignore the ones in our own house. Please remember that for the future. Your hats are showing.
But I digress. Because my concern isn’t the violent crazies on the fringe, it’s the millions in the middle that think an electoral revolt would be just fine. Somehow the same people have gone, in a matter of weeks, from fainting at the thought that Trump would not accept the results of the election (tearing down the foundation of our democracy!), to advocating a total rejection of the results of the election. With a pit stop mid-week to scream in protest that Trump suggested without evidence that there was voter fraud, while literally at the same time signing Jill Stein’s recount petition which suggested without evidence that there was voter fraud. On neither issue can one be standing on principle both ways. If you find yourself there, you are no longer standing on principle.
But if you’ll stick with me while I wind my way to a conclusion, a cornerstone of this blog and of my philosophy is that principle really, really matters. And this principle on this day matters a whole lot, because as I said, I fear it may be one of the last remaining bits of common ground, and if we tear it up too, I literally don’t see a future for America. A week ago we were arguing over whether or not the electoral college was a good idea any more, because it’s possible for someone to win the popular vote and lose the electoral vote. What are we going to do when we all go cast our votes and end up electing someone that wasn’t even on the ballot? You can think the electoral college is a bad idea, but it at least follows rules, and we all know them. What future is there for democratic elections when we throw out the rules (and the votes!) just because people say “I don’t like the results!”?
The President of the United States isn’t King. Trump can’t do all the crazy he says, and we all know it. If you hate his policies, you have a voice, and at least three other people in the federal government that literally answer to you and will take your call. Trump didn’t make friends in this campaign, and I don’t see the Republicans giving him a lot of room to crazy, much less the Democrats (who I believe will have always been in favor of a stalwart opposition, a “party of no”, perhaps. Four legs good…). There’s also the Constitution, which despite the efforts of the last few administrations, still restricts the power of the government. I look forward to liberals remembering why that’s a good thing.
Now, the argument goes that the electoral system was designed so that chosen representatives would deliberate and select someone worthy, someone unlike Donald Trump, to keep the unruly mob from choosing a populist demagogue, someone like Donald Trump. Well, yes, frankly, that’s true. But the electoral system today has evolved and been modified. The system was also designed to keep actual people from voting for their senators, and in many cases, simply to keep actual people from voting. If you like women’s suffrage and no longer counting some people as 3/5 of a person, you should be ok with the system evolving. None of us voted for an elector based on the idea that that person was capable of wisely choosing the president. None of us even voted for an elector by name. We voted according to the rules as they stand today, having developed over time, and having been modified in response to problems that arose in the original plan.
These rules are our common ground, and having common ground is our way forward. I know, I make my jokes, I like to point out when liberals are being hypocritical and all. But my desire really is for us to move forward together. This is important. This is bigger than 2016, bigger than the next four years. This isn’t about Trump or Clinton or Kasich or What Would Alexander Hamilton Do. This is the foundation. This is where we come together, even angrily, and where we know we can angrily stomp back to in four years, but we do it together. But if we tear up this remaining common ground, we’ll have nowhere left to meet.