There is a way to avoid a Trump presidency, but it requires both compassion and vulnerability. Perhaps Alexander Hamilton foresaw this when he wrote of elector responsibility in The Federalist. Let me explain.
In less than a week, something historic will happen in our country. Electors will be defecting in some way, voting for someone other than the candidate that their state directs them to vote for. It’s happened a few times in our history, but I suspect this election cycle will herald something new, a use of the Electoral College that hearkens back to the birth of our nation. We already know at least two Republican electors will vote for someone other than Donald Trump, and the questions are getting deeper. One superb article asks “What Would You Do If You Were a Presidential Elector?” This cuts close to the heart
It’s been a long time, well over a hundred years (or perhaps never) since there has been such a deep malfunction in our electoral system. Hillary Clinton has nearly three million more popular votes than Trump, yet the Republican system of government that we love has created the prospect of a Trump presidency. Obviously, more voters are upset by this than the number of voters delighted by it, simply based on the popular vote.
Now the CIA reports that Russians deliberately interfered with the election, conservative publications confirm it, and both Senate and House republicans call across party lines for investigation. Of course there are many issues with Trump as president, flare-ups of racist behavior, trite reactivity on Twitter, and destabilization of our relationship with the largest nation on Earth, China. But these behaviors don’t seem to grab our national psyche and political will in the same way reports from 17 different intelligence agencies do. Even Fox News is taking this on, it’s deeply disturbing.
The only way to avoid a Trump presidency is if enough electors defect, and vote for some one else. This would toss the election to the House of Representatives for resolution. But who would the electors (and the House) vote for?
40 or more Republican electors could vote for another candidate (or even the one with the largest popular vote, Hillary Clinton – although that won’t happen).
100 or more Democratic electors could vote for a different Republican (like Kasich or Romney) and bring at least 36 Republican electors with them.
Stop and feel for a moment what either of these choices would require…a large number of individual altruistic acts on the part of many electors. The electors will get tons of abuse (they are already getting it) from the voters in their state, and would have to take a historic stand unseen in our country’s history. They would have to find the internal strength and resolve and vulnerability to vote differently, and this is no easy feat. They would have to not only swallow their pride and vote for the opposite party, but have the guts to stand up and be counted for history, without knowing the outcome of their generous act.
The potential for healing our national rift is enormous. The members of Congress are like a bad marriage; fighting publicly and criticizing each other endlessly for years, refusing to cooperate, obstructing progress.
The only way out of the current nightmare is through a compassionate and vulnerable act. It should not surprise us that the deep, violent and unconscious forces in our culture would bring us to this place.
Pray for compassion on one side or the other. It’s really important that both Republicans and Democrats realize that they have the power to alter history in this moment. It remains to be seen if that happens.