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Have you seen the online petitions calling for the Electoral College to reverse the results of the November 8th election on December 19th when its 538 members cast their vote for President and Vice-President?

electoral college surprise

Electoral College: A December Surprise?—Steve Fine

Three have landed in my Facebook newsfeed alone so there must be plenty more circulating. All are very popular, one is well on the way to six million signatures. So the word is spreading, hopes lifting and the focus beginning to turn, if not rivet, on a December Surprise in The Electoral College. This is their chance to make things right: alter the electoral vote so it coincides with the national popular vote: Clinton won, so it is only fair.

I signed, even though I knew it was absurd to expect any Republican electors to do us the favor of crossing party lines by adding 38 votes (at the very least) to Clinton’s 232 in order to reach the magic number of 270 required to win.

You don’t have to be Nate Silver to know the odds of that happening: zero.

True, there is nothing in the constitution that prevents an elector from voting his or her conscience; in those states where ‘faithless electors’ are forbidden, violators are punished with only a fine. Therein lies the minuscule opening in the process through which the collective imagination hopes to drag dozens of electors to our alternate reality by force of moral persuasion alone. Thirty-eight electors' hearts and minds need to change and the day is saved. Sounds easy. Just 38.

Sorry, without direct access, it might as well be 38 million.

Historically when an elector or two have broken their pledge it has been to vote for another candidate in the same party and that has never altered the overall outcome. These people are party loyalists chosen for their dependability; when they stray they do not stray far. Something more is required, then, to convince them it is in their best interest and the party and the country to stick their leg out on December 19th and trip up Donald Trump on his victory lap to inauguration day.

So, why did I sign? Two reasons, one realistic, the other a fantasy to raise your spirits. Then back to reality.

One: The real value and purpose of a petition drive of this sort is to raise awareness while rallying people to take action, no matter how small. It is the online equivalent of a protest demonstration, one that is attracting millions of participants. The target here is the Electoral College, with a twist, rather than seek to abolish it, the approach is to stroke it as our new friend and savior. “You can do this, Electoral College, really, truly you can, if you would only lift your head to see the light.” Later, after it has, or has not, we chop off its hoary old elitist anti-democratic head so we’re never in this position again.

This petition drive presages the battles to come after the incoming Trump administration takes power, such as defending the values, causes, programs and human beings targeted for their chopping block.

This petition drive also presages the battles to come after the incoming Trump administration takes power, such as defending the values, causes, programs and human beings targeted for their chopping block. In that light, the current transition period is no time for Obama and the democrats to give Trump a free pass out of professional courtesy, rather to get busy protecting the legacy and enacting as much of the remaining agenda as possible before the clock runs out. Obama, please skip the ceremonial dinners, awards and speaking engagements, stop flying around and just take care of business in Washington, otherwise you may not have much left to raise a toast to.

Nor is this the time for the media to pretend a perfectly normal transfer of power is taking place. There is a transition in progress, all right: to authoritarian rule. One small example of how we’re being urged to accept it all gladly happened the other day when I turned on NPR and heard the lead-in at the top of the news to get used to the Trump style of doing things. As if a hard right, white power coddling tycoon turned demagogue slouching his way to D.C. to be born is but a matter of style.

Dictatorial, would that be?

So I hit the send button on the petition. A small symbolic act of opposition to the substance of the Trump agenda.

Two: Let us not dismiss the chance of a December Surprise altogether. The idea just might inspire a group of people who do have access to the electors and can influence them with regard to a higher concept of loyalty, albeit by a different kind of moral persuasion: the neverTrumpers and other key players from the establishment wing of the Republican Party with allies in the Deep State. They can do the deed. The Usurper-elect will be completely blindsided. In a single vote, done. Clinton and Kaine, as the new president and vice-president elects, will have one month to put together their transition team before inauguration.

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I know, I know. This scenario does require a willing suspension of disbelief. I did say it would be a fantasy. And yet, the way things are going it is no more unlikely than the pipe-dream Donald Trump had many years ago of becoming president some day. These are surprising times. So let’s savor it for a few more paragraphs.

Encouraging a revolt of Republican electors in December, a mutiny, if you will, may very well appeal to these people, because their own fortunes will be better served with Hillary Clinton in the White House as a continuation of the same basic bi-partisan arrangement that worked so well for them under Obama. Say what you will about Hilary, she is stable. The job at hand, then, would entail nothing more than what they are already very good at, making calls to twist arms, some may even have experience engineering coups. All they have to do here is provide guarantees no serious consequences shall result while simultaneously sharing in the ultimate payoff of regaining a dominant position in the party. Strange bedfellows to have for our petition, eh? Consider them silent partners.
Names? Shhhhh!

A hint. Ever since the November Surprise of the 8th these good fellows have been forced to wear appeasing smiles and make conciliatory statements. Insult added to injury, they must watch from the sidelines as the online brownshirts of the Alt-right come to town chomping at the bit to transform the party in their image. Control is slipping away, irrelevance sinking in. Ah, but this nightmare can end with a single vote.

Hopefully, at least Alex Jones will find this scenario convincing and place a call to Trump Tower to warn of a cabal of leftists and old guard haters in the Republican party, so be vigilant. Code name, ‘Jeb’s Revenge’.

Makes sense. The paranoia barometer could hit the gilt edged ceiling.

Here’s the best part. Not only will the ‘correction’ of December 19th be a de facto pre-emptive lightning fast impeachment, it will be a double-impeachment, because Vice-President-elect Pence goes bye-bye, too. And there will be nothing Trump can do about it, either, other than bellow he’s been robbed and lob lawsuits destined to fall short of the mark since the vote, a virtual coup d’elect, shall be binding under the purview of The Electoral College.

Better to get this business out of the way now, despite the uproar, to save the country from an even more chaotic ordeal when all the malicious intent of the Trump campaign fully manifests after inauguration, leading to a protracted presidential impeachment process with VP Pence hovering in the wings as a strong caution against going through with it. Judging by the current transition period, there will be one ethical violation after another, multiple conflicts of interest--some rising to the level of impeachable offenses and a constitutional crisis to look forward to that may tear the nation apart. So entertaining. Watch for it. All normal. Country doing fine.

Guaranteed we will be one small terrorist incident away from the great leap forward in the war on terror, national lockdowns and a suspension of civil liberties ordered until such time as Trump can ‘figure out what’s going on’; also taking the opportunity to label dissent terrorism. Which may come first, with the first Boo! upon inauguration.

As for dealing with the rest of the world . . . Ho boy! Any president this thin-skinned and volatile in temperament makes one shudder at the limitless possibilities for diplomatic mayhem. Think Marx Brothers in Duck Soup occupying the oval office. It was funny when Groucho, as the leader of Freedonia, pretended to take offense over a perceived insult by the ambassador from Sylvania and slapped him in the face, declaring, This means war! With Trump and his paleolithic crew of advisors, the joke will be on us, because it will be all too real a possibility. “No, I will not talk to those dicks in Turkey about permission to use their airspace! Launch!”

Okay, enough. Circling back to the first reason for signing the petition, and reality—in consideration of the rather serious situation we are in, there is more bad news. The most likely scenario to play out on December 19th will be an electors’ revolt among the Democrats, those who vote for Sanders as a symbolic protest against the DNC for forcing a losing candidate down their throats. That will not be a surprise. The irony is Clinton did win the election by over one million votes, and still counting. Trump was the loser. (Some mandate, he’s got. Why isn’t anyone calling him on that?)

If only the constitution had thought to add the electors role above all else is to save the republic from the electors themselves; for instance when they wind up pledged to a bamboozling autocratic con-man such as Trump, our very own King George—he even comes with a wig; only the peculiar tan and impetuous tweets are original, the rest is the eccentricities of royalty. Show him the door so he can fulfill his archetypal destiny to be humbled for his hubris all on his own, rather than drag the country down with him, and the world. Instead, we are stuck with an infuriatingly tradition-bound and calcified institution that is destined once again to rubber-stamp the electoral count from November. Thanks much.

Next petition: abolish it. Two elections in sixteen years (two out of four) decided in favor of the losing candidate by this system is quite enough. However, that requires adopting a constitutional amendment to be ratified by three-quarters of the states, a long and arduous process that stands as little chance of getting through a Republican controlled congress, the first step, as a December Surprise. Nevertheless, Senator Boxer’s attempt to get the ball rolling as her swan song should be supported. The second option, called, The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact alters the role of the Electoral College without touching the Constitution. Participating states “award all their respective electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the overall popular vote in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.”

This is a far more practical solution with the advantage it is already in progress. Currently, there are 10 states and the District of Columbia in the compact for a total of 165 electoral votes. The agreement comes into effect when the electors of the member states attain the 270 votes currently required for a candidate to win, applying them to the winner of the national popular vote.

Therefore, more states need to be encouraged to join and fast so we can vote in 2020 with confidence our choice shall in fact be the president and vice-president.


There, we end on a optimistic note. Forward the petitions!

Steve Fine