Notes from the Crisis: Trump and the electoral college
16th December 2016
The 538 electors are split 306 to 232 in Trumps favour and ‘meet’ to elect the President.
The college never meets as a collective body, the electors for each state meet on the 19th December and must submit their signed ballots by the 28th.
The political prerequisites for the electoral college electing someone else are:
•a clear alternative Republican candidate endorsed by Clinton
•a collective group of never-Trump Republican electors
Neither of these exist.
The Democrats remain paralyzed by the result. If the Republicans had won the popular vote but lost the electoral college they would be going crazy. They went crazy over donations to Clinton’s charities from Foreign Governments before she was selected. If there was evidence of foreign propaganda intervention directly on her side during the election, well, of that we need speak no more.
The electors, largely local worthies in the State parties, will never physically meet each other. Indeed, many will first meet the other electors from their state at the state capital on Monday.
What is the significance of the Electoral College then?
The real challenge to the autocracy is the confirmation of the various Presidential nominees, especially those to security or justice positions. That confirmation will be done by the Senate – a body with a lot of people who came out as never-Trump and a pronounced collective existence.
We have already seen some aggressive management of never-Trumplets. Mitt Romney is called in and goes. The suggestion that he will be Secretary of State is floated. The famous Romney-hostage-photo is snapped and distributed by the Trump team.
Romney is bypassed for the job and it turns out that he was asked to publicly apologise, to bend the knee and he refused. But the impression he has was purposefully made by the transition team – a signal to others that if Mitt can, you should.
The pattern is repeated with the leading tech industrialists, summoned to give the impression of a technocratic administration leading the brightest and best. They too are co-opted, but not being professional politicians do not automatically dissemble in the presence of cameras and appear in the photos as diners before a turd in the soup.
The Electoral College will be turned into another loyalty parade, a softening up of the Republican senatorial group. It is hard to remember that the ‘transition’ is normally a very quiet political time, nothing happens, the new President’s team beaver away in near silence, waiting for the accession.
By contrast Trump has used the transition as the occasion to stage a series of spectacles, receiving foreign leaders in his home, convening strange summits of technologists, going on a victory tour.
The audience for the Electoral College is the newly sworn Senators. The play is for them. And if they prove to be recalcitrant on the first nominees then a second play can be staged. US police kill 20 people a week, often African American, often unarmed. The next Reichstag Fire is only a few days away, and if that one isn’t convenient there will be another right along.