by Evan Edwards
Before getting to the argument for why the electoral college should reject Donald Trump on December 19th, let me begin with that which now seems to be more and more dangerous to risk: a bit of reasoning. What I want to establish, right off the bat, is why it is right to at least consider the possibility of putting someone else in the Oval Office; only after that can we begin to consider why it is right to actually do so.
We begin with two options with respect to the authority of the electoral college: either we accept it or reject it. If we reject it, then Clinton wins the election. By a long shot. The latest tally puts her ahead of Trump by at least 2.8 million votes, which makes this year’s outcome “the biggest gap between the popular vote and the electoral college in almost a century and a half.” As Atlantic author Ronald Brownstein put it, Trump “is on track to lose the popular vote by more than any successfully elected president ever.” But the question of whether or not we should change the way that elections work is one that we need to return to down the road. There is no reasonable situation in which between now and January 20th, the electoral college is be abolished and popular sovereignty is established through direct election. Since that is the case, let us, like Socrates in the Crito, “honor the decisions the polis makes,” and also its laws.
If we accept that the electoral college is what ultimately decides the highest office, then we have two further options: the college either votes with the dictates of tradition, choosing Trump, or it chooses otherwise, and rejects him in favor of someone else. There’s no reason not to do the latter, since there is no provision or law requiring that voters in the electoral college vote the way that their states did. It is, as I just said, simply traditional to do so. Trump’s campaign, and his followers, argue that to do so would be to “reject the will of the people.” But what “people” are they talking about? Does “the people” mean everyone in the nation or just a select subset? If it is the former, then to accept Trump would, in fact, be against the will of the people, since he did not win the vote of most actual people. They must mean, then, some other kind of “people.” We’ll come back to this.