November 20, 2016
A few Tuesdays ago – a day we will all recall for decades to come, if we live that long – I just couldn’t bring myself to watch the election returns. I was disgusted by the campaigning, the candidates, and the pompous potshots by everyone from ants to asshats.
After reading that Nate Silver had the chance of a popular vote/electoral mismatched vote as high as 10%  – and hoping to dear God that would not be the case – I squirreled myself safely away from outside earshot of the TV and commenced to thinking about the Electoral College. Its birth. Its history. What it means today. Then I tapped out a pretty good rough draft of an essay. A Joe Girard classic format.
The essay was overtaken by destiny. As Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogard) said in Casablanca: It seems destiny has taken a hand. Maybe someday I’ll finish it and publish it. Here’s what happened.
I tapped my notes out on my ASUS tablet, onto which I’ve installed the Politico app (a well-regarded and usually considered slightly left-leaning news source). Politico feeds news headlines – usually very, very occasionally – across the bottom of my screen. After a couple of hours I took a peek.
Virginia for Clinton. Of course.
Florida for Trump. Odd, but Okay, not totally unexpected.
North Carolina for Trump. Less unexpected.
Then the feed that Ohio was looking like a Trump win. And possibly Pennsylvania too.
Now to Central Time Zone. Wisconsin looks like a Trump win.
Oh… My… God. This could really be happening. It IS happening. I saved the draft essay and browsed to the CNN and Fox sites for maps shaded red, pink, purple, sky blue and navy blue. Some quick math showed Trump with a very plausible path to 270, well before 10PM Mountain Time.
And THAT was the end of the Electoral College essay.
Soon, on December 19, 2016, the 538 Electors from the 50 states, plus DC, will meet in their respective states and District, and cast their votes for President and Vice President of the United States of America. Presumably at least 290 will vote for Donald Trump, and 232 for Mrs Clinton, with the destiny of Michigan’s 16 electoral votes STILL not determined at this writing (although it is looking like a slim margin Trump win at the time of this writing).
This is the “Real” Election for President and Vice President. When we voted for Clinton or Trump (or whomever) on November 8, we were actually voting for an entire slate of Electors who are pledged to vote for those candidates on December 19.
Some people are saying it ain’t over til it’s over; it ain’t over till the fat lady sings; and other such mixed metaphors. Well, they’re right. That’s how the system works and Mr. Trump is not officially President-elect until those votes are cast.
Before discussing that, let’s talk about who these Electors are.
They are not just Joe and Jane average-citizen who have signed a pledge to vote a certain way, if they should themselves get elected.
They are party loyalists. The life blood of their respective parties. Almost always they’ve been very active in their state’s political parties.
For example, an elector from California is Christine Pelosi. The daughter of Nancy Pelosi.
An elector candidate from Maryland is Michael Steele, the (black) former head of the Republican National Party. [Maryland went for Clinton, so Steele will not be voting as an Elector on December 19].
All potential candidates for Elector are screened by their state parties well in advance of the election. It’s obvious that the main qualification is party loyalty, and the bar for party loyalty – as you can surmise and see from the examples – is very high.
Can you imagine a Pelosi voting for anyone other than Mrs Clinton?
No, of course not.
But for those who simply fall ill at the very thought of a President Trump, let me offer an alternative outcome. It involves my own wildly conceived conspiracy.
The Electors were chosen, in most cases, well before it was clear that Mr Trump would be the Republican candidate.
Since their selection by their state parties as Electors, an astounding number of Conservatives and Republicans have gone quite public with their disdain for Mr. Trump. So much, that they did not support or vote for him. From the ranks of politicians there is, for example, Mitt Romney and all the Bush families. Karl Rove considers Trump “a complete idiot.” Three term South Dakota Senator Larry Pressler didn’t support Trump. Neither did former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman (who lost his seat to comedian Al Franken by a few hundred votes in 2008). John Huntsman. Christine Todd Whitman.
It’s actually quite a long list, which I will spare you the tedious task of scanning.These are big name Republican politicians who openly did not support Trump. Trump was publicly shunned.
And then there’s the “conservative” intelligentsia. Jonah Goldberg, chief editor at at National Review (William F Buckley’s magazine!! For crying out loud) lambasted Trump every chance he got. Glenn Beck ran far away from the “idiot” Trump. George Will brilliantly pointed out on a Sunday Talking-heads news show this summer that Trump “has been a Republican for all of about 15 minutes.”
These were the “Never Trump” folks. Their cast was large, significant and influential.
That Trump won without much support from the faithful Right is truly astounding.
But could it also be his undoing? As most of the Electors were chosen before it was certain that Trump would be the Republican candidate … could they turn the tables on him since so many “Conservatives” and “Republicans” don’t consider Trump a true Republican? Not a qualified representative of their “party of values” to serve as President.
That’s the genesis of my conspiracy theory.
Now, don’t presume that ANY Republican Electors will vote for Mrs. Clinton. Not gonna happen. Mrs Clinton is stuck at 232 and no petition is going to get her to the 270 needed to be President.
But … What if 37 or more Electors conspired to cast their Presidential vote for someone more … uh, digestible… than Trump?
That would reduce his tally from 306 to 269, or less. A person cannot be elected President outright by the Electoral College with fewer than 270 votes.
But whom would these 37 (or more) unfaithful Electors vote for, and how would they choose such a person?
Well, consider the Constitution’s provision in such a case. The House of Representatives chooses the next President, and they can only choose from among the THREE candidates who receive the most Electoral votes. [In 1824 John Quincy Adams ran second to Andrew Jackson in the Electoral tally, but was chosen by the House as 6th President, since Jackson did not secure a majority of Electoral votes and was considered, by many, to be too wild and uncivilized to be President. He eventually did win outright in 1828 and 1832).
Here’s how the House of Representatives chooses: Each state gets only ONE vote. And a clear majority, that is 26 states, is required.
When the new Congress is seated, next January, the Republicans will have a majority of Congressional seats in about 33 states, the same as now. Suppose … now just suppose, a band of unfaithful Republican Electors spoke secretly with Republican House leaders, including Speaker Paul Ryan (WI) and decided to bump Trump.
In this conspiracy, 37 Electors (who are sworn and pledged to vote for the Republican candidate, Donald Trump) break their pledge. Most vote for the pre-arranged preferred candidate, let’s say it’s Joe Girard. Ha!! Just kidding. Let’s say Mitt McCain (another fictional character). Who then comes in third place.
When the votes are sent to Washington, no single candidate has a majority.
The top three candidates are sent to the House for consideration. And John Romney is chosen.
Yes, this is the stuff of cheap fictional novels.
And it’s not going to happen.
But it IS possible. Trump COULD still be thwarted.
Sincerely, I am your conspiracy theorist …
Joe Girard © 2016
 Nate Silver has become something of a highly regarded prognosticator in election season. I think he’s more of an eccentric and talented statistician. A wizard with numbers. Here are a couple of his newsfeeds in the last week before the 2016 election.
 Politico is highly regarded. I take it to be slightly left leaning by this review, and that it’s editorial leadership came from Washington Post. http://www.allsides.com/news-source/politico
Also slightly Left per this research (as well as NPR’s taxpayer funded slight Left lean):