An Electoral College revolt is a very bad idea

It’s hard to imagine a quicker path to a civil war than if a legally elected person were denied the presidency.

For sure plenty of people are angry that Donald Trump won the presidency; how could they not be after such a vitriolic campaign?

Many of them are hoping the Electoral College steps in to deny the White House to Trump.

Electors don’t have to cast their vote for the person who won them on Election Day, and one of them — Christopher Suprun of Texas — has written an op-ed in the New York Times explaining why Trump won’t get his.

Mr. Trump lacks the foreign policy experience and demeanor needed to be commander in chief. During the campaign more than 50 Republican former national security officials and foreign policy experts co-signed a letter opposing him. In their words, “he would be a dangerous president.” During the campaign Mr. Trump even said Russia should hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. This encouragement of an illegal act has troubled many members of Congress and troubles me.

Hamilton also reminded us that a president cannot be a demagogue. Mr. Trump urged violence against protesters at his rallies during the campaign. He speaks of retribution against his critics. He has surrounded himself with advisers such as Stephen K. Bannon, who claims to be a Leninist and lauds villains and their thirst for power, including Darth Vader. “Rogue One,” the latest “Star Wars” installment, arrives later this month. I am not taking my children to see it to celebrate evil, but to show them that light can overcome it.

Suprun likely knows there’s no way the Electoral College will invalidate an election, so he has nothing to lose by withholding his vote and getting some attention.

But that’s the same line of thinking that might have helped elect Trump in the first place. Few thought he’d actualy be elected, so why bother voting? Or why not make a protest vote and write in Bernie Sanders? Or why vote at all?

Politico reports that “rogue electors” have briefed the Clinton camp on their own long-shot plan.

Backers of Hamilton Electors are also preparing a wave of lawsuits challenging 29 state laws that purport to bind electors to the results of the statewide popular vote. These laws have never been enforced or tested, and many constitutional scholars believe they conflict with the Founders’ vision of the Electoral College as a deliberative body. Courtroom victories, they hope, will embolden other electors to join their cause.

All 538 members of the Electoral College will meet on Dec. 19 in their respective state capitals to cast the formal vote for president. Trump won the popular vote in states that constitute 306 electors — easily above the 270-vote threshold he needs to become president if all Republican electors support him. That’s why anti-Trump electors are working to persuade at least 37 Republican electors to ditch Trump, the minimum they’d need to prevent his election, and join them in support of a compromise candidate, which could send the final decision to the House of Representatives. Clinton won the popular vote in states that include a total of 232 electors. As of Monday, she led in the popular vote nationwide by more than 2.6 million votes.

Who would get the presidency if the Electoral College denies Trump his election victory? Not Clinton. Politico says the effort is focused on handing the presidency to John Kasich, who may not want it in this scenario.

“There’s no question Trump won enough votes in the states to receive over 270 votes when the members of the Electoral College meet,” said Kasich’s top political adviser, John Weaver, told Politico. “I’m sure the [Electoral College] will affirm this when it gathers later this month.”

This is all a very bad idea, Ed Kilgore writes in New York Magazine.

To be fair, some of the proponents of the deny-Trump-the-presidency scheme have on occasion admitted their fallback plan is to draw attention to how weird and screwed-up the Electoral College system is, in hopes of stimulating a popular backlash leading to a constitutional amendment getting rid of the whole system or perhaps a state-level push to neutralize electors in the future via the National Popular Vote initiative (whereby states agree to instruct electors to cast their ballots for the national popular-vote winner no matter what happens in individual states).

More likely this scheme will have a very different effect: It will validate the claims of Trump and his least responsible supporters that liberal elites are still trying to “rig” an election that has already happened. Roger Stone is already labeling the efforts to stimulate an Electoral College revolt “the dying gasp of the established order.” An impossible plot to overturn an election conducted under long-established if nondemocratic rules, with Democrats (led by a professor from the Vatican of liberal elitism) as the only supporters, is a very bad idea for anyone now focused on ensuring that the Trump phenomenon is a brief if lamentable aberration in American history rather than a sudden lurch down the road to national perdition.