by Mitch Croom
In the wake of Trump’s victory, many questions need answering. How could the Republican Party have failed the country by nominating a man so manifestly unqualified, not to mention unconservative? How could voters be fooled by his con-artistry and lies, blinded by their own dissatisfaction with the status quo?
How can we go forward together, united in our dedication to common sense, moderation, and a rejection of authoritarianism?
Both parties’ primaries need dramatic reform. Both parties should drastically curtail the influence of money in those contests. The First Amendment apparently prohibits the government from doing the same in national elections without an additional Amendment, but primaries are technically private contests, and the parties can lead the way in campaign finance reform. Both parties should also eliminate all caucuses, which serve only to ensure that most party members’ views are not heard. And both the federal government and the states should promote civic education with the same veracity that they promote STEM. High-paying jobs are important, but it’s even more important for citizens in a democracy to understand what they’re voting for.
Lastly, and most importantly, the Electoral College should be abolished. A holdover from the days when states’ vote tallies needed to be carried to Washington on horseback, it serves no purpose other than to promote terrible campaign practices and delegitimize election results. Democrats in Texas and Republicans in California need not bother voting while the Electoral College is in place; candidates need not bother visiting most of the country, whose Electoral votes are already decided; and campaign promises need not bother addressing the needs of anyone who doesn’t live in a swing state. President Trump can do the country a massive service by advocating for the abolition of this antiquated and harmful institution.
But I write today to those liberals who, like myself, are shocked by the outcome of the election. We ought to be disturbed, and anxious, and scared. We (yes, we,) have elected an immense liar with authoritarian tendencies to the highest office in the land. It is, in my opinion, a colossal mistake. The next four years will be some of the worst in living memory, as far as governance is concerned. We will have to stand up for our friends and neighbors and loved ones who are rightly feeling exceptionally vulnerable now. A man who attacked them, and who enjoyed the support of overt racists, sexists, and homophobes, is the President-Elect.
Our friends’ civil rights are going to be attacked. We must prepare ourselves for that fight. This is not a drill.
In the defense of our civil rights, much should be risked. Civil disobedience will likely be necessary. If some of Trump’s worst proposals are enacted, outright resistance may be in order. We will not stand blithely by while mass deportations occur, or while our military is ordered to commit blatant war crimes. But we will always be opposing the man, not the nation. We will be fighting his policies, not his legitimacy as President. And that brings me to my central point:
He will be the President.
He won. Shockingly, horrifyingly, tragically, he won. He did not win the popular vote (as of press time), but he won the Electoral College.
We knew the rules of this game. Even if we hadn’t read the Constitution, everyone voting this week was alive during Bush v. Gore. We knew the Electoral College is ultimately what decides the winner, and we played the game with those rules in mind. We lost.
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Some of my fellow liberals, fearing for our future and wanting to protect our neighbors, have started petitions asking the Electoral College to nullify the result and vote for Clinton, or for no one, or for anyone besides Trump. If enough electors defect to Clinton, she becomes President. If enough defect to anyone else, such that Trump no longer has 270 votes in that body, the election goes to the US House of Representatives. I understand my peers’ motivations perfectly, and I admire the sentiment of trying every avenue possible to undercut the worst candidate for President in the history of the United States.
Stop it. Right now.
A peaceful, inarguable transition of power is the cornerstone of any stable democracy. We define the rules of the election beforehand, the candidates are forced to play by them, and the winner assumes control. The process matters far more than the result, for without a fair election, we become one of the many nations on Earth where the “winner” is simply the one with the biggest faction of the army behind him. As much as we want to, we cannot invalidate the result of a fair contest. Doing so would rightly cause hundreds of millions of Americans to lose faith that this process could ever be conducted fairly again.
Convincing the electors to vote for someone besides Trump would not work; the House will vote him into office if we force the decision into their hands. Convincing the electors to vote for Clinton is extremely unlikely due to the way they’re selected by each political party, and would trigger a constitutional crisis. Trump won on Tuesday, and as much as I fear for my own future and the future of my friends because of that outcome, trying to invalidate it through a backdoor is probably the worst of all possible scenarios. He would almost certainly become President anyway, and our collective trust in our institutions would be shattered.
The Electoral College is an undemocratic, archaic institution that must be eliminated before 2020.
Its only purpose is to obstruct the popular will, and it is doing so today to our manifest detriment. But abusing its power to undo a fair election, no matter how stupid the result, could never lead to good results in the long run. The nation rightly balked when Mr. Trump refused to promise to accept the results of the election beforehand. Now that he’s won, we must not sink to his level. We shall accept these results as constitutionally valid, though morally abhorrent.
Benjamin Franklin told us it was our Republic, if we could keep it. This is what he was talking about. Do we, the rightly aggrieved, have the courage to persevere for the next four years and put the Republic above our own legitimate interests? Or do we devolve into self-serving political nihilists who demand our voice prevail over the rules we all agreed to play by?
If the alt-right hordes try to take control, if abuse is visited upon my friends and neighbors of color, and if people’s fundamental rights come under fire, I will stand with them. My rights are on the line, too. But if we lose our Constitution and undermine the legitimacy of our government, all of our rights become meaningless. The Republic must prevail.
Let our grief for our stolen future rededicate us to progress. Presidents are not dictators, and the people are the source of all true power. Our fight is just beginning. Let’s go.
Mitch Croom is a joint BA/MPP student at the College of William & Mary, where he studies international security, American politics, and civil rights. He is the current Senior Research Fellow at the Project on International Peace and Security, the only undergraduate think tank in the world. Also at W&M, he serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Monitor Journal of International Studies, the Chair of Student Life in the William & Mary Student Assembly, and the President of the Graduate Policy Association.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer. The Contemporary takes no institutional positions on matters of policy or opinion.
The picture above was taken by Andrew Salinero at an Anti-Trump rally in San Antonio during the summer of 2016.