Sunday, November 13, 2016

A note about Faithless Electors, the popular vote, and why you really shouldn't get your hopes up

The electoral college is, quite simply, bullshit.  It was a mistake, it shouldn't exist, and it's never served the purpose it was designed for anyway.

In fact, this election is a perfect example of what's wrong with it.  The founders of the United States of America were worried that letting the people, you know we the unruly and ignorant masses, might do something stupid like elect Donald J. Trump president.  In that eventuality they figured the electors, who would be better educated than us rabble, would say, "Fuck no!" and not elect him.

Instead we the masses, rabbley as we are, said, "Fuck no!" and the electoral college is saying, "Fuck yes!"

Now people have, in the past, noticed that this system is fucked up and, in fact, are 60% of the way to making it so the candidate who wins the popular vote wins.  Period.  What they have is an interstate agreement (plus D.C. too) that kicks in when they get enough states signed on to hit 270 electoral votes.  270 is what it takes to win.  Once the states (and D.C.) signed on to this are powerful enough to win every election every time they've agreed to hand that victory to the person who won the popular vote.

So if we just make it the remaining 40% before December 19th . . . no.  Not going to happen.

Well, what about just convincing the people themselves to not vote for Trump?

This is, more accurately, what faithless elector refers to.  Their state said "Vote for this guy" and they said, "Nope, voting for someone else."  It has happened before.  Almost never.  But it's been done.

This is what the electoral college exists to do, but given that they're called, "Faithless Electors," rather than "Astute Savior of Democracy Electors" you can see how well that's gone over.

Some states even have laws saying, more or less, "I don't give a shit what the founders thought, you're doing what we god damned told you to do or else!"

So, no, not really likely there either.


None of this is saying that getting the electoral college to listen to the popular vote and obey the will of the people isn't a noble, and achievable, goal.  It totally is.  But don't hold out hope it will stop Trump from becoming president.  That's setting yourself up for a fall.

It's long hard slog, and we are not a month away from finishing that slog.  If you want to fight to change the "Fuck the people!" way the electoral college operates fuel yourself with a sense of right and wrong, or anger, or indignation, or anything but hope that you can really use it to get the will of the people obeyed this election.

It's not beyond the realm of possibility, but it's so close to impossible that it would likely qualify as a miracle.


  1. This is pretty much the same thing the Republicans were saying the last time their guy won the popular vote and lost the college. If you break the democratic system by saying "our candidate won even though by the rules she agreed to play by she lost", they will do it next time.

    The modern purpose of the electoral college is to make sure the non-coastal parts of the US don't get completely ignored by presidential candidates.

  2. ...yeah, what you said.
    And what Firedrake said, too...

    Being able to change the rules isn't necessarily a bug, and being excessively faithful to the rules can lead to not doing good... But, yes, if you change the rules they stay changed, to be abused by your worst enemies, and also, you have to win first under the rules that exist. (Almost always. A big enough change to alter that would be a long-overdue revolution and so much would be destroyed...)

  3. Historical perspectives on this stuff can be really interesting...

    I know Geds has been writing about some of it...

    I recall some articles at Dkos years ago about the evolution of the rules for running Congress (simple vs. 2/3 majorities, fillibustering and the like) and how some were changed during Civil War and Reconstruction by people who had previously denounced the idea of such changes. You do what you can with what you have, but the consequences can be significant...

  4. And us being rabbley reminds me of South Park, which I would usually rather not be reminded of, but I think the people in the streets would actually yell, "RabbleRabbleRabbleRabble!"

  5. Just to be clear, people aren't talking about changing the rules. It's more akin to being unsportsman-like within the rules. The rules say it isn't over yet, and there's no actual rule that states all the electors have to go with the popular vote in their respective states. Some states have rules like that, so an elector from one of those states being "faithless" would break the rules unless . . .

    At the national level it isn't over yet and the rules say that the states can do whatever the fuck they want with their electors. If a legislature switched to national popular vote or proportional or whatever right now, that's totally within the rules.

    It's not about the rules, it's about the unspoken agreement to not be a complete asshole.

  6. Related, from Geds: