A petition on MoveOn.org asks the Electoral College to vote for Hillary Clinton, in spite of the clear outcome of Tuesday’s election. While the returns are still coming in, it seems that Donald Trump has won the presidency but Hillary Clinton has won the popular vote. Democrats and proponents of absolute democracy are furious that this can happen.
More than 3,000 Clinton supporters have signed a petition urging the Electoral College to dismiss the state-by-state results of the election and instead cast their votes for Clinton.
“For the second time in sixteen years the presidential candidate with the fewer votes won the national election. This is due to the Electoral College,” wrote Thomas Reich, the petition’s author. “When an anti-democratic candidate wins without national popular support in conjunction with authoritarian tendencies it’s incumbent on the Electoral College to decide if said candidate is a threat to democracy. I encourage them to consider this issue seriously before casting their votes for Donald Trump.”
While the text of the petition does not explicitly call for the Electoral College to vote Clinton, the headline does: “Tell the Electoral College to cast their votes for Hillary Clinton.” It is important to note that MoveOn as an organization is merely serving as a platform for this petition, and the organization itself “has not reviewed” it. Nevertheless, I highly suspect the organization would support it.
The petition seems to have launched in the early hours of Thursday morning. As of 10:25 a.m., it has 3,549 signatures.
As far as I can tell, there is no constitutional mandate that the Electoral College must follow the will of the voters in their states, but not doing so would be unprecedented.
Furthermore, Hillary Clinton has already done the right thing, conceding the race to Trump and encouraging her supporters to accept the results of the election. Even if the Electoral College were to buck the voters and cast their ballots for Clinton, that would not alter the election, as she has already ruled herself out.
Nevertheless, anti-Trump protests broke out in at least eight cities across the nation after Clinton conceded to Trump. People across the country are angry. Indeed, one anti-Trump rioter declared, “People have to die!” This divisiveness is ugly, and both Trump and Clinton have urged against it. Trump promised to be the president of all Americans, and Clinton insisted that America give him a chance.
In fact, this prolonged anger seems to confirm a suspicion I’ve long had about this election — that it was an unpopularity contest, and Clinton won. But even being slightly more popular than Clinton means Trump is heavily disliked. He has his work cut out for him, and he needs to address these riots with strength and understanding.
Ironically, one of the petition signers wrote, “This is the failsafe our founding fathers built in to Constitution and just the type of situation they were protecting us against. The popular vote supports Hillary.” This petitioner is somewhat right — but the popular vote is irrelevant if the founders’ intentions are to be taken seriously.
Next Page: Why the spirit of this petition is in keeping with the Founders’ idea of the electoral college.
This petition, urging the Electoral College to make a different decision, is actually defensible in terms of why the Electoral College actually exists.
When the Constitutional Convention developed the idea of the Electoral College, it was meant to be a body of electors, not a mere formality over the will of the people. The electors were to be decided by the people of the states, and to discuss amongst themselves who should be president. Were the electors to make this independent decision, petitions like this one could guide their reasoning.
For a very long time now, however, that’s not how the system has worked. Instead, the voters choose a candidate and the states send electors on behalf of that candidate. The Electoral College is a mere rubber stamp on the will of the voters in their states.
This becomes confusing when people ask why America even has an Electoral College in the first place. Why not just accept the results of the popular vote? The answer is because the country is the United States — to an important extent the states still have some degree of sovereignty. The Senate and the Electoral College exist to represent the states in contrast to the mere unchecked will of the people. This is why America is a constitutional republic, not a democracy.
Even if the Electoral College is a formality, it still protects the importance of the states. It is a vital part of the country’s governance, especially because it is undemocratic to some extent.
The difficulty with the Electoral College becoming even less democratic — by making its own decisions as America’s founders intended — is that the people would perhaps become even more angry.
If the Electoral College were to ignore the results of the state elections and choose Hillary Clinton anyway, this might be more democratic, but it would not stop the riots. Instead, it would likely further enflame them. Both anti-Trump and pro-Trump people would be rioting, and the country would be thrown into chaos.
As a personal note, I stand for the way America’s founders intended the system to work, and I would like the Electoral College to make its own decisions. Unpopular as it might be, I think the idea of voters in each state choosing an elector who then wisely debates and chooses a president is a better idea than having the people do it directly. But America would have to change to make this a reality. Perhaps an unpopular presidency will help it along.
Petitions like this will not help that cause. Not only has Clinton conceded — and that is important — but Americans have already come to accept that Trump will be president, even if many thousands of them are rioting against that outcome. I would encourage them to get over it, accept the election, and give Trump a chance.
Furthermore, the Constitution presents various checks on a president’s power. If he truly is as horrible as they fear, impeachment is an option, and there will be another election in four years. But Trump will be president, and there’s no stopping that. Seriously, now is the time to just get over it.