The Elec­toral Col­lege should be un­faith­ful

The Denver Post - - OPINION - By Kath­leen Parker E-mail Kath­leen Parker at kath­leen­parker@ wash­post.com. Fol­low her on Twit­ter: @kath­leen­parker

If you thought Don­ald Trump was the face of Amer­ica’s anti-es­tab­lish­ment move­ment, hold on to your cha­peaus: A wild wind is ris­ing.

Want to know what’s more anti-es­tab­lish­ment than a pres­i­dent-elect who re­fuses to play by the rules? How about sim­i­larly spir­ited elec­tors go­ing AWOL and send­ing some­one else to the Oval Of­fice? Could it hap­pen? Might. A move­ment headed by a mostly Demo­cratic group call­ing it­self Hamil­ton Elec­tors is try­ing to con­vince Repub­li­can elec­tors to de­fect — not to cede the elec­tion to Hil­lary Clin­ton but to join with Democrats in se­lect­ing a com­pro­mise can­di­date, such as Mitt Rom­ney or John Ka­sich. It wouldn’t be that hard to do.

Math­e­mat­i­cally, only 37 of Trump’s 306 elec­tors are needed to bring his num­ber down to 269, one less than the 270 needed to se­cure the pres­i­dency.

On the Hamil­ton Elec­tors’ Face­book page, elec­tor Bret Chi­afalo, a Demo­crat from Wash­ing­ton, ex­plains the pur­pose of the Elec­toral Col­lege. If you haven’t pre­vi­ously been a fan of the elec­toral sys­tem, you might be­come one.

Bot­tom line: The Found­ing Fathers didn’t fully trust democ­racy, fear­ing mob rule, and so cre­ated a repub­lic. They cor­rectly wor­ried that a pure democ­racy could re­sult in the elec­tion of a dem­a­gogue (ahem), or a charis­matic au­to­crat (ahem), or some­one un­der for­eign in­flu­ence (ditto), hence the rule that a pres­i­dent must have been born in the U.S. We know how se­ri­ously Trump takes the lat­ter.

Most im­por­tant among the founders’ cri­te­ria for a pres­i­dent was that he (or now she) be qual­i­fied. Thus, the Elec­toral Col­lege was cre­ated as a brak­ing sys­tem that would, if nec­es­sary, save the coun­try from an in­di­vid­ual such as, frankly, Trump.

In an op-ed in Tues­day’s New York Times, Repub­li­can elec­tor Christo­pher Suprun, a para­medic in Texas, out­lined all his rea­sons for not rub­ber-stamp­ing Trump, say­ing that he owes a debt not to his party but to his chil­dren. He urged oth­ers to join him.

This, ap­par­ently, they can do, though some states may im­pose penal­ties. Hamil­ton Elec­tors are rais­ing funds to pay any such costs that may ac­crue.

Alexan­der Hamil­ton, sud­denly a star both on Broad­way and Main Street, wrote that the Elec­toral Col­lege “af­fords a moral cer­tainty that the of­fice of Pres­i­dent will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an em­i­nent de­gree en­dowed with the req­ui­site qual­i­fi­ca­tions.”

Elec­tors would pre­vent the “tu­mult and dis­or­der” that would re­sult from the can­di­date’s ex­ploit­ing “tal­ents for low in­trigue, and the lit­tle arts of pop­u­lar­ity.” Speak­ing of Trump. How wise our founders were.

It is, per­haps, a sign of these up­side-down times that Democrats, usu­ally pre­fer­ring the pop­u­lar vote, are sud­denly gen­u­flect­ing to the Elec­toral Col­lege and Repub­li­cans, who so of­ten de­fer to the founders’ orig­i­nal in­tent, shift prin­ci­ple so swiftly, pre­sum­ably in hopes of tak­ing the ul­ti­mate es­ca­la­tor ride in the golden palace of King Trump. Tut-tut.

Mean­while, those on both sides who re­main op­posed to Trump are dis­missed as ei­ther sorry losers or as din­ing on crow and sour grapes. But the stakes are too high — and the ev­i­dence of Trump’s pres­i­den­tial ap­ti­tude deficit too se­vere — for such triv­i­al­iz­ing des­ig­na­tions. His demon­strated lack of judg­ment and im­pulse con­trol should send shiv­ers down the spines of all Amer­i­cans in con­sid­er­a­tion of the nu­clear arse­nal he is poised to have at his fin­ger­tips.

Trump’s friends have told me they’re con­fi­dent he’ll solemnly re­spect the bur­den of such power, but noth­ing thus far jus­ti­fies their faith. Af­ter his elec­tion win, Trump hasn’t much both­ered him­self with in­tel­li­gence brief­ings. He ig­nored 37 years of diplo­matic prece­dent by chat­ting with the pres­i­dent of Tai­wan, up­set­ting China. He spoke like an inar­tic­u­late ninth-grader with Pak­istan’s prime min­is­ter, ac­cord­ing to that coun­try’s read­out. Trump ap­par­ently told the prime min­is­ter that he’s a “ter­rific guy” do­ing “amaz­ing work” and that Trump is “ready and will­ing to play any role that you want me to play to ad­dress and find so­lu­tions to the out­stand­ing prob­lems.” Oh, re­ally? Which ones?

Elec­tors are sched­uled to meet Dec. 19 in their re­spec­tive states to cast their fi­nal bal­lots. If there are 37 Repub­li­cans among them with the courage to per­form their moral duty and pro­tect the na­tion from a tal­ented but dan­ger­ous pres­i­den­t­elect, a new his­tory of hero­ism will have to be writ­ten.

Please, be brave.

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