The failure of the ugly Electoral College revolt scheme that ended yesterday—let’s ignore the coming storm of frivolous lawsuits for now, all right?—with the official, irreversible, like it or lump it victory of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton also settled some distinctions, some desirable, some not.
- Ethics Heroes: All of the Republican electors who resisted the harassment, propaganda, intimidation and bad arguments and did their duty, avoiding a crisis and foiling the attempts of Democrats to cheat, which is exactly what the effort to flip the electoral vote was. The faithful electors get bonus points for making so many Democrats and progressives look silly in the process, a fate they richly deserved.
Come to think of it, it was predictable that Democratic appeals to electors would persuade more Democratic electors than Republicans. Which leads us to…
- Ethics Dunces: A bevy of Hollywood B-listers joined forces in an offensive video that, like Brezenoff’s petition, misrepresented history and the Constitution to gull star-struck electors into defying the public’s will and its trust that their votes would be respected by electors. Led by Martin Sheen, who has no credentials in government or political science but played a wily President on TV, Debra Messing, James Cromwell, B.D. Wong, Noah Wyle, Freda Payne (Quick: who is Freda Payne?), “Better Call Saul’s” Bob Odenkirk, J. Smith Cameron (?), Michael Urie, Moby, superannuated M*A*S*H stars Mike Farrell and Loretta Swit, Richard Schiff, Christine Lahti, Steven Pasquale, Emily Tyra and Talia Balsam tell the electors that they will be following the Founders’ intent by rejecting Donald Trump. This is flatly dishonest, as they are attributing the contrarian position of Alexander Hamilton, who detested popular democracy, to all the Founders, who rejected Hamilton’s proposals on how the government should be elected and structured.
“What is evident is that Donald Trump lacks more than the qualifications to be president. He lacks the necessary stability and clearly the respect for the Constitution of our great nation,” say the celebrities. Obviously it is NOT evident, since Trump’s voters won the day. The Federalist accurately describes what was behind the video:
“The message is clear: the candidate for whom these celebrities spent months shilling lost the Electoral College, the metric granted ultimate primacy by Article Two of the Constitution. Now, as individuals with no substantial political background, these celebrities have organized en masse to produce content designed to “educate” our electors, chosen for their political pedigree, on their electoral duty. The whole situation reeks of condescension, dirisiveness, and social hubris. What these self-ordained celebrities are demanding is nothing short of the very opposite of what they claim to be purporting. They assert that they “stand with…all citizens of the United States,” yet admittedly only if those citizens agree with their political viewpoint. If said citizens disagree, then, unfortunately, these celebrities decidedly do not stand with them. In fact, they would prefer electors to actively oppose the wishes of these very citizens, so that the candidate they personally believe to be the best suited has a second shot at the presidency.”
That’s about the size of it, yes indeed.
- Ethics Villain: Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig, who once headed an ethics institute there, was advising electors through his group Electors Trust, and last week said that as many as thirty Republican electors were poised to refuse to vote for Mr. Trump. Well, he was close: one more elector other than the one who announced his intention violated his pledge. What was Lessig doing? It sure looked like he was lying to try to persuade electors to flip. Lawyer. Professor. Ethicist.
Prof. Lessig embarrassed his school, and he embarrassed his profession by misusing his authority and position to try to meddle in a Presidential election. He already made an ass of himself with his silly candidacy for President last year, saying the he was running only to pass his “Citizen Equality Act.” Then, he said, he would resigned and turn the presidency over to his unnamed Vice President, who would then serve out the remainder of the term. When this scheme received the reception it deserved—I still don’t know how to spell a Bronx cheer— Lessig abandoned it, and said he would serve his full term. Then he dropped out of the race. Ironically, Lessig’s signature issue, removing big money from politics, was nicely refuted by Trump’s election, which was achieved with his campaign spending about half what Hillary Clinton spent.
- Ethics Fools: The editors of the New York Times. Don’t they understand that when their conduct allows no other interpretation but that they are biased and partisan, they forfeit their influence and power to achieve the results dictated by their bias? The paper never sounded a peep of dissent about the Electoral College during the 2016 campaign, and if you really think that today’s editorial about how it’s time to eliminate it would have appeared had the positions of the parties been reversed, I have a breadfruit farm to sell you.
Today’s Times even descended into obvious desperation. In a long piece explaining why and how Trump prevailed despite losing the popular vote, it published this:
One argument in favor of the Electoral College is that it doesn’t reward regionalism: a candidate who wins with huge margins in one part of the country. That’s because a winner-take-all system doesn’t reward any additional votes beyond what’s necessary to win a state or a region. You get all of Florida’s electoral votes, whether you win it by 537 or 537,000 votes.
A good example of how regionalism can drive a popular-electoral vote split is the 1888 election. The Democrat, Grover Cleveland, won the popular vote by nearly a point, but he lost the Electoral College by a margin similar to Mrs. Clinton’s.
Why? He won the popular vote by dominating the Deep South, where white supremacist Democrats had succeeded in disenfranchising Republican black voters since the end of Reconstruction. Even progressives would consider this a moral victory for the Electoral College.Mrs. Clinton’s big win in California was, on paper, potentially enough to be “responsible” for the electoral-popular vote split in the same way that the Deep South drove Mr. Cleveland’s popular vote win in 1888.
But unlike the situation in 1888, Mrs. Clinton’s huge victory in California (along with the District of Columbia and Hawaii, where Mrs. Clinton won by a higher percentage than she did in California) was almost entirely canceled out by Mr. Trump’s dominance of his base states — which we’ll call Appalachafornia — from West Virginia to Wyoming. (“Appalachafornia” consists of West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, North Dakota and South Dakota.) Mrs. Clinton led in the rest of the country by the same two-point margin after excluding Appalachafornia and California — and yet she still loses the Electoral College vote by about the same margin.
Wait…WHAT? This is priceless deceit, and a textbook example of the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy so perfect that it should be used in that fallacy’s definition. The Times really is arguing that West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, North Dakota and South Dakota are a “region,” and the cultural and demographic equivalent of a single state. If that group of states hadn’t provided the numbers the Times needed to argue away California’s obvious estrangement from the rest of the nation, it would have picked different ones. Suuure, West Virginia coal miners and Montana ranchers are nearly indistinguishable! The same with North Dakota and Kansas: they both have recently discovered huge oil reserves that have…wait, Kansas hasn’t, has it?
How can the Times insult its readers with such self-evident nonsense? How can anyone trust a paper that would invent a fictional region to avoid reality?
- Ethics Fool, Dunce and Villain: Alexander Hamilton. It isn’t his fault, exactly, that a previously obscure Federalist Paper he wrote in 1788 was hijacked by dishonest proponents of a virtual coup who claimed that it carried the authority of the Constitution itself, but #68, as David Hogberg wrote in The American Spectator, is good for two things at this point:
“The first is as a demonstration of how very intelligent people can get carried away with their ideas to the point of imbecility. The second is as an inspiration for self-important show biz types to make fools of themselves.”
The beginning of the paper proves the first proposition:
“The process of election 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. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.”
This was ridiculous, even in 1788. Today, after 228 years of experience, it reads like those “Back To The Future 2’s” version of 2015 looks. No system could possible guarantee with “moral certainty” that the Presidency would never be occupied by someone who is unqualified, and the system that Hamilton lobbied for least of all. Look at how his independent electors, who according to the 2016 Hamilton-lovers were qualified to substitute their judgment for millions of equally astute voters who disagreed with them, discharged their solemn duties yesterday.
Let’s see: three votes for a 75 year-old crackpot socialist who argued that climate change was responsible for terrorism and who wanted to explode the national debt beyond all survival, three votes for a 79-year-old retired general who has said that he would not accept a nomination to be President, a vote for John Kasich, a vote for 81-year-old Ron Paul, who believes the U.S. should have sat out World War II and wants to legalize heroin, and best of all, a vote for the eminently qualified Faith Spotted Eagle. This illustrates beautifully what a full slate of electors free to vote their fantasies, delusions and biases would produce: votes for Elmo, Honey Boo Boo, Tim Tebow, Adam Sandler, Al Sharpton and Kanye West, with every election being decided by the House of Representatives, which would have made Hamilton happy, since he wanted a parliamentary system anyway.
I’m trying to think of the last presidential candidate Alexander Hamilton would have believed was “a man endowed with the requisite qualifications.” Not Hillary, obviously. Certainly not Trump. Definitely not Obama. It’s a good topic for a Christmas dinner, if anyone at the table knows who Alexander Hamilton was.