Monday, December 19, 2016

The Electors make their choice

The Electors meet in the several states, today, to cast their votes for President and Vice President of the United States of America.

So the thought that they might save the country from Il Duce has dominated political discussion on this fine, cold December Monday.

Much of the discussion has made reference to Hamilton's article 68 of The Federalist Papers, so I have re-read it just now.

Article II, Section 2, of the US Constitution says this.

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

But Hamilton at several places in Federalist 68 clearly assumes the people of the various states will choose the Electors of their states who, in their turn, choose the President.

It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust [viz., the Presidency of the United States. PV] was to be confided. 

This end will be answered by committing the right of making it, not to any pre-established body, but to men chosen by the people for the special purpose, and at the particular conjuncture [viz., the Electors. PV]. 


It was equally desirable that the immediate election [of the President. PV] should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.


 A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to so complicated an investigation.


Amusingly, but only obliquely, relevant, given the all but certain victory of the Siberian Candidate, is Hamilton’s concern for foreign efforts to control selection of our president.

Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. 

These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. 


How could they better gratify this than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?


But he claims the constitutionally specified manner of choosing our president minimizes this risk.

Ah, more on the role of the people in all this.

Another and no less important desideratum was that the executive should be independent for his continuance in office on all but the people themselves. 

He might otherwise be tempted to sacrifice his duty to his complaisance for those whose favor was necessary to the duration of his official consequence. 


This advantage will also be secured, by making his re-election to depend on a special body of representatives, deputed by the society for the single purpose of making the important choice. 


All these advantages will be happily combined in the plan devised by the convention; which is, that the people of each State shall choose a number of persons as electors, equal to the number of senators and representatives of such State in the national government who shall assemble within the State, and vote for some fit person as President. 


As the constitution had not even been adopted when Hamilton wrote on the subject, he had nothing to say of specific relevance to our case, that in which foreign meddling helps increase the popular vote for a demagogue transparently unfit for the job, who nevertheless loses the popular vote and yet must win in the Electoral College if the chosen Electors vote, as is expected and normally desired, each to support his own party's nominee.

Hamilton does, however, clearly regard it as a feature of the constitution, and not a bug, that the people do not directly choose the president but only those who in turn will choose him.

He expects and thinks it good that the Electors will in some manner or measure defer to the wishes of the people who choose them, but he obviously does not expect or desire that they will or should blindly obey the voters' wishes.

See this, an interesting bit on what the Framers expected to happen, and on what did, regarding the Electoral College.

Here's a piece of championship idiocy from The Guardian's Ben Jacobs.

If all electors voted in accordance with the will of the voters, Trump would receive 306 electoral votes and Hillary Clinton 232.

Um, no; if all the Electors voted in accordance with the will of the voters, Hillary would receive all their votes.

She beat Trump quite soundly, actually, defeating him by a margin greater than the one that kept Obama in the White House in 2012.

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