Littwin: Now we know what desperation looks like

Now we know, three weeks too late, what desperation truly looks like. Green candidate Jill Stein has somehow raised millions of dollars for a three-state presidential recount — in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — that will almost certainly accomplish nothing except to falsely raise hopes among distressed Democrats while annoying the hell out of one Donald Trump.

As for Stein, it must be said that in Wisconsin and Michigan she drew more votes than Trump’s margin of victory. It’s also worth noting that Stein offers absolutely no evidence of Russian interference in the vote count but is relying instead on vague reports of corruption, which sort of reminds me of, you know, Donald Trump.

Meanwhile Clinton, who came close in all three states, needs to win all three recounts to get to the required 270 Electoral College votes. The odds against winning a recount in each state — via Nate Silver or Nate Cohn or Nates yet-to-be-named — are staggering. Clinton herself is a skeptical and reluctant recruit to the effort. As the editorialists say, we wish she had resisted. Most Democratic politicians, including Barack Obama, have.

And so when the recount ends, this is what you can expect: Trump will still have his lead in the Electoral College and a sure path to the White House.


You may have read Corey Hutchins’s excellent piece in The Independent about the four Colorado electors who gathered in Polly Baca’s house over the weekend in hopes of fueling an Electoral College revolution. You can admire the group’s sensibility — I do — without liking their chances. In fact, the chance of finding enough so-called faithless electors across the country to agree on an alternative candidate — and also finding a candidate who would go along with the scheme — is slightly less than that of Trump catching Clinton in the popular vote, where he now trails by more than 2 million.

I’ll say that again. Trump is losing the popular vote by more than 2 million votes. I keep saying it only because it has driven Trump sufficiently crazy that he is now involved in a full blown,  world-wide Twitter war, which, to this point, involves only one casualty: the truth. Of course, truth is not exactly a Trumpian strong point. A reporter for the Toronto Star who has done the hard work of recording every time Trump lies said in late October that, by his count,Trump routinely lies between 20 and 37 times a day, scaling Nixonian heights in disinformation.

But this one is an unprecedented whopper from a president-elect, in which Trump says the election he won — remember, he won — was rigged. He uses this non-explanation to explain why Clinton has, for now, a 2.3-million-and-growing vote lead. Trump can’t stand to lose even when he wins.

That’s bad enough. But for evidence, Trump apparently draws numbers from the alt-reality site Infowars, the brainchild of conspiracy theorist and Trump buddy Alex Jones, who writes that three million “illegal aliens” and four million dead people voted in 2016. If you think that sounds crazy, it’s hardly the worst of it. Jones also believes in UFOs, that 9/11 was an inside job and, maybe most tragically, that the Sandy Hook deaths were faked in order to promote the so-called gun safety agenda. Yeah, that’s the guy. If you go to his Infowars site now, you can get the real story behind the fake story of Pizzagate. It’s the kind of site where Trump, who is reluctant to sit down for daily intelligence briefings, gets his news.

In the media, meanwhile, there is much gnashing of teeth over this. How do you call out a lying liar when nearly half the people in the country voted for him to be their president, knowing full well that he has a fact problem? And, more to the point, how do you do it without further inflaming Trump’s base, many of whom believe, as he does, that the real liars are the liberal media?

A lot of media experts are calling for better reporting and less reaction from the media, meaning a willingness to judge each bizarre tweet on its own merits and not jump at every chance to show how bizarre the whole thing is. In other words, the press should show restraint, which seems backwards to me. Maybe Trump is playing the media, but he’s also playing the country, and isn’t that the media’s duty to call out? (Here’s an example: Tuesday morning, Trump randomly tweeted, apropos of nothing, that flag burning should be outlawed and that flag burners should lose their citizenship rights or go to jail for a year. What do you do with that? Put it in a box with the ravings of other lunatics, or remember that this internet troll will soon be president?)

In any case, I don’t think the press is particularly, and certainly not solely, to blame for Trump’s election, although you can make a strong argument that the Clinton email scandal was much overhyped and that cable TV news is generally a blight on the media landscape. And there’s the matter of James Comey for historians to mull over.

Still, it was Clinton’s job to change the narrative, and she was content basically to insist that it didn’t much matter what people said about her, Trump was certainly far worse. The funny thing is, it worked, except when it didn’t. She’ll probably receive 2 1/2 million more votes, which is a greater margin of, well, victory than five actual presidents received. And instead we now have Trump and his work-in-progress cabinet that should scare civil libertarians, environmentalists, minorities and most of the people who didn’t vote for Trump.

And so I understand the recount people. I have friends who have contributed money to it. It’s not a false hope, one said, but rather a glimmer of hope. And a glimmer, she said, is worth a hundred bucks.

And I especially understand the Electoral College rebels. The Electoral College is an anachronism that means the election is decided by 12-15 states, and everyone else’s vote is worthless, as we are seeing today. That’s voter corruption. It’s an anti-Democratic notion (like the one about state legislatures selecting senators) that some scholars insist it is a vestige of slavery. The point today is that without the Electoral College, every vote would count, which seems central to the democratic project, even in a democratic Republic.

We should get rid of it, and not because it got Trump elected, although that would be reason enough. We should get rid of it for the 2.3 million voters who shouldn’t have bothered voting at all.

But, sadly, we’re not getting rid of it. Too many states benefit from it. And now, after the Bush-Trump doubleheader, it has renewed partisan support. And as you long for 270 faithless electors banding together behind an alternative savior, try to imagine your reaction to a similar effort if it was your candidate who had been fairly elected.

There’s danger in this. The real truth, of course, in the era of Trumpian dystopia, is that Trump turned out to be right after all — America is now truly a dangerous place.

Photo credit: Joe Brusky, Creative Commons, Flickr 

He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.


  1. Sorry Mike but this isn’t desperation by Stein, this is yet again another attempt to get the media to focus on what really matters in this (and I can now say this and it will really be true)God forsaken country. The media, all of it, is still unwilling to take the majority of the blame for the disaster that happened on November. And are just “shocked” that many blame them for trump’s victory. But six months to a year ago, they all just couldn’t stop covering the buffoon because he made them laugh and he would never ever win. Now they are shocked that the guy they gave sooo much free air and press time is going to try and ruin this country. “we can’t believe that the American public would be that stupid to vote for this clown. Well all they saw for months on end was this clown on their TV’s, never a serious candidate who, although, may have been boring knew what she was talking about, maybe talked a little too long on a serious matter like climate change, or voting rights. She just wasn’t good press. So now we have the clown to watch for four long years. let’s see who going to be laughing now.

  2. I seriously don’t think anyone believes that a recount will change the results…unless computer scientists find proof of some form of hacking. Not probable but possible

  3. This is not really a recount, but an audit and/or investigation into voting irregularities. They will be looking at voting machines- and problems identified with accurately counting ballots electronically vs paper ballots.

    As Nate Silver said, this type of audit should be done in all states after an election, to find issues- like very old machines- and fix them before the next election.

  4. Come ooooon Hamiltonians! Build those relationships! Forge those alliances. Kick djt and his kakistocracy to the curb. For the prosperity of us all, Revolt!!!!

  5. Clown car ticketed for excessive celebration.

    “But I’ve always had a pretty good handle on politics. For one thing, it’s not that complicated.” – Mike Littwin January, 2016

    “And I’m at a loss to explain how (this presidential election) got there.” Mike Littwin, November, 2016

    If you believe the above quotes are contradictory, well, you’re not alone. But if you believe the author will address the contradiction and reconcile it, well, you’re on your own.

    But here’s some good news! The gap between Mr. Littwin and reality appears to be shrinking. Not much, of course, just a baby step but at least it’s moving in the right direction. It’s been three weeks and four columns since the election that some have called the greatest upset in American political history and for the first time Mr. Littwin has used “president-elect” and “Trump” not only in the same column but in the same sentence And he came thisclose to putting them next to each other. Who’da thunk it?

    Of course, using the phrase “President Trump” will be a whole new ballgame but Mr. Littwin’s got about eight weeks to work that out. And eight years after that.

    Mr. Littwin is inching closer and closer to explaining how Mrs. Clinton lost an election that for her should have been a walk in the park, a piece of cake, a slam dunk. Mr. Littwin writes: “Still, it was Clinton’s job to change the narrative, and she was content basically to insist that it didn’t much matter what people said about her “. Again, not much but moving in the right direction.

    And while I applaud Mr. Littwin’s candor, that explanation doesn’t even come close to explaining how Mrs. Clinton, backed by the Clinton political machine, lost to a man Mr. Littwin described as “a demagogue, a xenophobe, a misogynist, a bigot, a sexist, an authoritarian, a boor, a crypto-fascist and the least-prepared person ever to be nominated by a major party.”

    Mrs Clinton’s defeat is the rough equivalent of the University of Alabama football team losing to the Colorado Mesa Mavericks.

    Here’s how Victor Davis Hanson explained Mrs. Clinton’s loss:

    “Without an ideology that even remotely matched the life she led, Hillary Clinton could only run a campaign without consistent positions. She flipped on the Keystone pipeline and trade agreements. She refuted the entire 1990s Clinton economic and social agenda. Indeed, her positions of 2008 — anti–gay marriage, border enforcement, and rural populism — were the very positions that she smeared others for embracing in 2016. In 2008, Clinton damned Obama for his “clingers” speech; in 2016, she trumped him with her deplorables and irredeemables.

    She both derided Wall Street and was enriched by it. Her 2008 brief flirtation with the white working classes as a modern Annie Oakley came full circle in 2016, with exultant promises to put coal miners out of work. In the end, Hillary had no ideology other than getting even richer by leveraging the office of secretary of state and pandering to identity politics in hopes that record numbers of women and minorities would vote for a 68-year-old white multimillionaire, much as they had voted for Barack Obama. The more she talked of the LGBT or Latino communities, apparently the more we were to think that the Clintons had subverted their offices and reputations to grift a $150 million personal fortune for the underprivileged.?”

    And then there’s this from Mr. Littwin: “You may have read Corey Hutchins’s excellent piece in The Independent about the four Colorado electors who gathered in Polly Baca’s house over the weekend in hopes of fueling an Electoral College revolution.” If the Colorado Independent had not published this story it would likely have been picked up by The Onion. It’s a story about Polly Baca’s efforts to find, in Mr. Littwin’s words, “270 faithless electors banding together behind an alternative savior”. A Sisyphean task that has a very predictable outcome. Not only would it require 270 faithless electors to agree on a savior, as the article points out it would also require the savior be a Republican “Because there are more Republican electors than Democrats nationally, that alternative would likely have to be a Republican.”

    To give you an idea of the viability of this effort there’s this from the Denver Post:

    “Colorado doesn’t “allow for so-called “faithless electors.” If an elector does not cast a vote for the right candidate, they are removed and replaced with a new elector, according to the Colorado secretary of state’s office. So (Micheal) Baca is required under Colorado law to cast his vote for Clinton because she won the state’s nine electoral votes.”

    “This (attempt to gather so-called faithless voters) has only been tried a few times and really, it’s been a while,” Kyle Saunders, a political science professor at Colorado State University said. “It’s absolutely futile.””

    “No elector has even crossed party lines since 1972, when a Republican elector cast a ballot for the Libertarian ticket, according to the NCSL. More recently in 2004, a Minnesota elector nominated by the Democratic Party voted for John Edwards, the running mate of Democrat John Kerry.”

    And please, enough about the popular vote. The popular vote is a consolation prize, a lovely parting gift for the loser. According to four other presidents have won the Electoral College while losing the popular vote.

    This from

    “Now let’s look at that popular vote more closely. As of today, according to The New York Times, Hillary Clinton has 62,391,335 votes from all states. She has 1,969,920 votes from the five counties that make up New York City, and 1,893,770 votes from Los Angeles County, California. Donald Trump has 61,125,956 votes from all states, including 461,174 votes from the five counties that make up New York City, and 620,285 votes from L.A. County. In other words, Hillary beat Trump 3,863,690 to 1,081,459 in New York and L.A.; he beat her by 60,044,497 to 58,527,645 in the rest of the country. So Hillary’s margin in the popular vote rests entirely on her margin in two large cities — neither of which was contested by the Trump campaign.”


    What is left of Democratic ideology is identity politics and assorted dead-end green movements as conservation has become radical environmentalism and fairness under the law is now unapologetic redistributionism. The 2016 campaign and the frenzied reaction to the result are reminders that the Left is no longer serious about formulating and advancing a practical agenda. In sum, for now it is reduced to a party of teeth-gnashers. – National Review

    “Liberal hypocrisy continued well after the election. Those who had become lapdog journalists before the election promised to be even more bravely biased afterwards. So Washington Post pundit Dana Milbank preened: “Rather than cozying up to this new establishment, the media need to savor our traditional role as outsiders.”

    “Outsiders?” “Cozying up”?

    What “traditional role” was Milbank himself ever trying to “savor” other than his own prior, predictable duty as an unethical insider? WikiLeaks had earlier revealed the Milbank apparently wrote the Clinton campaign begging for quick opposition research to help him write his column attacking Donald Trump.

    When audiences heard liberal talking heads on television, in either brawling mode or rarified intellectual tones, they could assume that the Trump accuser (aside from being privileged) in many cases was either a plagiarist, fabulist, or ethnically compromised by previously weighing in with the Clinton campaign. Often the likes of Brian Williams, Fareed Zakaria, Doris Kearns Goodwin, or John Harwood proved such abject cynicism warranted when they damned Trump for failing ethical standards they themselves had earlier failed.” – Victor
    Davis Hanson

    “Hubris was also on the menu. The event was an ambitious attempt to combine BuzzFeed’s modernist style with a traditional format and, in turn, connect advertisers with a target-rich audience of youthful elites. But what was supposed to be the coronation of America’s first female president turned into something completely different, leaving the stylish millennials in the live crowd increasingly turning to their drinks for liquid courage.” – Columbia Journalism Riview

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Greenlight a Vet
    Folds of Honor
    Special Operations Warriors Foundation
    Veterans Day – November 11, 2016

  6. Mr. Littwin,

    I often wonder if you – and other liberals – would be so quick to play the “popular vote” card if it had been the other way round? i.e, Trump wins the popular and Clinton gets the electoral? Somehow, I doubt you would be beating the drum for Clinton. Like so many of your brothers in the liberal media, you only see what you want to see (cue Rachel Maddow).

    Hillary ran a lousy campaign and deserved to lose. Had she run a decent campaign (and told the truth once in a while) she would have been the President elect. But she didn’t and she isn’t. Get over it.

  7. Mr. Littwin — Not to get into any sort of verbal tennis match with you, but your 2009 column in the DP takes issues with the out-dated electoral college “when mob-rule democracy was considered as great a threat as tyranny.”

    Isn’t that exactly what gave Hillary the popular vote advantage? As I recall, New York City (just the city, not the state) gave her a win by something like 1.5 million votes. Given that NYC has a greater percentage of people on some sort of assistance than most cities, I guess that isn’t surprising, but to have an election determined by what I would call a mob in NYC seems to validate the electoral college.

    Again – I don’t intend on continuing the banter ad nauseam, but I believe there are many of us who do believe – with some basis – that the electoral college DOES protect us from the coastal mob rule.

  8. Jay D why is it when the Repugs win an election they still have this compunction to whine about something that they feel is unjust in the election process. Frankly, had your esteemed and statesman like candidate lost there would have been rioting in the streets. As it is, the winning faction seems to think they now have permission from the loud mouth to go out and commit crimes against the losing side. This wasn’t a war where the victors are allowed to rape and pillage the losing side, this was an election. And anyone who becomes president is made responsible to represent ALL citizens of this country, not just those who voted for him/her. Just imagine what we would have been facing had our country actually practiced a democratic election by majority rule (i.e.) one person one vote, The Donald would have unleashed his flying monkeys.
    Now, it’s been one month let us lick our wounds so that we can try and accept what less than half of this country put in office. What you and the rest of the Trumpies should do is to accept the responsibility of directing your president to engage in statesman like behavior, recognize that this guy cannot act like a bubba wherever and whenever he feels the urge. Remind him that he is the representative of all those who live in this country, and to quit being so petty about his victory. Remember, this man did not win the majority of the popular vote, so it will take a while to process this twisted factoid. That a loser is actually the leader of the free world.

  9. BJ Goral – “Repugs”? Really? And you are assuming that I voted for Trump. I did not. I have been a libertarian for decades. And please don’t start lecturing about “majority of the popular vote”. I assume you were/are a Bill Clinton fan? He only won 43% of the popular vote in 1992. Why can’t you people get it that the popular vote ONLY matters in how it affects the electoral map. Hillary thought she had the rust belt in the bag so she didn’t campaign there. Trump understood the electoral map. Hillary didn’t. It was Hillary’s election to lose and she did a very good job of doing exactly that. If you are upset that Trump won (and you obviously are), then direct your anger at your own party for putting up a horrible candidate. Maybe in the next election they will get it right cuz they sure as heck didn’t do it this time. Blame Wasserman-Idiot-Schultz, not the Trump voters.

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