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