In the end, America was still America, which usually plays by the rules, even when the rules don’t make any sense.
And that’s refreshing in its own way, or would be, if it didn’t mean that Donald Trump, the ultimate rule-breaker, was still going to be the next president. But it does.
And the whole idea of the Hamilton Electors — who would attempt to turn an 18th-century anachronism into a 21st-century revolutionary tool — is now rendered as a strange footnote in this strangest of political seasons.
In Colorado, we got the full experience. There was an Electoral College vote that wasn’t a true vote and a climax that was all anti-climax. There were many lawyers and a host of 11th-hour court rulings and re-rulings and un-rulings. And there were unhappy witnesses to an attempted election do-over, in which all the rebel electors tried to do was rewrite history.
The revolution may have been televised — or at least live-streamed — but in the end, nothing happened. Before the attempted protest, Donald Trump was still going to be the next president. And after the failed protest, many people would still be discouraged by that inalterable fact. As someone once said, elections matter.
In Colorado, less than nothing happened. Dissent was not simply discouraged. It wasn’t allowed. And if you think people were angry before — and they were — I’m guessing this didn’t make anyone any happier.
A determined (obsessed?) Secretary of State Wayne Williams went to court to ensure that Colorado’s electors followed the law by voting in December as the Colorado voters did in November. This meant the Democratic electors would have to vote for Hillary Clinton. The courts ruled that Williams could, in fact, replace any Electoral College defectors and that Hamilton’s long-ago idea of stopping someone like Donald Trump didn’t hold in Colorado. Williams wasn’t satisfied. He even worked out a new pledge that would ensure that any would-be defectors could be charged with perjury, among other crimes and misdemeanors. If that seems extreme to you, Williams told me it was a matter of ensuring that elected officials — even, as he said, if they’re elected officials you never heard of — do what they promise to do.
And so we had it. Democrat Micheal Baca, of the Colorado nine, tried to vote for a Republican and was, well, replaced. Now, he’ll be referred to the attorney general, which is why a few other reluctant electors ultimately cast their votes for Clinton. And here’s where it gets worse: Baca could actually be charged and tried for making a symbolic vote.
We knew all along there wouldn’t be any do-overs. But this was all about emphasis. I’m guessing — with emphasis — that the Baca matter will go no further. As I said above, America is still America. And SOS Williams and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman probably both hope to face the voters again sometime. And voting your conscience has a history even older than the Electoral College.
Across the country, there were seven defectors: two from the Trump camp (both from Texas) and five from the Clinton camp. They tell us this was a record number of defectors, which tells you everything you need to know about the Electoral College because even with the record, the defectors fell 263 votes short of a do-over.
So, where does that leave us?
It leaves us in a country with a soon-to-be president who lost the popular vote by 2.8 million and who blames the vote deficit on imaginary illegal voters. It leaves us with Trumpists somehow either denying or defending Russian meddling in the election. It leaves us with even less faith in institutions than we had before the election. It leaves us wondering why, if electors can’t actually vote, we still have an Electoral College, which twice in this century has delivered us a president who didn’t get the most votes. It leaves us with a Trump cabinet full of billionaires and Trump loyalists who, in general, oppose the very departments they’re leading. It leaves us wondering what James Comey should have done, what Hillary Clinton could have done, what American voters have done. It leaves us wondering what Donald Trump will tweet next.
It leaves us with a country divided in half, and with yet another president that a significant part of the population won’t accept as legitimate. In other words, it leaves us in deep trouble.
As it happens, the day of the Electoral College vote was not a normal day. The world was, once again, in crisis. In Turkey, the Russian ambassador was shot as an AP photographer bravely took the images and sent them around to a shocked world. In Berlin, a man drove a truck into a Christmas market, killing at least 12 in what the German officials are now calling a terrorist attack.
Trump addressed both attacks … on Twitter, blaming “radical Islamic terrorists” in each case, even though no one has yet been charged in the Berlin attack. We don’t know if Trump was briefed, or if Mike Pence relayed the briefing to him, or whether it was a good guess. But wait for the “I was right!” tweet to come.
It was not a normal day. But if we learned anything from the Electoral College rebellion that wasn’t, nothing is going to be normal any time soon.
Photo credit: Jason Rogers, Creative Commons, Flickr