Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Agree To Disagree

I'm normally a fan of Jon Chait's writing, but I think he's 100% wrong on the issue of the "Hamilton Electors."

Chait says we shouldn't be gaming the EC to deny Trump the presidency.  If this isn't the moment for the electors to engage in a critical examination of the results, then there is LITERALLY NO PURPOSE TO THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE.  If electors are simply ciphers for the state-by-state popular vote, then why have human electors at all?  If we take Hamilton's word for it, one of the purposes of the EC was to deny the presidency to people exactly like Trump.

Secondly, if the Hamilton Electors gambit pays off and tosses the election to the House, that would allow the Republicans to really and truly own the trainwreck of whatever comes next.  Let's say it goes to the House, with each state getting an equal vote.  Republicans enjoy control of 32 of the state delegations.  Democrats control 17 with one delegation split 1-1.  In other words, let's say 40 Trump electors defect to John Kasich.  That would send the election to the House, where they would have to choose between Trump, Clinton and Kasich.  If they choose Trump, they truly own everything that comes next.  If they choose Kasich, they not only own the Randian dystopia of Republican shitty policies, but they also own the anger of the Trumpenproletariat.

Win-win.  (In fact, arguably the worst result for the Democrats would be the GOP throwing the election to Clinton, and creating a four year run of a lame duck.)

Finally, Chait says that the Democrats should eschew "gimmicks" in order to practice normal opposition politics.  He notes, as I do, that Trump is likely to be VERY unpopular, and he notes, as I do, that Democrats need to start building towards 2018 and 2020 today.  But planning for 2018 and 2020 does not have to come at the exclusion of the Hamilton Electors gambit.  You can do both.  You should do both.

While I agree that the Democrats should hone their strategy as an opposition party, they should not count on usual methods working.  Trump has managed a Chait put it to "suborn his followers into facially absurd lies."  The rampant abuse of the notion of objective truth is the hallmark of Trumpism.  Four years of a Trump regency would further exacerbate what is already the most chilling political fact about the American political system: one of it's two major parties is factually illiterate.  Given the level of polarization, four years of Trump will simply create a cohesive mass of tens of millions of Americans who will believe what Trump says, even if you can prove it to be factually ridiculous.

Trump or Kasich will pursue an agenda that is deeply harmful to American civil rights and liberties, voting rights, economic opportunity and equality and America's role in the world.  That's GOING TO HAPPEN.

But Trump represents a threat to the very idea of objective reality that Kasich simply doesn't.

That makes the Hamilton Elector gambit worth the effort.

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