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Gratitude for the Art of Losing Graciously

handshake

At 2:30 am on the Wednesday morning following the election, Donald Trump captured Wisconsin and clinched the election.  By 2:35 am television networks reported that Trump had received a phone call from Hillary Clinton conceding defeat. 

Five minutes. 

That’s how long it took for Clinton to receive the tough news, call Trump to concede defeat, and for reporters to report the exchange back to the nation.

Later in the light of morning Clinton delivered an emotionally laden speech in which she offered her congratulations, her service, and her support to President-elect Trump—and she encouraged her followers to join her in doing so.  She reminded us, “Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. We don’t just respect that. We cherish it.”

It’s worth reflecting upon the conclusion of Clinton’s historic campaign as she may have experienced it.  She had grounds for bitterness.  Trump boasted of his plans to throw Clinton in prison if he won. All respectable pollsters projected Clinton as the likely winner, but as the night progressed swing states fell for Trump like dominoes.  First historically blue states, and then the pollsters themselves, turned red.

Clinton’s gut-punched supporters wore their heartbreak on their tearstained sleeves. 

Five minutes.

In light of the bruising campaign, Clinton epitomized grace.  Her palpable hurt was untainted by bitterness.  She made no mention of rigged elections or conspiratorial voter fraud.  Instead she exhorted citizens to pull together, to continue believing in America. 

Now take a deep breath and consider what may have transpired had the circumstances been reversed.   Imagine pollsters confidently predicted Trump’s victory.  Imagine swing states breaking unexpectedly for Clinton.  Imagine solidly Red states switching Blue.  Imagine Trump winning the popular vote by over two million votes but losing the presidency. Imagine Clinton had pledged to prosecute Trump.  Now imagine Trump calling up Clinton within five minutes of receiving the final piece of bad news and conceding.   Nope, I cannot imagine it either. 

What Hillary Clinton did on Wednesday, November 9, was truly extraordinary. Truly exceptional. 

Except it wasn’t.

What it was, actually, is this: Ordinary.  Spectacularly, gloriously, wondrously, miraculously ordinary.  Losing graciously is a norm in our republic, and we need to give it its due.  We must be grateful for the miraculous ordinariness of it all.  Watch concession speeches of other losing presidential candidates, Democrat and Republican. Their speeches bring a lump to the throat.  Through their pain, they express confidence in our country and its people, our system of government, and, finally, the elected winner. 

Democracy produces good rulers, right?  Well, sometimes.  What good democracies actually produce best, and what democracy needs most, is good losers. 

The success of the republic obligates candidates to adhere to unwritten norms.  That’s because political legitimacy is like the value of a nation’s currency.  Currency holds value only when we believe it does.  When we lose faith in our currency it becomes no more valuable than Monopoly money.  Likewise, elections maintain legitimacy only when people believe in them.

When elections are corrupt or rigged in fact, then republican rule is a sham.  But absent concrete and overwhelming evidence that the integrity of elections are jeopardized, making unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud or rigged elections is as morally reprehensible as flooding the market with counterfeit currency. Both acts undermine the value of crucial social goods. 

The presidential election of 1800 is instructive in revealing the glory and fragility of republicanism.  That election marked the young nation’s first transfer of power from one party to an opposing party. In human history, such peaceful transfers of power were rare.  In that same election, however, Aaron Burr’s unwillingness to accept the clear intent of the electors (who clearly chose Thomas Jefferson) by exploiting a defect in the Constitution pushed our constitutional system to the brink.  (The original Constitution failed to distinguish votes between presidential and vice presidential candidates, a glitch remedied by the 12th Amendment.)  Burr had violated no rules; he broke no laws.   He simply failed to live up to unwritten undemocratic norms of the late 18th century.  The United States was lucky and weathered this tough patch with a bit of luck, but good fortune is a thin reed on which to hang constitutional hopes. 

Hillary Clinton was a gracious loser in the crucial day after the election.  Unfortunately, pockets of angry anti-Trump opponents continue to reject the results of the election.  Some are strategizing about how best to persuade Trump electors to switch their vote to Clinton.  Such efforts would be myopic; they invite mischief, if not ruin, in future elections.  What is good for the Democratic goose will surely be far better for the Republican gander.  The Electoral College ought to be replaced with the popular vote, but until that occurs electors ought to vote as they are expected–as they were chosen–to vote.  Others are calling for recounts in battlegrounds states.   Elections must be fair, and if credible evidence demonstrates that the elections were rigged then they ought to be further investigated.  But at this stage our collective and even partisan perspectives principally ought to be forward looking with focus directed toward good governance, creating alternative policies, and the prevention of future fraud (insofar it’s an actual problem).  A loyal opposition is no less necessary to republican success than non-tyrannical winners.

Five minutes.

Clinton’s followers may take consolation that Hillary Clinton was the only major-party candidate in the 2016 election sufficiently devoted to her country to honor the electoral system, win or lose.   She was the only candidate who consistently held to the essential belief that democracy only works when vying candidates hold democratic elections to be more important than their ambition or ideology.   By her words and example in defeat she reaffirmed, and strengthened, the American way.  Let us then be grateful for gracious losers, for our losers no less than our winners carry forward the American experiment in self-rule.  

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About Michael Bailey
Michael is Associate Professor of Government and International Studies at Berry College in Rome, GA. His academic publications address the American Founding, the American presidency, religion and politics, and governance in liberal democracies. He also writes on popular culture, and his articles on, among other topics, patriotism, Church and State, and Kurt Vonnegut, have been published in Prism and Touchstone. He earned his PhD from the University of Texas in Austin, where he also earned his BA. He’s married and has three children. He joined OTB in November 2016.

Comments

  1. Pch101 says:

    The Electoral College ought to be replaced with the popular vote, but until that occurs electors ought to vote as they are expected–as they were chosen–to vote.

    Federalist 68 says otherwise:

    It was equally desirable, that the immediate election 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 such complicated investigations…

    …The choice of SEVERAL, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of ONE who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes. And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place.

    We vote for electors instead of voting for the president directly in order to bar those who are not “endowed with the requisite qualifications” from getting the job. Trump is the poster child for one who possesses the sort of “talents for low intrigue” that Hamilton warned us against.

    If you want to point to a failure of the electoral college, then it’s the fact that there hasn’t been a mass revolt by the electors to provide the check and balance that is part of their job description. Why convene the electors at all if they aren’t going to bother to deliberate?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  2. MBunge says:

    Just to be historically accurate, Trump lost multiple primaries during the GOP campaign and I don’t believe he ever reacted as anything other than a good loser. And contrary to the expectations of his hysterical critics, Trump has followed up his victory by not only embracing some of his harshest Republican opponents but by being extremely gracious to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

    You can certainly blast Trump for reckless and irresponsible rhetoric during the campaign but the evidence does not support the assumption that his response to a loss would have been any different than Hillary’s.

    Mike

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 18

  3. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Let that sink in for a moment.

    This is not some sort of delightful end of camp sing-a-long where we all hold hands and get along. Treating it as though it should be – oohing and ah-ing at the relatively peaceful transition of power – is about as un-American as it gets.

    These people are a clear and present danger to this country. They should be resisted and fought and undermined and crippled in any and every way possible, to include casting every possible doubt on the legitimacy of the election itself.

    Not so that they might now eventually win it anyway, but so they won’t win another one in the future. The system has failed.

    Indeed, democracy has failed – gracious concessions notwithstanding.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 8

  4. Michael Bailey says:

    @Pch101: Yep. I’m familiar with this passage. Here’s the number of times the EC worked as Hamilton predicted:

    Zero.

    Nada.

    Never.

    I dislike being blunt, but we part ways here. We do not vote for electors in order for them to do anything whatsoever other than to vote as we would have them. I teach Federalist 68 in college, and my bright college students always express amazement that they’re voting for electors at all. They think of them, insofar they ever think of them, as simply “points,” not “persons.” They have no idea in fact WHO they are. Truth: I had no idea who they were before the election. Ahead of the election I tried to find who the two parties selected for their potential electors. I searched for ten minutes on the web and could not find a list for either party. Nor were they shown on the ballot. We the people do not choose the electors in any meaningful way at all. What we choose is how they are to vote. We do not want them exercising independent thought. I’m ever so grateful that Hamilton was wrong. When we come up with a virtue test for discerning wisdom and commitment to the public good, I’ll reconsider.

    That’s why I speak in the little essay here of unwritten norms. The electors were never chosen for their wisdom, just ever, and that’s not why we choose them today. They’ve always been chosen for their partisan loyalty, to do the bidding of others–either the state legislators who chose them (early on) or the popular votes later.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  5. MBunge says:

    On the subject of the Electoral College, Hillary Clinton actually won a majority of the vote in only 13 states. Trump won a majority in 23 states. You sore losers should stick with the popular vote.

    As for the Founding Fathers, it seems fairly obvious that Bill Clinton would have also been the sort they intended the Electoral College to prevent.

    Mike

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 23

  6. Michael Bailey says:

    @MBunge: A Trump loss is a hypothetical. Yep. And so I’m speculating in a strict sense. Yep.. But Trump’s words time and again made it clear to all in real time that he was going to challenge a loss. He partially walked back his comments now and again, but he never rejected them in full.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  7. pylon says:
  8. Kylopod says:

    @MBunge:

    Just to be historically accurate, Trump lost multiple primaries during the GOP campaign and I don’t believe he ever reacted as anything other than a good loser.

    Then you weren’t paying attention. Most of the primaries Trump lost were held on the same day as those he won, allowing him to ignore them and focus more on his victories.

    There were only two states he lost where they were the only states voting that day–Iowa and Wisconsin. After each of them, he went on an unhinged rant in which he accused Cruz of having stolen or rigged the election results.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/usa-election-trump-cruz-idUSL2N15I1HF

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2016/04/05/trump-absolutely-unloads-on-cruz-in-blistering-statement-responding-to-wisconsin-results/

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  9. pylon says:

    http://thehill.com/homenews/news/268148-trump-goes-on-attack-over-cruzs-win-in-iowa

    Trump, who finished approximately 6,000 votes behind Cruz out of about 180,000 ballots cast, is now furiously making the case that the election was stolen from him.

    In an interview on Boston Herald Radio, which broadcasts into neighboring New Hampshire, where primary voters will cast ballots on Feb. 9, the real estate mogul said he “probably will” file a legal complaint against Cruz.

    He accused the Texas Republican of “voter fraud,” called his actions “unthinkable” and “one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen,” and claimed it’s why the polls, which showed Trump in the lead on Election Day, ended up being wrong.

    “It’s total voter fraud when you think of it, and he picked up a lot of those votes, and that’s why the polls were so wrong, because of that,” Trump said.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  10. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Michael Bailey:

    What we choose is how they are to vote. We do not want them exercising independent thought.

    A group of us are currently bouncing around ideas for the 2020 presidential election, primarily recruiting persons to seek service as electors – on BOTH sides of the political spectrum – with the specific intent of their subsequently executing faithless electoral votes, particularly in sparsely populated Republican strongholds (since those would traditionally be the states least open to considering doing away with the EC).

    It’s in the formative stages, to be sure, and will require some careful planning / assurances to those participating that they’ll be protected, but hey, we’re all attorneys who are well-connected in the political sphere and in possession of the requisite legal skills and bank balances to support it. I’m prepared to throw in $5 million myself; more if necessary.

    The EC was a flawed concept from the outset, and if anything it is much more fundamentally broken today. The only way we rid ourselves of it is to turn the public against it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 4

  11. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Michael Bailey:

    I’m ever so grateful that Hamilton was wrong

    Hamilton’s primary motivation was a deep seated belief that the common man was fundamentally incapable of exercising the degree of analysis and prudence required to be an effective participant in democracy. The establishment of the EC, and indeed the original structure of the Senate itself, served to give the elite a de facto veto power over the wishes of the proletariat. He (and several others, to include Jefferson and Adams) felt that such people could not entirely be trusted with the levers of power, and implemented buffers to ensure that they never entirely would.

    If anything, history has proven Hamilton RIGHT, not wrong.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  12. Pch101 says:

    @Michael Bailey:

    You don’t have to like what Hamilton said but what he is said is clear enough (at least within the context of late18th century English.) And according to Hamilton, the electoral college should not simply allow a bad president to take office.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  13. HarvardLaw92 says:

    OT, but relevant: Jill Stein’s recount effort has raised $3.35 million as of this morning. $22,700 of that came from me. Let the games begin.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  14. Michael Bailey says:

    @HarvardLaw92: I understand. What I want is not more clever electors who use discretion to avoid the will of voters. What I want is to junk the Electoral College altogether. Not because I think the voters are all wise, but rather because I don’t think an alternative to popular election has been developed that surpasses it. When we find it, I say we apply to all our electoral decisions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  15. Pch101 says:

    @Michael Bailey:

    The will of the voters (barely) was to elect Hillary Clinton.

    If you oppose the electoral college, then you should be calling for the electoral vote to be ignored. If you support the electoral college even on an interim basis, then you should be empowering electors to behave like electors, which includes their obligation to be faithless when the situation calls for it. We really can’t have it both ways.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  16. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Michael Bailey:

    What I want is not more clever electors who use discretion to avoid the will of voters. What I want is to junk the Electoral College altogether.

    Then we are in agreement. We propose to utilize faithless electors to undermine public confidence in the electoral college system itself. My holy grail at the moment is convincing all three of the electors in a state like Wyoming to go faithless. Even two would be outstanding.

    If we somehow get a state stupid enough to push the issue in federal court as well, thereby giving us a segue into testing the (to date) untested theory that Article II, §1 grants electors the unfettered power to vote as they choose independent of any state mandates or expectations to the contrary, then all the better.

    We get rid of this dinosaur by turning the public against it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  17. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @MBunge: On the other hand, one can’t assert from an absence of evidence at all. Since Trump 1) didn’t latch on to the rigged elections canard until late and 2) he didn’t lose, the most we can do is imagine.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t go there and I don’t see that Trump has appointed unusual appointees for a GOP winner–other than Bannon, who was appointed to a… non-traditional (??) post (in business, some people call this padding the payroll). Do I think that a bunch of ig’rant crackers who had been baited toward violence during an election involving two of the most unliked and unlikeable candidates in the history of the Republic could go off half-cocked? Yeah, it’s possible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. bill says:

    rhetoric aside, i don’t see a trump defeat resulting in the inanity we have today. it’s embarrassing to see alleged “adults” behaving lie spoiled, violent children- and “intellects” egging them on to continue…
    that the current “leadership” is taking a laissez faire approach to this nonsense just encourages it and reeks of sour grapes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 6

  19. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Kylopod: The Blaze? Really? Glen Beck as a source? One source is enough in this case, although I will note that partisans will use whatever they have available–even sources that they would discredit under other circumstances. It’s part of what empowers “both sides do it.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. Ratufa says:

    @Pch101:

    …We really can’t have it both ways.

    Yes you can, if your preferred action is not only based on internal logical consistency, but also takes into account what the effects of ignoring the electoral college in this election would have on the country as whole. As Michael put it, “Democracy needs good losers.”

    Putting Hilary in office via so-called “faithless electors” would violate the de-facto rules that pretty much everyone in the country believed governed the election. The outcome would be unpredictable. If you think it would just result in voters turning against the electoral college, as if the 62 million Trump voters would calmly accept this, you are fooling yourself. Even Clinton voters I know don’t support such an action.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  21. Pch101 says:

    @Ratufa:

    Putting Hilary in office via so-called “faithless electors” would violate the de-facto rules that pretty much everyone in the country believed governed the election.

    Yeah, it’s funny how all of the folks on the right who bang on about “original intent” don’t seem to have any idea what that means.

    Hamilton wanted electors to toss out bad results. This was a bad result. If the right-wingers require a history lesson about federalism, then I can’t think of a better time to serve it up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 5

  22. An Interested Party says:

    As for the Founding Fathers, it seems fairly obvious that Bill Clinton would have also been the sort they intended the Electoral College to prevent.

    How’s that? Because he’s a lech? I’m sure many of the Founding Fathers had similar impulses…hell, Jefferson carried on an affair with one of his slaves…there’s no question that Clinton was eminently qualified to be president, but Trump? Not so much…

    …reeks of sour grapes.

    You’d know all about that as you moaned and groaned through all eight years of Obama…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  23. Terrye Cravens says:

    As a general rule I am a good loser, but that is easier in an election where the results are not so disgusting.

    As for the Electoral College, they should either act as a fail safe as the Founders intended, or do away with the system. Why do they even vote? If their votes must go to the demagogue who won the state, then why do even go through the motions of a vote?

    I have always supported the idea of each state having a say in the process..I do understand the desire of people in rural states to not be overwhelmed by populated coastal ares, but Clinton’s popular vote is now 2 million ahead of Trump. That makes me think that something has gone awry with this system. This has never happened before to this extent, not even close.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  24. JohnMcC says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Thank you for your donation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  25. JohnMcC says:

    @MBunge: And in the ‘short-takes’ column entitled ‘2 million votes…’ you said that the electoral college never gave a single bad result for ‘hundreds of years’.

    Mike, slow down and look stuff up before you click on ‘post comment.’ You’ve said plenty of smart stuff but if you were a pitcher and I were your manager, I’d be calling the bullpin right now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. rachel says:

    @Ratufa:

    Putting Hilary in office via so-called “faithless electors” would violate the de-facto rules that pretty much everyone in the country believed governed the election. The outcome would be unpredictable.

    It would, but as I understand it HarvardLaw92 isn’t proposing that. I think what he’s suggesting is that if a few electors in a few red states went against what their states voted for, it would give the citizens there cause to get on board with scrapping the EC.

    (Of course I might be wrong.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  27. Andy says:

    @Michael Bailey:

    What I want is to junk the Electoral College altogether. Not because I think the voters are all wise, but rather because I don’t think an alternative to popular election has been developed that surpasses it.

    So then how do you explain America’s resilience as a democracy? We do have popular vote for every office except President.

    I get the academic argument, and, in theory, I agree with it. If we were creating a system from scratch we wouldn’t have an EC. But getting from here to there is not easy nor is the path guaranteed. It’s not like one can flip a switch from EC to popular vote – the process to get to the conditions where that change is possible is fraught with danger and it requires the American people to lose faith in the present system to such an extent that they want change. Once that faith is gone, there is no guarantee that what emerges on the other side will be the ideal democratic system you’d like. IMO, the benefit is not worth the risk, at least for now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @rachel:

    Correct. People just go along with the EC, some because they have little to no understanding of how the system operates and others, undoubtedly, because the skewing works to their benefit.

    If you tried selling the concept of the EC to someone who’d never heard of it, you’d get laughed at, but for reasons passing understanding we keep it around.

    The only way we’re going to get rid of it is either via a constitutional amendment or agreement by enough states to award all of their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. I think the second option is unlikely and has gotten as much support as it’s likely to get, so the first must be our goal.

    You accomplish that by engineering a national outcry against the EC, and you accomplish that by undermining public faith in the EC system. If they see it can be manipulated by anyone willing to pony up enough cash or, G-d willing, we actually get a court ruling which establishes that they aren’t bound to vote for anyone other than whomever they happen to like, then we’re well on our way there.

    More to the point – if it succeeds, it’ll undoubtedly trigger counter efforts from the other side. The takeaway will be “the Electoral college is for sale”. I don’t think you need me to tell you where that will lead.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  29. Scott O says:

    @bill:

    rhetoric aside, i don’t see a trump defeat resulting in the inanity we have today. it’s embarrassing to see alleged “adults” behaving lie spoiled, violent children- and “intellects” egging them on to continue…

    I guess you haven’t seen the tweet storm Trump sent out on the night of the 2012 election. When it was first announced that Obama had been reelected Romney was ahead in the popular vote and Trump went nuts. He later deleted these tweets.

    He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012

    The phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation. The loser one!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012

    More votes equals a loss…revolution!

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2012

    http://mashable.com/2012/11/06/trump-reacts-to-election/#w3bCLw6I5kqx

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  30. george says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    That gets pretty close to a parliamentary system. Which has its own strengths and weaknesses. One advantage is it could allow for third party systems, which are common in Parliamentary systems. On the other hand, its pretty rare for a country with a majority gov’t to have won a 50% of the vote; in Canada most majority gov’ts (Trudeau’s now, Harper’s before him, Chretien’s before that) to get about 40% of the vote.

    I think it’ll also change the way party’s campaign; its like saying a different team would have won if the rules were different – it might be true, but both teams would have approached the game differently with different rules. And I say that as someone who thinks Trump is a disaster (you need only see his first picks to see that).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  31. Senyordave says:

    For what it’s worth, I don’t go there and I don’t see that Trump has appointed unusual appointees for a GOP winner–other than Bannon, who was appointed to a… non-traditional (??) post (in business, some people call this padding the payroll).

    Bannon isn’t a minor issue. A person who is the front man for the alt-right as the president-elect’s senior adviser. The alt-right movement doesn’t even pretend anymore that it is anything other than a white nationalist movement. This isn’t just a little unusual, it is a national disgrace. I understand that the Trump election has moved the goalpost (he is, after all, an admitted sexual predator), but there is simply no possible explanation for Steve Bannon being anywhere near the White House. To call this padding the payroll is ridiculous.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  32. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @george:

    Eh, not really. Parliamentary systems still allocate political power indirectly. Britain, for example – voters do not vote for the PM directly. They vote for MP’s in their constituencies with the understanding that said party’s leader will be named PM. Those systems tend to separate head of state from head of government. Here, for better or worse we’ve somewhat combined the two.

    All that I’m after is a direct popular vote for the presidency. No skewing of political power via rounding & arbitrary allocation of political power via the awarding of electoral votes based on the number of congressional participants a state has.

    It also gets rid of what is essentially the trashing of minority votes via first past the post. Here in NY, for example, the vote of every Trump voter was essentially discarded because all of our electoral votes go to Clinton. Likewise for Clinton voters in Texas. It’s just indefensible.

    Each voter would have the exact same amount of contribution to the outcome. No more and no less, and every vote should count – which, frankly is how it should have been in a democracy to begin with.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  33. Ratufa says:

    @rachel:

    It would, but as I understand it HarvardLaw92 isn’t proposing that. I think what he’s suggesting is that if a few electors in a few red states went against what their states voted for, it would give the citizens there cause to get on board with scrapping the EC.

    The most likely reaction to “unfaithful” electors would be for the state, and the state’s political parties, to take additional steps to ensure that electors are faithful.. A few electors voting against their state’s popular vote is unlikely to change anything, particularly in red states, since red states, and their voters, have incentives to preserve the current system.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. Ben Wolf says:

    @Ratufa: That would almost certainly be the outcome Successfully flipping electors would do little more than continue to provoke the voters who put Trump into office. From their perspective (and Democrats would react no differently were the situation reversed) this would be an attempt to steal an election.

    That’s why I’m contributing $10 million to prevent undermining of the electoral college, hand delivered by my super-genius model wife in her extremely expensive car. Because claims of personal wealth by anonymous commentors on obscure blogs are of course always true and never an act of self-aggrandizement.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  35. Pch101 says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    That would almost certainly be the outcome Successfully flipping electors would do little more than continue to provoke the voters who put Trump into office.

    Good.

    I am sick to death of liberals who believe that behaving like frightened cats is some sort of virtue.

    Perhaps the meek shall inherit the earth, but the hard right is going to scorch and salt it before you ever see a square foot of it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  36. Andy says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    You accomplish that by engineering a national outcry against the EC, and you accomplish that by undermining public faith in the EC system. If they see it can be manipulated by anyone willing to pony up enough cash or, G-d willing, we actually get a court ruling which establishes that they aren’t bound to vote for anyone other than whomever they happen to like, then we’re well on our way there.

    If you’re going to make an omelette…..

    Personally, I don’t agree that destroying public faith in our system is worth it. There is no guarantee that the political crisis you wish to engineer will result in your preferred outcome, to say nothing of the inherent danger of that scale of political crisis.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  37. Pch101 says:

    @Andy:

    I don’t agree that destroying public faith in our system is worth it.

    Donald Trump is going to be in the White House, even though he came in second place.

    That ain’t exactly a booster for public faith. Or is this yet another example of how the views of anyone who is to the left of Attila the Hun aren’t supposed to matter?

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  38. george says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    I guess I misunderstood, I read what you wrote as wanting to vote directly for electors, which is just another kind of first past the post, just on a smaller grid. You’re right about the separation of head of state from head of gov’t, though that’s more theory than practice; for instance, in Canada the head of state is the Governor General, but in practice its the Prime Minister (and any modern GG who defied Parliament would probably end Canada’s constitutional monarchy.

    I agree that voting for electors is only a partial step to Parliamentary gov’t, but its still a step in that direction, and quite different from the direct vote for President which you have as your goal. In practice, at least in Canada (where I’ve lived for many years now), party discipline is such that voting for a member of parliament is much like voting for an elector for the Prime Minister (in theory any MP is independent and need not follow the party, but that rarely happens now).

    I think a direct vote makes sense for something like President, though I think its important to keep the Senate the way it is; Canada’s senate is appointed and all but powerless, and there have been huge regional alienation because of that (Quebec, the west, and the Maritime provinces all feel quite alienated from the central gov’t, which is run out of a small triangle between Southern Ontario and Ottawa/Montreal which has most of the nation’s population … regionalism in America is much less of an issue, at least since the Civil War).

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  39. stonetools says:

    Ever notice how its always Democrats who always being asked to be gracious losers for the good of whole, while Republicans are allowed and expected to do whatever the heck they want? Why isn’t Mr. Bailey asking Pat McCrory in North Carolina to concede graciously, for the good of all?

    Well, I’m sorry, but as an African American I’m not feeling gracious that a white supremacist kleptocratic regime is going into the White House. There are some things that are worth not being nice about.

    Others are calling for recounts in battlegrounds states. Elections must be fair, and if credible evidence demonstrates that the elections were rigged then they ought to be further investigated.

    There is certainly evidence that voter suppression played a role in WI and NC. There as yet no credible evidence that Russian computer hackers changed the results in the battleground states. But there is good reason to recount the results in those states just in case.
    Moreover, there is growing evidence that the Russians swayed the election toward Trump through a calculated disinformation campaign.

    Many people, especially Hillary Clinton supporters, believe that Russia is actively trying to put Donald Trump in the White House.

    And the evidence is compelling. A range of activities speaks to a Russian connection: the theft of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign officials, hacks surrounding voter rolls and possibly election machines, Putin’s overt praise for Trump, and the curious Kremlin connections of Trump campaign operatives Paul Manafort and Carter Page.

    And from the WaPo:

    The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.

    Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.

    Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House. The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on “fake news,” as they have vowed to do after widespread complaints about the problem.

    So h3ll no. We should be resisting the transition to Trump as fiercely as we can. There is evidence that the election was rigged, and rigged in favor of Trump.Let’s not try to sweep that under the rug with talk of some outmoded notion of gentily. No, let’s do as the Republicans are doing-although hopefully for a better cause.

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  40. Pch101 says:

    @george:

    The US already votes for electors. A vote cast for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson or whomever was actually a vote cast for electors who are assigned to that candidate, even though the names of those electors probably did not appear on the ballot.

    As is the US, France is a republic, so it has an executive who is separate from the legislature. Unlike the US, France’s president is elected directly via a popular vote. That’s all that HL92 wants to do.

    It has nothing to do with a British/Canadian Westminster system. Canada is not a republic, so it has no presidency. The head of state in a Westminster system is the monarch or a representative of the monarch, something that the US obviously does not have.

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  41. george says:

    @Pch101:

    True, I worded it poorly. I meant vote for electors who then are free to vote for whoever they want – which is what I’d initially taken HarvardLaw’s post to mean. That’s a step towards a parliamentary system, in that you vote for an MP, who is then free to support anyone they want as prime minister.

    I didn’t mean to suggest that the American system is the same as the Canadian, just commenting on (or perhaps better said, trying to comment) the similarity between a system where you choose electors who are free to choose (which actually is the American system in theory but not practice) and that of a parliamentary system in which you choose a member of parliament who is free (again more theory than practice lately because of party whips) to support a prime minister.

    And actually, there are some benefits to that system. Though its still first past the post, and in Canada the trend is for some sort of proportional representation (complicated issue though). Not sure how well that works for a presidential system; I guess the best is to have run-offs, like I believe they do in France. If in the first vote none of the presidential candidates gets 50% of the vote, the lowest drop off and people vote again, until someone gets 50%+1.

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  42. Kylopod says:

    @Pch101:

    As is the US, France is a republic, so it has an executive who is separate from the legislature. …. Canada is not a republic, so it has no presidency.

    “Republic” isn’t a synonym for “presidential system.” Pure parliamentary systems (France is a mixed system) like Britain, Canada, etc. are most definitely still republics.

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  43. Pch101 says:

    @Kylopod:

    Britain is not a republic. It has a monarch as its head of state.

    Canada is not a republic. There is a republican movement in Canada that would like Canada to become a republic, but it isn’t one now.

    Canada’s head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who was obviously not elected. A governor general who is recommended by the prime minister but who serves at the pleasure of the monarch represents the monarch as Canada’s head of state.

    The US, France, Germany and Switzerland are examples of republics. They have individual executives or executive bodies who are either elected (directly or indirectly) or else appointed by the legislature, who serve as the head of state in some way, shape or form. Some executives have minimal authority (e.g. Germany) while some hold a great deal (e.g. the US.)

    I never claimed that parliamentary government and republican government are mutually exclusive, so I would appreciate it if you would avoid your penchant for strawman arguments by claiming that I said something that I never said.

    What I pointed out was that the French republic directly elects its president, which is what HL92 would like to see here. France provides a simple example of how it is possible to elect a president directly

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  44. Pch101 says:

    @george:

    HL92 is calling for the US president to be elected directly. (As I noted, France provides an example of a nation that directly elects a president via a popular vote.) HL92 doesn’t want to have any electors at all.

    HL92 isn’t calling for the creation of a US prime minister who would serve as the US head of government ala Westminster. (I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t want Paul Ryan to be running the country…)

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  45. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Right, so that was one order of ad hominem with a side of bitchy queen.

    Was that order for here or to go?

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  46. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Andy:

    Personally, I don’t agree that destroying public faith in our system is worth it. There is no guarantee that the political crisis you wish to engineer will result in your preferred outcome, to say nothing of the inherent danger of that scale of political crisis.

    And that’s fine. Some people said the same thing about the American Revolution. Sometimes you just have to decide that something is worth fighting for.

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  47. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @stonetools: ” teams of paid human “trolls,”
    JKB? Jenos (who just got a new job during the campaign)? bill?

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  48. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Said the man who just recently announced his relocation to Paris?

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  49. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    Whoever said that fighting also had to involve putting your safety at risk? I can sign a check or counsel a client from anywhere. The miracle of technology

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  50. anon. says:

    Why not the New York electors? If this about reducing faith in the EC system, you’d be going after all of them. You’re going after the Wyoming ones because of sour grapes.

    http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2016/11/17/elector-threats/94003176/

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  51. george says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    And that’s fine. Some people said the same thing about the American Revolution. Sometimes you just have to decide that something is worth fighting for.

    True. Though actually my take on history is that deciding something is worth fighting for has been the default for most of the last millennium or two. Sometimes it works out, but I’d say more often it just leads to a lot of, well, fighting.

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  52. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @anon.:

    We’ll obviously target electors anywhere we can find the opportunity. A state like Wyoming is more useful, because:

    1) it only has three electoral votes to begin with, so you only have to corrupt two of them in order to completely obviate the popular vote there and create the chaos necessary to undermine public faith in the system. Doing the same in NY would require corrupting at least 15. It’s a numbers game.

    2) the states historically most resistant to doing away with the EC are those sparsely populated republican stronghold rural states. For the same amount of effort required to flip NY, you can potentially flip 7 of those flyover states. Greater impact, same effort. I’d think that would be obvious.

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  53. @MBunge:

    On the subject of the Electoral College, Hillary Clinton actually won a majority of the vote in only 13 states. Trump won a majority in 23 states. You sore losers should stick with the popular vote.

    The lines which contain populations are not even drawn with any kind of thought to them save things like where certain rivers are or because of the choices of land surveyors. As we moved west we did not think in terms of the representational quality of the maps we drew.

    This is nonsense, therefore.

    But yes: Trump won the electoral vote, and he will be president. However, acknowledging that fact, while pointing out a system in which the loser won over 2,000,000 more votes than the winner is problematic, is not being a “sore loser.”

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  54. @Pch101:

    You don’t have to like what Hamilton said but what he is said is clear enough (at least within the context of late18th century English.) And according to Hamilton, the electoral college should not simply allow a bad president to take office.

    But, the Federalist Papers are legally binding in any sense of the term. I have a great deal of respect for those essays and find them to be of a great deal of significance for a variety of reasons. However, we do have to recall that they were ultimately political propaganda published to influence the NY ratifying convention.

    As Michael correctly notes (and as I have written multiple times): the institution has never functioned the way Hamilton thought it would and it is simply untenable to assume it will start doing so now.

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  55. @HarvardLaw92: The electors are chosen through partisan processes, making your plan a difficult one to execute.

    I fear that the only way for the EC to go away is from the GOP to also fear a pop vote/EV inversion. However, at the moment, they see it as an advantage.

    Amending the constitution is nearly impossible.

    And I don’t think the NPV state compact proposal will fly.

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  56. @george:

    One advantage is it could allow for third party systems, which are common in Parliamentary systems.

    But not because they are parliamentary. Third parties are common in a lot of presidential (e.g., pretty much all of Latin America) and semi-presidential systems as well (e.g., France).

    Third parties emerge when the electoral rules incentivize third (and more) party competition.

    The UK has a parliamentary system and a dominant 2-party system (with some third parties due to regional parties and other factors). New Zealand had an essentially two-party system with a parliament until its electoral reform in the 1990s.

    Americans often think parliamentarism=multiple parties, but it is about the electoral system, not the executive-legislative relationship (i.e., fused v. separated powers).

    Indeed, a two-round popular vote for president would encourage more third part activity.

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  57. @Andy:

    So then how do you explain America’s resilience as a democracy?

    When the loser loses by winning over 2,000,000 more votes and more than percentage point than the winner calling us a “democracy” starts to be problematic, to be honest.

    Yes, we have a number of anit-democratic elements to our constitution, all of which are the result of political compromises in the 1780s.

    And the quality of our democracy is also marred in the past century by Jim Crow and a variety of other problems–which is another discussion, but when one realizes that some of the compromises put into place were to protect the interests of slave states, the whole arc of our democratic history comes into a somewhat different focus.

    We often treat the compromises and design features of our constitution as if they were the marks of political genius, but in fact they were often simply the result of good old fashioned logrolling.

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  58. @HarvardLaw92:

    Here in NY, for example, the vote of every Trump voter was essentially discarded because all of our electoral votes go to Clinton. Likewise for Clinton voters in Texas. It’s just indefensible.

    Amen and amen.

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  59. Pch101 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    the institution has never functioned the way Hamilton thought it would and it is simply untenable to assume it will start doing so now.

    I would agree that the electoral college probably won’t change. Then again, I never said that I thought that it would.

    However, it remains the case that the US has indirect voting for the very reasons that I outlined above. People don’t have to like it, but original intent called for overriding the voters when they made a mistake. The US system is all about checks and balances, and the election of the president is no exception.

    And if we’re going to lean on popular will, then let’s remember who won the most popular votes.

    Six electors have said that they will not be voting for Trump, with a seventh who resigned after saying that his vote would not be going to Trump. Good.

    I would like to see that number of electors increase. Everything that can be done to erode the credibility of a Trump administration (which seems to be an oxymoron even at this early juncture) should be done. This guy should be kneecapped to the greatest extent possible before he ever sets foot in office.

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