Thursday, December 22, 2016

Must Play Fair!

In the end, the article from Politico's Kyle Cheney about the attempt to convince Electoral College folks to buck Donald Trump (photo below from Matt Rourke/AP) may have come down to

Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard University  constitutional law professor deeply involved in recruiting Republicans to rebel against Trump, said he sensed a Clinton team that was undecided about “to what extent they should be encouraging this.”

“I imagine that in the end, nobody was sure they could survive the political blowback if you became president because you flipped the college,” he said.

It certainly sounds like 2000, when the Democratic presidential nominee received a plurality of the popular vote nationally and by most standards a majority of the Florida vote, which would have given him 291 electoral votes. After a legal fight accompanied by a public  relations surrender, Al Gore conceded. Sixteen years later

“They were too concerned about the appearance of ever being perceived as sore losers,” said one Democratic elector and Clinton ally. “All 230 of us [Democratic electors] had no idea what was going on — what do they want from us, what are they thinking, what’s possible, what’s not possible?”

The half-hearted effort was not intended to gain election of Hillary Clinton, presumably the goal of this year-and-a-half saga.  Instead

The ambivalence resulted, however, in weeks of agonizing among anti-Trump activists working to flip the Electoral College against Trump.

The first conversation appears to have occurred on Nov. 29, when Sullivan and other aides joined a conference call that included Colorado elector Micheal Baca, a member of a group working to persuade Republicans in the Electoral College to abandon Trump. Baca relayed the group’s long-shot strategy: to persuade Democratic and Republican electors to unite behind an alternative candidate to Trump.

And that

strategy was simple, if virtually impossible to execute: persuade Democratic and Republican electors wary of Trump to unite behind a mainstream Republican alternative such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich or 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney. If they could persuade 37 of the 306 Republicans on the Electoral College to ditch Trump, the election would have been thrown to the GOP-controlled House of Representatives in January.

She won the popular vote; won it by approximately 2.8 million votes- two percent! Yet, "ambivalence." "The absence of any high-profile support left the ragtag group," Cheney writes, "with little horsepower to counter a well-oiled Republican whip effort, led by Trump campaign operative and the Republican National Committee."

While the Democratic operatives were concerned about being seen as "sore losers," the Republican Party is not beset by such doubts. If the roles were reversed, with the GOP nominee winning the popular vote while the Democratic nominee capturing the Electoral College.  we would have had a good idea what would have transpired because of this case study:

On the day before the election, Bush's chief political strategist, Karl Rove, told the press that he believed Bush would  win the popular vote by six points and a landslide of 350 votes in the Electoral College. Rove's ovious motive in making this bold prediction was to foster the notion of Bush's inevitable victory. This bravado nothwithstanding, the Bush campaign was anxious that their candidate would find himself in the awkward position of winnig the popular vote but losing the Electoral College and therefore the presidency. Contingency plans were being drawn up for just this event. "The one thing we don't  do is  roll over. We fight," a Bush aide told the New York Daily News a week before the  election. The newspaper reported: 

The core of the emerging Bush strategy assumes a popular uprising, stoked by the Bushies themselves, of course. Inleague with the campaign- which is preparing talking points about the Electoral College's essential unfairness- a massive talk-radio operation would be encouraged. "We'd have ads, too," says a Bush aide, "and I think you can count on the media to fuel the thing big-time. Even papers that supported Gore might turn against him because the will of the people will have been thwarted."

The above was written by Clinton confidante Sidney Blumenthal, which makes it even more remarkable that the campaign appeared to be unaware of this history- and that there might be a split decision in the Electoral College/popular vote in 2016.

The failure of the campaign to consider that outcome is less concerning than its possible implication for the possibility of mounting a strong resistance to Trump Administration policies.Call a knife fight, Republicans will bring a machete; Democrats, a kitchen knife.  We wouldn't want to be seen as sore losers!

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