God Speed, President Trump….these faithless electors are faithful

By Tich Mushambadope

Vox Populi, Vox Dei

Abraham Lincoln’s closing statement in the Gettysburg address which he asserted:  “…that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”, has been honoured by the Electoral College as it confirmed Donald Trump as the forty-fifth United States of American President. As expected, most of the college electors have been faithful, respecting the will of the people in the States they represent.  

The passionate plea to reverse the presidential results premised on Clinton’s popular vote victory was repulsed thus effectively ushering in Trump as only the fifth president to have lost the popular vote since 1824.  Delving into the semantics of how the “people” are defined, whether it is the millions that casted their votes on November 8 or the five hundred thirty-eight souls that make up the Electoral College, is a divisive matter but the hard-knuckled fact is that the rules that have been applied for the last two hundred and forty years were applied in this context and the next leader of the free world has been endorsed. In essence, regardless of one’s sentiments, congratulations are in order for President Trump and Vice President Pence. God Speed.

Zooming into the numbers, the current status quo in Washington and the law, it is vividly clear that there was virtual no chance that the confirmation process would have gone otherwise. To begin with, for Trump to fail to reach the essential 270 Electoral College votes, an unprecedented thirty-seven faithless electors had to vote for a different candidate. With 29 of the 50 having enacted laws that bind electors to vote for the same candidate as the State, the odds for such a mass defection were next to none. The law states that in the event that no candidate reaches the desired 270 Electoral College votes the Congress would determine the next president and with GOP currently controlling the house, the difference would have been the same.

The faithful faithless electors

Instead of thirty-seven faithless Republic electors, the voting process recorded about eight faithless electors making it the highest in the history of presidential elections. My attention was captured by the faithless electors on the democratic side as the Washington electors decided not to cast their votes for Secretary Hillary Clinton. All four defied the odds as three deposited their faith in Colin Powell and the other one went for Faith Spotted Eagle, a leading activist in the North Dakota pipeline. There was also a vote for Senator Elizabeth Warren for the Vice Presidency. With the comprehension that there was no chance that their preferred candidate would carry the day, these electors effectively used the platform to set the tone for the future.

The defection of these Democratic electors is a gift and a curse for Trump….the classical case of a Trojan horse present for him….as these voters counter any faithless electors opposed to him but sets him up for a tough time during his presidency and the next election round. The North Dakota fight is not yet over, the Native Americans may have received a temporary reprieve with Obama’s denial for the pipeline permit, but the coming administration is most likely to have a final say on this matter. Without control of any arm of government, the vote for Faith Spotted Eagle is not only symbolic but also places the Democrats on the right side of history and pressures President Trump to take the moral high road and respect the decision of the Obama administration. The appointment of Rex Tillerson, a veteran player in the petroleum industry attests to the proximity and the intimate relationship Trump has with the energy sector and he is most likely to face pressure to reverse the pipeline decision, hence he finds himself between a very hard place and the Standing Rock.

The endorsement of Powell by three faithless electors is poisoned chalice, all but sealing Trump presidency while projecting a powerful rival. As a decorated general, a former joint chief of staff chair, a former Secretary of State, Powell commands affection and respect across the aisle. The recent email hacking all but fortified Powell’s standing as the emails of his authorship echoed sentiments that resonated with the majority. As divisive as Trump’s campaign has been, it is most likely that there will be a fierce primary election challenge for GOP 2020 nomination. Powell has been highly critical of Trump and will play a critical role in the 2020 primary election challenge.  At 83, it is least likely that he will be the candidate but will assume the kingmaker role and his endorsement will propel the chosen candidate to nomination the very same way Ted Kennedy’s endorsement did for Obama in 2008. Condoleezza Rice, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan are part of a composite list of competent and experienced Republicans who have sided with Powell in criticising Trump’s modus operandi.  

In the event that Trump manages to shrug off a primary election challenge and gets the GOP nod for 2020, history demonstrates that a sitting President who is challenged for nomination is effectively weakened for the general election. In 1980, the incumbent Jimmy Carter’s candidature was conclusively depleted by Ted Kennedy’s primary election challenge, thereby handing Ronald Reagan a landslide victory on a platter. The depositing of faith in Senator Elizabeth Warren by a Democratic faithless elector rubber-stamps the leading candidate for Democratic nomination for 2020 who will eventually square-off with either Trump or a victorious GOP nomination challenger. A highly prolific academic who came late to the game of politics, Warren has a wider appeal as she is regarded as a passionate Washington-outsider who simply delivers and will be a firm contender for presidency in the event she wins the Democratic nomination. In essence, the so called faithless Democratic electors that seemed to have revolted against candidates on the DNC ticket thus effectively handing Donal Trump the presidency, were in fact very faithful to long term objectives of their party. There is veracity in the notion that indeed the Democratic faithless electors were faithful.

  • Tich Mushambadope is a political analyst and social commentator for Khuluma Afrika.