Everyone says Donald Trump will be the next president, but he hasn’t won anything yet.

Here’s the thing: on November 8, about 130 million Americans cast a vote for who we wanted to be president for the next four years.  Except, really, we didn’t.  What happened was that we went behind the curtain in the booth and there on the ballot it listed candidates for President and Vice President:  Donald Trump/Mike Pence; Hillary Clinton/Tim Kaine; Gary Johnson/Bill Weld; and so on.  It didn’t matter which one you picked, however, because no matter who it was, that wasn’t who you actually voted for.

Instead, your vote went to a slate of electors picked out by a political party that was to serve as your state’s Electoral College delegation.  Here in MA, that means that I didn’t actually vote Hillary, I voted for eleven people I have never heard of. [1]

Those electors vote next week, which means that, until then, no one has won the Electoral College vote.  We have all been carrying on as if someone has–that is, as if the electors’ vote is a foregone conclusion–because for a long time it has been.  Donald Trump won the popular vote in 30 states, which together send 306 delegates to the Electoral College.  We have a tradition, in some states enshrined in law, that the electors vote for whoever won the popular vote in their state, so we have been saying ‘Trump won the Electoral College’ for a month now.

Stop and roll this around in your brain for moment.  We have been talking about Trump as the President-Elect, but the actual election that actually decides the matter hasn’t happened yet.  The thing we did last month?  That was a bait and switch.  Uniquely in our political process, what it said on the ballot for the presidential race wasn’t what we actually voting on.  That wasn’t true of the Senators, Representatives, Governors, state officials, and ballot questions.  Here in MA, voting yes on Question 4 actually voted to legalize recreation marijuana.  It didn’t say that it would, and then actually close the Mass Turnpike.

That tradition, however, is only a social convention.  It’s ‘the way things are done’, not the actual law of the land.  In fact, the electors are a Constitutionally created office, and as such they are not bound to follow any state laws which seek to limit their options.  As it is, they can pick any eligible person–meaning any 35+ year old, natural born US citizen who has been living in the USA for at least 14 years.

We must put an end to this dishonest and corrupt system.  Whatever logic might have made this palatable to 18th century thinking, we must not accept it any longer.  We don’t elect any other official this way.  Governors aren’t picked on the basis of winning the most counties in their state.  Senators aren’t selected by an electoral commission. Mayors don’t win or lose based on whether or not they win a majority of the streets in their town.  Instead, when we have an election, the majority of the people within that town, district, or state.  The president and vice president are the only two national offices, chosen by and for people in every state.  The vote of each of their constituents must weigh equally with all the others, just as with all other elected offices.

Hillary Clinton won the presidential election by 2.8 million votes, and should be our next president.  Instead, we have been talking about Donald Trump as the winner, which is asinine, but does follow the custom and precedent of expecting the electors to pick the person who won the most states.  Regardless of which position you prefer, we are stuck with the galling truth that none of these facts actually matters.

If Donald Trump’s candidacy has proven anything, it’s that long-held customary norms can be cast aside.  The results of the popular election on November 8 have no legal force.  The Electoral College can do whatever it wants, and thanks Trump’s shocking behavior, there is talk of having them appoint someone (for our purposes, it could be anyone) who never appeared on any ballot.  That would be legal.  That must surely worry all of the 135 million people who were conned into thinking they had a say in who are next president will be.

Customs and traditions are excellent things, but it’s become clear that we have to amend our constitution to fix this problem.  We are not merely fifty states, we are one nation, and we must elect our leaders accordingly.

– Michael Dow


[1] To be specific: Nazda Alam, Mary Gail Cokkinias, Marie Turley, Dori Dean, Donna Smith, Cheryl Cummings, Marc Pacheco, Curtis Lemay, Jason Palitsch, Paul Yorkis, and Parwez Wahid.  If the Republican slate had won, they would have been Amy Carnevale, Janet Fogerty, Charles Grillo, Jeanne Kangas, Rachel Kemp, John McCarthy, Deb McCarthy, Bill McKinney, Patricia Saint Auburn, and Mark Townsend.

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2 thoughts on “Everyone says Donald Trump will be the next president, but he hasn’t won anything yet.

  1. I agree completely with what you have written. And it’s fine, it’s ok, we’ll written etc. My question is what will/can/must we do? To use common language, we can talk the talk but, can we walk the walk? Keep the spreading the word but let’s find out what we can do.

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