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A response to Erich Reimer--a Republican Electoral College Elector

Submitted by Robin Messing on Fri, 12/16/2016 - 6:15am

Erich Reimer, a Republican Electoral Colleg Elector from Virginia wrote an article for The Hill arguing that Electors MUST vote in accordance with their states' popular votes, otherwise they invite anarchy. Read his column now before continuing on with my response.

Reimer wrote:

To suddenly so abruptly shock the citizenry by dramatically changing the institution at this juncture would also set a disastrous precedent in the future where peaceful and orderly transitions of power may be seen as more and more challengeable.

Furthermore, such chaos in the Electoral College threatens its existence in the future.


There is a key assumption behind this statement. Indeed, this key assumption forms the foundation for Reimer's entire argument. Take away this assumption and the Reimer's entire argument collapses.  I will reveal that assumption in a second. But first I must pose a few questions.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, it was somehow revealed that Donald Trump was suicidal and angry and wanted to take everyone down with him. Suppose it was somehow suddenly revealed that Trump intended to launch our nuclear weapons at China or Russia on his first day of office.  Would Reimer insist that the Electors be bound to the popular votes of their states? Or suppose it was somehow revealed that Trump had secretly pledged allegiance to ISIS and intended to make America part of their Caliphate? Would he insist that the Electoral College is nothing but a rubber stamp?

By now the underlying assumption of Reimer's argument should be clear--Reimer is assuming that there will be a future--that there will be a "next time" for the voters to vote again and for the Electoral College to once again act as mindless robots who must act on the will of the voters, no matter how ill-informed they are.

Must the Electors put on blinders and ignore danger signals if the nation is hurtling towards the abyss?  As those who have read Federalist Paper no. 68 know, the answer is a firm "no".  Justice Robert Jackson in his dissent in Termineillo v. City of Chicago warned that the Constitution is not a suicide pact.  So too did many who justified increased electronic surveillance of American citizens as a response to the 9/11 attack.  And while he was arguing for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S., Donald Trump said, "The Constitution — there's nothing like it. But it doesn't necessarily give us the right to commit suicide, as a country, OK?" If the Constitution is not a suicide pact, then certainly state laws binding selectors are not a suicide pacts either.

So if Electors have reasonable fears that their state has voted for someone whose ignorance, greed, and recklessness pose an existential danger to our country, they have both the moral obligation and the legal right ensconced in our Constitution to vote their consciences.

So the question remains: Has Donald Trump said or done anything for a reasonable person to conclude that the U.S. might not survive four years of his Administration?  Here are some reasons that indicate that he has. I have provided a more complete explanation of some of these reasons in a previous article.


1.  He is sure to antagonize most of the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world.  His anti-Islamic rhetoric and the views of many in his proposed Administration are the perfect recruiting propaganda tools for ISIS.

2. His flirtation with rejecting the One China policy is likely to antagonize the Chinese government that represents 1.35 billion people, or 20% of the world's population. This government commands the largest military in the world and possesses over 200 nuclear warheads.  

3. Trump has said that China must take stronger action against North Korea to pressure it to halt its nuclear weapons program. He has even suggested that China should invade North Korea to solve this problem for us.  It is impossible to imagine China invading North Korea under even the best of circumstances.  Imagining it will increase cooperation with the U.S. in any realm while we are challenging the One China policy is folly.

4.  He has already antagonized our neighbors to the South with his threat to build a wall and make the Mexicans pay.

5. He has, perhaps inadvertently, created major divisions within our society by creating conditions where the Ku Klux Klan and neo-nazis flourish.  

6. He has called global warming a hoax and is seeking a way to withdraw from the Paris Agreement to fight climate change by limiting greenhouse gas emissions. He is reportedly considering stripping NASA's budget to prevent it from monitoring climate change.

7. He may be looking for an excuse to abandon the Iran nuclear deal. It is extremely unlikely that other nations will join us in reinstating a sanctions regime against Iran if we torpedo the deal. If the deal collapses we will be faced with a choice of letting Iran's nuclear program go unchecked or going to war with Iran.

8. Putting Donald Trump in charge of nuclear weapons is not just playing Russian Roulette with our national security. It is playing Russian Roulette with human survival.


It is hard to see how the U.S. will survive four years of Trump. If electing Donald Trump isn't entering a suicide pact, or at least playing Russian Roulette, I don't know what is.

If we do survive Trump's first term, will the country have the opportunity to get rid of him four years from now?  Trump unintentionally raised that question when he tweeted that he had really won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.

Both Snopes and Politifact looked at the claim that millions of people illegally voted for Hillary, and both cried "BULLSHIT!"  If Trump is willing to claim that his opponent received millions of illegal votes now, what will he do four years from now if he loses his reelection bid? Will he claim that the results are invalid because his opponent received millions of illegal votes? Will he refuse to leave the White House amidst claims of fraud? He will have had four years to appoint loyalists to positions of national security. He will have had four years to appoint the heads of the FBI, the CIA, the NSA and the joint chiefs of staff. He will probably have had a chance to appoint two or three Supreme Court Justices and numerous federal court judges. Will they stand up to him and say, "No, Mr. President, it is time for you to go?" Or will they smartly salute the one who had brung them to the dance and say, "Aye Aye sir! The vote was rigged and the results are null and void?" The fact that Trump has put us in a position where we even have to ask these questions should give Electors reason to reject him.