Democrats who are beside themselves over the election of Donald Trump still have an opportunity to prevent him from taking office, and to elevate their own political standing even if they can't. It involves pledging to support another Republican, probably former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, when the Electoral College meets on December 19, and again if that effort succeeds in throwing the presidential election to the House of Representatives.
Trump is not the president-elect yet. Under the U.S. Constitution, he must win a majority of at least 270 votes in the Electoral College. If no candidate hits that magic number, the House of Representatives chooses the next president from among the top three Electoral College vote-getters. Trump won enough states to get 306 electors--a margin of 36 votes--while Clinton got 232. The Electoral College does not meet to select the next president until December 19.
A handful of Clinton electors is hustling to persuade 37 of their Republican counterparts -roughly one out of eight Trump electors - to vote for someone, anyone other than Trump. The most plausible alternative is Romney, who got a larger share of the popular vote in 2012 (47.2 percent) than Trump won this year (47.0 percent). If 37 electors withdraw their support for Trump, he would get only 269 votes. The Constitution would then throw the election to the House, the same process that elected President Thomas Jefferson. The House would then choose between Trump, Clinton, and (say) Romney. Each state's delegation would get one vote. Since Republicans control 33 out of 50 state delegations, a Republican president would be a certainty. The only question is whether the House would choose Trump or the alternative Republican.
A few Democratic electors are unlikely to persuade any of their Republican counterparts. Whatever concerns Republican electors may have about Trump, the pressure to vote for him will be immense. That's where Hillary Clinton, her electors, and even House Democrats can help.
If all 232 Democratic electors reached across the aisle and pledged to vote for a Republican alternative to Trump, it would be a dramatic and disarming gesture of bipartisanship that could help sway Republican electors. It would show that Democrats respect the will of the voters who chose a Republican, yet are willing to work within the process to keep a uniquely dangerous Republican out of the White House. It would be even more dramatic and disarming if Clinton announced she is releasing her electors to vote for a Republican, and all House Democrats pledged to support the same Republican if the Electoral College throws the election to the House. If Democrats want Republican electors to abandon the GOP candidate, fairness dictates they show the way by abandoning their candidate first.
If all 232 Democratic electors and 38 Republican electors voted for the same Republican alternative, that Republican would become the next president.
If all 232 Democratic electors and only 37 Republican electors voted for the same Republican alternative, the election would go to the House. If House Democrats united behind the Republican alternative, that candidate would start with the support of 14 state delegations (two are tied). Democrats and Never-Trump Republicans would need to win over another 12 state delegations. For 10 delegations(Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming), that would mean persuading only one Republican member. It another six delegations (Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Nevada, West Virginia, Wisconsin) it would require persuading only two Republican members. In Utah, they would have to persuade three Republican members, but if Romney were the alternative, that might be a gimme.
Democrats would have nothing to lose, and much to gain. Though Clinton may have won the popular vote, she cannot become president. Electors who cast their votes for her would simply be throwing their votes away. Since Republicans control a majority of delegations in the House, a vote for Clinton there likewise would be a wasted vote. Democrats who ordinarily could not stomach voting Republican could just keep in mind the 6 million peaceful, productive, undocumented men, women, and children Trump has threatened to remove from their homes at gunpoint, and how Trump supporters want to create a government registry of Muslims.