The evening before the Electoral College would gather for perhaps that institution’s most consequential vote in American history, I dreamed that I was driving up the 118 Freeway toward Simi Valley. My destination: the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, located just a few miles from my boyhood home.
In my dream, I had come not to browse the collections but to search for an answer that could never be found in presidential documents: What would Reagan advise the Electoral College to do on December 19, 2016?
I sat on a hill overlooking the vast expanse of Los Angeles’ endless suburbia. A familiar voice greeted me.
“Quite a night, isn’t it?”
“Yes it is, Mister President,” I said. “I came here hoping to clear something up.”
“What’s that, son?”
“Tomorrow the Electoral College will decide whether to put Donald Trump in the White House, and I’m wondering where you stand. A lot of Americans think that Trump represents a clear and present danger to our country, and that the Electoral College has a duty to reject him.”
There was a long pause.
“You know, I believe that our democracy is the greatest thing that ever happened to mankind. Elections are sacred, and must be respected.”
“So you think the Electoral College should let Trump win, despite the revelations about Russia directly intervening in the election – and despite Trump encouraging Vladimir Putin to do so?” I said.
“There you go again – you’re getting ahead of me, son. Elections must be respected – unless they aren’t what the American people call democracy.”
A strong wind kicked up on the hillside.
“My greatest accomplishment was the defeat of the Soviet Union and its totalitarian evil empire. And now, 30 years later, a former KGB agent has turned Russia into a virtual police state, and may have swayed an American presidential election – in favor of a man who believes that the KGB agent is a good leader.”
His tone grew darker. “That same man has chosen as his secretary of state a business leader with close ties to the KGB agent. And has rejected the findings about Russian interference of the CIA, which he will soon oversee. And has refused to divest himself of his foreign and domestic financial assets, which clearly would put the interests of the United States at risk. How can Americans know that this man’s first allegiance is to his country? Sometimes you can’t trust – you have to verify.”
There was another pause, and the voice grew fainter.
“I always loved America, but this is not the country I know. This is not the democracy I cherished. I once said that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction – and I meant it.”
“So what should the electors do tomorrow?” I asked once more.
The voice, almost silent now, answered slowly but deliberately:
“Pray, vote their conscience and protect the greatest nation on earth.”
Danny Feingold is the publisher of Capital & Main.