A lot of wishful thinking is happening in America right now. "Maybe Trump the President will be different than Trump the Candidate." We already know this is a fallacy. Trump the president-elect is exactly the same as Trump the candidate. "Maybe he'll suddenly become more responsible and balanced." "Maybe this is the kick in the pants America needs." "Maybe he'll be impeached." But the most damaging wishful thought of all is: "Maybe I don't have to do anything -- maybe the electors will choose to appoint someone else, on their own."
The Electors should. But they won't. Not without political pressure the likes of which America has rarely seen before. Which means we all need to be motivated. Well -- how about the safety of our own lives, and the lives of everyone we love? Because let's not fool ourselves. Anyone with a rudimentary appreciation of the powers of the president of the United States knows that the stakes are life and death. Pretending otherwise is wishful thinking.
The president of the United States has complete and unilateral control over 1,900 active nuclear weapons. Due to advances in modern technology, the most common protocols for authorizing American nuclear weapons allow for as little as 90 seconds of reflection by the one person alive with the power to use them. How on Earth are any of us safe, how are our loved ones safe, when that person is considered entirely unqualified by some of the most respected members of his own party, and has been assessed by hundreds if not thousands of psychological professionals as having incurable Narcissistic Personality and Sociopathic Personality Disorders?
Other than thermonuclear war, virtually every competent scientist in the world believes that the biggest threat to human survival is global warming. Donald Trump doesn't believe global warming exists. Members of his own party have said that his ignorant insistence of this, despite the facts, should disqualify him from the Presidency. They are right. Actions must be taken, and incredibly swiftly, to address global warming or we will reach a point of no return. But the head of Trump's EPA transition team (himself a global warming denier) consistently fights to roll back crucial stopgap measures already underway. We're talking about our lives, people.
Thankfully, the founders of this nation predicted this. They foresaw that the people might elect someone unfit to be president. Hence, they added the idea of electors to the Electoral College.
There are those who mistakenly believe that the Electoral College requires electors to vote for Donald Trump. But that is the opposite of what the electors are supposed to do in circumstances like these. Lawrence Lessig, this nation's premier constitutional expert, cleanly explains the responsibility of electors, as follows.
"Like a judge reviewing a jury verdict, where the people voted, the electoral college was intended to confirm -- or not -- the people's choice. Electors were to apply, in Hamilton's words, "a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice" -- and then decide.... [T]heir wisdom -- about whether to overrule "the people" or not -- was to be free of political control yet guided by democratic values. They were to be citizens exercising judgment, not cogs turning a wheel."
As Lessig states convincingly and with authority -- the will of the people is Hillary Clinton. She won the majority of votes by a margin of over two and a half million people. It's pretty simple. This is a democracy, and if the winner of the Electoral College, but not the popular Vote, is unfit to serve, then the elector's sole responsibility is to elect the winner of the popular vote.
This deserves to be repeated in simpler form:
No less an American than Alexander Hamilton himself expressed clearly that the Constitution established electors as a protection valve; to have a group of citizens bound not by party, but by their responsibility to this nation. Whether you like her or not, the sizable majority of voters actually chose someone who is more qualified to be president than anyone in the last few decades, Hillary Clinton. Electors are obligated, by design, to elect her.
Clearly, there is little chance that they will do so if Americans don't demand it. The Constitution allows for, and requires, civic involvement. We need to stand up so profoundly that the electors feel protected and supported for voting their conscience. By December 19th, those who feel an itch to speak up, but haven't done so, are going to regret it. By January 21st, those who have remained uninvolved will have a hard time containing their regret. After January 21st, if something terrible happens, it will be impossible to justify having been silent when something still could have been done.
Fortunately, resources exist to help us, right now. Www.asktheelectors.org is a simple tool to reach out to electors directly -- use it to voice your concerns, and offer your support and thanks for their conscientious votes for Hillary Clinton. Sign a petition at Change.org, and share it on social media. Join in any public protest. And take every opportunity to speak honestly and earnestly to friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers, urging them all to join you in the fight for our shared future. If you are a Democrat, remind your Republican friends that if Trump had run as a Democrat -- something he could have chosen to do - you'd be making the same argument. This isn't about party. It's about survival.
This article was cowritten by Roger Wolfson, a writer and activist, and Jared Berenholz, a Television Executive.