Donald Trump may already be assembling his cabinet, but he is actually not yet President. He still needs a majority vote from the 538 electors that make up the Electoral College. In normal election years, that is a merely formal procedure. But Trump is not a normal President-elect, and so several scholars, as well as millions of petitioners on change.org, are urging electors from Trump-majority states to defect and withhold their vote from Trump.
Few electors have done that in the history of the Electoral College. Those who have are called "faithless electors." And the idea that electors would vote for Hillary Clinton, who lost the Presidential election, is ludicrous.
The idea that electors might refuse to vote for Trump, by contrast, is not. Indeed, the first Republican elector has now publicly declared his resistance. Art Sisneros, an elector from Texas, lays out in two long blog posts why he cannot, in good conscience, vote for Trump. He describes the agony of having to decide between what his conscience requires from him, and what he pledged to the Republican Party. In the end, the only way out that he sees is to resign from his post as an elector.
Sisneros can be called many things, but faithless is not among them. It is precisely his faith that prevents him from electing Trump. Sisneros, a devout Christian, finds Trump not to be "biblically qualified" to serve for office. That may not be everybody's criterion. But Sisneros' broader argument should make sense to everyone who fears what Trump may do. Trump is eminently unqualified for office, outside of the acceptable. And hat means that an elector who thinks so bears moral responsibility not to vote for him.
Sisneros makes the point so eloquently he deserves to be quoted:
The reality is Trump will be our President, no matter what my decision is. Many are furious that I am willing to have this discussion publicly. Personally, I wish more civil officers would be honest about their convictions. Assuming a Trump Presidency is their ultimate goal, they will get that. The problem is, that isn't what they want. They want a democracy. They will threaten to kill anyone who challenges their power to vote for Skittles for dinner. That is evidence alone to prove that our republic is lost. The shell may remain, but in the hearts of the people and functionality of the system our republic is gone.
This is brave. Would it be braver for Sisneros to stay on the Electoral College and cast his vote against Trump, instead of resigning and thereby giving his spot to someone who will vote for Trump? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe 36 other Republicans would follow his lead. But maybe civil unrest would be the consequence. But maybe civil unrest now might still be better than Trump as commander in chief. But maybe it would not. These are not questions an elector should have to face.
One thing seems sure, though: When the history will be written of how Trump brought down the Republic, the heroes will not be those who still refuse to accept that Hillary Clinton lost. The heroes will not be those who dream of an alternative universe in which Bernie Sanders would have been the candidate. They will not be those who still fight for individual policies without realizing that our very constitutional structure is at risk. And the heroes will certainly not those who normalize Trump.
Instead, many of the real heroes of the story will be conservatives like Art Sisneros. Staunch Republicans who realize that Trump is undermining the foundations of our Republic. Conservatives whose conscience and principles, prevent them from normalizing Trump. Devout Christians who find Donald Trump to be as deeply flawed as he is. Christian resistance to dictatorship has a long, though certainly checkered history. At its best moments, it has been powerful and important.
Too many Republicans are still holding their nose and going along with a President-elect who violates all of their principles. A mere elector, Art Sisneros, is showing them what it actually means to be faithful. If there were more people like him, the Republic might still have a chance to survive. If not, it will be Skittles for dinner, and worse. Much worse.