There may be a way out of Trumpland.
And it’s a Hail Mary pass play being run, right now, by a grad student and Marine Corps veteran named Micheal Baca, along with a few others, whose names you’ve likely never heard, but who are also in the rarefied club of the 538 electors who will cast a vote for president on December 19.
(Yes, while there is no actual electoral “college,” there are actual electors — real people chosen by their states’ political parties to cast a vote for president.)
Micheal Baca is a Democratic elector from Denver, Colorado, a state won by Hillary Clinton. He told me he, and a number of other electors, including P. Bret Chiafalo, a Democratic elector from Washington State, hope to persuade 37 of the Republican electors who are slated to vote for Donald Trump to change their votes. But they are not asking them to vote for Hillary Clinton. Instead, they are asking that they vote for a to-be agreed-upon compromise moderate Republican candidate, such as a John Kasich, Colin Powell or Mitt Romney.
Thirty-seven is the magic number here, because if 37 of the 306 electors, who represent the states that Donald Trump won, fail to cast a vote for Trump, he would fall under the needed 270 Electoral College majority, and would not become president.
In that case, the U.S. House of Representatives would vote — with each state’s Congressional delegation getting one vote — which they could cast for one of the top three Electoral College vote getters.
However, Baca, and an increasing number of the 538 electors, have something else in mind: a grand compromise, if you will, that would help unify the country.
They are hoping to persuade a total of 270 Democratic and Republican electors to change their votes — that is not to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump — but for a to-be agreed-upon compromise moderate Republican candidate. By doing so, that person would become the 45th President of the United States.
This growing group of Electoral College electors are calling themselves “Hamilton Electors,” after Alexander Hamilton, whose writings in The Federalist Papers led to the formation of the Electoral College.
And to those who say they are disrupting or circumventing the democratic electoral process, they are quick to point out that they are, in fact, engaging — precisely — in the process as it was designed by the Founding Parents of the Constitution over two centuries ago.
“We are following the process as designed,” Micheal Baca told me in a telephone interview. “The people vote, but that’s obviously not the end of it. If it were, Hillary Clinton, the popular vote winner, would be president, end of story. Instead, the vote triggers this second phase, the Electoral College, where electors representing their states and parties, deliberate — and that’s the important word. They deliberate, and then they choose a president.”
Baca was quick to underscore that this has rarely been an issue as electors have come together and have almost always ratified the popular vote. But he emphasized that this year’s election offered two candidates who left the nation torn apart, with many raising questions about the fitness and suitability of the one who got the majority of the Electoral College votes, while losing the general election.
“If there was ever a time for deliberation about what would be in the best interest of the country, and the presidency, this is it” said Baca.
In fact, the Electoral College, in the brilliance of the Founding Parents of the Constitution, serves a critical role as a circuit breaker -- a firewall -- in presidential elections; to insure that in the event of fraud or an unfit candidate, the electors would be able to step in and do the right thing even after the popular vote was cast.
Alexander Hamilton addressed this in The Federalist Papers, writing of the need for a process to stand between a popular vote and the White House, and which identified the need for what would become the Electoral College. In The Federalist Papers: No. 68 Hamilton wrote:
"The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications . . . the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration."
Procedurally, 21 states have no laws prohibiting electors from changing their vote from the candidate who won their state in the general election. Twenty-nine states, plus the District of Columbia, do have laws that would penalize what are called “faithless electors” — those who vote for a candidate other than the winner in their state — although these laws have reportedly never been enforced.
Baca said he is reaching out to others among the 538 Electoral College electors, both Democrats and Republicans, and said some with whom he’s spoken told him they are willing to consider a plan that would give the presidency to a moderate Republican.
At the same time, Baca is also reaching out on the Facebook page he created, “Hamilton Electors,” for support from “anyone with more reach,” hoping to grab the attention — and support — of such high-profile figures as “Patton Oswalt, Shaun King, Keith Olbermann” along with Bill Maher, John Oliver and Lin-Manuel Miranda, whom Baca said should clearly understand the historical importance of this moment and could lend support and attention through his hit Broadway show “Hamilton.”
“What I want people to understand, is that this is the process, the democratic process, that we as electors are committed to upholding,” said Baca. “There was the vote, now there’s the deliberation in the Electoral College about what’s in the best interest of the country.”
“Once that happens, the process will have taken place, and on January 20,” the former Marine added, “I will pledge my allegiance to the president, whomever they may be, as they’re sworn in.”