Politics & Policy

Faithless Electors Are Not Brave

Voters cast their ballots on election day in New York City, November 9, 2016. (Reuters photo: Darren Ornitz)
They’re narcissists, and they deserve to be mocked accordingly.

On December 19, electors across the country will head to their state capitols to formally cast votes for president and vice president.

In Texas, 38 electors — one from each congressional district and two chosen in a statewide vote — will gather in Austin, and almost all of them will cast their ballots for President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President–elect Mike Pence. The exception is likely to be Christopher Suprun, who argues that “electors should unify behind a Republican alternative, an honorable and qualified man or woman such as Gov. John Kasich of Ohio.”

Never mind that Kasich has said he doesn’t want any electors to vote for him, declaring that “this approach, as well meaning as it is, will only serve to further divide our nation when unity is what we need.”

Suprun is not the only faithless elector nationwide. In Colorado, four of the state’s nine Democratic electors are saying that they might not cast votes for Hillary Clinton, who actually won the state, if there’s sufficient support for a non-Trump Republican option. In Washington state, three of the twelve Democratic electors are pledging to write in an as yet unspecified “alternative Republican.”

Little official punishment will be dealt to these faithless electors. Texas does not have a law requiring electors to vote for the candidate who won their state. Colorado has one, and the rebellious electors in that state filed a lawsuit challenging it. Washington can fine its faithless electors $1,000 each.

The strategy of the Democratic electors is particularly bizarre; they must know that there is almost no chance they’ll persuade another 35 Republican presidential electors to oppose Trump. And even if they did succeed, the election would go to the Republican-controlled House, which would in all likelihood choose Trump as president, and the Republican-controlled Senate, which would in all likelihood choose Mike Pence as vice president. The faithless electors’ stated method of protest will cost Clinton about seven electoral votes she rightfully earned, and change nothing in the long run.

Suprun is no fool, and his life’s work is commendable. He’s a paramedic who was among the first rescue workers to arrive at the Pentagon on 9/11. But he knew darn well when he campaigned for the job of being a presidential elector that he would probably be voting for Trump in December.

Republicans chose their 38 electors during the Texas state convention in mid May, about a week after Ted Cruz suspended his presidential campaign, making Trump the presumptive GOP nominee. Suprun knew he would likely be casting his vote from Trump, given Texas’s deep-red tint. In fact, he and the other delegates signed an oath pledging to do so, although it’s not legally binding.

#related#In other words, being an anti-Trump Republican presidential elector isn’t like being an anti-Trump Republican politician, consultant, or writer. Suprun didn’t just sign on for this; he actively campaigned for it. He urged other Republicans to trust him. His fellow elector Art Sisneros faced the same crisis of conscience and chose a much more honorable path: He resigned. The remaining Texas electors will select Sisneros’s replacement when they meet on December 19.

In such circumstances, faithless electors are not brave or honorable. Their efforts are not going to change things. They’ve been given an entirely predictable nominee whom they didn’t like, and now they want to break their word, take a public stand, and be hailed as heroes by the considerable throngs of Trump critics.

Don’t give them this. Mock their lack of foresight or stubborn refusal to accept the consequences of their actions. If you’re not certain that you can support a particular candidate as an elector, don’t ask for the job of elector. These people aren’t iconoclasts, visionaries, or heroic renegades. They’re preening narcissistic idiots who want to be rewarded for refusing to keep a promise, and they should be treated as such.

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