The 2016 Electoral College

I woke up this morning with this thought: What would happen, right now, if everyone involved in our government and this miserable election were committed to doing the right thing for the country? Both houses of Congress, the electors, Hillary Clinton — I omit Donald Trump because envisioning him as a self-sacrificing altruist is a bridge too far.

First, Clinton would take herself out of the running. The people have spoken, and besides that, she is far too polarizing to govern effectively (this is something that concerned me even before the election results came in).

Second, the electors would dismiss the idea of voting for Donald Trump. They would do this despite the fact that there are laws against faithless electors, because the fate of the United States is at stake. Trump is not capable of running this country, and deep down everyone other than his most virulent supporters knows it. He poses a danger to the nation in about half-a-dozen different ways.

So who would then be president? It would seem reasonable to choose a Republican, since the Republican party did win more electoral votes. On the other hand, given that the Democratic party won the popular vote fairly handily, it would seem reasonable to choose a Republican from the more moderate wing of the party: not a Ted Cruz or a Mike Pence, but someone like Mitt Romney, maybe, or Lindsey Graham. Those are both people whom I, as a liberal Democrat, could live with, and they are both seem like sensible, decent people to me. I don’t agree with them on many political issues, but on the other hand I don’t think they would run the country into the ground, and I don’t think either would have a white supremacist working next to the Oval Office or a conspiracy theorist as the national security adviser.

As a gesture of fairness and goodwill, the newly chosen president would agree to nominate Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, because let’s face it, all of us know that sitting on Obama’s final Supreme Court pick was the nonsense act of petulant children. And Garland is not a wild-eyed liberal, he was easily confirmed by Republicans in the past, and the new president should be well aware that he would likely have more opportunities to shape the court.

And then we would all agree to do a better job of running our country and our campaigns from now on. Most especially, we would agree that when it comes to running the country, making compromises is not selling out.

I see this as a dream scenario: almost everyone wins! Paul Ryan gets his unified Republican government, Congress gets a useful example of how opposing parties can work together instead of digging in and refusing to budge, President Obama gets his Supreme Court nomination, the electors get to do their job with a clear conscience, and most importantly, the country gets a president who will neither destroy the world nor rob us blind. Hillary Clinton at least gets to look like a stateswoman in the last act of her career. Donald Trump gets nothing, but I am not going to lose any sleep over that.

Will this happen? Oh, no. The saddest thing about this thought experiment is how unlikely it is to come about. No, the electors are going to meet and with the exception of a couple of them who might grow a conscience between now and December, they will most likely vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. But this is actually what the Founders envisioned for the Electoral College, and given the nightmare scenario we have created for ourselves, using this Constitutional opportunity for a do-over is probably the best thing we could do.