Tuesday, December 20, 2016

No White Horse After All

Sorry, Mittens. No White Horse for you!

As I mentioned in my previous article about the White Horse Prophecy, the Electoral College overturning the election of Donald Trump was always an incredibly long shot. So-called faithless electors are rare, and for the Electoral College to reject Trump, 37 individuals specifically selected for party loyalty would have had to defect. In addition, 29 states have laws requiring electors to vote for the state's popular winner.

As I expected, this did not happen - the total number of faithless electors turned out to be ten. In two of those cases, Democratic electors cast votes for Bernie Sanders, and in another a Democratic elector cast a vote for John Kasich, but because they were from states requiring them to vote for the state's winner, their votes were ruled improper and changed to votes for Hillary Clinton. So seven electoral votes for candidates other than Trump and Clinton were allowed to stand, making Trump's win official.

Of the faithless votes that were allowed to stand, two Texas Republican electors defected from Trump, one voting for Ron Paul and the other for Kasich. Four Washington Democratic electors defected from Clinton, three voting for former Secretary of State Colin Powell and one voting for Native American elder and activist Faith Spotted Eagle, who now has the distinction of being the first Native American to ever receive an electoral vote in the history of the United States. In addition, Sanders picked up one vote from a Democratic elector from Hawaii.

The two Democratic electors who attempted to cast votes for Sanders hailed from Maine and my home state of Minnesota, and the one who attempted to cast a vote for Kasich was from Colorado. So even though the official count of faithless electors was seven, it really should be counted as ten, since historically state "pledge laws" have not applied. Minnesota changed its laws after 2004 when an elector cast a presidential vote for John Edwards, the Democratic candidate for Vice President. I'm not sure when similar laws passed in Maine or Colorado.

From the standpoint of the White Horse Prophecy, the Electoral College vote turned out to be a total bust. Despite talk of votes for Mitt Romney, Evan McMullin, and even John Huntsman, there did not turn out to be a single vote for a Mormon in the whole bunch. So either this isn't the time, or, as many Mormon historians suspect, the prophecy is bunk. It was recorded more than fifty years after Joseph Smith supposedly made it, and its historical accuracy is considered questionable even by those within the Latter Day Saints church.

It should still be noted, prophecy notwithstanding, how unusual this situation is. The last time there were more than seven faithless electors was in 1912, and that was because a candidate for Vice President died before the Electoral College voted. The last time there were more than ten was in 1896, and again, that was for Vice President rather than President. For the last hundred years, there has never been more than one faithless elector in any subsequent election - until now.

So barring something unforeseen, Trump will be inaugurated on January 20th, and as I've previously stated, I did not support him and I think that he will be a terrible president. He has already backpedaled on most of his atypical campaign promises and is attempting to fill his cabinet with a bunch of Republican oligarchs who appear to want little more than lower taxes and cuts to social services - the same old policies that in my opinion will not help much of anyone besides the very rich.

I could always be wrong, but so far I've seen no evidence that Trump will stand up for the folks who swung the election his way in the rust belt. For example, during the campaign he said that he would not cut Medicare or Social Security, but a bill doing just that may be one of the first things to arrive at his desk. That should show right off the bat whether he is willing to buck his party, or if he will just knuckle under to Paul Ryan's austerity agenda that will harm the very supporters he promised to help.

If Democrats want to get back in the game, they need to put together a progressive message and clearly articulate how it will benefit the people left behind by businesses that exploit outsourcing and layoffs to drive up their stock prices. For that reason I remain convinced that Sanders could have won the election - he might not have gotten quite as many popular votes as Clinton overall, but he likely would have done better than Clinton in the rust belt states that Trump wound up winning by very small margins.

If Trump abandons his more progressive promises with respect to jobs and infrastructure investment, and Democrats can offer an effective alternative to the same old Democratic Leadership Council corporatism, I see their party doing very well in the midterms. That needs to be their top priority now, and you never know - there could always be a Mormon Democrat out there for whom the prophecy was really intended.

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