An authoritarian figure who has joked about being President for life runs the Federal Government during a pandemic that could literally kill millions of Americans and disrupt society for months. States are postponing primary elections and struggling to figure out how voters can cast ballots while keeping social distancing. Understandably, some people worry that Donald Trump might take advantage of the crisis to stay in power.
These discussions focus narrowly on two questions: whether States could physically hold elections during a pandemic using modern systems and what would happen if they couldn’t. Most agree that elections can take place if state legislatures hurry up and figure out how to use expanded absentee voting, other voting by mail systems, or even the internet. They also think that if for some reason elections cannot be held, someone other than Trump would take power based on existing statute.
What none of these articles mention is the Electoral College and the role of state legislatures in choosing these Electors. This is the group that actually elects the President, as we found out the hard way in 2016. These days voters choose these Electors by casting votes at polling stations or by mail because state legislatures want it that way – this is not a Constitutional requirement. This means that elections for President and Vice President can take place as long as state legislatures can meet and choose Electors before Election Day.
I think Susan Collins had no good choice here. Her vote to confirm buys her a credible and well-funded challenger, but a vote the other way would likely have created a primary challenge from the right. It seems to me that while Collins has rarely deviated from conservative orthodoxy with respect to her actual votes, she has carefully cultivated a reputation as a moderate (chiefly by claiming to respect reproductive choice for women). This and incumbency has so far protected her politically, but Democrats (especially women) in Maine will now do everything they can to replace her. This challenge comes in 2020, when Democrats will also show up in force to vote against Donald Trump if he runs again. I think she had a better chance to win a challenge from the right and keep the seat by voting no on Kavanaugh but supporting his just-as-conservative replacement.
Joe Manchin faced a similar problem except that he depends on some level of support from conservatives to keep his seat where Collins depends on marginal liberals for hers. I would suggest to Senator Manchin that (like in Maine) a “right thing to do” vote against Kavanaugh would have kept enough conservatives in his corner as long as he votes to confirm Trump’s next choice. And as in Maine voting to confirm Kavanaugh will alienate Democrats he needs to win. It’s too late for a primary challenge from the left, but to win he needs every vote he can get, and many women will now stay home. Continue reading →
The Vangie Williams campaign likes to tell the story of Miss Daisy and the funeral. If you haven’t heard it, ask Joel Leonard. He tells it best.
Anyway, Miss Daisy, a Westmoreland County matriarch of sorts, turns 79 this month and wants to celebrate with a cookout and pickle-jar fundraiser for Vangie.
You can get the details at Vangie’s campaign Facebook page, but it’s a week from tomorrow, 18 August, from 1300 to 1700 at 447 Wilson Drive, Sandy Point, Virginia. I plan to attend and write a check. Please join in, and knock a few doors for Vangie on your way over.
The Williamsburg-James City County Indivisible group has invited me to speak about the Electoral College at their meeting on 29 August. This talk will take place at the James City County Library at 7770 Croaker Road in Williamsburg from 6:30 to 9:00 PM.
I’ll discuss how and why the men who wrote the Constitution settled on this method for selecting a President, including how slavery created the conditions that made direct election of the President all but politically impossible. I’ll also discuss efforts to eliminate the EC or render it moot.
Please join me and the WJCC Indivisibles for an informative evening and a chance to meet new Democratic activist friends.