Confession: I am in a rare state of being conflicted. This rarely happens because I’m devoted to philosophical and ontological realism and a black/white world view. I am conflicted over what should happen today with the Electoral College. Many on the left have called for Electors to use Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist 68 to justify changing their vote. Hamilton astutely wrote that with the Electoral College “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.” However, I’m not sure if I want the Electors to defect.
The Electoral College meets today to officially elect the president (“The first Monday after the second Wednesday in December”—3 U.S.C. § 7). So, technically, Donald Trump hasn’t been elected yet. It also means that the Electors could choose to vote for someone else, and if 37 Republican Electors vote for a different candidate, then the election will go to the House of Representatives. According to the 12th Amendment, the top three winners of the Electoral College’s vote will go to the House. This means (at least theoretically) Trump could still lose the election if enough Electors defect and become “faithless.” Historically, the House has chosen the President three times: 1800, 1824, and 1876.
One of the most consequential elections in American history was in 1800 between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. It later became known as the Bloodless Revolution as this was the first time power was peacefully transferred to the opposition. However, another important footnote of history happened when Hamilton, the founder of the Federalist Party, sided with his political enemy, Thomas Jefferson, in the House vote because he thought Aaron Burr was unfit for the office of the presidency.
The presidency was a radical experiment by the Framers of the Constitution that easily could have turned into tyranny, but it has become one of the most important symbols of American democracy. In many ways it represents the best of the American Revolution and experiment with self-government. Some of the greatest, and most deeply flawed, men in world history have resided in the White House. We should want the Electors to vote for someone that could maintain the nobility and dignity of the office, a person that holds on to the venerable tradition of these giants.
I have experienced a certain level of schadenfreude since the election with the response of the left. What have they done? They’ve gone on an illiberal and totalitarian tirade, rioting against democracy, and calling all Trump supporters evil racists. I have had to deal with the regressive left’s attempt to end freedom of thought on campus for years by attempting to silence anything someone says, usually by calling them a racist or sexist. So, I’ve taken a certain amount of pleasure in the complete meltdown by the left over Trump’s election. This is why I was happy they lost, not that he won. His election seems like a superb attempt to smash the regressive left, multiculturalism, identity politics, and political correctness. I cannot condone the xenophobia and misogyny, which are present and are malignant in his candidacy. But the reason Trump resonates is that we’ve created a repressive culture of self-censorship and anti-free speech, a rejection of our Western history and tradition, and the belief that a single aspect of the self can create an entire cosmology.
On the other hand, Trump is a demagogue and a populist who advocates an anti-free trade, anti-free movement of labor, and anti-free movement of capital agenda. Trump is rather of the branch of authoritarian paleo-conservatives that see an amorphous and undefined “golden age” America had to which she can and should return. This is a neoreactionary approach to governance and policy that ultimately seeks the abrogation of the current political order (liberal economics, separation of powers, check and balances, and global hegemony). Conservatism stands in stark contrast to Trump and his followers both on a philosophical and policy level.
His election may create a crack in the leftist dominance of multiculturalism and political correctness, but he doesn’t actually stand for the great tradition of Western civilization: Judeo-Christian theology, Greco-Roman philosophy and law, and Enlightenment economics. Furthermore, demagogues are one of the greatest threats to democracy. They either bring about an ochlocracy and mob rule or abrogate it all together to become a dictator; the Electoral College was meant to prevent the “tyranny of the majority.”
Conservatives know that revolutionary change and eliminating established law, traditions, and institutions have significant costs, both intended and unintended. Perhaps the GOP Electors should use the republican institution the Framers created to send a conservative rather than a neoreactionary to the White House. But I’m still not entirely convinced that they should.