President-elect Donald J. Trump will be sworn in January 20th as the nation’s 45th president, following the most contentious, hate-filled presidential campaign in the nation’s history.
Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic challenger, won the 2016 popular vote by more than a 2 percent majority. According to the Cook Political Report, Clinton’s final vote was 65,844,610, compared to Donald Trump’s 62,979,636. That is a difference of 2,864,974 in Clinton’s favor. The total number of votes for other candidates was 7,804,213.
How did this happen? History will blame Trump’s victory on the archaic Electoral College. But that will not be accurate. We, the American voting public, did it to ourselves.
The Electoral College has been the basis of our presidential elections since the Founding Fathers at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, arrived at a compromise to keep the smaller states within the newly formed democracy.
There is agitation to change the process, but don’t hold your breath. Those smaller states still demand their place at the election table. It is difficult to tinker with such time-honored procedures. The sole tinkering came in 1804, when electors were instructed to vote twice, once for president and once for vice-president.
Meanwhile, we have to accept the fact that on Monday, December 19, the 538 Electoral College electors met in their respective state capitals to confirm Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States, and Mike Pence as vice-president.
We gave Donald Trump and Mike Pence 304 elector votes, well beyond the 270 needed to win. Their Democratic challengers, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, received 227 elector votes. Seven “faithless electors” defected from the voting majority in their state, two from Trump-Pence states and five from Clinton-Kaine states.
Blogger John Whitbeck produces a daily group email on matters political. He writes that the seven defectors were the most defectors from a living presidential candidate in Electoral College history.
In a small historic irony, Whitbeck also found that one of the seven defectors cast a protest vote, “for Ms. Spotted Eagle, a member of the Yankton Sioux Nation who helped to block (at least for the time being) development of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. She became the first Native American to receive an Electoral College vote for the office of president.”
What exactly did the Founding Fathers send down the chimney this 2016 Christmas season? We have been gifted our first unfettered Twitter President. He will say what he wants to say, full speed ahead.
His actions will be curtailed by our procedures and laws, but his words will go forth from the world’s most important political office, unfettered.
This is a man without a single day’s experience in governance. I have my serious doubts that he has ever walked a precinct.
If I am wrong about the precinct-walking, should I expect a correction via Twitter, or in one of his rallies before the faithful? Probably not, but many others, including a former president, will be reprimanded.
Trump communicated with disdain and bar room bluster to a criticism from Bill Clinton. He did so via Twitter, a strange way of relating to one of his twice-elected predecessors.
There are plenty of strange things emanating from Trump’s Twitter world, mostly revelations of hatred, revenge and anger at anyone who questions or challenges him.
What we should not expect from his Twitter feeds and controlled rallies are the essential planning and policies of a Trump administration. Trump has shown no sign he wants to reach the public through our traditional intermediaries, the media (people who ask questions).
Our new leader has held no press conference since July 27, 2016. He promised one such conference on December 15, but his minions canceled it. Will Trump hold a press conference after he is inaugurated? Don’t count on it.
In an interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, Robert Reich (left) discussed Trump’s refusal to openly interact with the media.
Goodman noted that the last time Trump met with the media on the third day of the Democratic National Convention, “he famously called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s email”. Goodman played a video clip of his comment:
Trump: Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.. .
This bantering with a foreign power about an American election, displays an attitude, if continued beyond his inauguration, that will confirm his time in office as uninformed and dangerous.
Goodman reminded Reich he had written that Trump seeks “to turn the public against the media”. She played a clip from a Trump rally when Candidate Trump expressed his disdain for the traveling press corps in the building.
Trump: You know my opinion of the media. It’s very low. … The press are liars. They’re terrible people. … And the media—look at all those people back there: scavengers. They’re like scavengers. … Show ’em the crowd, press. Show ’em the crowd. Show ’em the crowd. Look, they’re not turning the cameras. They don’t even turn the cameras. They don’t even turn the cameras, because, you know what, they’re very dishonest people. … Disgusting reporters, horrible people. Sure, some are nice. … They’re scum, absolute scum. Remember that. Scum.
Reich, a former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, responded further:
Donald Trump’s modus operandi seems to be to communicate directly with followers and with the public through tweets and through rallies. And he’s signaled that he wants to continue to use rallies even after January 20th, when he becomes president.
Tweets and rallies are designed to belittle those he dislikes and remind his followers why they follow him. This is not presidential. It is not leadership and it is not a responsible way for any adult to behave in the White House or on Main Street.
Assuming President Trump maintains his campaign modus operandi, as experience tells us he will, he will communicate through Tweets and rallies while living in his fantasy bubble where what he thinks is supreme, and questions are forbidden.
He is headed for “The Big Rock Candy Mountain”, where
“The cops have wooden legs
The bulldogs all have rubber teeth
And the hens lay soft-boiled eggs
The farmers’ trees are full of fruit
The barns are full of hay
I want to go where there ain’t no snow
Where the sleet don’t fall and the wind don’t blow
In that Big Rock Candy Mountain”
In a more pragmatic vein, Reich explains:
The fear is that . . . what Donald Trump wants, [is] to be able to continue to state things that are simply not true,—doubting climate change, for example, or saying that the CIA report on Russian hacking was not true—and have a larger and larger number of his followers, and, indirectly, their friends and their associates and families, believe him and not believe science and not believe the media, not believe policy analysts and not believe people who are investigative reporters and not believe the actual facts out there, believe this counter-universe that is of Donald Trump’s creation.
Will Trump change, once he is inaugurated? Will a man who views the world entirely from his own narrow perspective, who shows no signs of compassion or concern for anyone or anything, outside his own private orbit, would such a man change?
Short of a Damascus Road experience, such a man does not change.
The picture of Robert Reich is by Win McNamee for Getty. The Electoral College map is from Google.