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“The Most Dangerous Blot On Our Constitution”: How The House Of Representatives Can Steal The Election For The GOP

While Republicans are busy trying to deny Donald Trump their party’s nomination, another group of conservative strategists is surely developing a more draconian backup plan: call it the Steal It In the House Option.

What might have once seemed inconceivable is now entirely possible this fall: a presidential election decided not by the voters, not even by the Electoral College, but by as few as 26 state delegations in the House of Representatives. If no general election candidate receives a majority of the electoral votes—270—the Constitution requires that the House of Representatives will elect the president.

And if that anti-democratic process isn’t bad enough, consider this perverse clause in the Constitution: each state would receive one vote regardless of population. California, with nearly 40 million citizens, gets one vote. Wyoming, with fewer than 600,000, gets one vote. Go figure.

Each House delegation would caucus and cast that state’s vote. How would that work out this fall? Thirty-two state delegations are controlled by Republicans, 15 by Democrats, three evenly split. The District of Columbia and the territories cannot vote.

Not since the tumultuous election of 1824 has this outcome occurred. Andrew Jackson won both the popular vote and a plurality of electoral votes over John Quincy Adams, but two other candidates won enough electors to deny Jackson a majority. Subsequently, the House of Representatives threw the election to Adams. Jackson’s supporters nearly rioted, and the Tennessean swept Adams out of office four years later.

That’s ancient history, but two scenarios could create a similar electoral mess this year. While an independent presidential candidate is highly unlikely to win the election, there is a growing likelihood that such a campaign could prevent either party nominee from winning outright.

1. Hillary Clinton wins a plurality of electoral votes over Republican nominee Donald Trump, but falls short of the necessary 270. An independent candidate (Rick Perry?) wins a large state such as Texas. House Republicans, repelled by both Trump and Clinton, throw the election to Perry or whoever the independent candidate is—and who finished a very distant third in the voting. (The House can choose from any of the top three vote getters.)

2. The Stop Trump movement succeeds in denying him the nomination, instead choosing Ted Cruz or John Kasich in a brokered convention in Cleveland. Trump launches an independent campaign and wins one or more states, a distinct possibility. Clinton wins a large plurality but fails to reach 270 electoral votes. The House elects Cruz or Kasich.

In either case, the Republican-controlled House, utilizing an arcane provision in the Constitution, subverts the will of American voters and prevents Hillary Clinton from winning the presidency. Farfetched? It’s not hard to imagine a deeply partisan House doing whatever it takes to deny Mrs. Clinton the presidency.

In 1968 George Wallace won five states and 46 electoral votes. It’s not a reach to envision Trump racking up a similar total in 2016, including typically tossup states such as Michigan or Florida.

Texas A&M scholar George Edwards, in Why the Electoral College Is Bad for America, writes, “…it is virtually impossible to find anyone who will defend the selection of the president by the House of Representatives, with each state having one vote. Even the most ardent supporters of the electoral college ignore this most blatant violation of democratic principles.”

There are other, even more bizarre possibilities lurking in November. In more than 20 states electors are not bound to vote for the candidate who wins their state. Could pressure be exerted to convince a few ”faithless” electors to switch to another candidate? While unlikely, in this election cycle anything seems possible.

Should such a political apocalypse occur this year, there is a silver lining. Perhaps Congress would then move to abolish an anachronistic system of filling the most powerful office in the world. That would certainly please the ghost of Thomas Jefferson, who wrote after surviving the first contingency presidential election:

“I have ever considered the constitutional mode of election…as the most dangerous blot on our Constitution, and one which some unlucky chance will some day hit.”

 

By: Roy Neel, The Daily Beast, April 16, 2016

 

 

 

April 17, 2016 Posted by | Democracy, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, House of Representatives, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The GOP House In A Landslide”: House Of Representatives Is So Firmly In The GOP’s Hands

On the Republican side, at the very least, this may be the year for political scientists and analysts to try to forget everything that they think they know. But we still need to have some rational basis for what we’re saying, right? I mean, who can fault David Wasserman over at the Cook Political Report for using the presidential blowouts of 1964, 1972, and 1984 to try to guesstimate how a 2016 blowout might affect control of the House of Representatives? It’s as good a place to start as I can think of, so why not take a look?

Indeed, there’s nothing wrong with looking at the best precedents we have, and it can even be described as basic due diligence. But I think you have to go a little deeper than just looking at raw numbers.

To begin with, any scenario in which the Democratic Party enjoyed the benefit of the Solid South is simply not applicable to the present. The 1964 election, which came right on the heels of LBJ signing the Civil Rights Act, was pretty much the starting point of the realignment that over the next fifty years methodically flipped the South into a Republican stronghold. I’d argue that this process wasn’t really complete until the 2010 midterms, although the 2002 midterms wiped out a half dozen southern Democratic senators. It took decades for the South to stop voting for the Democratic Party on the state and local level. Even in the 1992 election where Clinton, despite some successes, lost most southern states, southern Democrats did quite well in the congressional elections. Today, this type of ticket-splitting is extremely rare.

By the time we get to the 1972 landslide, things are slightly more familiar, but it still basically holds true that the South chose Nixon for president and the Democrats in the down-ticket races. The corollary today would be the South voting uniformly for Hillary Clinton while returning almost all of their Republican senators and representatives to Congress. I don’t see that happening, although I can foresee Clinton winning a few southern states. Obama won Virginia and Florida twice, North Carolina once, and was within spitting distance in Georgia. It remains to be seen how the people of Arkansas feel about their royal family in our present climate, but I have my doubts that it will even be a competitive state.

Still, we’re talking about a hypothetical landslide election in which the Republicans nominate someone so divisive and controversial that they wind up losing supposedly safe red states. It’s probably true that in that kind of scenario, the House seats would tend to split. Senate seats would be more vulnerable, but I don’t see Richard Shelby losing in Alabama no matter how badly Trump or Cruz or Carson do at the top of the ticket.

The 1984 election seems almost modern compared to 1964 and 1972. At least the modern Democratic coalition was beginning to take form. But even in 1984 the Democrats still enjoyed a lot of stubborn southern support on the congressional level.

What’s more relevant today is the way party support has been split between urban/suburban and suburban/exurban/rural. This, in combination with aggressive (mainly Republican-controlled) gerrymandering, has resulted in very few true swing districts in Congress. It’s also resulted in a situation where the Democrats can win the overall congressional popular vote by a substantial margin and still not even come close to controlling House of Representatives.

Also interesting is just how persistent the disbelief is in the idea that Donald Trump might be the nominee. Wasserman refers to “the remoteness of a scenario in which Trump would face Hillary Clinton in a one-on-one contest.” Over at the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney assures us that Trump will lose Iowa, thereby become a “loser” himself, and wind up getting his butt handed to him in New Hampshire.

They could certainly be right, but I think they’re a little over-confident personally. I also think a landslide election is just as much of a possibility with Cruz as with Trump. And a brokered convention is a real wildcard. It could wind up preventing a landslide by cutting off the nomination of a Trump or a Cruz, but it could also be just the thing that makes a landslide possible. After all, this isn’t the year that the Republican base will tolerate having the Establishment step in and pick a nominee that they haven’t voted for.

But, it’s true. The House of Representatives is so firmly in the GOP’s hands, that even a landslide defeat on the presidential level might not be enough to wrench control away from them.

It wouldn’t hurt, though.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 14, 2015

December 16, 2015 Posted by | House of Representatives, Republicans, Senate | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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