Thursday, December 8, 2016

Why The "Hamilton Electors" Would Be Right To Reject Trump

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Alexander Hamilton - after whom the Hamilton electors derive their name.

Even as Colorado's Republican Secretary of State  Wayne Williams unleashed a mad attack on "unfaithful" electors, calling them "evil" and "arrogant", there is a small but growing movement within all the electors to overturn the designation of Trump as President. As The Denver Post has noted (yesterday, p. 2A) the mission is to "persuade Republican electors in other states to vote for a third option candidate to keep Trump from receiving 270 electoral votes."  The Colo. Dem electors are even offering to shift their votes from HRC to a "consensus pick" if it means stopping Trump.

These electors call themselves moral electors, also "Hamilton electors"- after Alexander Hamilton - which I will get to in a bit.  This is not based on pique but principle: assessing  the character of the man who would be President,  not to mention his convoluted business entanglements (which violate the emoluments clause of the constitution) pose a clear and present danger to this Republic. Indeed, his military picks for key offices show how close he plans to veer in respect of undermining the Posse Comitatus Act, e.g.

The "Hamilton electors" refers to a set of electors from different states, red and blue, now ready to vote against Donald Trump in the Electoral College casting of votes on December 19th. As one pointed out on Chris Hayes two nights ago, there are a number of reasons why these electors believe Trump is unqualified and needs to be prevented from any inauguration on January 20th.  But he particularly pointed out Trump's evident flouting of the Emoluments clause of the Constitution.

Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution states that no American officeholder shall, “without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” The clause is not a historical quirk. Gordon Wood, an American historian, argues that America’s founding fathers were obsessed with the problem of corruption, which they believed had doomed earlier republics. Hence, they inveighed against even the appearance of being "gifted" by foreign interests, nations.

In the case of Trump, in the last few weeks we've seen move after move that Trump has retained his business interests instead of divesting them (as the Office of Ethics in Government has warned). And hence exposed the nation, his future administration and government to foreign influence.  As President these influences and "emoluments" will reach fever pitch and likely set the future stage for his potential impeachment. For example,  The Industrial and Agricultural Bank of China, whose majority stakeholder is the Chinese government, rents office space in New York City’s Trump Tower. The 35-storey Trump Office Buenos Aires development is awaiting approval from that city’s government.

TIME - which  designated Trump "Person of the Year" -  did the same for Adolf Hitler in its Jan. 2, 1939 issue (the choice is based on the person most impacting the world for good or ill), e.g.

Also exposed (in its Dec. 12, 2016 issue, p. 18) , that Trump in May (and with little fanfare)  invested in a potential hotel in Jedda, Saudi Arabia with the "help of the Saudi Binladen Group". That is the construction firm founded by the father of Osama bin Laden. Make of it what you will.

Then there is the newly announced deal by Trump, with a Japanese outfit - Softbank - which has pledged $50 billion to Trump and also claims to have 50,000 potential jobs for U.S. workers. When or where they will materialize we've no idea, nor how the job number was even determined.  However, it is understood the money will be coming from a $100 billion investment fund the Japanese CEO is setting up with Saudi Arabia' wealth fund.  So does this mean most of the $50 billion coming our way is supposedly coming from Saudi Arabia?  And more importantly, what are they going to want in return for this investment?

These are just a few of the unprecedented conflicts of interest presented by Trump’s decision to retain his business empire and hand its management over to his children. (He claims that doing so is effectively a "blind trust" but it's nothing of the sort. A blind trust means a totally independent entity holds such assets so there is no possibility at all of learning what's in them.)

Of course, Trumpeters will not hesitate to point out there is no law that obliges Trump to sell his assets or place them in a blind trust, though nine of the 12 presidents since the second world war have done so. But when his businesses accept money (or anything of value) from foreign governments or state-owned entities,  Trump may nevertheless be breaking the law. In fact, he may be violating the Constitution of the United States. This very potential ought to raise the hackles of electors of conscience and set off early warning bells.

Beyond the issue of Trump flouting the Emoluments clause in his potential Presidency, there is the issue of his character. It is clear to me, on reading The Federalist  #10 (by James Madison) and #68 (by Alexander Hamilton) last night, that Trump is precisely the type of populist "passion inciting" demagogue that the Founders feared, and trusted the Electoral College to keep from power.  Madison in the Federalist 10 exposed the nature of the problem while Hamilton in Federalist 68 discussed the remedy.

Madison's concern was  "mischief of faction" in an election whereby "citizens - whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole - are united and actuated by a common impulse of passion (to cast their votes) adverse to the rights of other citizens or the permanent and aggregate interests of the community".  This is exactly what the Trump voters did, motivated by passion and recklessness via Trump's often violent rallies to give a middle finger salute to the rest of the country - thereby militating against the majority's interests. And by the latest tally HRC is now a full 2.7 million votes or two pct. points ahead of Trump in the popular vote.

Hamilton for his own part was blunt and to the point and his words bear directly on Trump's entanglements with foreign businesses and diplomats:

"Nothing is more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to a cabal, intrigue or corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.

How could they better gratify this than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?

Hamilton then lists the measures to ensure safeguards from overt foreign influence in our councils,  including, e.g.   no senators, representatives or others holding a position of trust shall be named as state electors, i.e. to the Electoral College.

However, later he leaves open the possibility that the same electors can ensure the integrity of the office through their own discretion which may, at some extreme points, diverge from what the people themselves voted for (particularly if motivated by passion as opposed to reason).

Thus we read:

"The process of election (by state electors) affords a moral certainty that the office of President shall never fall to the lot of any man who is not to an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications...It will not be too strong to say that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue."

Would Hamilton (or Madison) regard Trump as such a character? Hardly! His display of rank passion alone - as in his unhinged tweets, would disqualify him. His very campaigning mode in encouraging violence ("punch 'em  in the face"), would leave all the Founders gasping for air, foundering at the spectacle of a madman's approach to power -  as well as the very passions inflamed in his followers to push him there-- that they so feared.

His crude words caught on tape about proudly assaulting women ("ya grab 'em by the pussy') would confirm once and for all that such a character lacked the virtue to hold the highest station. Add in his entanglements with foreign interests and it would be a slam dunk.

The Hamilton electors need to do what Hamilton and Madison would have and reject this unstable, narcissist autocrat whose antics threaten the very foundation of the Republic. And yes, my ancestor Conrad Brumbaugh, who fought in the Revolutionary War (as one of the Pennsylvania Regiment), would side with my stance totally.. Moreover, he'd be appalled that so many Americans could so recklessly toss their franchise away on a character unfit to even run a dog kennel - never mind he claims billionaire status. (Mostly via constant bankruptcies of  his casinos).  Conrad would have no qualms - if he were a state elector- turning the tables on a potential Trump despotic presidency.

The electors of today can do no less. Look at it this way: while we may undergo some upheaval and possibly a constitutional crisis in the wake of upending Trump's ascension to power, it's preferable to the alternative. That is, Trump likely ordering martial law before the next election, shutting down all dissent and imprisoning people by invoking the "continuity of government" provisions in the Patriot Act. Not to mention that, given all his military picks,  one expects the Posse Comitatus Act will have been terminated by then.

See also:



"Here is a man who won the election according to the rules as they stand. Donald Trump is about to become president of the United States of America, and yet he cannot stand the fact that he lost the popular vote. Result? He went on a Twitter tirade and completely undermined the validity of his own victory by bleating some balderdash about millions of illegal votes. It wasn't a one-off tweet, either; he just kept going and going and going like some cross between the Energizer Bunny and a character from Mortal Kombat.

Then, out of a clear blue sky, Trump became the defender of the American flag, tweeting that, perhaps, anyone who burns that flag should either be thrown in prison or stripped of their citizenship. The First Amendment, augmented by the Supreme Court's 1989 Texas v. Johnson decision, defends the burning of the flag as an act of free speech. The Fourteenth Amendment specifically prohibits the government from stripping a citizen of their citizenship. This is all black-letter law, making Trump's flag tweet just another burp in the void … but for this: His casual recommendation for addressing something so picayune as a burned flag is imprisonment or exile.

Put it all together. A man with the temperament of an earthquake, utterly devoid of self-control, with no one around him apparently capable of reining him in, a man who admittedly lives for revenge and retribution, who is completely incapable of absorbing criticism without having a very public meltdown, who knows little of the world, and who thinks nothing of throwing people who commit minor acts of dissent in prison … this man is about to be invested with astonishing legal powers."

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