It's a civics lesson that we don't normally see play out on national television. That's because we never see a defeated sitting President refuse to admit he lost. Today, the Electoral College made its formal vote, and, to the surprise of no one except maybe the current President, Joe Biden won. Again. Or still.
Most of us who remember our government classes, or who voted in Presidential elections, know that in the United States, the people don't directly elect the President or Vice President. They vote for the candidates, but are actually voting for electors to cast ballots on their behalf. The number of electoral votes each state gets is proportional to its population. The number is the sum of its congressional districts plus its two senators. In California, that adds up to 55. In Hawaii, for example, it's four.
CNN covered the electoral college elections today, and there are many things about the process it's fair to say most of us didn't know. For one, the Electoral College does not meet as one body. Even when there isn't a pandemic, each state convenes their own slate of electors, usually at the Capitol or other state building, and holds its own vote. In California, even with the highest number of electors, the process took only about half an hour. Some states, because of the pandemic, held their votes remotely, and Michigan convened in an undisclosed location because of a threat of violence. CNN, like it did in November, kept the running total of votes at the bottom of the screen.
There is no standardized time that states conduct their votes, but all were in the afternoon, meaning the eastern states, for the most part, reported first. At one point, just after 1pm Pacific Time, Texas announced all of its electoral votes for Donald Trump, and the vote tally nationwide was tied at 229, with 270 votes needed for election. Less than ten minutes later, Massachusetts announced their eleven votes for Biden, and the Democrat never looked back. Montana's three votes went to Trump to give him 232 and that's where he finished. California, just before 2:30pm (CNN took an ill-timed commercial break and had to play the announcement after the break) announced the 55 votes for Biden to put him over the 270 threshold.
After Hawaii's four votes were announced for Biden in the 4pm hour, the final tally was 306-232 in favor of Biden, which was the exact same number announced by news organizations in November, after Pennsylvania was finally called in favor of Biden. There were fears of 'faithless electors' who would vote for Trump even though they were pledged to Biden, but none of that materialized. With the Electoral College vote now complete, you would think that would signal the end for Trump and his imagined victory. It hasn't, and many Republican leaders still won't say out loud in public that Biden is now the President Elect.
With lawsuits dismissed for lack of evidence, recounts, and other legal maneuvers that failed, you would think Trump is out of options. In an article on CNN's website written ahead of today's proceedings, it points out that the Electoral College election needs to be certified just like any other election. This will happen on the floor of Congress on January 6, where challenges can be made. According to the article, Vice President Mike Pence, as President of the Senate, would preside, but if there is an objection to a state's vote, it must be made jointly by one Representative and one Senator. Each house would then retire to its chamber to consider it. However, with the House controlled by Democrats and the Senate by Republicans, no successful challenge is likely. Some Republicans could still request one, just to get on the record, or to appease Mr. Trump.
Shortly after the Hawaii vote was announced and the Electoral College votes completed, Biden gave a short speech from Wilmington, Delaware—his most scathing yet directed at Trump and Republicans. He called the attacks on the general election results “unconscionable” and Trump's attempts to overturn the election “an abuse of power.” Trump did not speak publicly today, but even high ranking Republicans like Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell would not admit that Biden won. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, is one of the few who has accepted reality, telling CNN that the party's behavior is “embarrassing” and that Trump's efforts are “out of runway.”
Still, one has to wonder what's up Trump's sleeve now. Today was supposed to be the day that this would finally be over. January 6 is the certification date with some sort of challenge possible there, but now maybe it's two weeks later where something may or may not happen. Inauguration Day is January 20 and is it possible that the leader of the free world has some mayhem planned? I know this is serious business, but two comedic mental images come to mind. One has been in my head for weeks where Trump is literally carried out of the White House kicking and screaming by two hulking Secret Service agents. The new image in my mind's eye is the ending of Animal House. Trump and his fraternity brothers, who were on double-secret probation, are kicked off campus, so they ruin the day by commandeering the town parade, complete with the 'Eat Me' float and Kevin Bacon dressed as cop yelling “All is well” before being trampled. Just like the movie, kind of funny, but really stupid.
Holding our breath: America watched the Electoral College vote today much like we watch a space launch. We know, want, and expect everything to be okay, but there's still a chance that something could seriously go wrong. While it turned out that there were no rogue, or 'faithless', electors, this is where we thought Trump might somehow stack the deck. You know how many faithless electors there were in 2016? There were seven. Four years ago, five electors who were pledged to vote for Hillary Clinton voted for Trump, and two who were pledged to Trump voted for Clinton. This time, nothing. That CNN article pointed out there is no federal penalty for an elector to vote his/her own conscience, but many states do have built-in deterrents. Most electors are party members, so their political futures would also be on the line if they went rogue.
More polarization: While CNN had its electoral map on the screen, I counted the red states. There were 25 who voted for Trump (plus one electoral vote in Maine where the other votes went to Biden). That means there were 25 blue states (plus one electoral vote in Nebraska where the other votes went to Trump). Some may call the Electoral College system antiquated (a topic of debate for another day), but imagine if each state got only vote. Yikes.
'Person' of the Year: Thursday night, NBC aired an hour-long special, culminating with the announcement of Time Magazine's Person of the Year. I didn't watch, because although I respect and admire his work, I really didn't need to hear 60 more minutes of Dr. Anthony Fauci. I mean, who else could the Person of the Year be? I learned later that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (both) were named Person of the Year. Fauci was a finalist, and so was President Trump. This year is almost over, right?