The Electoral College dodges another bullet
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On the roster: The Electoral College dodges another bullet – Trump still stuck in thirties as independents flee – Wait. What? Biden says he will ‘transform’ America – Dems thinking big – Lights, camera… pellets
THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE DODGES ANOTHER BULLET
The Electoral College survived another assassination attempt with a Supreme Court ruling today upholding the power of states to compel electors to vote for the candidates voters choose.
Lawrence Lessig, Harvard law professor, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate and Electoral College foe, had taken up the case of four electors from the previous presidential contest who tried to ignore the will of the voters. The electors from Washington State and Colorado wanted to vote for someone other than Hillary Clinton to entice Trump-bound electors to do the same.
The argument from the plaintiffs is that the members of the Electoral College should be free to vote as they see fit – much the same way the Founders imagined. As Alexander Hamilton put it, “men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation” would gather to decide whom the next president would be.
But that idea quickly went by the wayside. In the fast-growing, increasingly populous country there were practical considerations. Most importantly, there was the complaint that the process was too detached from public sentiment.
State legislatures choosing electors who would be free to pick anyone they like hardly matched the Jeffersonian and Jacksonian impulses of the early republic. In the new, explicitly partisan system, Hamilton’s vision was out.
By 1832, every state except South Carolina had moved to require electors be chosen by popular statewide vote. Those “slates” of electors were then bound by law to the presidential and vice-presidential candidates of one of the parties.
This move kept some of the republican virtues of the college – retaining states as the essential unit of political organization, adding advantages for smaller states – while suffusing them with the democratic virtue of broad participation.
If the Supremes had sided with Lessig, electors could have done whatever they pleased. Not only would such a decision have made even greater pandemonium out of this year’s elections, it would have spelled the end of the Electoral College in short order.
Voting for free agents based on their characters and qualifications might be loaded with Federalist virtues, but it wouldn’t gibe with voter expectations. Without the directly democratic component, calls for abolishing the system altogether would be irresistible.
We hear you out there scrolling and wondering “So what?” These sustained attacks on the Electoral College could add up to plenty of trouble, that’s what.
Gallup found last year that most Americans want to ditch the Electoral College in favor of a national popular vote. It makes sense because Americans tend to side with advocates of more direct democracy and because so few are willing to defend an institution that sounds antique and nerdy. With an unpopular president who won without a popular vote mandate, such feelings were bound to intensify.
But please do consider two things: Electoral security and demagoguery.
Both major party nominees this year have already accused each other of attempting to steal the November vote. Foreign foes are working around the clock to try to hack the results. State elections officials have in many cases have already been overwhelmed by trying to conduct contests amid a pandemic. Public confidence in the accuracy of election results is low, low, low.
So now imagine how the weeks of counting a close nationwide election would go. The whole thing would ride on one result, not 51 separate contests. How long until President Trump accuses California of stuffing ballot boxes? How long until Joe Biden accuses Georgia of voter suppression? With more than 140 million ballots cast, a close election wouldn’t come down to a recount in a state or two, but in every state as partisans scrounged for every ballot they could lay their mitts on.
Sounds like a good way to tank the republic.
The second consideration for which we plea is related to the first one. Our politics today is as stormy as a Beethoven symphony, full of passion and feeling with scant attention to reason and argument. We are living in a hyper-emotional, performative time when Americans obsess over feelings and face real pressure to demonstrate those feelings.
Imagine now how the two parties would campaign in a system where it was like American Idol but for president. They don’t need to worry about geographic coalition building but rather finding the most excitable, most engaged voters wherever they are. Instead of intense pressure in handful of states, that pressure would be felt by every American from coast to coast.
A political process that is already too much driven by fear and hate would be kicked into a new frenzy as candidates sought out the intense fringes instead of needing to worry about seeming reasonable to voters in states like Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Pennsylvania where moderation is rewarded.
In the same way our 40-year experiment with primary elections has led us deeper into the wilderness of negative partisanship, a national popular election in a nation so vast and diverse would be a demagogue’s dream.
And once the third and fourth and fifth parties come in hoping to squat on enough vote share to hold the system hostage, Katie bar the door.
We’re not here to tell you that the Electoral College we have is perfect, but a national popular election is a titanic risk that America’s already enfeebled political system cannot sustain.
THE RULEBOOK: WORD
“Caution and investigation are a necessary armour against error and imposition. – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 31
TIME OUT: BRAVO, MAESTRO
AP: “Ennio Morricone, the Oscar-winning Italian composer who created the coyote-howl theme for the iconic Spaghetti Western ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ and often haunting soundtracks for such classic Hollywood gangster movies as ‘The Untouchables’… died Monday. He was 91. Morricone’s longtime lawyer, Giorgio Assumma … read a farewell message from Morricone. ‘I am Ennio Morricone, and I am dead,’ began the message… the composer went on to explain that the only reason he was saying goodbye this way and had requested a private funeral was: ‘I don’t want to bother anyone.’ … In total, he produced more than 400 original scores for feature films. His iconic so-called Spaghetti Western movies saw him work closely with the late Italian film director Sergio Leone, a former classmate. … Their partnership included the ‘Dollars’ trilogy starring Clint Eastwood as a quick-shooting, lonesome gunman… Morricone is survived by his wife, Maria Travia… Married in 1956, the couple had four children…”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 41.4 percent
Biden: 51 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 9.6 points
Change from one week ago: Biden ↑ 1.4 points; Trump ↑ 2 points
[Average includes: IBD: Trump 40% – Biden 48%; Monmouth: Trump 41% – Biden 53%; CNBC: Trump 41% – Biden 49%; USA Today/Suffolk: Trump 41% – Biden 53%; NPR/PBS/Marist: Trump 44% – Biden 52%.]
BATTLEGROUND POWER RANKINGS
(270 electoral votes needed to win)
Toss-up: (109 electoral votes): Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15), Iowa (6)
Lean R/Likely R: (180 electoral votes)
Lean D/Likely D: (249 electoral votes)
[Full rankings here.]
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 40.2 percent
Average disapproval: 56.4 percent
Net Score: -16.2 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 2.6 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 38% approve – 57% disapprove; IBD: 39% approve – 56% disapprove; Monmouth: 41% approve – 54% disapprove; CNBC: 43% approve – 57% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk: 40% approve – 58% disapprove.]
TRUMP STILL STUCK IN THIRTIES AS INDEPENDENTS FLEE
Gallup: “President Donald Trump’s approval rating is holding steady at a lower level after a sharp drop in late May and early June, with 38% of Americans currently approving of the job he is doing. In early May, Trump’s approval tied his personal best at 49% — before it sank amid nationwide protests over racial injustice after the death of George Floyd. Now his approval rating stands just three percentage points above his personal low of 35%, registered on four separate occasions in 2017. The latest results are based on a June 8-30 Gallup poll. While Trump’s overall job approval rating is essentially unchanged from the prior May 28-June 4 poll, it does show some improvement among Republicans, from 85% to 91%. However, the current poll also indicates the president’s approval rating has dropped among independents, from 39% to 33%, as well as among Democrats, from 5% to 2%.”
Campaign softens mask stance, rally attendees ‘encouraged’ to wear – Fox News: “President Trump’s re-election campaign announced Sunday that the president will headline an outdoor rally in the battleground state of New Hampshire next weekend, just his second rally since the coronavirus pandemic swept across the nation in March. Campaign staffers said the rally will be held next Saturday, July 11, at the Portsmouth International Airport in Portsmouth, New Hampshire… Public health officials have discouraged large crowds in extremely close contact amid the pandemic. The Trump campaign, in announcing next weekend’s rally in New Hampshire, noted that ‘there will be ample access to hand sanitizer and all attendees will be provided a face mask that they are strongly encouraged to wear.’”
Bashes NASCAR for banning Confederate Flag, noose probe – Fox News: “President Trump on Monday lashed out at NASCAR and questioned why Bubba Wallace, the auto racing company’s only Black driver, hasn’t apologized after the highly publicized investigation over a rope found in his… ‘Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX?’ Trump wrote on Twitter Monday morning. ‘That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!’ The incident last month at the Talladega SuperSpeedway involving the rope in his garage appeared to be the result of a misunderstanding and not an intentional effort to put a noose in his area. … In early June, NASCAR banned all Confederate flags from its events following nationwide racial injustice and police brutality protests.”
Trump-tied lobbyists cleaning up on coronavirus spending – AP: “Forty lobbyists with ties to President Donald Trump helped clients secure more than $10 billion in federal coronavirus aid, among them five former administration officials whose work potentially violates Trump’s own ethics policy, according to a report. The lobbyists identified Monday by the watchdog group Public Citizen either worked in the Trump executive branch, served on his campaign, were part of the committee that raised money for inaugural festivities or were part of his presidential transition. Many are donors to Trump’s campaigns, and some are prolific fundraisers for his reelection.”
WAIT. WHAT? BIDEN SAYS HE WILL ‘TRANSFORM’ AMERICA
Fox News: “Joe Biden tweeted Sunday night that if he gets elected, his administration “won’t just rebuild this nation — we’ll transform it,” raising speculation online about what exactly in the country will be transformed. The tweet comes after a politically charged Fourth of July weekend, as the country works to manage a new surge in COVID-19 cases and tries to emerge from weeks of tense protests that have resulted in a widening divide between Democrats and Republicans.”
Susan Rice makes her play for Veep – Politico: “Former White House national security adviser Susan Rice on Sunday defended her qualifications to become presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s running mate, arguing she had accumulated substantial campaign experience despite never having held elected office. The remarks from Rice, Biden’s former Obama administration colleague, came on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” after host Andrea Mitchell asked her how Americans should feel about potentially supporting a vice presidential candidate with no background in electoral politics who had not previously run a national campaign. ‘Well, Andrea, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, right?’ Rice replied. ‘Joe Biden needs to make the decision as to who he thinks will be his best running mate. And I will do my utmost, drawing on my experience of years in government, years of making the bureaucracy work.’”
Duckworth gains momentum – WaPo: “As Joe Biden pushes ahead with his search for a running mate, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) has quietly emerged as a serious contender, according to three people with knowledge of the selection process, one of several developing dynamics as the search enters its final weeks. Duckworth is a Purple Heart recipient and veteran of the Iraq War, the only finalist with military combat experience — and as a woman of Thai and Chinese descent, one of several candidates of color under consideration. While she has a lower profile than some rivals, she is being taken seriously by Biden’s team, according to the people with knowledge of the search, one of whom said she has lately received strong consideration.”
DEMS THINKING BIG
Politico: “Donald Trump’s collapsing poll numbers have Democrats thinking bigger than just winning the White House and seizing the Senate — they’re imagining a rout that extends all the way down the ballot. Intent on not repeating the mistakes of 2010 under then-President Barack Obama, the party is seizing on a once-in-a-decade opportunity to drive the redistricting process — and reverse the built-in advantage Republicans amassed over House district lines after the last census. From Pennsylvania to Texas to Minnesota, cash-flush Democrats are working to win back legislative chambers needed to take control of drawing congressional maps — or at least guarantee a seat at the table. If they succeed, it would correct an Obama-era down-ballot shellacking that handed Republicans House control and resulted in the loss of more than 900 Democratic legislative seats.”
Including a Southern surge – AP: “From Mississippi retiring its state flag to local governments removing Confederate statues from public spaces, a bipartisan push across the South is chipping away at reminders of the Civil War and Jim Crow segregation. Now, during a national reckoning on racism, Democratic Party leaders want those symbolic changes to become part of a fundamental shift at the ballot box. Many Southern electorates are getting younger, less white and more urban, and thus less likely to embrace President Donald Trump’s white identity politics. Southern Democrats are pairing a demographically diverse slate of candidates for state and congressional offices with presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden, a 77-year-old white man they believe can appeal to what remains perhaps the nation’s most culturally conservative region.”
Buuuuut, they’re still snakebit from 2016 – USA Today: “Democrats have heard this story before. Their standard-bearer builds a sizable lead in the race for president against Donald Trump. Everything seems pointed in their direction. Pundits talk about a Democratic victory like it’s inevitable. Then it doesn’t happen. Still licking their wounds four years after Hillary Clinton’s stinging loss, Democrats are grappling with heightened expectations that didn’t seem possible at the start of the year. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden cruised to a double-digit lead nationally weeks ago and has stayed there as President Trump takes a pounding over his handling of the coronavirus crisis, high unemployment and the fallout from nationwide protests over police brutality… On one hand, Democrats are gushing about their prospects: a chance for a sweeping victory, not just eking out a win, to deliver a clear repudiation of the Trump era and unseat Mitch McConnell as Senate majority leader. But they’re not able to shake off their painful memories of 2016…”
THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS: CORONA’S SUMMER SURGE
NYT: “Miami’s flashy nightclubs closed in March, but the parties have raged on in the waterfront manse tucked in the lush residential neighborhood of Belle Meade Island. Revelers arrive in sports cars and ride-shares several nights a week, say neighbors who have spied professional bouncers at the door and bought earplugs to try to sleep through the thumping dance beats. They are the sort of parties — drawing throngs of maskless strangers to rave until sunrise — that local health officials say have been a notable contributing factor to the soaring coronavirus infections in Florida, one of the most troubling infection spots in the country. Just how many parties have been linked to Covid-19 is unclear because Florida does not make public information about confirmed disease clusters. On Belle Meade Island, neighbors fear the large numbers of people going in and out of the house parties are precisely what public health officials have warned them about.”
Something’s in the air – NYT: “The coronavirus is finding new victims worldwide, in bars and restaurants, offices, markets and casinos, giving rise to frightening clusters of infection that increasingly confirm what many scientists have been saying for months: The virus lingers in the air indoors, infecting those nearby. If airborne transmission is a significant factor in the pandemic, especially in crowded spaces with poor ventilation, the consequences for containment will be significant. Masks may be needed indoors, even in socially-distant settings. Health care workers may need N95 masks that filter out even the smallest respiratory droplets as they care for coronavirus patients. Ventilation systems in schools, nursing homes, residences and businesses may need to minimize recirculating air and add powerful new filters.”
Trudeau shuns White House celebration citing pandemic – AP
Trump administration suggests executive orders on China, immigration, and more to be signed this week – Politico
SupCo upholds move to ban robocalls – The Hill
Pergram: How Trump’s signing of PPP reform bill highlights GOP woes – Fox News
Vandals raze statue honoring Frederick Douglass in New York – AP
R.I.P. Charlie Daniels – USA Today
Rapper, reality show spouse and Trump ally Kanye West says he’s running for president but has missed many filing deadlines already – Pitchfork
AUDIBLE: YOU CAN’T TEACH AN OLD DON NEW TRICKS
“He is who he is. People know who he is. You think he’s going to change?”– Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., speaking about President Trump to the New York Times.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“My oldest son is a retired police officer who served in two departments in New England. He relates that an inordinate amount of his police responses were for domestic issues. In the end after separating the parties, very often there was refusal to file charges. The current idea to have social workers accompany police on identified domestic issues, on its face makes a certain amount of sense, since they might be trained for those type of conflicts. My concern is when the a domestic party injures or kills the social worker, the accompanying police officer/s will be charged with dereliction and the criminal will be able to claim abuse on the part of the responders, and some of the members of the public will back the criminal. Hope this never happens but at my age and having grown up in Queens/Brooklyn, good luck.” — Lt. Col. Tom Winter USMC (Ret.), Steele, Mo.
[Ed. note; I confess that I had not thought about the additional legal exposure for police officers in such arrangements. My first impulse is that officers, especially with body cameras, will benefit from goodwill here. But I will think more on it. Certainly there is much good to be said about the idea of getting real when it comes to what cities ask of police officers. As a cub reporter, I started out covering cops and courts. It was thrilling as a teenager and gave me a good understanding of how politics and government really works. A night spent in magistrate court has more learning in it than any class at the Kennedy School of Government. One of the things that you quickly learn is how much of their time police officers and courts spend on domestic issues, which leads to another understanding very quickly: Substance abuse and/or mental illness is at the root of a huge share of our criminal justice system’s caseload. I don’t know what the percentage is, but I would bet a year’s pay that if you took out the cases where people being drunk or high was a major contributing factor, most departments would see massive declines in caseloads. Exceptional officers are good at diffusing these situations and maybe even bringing in social service resources when they are available. But such resources are seldom in great supply. So we send out police, who have at their disposal tools for fighting crime and combating violence, to be essentially social workers. That means the same individuals cycle in and out of jails and courts over and over again until somebody winds up dead or in prison, or both. Treatment for addiction and other mental health problems is expensive and has a track record that is mixed at best. But it may be the only way to let police do what they should be doing — keeping the peace — rather than being ad hoc social workers.]
“One tool for managing my inbox is that if I don’t read a “daily news” update the day-of, I delete it. Not so for Halftime Report! Just getting to Tuesday’s. SUPCO? Is that a thing now? I thought it was SCOTUS? Is this some newfangled designed-to-save-a-character-on-twitter tomfoolery?” — Mary Jean Duran, Lafayette, Calif.
[Ed. note: We do aim to have some shelf life, so that is quite pleasing to hear, Ms. Duran. As for how we refer to the Supreme Court in headlines, it is true that we shun the “SCOTUS” acronym. We do so mainly because it relies on an abbreviation of a phrase not in normal use. I never, except for in legal filings, hear or see anyone use “Supreme Court of the United States.” The acronym follows that other annoying abbreviation: POTUS. The keystrokes saved from “president” are hardly worth the jargony feel that these all-caps character blobs introduce into copy. (On that one we can also be glad that presidents tend to have short last names!) There are other attempts at the -OTUS shorthand that come from White House press abbreviations, including VPOTUS and FLOTUS. Blech. These are abbreviations when used by journalists that are not meant to help save words as much as they are intended to convey some kind of insider knowledge. I like “SupCo” or “Supremes” for Supreme Court because they sound more conversational to my ear and don’t require a Potomac decoder ring.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
LIGHTS, CAMERA… PELLETS
Fox News: “A hamster is getting the star treatment after its owner created real-life miniature movie sets from popular films for the furry pet to play in. Lisa Murray-Lang, 44, took up the pastime of creating movie-themed play places for her hamster, Spud, after U.K. went into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic and she lost her job. ‘I needed a way to stay busy and then my friend sent me a video of guinea pigs in a tiny art gallery,’ Murray-Lang told SWNS. ‘I thought: ‘That’s it, Spud has to go too!’’ And I got to work making my own version.’ With time on her hands, Murray-Lang turned to creating the small models using cardboard boxes and doll furniture to make the iconic spaces like Hogwarts from Harry Potter and Coronation Street from the U.K. soap opera, SWNS reported.
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The search for logic in anti-Americanism is fruitless. It is in the air the world breathes. Its roots are envy and self-loathing — by peoples who, yearning for modernity but having failed at it, find their one satisfaction in despising modernity’s great exemplar.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in Time magazine on Nov. 9, 2003.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Kim Anderson contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.