25 February 2016

Debating whether Rush Limbaugh would be a better president than SpongeBob

On Wednesday I had a serious conversation with my eldest son, who will be voting in his first US election, about which of the top contenders – Cruz, Marco Rubio or Donald Trump – would make the least dangerous Republican nominee, and was forced to concede that it might be Trump. A year ago this would have been tantamount to debating whether Rush Limbaugh would be a better president than SpongeBob. A year ago you still could have said, “Don’t be silly. Donald Trump isn’t even a real person.”

Now we’ve reached the stage of counting delegates, things aren’t looking too hopeful for Cruz. Even the people who are meant to like him – evangelicals, ultraconservatives – appeared to prefer Trump in Nevada. But I’m not going to say “Write him off” again. Even if I had the confidence, my heart wouldn’t be in it [...]

On further reflection, I’m tempted to think that my rash election prediction simply wasn’t rash enough. So here’s a rasher one, ready for demolition at some point in the coming year, something I’ve always secretly hoped would happen in my lifetime: the outcome of the US election will be determined not by voters but by the electoral college.

The 538 designees who actually elect the president of the United States are not constitutionally bound to vote the way they’re pledged to. Those who defy this convention are known as “faithless electors”.

It doesn’t happen very often, but it happens: sometimes in protest, sometimes in error. In 2004 a Minnesota elector wrote the name of the vice-presidential candidate on a presidential ballot by mistake, granting John Edwards a single electoral vote. More than half the states now have laws designed to punish faithless electors, but slightly less than half don’t.

- Tim Dowling, Guardian, 24 February 2016
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