Never Trump vs. Never Hillary. The 12th Amendment Will Save Us All (Part I)
Congratulations, America. We have narrowed down to our presumtive top two choices for President of the United States. And somehow, among the 219 million citizens eligible to vote, we have collectively decided that the absolute best choices for this office are 1) a fiscally reckless, narcissistic mysoginist and 2) a political elite under two separate federal investigations—Both have equally abysmal approval ratings. If either of them ends up the leader of this great nation, we only have ourselves to blame. And yet, many Americans are either desperately seeking for a viable alternative, or have abandoned hope in the promise of our nation entirely. As C.S. Lewis eloquently penned in Mere Christianity:
“He (the devil) always sends errors into the world in pairs—pairs of opposites...He relies on your extra dislike of one to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.”
Cheer up, rational and sensible citizens! There is still a path forward to place an honorable, integrous leader in the White House in November—and I'm not talking about a contested Republican Convention (which seems less and less likely as well as prudent). It is through a viable 3rd party pair of candidates (P and VP) and the 12th Amendment to the Constitution. I'll explain exactly how it could (and how I hope and believe it should) happen:
Here's part of the 12th Amendment text regarding how the President is chosen:
The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. (emphasis added)
We're talking about electoral college votes here, not popular vote. In other words, if no one candidate receives a majority of electoral college votes (which is 270) on November 8th, then the top THREE electoral candidates go into what is essentially a run-off in the House of Representatives. What this means is that a 3rd party candidate doesn't need to WIN the general election--that candidate simply needs to disrupt the general election enough to prevent a majority of electoral votes for the other two candidates. Let's divide this into two separate ideas: First is disrupting the electoral college majority, and second is going on and winning a majority vote in the House of Representatives. This post will focus on the first point, and we'll follow up with another post on the second.
In order to accomplish the first feat of preventing a majority of electoral votes a dark horse, third party candidate would need to be a strong enough candidate, with a suitable Vice Presidential candidate, to win enough states' electoral college votes to prevent either Trump or Hillary from obtaining 270 electoral votes. As it is, current polling projections expect it to be a close race in November. That means that a 3rd party needs only win roughly 30 electoral votes--and they need to pull states almost equally away from Trump and Hillary. That doesn't mean it will be easy-- the last time a 3rd party took more than 30 electoral votes was George Wallace with the American Independent Party in 1968. Who is the strongest, best-suited presidential duo to accomplish this? Mitt Romney and John Kasich, President and Vice President.
Mathematically, this is quite doable for a Romney/Kasich ticket. Obviously, there are thousands of mathematically possible combinations that lead to a disrupted electoral college—we will simply present one of the more plausible cases: During the primary season Kasich proved that he had overwhelming support in Ohio despite being a long-shot candidate. He would help the Romney/Kasich ticket take battleground Ohio, which alone is 18 electoral votes. Ohio went for Obama in 2012, so let's assume those are votes lost for the Democratic ticket. It is also safe to assume Romney/Kasich would easily win Utah, Idaho, and probably Wyoming based on the overwhelming Republican, Latter-Day Saint population paired with Trump's abysmal performance in those states in the Primaries-- that's an additional 13 electoral votes. Already at 31 votes, Romney/Kasich ticket is within the realm of disrupting an electoral college majority. Other viable states for winning a plurality of votes based on Primary outcomes are District of Columbia (3), Kansas (6), Oklahoma (7), Iowa (6), and possibly even Texas (a whopping 38). And let's not forget that Maine and Nebraska split electoral college votes (i.e. not winner-takes-all). They may pick up a small handful of votes from those states too. Romney/Kasich should have an easier time drawing red states away from Trump; so as long as Florida (29) and a couple other swing states don't ALL swing Democrat, that should do it.
Of course, there is the complication of vote-splitting, which is hard to predict—but so is the appeal of strong, sane, and rational 3rd party candidates when both major party candidates are so disliked. We know that many right-leaning states would would go 3rd party given the chance. The real question is whether some of the left-leaners are really that Ready for Hillary. Could more blue and swing states be won-over than red states compromised by a split? A Romney/Kasich duo, loosed from the shackles of the GOP, would be evaluated based on their own merits, principles, and policies rather than simply their association with the Republican Party at large and its often unpopular reputation—becoming increasingly more palatable to even the bluest of states as we draw nearer to November. Would a strong, viable 3rd party ticket like Romney/Kasich embolden Bernie Sanders to make a run himself and further dilute the electoral votes?
There remains a lot of uncertainty about this approach, but you can bet that it is being discussed and calculated. Think about it—Why has Mitt Romney not endorsed any candidate this election cycle? Why did Kasich unexpectedly drop out of the primaries after vowing to continue until the Republican Convention? Why is Speaker of the House Paul Ryan so reluctant to support Trump? Why are so many high-profile Republicans, including past Presidents, not attending the Republican Convention? The foundation is being laid for the emergence of a new party, and ultimately the demise of the GOP as we know it. And it's not enough for a new party to simply emerge and draw popular votes (see: Independant (Ross Perot) in 1992, Green Party in 2000, etc.). The new party (or reformed Republican party) must have enough clout among the prevailing Republican voters to draw a substantial number of electoral votes AND a significant majority of Republican House members with it. More to come on that topic in Part II...