Hopefully by now you have heard about the so-called “Hamilton Electors,” a group of electoral college members that are trying to sway other members into denying Trump the presidency. Citing Alexander Hamilton’s explanation of the electoral college, they argue that the institution was created for just this very purpose—to protect us from having an unqualified demagogue that swayed the masses from actually obtaining the presidency. “We honor Alexander Hamilton’s vision,” their new website proclaims, “that the Electoral College should, when necessary, act as a Constitutional failsafe against those lacking the qualifications from becoming President. In 2016 we’re dedicated to putting political parties aside and putting America first.” I believe they are correct in their interpretation, at least in how Hamilton explained it in the Federalist Papers, and I love that they have invoked his name for their cause (which is all the more apropos given Trump’s ridiculous feud with the Broadway cast of Hamilton. Oh, and did you see that they just broke a box office record?). The movement seems to be slowly growing among the electors. Will it work? Doubtful, but at the very least it sure would be interesting to see them get this thing thrown into the House of Representatives and then to watch and see what House Republicans would do. I’ve seen commentators (like here in The Atlantic, and from the opposite end of the political spectrum, The American Conservative) argue that there is no way they can (or should) be able to get electors to switch their vote to Clinton because she won the popular vote. Yet while that is what some petitioners are going for, that is not what the Hamilton Electors are trying to do. They are very aware that the only hope is to convince Republican and Democrat electors to support a compromise Republican candidate. Of course this would send the country into even more chaos, but there is a viable scenario where this could happen (although it is more likely that they could get it thrown into the House by denying Trump the 270 he needs to win). There is historical precedence for “rogue electors,” as the mayor of Charlottesville, Va., Michael Signer, points out in his interesting and somewhat persuasive post for Vox, calling on us to “make the Electoral College great again.” Frustrated by the election results, many people have called for an end to the electoral college (and Trump supporters were doing so before the election), so wouldn’t it be ironic if in the end it became the thing that denied a Trump presidency? The chances are slim, especially because an elector revolt would likely create some major legal battles, but if this year has shown us anything, it is that anything is possible. Right? At the very least, a revolt of the electors might create the groundswell of public opinion needed to finally do away with the Electoral College altogether.
The Hamilton Electors have created a nice succinct video to explain and support their cause:
Oh, and then there is this guy: an elector from Texas has decided to resign his position rather than vote for Trump. Doing so, he insists, would “bring dishonor to God.”
Here is the best history news I have heard for a while: a deal is in the works that would result in the protection of about 90-95% of the Malvern Hill battlefield in Virginia. Hurrah! My beloved Richmond National Battlefield Park would then be able to ensure that the site (which is almost untouched by modern development) would stay that way. Anyone that has been to the site can testify to what a special place it is, so this is great news. I have a strong personal connection to it, as I have given many tours there , including one that helped inspire my book.
Great to see this National Park Service news too: As the overwhelming crowds at the Smithsonian‘s new museum reveal, there is a growing interest in the African American aspects of United States history. As a Birmingham, Alabama, native, I am proud to see that President Obama is set to turn areas of downtown into a “national monument.” These sites were central to the 1963 protests that played a pivotal role in pushing JFK into proposing the Civil Rights Act. Legislation to turn these areas into a National Park is now stalled in congressional committee, but in the meantime, the NPS treats “monuments,” and “parks” pretty much the same. I was a young man in college in the early 90s when the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute first opened a museum and began interpreting the sites, so it is really amazing and exciting to see the area on the verge of getting the NPS treatment.
Related to that is this story from the Washington Post about the growing interest in touring sites related to black history. The article focuses on a new company in Alexandria, Virginia called “Manumission Tours,” and I for one am really interested in taking one of their tours next time I am in the area. While these types of historical tours and sites are growing rapidly in number (that new Nat Turner trail can’t get here fast enough), and other historical sites are increasingly adding black history to their interpretations, I hope we do not begin to pigeonhole these places as “African American” sites. These are US history sites that are relevant to us all and tell the story of America. Period.
Lastly for today, don’t forget that TONIGHT is the premiere of the Drunk History episode featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda’s drunken telling of the Hamilton/Burr story. Set your DVRs!