Rethinking America

Mitt Romney for President in 2016?

A close-up examination of the bizarre and risky way to elect U.S. presidents.

Credit: Brian Talbot www.flickr.com

Takeaways


  • Neither Clinton or Trump motivate even 30% of the American public (and less than 50% of the voters).
  • Despite everything we’ve heard about elections, they have an inherent flaw in their design.
  • A bold decision by the Electoral College can make the vast majority of Americans happier than they are today.
  • If we add up the Democrat and Republican support, we would find Romney to be a Condorcet winner.

No U.S. President was ever elected before Thanksgiving and this year it will be no different. In fact, while the general election (which took place this year on November 8th) has always served as a guide to the Electoral College, there is nothing legally binding or surefire about the proceedings.

What this means is that anyone can still be elected.

Anyone?

Yes, without a single bit of legal wrangling, anyone who was born in the United States and is older than 35 can still be elected to be President of the United States.

So while Edward Snowden is excluded not because he is a whistleblowing dissident, but because he is too young (33), we still have a number of big names in the running, including Michelle Obama, Ross Perot, John McCain and (as I will suggest) our next President, Mitt Romney.

How can this be? How can Romney become President?

Well as we know, on December 19th, the President will be chosen by a group of 538 publicly elected officials known as “electors.”

Together these electors make up the Electoral College. And while they receive no salary for their service, they are saddled with an immense task: They alone decide who runs our country.

Besides the U.S, the only other democracies that indirectly elect a leader who combines the roles of head of state and head of government (as the U.S. president does) are:

  • Botswana
  • the Federated States of Micronesia
  • the Marshall Islands,
  • Nauru
  • South Africa
  • Suriname

 

And so, in just a few weeks they will be given a ballot with two names on it – Trump and Clinton. But nothing prevents them from writing in a third candidate of their choice.

Indeed, this has happened dozens of times in history, the most recent being in 2004, when one elector (voting anonymously) found both of the leading candidates to be unsatisfactory and so wrote in Senator John Edwards from North Carolina.

Had 269 other electors done the same thing, Edwards (not Bush or Kerry) would have been elected President. End of story.

The Electoral College solution

Ironically, this isn’t just Constitutional, it is also mathematical. Despite everything we’ve heard about elections, they have an inherent flaw in their design (more on this later).

And so a bold decision by the Electoral College has a chance of making the vast majority of Americans (both Democrats and Republicans) happier than they are today.

Indeed, the Founding Fathers appeared to intuitively understand that general elections often produce results that leave the majority of the people unhappy.

This peculiarity, called the voting paradox, was first put forth in 1785 by the French philosopher, Marquis de Condorcet. Condorcet noticed that elections often produce situations where the best candidates lose (or don’t even run).

The most common example of this would occur when two of, say, three, candidates are very similar. These two similar candidates would end up splitting the vote of their constituents and then a third candidate with opposing views ends up winning in a plurality.

Because of this, many candidates avoid running in certain similar situations. Apparently unaware of Condorcet’s work, the Founders still devised a solution for the problem – it is called the Electoral College.

Result shouldn’t be reversed

So as you hear other pundits cry out that the Electoral College should either hold steady and elect Trump or reverse the results of November 8th by handing the Presidency to Clinton, you should smell a rat.

Both solutions ignore the work of Condorcet (and the Founders) who, if he was still alive, would readily point to the numbers and show that, firstly, neither candidate (Clinton or Trump) motivate even 30% of the American public (and less than 50% of the voters).

Secondly, there is a good chance that the few votes each candidate received were based more on scorn for the other candidate than true support for them. That is hardly a happy scenario.

And, therefore, neither a Trump nor a Clinton victory could be considered a win for democracy.

Why Romney would be the ideal choice

Here’s where we insert Mitt Romney. And let me tell you, he is ideal. In a head to head comparison, nearly every democrat (like myself) would prefer Romney to Trump.

Further, a large number of Republicans would likely feel the same. And so, if we add up the Democrat and Republican support, we would find Romney to be an overwhelming Condorcet winner (yes that is an actual term).

So Romney would make the majority of Americans happy, and therefore provide a big win for democracy.

Further, he would have the benefit of seeing what has just transpired in America. He (like the rest of us) has heard the call of economic inequality and the decline of the American middle class that excited both Trump and Bernie Sanders candidacies.

He has seen the disenchatment with politics as usual and the overwhelming sense that Washington is corrupt.

As the founder of the original version of Obamacare in Massachusetts, he is acutely aware of the rise in costs for Obamacare.

Romney would absorb this information and, as a powerful business leader, he would act. Further, presiding over a Republican House and a Republican Senate (and a relieved democrat electorate), he would have a broad mandate to act aggressively.

Democrats and Republicans need to concede

But for this to happen Democrats need to concede. Not only do they need to concede that Hillary was the second most disliked presidential candidate in U.S. history (by a wide margin), but they also need to concede that, because of her unpopularity, she would likely stand little to no chance of winning in the Electoral College.

And, because us democrats have the most to lose in a Trump presidency, we need to be willing to make the ultimate compromise – we need to sacrifice our allegiance to party.

But the Trump Republicans would need to concede too or step out of the way. Trump is not only the most disliked candidate in U.S. history (also by a wide margin) but he has already begun to divide our country in ways that terrify large numbers of Americans. And few would question how unpopular he is even with his own party.

Make America happy again

More importantly, there have already been grumblings by members of the Electoral College about electing Trump. But what choice do they have?

They are hemmed in by the unprecedented unpopularity of Clinton. They, like us, would love a consensus third option to escape from this Condorcet nightmare.

Fortunately, the Founding Fathers, as usual, saw this coming, and they offered a ripcord – the Electoral College. Let the electors live up to their mandate and unite the nation by making the majority of Americans the happiest they can be today.

Condorcet would approve. James Madison would approve. But most importantly, the majority of Americans would approve.

That’s democracy.

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About James D'Angelo

James D' Angelo is an ex-NASA engineer who is now researching legislative transparency in the US Congress. The focus is on solving gridlock and partisanship.

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