A View From Edinburgh

From author Christopher G. Nutall comes this observation* about the reaction to Donald Trump's election, specifically the reaction from those whose candidate lost.

Writes Nutall:

Shortly after it became clear that Donald Trump had won the 2016 election, a campaign started in an attempt to convince the Electoral College to declare Hillary Clinton the President instead...on the grounds that Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote. This attempt failed and rightly so – the victory condition for a US Presidential election is not winning the most individual votes, but winning in the majority of the states. The President must command a broad swath of support from all over the country, not just the highly populated states. Like him or hate him, Trump won by the rules.

Indeed, if the rules were different – if an election could be won by individual votes – both candidates would have campaigned differently. Neither of them did because they both knew the rules.


The point here is that the people involved – the political candidates as well as chess players and everything in-between - must have a shared understanding of the rules. If you go into a game of chess without that agreement, you're likely to run into arguments about legal moves or sensible tactics.


In chess, the rules exist to allow two players to share a game without disputes; in politics, electoral rules exist to determine who actually wins and why. They impose order on a chaotic system. Breaking the rules – either by sweeping the pieces off the board or trying to redefine the victory condition when you're losing – should be punished. Why? Because if one side shows no respect for the rules, and if there is no punishment, why should the other follow the rules? And if neither side is willing to follow the rules, we have chaos.

Indeed. When many of Hillary's supporters tried to get around the rules inveighing the electors to ignore them and declare their candidate the winner, they were in effect saying to everyone “If you don't change the rules so I win, I'm gonna hold my breath 'til my face turns blue!” They also showed themselves to have little understanding about our electoral process, ignoring the fact that it is the states that determine the winner, not the individual voters.

The Framers of the Constitution understood the dangers of the tyranny of the majority and the tyranny of the minority which is why they designed Congress to have both a population-proportional chamber – the House of Representatives – and an equal-state chamber – the Senate. The two balanced each other so it was difficult for either a tyranny of the majority or the minority. It was also why they created the Electoral College and made the same arrangement – so that the large population states could not bully the smaller population states and force them into situations that was to the detriment of their citizens. Yet it it appears that's just what the folks complaining about Hillary's election loss want and are willing to abandon the rules to get their way.

I doubt any of them have thought what the outcome would be if they did get their way by throwing out the rules they don't like – a Second American Civil War. Of course if there was such a war, I have no doubt they would think that they would be the victors despite the fact that most of their opponents are better armed and that it is unlikely that most of the states themselves would go along with such an usurpation of the Constitution.

*This was in the afterword of his novel The Long Road.