Faithless Elector Watch: The Supreme Court Factor

If, as is widely expected, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that Florida’s statewide hand recount–which it’s already halted–may not resume, it seems likely that Al Gore will finally concede the election to George W. Bush. But would that end it? Of course not! Hell, Gore’s conceded this election once before–he can take it back again if need be! Three faithless Bush electors can throw the election to Gore when the Electoral College convenes Dec. 18 in 50 state capitals and the District of Columbia. What might their motivation be? Conceivably, anger at the arrogance of the U.S. Supreme Court. On Dec. 10, CNN aired a video clip of Mario Cuomo speculating along these lines:

[A]fter the Supreme Court would beat Gore, there’s no guarantee that three or four electors previously supposed to vote for Bush won’t turn around out of anger and confusion perhaps and say, we are going to go with Al Gore.

Then Gore adviser Warren Christopher hastily chimed in:

The vice president never said [he] would engage in that kind of activity, and I’m sure he won’t.

Then Wolf Blitzer asked, “Will he discourage Democrats from engaging it?” Christopher answered,

Yes, I think he’ll discourage it!

But (as “Faithless Elector Watch” buffs will have no difficulty discerning) Blitzer asked the wrong question! Yes, Gore will discourage Democrats from trying to flip Bush electors. Indeed, he already has. The real question is what Gore will do if, in defiance of his instructions, Bush electors flip anyway, either in response to Democratic urging or of their own accord. “I will not accept the support of any elector pledged to Gov. Bush,” Gore said on Nov. 21. But it isn’t really up to Gore to accept or reject electoral votes. When Scott Martelle of the Los Angeles Times pointed this out last week to Gore spokesman Chris Lehane, Lehane apparently conceded the point. Alas, Martelle relayed this crucial information in a paraphrase, not a quotation, leaving Lehane some deniability. And Martelle failed to ask the crucial follow-up question concerning the (not all that improbable) Jan. 6 scenario in which Gore would be called on to cast the deciding vote on whether to reject three faithless electors who can give him the presidency. If that were to occur, it really would be up to Gore to accept a faithless Bush elector’s support. To become president, Gore would have to violate his pledge. Chatterbox is guessing Gore would rather violate the pledge than pass up four years in the White House.

Miscellaneous Faithless Elector Tidbits: Citizens for True Democracy has streamlined its Web site, making it easier to contact electors by phone or e-mail. Hard to say whether this will improve the chances of flipping a Bush elector or annoy the Bush electors so much that the chance of them flipping will actually be reduced. Also, Chatterbox has just become aware that maverick lefty columnist Molly Ivins thinks trying to flip electors is “over the line.” Or at least she thought that on Nov. 21. Perhaps, unlike The Nation, which has endorsed elector flipping (click here to read its cover editorial) in part because it would help kill off the Electoral College for good, Ivins is focused on keeping the Electoral College. (The Electoral College is good for liberals because it lets big Democratic states give all their electors to the winner.) Or could it be that Ivins wants a Bush administration so she can sell a few more copies of her Bush takedown, Shrub?