- by theguardian
- 21 Sep 2023
In an ordinary time, under ordinary political conditions, the specter of another Trump presidency would be strictly the stuff of nightmares. The former president is facing 40 criminal charges for his mishandling of classified documents, and will have to interrupt his campaign next summer to defend himself in court. Those charges are apart from the 34 felony counts of falsifying business records he faces in New York. And then there's the rape defamation lawsuit, which will begin in January, and which he will almost certainly lose.
The American people, however, can be awfully forgiving. In current polling, Joe Biden and Donald Trump are tied nationally; no Republican nominee has emerged to challenge Trump. But, as we have been learning pretty much continuously since 2000, the will of the majority of the American people no longer matters all that much in who is running their country.
The abstruse and elaborate mechanisms of the US constitution relating to elections, which used to be matters for historical curiosity, have become more and more relevant every year. In 2024, there is very much a way for Donald Trump to lose the popular vote, lose the electoral college, lose all his legal cases and still end up president of the United States in an entirely legal manner. It's called a contingent election.
A contingent election is the process put in place to deal with the eventuality in which no presidential candidate reaches the threshold of 270 votes in the electoral college. In the early days of the American republic, when the duopoly of the two-party system was neither desired nor expected, this process was essential.
There have been two contingent elections in US history. The first was in 1825. The year before, Andrew Jackson, the man from the $20 bill, had won the plurality of votes and the plurality of electoral college votes as well, but after extensive, elaborate negotiations, John Quincy Adams took the presidency mostly by offering Henry Clay, who had come third in the election, secretary of state. Jackson, though shocked, conceded gracefully. He knew his time would come. His supporters used the taint of Adams's "corrupt bargain" with Clay to ensure Jackson's victory in 1828.
Jackson was a patriot. He put the country's interests ahead of his own, to preserve the young republic. The United States is older now, and the notion of leaders who would put the interests of the country ahead of themselves and their party is archaic. The 2022 midterms were unprecedented in terms of how many election deniers were appointed to serious office.
"Many 2020 election deniers and skeptics ran for office in the 2022 midterm elections, with 229 candidates winning their elections," a University of California report found. "A total of 40 states elected a 2020 election denier or skeptic to various positions, from governor to secretary of state to attorney general to congress."
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