Robert W. Glover, University of Maine
Many of us, from all parties and political leanings, are dissatisfied with the outcome of Tuesday’s election and are struggling with what to do next. Earlier this week, I had someone email me seeking advice on the best way to influence/sway presidential electors and attempt to change the outcome in the electoral college. This is my response. I share it here as I think it offers helpful advice both for those seeking to change the outcome in the electoral college, and those thinking more generally about how to move forward constructively:
Thanks for your message and I really appreciate your commitment to working on behalf of your political ideals and motivating others to do the same. Here’s my advice—and please forgive me for being so blunt and categorical, but at times like this I think it’s necessary. Please also forgive me for addressing this at length, but what we should be doing now is not an easy question to answer quickly.
Basically, attempting to sway the electors and change the outcome in the electoral college is a waste of time and energy. It’s extremely unlikely that enough electors could be swayed to change the outcome. The electors are chosen largely due to loyalty and service to their respective parties. They are the least likely people in the country to break ranks with their party.
Furthermore, you would have to do so in numbers that you simply wouldn’t be able to get (21 to cast their vote for someone other than Trump, very doubtful that this would be Hillary, which would then kick the election to the House of Representatives where the Republicans have a majority anyway).
Beyond this, Trump’s election is a legitimate outcome of our process. One of the biggest fears of those who did not support Trump was that he would refuse to accept a legitimate electoral outcome and throw our system into turmoil. I don’t know that the response to his electoral victory is to replicate that behavior that had his opponents so fearful.
In short, I think it’s a dead-end. While that may be painful to hear, it’s the reality of the system. Here are some ways that I think that those concerned about influencing the trajectory of this election should be utilizing their energy. And feel free to share these with others.
1) Contact the Senators from your state about Trump’s cabinet appointees.
Cabinet appointments must go through the Senate. Everything suggests that Trump is going to reward loyalty and appoint people to his cabinet of questionable reputation and expertise. Senators of every ideological persuasion should work to hold Trump accountable on this front. Some or many of the individuals suggested so far are patently unqualified. In Maine, we have two very reasonable Senators who could be prominent voices in ensuring that whoever is chosen is qualified, capable and deserving. We should be contacting them:
2) Contact the legislators from your state about Trump’s “First 100 Days” policy agenda.
Trump’s first 100 days in office will be when he puts forward his policy agenda and attempts to move it through Congress. It is a quite extreme set of policy priorities. We should be contacting the legislators that represent us in the House and Senate to let them know that how their constituents feel about these proposed policies. In addition to the Senators above, we can contact Maine’s two house reps. Probably best to start with the rep. from your district, and for whom you are a constituent.
Representative Bruce Poliquin Contact Info (2nd Congressional District)
Representative Chellie Pingree Contact Info (1st Congressional District)
3) Work within the party structure to change the types of candidates we put forward and the types of policies we pursue.
We know pretty well that millennials tend not to support many of the elements of the Trump agenda (particularly when it comes to social issues, LGBT rights, reproductive rights, immigration, etc.). We also know that millennials were very mixed when it came to supporting Hillary Clinton. We’re facing generational political change in this country, but we’ll only see it actually have concrete impacts if young people become more involved with their parties (and that’s both parties, I think). There are a number of ways to do this, but one way might be greater involvement with local party committees, or local chapters of the “Young Democrats” or “Young Republicans:”
Outside of Maine, a simple google search should be able to give one more information about the local structures with which one can get involved.
4) Consider the public leadership roles you want to pursue/support.
While we are all focused on what is happening at the national level, there are over 500,000 elected offices in the United States, most at the local and state level, not to mention numerous committees, boards, and other forms of public leadership. Though these forms of public service might not attract as much attention, they are vital and important (and research suggests that young people are increasingly reluctant to take on these roles). Many of the most consequential decisions that impact us locally are made within these settings. In addition, part of building a “bench” of qualified candidates for upper-level offices is finding qualified, passionate, energetic candidates to fill these positions.
Consider which public leadership roles you could envision yourself playing (if any–this is a commitment and may not be for everyone). If holding office or taking on a leadership role is not for you, consider working to support organizations that empower and train people (particularly those not traditionally represented in positions of power) to run and win their races–for instance, Emerge Maine and the Maine AFL-CIO.
5) Work on behalf of the organizations that will be advocating and supporting communities negatively affected by a Trump/Pence presidency.
Think about the people who will be negatively impacted by this electoral outcome and are fearful right now: women, religious minorities, LGBTQ communities, people of color, immigrant and refugee communities, poor people, etc. We all have limited time and energy—but we should be thinking about the groups and organizations that represent these communities and how we want to get involved and support them. Start in the community close to you, where you can likely have the most impact.
6) Work to support one another—figure out ways to make those who are truly fearful right now feel safe, included, and loved.
This is perhaps the most important thing that we can all do on an interpersonal level. People need space to process this outcome, but they also need to know who is on their side and where (and among whom) they are safe. There are some interesting actions people are undertaking a broader societal level (see this for instance and also this criticism) but the starting point for every one of us should be to do this within our own circles of friends and loved ones.
I wish I had better news on the “swaying the electors” front. I wish that there was some quick fix where we could work hard and change what the next four years are going to look like. But it’s not that simple and the strategies that we all must undertake in the face of Tuesday’s election are not that short-term.
A Trump presidency is something we must now all accept and beating back those things we don’t agree with will take hard work across multiple fronts. This is a non-comprehensive list and I have no doubt that creative, hard-working people from Maine and beyond will devise all sorts of strategies to work together in the face of Tuesday’s results.
NOTE: edited to reflect more great suggestions from readers.