December 2016: A Republic, if You Can Keep it

"Ruins in Richmond" Damage to Richmo...
“Ruins in Richmond” Damage to Richmond, Virginia from the American Civil War. Albumen print. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


As I write this column, nearly 2.5 million people have signed a petition seeking to overturn the outcome of the November 8 national vote and make Hillary Clinton, rather than Donald Trump, the next president of the United States.

The petitioners are asking presidential electors, chosen by the voters of their states to support Trump, to instead “faithlessly” cast their votes for Clinton on December 19.

“Faithless” electors are nothing new. The only electoral vote ever won by a Libertarian presidential slate came from a Virginia elector who couldn’t bring himself to support Nixon in 1972 and instead cast his vote for John Hospers. But they’ve historically been few and far between and have never changed the outcome of a presidential election.

The American political system can stand a few faithless electors casting protest votes now and again. They’re a burp in that system, a noise in the machinery that lets us know it is actually running.

But the American political system cannot survive electors defecting en masse from the clear winner to the clear loser of a national election. That’s not a protest or an act of civil disobedience. It’s an  insurrection.

So let’s be clear on what the petitioners are asking for here:

They want a coup d’etat.

Their candidate lost an election, so they want  a mutinous electoral college to set aside the results and transfer executive power to the loser instead of to the winner.

Emerging from Philadelphia’s Independence Hall at the end  of the 1787 constitutional convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of political system the convention had chosen. “A republic,” replied Franklin, “if you can keep it.”

The pro-Clinton petitioners don’t want to keep it. They would gladly throw out nearly 230 years of imperfect but working method in favor of getting their way just this one time.

In 1860, the presidential election didn’t go the way the southern slave states wanted it to go. But even those states didn’t demand that the result be overturned; they merely chose to show themselves to the door, and only went to war when they found that door barred.

With their appeal for a presidential coup, the pro-Clinton petitioners are flirting with same outcome: Major riots and social dislocations at least, quite possibly outright civil war. Even as a radical libertarian who believes the United States is past, or at least approaching, its “best used by” date, I don’t relish the prospect.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Also published on Medium.

  • Nathan

    Tom, good discussion. This latest effort again shows that the so-called progressives (Tranzis) are unwilling to play by the rules. Is not the popular vote continuing to change, day by day, as recounts are done? As Ari Armstrong discusses in one of his latest postings, the progressives themselves are one of the “five enablers” that helped Trump win. If the Clintonistas are willing to risk open warfare and more for a unindited murdering corrupt and traitorous felon, what do they think Trump supporters will do if this were to happen, or even appear to happen? And these people have apparently forgotten that at least two electors for Clinton in Washington State have already announced, before the election, that they would not cast votes for her – do they really want to open that can of worms?
    I’ve not got a dog in the fight, but it seems to me that those who do are risking more than an injured or dead dog.

  • Rocketman

    Let’s start by calling “progressives” exactly what they really are. There Communists that are trying to hide that fact from the general public. The democratic party back in the 1960’s began by appeasing these radicals and just like the Wahabei religion in Saudi Arabia when you don’t come down hard on a radical sect then they grow and multiply. At this late date there are enough of them and their idiotic followers that the only realistic course is to have a number of states that are controlled by them succeed from the union. Let them have California, Oregon and Washington and form the people’s republic of California. Let them have New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Mass., New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine and let them call it the Eastern People’s Republic of the United States. I have just one demand. That if they take all of those states for their own then we libertarians have the right to succeed as well because we are more than a little bit tired of not being able to live our own lives the way we want to, which is our God given right. Let the Libertarians have the three states of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana and let us call it the Jefferson Republic. It will be a nation founded on the principals of Thomas Jefferson and it will shine when the other two new countries are sinking more and more into the stinking swamp of socialism..

    • Actually progressivism started in the Republican Party and has always been anti-communist. These days to find communists you have to look in the Republican think tanks like AEI.

      • Rocketman

        Actually, both parties in the early days of this republic had their “progressives”. Lincoln who was a racist against native Americans clearly envisioned who the enemy was. His attacks on the first amendment, his violations of the rest of the Constitution showed him to be in the “progressive” camp. However the origin of the “progressives” also had allies in the Democrat camp as well. Andrew Jackson showed himself to be one as well although not to the degree of Lincoln. The modern day “progressives” originally came from the European Fabian movement.

        • Rocketman

          Let me address the statement that “progressives” are anti-communists. If you are implying that “progressives” are fascists as opposed to communists then I believe you have some validity. But everything that the modern day Progressives believe in shows them to be right in line with the communist camp. Central planning, anti-second amendment show them to be hard core “statists”. Perhaps that is the word that I should have used in place of “communists”.