President by a technicality? No thanks

A seemingly inordinate number of my Facebook friends are showing their support for a third-party presidential candidate, Evan McMullin. (This is probably because, compared to the general population, an inordinate number of my friends, both on Facebook and in real life, are from Utah and/or Mormon.)

I have no intention of voting for Mr. McMullin. Words such as “Republican,” “conservative,” and “libertarian” do not describe my political views. That’s not to say that I entirely disagree with people or parties whose views can be described in those terms, but, generally speaking, that’s not just where my beliefs lie. So you can stop trying to convince me.

But, hey, it’s Facebook, and it’s an (incredibly bizarre) election year, and lots of people are talking about their preferred candidate — I’ve done it once or twice myself. Yet something else has started to happen that actually does alarm me (beyond the potential victory of Donald Trump, which, thankfully, seems increasingly unlikely). It is this theorizing that Mr. McMullin could actually become our president by winning Utah, which could potentially block both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton from securing the 270 electoral votes they need to win the election outright. In that case, the House of Representatives would choose the president — and some hope that the Republican majority in the House would prefer Mr. McMullin over their party’s own nominee. What began as a theory now seems to be a sincere hope among many of Mr. McMullin’s supporters.

I DO NOT WANT THIS TO HAPPEN. First of all, the idea that, ultimately, House Republicans would turn their back on their party’s own nominee is a stretch. I understand they don’t like Donald Trump any more than the rest of us. But he is, technically, their candidate.

Further, listen, I understand that this is how the election process works as laid out by the Twelfth Amendment. But that’s a constitutional procedure that I would rather not be invoked (kind of like how many of Mr. McMullin’s supporters probably wish the Sixteenth Amendment were never invoked). But I already view the electoral college as a limitation of American democracy. And this entire election itself seems to be straining our democratic system. Why would I want our democracy to be eroded even further, one, by having the House of Representatives choose whichever candidate it prefers and, two, for the candidate it chooses to be the one for whom a very small minority of Americans actually voted?

This is a very long way of saying that, while I don’t support Mr. McMullin, it’s OK if you do. But you should not hope that he becomes president by a technicality.

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