The Electoral College graduates with honors

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On the roster: The Electoral College graduates with honors – It’s V-day – Bipartisan stimulus breaks out liability, state aid – Left wingers, Dem Senate grumble on Biden process – Double-cross hot buns

One would think that of all days, this would be the one when the many foes of the Electoral College would ease up. The much-maligned remnant of the Framers’ republican system is, on this very day, saving our collective bacon.

After a 40-day flood of demagoguery, wildly misleading claims and intense political pressure by a defeated chief executive seeking to cling to power, the states are efficiently fulfilling their constitutional duty to affirm the results of their elections.

President Trump tried by legal legerdemain, bullying and all manner of wheedling to get officials in four states to reverse the results of this years’ election and leave him in power. But he failed. And one of the key reasons he failed was the Electoral College.

Let’s imagine for a moment a future election in which we don’t have the Electoral College but do have an incumbent who refuses to acknowledge the results.

Then, like now, assume that the air is thick with threats of violence and civil strife spills into the streets. Let’s further assume that the overwhelming majority of the incumbent’s supporters back him in his effort to hold power.

It doesn’t matter if this future president is a Republican, a Democrat or Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, only that he or she is determined to undo the legitimate result and, the most important part of our thought experiment, there is no Electoral College.

What would be different for President Camacho than it is for Trump is that Camacho would only need to defeat one election result, not a half dozen.

Forget the fickle, situational, partisan interpretations about which side would do better under a national popular vote system. It’s irrelevant because if you change the rules of the game, you change the behavior of the participants. Anybody who observed Trump’s improved numbers with non-white males, including in urban areas, would know better than to assume fixity in popular vote attitudes.

We know that there are those who sincerely believe that electing a president of the United States without a popular vote majority is undemocratic and, therefore, bad. We have thoughts on this, too. Mostly it relates to federalism and the necessity of maintaining the state as the principal political unit of the nation as well as the importance of forcing candidates to seek diverse geographical coalitions.

But let’s leave that aside for now. Let’s assume, even, that there was something morally superior about counting votes nationally instead of by state. That’s not how we see it, but even if it were so, that consideration would not overcome the practical concerns.

Who would administer this national election? Presumably the national government. We don’t want to put words in the mouths of national popular vote supporters, but we can’t imagine any other way to do it.

So that assumes a constitutional amendment or some other mechanism that allows the federal government to take that power away from the states. Now imagine election night for President Camacho. Rather than bothering with officials in 10 or 12 swing states, he can focus in on these new federal elections officials.

Did he appoint them? Are they appointed on a partisan basis for longer terms? To whom do they report? In what ways are they subject to pressure? We know Congress is the ultimate arbiter of presidential elections, but the members of the House and Senate sit as judges, not finders of fact.

It took political courage for Republican elected officials in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona to refuse the demands of a president of their own party — and the irate supporters he has been goading daily. But other elected officials in positions of responsibility have shown an enthusiastic willingness to help Trump in his attempted caper.

What if a future president finds a way to stack the federal elections agency with toadys and lickspittles who will gladly help him or her along? What if a future president simply fires everyone who won’t do what he or she says?

Keeping elections out of the hands of the federal government was a top priority for Framers who were looking for ways to divide power and preclude corruption. If these past 40 days have taught us anything it should be that there is a great deal of wiggle room for self-interested actors inside the administration of elections. Putting all that power in one place looked like a bad idea in the 1780s just as it does today.

What about letting the states each count the votes and then certify their totals to some federal elections proctor? Unlike the Electoral College which limits the number of votes over which a state has control, that system would create terrible incentives for misconduct.

The Texas lawsuit the Supreme Court just struck down on Friday basically argued that because Texas’ voters didn’t get what they wanted from the election, the Supreme Court should throw out the results in other states.

How far would the leap from that bit of nationalistic claptrap be to a state official deciding that because some other state had obviously rigged its voting, he or she would award a bajillion extra votes for President Camacho to even things out. At the very least, the value of localized election fraud would increase dramatically.

There are complaints in many corners today about how absolutely antediluvian it is to have 538 individuals gathering to submit their ballots. How absurd to wait weeks for results! How outdated to have so many steps in a simple process.

We get it. In a culture habituated to easy answers and instant results, this seems like a grind. But that’s not it at all.

In fact, Americans are today enjoying the benefits of our inheritance from wise founders. Our complex, siloed structure not only provides a check on the election of tyrants, it makes stealing elections a heckuva lot harder too.

“To look for a continuation of harmony between a number of independent, unconnected sovereignties in the same neighborhood, would be to disregard the uniform course of human events, and to set at defiance the accumulated experience of ages.” – Alexander Hamilton, discussing the potential dangers of disagreements between states, Federalist No. 6

The Writer’s Almanac: “It’s the birthday of Shirley Jackson [1916 -1965], born in San Francisco. Her short story ‘The Lottery’ begins innocently… As the story progresses, the reader finds that this ‘lottery’ is a yearly ritual in which townspeople select one of their number and stone him or her to death, believing that the sacrifice ensures a bountiful harvest. The story appeared in The New Yorker in June 1948, and many readers were horrified. They canceled their subscriptions and sent in angry letters, which the magazine forwarded on to Jackson. … Her best-known novel is The Haunting of Hill House (1959), a quintessential haunted house tale, but she also wrote light, humorous tales of her family life in books like Life Among the Savages (1953)… She raised four children and only wrote after her household work was done. She said: ‘I can’t persuade myself that writing is honest work. It’s great fun and I love it. For one thing, it’s the only way I can get to sit down.’”

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AP: “The largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history got underway Monday as health workers in select hospitals rolled up their sleeves for shots to protect them from COVID-19 and start beating back the pandemic — a day of optimism even as the nation’s death toll neared 300,000. … Shipments of precious frozen vials of vaccine made by Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech began arriving at hospitals around the country Monday. … For health care workers who, along with nursing home residents, will be first in line for vaccination, hope is tempered by grief and the sheer exhaustion of months spent battling a coronavirus that still is surging in the U.S. and around the world. … Packed in dry ice to stay at ultra-frozen temperatures, the first of nearly 3 million doses being shipped in staggered batches this week made their way by truck and by plane around the country Sunday from Pfizer’s Kalamazoo, Michigan, factory.”

Trump delays plan for White House staff to be vaccinated – NYT: “President Trump said on Sunday night that he would delay a plan for senior White House staff members to receive the coronavirus vaccine in the coming days, hours after The New York Times reported that the administration was planning to rapidly distribute the vaccine to its staff at a time when the first doses are generally being reserved for high-risk health care workers. Mr. Trump, who tested positive for the coronavirus in October and recovered after being hospitalized, also implied that he would get the vaccine himself at some point in the future, but said he had no immediate plans to do so. ‘People working in the White House should receive the vaccine somewhat later in the program, unless specifically necessary,’ Mr. Trump tweeted, hours after a National Security Council spokesman had defended the plan.”

Roll Call: “The group of Senate and House lawmakers negotiating a $908 billion COVID-19 relief package has reached agreement on business liability waivers and state and local government aid provisions, but those will be broken into a separate bill, according to a source familiar with the plan. The larger $748 billion piece, which includes unemployment insurance, small-business relief, money for education, vaccine distribution and more, plus the separate bill with $160 billion for state and local governments and the liability protections, will be introduced Monday.”

Federal funding bill expected Tuesday – Politico: “Congressional negotiators are closing in on a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending deal to ward off a government shutdown on Friday at midnight, crossing one major priority off the legislative agenda and adding further urgency around the inclusion of coronavirus aid in a year-end package. Lawmakers could announce an omnibus compromise as soon as Monday, with legislative text expected Tuesday, three sources confirmed to POLITICO. Top appropriators and staff worked through the weekend to resolve outstanding issues. Just a ‘few small items’ with the fiscal 2021 funding package remain open, according to one GOP aide.”

WaPo: “President-elect Joe Biden‘s decision to fill his White House and Cabinet with longtime colleagues has led to frustration from liberals, civil rights leaders and younger activists, who worry he’s relegating racial minorities to lower-status jobs while leaning on Obama-era appointees for key positions. Biden’s Cabinet process has also discomforted some allies on the Hill, who say senators from his own party have not been sufficiently consulted about picks, even though Biden will need influential Senate Democrats to help steer nominees through the confirmation gauntlet. Senior Democratic senators have gotten little or no advance warning about the president-elect’s selections, according to a half-dozen senior congressional officials and others familiar with the process. … Dissatisfaction from the party’s grass roots, and lawmakers not made aware of the president-elect’s decisions, could hobble Biden’s ability to quickly move his nominees into position so he can execute on pressing priorities like the coronavirus pandemic response.”

Biden said to weigh Samantha Power for international aid agency – Axios: “Joe Biden is considering Samantha Power to head the United States Agency for International Development, which would place a high-profile figure atop foreign aid and coronavirus relief efforts, people familiar with the matter tell Axios. Installing Power — a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about genocide — would signal the Biden administration plans to revitalize foreign assistance and use it as an instrument of soft power and to achieve humanitarian goals. Power was a prominent member of President Obama‘s cabinet and recently wrote a Foreign Affairs article about the president-elect headlined: ‘The Can-Do Power: America’s Advantage and Biden’s Chance.’”

Atlanta Mayor refused Biden cabinet post – AJC: “President-elect Joe Biden offered Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms a position in his Cabinet, but she did not accept it, according to a statement from Rashad Taylor, Bottoms’ senior adviser. ‘Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was honored to have been offered a role in the Cabinet, which she respectfully declined,’ Taylor said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Taylor declined to say what position was offered. ‘The Mayor’s focus remains on the people of Atlanta and the great state of Georgia,’ Taylor said. ‘Out of respect for the process, and the other candidates under consideration, no additional comment will be forthcoming on this matter at this time.’”

AJC: “The campaign schedule for the dueling U.S. Senate candidates is about to get more hectic with the start of the three-week early voting period on Monday. Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock launched separate bus tours over the weekend, while U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue readied for a round of new events to capitalize on the early-voting period ahead of the Jan. 5 runoffs for control of the U.S. Senate. With the election coinciding with holiday season, both parties have put an extra emphasis on voting early. Warnock’s campaign punctuated that effort by releasing a 30-second ad Monday that urges Georgians to add ‘vote’ to their busy to-do lists. … Democrats built an edge in early-voting this year, dominating the GOP with mail-in votes. Republicans are trying to erase that advantage ahead of the runoffs, aggressively urging supporters to cast absentee ballots, though that will be no easy sell for many.”

GOP experiments with spam fundraising to try to catch Dems – Politico: “Top Republicans are using the expensive Georgia Senate runoffs to sell their party on a deeper investment in digital fundraising, pointing to the surge in donations for next month’s races in Georgia as an example of what GOP candidates could reap in 2022 and beyond — if they put the right infrastructure in place early. … The effort is introducing some senators to online fundraising tactics that have been popular among Democrats for years but are not nearly as prevalent among Republicans. Thirty-one Republicans, including 17 who are up for reelection in 2022, are tapping into their donor lists in ‘tandem’ email efforts benefiting themselves and the Georgia candidates, raising nearly $10 million online, according to Republicans briefed on the program. The NRSC is encouraging candidates to send asks for money up to three times a week, according to one Republican consultant — a familiar rate on high-metabolism Democratic email lists…”

Runoff tests key premise of Dems’ Southern strategy – FiveThirtyEight: “For most of the past four years, the Midwest occupied the leading spot on the marquee of U.S. electoral politics. … But now a new star has elbowed out the Midwest for top billing: the South. … Georgia, though, is a much different place than the Midwest. That’s obvious, of course, but those differences lead to important distinctions in what we can expect from campaigns there. What makes Georgia electorally unlike most swing states is its large Black population. About 33 percent of Georgians are Black, a much higher share than the nation overall (13 percent) and higher than all but two other states (Mississippi and Louisiana). To be more precise, what’s really different about Georgia’s electoral politics is that Democrats there are disproportionately Black. Like in most states, Republican voters in Georgia are overwhelmingly white.”

Behind the costly Trump/Kemp feud – WaPo: “The first major fissure in the relationship between President Trump and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp came a year ago, when Kemp paid Trump a clandestine visit in the White House residence. … The strain between the two Republicans has now boiled over into a full-blown feud in the aftermath of Trump’s 2020 electoral defeat, as the president has fixated on his loss in Georgia as a humiliation that he blames in large part on Kemp. Trump lost the solidly Republican state by approximately 12,000 votes and is furious with Kemp for not heeding his calls to question the integrity of the state’s election results. … This portrait of Trump’s combustible relationship with Kemp … is the result of interviews with 15 allies and advisers to both men, as well as Republican political operatives, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to share candid details.”

Loeffler campaign denounces white supremacist after photo-op – AP: “The campaign of Georgia Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler is disavowing a photo circulating on social media of her posing with a longtime white supremacist at a recent campaign event, with less than a month to go until the runoff elections that will determine the balance of the U.S. Senate. Loeffler did not know who Chester Doles was when she took a picture with him, her campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson said in a statement to The Associated Press on Sunday. The picture was taken Friday at a campaign event in Dawsonville, Georgia. ‘Kelly had no idea who that was, and if she had she would have kicked him out immediately because we condemn in the most vociferous terms everything that he stands for,’ Lawson said.”

Politico: “The president’s recent discussions with those around him reveal that he sees his White House comeback deliberations as a way to earn the commodity he needs most after leaving office: attention. The president has spent days calling a dozen or more allies to ask what they think he needs to do over the next two years to ‘stay part of the conversation,’ according to two people, including one who spoke to the president. And while Trump has told allies he plans to run for president again, he has also indicated he could back out in two years if he determines he’ll have a tough time winning, said three people familiar with the discussions. Essentially, at this point, Trump appears just as interested in people talking about a Trump 2024 campaign as he is in actually launching a real campaign, even if he may ultimately turn his flirtation into a serious bid…”

Fox Poll: 37 percent back Trump 2024 run  Fox News: “Nearly four in 10 voters, 37 percent, would like Trump to run for president again in 2024. That includes 79 percent of Trump voters and 71 percent of Republicans, as well as 27 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats.”

Andy McCarthy: Stipulated – National Review: “After all that’s been said over the last six weeks, this fleeting passage near the start of [a Wisconsin federal district court’s] workmanlike, 23-page [rejection of another Trump campaign lawsuit] should take our breath away: ‘…On the morning of the hearing, the parties reached agreement on a stipulated set of facts and then presented arguments to the Court.’ …innumerable times the president and his surrogates have asserted that they were being systematically prevented from proving massive fraud and illegality. The courts and state officials, we’ve been told, have invoked legal technicalities, such as the supposed lack of standing to sue, in order to stop the campaign from calling witnesses and introducing voluminous documentary evidence. … Despite telling the country for weeks that this was the most rigged election in history, the campaign didn’t think it was worth calling a single witness. Despite having the opportunity of a hearing before a Trump appointee who was willing to give the campaign ample opportunity to prove its case, the campaign said, ‘Never mind.’”

Fox News: “Hunter Biden did not report ‘approximately $400,000’ in income he collected from his position on the board of Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings when he joined in 2014, according to an attorney for his firm who noted that his tax returns needed to be amended, a new email obtained by Fox News shows. The memo dated Jan. 16, 2017, one of multiple new emails obtained by Fox News, detailed Hunter Biden’s income for the years 2013 through 2015, for tax purposes. Biden, last week, confirmed that he was under federal investigation for his ‘tax affairs.’ The email, which was first reported by NBC News, was sent to Hunter from Eric Scherwin, who, at the time, served as president of Rosemont Seneca. Fox News could not verify its authenticity; neither Scherwin nor Biden attorney George Mesires immediately responded to Fox News’ requests for comment.”

Russians score hack attack against government email accounts – Reuters

Cuomo denies claim of sexual harassment from former staffer – NYT

Only a third of Americans believe they are better off than four years ago – Fox News

Kraushaar: Educational extremism shapes Virginia governor race – National Journal

“You’re right, there are very red districts, there are very blue districts. But if you just want to play the game of throwing red meat to your respective base, I have to ask, are you really thinking about the country? Our constituents send us here, but at the same time, what we do affects the whole country.” – Rep. Antonio Delgado, D-N.Y., talking to the Washington Post.

“As my Irish ancestors tell it [King Edward VIII] was sterile and therefore couldn’t produce and heir to the throne, so they trumped up the story [about his love for Wallis Warfield Simpson], just thought I would let you in on a little gossip. – Dick Cronin, Brookfield, Conn.

[Ed. note: As one with Irish ancestors, I know better than to lightly dismiss their tellings. However, by the time of his abdication, he had already shown a total incapacity for leadership and public service. His efforts to strongarm parliament into accepting Simpson triggered the crisis — the result of which served both the man and nation far better. Now, he certainly could have been both unfit and sterile. The couple never had any children, so there may be something to it. Would it be too mean of me to be glad for it?]

“While I agree with the basic premise of your disemboweling Republicans for taking every possible action to keep President Trump in office another 4 years, I feel you were a bit too harsh with many unnecessary potshots. It’s not just about the votes and how they were solicited in those key battleground states, it’s about President Elect Biden and how the media never vetted him. Instead, they kept their guns aimed at President Trump as they have now for 4+ years and left Biden alone in his basement. After hearing ‘Russia collusion’ at every turn since the candidacy of Trump was announced, leading to the 2 year Mueller investigation coming up empty, it still rings loud in the ears of many Trump fans. The demonstrations and violence that was the response by so many of the Hillary Clinton supporters shouting ‘not my president’ is still burned into their memories. The unchecked anarchy in many democrat-run cities in response to the criminal conduct of a few police officers rails against those that liked the ‘law and order’ Trump. The lack of prosecution of those in President Obama’s administration who spied and lied in their attempt to undermine Trump’s presidency remains a sore point. The ‘scandals’ of Hunter Biden and others of the Biden family were newsworthy but those stories were buried so deep they never got a breath of air. Did VP Joe Biden participate or benefit from that influence peddling? That is another question that will likely not be answered to the satisfaction of many in the GOP. I think that the phrase ‘plausible deniability’ will be frequently used both by the Biden and Trump camps. Would it have made a difference in the results? That we will never know but many Trump loyalists will forever believe it should have.” – Jim Burrow, North Richland Hills, Texas

[Ed. note: Mr. Burrow, if you’re using media bias as a rationale for trying to steal an election it may be time to take a few deep breaths. I understand that you’re not advocating stealing elections, but you do seem to be saying that the conduct is somehow understandable because of what the other side did to yours. What do you think rioters and looters say? They say their behavior is merited by the corruption of the system. You then borrow that excuse and blame the rioters behavior for others’ misdeeds. It’s time for Republicans who know the difference between campaigns and elections to be honest with these voters.]

“I wonder if you’re missing some large-scale misdirection here.  I believe Sen. Lindsey Graham spoke plainly when he said (paraphrasing) that ‘Republicans will never win another election, if we don’t get states to roll back mail-in voting.’ (Trump himself repeated that sentiment, recently.) As Jared Kushner famously explained his father-in-law: ‘Controversy elevates message.’ I suspect the real goal of all the normally level-headed Republicans you listed — including Sen. Graham and others — is to fan the flames of controversy as much as possible, and thus exert some lasting pressure on state legislatures to curb or roll-back their adoption of no-excuse-absentee or universal-mail-in voting.” – Shawn A. Van Ness, Browns Point, Wash.

[Ed. note: But it’s… just not true. Assuming that reckless conduct like this was somehow permissible to “elevate message,” and that Trump & Co. are really just pushing future reform against alleged Democratic chicanery, your claim still wouldn’t hold up. There’s no correlation between access to mail-in votes and Trump’s 2020 performance. Swing states Florida, Ohio, Iowa and North Carolina all had permissive rules for vote-by-mail this year, but Trump won all four decisively. And given the closeness of the race in other states, one wonders how much better Trump would have done if he would have encouraged his voters to use the mail instead of spending months trying to build the rationale for his doomed effort to overturn the results. I’m no fan personally of either early voting or vote-by-mail. I believe we need a federal Election Day holiday to encourage people to exercise their franchise together. But that doesn’t mean one party or another is advantaged or disadvantaged under vote-by-mail. You could argue that Democrats always have a better shot at fraud because their voters tend to be clustered in denser areas and the criminal enterprise could produce more fraud per precinct. But then again, the most recent incident of absentee-ballot fraud affecting the outcome of an election was by Republicans in a North Carolina congressional race.  As the GOP’s down-ballot performance this year proves, this was an eminently winnable race for Trump. He just couldn’t get it done.]

“Who is the only president that won both the Nobel Peace Prize and the Congressional Medal of Honor?” – Thomas Staffa, Falcon Heights, Minn.

[Ed. note: But which came first? It is true that Teddy Roosevelt was awarded the Medal of Honor, but a little context is valuable here. The honor came 103 years after his much ballyhooed ride up San Juan Hill. Just before leaving office in 2001, Bill Clinton made the presentation to the Roosevelt family. But that was only after years of politicians fighting the Army, which had opposed the award at the time of the Spanish-American War and after the law was changed in 1996 to lift the time limits on decorations. I won’t belabor TR’s relentless self-promotion and glory hogging, but the century of solicitation for the honor most certainly began with him. And as for his Nobel Peace Prize, I would be remiss not to point out that he won the prize for negotiating the end of a war he himself helped start by encouraging Japan to expand, particularly onto the Korean Peninsula. When he felt Japan had achieved its goals, he presented himself as an impartial peacemaker. Here’s his letter to his son at the time: “I have of course concealed from everyone — literally everyone — the fact that I acted in the first place on Japan’s suggestion … Remember that you are to let no one know that in this matter of the peace negotiations I have acted at the request of Japan and that each step has been taken with Japan’s foreknowledge, and not merely with her approval but with her expressed desire.” Roosevelt’s efforts to turn Japan, which he considered racially and culturally superior to the other nations of the region, into a regional hegemon no doubt helped pave the way for the tragedy that was an expansionist Japanese empire. Like most things with TR, high on the list of nation’s most overrated chief executives, it gets hard to separate the hype from the reality.]

“Love the Halftime Report. Thank you for the great job putting this together everyday. Last year you recommended an Advent Album in the From the Bleachers section. I listened to it but didn’t buy it but liked it. Could you run that by me again? If I missed it again, I apologize.” – Kris Thompson, Westerville, Ohio

[Ed. note: Don’t credit me! You can credit Brianna for taking the time to build this awesome Spotify playlist, but it was your fellow reader, Laura Whitney of Paradise, Utah, who got the ball rolling. I’d encourage anyone who enjoys the list to offer up their own picks for Advent music so we can come back with an even better version next year.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

Lancaster [England] Live: “A baker who ‘tricked customers’ into buying freshly baked bread which was actually being warmed on radiators, has been jailed for defrauding friends out of thousands of pounds. Francesca Barker-Mills owner The Barker Baker in Littleborough, Rochdale, launched her business in 2015. On the pretence that she was turning her life around having ‘fallen in love with baking on a probation course’, Barker-Mills set up her new business after avoiding jail in 2013 due to fraud convictions. Barker-Mills, branded a ‘thoroughly dishonest woman’, told friends and even advertised in local newspapers that her bakery was a social enterprise – showing people that ex-offenders could contribute to their community in earnest… But in fact, Barker-Mills used the bakery to convince potential investors, her landlord, and even her ‘friends’, into sinking thousands of their hard-earned cash into a government scheme – which she had invented.” 

“Environmental sensitivity is now as required an attitude in polite society as is, say, belief in democracy or aversion to polyester.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in Time magazine on June 17, 1991.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here. 

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.