Donald Trump is now the real, official, actual, no-more-doubt-about-it president-elect of the United States, after Congress certified the results of the electoral college Friday.
Not for lack of Democrats’ efforts, mind you. House Democrats objected to 10 states’ electoral votes being awarded to Trump, but none of them were able to get a senator to join in their objection, which is required. Hence, a quixotic effort failed.
Throughout Trump’s path to the White House, nearly every matter of political process has featured some kind of effort to thwart him by manipulating the rules and otherwise Doing Whatever It Took to stop him. With the last of those efforts failing, we thought it worth a retrospective. Get ready for a trip down memory lane.
April: ‘Stolen’ delegates
As Trump solidified himself as the likely nominee thanks to his continued victories in GOP primaries, it became clearer and clearer that one of the best ways to stop him would be to try to game the delegate-selection system — which Trump, for all his success, simply wasn’t very good at.
The most notable example was in Colorado, where the failure to play the game cost Trump dearly and Ted Cruz swept all 34 delegates. Similar, if less impactful, things happened in caucus states, with their drawn-out delegate-selection processes that aren’t necessarily tied to actual votes.
Trump complained of the “rigged” system and said delegates were being “stolen” from him. In the end, it didn’t matter. Trump easily cleared the 1,237 delegates he needed and Ted Cruz dropped out of the race in early May.
July 18: Republican National Convention
There was plenty of buildup to this one. With Trump having won a clear majority of delegates, the #NeverTrump movement flirted with a number of ways of depriving him of the nomination in the weeks before their July convention in Cleveland.
Chief among them was an effort, called Free the Delegates, to change party rules to allow delegates to vote however they wanted. But it fell short of the majority vote they needed at the party’s rules committee and was short even of the votes needed to file a “minority report” and allow the full convention to vote on it, where it would have needed a majority.
But it wasn’t done. On the first day of the convention, anti-Trump forces demanded a roll call vote on the rules, which would have forced each state to vote individually on the package — and by extension on Trump. But in a chaotic scene, Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) determined that the effort didn’t have the seven states required and declared the rules package passed by voice vote.
November: Jill Stein’s recounts
Trump won the electoral college thanks to his narrow victories in three states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which he won by less than one point each. And Green Party nominee Jill Stein decided to seek recounts in each of those three states, even as the Clinton campaign assured that it wasn’t really interested in the effort and thought it was doomed.
It was. Despite raising millions of dollars, each individual recount effort fell by the wayside. Very few votes moved. Judges scoffed at the case presented by Stein, and things moved forward.
Dec. 19: The electoral college votes
As electors prepared to meet in state capitals across the country to cast their ballots, efforts spearheaded by the so-called “Hamilton electors” and Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig attempted to convince Trump voters to change their votes. Lessig said as many as 20 had expressed interest, and his effort gave them legal advice on how to make it a reality. The Hamilton electors, meanwhile, tried to get Democratic electors to join with the defectors to install a different Republican (since merely holding Trump below 270 electoral votes would have allowed the Republican-controlled House to just pick Trump again).
Neither effort panned out. Some potential faithless electors who intended to cast ballots for someone else were removed or resigned and were replaced with new ones. And Trump got 304 of the 306 electoral votes he was supposed to get. Hillary Clinton actually dropped more votes, losing five faithless electors and dropping from 232 to 227.
Jan. 6: Electoral college certification
The last-ditch effort involved individual House members objecting to states awarding of their votes to Trump, despite those votes having been cast for Trump at the meetings in each state. As noted above, it fell apart because no senators joined in the effort, and each objection needed a senator. (The same thing happened in 2000, when some House Democrats wanted to object to Florida’s votes being cast for George W. Bush but couldn’t get a senator to join them.)
Of course, even if they had, it would only have allowed for the objection — not actually prevented the votes from being cast for Trump. If a senator had joined in the objection, the House and Senate would have met separately to debate the objection.
In other words, it was basically a gambit to delay Trump’s win by a few more hours. And it failed. Which seems like as good a way as any to close out the 2016 electoral process.