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Trump, Hamilton and State Legislatures

Donald Trump

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Alexander Hamilton never met the Democratic Party of 2020. The seminal measures that this member of the U.S. Founding Fathers promoted for the Constitution in Federalist No. 68, however, seem to have been designed to avoid the very kind of political sleaze and corruption that we have witnessed in the recent presidential election. The political machinery built by Barack Obama, which constructed the Biden/Harris ticket, has put the legitimacy of American democracy at risk. Despite this, Hamilton may have formulated a mechanism to rescue the integrity of the system and, possibly, the Republic.

What did George Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury and personal aide in the Revolutionary War (or War of Independence) write in this Federalist essay? Concerned that domestic political corruption or foreign interference could contaminate the nascent nation’s electoral process and “elect” an incompetent, or worse, a malevolent first chief executive, Hamilton structured in this essay, written on March 14, 1788, the moral and philosophical outlines for structuring an instrument that brought together popular sovereignty with the preventive parameters of republican containment.

The Americans did not want to repeat the tragic error of Greek democracy. The Founders, everyone of them, not just the other architects of the Federalists, John Jay and James Madison, clearly repudiated the Athenian model. Hence, the brilliant concept of the Electoral College, and the supremacy of state legislatures to solve systemic problems in times of political crisis after elections that fall victim to popular ineptitude or national and/or foreign subversion. 

The model proposed by Hamilton argued that “The election process offers the moral certainty that the office of the president will never rest on the shoulders of any man who is not eminently endowed with the required qualifications. Hamilton, the builder of the U.S. financial system, insisted in No. 68 that he had devised a model by which “…if not perfect, it is at least excellent”. Hamilton was right, and the prototype was adopted into the constitution and made part of the Constitution in Article 2, Section 1.2.

The U.S. presidential election system and its subsequent governance structure is, without a doubt, a sui generis case. The peculiarities of the model in its completeness, however, go unnoticed by many.  A reading that limits its focus to the composition of the electoral college as a tool to give adequate representation to the less populous states misses the best part: the systemic safeguards of constitutionality empowering state legislatures to bypass a tainted electoral process and, in effect, to invalidate it.     

The state legislatures have the power, in accordance with the constitution, to choose the electors who would cast their votes for the presidential candidate. They can set aside the electors chosen by the parties and instead appoint others selected by them. Why did the Founders extend such power to these lower institutions (in the national sense) in the constitution? After all, some would argue that this is “undemocratic”. The answer is made clear when one takes into account all the majestic shenanigans that have been evident in this presidential election.

The essence of Hamilton’s Federalist No. 68 and its subsequent inclusion in the constitution as a guarantor, was precisely to protect the American nation from two things: (1) the election of a person for president who was incompetent or anti-system (the people can choose poorly); and/or (2) elections that are spoiled because of flagrant fraud where the results are skewed (humans do commit fraud).

Trump campaign

With this understanding, the course taken by Trump’s campaign in carrying out hearings before legislative bodies in states impacted by irregularities, makes total sense. On November 25th, in the emblematic town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the President’s attorneys and a range of expert witnesses gave first-hand testimony about the vast array of irregularities that point to mega-fraud and unconstitutional acts committed by authorities in that state. So shocking and compelling were the witness testimonies that the legislature announced on November 27th that it will begin a process to exercise their constitutional authority to elect their voters to the Electoral College.

Among the many grievances contained in the resolution disputing the results of the 2020 general election presented to the Pennsylvania legislature: how the Pennsylvania Supreme Court illegally and arbitrarily altered the deadline for the receipt of mail ballots, annulled the verification of the postmarks to confirm the date of mailing, as well as the verification of voters’ signatures (September 17th) stand out.

Consequently, the Secretary of the Commonwealth determined after the ruling that the signatures on the mail ballots would not need to be authenticated (October 23rd). The resolution also mentions the inequitable way the law was applied allowing certain select counties, where there is a Democratic majority, to notify party officials of ballots that were defective, giving them an opportunity to correct or “cure” the errors (November 2nd).

On November 30th, Trump’s legal team held a hearing at the Arizona state legislature. On December 1st, the same occurred in Michigan. The purpose has been clear. The president is following the course that Hamilton and the Founding Fathers outlined for seeking remedies when there has been a systemic failure in the election process.

Trump, by insisting on going to the courts and, above all, to the state legislatures, to denounce the fraud in these elections with abundant evidence, is defending democratic institutions, the rule of law and the Constitution. The founding architects of the United States truly were brilliant! I have no doubt on which side Hamilton stands regarding this current crisis. In this war to preserve electoral integrity, the MAGA banner has acquired a significance that perhaps not even Trump imagined.

Julio M Shiling, political scientist, writer, director of Patria de Martí and The Cuban American Voice, lecturer and media commentator. A native of Cuba, he currently lives in the United States. Twitter: @JulioMShiling // Julio es politólogo, escritor, director de Patria de Martí y The Cuban American Voice. Conferenciante y comentarista en los medios. Natural de Cuba, vive actualmente en EE UU.

1 thought on “Trump, Hamilton and State Legislatures”

  1. i hope the political will of the legislators and their oath to the constitution is firm. Trump has faced non stop investigating and media propaganda for 4 years and all hell will break loose if these states try to send electors. but i pray they will.

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