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Elector: Our Duty in Electoral College is to Prevent Unqualified Demagogues from Presidency

StoryDecember 19, 2016
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The 538 electors of the Electoral College are set to meet today to officially choose the next president of the United States. Members of the Electoral College are meeting in their respective state capitals to cast ballots to determine who will be the next president. In past elections, the meetings have generally been considered a formality. But this year, an increasing number of people have called on the electors to refuse to vote for President-elect Donald Trump. One Republican elector has come out saying he will not vote for Trump, and there are reports of other so-called Republican faithless electors. Michael Moore has offered to pay the fines of any electors who break ranks and vote against Donald Trump. Donald Trump needs to secure 270 elector votes to take office. He lost the popular vote by 2.9 million. We speak to Polly Baca, Democratic elector from Colorado.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. The 538 electors of the Electoral College are set to meet today to officially choose the next president of the United States. The electors meet in their respective state capitals to cast ballots to determine who will be the next president. In past elections, the meeting has generally been considered a formality. But this year an increasing number of people have called on the electors to refuse to vote for President-elect Donald Trump. One Republican elector has come out saying he will not vote for Trump, and there are reports of other so-called Republican faithless electors. The filmmaker Michael Moore has offered to pay the fines of any elector who breaks ranks and votes against Donald Trump. Trump needs to secure 270 elector votes to take office. He lost the popular vote by 2.9 million.

Joining us now is Polly Baca. She’s a Democratic elector from Colorado. She’s one of the so-called Hamilton electors, who believe the 538 members of the Electoral College have a moral responsibility to intervene to prevent a leader like Trump from taking office.

Polly Baca, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about what you’ll be doing today in Denver.

POLLY BACA: Good morning. I’ll be voting today. We vote at high noon in every state across the nation. And in Colorado, 12:00 noon is 2:00 Eastern time.

AMY GOODMAN: And what does it mean to be Hamilton elector?

POLLY BACA: What it means is that we really are committed to fulfilling our obligation as described by the United States Constitution. What Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton, wrote in Federalist 68, that established the Electoral College, was that this body was to be a deliberative body that would—was a safeguard against the election of an unqualified demagogue or a president that might be indebted to foreign nations. And certainly Mr. Trump fulfills all of those qualifications or those descriptions, which means that, as responsible electors, we ought to work to make sure that Mr. Trump is not—does not receive 270 votes and become our president. We have the power, as electors, to do that. The only question is: Do we have the will to do so?

AMY GOODMAN: So explain how you’ll be voting today.

POLLY BACA: Well, I don’t know how I’ll be voting yet. I actually am in Colorado, which voted for Hillary Clinton. And my preference would be to have 38 Republican electors join the Hillary Clinton forces and elect Hillary Clinton president, as the people of the United States have already said they would prefer, given that she has received more votes for president than anyone in the history of our country.

You know, what’s ironic is that we have millions of offices, elective offices, in our country, and yet—and they are all determined by "one person, one vote." The only position in our electoral system of elected positions that does not abide by the principle of "one person, one vote" is the president of the United States. Instead, we, in the Electoral College, have the responsibility of making sure that whomever is elected president is someone that is not indebted to a foreign power, specifically. You know, that’s the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

And I truly fear that Mr. Trump is indebted and overly influenced by Mr. Putin and the Russians. And I believe that’s why he hit so hard at the First Amendment. My goodness, I went to the Soviet Union as a guest of the American Council of Young Political Leaders in the 1970s and then again in 1988, I believe. And the two freedoms that we have that really differentiated us as a country from the Russians—and I wrote them in my memoirs—the two freedoms were, number one, the freedom of speech and the right to assemble peacefully, and the second was the freedom of the press. And if you look at what Mr. Trump has been doing, he has absolutely attacked those freedoms over the last year and a half. And I really fear—I’m really concerned about the future of our country, should Mr. Trump become our president, which I believe the electors have the responsibility to stop.

AMY GOODMAN: Polly Baca, you were the first Hispanic woman elected to the Colorado state Senate and in the House and Senate of the state—of a state legislature. Are you now joining with people like Christine Pelosi and Christopher Suprun in calling for an intelligence briefing?

POLLY BACA: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead.

POLLY BACA: I signed the letter that said that we, as electors, have the responsibility to be briefed. You know, we really do need to know what’s going on. And our intelligence community has the responsibility of briefing us so that we can be worthy voters in the Electoral College. Without that briefing, we really cannot vote in a responsible manner. And that’s why I signed that letter. And up to this point, I believe that we will not get that briefing, as we should.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Christopher Suprun, who we had on Democracy Now!, Republican from Texas who became the first Republican member of the Electoral College to come out saying he won’t vote for Trump. This is what he said on Democracy Now!

CHRISTOPHER SUPRUN: This is what the Electoral College is for, is so that we do not elect a demagogue, somebody who cannot practice the foreign policy and national defense of the country appropriately, and one who has played fast and loose with the rules of conflicts of interest.

AMY GOODMAN: So, he also, like you, have called for an intelligence briefing. Have you gotten a response back yet?

POLLY BACA: I believe the response I’ve received thus far is that it isn’t going to happen. And I think that’s a tragedy.

AMY GOODMAN: You have an amazing history, Polly Baca. You were at the 1963 March on Washington.

POLLY BACA: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: You were on RFK’s campaign staff, Robert Kennedy’s campaign staff in ’68. You were at the Ambassador Hotel when he was killed. You were on the DNC staff at the Watergate building and were working late the night that the so-called Plumbers first broke into the DNC headquarters, not the night they got caught, but the night they planted the bugs.

POLLY BACA: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: And your family came north from Mexico around 1600.

POLLY BACA: Correct.

AMY GOODMAN: With that kind of historic background, your thoughts today? This is the day that Donald Trump, if the Electoral College does vote for him, will become officially the next president of the United States.

POLLY BACA: I am very concerned. I am very concerned for our country. And I really admire our Republican Hamilton elector that has the courage to vote for our country. And I really, really encourage other Republican electors to think of their country first, think of country before party and vote for someone who—and I, quite honestly, if we had enough votes, if we had 38 Republicans willing to support somebody like Governor Kasich or Governor Romney or any of the responsible Republican candidates, previous candidates, I would—I would be willing to support them, because I think it is so important that we do not elect Mr. Trump.

You know, this man, if we could only get his taxes, I think—I think the reason he is hiding his taxes is because he is indebted financially to other countries, specifically the Russians and perhaps the Chinese. And they are going to have a great deal of—well, they already are having a great deal of influence on Mr. Trump—certainly Putin. It feels like Mr. Trump is being a puppet of Putin. And I think that’s harsh to say, but certainly his behavior and his actions have not been consistent with our country’s foreign policy and instead, I think, are endangering our country and making us a country that can be—his presidency, I think, can be used by Mr. Putin, specifically because of the way that he—his behavior attacks our First Amendment. And so, I think we really have to encourage our colleagues that are Republican electors to support someone other than Mr. Trump and to truly, in my opinion, save our country.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, these electors, like in Colorado, there are 28 states where you’re bound to support the state—the state’s electoral—the candidate who won your state, in your case, Hillary Clinton, right?

POLLY BACA: Yes. And I think Hillary Clinton would be an amazing, incredibly good president. And, of course, again, most people in the United States agree with me. I mean, she has won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes and received more votes than any other person has ever received in the history of our country for president of the United States. And so—

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there.

POLLY BACA: OK.

AMY GOODMAN: But, of course, we’ll report on what takes place. Polly Baca, thanks so much for joining us, an elector from Colorado.

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