269-269: The Nightmare Scenarios

All right, Chicken Littles.  You wanna play “the sky is falling?”  Okay, I’ll bite.  How ’bout these possible outcomes?:

Cheney becomes Temporary President in January, 2009…or… casts a tie-breaking vote in Senate balloting to determine who will be Succeeder to the Decider…or…Obama is elected President, but is saddled with Cariboucuda as his Vice President…

All this misery – and more! – can be yours, for the simple price of an Electoral College vote of 269-269.  Join me, if you will, in the Cave of the Moonbat, where tonight’s theme is “The Implausible and its Potentially Apocalyptic Consequences upon Humankind.”  The subject is the ticking time bomb represented by the Twelfth Amendment – and just for fun, let’s look at some best- and worst-case scenarios it might spawn in the event of an Electoral tie.  The suggested headgear for the evening is a tinfoil hat; umbrellas might also be helpful, since everyone knows that the sky can’t be falling if you can’t see it headed toward you.  

The Scenario: 269-269

It COULD happen here!  And you REALLY, REALLY don’t want it to!  Want proof?  Just take a look at some of the Worst-Case scenarios that could come to pass if something goes screwy in the Electoral College this year, and Obama and McCain both end up with 269 votes.

U.S. Constitution, Article 2, Section 1:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

BEST-CASE SCENARIO

Obama wins in a landslide so far outside the margin of error that even an army of Ken Blackwells couldn’t fudge the results.

REALITY-BASED ASSESSMENT

Obama wins by a comfortable-enough percentage that the results can’t be undone by the Republican courts, though there are still a few moments of high drama and serious nail-biting as the elephant flails about in its death throes.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO

McCain wins in Michigan and Ohio, but Obama picks up a few surprises, too: he takes Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, Nevada, and Mississippi.  He should’ve won in Colorado, too, but the Sunday before the election, Palin releases a Christian rock video showing her machine-gunning wildlife from a helicopter hovering over Rocky Mountain National Park.  This pulls in just enough mouthbreather votes to offset the Outraged Boulderite bloc and swing the state to the Rs.  The end result is an electoral count of 269-269.

We’re treated to nearly a month’s worth of 24/7 speculation about what the Electoral College will do, with the press self-consciously avoiding any mention of the $8/gallon home heating oil, the continuing collapse of free-market capitalism, or the war against Iran that Bush initiates during his time as a lame-duck.  The traditional media also helpfully deluges us with a bunch of solemn reverence for the brilliance of the Founding Fathers.

Text o’ the 12th:

The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate;

BEST-CASE SCENARIO

Palin’s helicopter proves unable to sustain flight while laden with the governor, the governor’s arsenal, and the governor’s gigantic ego, and is forced to set down at an ashram in the mountains west of Boulder.  The group of Hare Krishnas who let her use their landline happen to be in the middle of a feast prepared in honor of their newly-arrived guests: a film crew led by Amy Goodman.  The moose-shooting commercial thus never gets made, “Democracy Now!” becomes the most-watched show in the country, and Colorado goes on to certify its status as a genuine Blue state.

REALITY-BASED ASSESSMENT

If it did ever get this far, we’d have to hope that none of the electors decided that they, personally and individually, knew what was best for America, and sided against the candidate for whom they were pledged to cast a vote – or that if one did, s/he would break from McCain’s ranks over to the good guys’.  Regrettably, the Republicans would seem to have the edge here: as our recent experience with Rush Limbaugh’s ineffectual “Operation Chaos” shows, campaigning by trying to mess up the opposition’s efforts may be regarded as a subversion of the democratic process by most of the nation, but among wingnut Republicans representing a dying party bereft of ideas, it’s considered jolly good sport.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO

A single defector from the ranks of the Democratic electors seals the fate of our Republic.  He’ll get his 15 minutes of self-righteous fame, then spend the next 15 years complaining to the press at the unfairness of being equated with Benedict Arnold and John Wilkes Booth.

Text o’ the 12th:

The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted;

BEST-CASE SCENARIO

As Vice President, Dick Cheney is the President of the Senate, and would cast any tie-breaking votes.  Therefore, the best-case scenario would have us taking the precaution of encircling Capitol Hill with garlic, running water, silver crosses, and the like, which should render Cheney unable to enter the building.  In the absence of the Veep, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate assumes the cat-herding tasks, so control of the joint session would fall to Robert Byrd (D-WV).  The old Dixiecrat then decides to use the opportunity to steer the proceedings in Obama’s direction as a means of breaking with the past and ushering in a new era of interracial understanding and harmony.

REALITY-BASED ASSESSMENT

Since all this passage says is who gets to open the envelopes and preside over the vote-counting, the most likely scenario is that someone – probably Cheney – will open the envelopes and oversee the counting of the votes.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO

Cheney does indeed scuttle in from an unknown secret location and asserts Fourth-Branch Authority to remove the certificates to his Google-blurred Vice Presidential residence for counting.  When asked by a reporter as he was leaving the building how long the counting might take, Cheney snarls, “I think it will go relatively quickly,…(in) weeks rather than months.”  Indeed, five weeks later, his office issues a press release declaring the counting complete and John McCain the President.  Led by Ken Salazar and a shameless band of Blue Dogs, Congressional Democrats meekly comply.

Text o’ the 12th:

The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice.

BEST-CASE SCENARIO

John King’s stupid map blows its circuitry on live TV while he’s trying to get it to show a state-by-state breakdown of which party predominates in their respective congressional delegations.  A best-case scenario would also presume that more than 25 states have a preponderance of Dems as their congresscritters, and that they’d proudly cast their votes for Obama.

REALITY-BASED ASSESSMENT

Given the above criteria, this kind of vote in the House could be close, and there’s always the possibility of some joker – lookin’ at you, Vermont – casting a vote for Bob Barr (unlikely)(especially in Vermont) or Ralph Nader (oh, crap…), just to “ensure that the voices of all the people get heard” – and, presumably, because the congressman who drags out these proceedings is unaware of the danger posed by the 12th Amendment’s next sentence – see below.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO

Rove and the boys figure out that the election is going to devolve to the House about a month before the elections, and so divert nearly their entire Dirty Tricks Direktorate away from the presidential campaign and into a stealth House elections strategy based on taking control of 26 state delegations.  Bob Shrum and the rest of the DLC Loser’s Club thump their chests, believing Rove is, at long last, signaling a gentlemanly retreat from their own punditorial brilliance; they are caught flat-footed when things progress to this point.  Just before a vote that’s now a foregone conclusion, Palin rubs salt in the wound by reminding everyone that because of the foresight of the Founding Fathers, Alaska (with one rep) enjoys the same voting power as California (with 53).

Text o’ the 12th:

And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.

modified by 20th Amendment (which moved the start of a presidential term from March 4 to January 21) to reflect the new deadline

BEST-CASE SCENARIO

There is no best-case scenario which involves Dick Cheney becoming President.

REALITY-BASED ASSESSMENT

There is no not-quite-as-good-but-not-quite-so-bad scenario which involves Dick Cheney becoming President.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO

Dick Cheney becomes the 44th President of the United States on January 21, 2009, a date which will be known to future generations of American subjects as “Empire Day.”

Text o’ the 12th:

The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice.

BEST-CASE SCENARIO

The Constitution is a little less than clear on exactly which Senate – the one from this year, or the one that’ll be sworn in next January – is going to be doing the voting for Veep, so the best-case scenario would most likely involve the next Congress.  If all goes as it should, the good guys will have held a clear majority in next year’s Senate, and no time at all will need to be wasted convincing DINO turds like Lieberman that the Republic is more important than his ancient friendships with certain members of the foe (for me, that’s an acronym for Forces Of Evil).

REALITY-BASED ASSESSMENT

Whether by a large margin or a close one, it seems likely that the Senate will be in Dem hands during the two-week window between their swearing in and the apocalypse represented by Dick Cheney assuming the presidency.  This means a vote down party lines will favor Biden becoming the veep – and woe unto the Democrat who crosses the aisle in the name of some misguided sense of bipartisanship.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO

Out of spite or simple hatred of the laws that have made their members take an actual public stance on some truly critical, the Senate votes Sarah Palin to serve as Vice President, even as the House elects Barack Obama to occupy the White House.  Thus, for the entirety of his first four years in office, Obama is forced to divert his attention from global crises and the enormous task of De-Bushifying the government to trying to get his own second-in-command to realize that the Earth is slightly more that 7000 years old.

Note: Only once has an election resulted in a Prez and a Veep from different parties.  That was in 1796, but it doesn’t serve as all that great an example – Sarah Palin isn’t going to be playing Thomas Jefferson to anyone’s John Adams anytime soon.

Text o’ the 12th:

But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

BEST-CASE SCENARIO

There’s the rub: had the word “intellectually” been used instead of “constitutionally,” Palin would be disqualified out of hand.  The best-case scenario, then, is for the Senate to choose Joe Biden to be Vice President, while the House confirms Barack Obama to the top job.

REALITY-BASED ASSESSMENT

Most snark aside, everyone on the two major party tickets is constitutionally eligible to be President.  Ranked against one another on this basis, Biden still seems to be the best choice, given that he was born in the US proper (not in some overseas possession like the Canal Zone); that his birth certificate is located in Scranton, PA, instead of one of America’s more exotic locations (like Honolulu); and he did not spend his childhood in troublingly close proximity to the Soviet Union.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO

John McCain has in his possession the Lost Black Book of the DC Madame (recovered by Republican operatives just after “somebody” “convinced” her to “commit suicide”), and uses its secrets to blackmail his fellow Senators into appointing Sarah Palin vice president prior to Inauguration Day.  She then double-crosses her former mentor, using her various Fourthbranch powers to delay proceedings in the House until she is able to assume the Presidency under the provisions of the Twelfth Amendment cited above.  After giving her inaugural address while speaking in tongues, Palin declares both Congress and the Office of the Vice President to be obsolete, and creates herself the new title of “Sarah the First, by the Grace of God, President of the United States of America and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.”  Soon after, the U.S. descends into a dark age of heretical “cleansings” and environmental abuse from which it never fully recovers.

Historiorant:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketWhen all is said and done, the makeup of Congress and the text of the Twelfth Amendment actually favor the Democrats this election cycle, which means that when we’re looking at electoral scores, it’s McCain who needs 270; Obama wins in a 269-269 tie.  Still, the prospect of this devolving to the point where we have to start dealing with the provisions of the 12th Amendment is a troubling one – we’ve all seen (and for 8 long years, felt) the way “principled” Republicans can summon an army of Brooks Bros.-clad protestors to weigh on a “hanging chad” controversy at will, and the Twelfth Amendment provides many dank alleys of legalisms of the sort preferred by a foe that can’t win an election based on ideas.  Best-case scenario is avoiding these pitfalls altogether, and electing Barack Obama by an indisputable landslide come November.

Historically hip entrances to the Cave of the Moonbat can be found at Daily Kos, Never In Our Names, Bits of News, Progressive Historians, and DocuDharma.

3 comments

  1. but wouldnt the irony be sweet if gwb turned out to be a ‘uniter’ after all…..  😉

    great essay, moonbat….and though i’d love to read it again at the next prez election time, id love it more if we came up with some 21st-century way of electing a president.  (at least that’s what my town crier seems to think 😉

  2. Hi ek!  It’s Sunday night, and I actually got something done!  Sorry about the slight delay – I got a little cocky with my coding and was handed an “Epic Fail” slip as a result.

    • Edger on September 22, 2008 at 6:02 am


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