The great thing about Twitter is that folks can bicker with each other from behind the comfort and protection of a keyboard. What better way to foster productive, constructive discussion of the great issues and challenges of our time?
Another great thing about Twitter (if you were skeptical about whether there were any great things about Twitter) is that the rest of us can behold, often in wonderment, when two folks go at it. Such entertainment was provided this week by our governor when he ignited a tweetfight with one of our faithless electors.
Background: On Monday, Christopher Suprun of Dallas, one of the 38 Texas members of the Electoral College, carried through on his plan not to vote for Donald Trump. Suprun, who voted for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, doesn’t think Trump was the best candidate for president this year, even though a majority of Texas voters thought he was.
Texas law doesn’t require electors to back the candidate who got the most popular votes in the state. There is a party pledge to that effect, but no law. So Suprun didn’t vote for Trump. Neither did elector Bill Greene, who voted for former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who is 81 and didn’t run for president this year.
More background: Gov. Greg Abbott thinks electors who vote their conscience, as opposed to how the popular vote goes, should be fined $5,000 and banned for life from the Electoral College. That’s what House Bill 543 by state Rep. John Raney, R-College Station, would do about the curse of elector unfaithfulness.
Prediction: HB 543 has a decent chance of passing.
On the other hand, state Rep. Ina Minjarez, D-San Antonio, filed HB 496 calling on lawmakers to sign on to an interstate agreement to elect the president based on national popular vote. Prediction: HB 496 is DOA.
Anyway, at 4:46 p.m. Monday, shortly after Texas electors gave Trump 36 of our 38 electoral votes, Abbott tweeted his support for mandatory elector faithfulness: “This charade is over. A bill is already filed to make these commitments binding. I look forward to signing it & ending this circus.”
I’m unclear on which part of the process Abbott found circusy. I was in the Texas House chamber for Monday’s Electoral College proceedings and saw no circus. It dragged on for three hours, but that’s OK. Outside the Capitol, the anti-Trump protests got a little passionate. Nothing wrong with that. No circus there.
Perhaps Abbott sees circus in the efforts of groups to encourage Electoral College members to go rogue. Did some of that go over the top this year? Maybe. But I’d call it more free speech than circus.
Abbott turned his general thoughts about the Electoral College into a personal attack on one elector at 9:46 a.m. Tuesday when he went Trumpian and tweeted this at Suprun: “YOU’RE FIRED!!!”
First of all, governors can’t fire electors. Second of all, Suprun’s job was over by the time Abbott “fired” him. Third of all, doesn’t Abbott have some important governing or Christmas shopping he should be doing instead of spite tweeting?
(As if in answer to that third question, Abbott’s next tweet Tuesday was “I’m with the National Guard at the border serving them Christmas lunch & thanking them for securing border.” Good for him.)
Three minutes after Abbott’s “YOU’RE FIRED!!!” tweet, Suprun, tweeted back with: “You mean I resigned.”
Then this from Suprun to Abbott at 9:50 a.m.: “Does this mean I can release tapes of your staff ignoring threats against Presidential Electors?”
And at 10:15 a.m. Suprun got really personal: “Nothing says impotent like being ‘fired’ after casting my ballot. @GregAbbott_TX more interested in political points than policy.”
We didn’t hear from Abbott again, though his “YOU’RE FIRED!!!” tweet was retweeted by Texas GOP Chairman Tom Mechler.
It just seems odd that Abbott, perhaps emboldened by Trump’s aggressive use of Twitter, would choose to assail Suprun on Twitter. There’s nothing wrong, of course, with Abbott making his feelings known about the Electoral College, but this seemed a bit personal.
I’ve heard the arguments for and against the Electoral College and find merit on both sides, so that’s my level of decisive courage on this issue. I am sure, however, that the system’s not going to be changed any time soon, though Texas lawmakers could approve the bill directing how electors must cast their ballots.
Here’s my solution for the perceived problem with faithless electors: Why even have electors, especially if they’re reduced to nothing more than rubber stamp of what the electorate did?
We could just convert electoral votes to points, with presidential candidates getting all the points in states in which they prevail in the electoral vote. No more Electoral College meetings. No more worrying about faithless electors. No more perceived circuses.
I like the idea, though I would miss the wonderful phrase faithless elector.