In one of his rare moments of naivete, Alexander Hamilton imagined that the Electoral College would afford “a moral certainty” that the office of the presidency would not “fall to the lot of any man, who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”
He hoped that the electors would be a bulwark against men who had a talent “for low intrigue and the little arts of popularity.” “It will not be too strong to say,” Hamilton wrote in “Federalist No. 68,” “that there will be a constant probability of seeing [the presidency] filled by characters preeminent for ability and virtue.”
I think it’s not too strong to say that he was wrong.
As the E. Jean Carroll trial wraps up, I find myself reflecting on the fact that at least 26 women have accused Donald J. Trump of sexual assault or misconduct. Even in the era of #MeToo, the volume of charges is staggering. Carroll has accused Trump of rape. The other two dozen women have described various other forms of assault, abuse, and groping. (Trump has denied every allegation.)
There is, of course, a lot more evidence that suggests that Trump is not a character of preeminent virtue. The twice-impeached, defeated former president has been indicted on multiple felony charges and may face more. He is a chronic liar and fraudster. He also played a role in fomenting the January 6 insurrection. Trump has called for the suspension of the Constitution and dined with a white supremacist, and he traffics in racist invective and conspiracy theories.
And yet, Trump has already been elected to the presidency once and is now poised to seize his party’s nomination for a return to office. An NBC poll last month found that two-thirds of Republican voters stood behind Trump. Given the mathematics of the Electoral College in which Alexander Hamilton invested such high hopes, Trump has a good chance of winning the presidency again.
To put this in context: Try to imagine anyone like this surviving in any other segment of our society—business, entertainment, sports, the military, even politics. Just ask Harvey Weinstein, or any of the other moguls, executives, and celebrities who no longer have careers. [Continue reading…]