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Gene Van Loan '64: My plan to keep Donald and Hillary out of the White House

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 15, 2016

I am a lifelong Republican, but I cannot vote for The Donald. The man is a narcissistic, erratic bloviator. If he were to become President, I fear for the world’s order and perhaps even its existence. The problem, of course, is that if he loses to Hillary Clinton, we get, at best, four more years in Obamaville (and, God forbid, perhaps Obama himself on the Supreme Court). This is the very definition of a Hobson’s choice.

There is, however, a route to deny the presidency to both The Donald and Hillary. If neither of them receives a majority of the votes in the Electoral College (270 needed), the presidency will be decided by the (new) House of Representatives in the January following the November election. All it takes, then, is for a “Disruptor” to get enough Electoral College votes to prevent either Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton from getting the requisite majority.

Assuming that the race is thrown to the House, the House must choose the President from the 3 persons who receive the most popular votes in November, on a nationwide basis. Presumably, that would be Trump, Clinton and my putative Disrupter. Does that assure that the Disruptor would become the next President? Certainly not. However, I am willing to take my chances.

Because the electors (except in Maine and Nevada) are appointed in each state according to a winner-take-all formula based upon that state’s popular vote in the November election, all a Disruptor needs to do is to win the popular vote in a few states and capture sufficient electors to keep both Trump and Clinton below 270.

There are several third-party candidates who technically could fill the Disruptor role, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party. However, although each will undoubtedly garner some votes, it is highly unlikely that either of them will get enough to capture the electors of any state.

Accordingly, what we need is a viable Disruptor. So, who can fill the bill? In times of turmoil, America has often turned to its military figures. Just look at the number of Presidents who were military heroes. Considering the precarious state of today’s world, it would only make sense if we were to turn again to someone who has the experience and gravitas of one of our military commanders.

The person who comes to my mind is Colin Powell. I doubt that there is anyone more respected in this country than General Powell. I don’t care that he is close to 80. Unless there is something about the current state of his physical or mental health that is not public, there is no reason to think that he is any less eligible to be a world leader than Ronald Reagan, Golda Meier or Nelson Mandela. And talk about qualifications. Besides being chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the U.S. military establishment, he was our Secretary of State (which another current candidate claims as one of her most important qualifications.) Finally, no major moral lapses and, yes, black lives do matter.

What I am proposing is a massive write-in campaign for Gen. Powell, a candidate who needs no introduction, who has an unblemished record of public service and who does not represent any wing, left or right, of any political party.

Note that a write-in campaign avoids all the technicalities and timeframes in the individual states about how a candidate gets his/her name to be printed on the ballot. The other advantage that a write-in effort has over a conventional campaign, especially with respect to a candidate like Gen. Powell who would surely be a reluctant bride, is that it does not require participation by or even the acquiescence of the candidate.

If anyone argues that throwing the race for President to the House of Representatives would be subverting the will of the voters, l have both the Constitution and history on my side. The Constitution specifically provides for the presidency to be decided by the House of Representatives if no candidate receives a majority of the Electoral College votes. As for history, none other than Thomas Jefferson was elected President of the United States by a vote of the House of Representatives.

As Edmund Burke so famously put it, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Any takers?

Eugene Van Loan is a semi-retired attorney from Manchester NH and past chairman of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy.