Essays

Art After Trump: An Email Exchange with a Texas Elector

A liberal journalist briefly converses with a red-state elector.

The author’s letter to the electors (screenshot via asktheelectors.org)

Editor’s note: Last week, Hyperallergic co-presented Art After Trump, a night of two-minute creative responses to the election at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe. This week, we’re publishing a few of those pieces.

“Jillian.

I respect your fear and dislike for Trump. Please respect my disdain for HRC. It is just a difference of opinion.”

That was the first non-automated response I received from the Republican Elector. Our conversation began with that online tool that lets you write to all of the electors in one go. I drafted a heartfelt letter imploring them to use their consciences and vote for anyone other than Donald Trump. I felt exhilarated at the prospect that little me might get through to powerful them. Then I got the Elector’s auto reply.

Frankly, the political opinions of non-Texas voters mean nothing to me. I do not vote or get involved in your state, I am not sure why you are trying to interfere in mine.

I took umbrage. I wasn’t trying to interfere so much as persuade. I wrote back.

Dear ——,

 

Emailing you, someone who holds power in this situation, because I fear that President Donald Trump will bring on an immense global crisis is not ‘interfering.’ It’s an appeal to you as a fellow human and US citizen.

To my surprise, he responded. That’s when he sent the “difference of opinion” line. Somehow I had engaged him, and I saw my opening. I asked him a question about Trump’s conflicts of interest. He answered the same day (“That is an issue that remains to be seen”). I asked him about Russia, and he replied two days later (“there are only rumors so far”). I kept drilling down, asking him more specific follow-up questions, until he sent this:

I only have access to the same information that you do. The Constitution does not vest any power in electors other than a single vote. I would love more information, but the electoral date can not be moved, and I have no authority other than a single vote.

I sat with it for a while. I felt sorry for him. The Elector sounded like the personification of a cog in the machine, a man whose hands are tied by a system he’s put his blind faith in. When I responded, I suggested that perhaps unprecedented situations call for unprecedented actions. I wanted him to see that he could join the electors calling for a briefing on the intelligence report about Russia. I wanted him to understand that in every situation there’s some kind of action we can take, however small, if only we can imagine it.

The Elector never wrote back. Instead, I got a new, updated automatic reply. “If you emailed me regarding Russian influence in the elections, I am open to any information that is not rumor or hearsay. So far, there is no hard, objective evidence of such.”

Twelve emails in, and he finally gave up on me. I don’t know why he ever wrote back in the first place.

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