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On the roster: A Republic, not a Democracy - Trump son huddled with pro-Kremlin group on Syria - Q poll shows good vibes for Trump from voters - Audible: Ommmmmmmmmmmmm… - Sweet ride

A REPUBLIC, NOT A DEMOCRACY 
As Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote stretches out to 1.5 points and may grow more with ballots still being counted in California, the sour grapes caucus in the Democratic Party is getting louder.

This is the fourth time in history that Democrats have won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College. And this one is shaping up to be the widest discrepancy since 1876 when just one elector and the threat of renewed civil war stood between Republican Rutherford Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden.

Pressure is growing on members of the Electoral College to refuse to vote for the winners of their states. Given Donald Trump’s 74-vote lead in the Electoral College based on state returns, the effort seems to be a symbolic one at best. 

More tantalizing for Democrats though, is the claim from “top computer scientists” that they see evidence of electronic ballot rigging in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. The fact that the experts made their case to the remnants of Clinton’s campaign that she dispute the official election results has allowed some embittered supporters of Clinton to remain in denial about the actual result.

But as data dervish Nate Silver explained Tuesday night on Twitter, the computer guys might have benefitted from some practical knowledge of politics. The claims don’t bear even modest scrutiny once you take into account the composition of the counties in question.

Part of the problem here, of course, is that many Democrats believed their nominee’s campaign rhetoric that Trump’s election would bring about the apocalypse. Here, some Democrats have fallen into the same trap that led Republicans, including the now president-elect, to search for conspiracy theories and loopholes to invalidate the Obama presidency all the way through his first term. 

It’s sick stuff. 

But leaving aside the sad consequences of eliminationist rhetoric on politics, there remains the question of how Americans pick their president and the utility of the Electoral College.

Some Californians are even discussing a “Caliexit” in which the largest state would secede from the Union. This is probably the same kind of blatherskite in which some Texas Republicans engaged during peak Obamism. Anger begets frustration which begets fanciful thinking as a means of mental escape.

But if California wanted to do something more practical, its residents might reconsider the failed plan to subdivide the golden state six ways. While some of the new post-California states might be Republican, the new Electoral College would include a dozen electors from states currently part of California.

What’s that you say? The Electoral College is undemocratic? Well, yeah. That’s the point.

Trump himself, as any good populist would, has heaped some scorn on the Framers’ model for picking the chief executive. Clinton is ahead by more than 2 million votes out of more than 133 million counted, so why should she lose?

The creation of the Electoral College was certainly part political pragmatism. The proponents of the proposed Constitution wanted a way to reassure skeptical states that their voices would be preserved in a system with a strong federal government. Having states, not the nation as a whole, choose the president was a reassurance.

But it was also philosophical, as the Federalists were eager to avoid rule of the mob and demagoguery. As resentful as they were of the aloof tyranny of George III and the British nobility, the American patriots were, if anything, more alarmed by the prospect of the tyranny of the masses.

Remember, Russia is a democracy. Iran is a democracy. America is a republic. 

What set our experiment apart from all of human history before it, as well as almost all that has followed, is the primacy of the law. In a pure democracy, people could vote to enslave their neighbors, confiscate others’ property, deny rights to minority groups and outlaw unpopular positions. Those things are not possible here because our system values liberty over popularity.

Many in America today are worried that Trump is in fact the kind of demagogue the founders warned us of: using irresponsible, divisive talk, anger and blandishments to whip voters into a frenzy. His rallies, and rhetoric, no doubt struck fear into many hearts.

What is odd, then, is that some of those same people would be seeking the diminution of republican protections of the rights of minorities in our system.

Most alarming in that regard is the effort to “hack” the Constitution by getting all of the states to change their laws to bind their electors to the results of the national, not state, returns. This is a dodgy end-around and exactly the kind of thing that weakens our already battered institutions.

Yes, the Electoral College allowed Trump to win with a popular minority. But it also prevents the next president from winning by simply running up the score with voters in the most-populous areas.

Imagine what campaigns would look like if candidates were seeking popular rather than electoral majorities. If you think politics are crass and appeal to the lowest common denominator now, picture what would happen when one could win by ignoring much of the country and driving up the score in the most populated areas.

Welcome, President Camacho!

The Democrats who favor the idea of popular elections do so in the belief that they would be advantaged. They ought to not be so sure. In fact, both sides, and the larger goals of humanity and liberty, would be ill served by cutting out the role of states in the process.

Those who are the most alarmed about Trump ought to be working harder than anyone to reinforce, not undermine, the protections built into our system.

THE RULEBOOK: AND TURKEYS TOO
“The expediency of vesting the power of pardoning in the President has, if I mistake not, been only contested in relation to the crime of treason.”–Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 70

TIME OUT: FEZ OR FEATHERS?
Ever wonder why Turkey and turkeys have the same name? No, the country is not a breeding ground for the American Thanksgiving dinner. Dictionary.com: “The word turkey has been used to refer to ‘land occupied by the Turks’ since the 1300s … following World War I and the fall of the Ottomans, the republic of Turkey was declared, taking on the name that had long referred to that region…So how did the land occupied by the Turks become associated with a North American bird? First, we have to get to know another bird: the guinea fowl. This bird bears some resemblance to the American bird. Though it’s native to eastern Africa, the guinea fowl was imported to Europe through the Ottoman Empire and came to be called the turkey-cock or turkey-hen. When settlers in the New World began to send similar-looking fowl back to Europe, they were mistakenly called turkeys.”

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TRUMP SON HUDDLED WITH PRO-KREMLIN GROUP ON SYRIA 
WSJ: “Donald Trump’s eldest son, emerging as a potential envoy for the president-elect, held private discussions with diplomats, businessmen and politicians in Paris last month that focused in part on finding a way to cooperate with Russia to end the war in Syria, according to people who took part in the meetings. Thirty people, including Donald Trump Jr., attended the Oct. 11 event at the Ritz Paris, which was hosted by a French think tank. The founder of the think tank, FabienBaussart, and his wife, Randa Kassis, have worked closely with Russia to try to end the conflict… In an interview, Ms. Kassis said she pressed the younger Mr. Trump during the meeting on the importance of cooperating with the Russians in the Middle East…Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to the president-elect, confirmed the younger Mr. Trump’s attendance at the event in Paris. But she played down his direct contact with Ms. Kassis.”

Q POLL SHOWS GOOD VIBES FOR TRUMP FROM VOTERS
The latest poll from Quinnipiac University says that voters are generally optimistic about Donald Trump’s presidency, reaffirming a win bonus for the president-elect shown in other polls. While voters disagree or are narrowly divided on several of Trump’s policy positions, his first big-ticket item – a plan for massive borrowing and spending on infrastructure – is a smash hit with voters. Eighty-three percent of voters in the sample backed increasing federal spending with infrastructure. 

SUBSTITUTIONS

--South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has been named UN ambassador today, despite being an outspoken critic of Trump and campaigning for Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in her state’s early primary. Haley released a statement saying that pending her Senate confirmation, she has accepted the position.

--Trump transition team has also announced that the president-elect has offered the nomination to be secretary of Housing and Urban Development to Ben Carson.

--Former Democratic Tennessee congressman and MSNBC persona Harold Ford Jr. is reportedly under consideration for a post in the Trump administration. Politico got a hold of Ford who demurred, but wasn’t saying no either.

--Newt Gingrich poured vinegar on the news that his 2012 Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney was a frontrunner for the secretary of state position telling “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that he could “think of 20 other people” better suited for job than Romney.

--Trump is reportedly looking at a long list of House members for cabinet posts. In addition to the much discussed potential appointment of Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, as treasury secretary, The Hill says others eyed for potential administration posts include: Reps. Cathy McMorris Rogers, R-Wash., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Mike McCaul, R-Texas.

--Trump’s leading candidate to lead the Department of Defense, retired Gen. James Mattis, would require Congress to pass a law circumventing the requirement that military leaders be out of service for at least seven years before assuming the post. The WSJ explains the complexities.

--What were Trump-tormentor extraordinaire Mark Cuban and Trump senior adviser Steve Bannon talking about on Tuesday? Who knows? But Politico had the picture.

AUDIBLE: OMMMMMMMMMMMMM…
“I have no worries.” – Dalai Lama reacting to Donald Trump’s election at a press conference, reports AP

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Do you think that President elect Trump is saying he will not prosecute Mrs. Clinton until after he’s sworn in so that President Obama won’t pardon her while he’s still in office?  Also, does Trump have any say over what the congressional committees that are investigating her will do?  Thank you.” – Jean Patrick, Wayne, Pa.

[Ed. note: I prefer to not overthink such matters when it comes to politicians. I generally take their statements at face value, since they reverse themselves so often. My guess is that Trump would like a new start, and that he grows increasingly aware of the dangers of retributive justice between parties as he prepares to ascend to the presidency. Another factor to bear in mind is that Attorney General designee Jeff Sessions would not much care to have the affairs of his independent prospective office so minutely directed by the chief executive. The same goes for the members of Congress who very much would resent executive direction on the matter of their duties.]

“Halftime is a must with my morning coffee! It is ‘hightime’ I say thank you for the folksy, witty, way you deliver news. The real stuff is found between the lines, however, a tribute to your unique style. I think I’ll start using my Ole iron skillets again!  Thank you, kind sir.”– Michele Chandler, Panorama Village, Texas

[Ed. note: Shucks, Ms. Chandler…you are too kind. Nothing cooks better than cast iron and nothing reads better than a note like yours.]

“I was lucky and privileged enough to meet you at the RNC convention in Cleveland, Ohio. As always, your political coverage is spot on and reading Halftime Report is always a blast-I noticed in a recent post that you said your mom made ham-bone bean soup.  My family and I are big proponents of ham and cook it whenever we get the chance.  Of course, we always make soup with the bone. If it isn’t too much trouble I would love your mom’s recipe-if you’re willing to share it of course. Nobody knows how to make ham-bone soup better than West Virginians and I would be honored to try my hand at it.” – Anthony C. Fix, Ashtabula, OH

[Ed note: Mr. Fix, if you are from Ashtabula, then I bet your bean soup isn’t too different than the one lovingly made by the late Joan Marie McCarthy Stirewalt, a daughter of Detroit. The quality of the ham matters much, as does the act of sending your husband to the garage with the bone to cut it with a hacksaw so that as it cooks, the marrow and flavor infuse the broth. Plenty of white onions, yes. Some celery, diced finely, certainly. Pale, white dried navy beans, sifted and soaked overnight, yep. The real issue with bean soup though is philosophical. Do you love it the way my grandfather Newman Claude Stirewalt did, thin, so that the beans rattle around in the bottom of the bowl? Or do you like it thick, like some others, so that the beans rupture and produce a porridge-y consistency? These are eternal questions that every man and woman must answer for themselves and then cook their pot for the appropriate length. But the soup is magical, to be sure. My father, a gourmand of the first waters, made up his mind to marry Ms. McCarthy the night she invited him over for a bowl of bean soup.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

SWEET RIDE
Belleville [Ill.] News-Democrat: “RED BUD -- When the repo man showed up, ‘Baby’ lost her ride. The little Pomeranian dog loved to curl up on 82-year-old Stanford Kipping’s lap when he and his wife Patty, 70, went for a drive. But in recent months a sharp increase in the cost of prescription medicine and other bills were more than a match for the couple’s fixed incomes…the repo man, Jim Ford of Belleville, stopped his tow truck in front of their house…Ford had met with the Kippings. In fact he tried to work out a deal with the bank for them to keep their car, but it was a no go…he decided that he would pay off the Kippings’ debt and return their car to their driveway…Ford said he raised more than $3,500 in one night. After the fee for the service and after paying the $2,501 to the bank owed on the Buick, Ford tucked $1,000 in cash into an envelope. A co-worker at his business bought a frozen Thanksgiving turkey…Baby was in Stanford Kipping’s arms, a leash around her neck, as both eyed the Buick.”

[Ed. note: You may remember newspapers. As my son explained to his little brother, “It’s like they printed out the Internet so you can read it.” I got my start writing nighttime sports for my hometown paper when I was 17. I was a goner from the first. Part of what I loved about newspapering was the continuity – the musty old files of clips that reached back generations, making a record of who we were and how we became what we are. “Older than the state itself,” read the banner at the top of Page One. My favorite Thanksgiving newspaper tradition has for decades been that paper’s annual republishing of the same perfect column about the holiday by the late Adam Kelly, known to his readers as “the country editor.” I was privileged to have his son, Bob, a great newsman himself, as my mentor when I later learned my way around politics in Charleston, W.Va. They talk about Washington being a swamp. But trust me, if you can wrestle the political gators on the Kanawha River, you can cover politics anywhere in the world. Bob, who was taken from us far too young, taught a generation of newspapermen and newspaperwomen how to take our jobs seriously without taking ourselves seriously – to be skeptics without becoming cynics. It’s no mean feat when the world entices you always to see the story in first person rather than keeping the proper sense of first doing your duty to your country and your readers. The key to that, I’ve learned through hard-bought wisdom, is to begin with gratitude. If I count the blessings in my life, I can start to see how much more I have than I deserve. Understanding that makes us kinder, more gracious and, most importantly, less selfish. Bob’s father’s column, offered here by another newspaper, is properly called a litany, which is a kind of prayer where congregants respond to the preacher in the pulpit. The word “litany” descends from Greek, where its root “litaneia” means “entreaty.” My entreaty to you is that you read Adam Kelly’s good, old words and meditate on your blessings. I know I don’t enjoy today every blessing its author did; nor do you, probably. But we can all claim many of them as Americans. And if we could really all count our blessings, one suspects that we would be a people more inclined to mercy, more given to self-sacrifice and more committed to building up than tearing down. Fox News Halftime Report is pausing for the holiday and will resume publication Monday. In the meantime, I wish you and your families bounty and blessings, but most of all, the gift of gratitude, especially in the face of adversity.]

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up 
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Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace."  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.