Why Bill Greene Voted for Ron Paul in the Electoral College
Bill Greene is assistant professor of political science at South Texas College in Weslaco, Texas. Dr. Greene made headlines in 2016 when, as a member of the Electoral College from Texas, he cast his vote for Ron Paul. He recently spoke with us about his vote and his work with Ron Paul and the Mises Institute.
THE AUSTRIAN: Ron Paul has noted that he first met you in 1988, so it seems you have a long-term interest in freedom and free markets.
BILL GREENE: I definitely do. It’s been at the center of my political activities since I was in college. I’ve always been a bit rebellious against the “establishment” wherever I was, and in graduate school I formed a campus libertarian student group at UNC-Greensboro and became active in the Libertarian Party. All of my papers were written from a classical liberal perspective, which many of my professors weren’t too happy about. In 1988, our student group worked with another campus organization, the nonpartisan Political Awareness Club, to host a speech by the LP’s presidential nominee, former Rep. Ron Paul. His campaign’s “advance man” stayed at my apartment (as did the VP nominee, Andre Marrou, a few months later), and not only did Dr. Paul deliver a great speech to a packed audience, I was also able to set him up with other talks around the area to various local civic groups. (Dr. Paul remembers our meeting at that time, because he had so much fun shooting down the “questions” thrown at him from students who belonged to the local Socialist Workers’ Party.)
That’s when I became such a fan of his — he made nothing but sense, and he was consistent in his market-based policy prescriptions in every area. All these years later, he still gives the same basic policy prescriptions — and he’s still right. After that election, I followed Dr. Paul back into the GOP, joined the Republican Liberty Caucus, and became active in the party for over 25 years; I was elected to party positions from precinct chair to state executive committee member, and (unsuccessfully) ran for office myself. All of that gave me “creds” when I successfully ran for elector in 2016.
TA: In the wake of your vote in the Electoral College, some sites circulated a photo of you at the Mises Institute. What work have you done with the Mises Institute, and how did you become interested in the Institute’s work?
BG: The Mises Institute has provided me, and countless others (including Dr. Paul, through whom I discovered the Institute), with the intellectual ammunition needed to not only fight back against ever-encroaching statism in government and economics, but to be proactive in providing the free-market solutions that are so desperately needed in our country, and the world, today. So, when I helped the late Rep. Bobby Franklin (in the Georgia House of Representatives) to write the first modern Constitutional Tender bill in 2009 — a bill designed to bring states back into compliance with the constitutional provisions of Article I, Section 10, requiring them to only use gold and silver coins in all financial transactions — I realized that if enough states implemented similar bills, we could actually “nullify” the Federal Reserve Act itself. In other words, instead of focusing exclusively on “topdown” efforts to end the Fed at the federal level, this “bottom-up” process could accomplish the same result and rid this nation, and the world, of this horrible economic and monetary cancer that is destroying the value of our money.
So, I wrote an academic paper on it, and the Mises Institute was gracious enough to invite me to present it at what is now called the Austrian Economics Research Conference — twice, in fact. The first time was in 2010; the second in 2014. The paper is available for download online as model legislation for any state to adopt and adapt. I am currently writing a book on this approach, tentatively entitled Nullify The Fed. I hope to get Dr. Paul to write an introduction for it — maybe my Electoral College vote for him will help!
TA: Why did you become interested in the Electoral College and how did you end up as a voting member?
BG: Interestingly, the Electoral College first caught my attention when I worked in support of Ron Paul’s 1988 campaign for president. We couldn’t even get him on the ballot in North Carolina, except as an “official” write-in candidate, but I realized that any actual electors who liked what he had to say could still vote for him (or anyone else they liked), whether he was on the ballot or not. I sort of “tucked that away” in a mental filing cabinet for all these years. Once I got into academia, this was one of the areas that I actually taught about every semester, so I learned more and more about it. I had been friends with Roger MacBride in the 1990s, and he had regaled me with stories about when he was a “faithless elector” in 1972, voting for LP nominee John Hospers instead of Richard Nixon (I still have MacBride’s excellent book on the Electoral College).
Knowing that it’s electors, not the general election voters, who actually get to vote for president and vice president, I decided to look into the process for how potential electors are nominated by parties in my state of Texas. Here, the process is similar to picking delegates to the national nominating convention (in fact, the selection takes place at the same time as selecting delegates). Since I’d already been a national convention delegate (I’ve been to four), and since the real “contest” at these congressional district caucus meetings is over delegate slots, it was a time-consuming, but fairly simple, process to run and be selected as a GOP elector nominee instead (I did have to defeat another candidate, a county party chair, who most of the “party people” in charge were supporting). After what the establishment “leaders” of the Republican Party did to Ron Paul and his supporters in 2008 and, especially, 2012, I didn’t feel at all beholden to voting for the GOP nominee once I was elected on November 8th. (Of course, if the GOP nominee had been as good a choice as Ron Paul, I would have voted for the nominee.)
As a side note, when the congressional district caucus selected me for elector, I had to sign a “pledge” to vote for the eventual Republican Party nominees. Once the presidential nominee had been chosen, however, I started considering my other options, knowing that the duty of electors is to cast their votes for whomever they believe to be the best choice for president in the entire country. When I was sworn in to my office as an elector in December, I had to take an actual oath to uphold the US Constitution — an oath which superseded my “pledge” from months earlier. And the first person I thought of to vote for was the Defender of the Constitution himself: Ron Paul.
TA: Apparently, this year was a particularly contentious year for the Electoral College and presidential elections. As a political science professor, do you think the Electoral College still has a future?
BG: To answer that question, I’m reminded of the question Benjamin Franklin was asked after the Constitutional Convention had finished its business of crafting our new Constitution. A lady came up to him and asked, “Dr. Franklin, what have you given us?” His answer included a warning: “A Republic, madam — if you can keep it.” So, the answer to the question of whether the Electoral College has a future (or will we instead turn to a “democratic” direct popular election) is, “It does — if we can keep it, and keep our Republic.” The Electoral College is, in my opinion, one of the few remaining vestiges of our federal system of government, where the states were supposed to keep the vast majority of political power, with only a few clearly-defined expressed powers being delegated to the national government.
Our president is elected by the states, not by the people themselves — we elect electors to vote on our behalf, just as we elect representatives to Congress to vote on our behalf. We don’t force them to vote exactly the way we want them to vote, but we can make sure they don’t return to office in the next election if we don’t like the way they vote for us. In the same way, electors are to be chosen by the people (through direct election, since the 1800s) from among their fellow citizens — people who are, according to Federalist #68, “most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.”
If the people don’t like how the electors they chose cast their votes, they can choose someone else next election (or use better discernment in who they select for the Electoral College itself). What they should not do — and which would be unconstitutional in and of itself — is attempt to legally bind Electors to voting for their political party’s nominees (which over half the states now do, but which has never been adjudicated by the Supreme Court). This “binding” of electors is no more constitutional than “binding” representatives in the House would be; in addition, if you’re going to “bind” an entire bloc of electors in each state to vote a certain way, then why have an Electoral College at all? Republicans who are calling for the “binding” of electors in each State are, in reality, agreeing with Democrats who want to get rid of the Electoral College altogether. Of course, I’m no longer surprised when Republicans agree with Democrats on getting rid of, or altogether ignoring, constitutional provisions that protect our life, liberty, and property, as well as the very existence of our republican (little “r”) form of government; but I will staunchly oppose such efforts with every fiber of my being.
TA: For you personally, what has been the effect of going your own way in the Electoral College? Has this ensured you won’t be back? Have you received support in your decision?
BG: To be honest, I never intended to be an elector more than once, so this was sort of a “last hurrah” for me. Personally, I don’t believe any person should do so repeatedly; it’s a huge honor and privilege to be a participant in our constitutional method of selecting our chief executive, and the opportunity should be afforded to new people every year. I am disheartened when I see some political party members return year after year as electors, just because they are “reliable” establishment hacks, party bigwigs, large-dollar donors, elected officials, or long-time activists. Capable citizens, who understand what the Electoral College is, why it was instituted, and what the founders’ intent for it was, should be selected — and there are good numbers of them available. If all we are supposed to be is “yes men” (and women), then we’re no better than a Politburo in the old Soviet Union.
On a personal level, while I have received a limited amount of “blowback” from a few of the more “gung-ho” members of our party, I have received FAR more positive feedback in support of my vote for Dr. Paul, from the local level up to nationwide. As I told one reporter, “I’ve got free beer wherever I go for the rest of my life.” Liberty is popular, and people who love freedom (and free markets) are a fabulously loyal bunch of diehards. I believe that I “have chosen wisely,” as the “Grail Knight” intoned to Indiana Jones. My desire is that my vote will inspire many others to stand strong for liberty, and renew hope for countless thousands who had seen those hopes dashed in 2008 and 2012. If it has that effect, then I have great optimism for our long-term future.
Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
Cite This Article
Green, William, "Ron Paul's 'Faithless' Elector: A Conversation with Bill Greene," The Austrian 3, no. 2 (March/April 2017): 8–11.