For the Promotion and Advancement of Republican Democracy

Why we need a new system for presidential elections.

I’m an Oregonian, so a claim that Oregonians are not as important or special as residents of Michigan, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin, seems offensive and demeaning. Most Oregonians would object to and challenge such a pronouncement. But every four years that is the message sent during the presidential election. Due to the Electoral College, states like Oregon, and many others, are ignored during presidential campaigns and our votes mean almost nothing. As Scott Walker, a candidate in the republican primary race said in an interview with CNBC in 2015, “The nation as a whole is not going to elect the next president. Twelve states are.” However, it doesn’t have to be this way. A simple solution would be to enact the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. It’s a mouthful, but the idea is a simple one. Before we get into that, however, let’s look at where we are now and how we got here.

The Electoral College was established by the framers of the Constitution as a compromise while deciding how to elect a president. At the time, we were creating a whole new system with no historical examples to follow, and we were a nation devoid of the technologies and communication capabilities we now enjoy. What was settled on was a system by which each state was allotted a number of electors equal to their number of senators (always 2) plus their number of congressmen (based on population). These electors were meant to be the voters for president, and base their decisions on their own judgement and deliberations. When citizens were voting, it was for electors, not their choice of president.

The College removes the agency of individual voters. In all other elections in this country, the voters directly elect their representatives. Our presidential elections, however, are different. When you cast a vote for a presidential candidate you are not directly voting for that person. You are registering your preference for a candidate, which is then tallied along with all the other ballots in your state. Those votes are then assigned to the candidate who gets the plurality of votes in the state and all your states’ electors vote for that person. In 48 out of 50 states, the electoral votes are all cast for just one candidate. There is no proportional allocation of citizen’s votes.  For example, if there were two candidates and one got 1000 votes, the other got 999 votes, and your state is allotted ten electors, all ten electors would vote for the candidate with the 1000 votes. One candidate would not get six electors while the other gets four (except for Maine and Nebraska, which do proportionally distribute their electors). This system creates swing states (aka battleground states) and it means we can, and have had, presidents elected even though they did not receive the most votes nationwide.

This is one of the main faults in our system. A candidate can be elected to the highest office in our country, with the slimmest margin in just a few states, despite a large national popular vote loss. This is the exact situation encountered in 2016. According to the FEC’s 2016 Official General Election Results, Donald Trump lost the popular vote to Clinton by 2,868,691 votes, out of 128,838,341. That’s a 2.09% margin of victory for Clinton. Trump became president, nonetheless, because 77,744 voters, out of 13,233,376, between the states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin cast their votes for him. That was his margin of victory in those three states; less than .6%. Those states combined carry 46 electors, giving Trump the advantage he needed to win in the Electoral College.

This leads to the question of: what are our votes worth? In places like Oregon, California, Texas, Kentucky, or New York, the answer is that they have a nominal effect on the election outcome. These states are reliably red or blue. Therefore, not only do candidates tend to ignore the state, if you are a member of the opposition party in one of these places, say a republican in Oregon or a democrat in Texas, your vote carries nearly zero weight. It alone (or in combination with the small majority who are with you) cannot alter the balance of the total votes in your state. All your states electors will go to the candidate with the most votes, essentially negating your ballot.

Additionally, candidates don’t visit many places. They concentrate in battleground or swing states, the areas where electors are up for grabs. FairVote.org has compiled some surprising statistics about where the candidates spent their time in 2016. The two major party tickets made 399 official, public campaign appearances after the conventions. Of those, 375 were spent in just twelve states. Fourteen states only received between one and three visits each, and a whopping twenty-five states (including Oregon) received zero visits! The statistics indicate that 76% of the country is not on the radar of presidential candidates.

So, what can we do about this situation? The only way to abolish the Electoral College and move to a direct vote system is with a Constitutional amendment. It is an extremely difficult and long process to get an amendment passed and is very unlikely to be successful. Luckily, a much simpler and doable solution has come along. It’s called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The idea is simple: States that join (by passing a bill in their legislatures) agree to commit all their electoral votes to whomever wins the national popular vote. The compact would go into effect once enough states sign-on to reach 270 electoral votes, the number needed to win the election. This would ensure a national popular vote winner could never lose in the electoral college. No constitutional amendment would be necessary, and it’s legal because states are autonomous in making decisions about the allotment of their electors. The compact has been proposed in all fifty states and been enacted into law in eleven, totaling 165 electoral votes so far. It has also seen momentum in several other states.

In Oregon, the bill has passed the House four times. In three of those cases it never even received a hearing in the senate, and during this last legislative session (2017) a version of the bill made it to a hearing in the Senate Rules Committee, but never made it out of committee. According to The Oregonian, the bill was not advanced because the version proposed in the senate calls for the issue to be taken up by voters in a ballot initiative. The House version did not. The two bills would need to be reconciled and the Senate Rules Chair did not believe it made sense at that time to try such a task. The advocates for the bill do not have the funds and resources available to run the financially and labor-intensive campaign needed for a ballot measure vote. It’s been noted that the previous three House bills passed were all “blocked by Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, who opposes abandoning the traditional Electoral College process.” This year, however, he said he “would support the change if Oregon voters—not their representatives in Salem—made the call.”

This brings us to opposition to changing our current system. There are, of course, going to be many people who oppose any change to the status quo, and their reasons will vary. One popular argument is that the electoral college prevents “mob” rule; that it protects the minority from being overpowered by the majority. I think this argument is unconvincing due to the nature of how our system has ultimately come to operate. Under its original intentions, the College would have acted as a deliberative body. The electors would be chosen by the citizens, and would decide the presidential elections on their behalf. The Framers believed this compromise solved many problems they were facing, one being a concern about mob rule. The Founding Fathers did not want the common folk to hold too much power over the process. They felt the electors were better equipped to make such monumental decisions, and their will could prevent the “mob” of citizenry from choosing a less-than-desirable candidate. However, the Framers did not anticipate the rise of political parties (or “factions”), but factions took hold soon after the ratification of the Constitution. The electors were voting along “party lines” almost from the beginning. According to the political scientists Edwards and Wattenberg in their book Government in America, “the idea of electors exercising independent judgments is a constitutional anachronism.” It doesn’t seem plausible, therefore, that the College prevents mob rule. Every Vote Equal has this to say about the concern:

 The American people currently cast votes for President in 100% of the states…In case anyone thinks it is appropriate to characterize the American electorate as a “mob” it is long-settled that the “mob” already rules in American presidential elections…[It’s] not whether the “mob” will vote for President, but whether the “mobs” in battleground states  should be more important than the “mobs” in the remaining states.

Additionally, almost all other presidential countries in the world elect their presidents directly; this is not a new, untested concept.

Another concern that comes up a lot is the notion that the electoral college is protecting smaller or more rural states from being ignored by the candidates and drown out by bigger states. It seems the current system is doing little to bring candidates to smaller or more rural states. What it does do, however, is makes a few select states more important than all others, simply because of their undecided status. Those states come in various sizes and have diversified demographics, as do the many states currently ignored. If battleground states didn’t exist, we would likely see changes in how candidates conduct their campaigns. Although we can’t know exactly what that would look like, even Trump has claimed that if the winner were based on popular votes he would have “campaigned differently.” Perhaps we Oregonians would have the same chance to interact with the candidates that Floridians do.

If the National Popular Vote were to go into effect, all citizens could be secure in the knowledge that their vote counts. Whether you’re a republican or a democrat, whether you live in Oregon or Ohio, your vote would have just as much power as everybody else’s. People could have faith in our democratic institutions, and that might boost voter participation. In fact, Silberstein claims that “turnout is about 11% higher in battleground states.” Evidence exists that corroborates this assertion, and although correlation doesn’t guarantee causation, it is promising.

The Electoral College is undermining democracy in America and adversely affecting voters. The National Popular Vote is a great solution to this issue. It is straight-forward, Constitutional, and fair. Civic participation can be rewarding and satisfying, but we need to ensure that each vote counts. Supporting this legislation is an easy way to bolster democratic ideals and equality. To find out more, you can visit nationalpopularvote.com. If you’d like to express your support for the legislation, please look up your state rep and senator (if you don’t already know them) (at oregonlegislature.gov if you’re an Oregonian), and give their office a call to encourage them to vote for this measure.

One person, one vote.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another Stupid Congressman Makes Another Stupid Remark

When will these people learn?

Yet another member of congress makes a ridiculous suggestion about how people should get better healthcare. This time it’s Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) who has suggested to a mother that her son should simply get a better job if he wants thorough and affordable healthcare. Read the article Here.

How out of touch with reality can these people be?? First off, do they think high paying jobs with great benefits just grow on trees? And that just anybody can get them? And that everybody is qualified for such jobs because of the education and skills they possess? Umm….NO. None of that is true. Not everybody has the skills or education to qualify for those jobs (especially considering how little the GOP cares about quality education and affordable college for all Americans). Even if everybody had the same opportunity to get a quality education, not everybody is cut out for higher level learning. Plus, there isn’t an unlimited number of high wage jobs available in the United States anyway. And since nobody seems to want to pay a living wage or provide decent health benefits to those people who are never going to be qualified for higher paying jobs, then what are they supposed to do? Suffer because they’re not smart enough or educated enough to make more money? Even if they aren’t “lazy takers” and are willing to work full time to make a living?

And lastly, is he suggesting that everybody who is currently in a low-paying job in the service industry or retail should simply quit those jobs and go get higher paying jobs (as if they wouldn’t if they could….see the points above)? Because if that’s what he’s suggesting and just for arguments sake let’s say it was actually possible and people could just do that….who the hell is going to serve us food, cash us out at Target, pump our gas, or bag our groceries? If everybody was qualified for high paying jobs with great benefits and there were enough of those jobs for all adults in America to have one, who would actually opt to take a job in a restaurant or grocery store or gas station?? Nobody, that’s who! You fucking moron!

And where would that leave our economy and society if it could happen? Would all service, food industry, and retail jobs be taken over by A.I.? It doesn’t really matter, because none of the proposition is realistic in the first place! At least not with the current state of things. The idiots that spew this bullshit don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. And this is coming from someone who should know much less about most things than our congresspeople. But it seems to me that much of this is common sense and we should all be able to see that. It’s a sad and scary world we’re living in when someone like this guy can get elected.

 

 

 

The Importance Of Involvement

Why participation in local party politics is crucial to the Resistance.

Being involved in local politics and your local Democratic Party can be personally rewarding as well as politically effective. As  E.J. Dionne Jr.  points out “power in a democratic nation comes from winning elections…a two-party system…requires picking sides.” Partisanship and polarization are a real problem right now but that does not mean you have to eschew participation with your party. What I believe it means is that we have to be more engaged because part of our engagement can focus on breaking the polarization cycle.

Persuade

Being involved enough to participate in primaries (which is as easy as registering as a democrat) means that you have a chance to put a candidate on the ticket in a general election that will have broad appeal and may be better at bridging divides than creating them. Volunteering with your local party office might mean helping disseminate information to voters, in which case you’ll have an opportunity to close the gap by gently reassuring voters of the party’s commitment to the issues that they care about. If you’re a voting member of the county party, you will have a direct say in the platform that they support.

The ways in which direct involvement in the party process will help us win elections are numerous and varied. You are sure to find yourself some volunteer opportunities that fit your time, lifestyle, and personality. If you don’t have the time or inclination to get hands-on in the efforts, monetary donations are an important factor as well so a donation(s) would be a helpful gesture.

The localized activist groups like those created through the Indivisible Guide are doing some awesome work and have had a huge impact on civilian participation and attention. They have been instrumental in drawing attention to issues and galvanizing people toward action and participation. But we also need the structure and organization of a strong central party to start winning elections. No amount of activism will make much of a dent if we continue to lose elections both large and small. You can protest something till your voice runs out and you’re dead on your feet but if we don’t have the numbers in the legislatures and executive branches, none of it will matter much. As this article in The Nation mentions “organizations need to figure out how to persuade The Democratic Partyenough of the politically passive citizenry…to vote, and to vote democratic.”
Please help support strong candidates and get involved in voter education and turn-out efforts. I attended my first central committee meeting of the Democratic Party in my county last night and became a voting member by applying to be a PCP (Precinct Committee Person). I encourage similar actions for anybody like me who has never been vote-1319435_1280involved on that grassroots party level before and a deeper commitment for those already there. Let’s Resist by Persisting!

 

Wow….So Much Happening

It’s been a hell of a week. Here are a couple wins and an opportunity.

I haven’t had time to post lately and have felt so overwhelmed by recent news that I’m not sure where to even take this right now. But, I did want to make a quick post to encourage all of us “reluctant” activists out there to keep at it. And if you’re not already doing something, provide some additional encouragement to start.

The big news from today was Andrew Puzder dropping out of his nomination as Labor Secretary. This is a big win, especially considering we haven’t been able to stop any of the appointments thus far. I know there was a lot of activism surrounding this nominee and I think it paid off. People protested, called, and wrote and perhaps that pressure was finally felt by some republican senators. Who knows what we’ll see next for this open position, but I’d assume it can’t be as bad as the last.

The other really big news this week of course was the “resignation” of Gen. Flynn as National Security Advisor. This is also good news and another opportunity for activism. Digging deeper into Flynn’s connections with Russia and possibly Trump or others in his circle will be a big issue going forward. Make some calls or send some letters to encourage your MOC (members of congress), various committees, or departments to start or continue and ramp up existing investigations. After Flynn’s departure there was additional reporting about other Trump team members having contact with Russian intelligence officials during the campaign (you know, while all that Russian hacking into our election stuff was happening). This is serious business and needs to be seriously investigated and reported to the American people.

The last thing I’d like to mention today is something seemingly small, but for which I think we can have an impact that might have bigger reverberations. Georgia Congressman Tom Price is giving up his seat for a cabinet appointment. As described here by Rachel Maddow, it’s been long held by the GOP and the democratic party seems to have almost no ambition to try and win the seat. But there is at least one qualified democratic candidate running and his name is Jon Ossoff. Today I emailed the DCCC to encourage them to back this guy in a big way and set the ball rolling for 2018! I also donated directly to his campaign and posted about it in a FB group. I’ve had several responses from people who followed my advice and also donated (and we all live in OR, not Georgia, haha)! I’m hoping others might do the same things and pass the word on as well! Let’s get this party started! And, yes that’s a call to action as well as a terrible play on words, as in “get the democratic party to start doing something” 😉

 

So…..Angry!

Did Trump’s apparent lack of both careful deliberation and a hierarchical system for approval lead to a terrible decision on Yemen?

So, ya’ll heard about the (arguably) disastrous raid in Yemen right? The one in which one commando and several civilians including children were killed, 3 other commandos were injured, and one of our multi million dollar aircrafts needed to be blown up. Right, so there’s more to this story and it’s making me insane.

Now, not every decision about combat ops are going to be great ones for any president and there’s always a chance of things going wrong and people getting injured or killed. It’s happened to even the best, most conscientious of leaders. But, that is not necessarily what happened here. And to top it off, the administration is lying about aspects in order to shift blame from them to Obama. Well, I’m calling bullshit and am super pissed that it’s not getting more coverage.

In this one action and their response to the outcome, the administration has demonstrated much to us, if only we are paying attention. The decision to go ahead with the raid was made by Trump at dinner, not in the Situation Room or any other room in the White House that is used for official business. There seems to be multiple conflicting stories about how much deliberation there was leading up to the decision, who may or may not have weighed in on the decision, and just generally if it was handled properly or with enough care.

While the military discussed various options for actions in Yemen, the 44th president felt such action “represented a significant escalation of US involvement in Yemen,” as one senior government official under Obama said. – By Dan Merica, Ryan Browne and Jeff Zeleny, CNN

One big thing to consider here is that although this plan obviously made it’s way through a long chain and was initiated by Central Command (because that’s what they do, come up with military plans and submit them for approval), it was not simply a “routine” mission. One of the issues here that should have been weighed heavily by Trump and his team was the fact that it meant an escalation of our presence in Yemen, from one more about air raids and support, to actual boots on the ground. That’s usually the kind of thing that deserves much consideration from the highest levels, beyond DOD. Continue reading “So…..Angry!”

America: Home of the Rich, Land of Big Business

America tumbles into plutocracy. One cabinet member at a time.

Well folks it’s official: Exxon Mobil is our new Secretary of State. Yaaaay (I hope the sarcasm in my voice comes through). Of course there’s been almost no chance of nominees not making it through simply because the dems just don’t have the numbers to stop anything. But I sure had been hoping that a few might not make it simply on principle. That at least all the democrats and a few of the republicans would just have to say no way, this is crazy! But alas, not only did every republican vote for Tillerson, so did a few democrats, one independent, and one dem didn’t vote at all. So despite it being the most contentious vote on a Secretary of State in over 50 years he is still getting the position. I’m beyond disappointed in our government right now and it just keeps getting worse by the day.

Case in point: just hours after Tillerson was confirmed, House republicans rolled out a resolution to “repeal Securities and Exchange Commission’s extraction rule. This corporate giveaway to Exxon-Mobil makes it easier for oil companies to secretly funnel money to foreign governments.” – Elizabeth Warren. Check out Senator Warren’s blistering commentary from the senate floor.

It’s also yet to be seen if Mr. Tillerson will do anything to help dissidents from Russia who are being targeted. This story on the Rachel Maddow show (2/2/17) was about one such man who had already been poisoned in a (suspected) assassination attack in Russia several years ago and nearly died. He had been living in the US when this attack took place and our State Department stepped in to help bring him back to the states for medical care and to be with his family. Well, this poor guy has been poisoned again in Russia! Rachel is justifiably concerned about what our current State Department might do or not do. I tried to find info on the Secretary of State’s website about this and found nothing. There are no current press releases, or any other kind of communication that might contain anything about this story. I hope this poor guy who has been fighting against a corrupt and dictatorial regime in his home country makes it through.

 

Hypocrisy at its Worst

The democrats are starting to flex their remaining muscles a bit only to be accused of obstructionism…..by the same people who stole a SCOTUS seat!

Oh for fucks sake! You have got to be kidding me with this high and mighty bullshit! Hypocrisy abounds among republicans  right now, saying such things as “I think this is a completely unprecedented level of obstruction”(from the above article). No, no it’s not! And you know why?? Because YOU guys set that “unprecedented level” so high over the last 8 years, we’d need a full 8 years to match it! When you set out from basically the beginning with a planned strategy of obstruct everything and concluded those 8 years with a stolen Supreme Court pick, you lose the right to ever accuse others of an “unprecedented level of obstruction”! Ever!

The refusal to even hold hearings on Obama’s SCOTUS pick was actually unprecedented. It was your job to do that, yet you refused, even when handed a moderate many of you had praised in the past.  Obama won both his elections fair and square with over 52% of the vote, and 365 electors in 2008 (the runner up only had about 45% and 173 electors), and 51% of votes with 332 electors in 2012 (runner up had 47% of votes and 206 electors). So, I think it should have been crystal clear that the American public wanted President Obama and in turn wanted him to do his job of filling vacant SCOTUS seats. That was his right as a democratically elected president and it was your JOB to debate and vote on his picks. You didn’t.

But now you feel like your democratic colleagues are being somehow unreasonable? Nooooope! The American people did NOT want this man in charge and he certainly doesn’t have a mandate or get a pass on anything. Let’s not forget his election results. Trump lost the popular vote roughly 46% to 48%, and only won the electors 304 to 227. AND, it really only came down to 107,00 or so people across 3 states that tipped the Electoral College to Trump! That was only about .09% of total votes! So basically Trump lost if you count only the popular vote (which is how it should be, but that topic is for another time), and won by less than 1 total percent of votes when it comes to the Electoral College.

You don’t get to obstruct a president the majority of Americans wanted in power for 8 years then claim obstructionism against your guy who a majority of Americans didn’t want in office! Fuck you and your hypocrisy! I hope the democrats say no to everything and anyone Trump puts up! Even though we cannot completely stop most things on our own, I’m certainly encouraging my reps to vote no and hold up votes when possible. Payback is a bitch. It may not be completely effective yet, but watch out during midterm elections!