Most Americans Want to Pick Our President by Popular Vote

❝ There has long been support for using the popular vote over the Electoral College, but this recent poll marks its highest level of support in recent years with two-thirds who said the US should use the popular vote and the other third who believe in the Electoral College…

❝ Changing the US system from the Electoral College to popular wouldn’t be easy for those who are in favor of it.

A number of states have signed onto something different, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, by which states would essentially agree to use the popular vote. It’ll take effect when states totaling 270 electoral votes sign on. But it would certainly face court challenges and most of the states that have signed on tilt toward Democrats. Republicans have won the White House twice since 2000 because of the existence of the Electoral College. So don’t look for a change anytime soon.

Some folks think it’s funny – watching Republicans weasel their way around the issue. It’s sad, in fact contemptible in my opinion. Party loyalty has nothing principled to bear on opposition to small-d democratic principles. That goal goes back centuries before the founding of these United States. Unfortunately, hypocrisy goes back further.

Court strikes down Wisconsin Republicans’ crooked redistricting – let’s do this nationwide!

❝ With the 2016 election, Donald Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to win Wisconsin in nearly 30 years and Republicans took control of nearly two-thirds of the Legislature, including their largest majority in the Assembly since 1957, despite a roughly even split of votes between Democrats and Republicans in statewide races.

But now a federal court may undo the redistricting that aided Republican gains in recent years with one ruling.

On Monday, a federal court overturned Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn legislative maps as an “unconstitutional gerrymander” that likely played a major factor in the party’s disproportionate electoral success.

❝ A three-judge panel…ruled that the Republican plan was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander…“We find that Act 43 was intended to burden the representational rights of Democratic voters throughout the decennial period by impeding their ability to translate their votes into legislative seats,” wrote federal appeals court senior judge Kenneth Ripple, in an 116-page decision. “Moreover, as demonstrated by the results of the 2012 and 2014 elections, among other evidence, we conclude that Act 43 has had its intended effect.”

Ripple, a Ronald Reagan appointee, continued: “Finally, we find that the discriminatory effect is not explained by the political geography of Wisconsin nor is it justified by a legitimate state interest. Consequently, Act 43 constitutes an unconstitutional political gerrymander.”

Sensible Western nations have taken away the opportunity for corrupt politicians to steer state elections into an undemocratic ambush. Not really as surprising as the James Gang showing up on payday to collect everyone’s money. Historically, both the two parties we’re generally allowed have been guilty of the same deceit one time or another; so, the Dems haven’t a boatload of motivation. Trouble is as economic inequality grows to a pointed failure of opportunity sectarian pressures grow. Populism drags its old lies on board the downbound train.

Civics-minded organizations like the ACLU fight to restore the spirit of democracy that still stands in constitutional law as One Person, One Vote. Perhaps they and their peers can win it all for all of us? I’d feel safer if folks construct a political movement that lives beyond a single issue and brings this nation back to principles over slogans, a broader economy over 1930’s-style exploitation.

We have an Electoral College to protect slave states

❝ Every four years, we elect a president in this country, and we do it in a strange way: via the Electoral College. The reasons for the Electoral College are unclear to most people. On the surface, it appears anti-democratic, and needlessly complicated.

Why not rely on a popular vote, as almost every other democracy does? If a popular vote makes sense for gubernatorial elections, why doesn’t it make sense for presidential elections? What did the American founders have in mind when they erected this ostensible firewall against majority will?…

Why does the Electoral College exist? Is it exclusively about federalism and slavery?

❝ There are several standard stories that I learned in school, and then there’s an emerging story that I find more explanatory. I learned in school that it was a balance between big and small states. But the real divisions in America have never been big and small states; they’re between North and South, and between coasts and the center…

So what’s the real answer? In my view, it’s slavery. In a direct election system, the South would have lost every time because a huge percentage of its population was slaves, and slaves couldn’t vote. But an Electoral College allows states to count slaves, albeit at a discount – the three-fifths clause – and that’s what gave the South the inside track in presidential elections. “And thus it’s no surprise that eight of the first nine presidential races were won by a Virginian. Virginia was the most populous state at the time, and had a massive slave population that boosted its electoral vote count.”

What’s the greatest argument against it?

❝ Again, it’s in tension with a basic idea of one person, one vote. The problem with most of the arguments for the Electoral College are that they prove too much, because if they were good arguments, every state is stupid, as no state has a mini-Electoral College. And if that’s good enough for the governorship of Texas or California, why not for the presidency of the United States?

History’s a bear, ain’t it? There is a current legal tweak circulating in an attempt to work around the Electoral College. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is what it’s called and only blue states have signed on. Republicans are confident the current Electoral College system favors them. No red states have supported the idea.

So, Congress ignores civil rights one more time. The mindset of slave-owners ain’t about to leave town.

Republican attempt to limit minority representation fails in the Supreme Court


Mapmaking bigots

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state and local governments can continue their longstanding method of drawing equal-sized election districts, rejecting calls for what might have been a transformational change reducing Hispanic voting clout.

Unanimously upholding Texas voting lines Monday, the justices rejected conservative groups’ arguments that map-drawers should stop using total population and start using eligible voters as the measure for the Constitution’s “one person, one vote” principle. That approach might have reduced representation for areas with large numbers of children and non-citizens and shifted some seats to more heavily Republican areas.

Writing for six justices, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the total-population approach protects the interests of nonvoters, including children who attend public schools and their parents.

“As the framers of the Constitution and the 14th Amendment comprehended, representatives serve all residents, not just those eligible or registered to vote,” she wrote. “Total-population apportionment promotes equitable and effective representation…”

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito agreed with the outcome only, writing separately to lay out different reasoning.

The ruling touched on a fundamental question about representative democracy, asking whether lawmakers serve on behalf of everyone in their district or only those eligible to cast ballots. The issue has taken on greater importance as the share of non-citizens in the U.S. has grown…

The case stemmed from the Supreme Court’s landmark 1964 Reynolds v. Sims ruling, which established the “one person, one vote” standard and said the Constitution’s equal protection clause requires states to make their voting districts roughly the same size. The ruling voided maps across the country that had disproportionately allocated legislative seats to heavily white rural areas.

I still support the formation of a non-partisan redistricting commission along Canadian lines. Take the political crap motivating both of the two old parties out of the equation. That would follow the tenets of representative republican democracy in legitimate fashion. And, then, we might finally lose the silliness of an electoral college fashioned to the demands of horse-drawn transportation and rural slave-owners.

Tsarnaev trial: Constitutional answer to Republican fear of democracy

The trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev…has already been a success. The community learned important new details of the bombing, and drew a step nearer to putting the traumatic week of the bombing and Watertown manhunt in the rearview mirror. Just as important, by showing the world that terror suspects can get a fair trial, the proceedings have helped restore some global respect for American justice — and vindicated the Obama administration’s decision to keep him within the conventional justice system from the beginning.

It’s easy to forget that just after Tsarnaev’s arrest, the administration came under criticism for failing to ship Tsarnaev off to military detention. New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, along with colleagues John McCain and Lindsey Graham, called for the administration to take Tsarnaev into military custody, rather than charge the suspected bomber in civilian courts. The legal arguments against the senators’ position have been thoroughly aired already, but the advantages of civilian trials are not solely procedural. Should another domestic terror attack like the Marathon bombing strike the United States, the Tsarnaev trial should stand as an example of why keeping terror suspects in the normal justice system is preferable for the communities they target, too…

…No harm has come to national security from treating Tsarnaev, who is a US citizen, as a conventional defendant. Reading him his Miranda rights, a step bemoaned by the senators, did not hamper the case. On the contrary, the United States avoided the needless, self-inflicted black eye that would have come had authorities skirted established protections for criminal defendants. And the jury’s verdict…will have a credibility that would have been lacking had Tsarnaev been subject to military detention and interrogation first.

The fixation on putting domestic terrorism suspects into military custody reflects a longstanding obsession of McCain and Graham, and as long as they continue to beat that drum, civilian trials like Tsarnaev’s will need defending. The good that has come from holding an open, fair, and untainted trial in the United States, near the scene of the crime, cannot be underestimated. It’s unfortunate that the senators tried to derail this healthy constitutional process, but hopefully the Tsarnaev trial will serve as a reminder of its value.

No one argues that a system of trial by jury, peers determined mostly by geography and economics, is faultless. There are a number of things that can go wrong – starting with corrupt police and prosecutors. Regardless, the system works a lot better than anything else our nation has tried.

The system certainly works a lot better than torture and inquisition, the favorites of leading Republicans. Though McCain and Graham, Ayotte and other long-standing conservatives, often offer opportunist blather catering to the Tea Party faction of today’s Republican Party, their opposition to public trials is a reflection of a conservative theme more elitist than lynch mobs. And like most self-concerned politicians, I doubt they will admit their foolishness now that the Marathon Bombing trial is beyond the stage of guilt or innocence.

I’ll keep my opinion on capital punishment separate from this post. It’s radical enough to be a distraction.

The point remains that today’s conservatives continue their disservice to traditions rooted in our Constitution. All that revulsed American colonists about what passed for justice from 18th Century English law would be returned to power by reactionary fools like Graham and McCain if they had their way. If they get their way, someday.

Trial by jury, the right to confront accusers, the right to a timely trial, habeas corpus – were significant standards raised before the whole world by the American revolution. It is too kind to call politicians who would turn their back on this part of our history – fools. Their corruption runs deeper than that.

US/Britain aided Middle East instability by backing autocrats

Britain and the US have contributed to instability in the Middle East by supporting autocratic regimes that suppress human rights, David Cameron has said. The Prime Minister said that popular uprisings now flaring across the Middle East showed the West had been wrong to support dictators and oppressive regimes.

Speaking to the Kuwaiti Parliament, Mr Cameron said Britain would back democracy campaigners seeking greater rights across the Middle East. “History is sweeping through your neighbourhood,” he said. “Not as a result of force and violence, but by people seeking their rights, and in the vast majority of cases doing so peacefully and bravely.”

Britain and other Western countries supported Hosni Mubarak, ousted by protests in Egypt. They have also backed authoritarian regimes in the Gulf region, making few efforts to push allies towards democratic reform.

That approach was wrong and counter-productive, Mr Cameron said…

He said that Britain’s economic and security interests would ultimately be advanced by a more democratic Middle East. “Our interests lie in upholding our values – in insisting on the right to peaceful protest, in freedom of speech and the internet, in freedom of assembly and the rule of law.”

Mr Cameron’s call for reform could be seen as heralding a new approach to countries like Saudi Arabia, where the Western-backed royal family firmly opposes democratic reform…

Anyone expect a new approach to the Saudi royal family from Congress or the White House?

“There is no single formula for success, and there are many ways to ensure greater, popular participation in Government,” he said. “We respect your right to take your own decisions, while offering our goodwill and support.”

“But we cannot remain silent in our belief that freedom and the rule of law are what best guarantee human progress and economic success, and that each country should find its own path to achieving peaceful change.”

This is the voice of an English conservative. Can you imagine, say, a Republican candidate for president saying this? How about Barack Obama? Sarah Whatshername?

It’s been about a century since American conservatives spoke out against imperialism. Western complicity in profit-taking has always overruled the essential benefits of commerce and communications.

Term limits are like ‘political junk food’


Reminding you why the Republicans came up with the idea

Anti-establishment candidates are capitalizing on widespread anti-incumbent fervor and proposing term limits as a way to bring the power back to the people. As political hopefuls try to persuade voters to send them to Congress, they’re also promising they won’t be there long.

It’s a message that polls well and gets applause at campaign rallies, but David King, director of Harvard’s program for Newly Elected Members of the U.S. Congress, said term limits do more harm than good.

It’s political junk food. It tastes good but hurts the body politic in the long run,” he said.

Advocates and opponents of term limits are after the same thing: keeping the power out of the hands of lobbyists and special interests.

King says term limits do the opposite by taking the business of lawmaking away from elected representatives and giving it to professional staff and lobbyists.

Instead, the elections process needs better campaign finance laws and a more engaged electorate, he said.

“That leads to a situation in which we reward politicians or statesmen or stateswoman who have been around for a long time and are terrific, while at the same time being able to get rid of the low-quality legislators at all levels,” King said.

Term limits are the perfect solution for lazy-ass whiners. Someone in office you disagree with – will be gone sooner rather than later. It’s about as undemocratic a solution as you might have. The voting electorate loses a choice.

Long favored by populists, it favors political machines over independent elected officials. The machines will be around forever, staffed by willing adherents to 2-party narrowness. An independent activist in office won’t have time enough to build a following, an interactive group of peers willing to fight beyond “safe” limits.