AVOIDANCE OF CONTROVERSY

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^ the opposite of controversial, as a matter of policy intention : Governor Baker is now “public official of the year ”

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The past two days, Governor Baker has been in Washington discussing military issues and transportation — just a part of his long list of job duties — but also is there to be feted as “public official of the year.” One is tempted to conclude that what won him this award wasn’t so much his accomplishments — which are many — as his favorability rating : 69 favorable, 10 unfavorable at last polling. These would be remarkable numbers for any elected official, much less a Governor thought of as Republican in a state that Hillary Clinton won by 27.2 points. Perhaps they represent Baker’s greatest accomplishment : advancing major reforms that are upsetting many vested interests yet becoming more popular thereby rather than less.

In any case, he has won the award and is now back in Massachusetts continuing to do what he has been doing all along : attending to the western part of the state — so often much neglected — and moving the marks bit by bit toward improved service at the T, in the DCF, and in the criminal justice system so badly in need of overhaul;. And then there’s the huge health care administrative overhaul, — recently reported in the Boston Globe –which the Governor told me had been put off but could no longer be delayed and which, so he said, might take years to complete.

Any one of these systemic reforms would tax a Governor’s management skills; yet Baker has taken them all on and doesn’t seem the least bit miffed at having to do so. I think he’s rather glad of them actually. Everybody agrees that state administration of taxpayer-funded services needs all kinds of restructure, and the voters agree that baker is the right leader to get it done; and as long as he loads his case file to the maximum he can actually accomplish, all the better does he look to the voters who have confidence in him.

It works, even if none of his reforms has come anywhere near the finish line. Even the MBTA, whose misfires he took on almost the week that he was sworn into office, remains quite dysfunctional and in the same ways : broken equipment, cars that malfunction, trips delayed, trips lost, budget anomalies, outsourcing perhaps over-eagerly, of services. (My former Boston Phoenix colleague Dan Kennedy, who commutes into Boston to his job at Northeastern University, tweets pretty often about delayed trips and missed schedules.) Just this week the Boston Globe spotlighted the cruelties visited upon people with institutionalizable mental health problems, the budget cuts for their services, the paradoxes that prevent them from being properly attended to. Yet Governor Baker’s name doesn’t appear even once in that article. All the focus is on budgets cuts during the previous administration’s years. It’s easy to read the long article as a plea to Baker to add mental health incarceration and lack of treatment to his list of reforms undertaken.

Though state funds are hardly available to this reform, and with so many reforms slowly working their way one step at a time, Baker might think the Globe’s plea is one commitment too many; yet I suspect he is glad to be pled with. His reforms are of the same kind : one detail after another, very few of them separately newsworthy. He can move from  detail number one to item number two, and so on, without stirring up pots; and because everybody know sthat that is what he is doing, and that all of it is needed, he is approved of.

So why rock this boat ? There are those, partisans politically, who would like the Governor to take on controversial matters; and certainly many such matters burn fiercely in social media and threaten the social and political norms of our nation; and people are calling upon their leaders to speak up, to marshal public opinion, to stop the “Trump train” for example. So far, Governor Baker has refused to go there. Our view is, “why should he?” What has he to gain by becoming controversial ? Lighting political bonfires is not his style, not his mission, not what people expect of the man they expect to do the workmanlike opposite.

Controversy didn’t get Baker his public official of the year award, and, with his re-election campaign getting under way, it would serve no purpose at all for him to change up now. He is ready to run on his record, which he once described as “at the end of the day, the public wants better service from the services it pays for.” That’s the record he’s built and the record he wants voters to judge him on when deciding whether or not to give him another four year term.

I also think that most voters are glad to claim a Governor who lowers the temperature of policy debate rather than flame it up. We have plenty of flamers; why not at least one voice of cool ? We have one. I think the voters know it and like him that way.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

THE UNITED STATES: TRENDS FOR THE NEXT ELECTION

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^ news from Dallas : a ten-point swing to Clinton, from  2012, in one urban Texas congressional District

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The 2016 Presidential election had its unique aspects — boy did it ever — but for the most part it was a classic change balloting. We have been here before : the elections of 1828, 1860, 1876, 1896, 1912, 1920, 1932, 1948, 1964, 1980, 1992, and 2008 were all “change elections.”

What do I mean by “change election” ? Here’s how I apply it :

( 1 ) our nation is constantly changing, its people, its views of events, its emphases, its coalitions. People do not live in constant politics, but they do live constantly their lives; and the circumstances of their lives keep on changing : some faster, some not so fast; and their perceptions about their lives at any given moment change, too.

( 2 ) elections take place on that continuum; they occupy a segment of the ongoing movie, as it were, of people’s lives individually, in a community, in the society generally, and in their own minds.

( 3 ) campaigns can alter those perceptions quite a bit; the better a campaign is at identifying stuff that people find really important to them, the more effect the campaign can have — without those affected realizing the full extent of said effects, or whence they came.

It is always thus, in a universal suffrage political system. Yet constant change doe snot mean that the character of the nation changes. Germany’s Otto von Bismarck, who more than 140 years ago accepted universal suffrage as a conservative measure was right : the broader the voter base, the more the ongoing character of a nation is reflected in and through the momentary stuff, the changes. So it is with the United States, where elections exhibit oppositions that long outlast the particular circumstances of their development. After all, we talk of Donald Trump — with much justice — as a Jacksonian leader heading a  Jacksonian coalition. The elections of 1828, 1832, and 1836 live on.

Nonetheless, though American elections seem to repeat themselves, the complexity of our system — 50 states with much sovereignty, overlain uneasily by the Federal Constitution  –assures that the constant stream of changes in people’s lives rearranges the various coalitions that have come and gone since those early years. The two basic coalitions are ( 1 ) cities, the educated, and people of color and ( 2 ) rural and small town life, almost exclusively white and less educated than life in the cities. each coalition has had its wins and its losses. This time, coalition # 2 won and coalition # 1 lost.

This time, Hillary Clinton gambled that coalition # 1 encompassed enough voters in enough states to win. She was right about the voter number, wrong about the states, because coalition # 2 ended up as sharply defined — much of it by her doing — as coalition # 1; and as often happens, people don’t get riled up often by a campaign, but if yours makes its opponents angry, they’ll work like hell to beat you, and so it was — narrowly, but it doesn’t usually take much more than narrow to decide an American election with no incumbent running.

So where do we go politically from here ? I think Hillary Clinton’s gamble will pay off, and soon, but not for her; for somebody new. Here’s why:

( 1 ) America is becoming more educated, not less, because the jobs require it. Even service jobs require skill in electronic devices and social media.

( 2 ) jobs requiring education are locating more and more in the cities : because that’s where the educated people choose to live and shop, work and eat, and because the new skill jobs require face to face networking all the time with all kinds of skill people. (In addition, living in cities allows people to not be bound by the expense and parking/garaging inconviences and costs of car ownership.)

( 3 ) cities remain ports of entry for moist immigrants, or immigrants’ destination, because that’s where immigrants already live, where entry level service jobs abound, and where their immigrant status doesn’t render them outcasts or suspects among the community. It’s also easier for immigrants to start businesses in cities, and they do.

( 4 ) cities are places where physical change — building booms, renovations, “gentrification,” and novelties — happens day to day and imposes its own dynamic, even its own sound, sight, and smell, to daily life. Cities are noisy, and noise is the voice of change.

( 5 ) small town and rural America are not growing economically or otherwise. When they do grow, its because they turn into newly sprung up cities : Charlotte and Greensboro in NC; Phoenix, AZ; greater Atlanta, GA; Harris County, TX; Bergen County, NJ; Fairfax County and Arlington, VA; Salt lake City, UT. many of these new cities have grown up around major land-garnt universities, immense in size themselves : Champaign, IL; Columbus, OH; Lincoln, NE; Ann Arbor, MI; Bloomingtton, IL; Athens, GA; Athens, OH; Centre County, PA; and Orlando, Gainsville, and Alachua Counties, FL.

Hillary Clinton ran up huge margins in cities, even bigger wins in college cities. This was true almost everywhere but especially in the parts of America that are growing generally, not only in their big cities. Clinton’s coalition of educated cities and people of color allowed her to put Arizona, Georgia, and even Texas in play. She lost Arizona by 3.5 %; Romney carried it by 11. She lost Texas by 9.1%; Romney carried it by 16. She lost Georgia by 5.1%; Romney won it by 12. Cities had a lot to do with it. Clinton swept Harris and Dallas Counties in Texas, dominated Greater Atlanta, overwhelmed in  Charlotte and Greensboro, won Richmond, Virginia, Denver, and Nashville, Tennessee, and surpassed Obama’s numbers in Chicago (her home town as well as his), Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Salt lake City, all the West Coast cities, Boston, Indianapolis, Madison, Miami, and Orlando.

Where her coalition fell short, it was done in by turnout. In Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Carolina, Black voters, for example, numbered 8 to 15 percent fewer than in 2012. In Florida, Latino turnout surged — but turnout in rural countries surged more. The same  was true in Pennsylvania : Philadelphia matched Obama’s totals, and in Pittsburgh, Clinton doubled Obama’s 2012 win margin; but turnout in the state’s many rural countries was bigger and more a landslide against her.

Clinton also appears to have violated some of ground game’s basic rules. It appears, from what I have been told by sources who know, that her campaign never reached out to Democratic organizations in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio. Her campaign discounted what her opponent was doing in Wisconsin and Michigan, and once she did realize it, it was too late.

That said, her coalition’s numbers are growing, and her opponent’s are not. If Democratic prospects in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Michigan, and Maine (!) look not so hot, those in Texas, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, and even Utah look very hot indeed. And Nevada, Virginia, Colorado, and New Mexico seem to have decisively moved from swing states to reliably new-Democratic.

And even though it is easy to see Donald Trump and his coalition as neo-Jacksonian, remember : when Andrew Jackson became his backwoods and rural people coalition’s champion, it was just forming and growing, booming; today it is shriveling. Trump cannot be Jackson even if he wants to be. He will either have to be something else, or he will be one term. Meanwhile, though the future-America coalition given shape by Clinton  is growing, it lacks an obvious candidate to bestow voice upon it, set for it a beat, and offer a persuasive mission. And even if such a candidate does emerge, every dirty trick in the book, plus Russian intervention, will be throw at him or her to prevent the old ways from losing their lasts and before societal oblivion freezes them cold.

We shall see if 2020 fulfills the promise of 2106 or proves that the surprise of 2016 has life left in it.

Of course there has to be a candidate. The Democrats have many good ones. Will their primary be a 17 candidate free for all, as was the Republican primary this years, and get bogarded by a charlatan ?

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphjere

THE ELECTORAL VOTE IS NOT ABOUT SLAVERY

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^ Michigan as yet uncalled, but you get the point : the Midwest – Southern coalition, against northern and West Coast cities, still holds, as it usually has since the game-changing election of Andrew Jackson in 1828.

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Today’s column has a negative headline because it is important, as we go about reforming how we elect a President, to not be sidetracked by arguments that are not true. There is a conversation on social media right now that claims the Constitution’s electoral vote system is all about slavery. It isn’t. Slavery had almost nothing to do with why it was agreed to elect the Constitution’s President by states’ votes, not the people’s. I now set forth my reasons :

( 1 ) much is made of the agreement, in the Constitution, that a state’s slave population would count, on a three-fifths basis, when apportioning that state’s Congress representatives (and thus its electoral vote) for elector purposes. The states which had already barred slavery wanted slaves not to count; slave states wanted them counted whole. The non-slave states wanted slave starts to be punished, electorally, for sanctioning slavery; the slave states actually had the better argument : very few people at that time had any right to vote, so why should not slaves, who had no rights at all, count as well as a white man without property, or a woman ? (and of course non-citizens had no voting rights; yet they counted in the population upon which representative apportionments were based.)

( 2 ) apportioning representative by population — with or without voting rights, which very few in 1787 had — was itself a radical reform. No nation at that time apportioned its legislatures by population. England, whence the Constitution’s drafters took much precedent, allotted seats in Parliament to boroughs and corporations — only in the case of London were more members allotted by reason of a great population.

( 3 ) extending voting rights beyond white men of property was not to come until a generation later, at least. England’s Reform Bill, which opened up Parliament to population apportionment, was enacted not until 1832. States began to widen the franchise after 1808 — the year in which the Constitution ended importation of slaves  — but not until 1834 did the last of them, Rhode Island, grant voting rights to all men.

( 4 ) those who agreed to the compromises we know as the Constitution expected slavery to end, sooner rather than later. Importation was to end in 1808. Slavery was already unprofitable; not until the beginning of mass cotton farming, in the late 1820s, did slavery, originally hired to work tobacco plantings, become profitable again. For the 1787 generation, slavery was at best a temporary evil. They proved wrong; but their electoral agreements were not made to accommodate it.

( 5 ) it was states that the original electoral agreements were made for. Same with the 1804 adjustment we know as the 12th Amendment. The Constitution was a kind of treaty between 13 independent states, whereby those states agreed 6to act in concert on certain matters vital to them all , and to accord the final say to such decisions made by the coordinating, central government as were enumerated in the Constitution, or implied thereby. In today’s word, the Constitution was a kind of European Union, but with important political power, as well as economic powers, granted to the Union’s government.

( 6 ) By no means, however, did the 13 states that entered into the Constitution’s covenants want to surrender their independent sovereignty, not did they. Election of the central government’s executive officer — the President — was to be made by the states, and not by the people, except by limited proportionality as et forth in Article 1, section 8 as later modified by the 12th Amendment. This is still the case, as we have seen. Hillary Clinton has won the popular vote by well over 2,000,000 votes and by almost two percent (2 %), but she has not been elected President because the popular vote has no legal standing in our “common market” government.

Slavery became more important, politically, after 1820, when the slave states advanced the dictat that for every non-slave state entering the union, a slave state had to enter as well. Such was the basis of the Missouri Compromise, in advance of which ugly sectional passions burst fo90rth (and, as Jefferson, who hated slavery, well saw, was a “bell ringing in the night”: of possible civil war). This was to prevent a Congressional majority, especially in the Senate, from outlawing slavery nationally. At this point, the electoral system agreed to in the Constitution acquired slavery significance after the fact. Because it gave election power to the states, only partly to a popular vote, it had the potential to elect an anti-slavery President.

But what of it ? After 1820, most elected Presidents were elected with the electoral votes of Southern States acting as a pro-slavery bloc (often in alliance with new states in the MidWest). Only the Civil war and the Amendments enacted thereafter did ex-slave states lose their electoral majority. Today, the alliance of most Southern states with the majority of Midwestern starts persists, as it has often done since William Jennings Bryan almost successfully reconstituted the pre-Civil war coalition.

It is true that racism plays as large a role in said coalition today as slavery did in the period 1820 to 1860. But there was then, and before, and again now, another factor, at least as important as slavery/racism, in the support upon which the electoral system stands : cities versus small towns and rural. In some respects, the two go hand in hand. Most voting power that people of color possess lies in the cities; and the whole purpose for which the Constitution was enacted was to promote the financial power — the progress of trade, finance, immigration, and ,manufacture — of cities. Indeed : the Constitution was almost not ratified because rural and small town delegates to ratification conventions saw it as a power grab by the city elite. Which it was.

That the coalition of Southern, mostly rural and small town states with similar states in the MidWest persists, and has just won a narrow electoral victory over a candidate of the cities– who won far more popular votes —  demonstrates my point : that the fault line in the Constitution was cities, not slavery. Cities were its reason; slavery was set to the side and only came back into the picture after an anti-urban political coalition had formed in which slave states were a crucial component. Anyone who today attacks the electoral system on a slavdert6ty basis misses the point as well as the facts.

Reform of the electoral vote method benefits chiefly cities, whose votes get overwhelmed within many states as they cannot be in a nationwide, popular vote. Benefiting cities of course also means benefiting most Americans of color; nor is that a bad thing.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

 

WHY MR. TRUMP OPPOSES THE “TPP” TREATY

trans-pacific-partnership

Assuming that Mr. Trump means what he says — not a very solid bet — about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty (“TPP”), which he claims to oppose, there is method to his misgivings. Let us examine these, but first, let’s look at the Treaty itself, summarized here https://ustr.gov/about-us/policy-offices/press-office/press-releases/2015/october/summary-trans-pacific-partnership by the U. S. Trade Representative at his website.

For those who may decline to read the entire summary, here’s the five key components of the Treaty that Mr. Trump says he opposes :

Five defining features make the Trans-Pacific Partnership a landmark 21st-century agreement, setting a new standard for global trade while taking up next-generation issues.  These features include:

  • Comprehensive market access.  The TPP eliminates or reduces tariff and non-tariff barriers across substantially all trade in goods and services and covers the full spectrum of trade, including goods and services trade and investment, so as to create new opportunities and benefits for our businesses, workers, and consumers.
     
  • Regional approach to commitments.   The TPP facilitates the development of production and supply chains, and seamless trade, enhancing efficiency and supporting our goal of creating and supporting jobs, raising living standards, enhancing conservation efforts, and facilitating cross-border integration, as well as opening domestic markets. 
     
  • Addressing new trade challenges.  The TPP promotes innovation, productivity, and competitiveness by addressing new issues, including the development of the digital economy, and the role of state-owned enterprises in the global economy.
  • Inclusive trade.  The TPP includes new elements that seek to ensure that economies at all levels of development and businesses of all sizes can benefit from trade.  It includes commitments to help small- and medium-sized businesses understand the Agreement, take advantage of its opportunities, and bring their unique challenges to the attention of the TPP governments.  It also includes specific commitments on development and trade capacity building, to ensure that all Parties are able to meet the commitments in the Agreement and take full advantage of its benefits. 
     
  • Platform for regional integration.  The TPP is intended as a platform for regional economic integration and designed to include additional economies across the Asia-Pacific region. 

As for what countries are to be treatied with, read this brief excerpt :

On October 4, 2015, Ministers of the 12 Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries – Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam – announced conclusion of their negotiations.

You will note which major countries are NOT on this list : China and Russia. They’re not on the list because it is they who the “TPP” Treaty is aligned against. The “TPP”‘s first purpose is to take macro-economic control of the entire Trans-Pacific area, twelve economies aggregating well over one billion people who together command almost 50 percent of the world’s gross economic output. It’s also a region in which the United States has long claimed a major role economically and as a national security interest. We have fought two major wars, and two lesser ones, within the region for precisely these reasons. In each of these wars, either China or Russia — occasionally both — have been our adversary, and both maintain an adversary position to us : Russia by force and espionage, China by economic manipulations.

Opposition to our agreeing the “TPP” arises from several directions, chiefest of which is a perception that because prior global trade treaties have resulted in accelerated loss of low value-added jobs, they are a detriment, not a benefit. This argument misreads the trade treaties it opposes. The jobs that went to low-wage countries on account of these treaties were not likely, in any case, to survive the enormous productivity innovations that have since come to market — innovations that have almost entirely remade our production economy; the trade treaties may have sped up these innovations, but they did not cause them. Meanwhile, prior trade treaties have dramatically lowered the USA prices of many consumer goods, enabling millions of buyers who previously could not buy — and, in the process, providing boom times to importers, distributors, salespeople, and budget retailers. Where would Costco, Wal-Mart, H & M, Forever XXI, Charlotte Russe, Madrag, and hundreds more low-price goods retailers — and all of their employees — be ?

Granted that almost all the jobs made feasible via trade treaties are service jobs, not manufacturing, but so what ? A job is a job. As long as the pay is fruitful — not by any means assured, although union organizing in the service sector is boosting workers’ pay — the important thing is the job itself. May I add that work in the service sector is usually far safer than in manufacturing ?

Trade treaties also have helped our exporters, of which Boeing is by far the largest; the world’s leading aircraft manufacturer accounts for almost one-third of our export dollar goods. as Boeing employs some 150,000 people, most of them very high wage, its prosperity is hardly a minor advantage for trade agreements involving us.

“TPP” would expand the export factor by eliminating tariffs between the 12 agreeing nations, setting rules for currency arbitrage, instituting workplace rules common to the treaty signers, and enabling movement (for job purposes and otherwise) among the signers’ citizenry, a huge boost to their future prosperity, and giving them all an advantage over the economies of Russia and China and their populations. (Of course nations as large as Russia and China aren’t going to be disabled by exclusion from the “TPP,” but surely their citizens would certainly prefer to have more economic options than fewer.)

Mr. Trump opposes this cross-border movement of peoples, economically and culturally (although his insult to other nations may be his way of persuading people to oppose economic choices without realizing that its’ the economics of them that truly move him.). Why does he oppose ? His plan looks quite comprehensive to me :

First : he proposes that America become an entirely self-contained economic zone. No immigrants coming here to work in it, no cheap foreign goods coming here to under-price goods made in the USA.

Second : he would cut corporate taxes way back, enough so that low taxes would allow manufacturers to retain more money than sharply higher US wages would cost them, thus offering manufacturers an economic inducement to bring operations back from overseas.

Third : he intends to increase the customer base — and the wage heft — for repatriated manufactures by launching a one trillion dollar infrastructure program that would require hundreds of thousands of new hires in the highly-paid building trades sector. (This, if it could be done, is a major priority for building trades’ workers even in Boston, where the building boom has meant boon times for hard hats.)

Fourth : cutting taxes and appropriating a trillion Federal dollars for infrastructure would increase Federal debt by at least that amount, but with interest rates barely above zero, Mr,. Trump can borrow the money almost for nothing.

Fifth : rather than compete economically with Russia and China, Mr. Trump seems to propose allowing them to take the risks — as he sees them — of global trade, offering them friendship in exchange for their non-interference with a self-contained American economy.

Mr. Trump’s vision, if he means it, is not impossible. The Constitution, when agreed to, was itself a kind of economic trade union between independent states. One of its express purposes was to promote trade between the agreeing states; and this purpose has worked so well that today we do not see that America still is, at bottom, a common market, a trade treaty trade zone. Furthermore, we are a large enough trade zone to be able, perhaps, to prosper entirely within ourselves, given appropriate trade and profit rules. If Mr. Trump’s recommendations for disallowing immigration, disadvantaging foreign trade, and creating the largest Federal jobs program since the 1930s could work, the risks he assumes might be worth taking.

Yet again, what I said about exporters being benefited by trade treaties, and consumers being enabled by low prices for imported consumers goods, applies to Mr. Trump’s common market vision of America. His market would make export all but impossible (this too has happened before, President Jefferson’s embargo order of 1808 being a most discouraging example); would eliminate low-price import clothing and durables; and would deny our economy the perspective of immigrants, thereby disabling much of the innovation that makes our big cities such  dynamic business zones.

Nor is there any guarantee that manufacturers bringing production back to America would pay the much higher wages needed to make an exclusively American common market work. As long as stock speculators control share prices in search of quick-hit arbitrage profits — as long as high-speed hedge fund traders control the workplace decisions of corporate managers — employees will be treated as cost items to be reduced, not as asset items to be enhanced. So far I have seen not one word from Mr. Trump about the vital need to change how traded corporations account for employees. I have suggested that they be carried as an asset item on SEC reports, not as an asset item, and i have called for a new GAAP rule that would require such employee attribution. Without such a rule, or something approximate, Mr. Trump’s hermetic common market America offers workers and their families no sort of improvement over what the TPP proposes.

NEXT : the unavoidable internationality of oil & gas trade.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

REFORMING OUR ELECTORAL VOTE

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Immediately after Election Day, I wrote a column supporting the electoral vote system that governs choosing a President. The system is set forth in the Constitution’s 12th Amendment, in which the Constitution’s original electoral vote procedure is reformed. I now suggest that we reform it again.

As the adoption of that Amendment shows, the electoral vote method is not sacrosanct. It is an approximation and legitimately subject to modification. This is one of those occasions. Hillary Clinton is on her way to a popular vote win of over 2,000,000 votes; the margin right now surpasses 1,700,000. Those who feel cheated of a clear popular vote win cannot be dismissed by pointing to the 12th Amendment. So what then can we do ? And why do it?

First : although the Constitution was agreed to as a pact among stares, and everything in it is done to protect as much state sovereignty as feasible, the entire relationship of the states to the government agreed to in that pact has changed. When the Constitution was agreed to, and still when in 1804 the 12th Amendment was adopted, voting was restricted to men of property. Universal adult suffrage did not arrive until later, indeed not until the adoption of the 19th Amendment giving women voting rights. (Some may say that universal suffrage wasn’t achieved until 1965, when the Federal Voting Rights Act was enacted.) Universal suffrage upends the assumptions upon which the 12th Amendment (and its predecessor in Article 1, Section 3 of the Constitution itself) were based. With a small electorate, all of one social class, selection of a Federal President by the stares worked no disadvantage upon anyone. No one in that social class was attempting to disfranchise anyone else in it or to gain systemic advantage. Indeed, the compromises made upon representation in Congress and senate were agreed to in order to safeguard reasonable equality among the states. Today the opposite is true. States have gerrymandered Congressional districts in order to disfranchise political opponents or to vitiate their voice.

Second : the electoral vote system was never intended to enable a minority President. Its apportionment of votes more or less approximated proportionality — so successfully that only on three occasions prior to this time did a candidate win office with less popular votes than his opponent, and then only by a very small number. In fact, the electoral vote system agreed to was purposed — as I have stated above — to advantage exactly the opposite result : that the elected person have the support of a majority of voters. How could it have been agreed to otherwise ?

Third : the Federal President agreed to in the Constitution was not conceived as having much independent power; Congress was everything. The Constitution’s negotiators did not want a king. Their plan proved durable. Except during the Civil War — which proved a portent — not until the 20th Century did the Federal President begin to acquire significant sovereignty. Concurrent with enormous increases in the Federal budget, and the expanded executive agencies vital to execute an increasingly complex executive mission, the Presidency more and more directly acted upon individual lives, not only upon state governments and their elites. Today, the Presidency is looked to by all the people as the ultimate arbiter of justice and economic progress, and in large measure it is no mistake to so expect.

Fourth : in an age of globe-wide commerce and information, travel and personal movement, there is no going back to the simple, low budget Federal government assumed by the Constitution’s negotiators. Any attempt to do so would create enormous economic dislocation, or personal injustice, or both. Nor does the newly elected executive have any plans to do so. (His plans will seriously weaken America, but in a different direction.) This being the case, the manner of his or her election needs accord greater say to the voters and less to the individual states. Otherwise, we have taxation (and much else) without representation. In addition, the information debated in a national campaign is disseminated nationally — in no way locally. There is no way to recover the unchallenged sovereign uniqueness of early 19th Century states.

Still : the states do have a vital role to play in our Federal pact. Retaining some measure of state advantage in the electoral system assures that candidates will campaign locally and bolster the individuality of the states where the campaign is hard fought. Still, the huge population of our big states cannot simply be fenced off from the power their numbers must possess in our universal suffrage nation.

I therefore suggest the following electoral reform :

( 1 ) each state’s electoral votes shall be cast proportionally. Example : if in North Dakota candidate A gets 63 % and candidate B gets 27 %, that’s the percentage that each candidate shall be entitle to when the electors vote.

( 2 ) each state shall be entitled to an aggregate electoral vote corresponding to its proportional share of the population attributed in the most recent official census, the aggregate base being 438 — the number of members of Congress — to which each state shall add two 92) electoral voters corresponding to its membership in the Senate. Said proportionbal shares s hall be carried out to the second decimal, so as to approximate as nearly as feasible to the actual proportion — no rounding off.

This reform would not produce an absolute popular vote result, but it would avoid the dire consequences of the present winner take all system, where voter minorities within one state end up with no vote at all in the actual result. And let us not shy from saying that in many states, the minority being shut out is racial : people of color. Mississippi. for example, is 37 percent Black, but because the state’s white voters — 63 percent of the total — vote about 90 to 10 for the candidate opposed by 98 percent of Black voters, its Black voters are disfranchised as surely as if the 1965 Voting Rights Act had never been.

Other Southern states vote much the same way; and the only reason why Black voters in the North are not usually disfranchised is because up here, white voters do not mostly vote for racial purposes. The present electoral winner campaigned to increase the racial purposes of white voters, and he had some success, aided by many states;’ attempts to make difficult for voters of color to vote at all. His evil purposes must be made less doable. Reforming the electoral rules will help.

We cannot have a racialist nation. If we do that, we are no longer America, we are something else, something unConstitutional and uncivilized. Those who seek such an illiberal politics — and the present electoral winner has stoked their cause on purpose — must be cancelled. Reforming the electoral apportionment will help cancel them. we must do it.

Some argue that no, we are not a democracy, we are a Constitutional republic. My reform suggestion does not fall afoul of that argument; accommodation is made to factoring the States as electing entities. However, I do advocate factoring in a popular vote component, yes. Given the significance of the modern Presidency — enormously expanded from the purely executor functions accorded by the Constitution — it is unjust to accept a en electoral system that allows a 2,00,000 vote loser to win the office that he lost.

Let us not overlook that this same “constitutional republic’ argument is used to support Gerry-mandered Congressional districts that segregate and diminish the voting power of minorities (racial and political) in direct contradiction to the universal suffrage imperative won by generations of civil rights activists. Because of Congressional Gerry-mandering, imitated in state legislative apportionments as well, minority voters are shut out of power as effectively as if they had no vote at all.

This tactic  cannot be allowed to prevail. It must be changed. We may not be able to eliminate racialist  voting, but we can curb its control of election laws and voting procedures, both of which must be voter-neutral.

To sum up : Hillary Clinton should have been elected. She has the votes — by a lot. Her opponent’s one percent wins in four key stares cannot be allowed to overtop Clinton’s massive victories in other states. The system must change, and we know it.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

NOT TAKING THE BAIT

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^ Doing his job : Governor Baker, in with & to announce a $3.63 million award for water, sewer, & utility upgrades.

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The election of a President is over, and the results are bad news for many of us — and for two thirds of us in Massachusetts. We knew that a win by Mr. Trump would have significant consequences for Governor Baker, and that’s what is happening right now.

Specifically, ambitious politicians in the Democratic party — and their operatives — are trying to bait Governor Baker to step into the war of words over the more controversial of Mr. Trump’s executive appointments.

It would be stupid of Baker to take the bait. He won’t. His opportunistic opponents, whose first priority is to solidify their own followings, probably know that he won’t take their bait. All the better for them. If baker won’t play their game, they get their portion of the playing field all to themselves and can be re-elected.

Do not misunderstand my drift. I’m as appalled by the naming of Steve Bannon, a cynical devourer of racism and an entire banquet of other bigotries, as Mr Trump’s Chief strategist. I’m unhappy to see Senator Jefferson B. Sessions III named to the Attorney General’s duties. I’m horrified to see retire General Michael Flynn, a racist friend of Russia’s boss, Vladi Putin, chosen to be Mr. Trump’s National Security advisor. These are ignorant appointments, nails in the coffin of civil rights, immigrant welcome, and the national interest. Yet what can Governor Baker do about them ?

For baker to speak out, as if he were a Senator, would have no effect and would divide the constituency on which his won re-election depends. If you’re seeking elective office, or re-election, you DO NOT divide the voters whose votes you need in order to win. You unite them.

Baker was elected Governor not to be a voice advocate, as are our Senators and Congresspeople, but to reform state administration and make it work better for everybody who uses state services. That is what he is doing. Almost every day he initiates an improvement, or tweaks a reform, or presses forward a reform already underway.

Baker’s reform initiatives run the gamut from grants to improve drinking water safety — a significant issue, considering what happened to Flint, Michigan’s drinking water — and smoother veterans’ services to grants for affordable housing construction, workforce retraining, addiction treatment reforms, municipal law reform, and of course rearranging the MBTA. Just two weeks ago Baker announced a huge, $ 25 billion overhaul of the state’s health care service, a job which, as he told me recently, will not be simple and might take several years to accomplish.

These are major reforms. They may not win twitter wars or engage the appetites of protest, but, as Baker said during his 204 campaign, “at the end of the day, people want better state services delivered better to them.” It will be hard enough for Baker to accomplish these transformations, given the resistance posed by entrenched vested interests : we see it in the successful fight by teachers’ unions to turn back school reform (the Question 2 ballot initiative voted down by 63 to 36), and we see it in the protests stated by MBTA employees in response to outsourcing of much MBTA performance.

In other words, it will be hard for Baker to do what is always hard for elected officials to do : assure the taxpayer a dollar’s value for a dollar of taxes.

It’s not even clear that Baker will be able to avoid a tax hike. The state’s revenue is not increasing, but service costs are. Fortunately for baker, a question on the 2018 ballot — establishing a surtax on incomes over$ 1q,000,000 — will pass easily and thus provide the state new revenue without Baker having to advocate it. Here, his political opponents are, ironically, helping him. (Do recall that I oppose the two-tier tax. rather than punish the very successful, I advocate raising the minimum wage to $ 15/hour, which would give low-income workers discretionary spending ability and move them from EITC recipients to taxpayers, thereby providing much more new revenue to the state than the “millionaire’s tax” would bring.)

Yet these are arguments for another day. My point in this editorial is that baker is not going to be baited off his game, is not going to do his opportunist opponents’ work for them, and IS going to continue doing the nuts and bolts jobs of reform that the voters elected him to do and attention to which has made Baker the nation’s most popular Governor.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

 

MOVEMENTS : THE 2016 ELECTION AND WHAT IT MAY PORTEND

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Hillary Clinton lost the electoral vote to Donald Trump by 232 to 290, with Michigan’s 16 votes still undecided. Even if she wins these, her 248 vote total falls 84 votes short of Barack Obama’s 2012 total of 332. Clinton lost the following stares that Obama carried : Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Iowa. She may yet lose Michigan, and she barely won Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Maine (!!).

Yet the movement in this election did not only go in one direction. Trump did better than Romney in many states — much better in some — but Clinton did better than Obama in quite a few states as well, though not well enough to turn any of Obama’s 2012 losses into her wins. Let’s take a look at the comparisons :

States where Clinton did better than Obama:

Arizona : – 4.1 % versus Obama’s – 10 %

Georgia : – 5.2 % versus Obama’s – 8 %

Texas : – 9.1 % versus Obama’s – 16 %

California : + 28.2 % versus Obama’s + 21 %

Colorado : + 5.5 versus Obama’s + 4

Virginia : + 5.9 % versus Obama’s + 3 %

Washington : + 18.1 % versus Obama’s + 14 %

Massachusetts : + 27.3 % versus Obama’s + 23 %

District of Columbia : + 91 % versus Obama’s + 84 %

Kansas : – 21 % versus Obama’s – 22 %

Utah : – 18.1 versus Obama’s – 48 %

There were also a few states where Clinton and Obama won the same results :

Maryland : + 25 in both elections

Oregon : + 11 % in both

Idaho : – 32 % in both

Illinois : + 16.5 % versus 16.0

It’s pretty easy to identify what these states represent. They either have substantial Latino voter populations, or large numbers of highly educated voters or both; or they are heavily Mormon. Clinton targeted the first two voter interests, and her campaign to them succeeded. As for Mormon Utah and (less so) Idaho, Clinton was less the beneficiary than Trump was the reject. Lastly, Kansas. Is there non-GOP potential in this red bastion ? Perhaps. Bernie Sanders easily won its Democratic primary.

Add to the above, these three states that Clinton held or competed closely in despite some leakage :

Nevada : won by 2.4 %; Obama won it by 6

North Carolina : Clinton lost it by 3.8 %, Obama in 2012 lost by 3.0 %

Florida : Clinton lost by 1.3 %; Obama won it by 0.5 %

As America’s numbers of Latino voters and the highly educated (with much overlap between the two) will grow, Clinton’s targeting should continue to be a Democratic party priority. A less easily subverted candidate than Clinton — whom Russian espionage and FBI shenanigans crushed — has a serious chance of turning Arizona and Georgia right away and Texas not long after. Nor can Trump, or his GOP successors, count much on Florida, where an aging white vote base cannot hold off the state’s growing population of Latino and Haitian voters much longer. Democrats can very likely bank an additional 85 electoral votes from these five states : one more than the Obama electoral votes that Clinton lost.

That said, Trump made major gains in many states that Democrats have long owned. Let’s look at these numbers:

Minnesota : Trump lost by 1.5 %; Romney lost by 8 %

Wisconsin : Trump won by 1.0 %; Romney lost by 7; %

Michigan : Trump has an 0.3 % lead; Romney lost by 9 %

Pennsylvania : Trump won by 1.2 %; Romney lost by 5 %

Iowa : Trump won by 9.5 % Romney lost by 6 %

Ohio : Trump won by 8.6 %, Romney lost by 2 %

Trump also scored large gains in states too Democratic for him to win — this time :

Maine : Trump lost by 2.7 %; Romney lost by 15 %

New Hampshire : Trump lost by 0.3 %; Romney by 6 %

Vermont : Trump lost by 26.8 %; Romney lost by 48 %

Delaware : Trump lost by 11.5 %; Romney lost by 19 %

Connecticut : Trump lost by 12.2 %, Romney by 18 %

New York : Trump lost by 21.3 %; Romney lost by 27 %

It’s unlikely that Trump, or a GOP successor, can flip any of these except possibly Maine. Nonetheless, the signal is clear : in states with few Latino or Black voters, and not an overwhelming percentage of highly educated, a white voter working class appeal has serious legs. A candidate who can somehow appeal to educated voters without losing his or her populist edge, can change the result in Maine and likely in neighboring New Hampshire. (Interesting to note that New Jersey, home of Trump cheerleader Chris Christie, gave Trump a 15.2 % loss, not much improvement over Romney’s 17 % defeat.)

So ; did Clinton err by pursuing Latino and Black voters and the highly educated ? Much criticism has aimed at her decision not to focus on white voters without a college degree. Clearly her weakness with these voters crushed her on election day. She lost overwhelmingly white, rural and small town counties by 30, even 40 points. The margin in Wyoming was n astonishing – 47.6 %, in West Virginia 42.2 %, 36.4 % in Oklahoma, 36.3 in North Dakota, 29.8 % in Kentucky and in South Dakota. These states don’t carry much electoral vote — 40 in all — but elections are often signified by whose base is the more committed: it’s a sign of enthusiasm. Clinton amassed huge margins only in DC ( + 88.7); even in Hawaii her margin was only 37.2, less than Obama’s + 43 in 2012. Definitely Clinton supporters had less reach and less depth than Trump’s.

Still, she has won the popular vote — at this writing, by almost 1,000,000 votes; counters anticipate her final margin to be about 1.5 % overall, a plurality that should be reflected in electoral votes too. That seems unlikely; so, did her campaign gamble one too many stakes ? I think not. The Comey FBI letter issued 11 days before the election cost Clinton at least two points, and the continuing dumps of Russian espionage — and the second Comey letter — kept her vote down: remember, early voting was going on all during those eleven days. A campaign can control much of the conversation, but it can’t block out everything. Last minute “surprises” have turned quite a few Presidential elections in our history; so it was this time. Had Clinton not lost those two points, she’d have won Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida and the election.

Her campaign realized, I think, that it had little margin for error. She had barely fended off Bernie Sanders in key state primaries: why would the final be much different ? Sanders crushed Clinton in all sorts of other states. She may have won Sanders votes — at least 91 percent of them — but not their enthusiasm. Thus the strategy of going to her own base : voters of color and educated white women. That it almost succeeded, despite the Comey letter and Russian espionage, and despite the Sanders factor, tells me that she made the right decision. And that the future success of Democratic presidential campaigns lies on that route.

That’s because Trump voters are old; he won only the age group 45 to 65 but was strong enough among the over 65. With voters under age 45, he lost badly — worst among voters 30 or younger. The future does not belong to him. It belongs to the Democrats, whose demographic continues to grow, while the Trump support continues to decline. The electorate of 2016 was more than 30 percent non-white; by 2024 it will be at least 35 percent, and by 2032, at least 40 percent. In addition, the workplace is transforming. The old manufacturing jobs are not coming back — this is a cliche, but it’s true – while the jobs that are coming are new economy jobs that will either require formidable education or will be service jobs requiring special training and much product skill. The new economy will feature start-ups, too: small unit entrepreneurships in which one person’s idea becomes a separately small prosperity hive. These are Clinton campaign targets, and they will be the motors of future Democratic campaigns even as GOP hopes are owned now by a man who lives in the financial economy and speaks the old ways.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

 

 

 

THE ELECTION : TWO AMERICAS, AS ALWAYS

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^ James K. Vardaman, Sr., the virulently racist, economic populist (and journalist) who dirtied American political life at the height of lynch terrorism’s years. (Note : He even looks like Steve Bannon, a journalist, too; a sly anti-Semitic, white nationalist who will be Mr. Trump’s chief strategist.)

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Three days ago we wrote about the recent election under the rubric “the South Rises Again.” Long before election day, observers saw that what he hopefully call “nation” was “divided.” They were barely half right.  What we call “America” is two nations, and for much of America’s existence, it always has been two.

There are two reasons why this is so. First of them is race. It was race 225 years ago, when two grand compromises allowed the Constitution to be approved by the Convention meting in Philadelphia. Those compromises did not solve the issue, because it was insoluble even though the Founders hoped they might eventually don away with it. (they could not. Because they could not — because the issue grew more and more divisive , not less–  we ended up fighting a Civil War grounded in race.

Even Civil Wart did not end the issue. It ended slavery, but race remained a cleavage nonetheless, whose virulence increased — and persisted. The Democratic party of 1867 to 1932 was grounded in race. The Civil Rights revolution of the period 1954 to 1965 was about race. Race moved 1867 to 1932 Democrats into the opposite party, and moved 1867 to 1932 Republicans to the Democrats.

Race is the ONLY factor that has realigned the parties. The election of a Black President, Barack Obama, put race at the top of the Republican party’s agenda. He was to be opposed on all things because he was a Black President. A Black President could not be allowed. black votes could not be allowed. Black justice could not be allowed. Nor could the legitimacy of a Black President be allowed. Trump’s rise from charlatan to political prominence began with an attack on President Obama’s birthplace, upon his right to be President.

Because race was and is the paramount urgency for the Trump movement — and its less vulgar but equally racist GOP doppelgangers — every other issue took a back seat. Ted Cruz was supposed to be THE Evangelical Protestant candidate; he was that constituency;s voice on all their issues — and South Carolina, the test case state, was supposed to be an easy win for him because of its large Evangelical community; but Trump easily beat Cruz in the South Carolina primary. Just as racist demagogues of the period 1900 to 1932 always defeated economic populists in the South. Given the choice, race was, and still is, more important to Southern voters than economic justice.

In Southern states today, the greater the percentage of voters therein who are Black, the more its white voters unify on the opposite side. Thus the victory of Trump, a sordid man whose personal values and evil agenda would appear to have nothing in common with Evangelical voters.

Perhaps Lyndon Johnson said it best : “as long as you tell the lowest white man that he is better than the highest black man, he will let you pick his pocket…he’ll even empty his pockets for you.” (I am paraphrasing.)

In 1896 and in two Presidential campaigns thereafter, William Jennings Bryan headed almost the exact same coalition : Evangelical, economically populist, and virulently racist. We might not connect Bryan to Trump — whose vote is very much Bryan — because since Bryan’s era the Democratic party managed to adjust itself enormously : Woodrow Wilson was as racist as Bryan, and as economically populist, but he was not politically Evangelical — was Presbyterian, not Baptist — and his coalition took in a significant slice of northern immigrant city people. Northern immigrants became the crucial constituency for Democrats from Wilson on, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt added culturally conservative city Catholics, Jews, civil rights activists, and good government reformers, whose influence gave the Democratic party an entirely new face. But we know now that the era that began with Wilson and reached its peak with Roosevelt, Truman, and Johnson is now over.

All the malcontents of race have gravitated to the GOP even as civil rights and good government reformers — the “party of Lincoln” — were going in the other direction. Toady, except in Massachusetts and to some extent in other Northeastern states — and perhaps in Ohio and Utah — the Republican party of now is the Democratic party of Bryan and Secession. 80 to 90 percent of it is that.

We are now paying the price of racism persisting in all of its tragic absurdity.

One half of America wants full civil rights and respect for people of color (and immigrants), the other half wants the opposite. This was the case in 1820 too. Whence it aggravated all the way to Civil War. Calls to “unify” our country are heard just as they were heard in the 40 years prior to 1860; and went unheeded, just as they are going unheeded now.

To reprise the awful tale : in 1820, when the Missouri Compromise again delayed solution of the slavery issue just as had happened during the Constitution Convention, , the nation’s most perceptive leaders decried the baleful taint of slavery. They wanted it abolished. In the north, slavery was in fact abolished, some of it well before 1820; but an attempt by the Virginia legislature failed, and thereafter Southerners went from powerlessly disliking slavery to defending it to extolling it to seceding in its name.

The same dynamic is happening now. The more we northerners (and West Coasters) decry racism and its cousin bigotries, the more virulently the bigots express their bigotry. Enter the openly white nationalist, racist, anti Semitic “alt right,” whose leader will now be Mr. Trump’s chief strategist.

So much for race. It is now time to discuss the other great divide that made America two nations and still does : the prominence of the merchant elites of our big cities, versus the farm and small town nation.

In 1787, ratification of the Constitution almost didn’t happen because rural delegates to ratification conventions bitterly opposed it as a document written  by and for those merchant, city elites. Not much has changed. Cities today thrive on a culture and economy the opposite of that which lives in rural and small town areas. City life is diverse in culture and language, in immigrant origin, and economically dynamic , innovative, and creatively destructive, Cities are beehives of capitalism, of risk taking, of ambition and prosperity, of merit and merit pay. Rural and small town life has never been any of that. Continuity, simplicity, and rootedness are the pillars there. In cities, no one has roots; the drivers of city prosperity are almost always people who move to the cities from the small towns where their aspirations have no prospects.

Trump was the candidate of those small towns and rural areas, of rooted continuity and simplicity, of lives without risk or aspiration. But also of resentment arising from awareness, in rural and small town life, that in cities, people of color; people who wear hijabs and worship Allah; and people of all sorts of lifestyles invigorate one another and succeed by mutual invigoration. Not surprising to find envy of it driving a slew of Trump votes.

Racism dividing Civil War ideals from Civil war defeat, and the (much related) diversity of city life from the uniformity of rural places : these underlie the Trump victory in a society that persists in living as two opposed nations barely coexisting in the dream bubble we call “America.”

Will it change, this bifurcated body politic ? I doubt it. As long as America has cities and rural and small town places, and as long as we are created and bolstered by immigrants of all origins, and as long as people of color are treated as color rather than as people, we will be two peas uncomfortably — irreconcilably — bumping one another in one hemmed in pod.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

SUPPORTING THE ELECTORAL VOTE SYSTEM

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^ the votes likely to be cast when the electors authorized by Article 2, section 1.3 of the Constitution m on December 19th pursuant to procedure set forth in the 12th Amendment thereto. (New Hampshire’s 4 have now been allotted to Hillary Clinton.) Could the numbers change further, in her favor, as additional ballots are counted in three or four very undecided states ? Yes. But that is not the point

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Much angst is being heaved at the electoral vote system by which our nation elects Presidents. It happens whenever the electoral loser wins more actual people votes. We too, at Here and Sphere, supported Hillary Clinton, who won many more people votes — at present count, 560,000more — than Mr. Trump; but we do NOT support eliminating the electoral vote. What follows is our argument for why the electoral vote system: but first let me quote the Tweftrh Amendment to the Constitution, the rule which sets forth the  procedure that governs electing a President (and a Vice President) :

Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution – Wikipedia

The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and all persons voted for as Vice-President and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate.

The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted.

The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in the case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President.[Note 1]

The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.[1]

The key phrase of this entire rule is this : The Electors shall meet in their respective states. Our electoral procedure is grounded in STATES.

Ours is a federal system, and the Constitution is a kind of treaty by which the parties to it federate as STATES that retain powers of their own. Therein lies diversity, a prime motive for political and social connection in our nation, then and still.

Granted, that much of the Constitution’s original assumptions about state sovereignty has been traded for a necessary uniformity of basic human and civil rights (as well as the uniform guarantees agreed to in the Constitution itself). We all accept now that no state can legislate away the civil rights guaranteed to all by. the Constitution as amended. There is, however, no compromising the essential guarantee given to all states by the electoral vote procedure : that the Federal President is chosen by the STATES.

The federal President is NOT President of the people; he or she is President of the STATES. Because he or she is President of the Stares, his or her election — and his or her campaigning, his or her political calculation, his or her policy making — must respect the existence of many states with differing policy priorities. Thus the electoral vote process gives basic sanction to political diversity; policy diversity;. debate and controversy — and all of it arising bout of local decisions.

The electoral voting system empowers locally participatory politics. It is good for political participation to be local first; to be neighbor to neighbor, within a community of interest, and not to be subsumed within the general conclusion.The opposite method of electing a President would negate political diversity. Candidates would no longer need to campaign to all the states and intensely to the “battleground” states, would not need to organize there, would instead have to raise much, much more money — than the already ungodly amounts needed — to run nationwide political ads.

For all these reasons, we reject a plebiscite method of electing our President.

It is argued, contra, that to give very small states a disproportionate electoral vote is to disparage the voters of very large states such as California, Texas, Florida, and New York. We disagree wit that position. First, the electoral votes of the various states are quite proportional already. The extra weight given to unpopulous states is that which the Constitution’s Article Two, Section 1.3 covenants :

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

 Thus the electoral vote number equates to the number of legislators agreed to. In that regard, it must be remembered that the Constitution’s grant of two Senators to each state, regardless of population, is itself a guarantee of state equality. That the populations of our 50 states vary enormously is no argument for discarding state autonomy: because population numbers change, and today;’s small number states may be tomorrow’s big numbers; and do not discount the degree to which a state’s policies may encourage in-migration or the reverse. Again : our system promotes state diversity — the liberty for a state to innovate, or to follow one course of policy rather than another., We already see it, as some states pursue regressive social (or economic) policy while others embrace progressive ones. We may decry the one or the other;l but how can we decry the state system that enables states to act locally ? Local is the surest, the truest, the most effective way to forge policy decisions.
And yes, today’s winner of the popular vote but loser of the state vote may tomorrow be the opposite; and the cry to eliminate state voting will come from the other side, with no stronger reason than is talked of this time.
For all these reasons, we strongly support the state-based election procedure adopted in the Twelfth Amendment. Diversity and complexity are, in our view, the surest safeguards of national liberty and unity.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

THE SOUTH RISES AGAIN — WITH HELP FROM ITS ALLIES

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^ the President-elect of a nation facing a very dark future as an heroic era of our history ends in self-inflicted failure

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Yesterday, voters in the nation we have called “America” chose “presidential electors,” a majority of whom will vote to make Donald J. Trump the next holder of the office of President, as designated under Article 2 of the Constitution.

It is customary on the day after an election for the loser to congratulate the winner.

Thus I congratulate the man now entitled to receive a clear majority of electoral votes pursuant to the Constitution’s Amendment 12.

His opponent, Hillary Clinton, did win a clear plurality of actual voters’ votes. But our Constitution does not empower direct democracy. We live the electoral college. Our ancestors ratified the Constitution — albeit very narrowly in almost every one of the 13 original states — and we cannot now complain of Ratification’s consequences.

Congratulations thus given, and citing my bases for according them, let me now look at what has happened. This will be a rather long read; please bear with me.

1.The South has risen again. Trump’s base was most of the South. His voice was that of the South. His hatreds and precepts were born in the South, and in states founded by Southerners.

The Trump story begins a long time ago : the election of 1836, which brought to power a man very similar : Andrew Jackson, a major slaveholder from Tennessee, was a gut fighter, an uncouth womanizer, a manner-less frontiersman who hated the urbane lite and marshaled the votes of gun-toting frontier guys to overwhelm said elites. Jackson proceeded to destroy his enemies’ power  abolishing the first national bank and causing the nation’s most serious depression prior to that of 1929-1934. Jackson uprooted entire nations of Indians, stealing their land, exiling them to what is now Oklahoma, while his followers grabbed the Indians’ ancestral land for speculation and settlement.

Jackson’s coalition of Southern  slaveholders, Mississippi Valley backwoodsmen, Appalachian land grabbers, and riverboat watermen (and their riverside suppliers) dominated national politics right up to the Civil War,. And though overwhelmed, and driven from power,  by the consequences of secession, Civil War, and armies of the North and Northern Midwest that won it, they and their children rose again after Reconstruction to terrorize people of color, bamboozle poor white workers and farmers, and block every measure of reform presented to Congress well into the 1960s.

Jackson’s coalition was racist and violent then, their descendants are racist and violent now, and they command majorities of voters in all the Jacksonian states. And if their current champion is a New Yorker — the opposite of Southern —  Jackson had plenty of support from New York cotton men and slave traders who hated the national bank’s control of their schemes and scams. His Vice President (Martin van Buren) was a New York machine pol. Sound familiar ?

It may seem odd for me to refer to events of 130 to 180 years ago to put Trump in perspective, but the stability of America’s voting system — of universal suffrage — assures that the surfaces may change but the fundamentals do not. We are politically the same polity were were in 1836. In the four year run up to Jackson’s election, his allies in Congress blocked President John Quincy Adams — the very sectional winner of a vicious 1832 election — from accomplishing anything at. all. We know this drill, don’t we ?

2.The South had help from crucial allies. Hillary Clinton would have won easily, South or no South opposed, had her opponent not received crucial help from two allies.

The first ally was Russia. It’s not the first time a foreign power has interfered with our politics.

In the Revolution and since, our polity in times of crisis has seen its destiny directed by foreign powers. France helped us secure victory in the Revolution; Britain staying out of the Civil War — despite enormous pressure on its government by Southern-sympathetic cotton importers — helped us to beat the slave power. Having England as staging area for the D Day invasion enabled us to win the Normandy battle; and Russia on the Eastern front assured us of victory in the entire European war. England as a base also helped us to win the First Iraq War.

Now comes Russia, to do what Britain declined to do in the Civil War : take the side of the South and its candidate.

We allowed it to happen. Few protested. The media hardly mentioned it. Their fixation was Hillary Clinton’s  e mails. More on this later.

Vladmiir Putin means us no good. He actively supports secession movements in various states — recently he hosted a secessionists’ convention in Moscow — seeking the breakup of our nation if possible. That may be a stretch; but his interference in the election itself, via hacking of e mail accounts and sponsorship of WikiLeaks, his espionage vanguard, unleashed much private gossip that our media — seeking advantage and profit, in true tabloid fashion — publicized hungrily. The message of said publication was to bolster the Trump campaign narrative of “cro0oked Hillary.”

Putin’s intelligence officers fed information constantly to the Trump campaign, bankrolled its second campaign chief, Paul Manafort, and gained in return Trump’s consistent approbation — a scandal for anyone who remembers the cold war, in which Russia’s predecessor state was our mortal enemy.

Russia is still our enemy. But the vitriol of most Trump supporters against our own government of “elites” is such that Trump’s embrace of Putin became a kind of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

If Putin helped Trump to win the election, fine and dandy, in the dark hearts of Trump zealots.

The second ally crucial to Trump’s election was the NY office of the FBI. Determined to indict Hillary Clinton for her use of that private e mail sever as Secretary of State — a practice used by both her immediate predecessors — or, if not indict, then smear, agents in that FBI office succeeded in pressuring Director Jim Comey to release the now infamous letter of investigation a mere eleven days before the election. At the time, Hillary Clinton was coasting to easy election; Comey’s letter, coming when early voting had already begun, cost her a good two to four points and all momentum. When finally, nine days alter, he wrote that the new investigation had nothing, the damage was done : because those days of early voting cost Clinton votes and because even with renewed momentum, doubts were sown, with a crucial two or three percent of voters, as to what next scandal Clinton might have in her resume.

Exit polls suggest that the votes the Comey letter cost Clinton came from suburban, white, college educated women : her core group. On election day, despite having one million volunteers (!!) out knock doors — an extraordinary ground game — Clinton was playing catch up. The IBD/TIPP poll, always accurate, showed it. The final IBD/TIPP poll had Clinton down 1 point.

One percent was not the whole story — Clinton actually won the popular vote — but it was the difference in those states that she had to win did not : Florida,  Wisconsin (half a percent), Pennsylvania (0.4 percent). As of this writing, she is behind also in Michigan, by 0.2 percent. Had she gained one percent more votes, she would have won all four and the Presidency.

Some have blamed Black voters for not turning out in huge numbers. True enough; in some states, Black voting numbers lagged noticeably. Ohio and North Carolina especially : but Clinton could have won without these. In Pennsylvania and Michigan, Black vote turnout was just as large as it was for Obama.

Some are faulting Clinton for rejecting her husband Bill Clinton’s plea to pitch her campaign more to white working class voters : her base in the 2008 campaign. But it’s rarely smart to campaign to the opponent’s base, and in this election white working class voters were Trump’s base. She chose instead to concentrate on HER base : voters of color, young people, women. The results support her decision. Clinton did not lose because she aroused the wrong voters. She lost because a key group of her own voters succumbed twice : first, to the Comey letter’s suggestion that Clinton’s e mails — as substance free a scandal as any I have seen — were, in fact, illegal; and second, to the constant talk about stuff dumped into the media’s lap by WikiLeaks.

If anything, the WikiLeaks gossip — all of it private correspondence stolen from people — was even less material than the e mails business. But the damage it did to Clinton’s vote reminds us that, where scandal is concerned, the more trivial the narrative, the more damaging : because petty stuff, people can understand, where truly major stuff overwhelms the mind.

Clinton was nickeled and dimed to political death.

That is how it is done, and to her it was done masterfully by her Russian enemies.


How,then, did Donald Trump manage to assemble the Southern, Jacksonian coalition ? How did a New York City tycoon who hobnobs with the big celebrities become a backwoodsmen’s hero ? Very simple : he dumped on everybody and everything, including his rich friends’ lifestyles. “Corrupt,” he called it and them, and his devotees believed him, because HE Knew. HE HAD LIVED IT.

And so when he insulted everybody and everything– when he called Mexicans rapists and John McCain a coward — when he mocked a disabled reporter and attcked a Muslim Gold Star mother –0  when he decried a Federal Judge for being “Mexican” — when he said he was smart for not paying taxes — when he openly praised Putin — when he spent a week slamming a beauty queen he had mocked: when he said he’d refuse to accept the election if he lost: when he said all this, his supporters loved him all the more, because they too hate all of these. Revenge and blood is what they want, and in Trump they had a leader willing to say so.

Until Trump came along and said all the things they had been told were uncool to say, things that if they said, would get them ostracized by right thinking society. And Trump ! Big time celebrity, famous, and rich as six Croesuses ! We all know that a celebrity can do no wro9ng; so, to hear Trump the celebrity talk like a jerk, well, that was all that was needed. Jerks are cool now ! Jerks were once in the social penalty box  but here was Trump telling them they could get back on the ice and skate again, skate in the spotlight !

Trump gave his supporters fame, power, approval. Is it any wonder that they flocked to him ? Then came the condemnations from “the elites,”: the “city people. This was gasoline poured on a fire ! The more angrily our city elites condemned Trump’s mobs, the more devoted to him they became.

That is why it didn’t matter one whit that Trump has no policy papers, that he seems to know nothing about anything, that he gropes women, that he doesn’t pay taxes, that he hobnobs with Russian spies, that he treats Hillary Clinton as if she were his cleaning lady.  None of it mattered to his voters because the one thing that did matter is that he was their enabler, their get out of social jail free card.

But if it is easy to enter into the mindset of Trump supporters, it is equally easy to view the consequences. Support for Trump is like burning one’s bridges. Good bye to social norms ? Good bye, social acceptance. Good bye to the society itself.

After all, if you dive into a bath of insult, a pool of bile, a river of slime, you can’t expect to emerge nicey nicey. Voting for Trump was a crap dump, nothing more. It was a pie thrown at. someone’s face, a flame of blame, tricycle hydroxide with no steering bottles.

Voting for Trump existed in the moment only; no tomorrow, no what’s next. After all, for his supporters, their vote doesn’t count, because the powers never listen anyway, so why should one vote judiciously ? Just throw the pie.

What DOES come next ? his voters don’t know and neither does he. He ad libbed much of his campaign — went into the debates with evidently zero preparation, winged it for as long as he could — and he will probably ad lib his presidency, assuming he gives a damn. I think he will disappoint his believers. They want change ? OK, WHAT change ? They talk as if they want it all destroyed, even the Constitution (except the Second Amendment), but I’m thinking that once they see the specifics they’ll say “WHOA, NO !” or else they’ll just tell Trump to bur it all down. Either way, the outcome can’t be good.

I have been tempted, these past many hours since the result was clear, that Trump will act on his vile bullying : that he will unleash his mob of gun toters, his anti Semites, his racists and immigrant haters, his followers who want to lynch jou7rnalists and apply the “2 A” to Hillary Clinton; and that would, of course, mean Nazism in America. But perhaps that is not what he will do. Perhaps he has no idea what he will do or who he will do it with. I can just as easily see Trump giving us bumbling incompetence as vicious violence, maybe more likely even. And what of the upcoming trials he faces ? Trump University and the rape trial ? Trump may find his time — and his political capital, such as it is — taken up with these matters.

I hope for incompetence. The nation can survive that. It cannot survive his fascist streak. It cannot survive his campaign chairman’s anti Semitism, his own anti-Muslim loudmouthing, his anti-immigrant scapegoating.

His limitless ignorance, it may end up turning the nation’s business over to the Republican Congress, whose goal is to repeal every social progress measure we have enacted since the 1950s, maybe since the 1850s. Of poor people and those of color; of LGBT people and immigrants, the Republican Congress cares not a whit. If said people exist at all for the Republican Congress, it is to fear them — to want them gone or powerless. Voting rights ? Not for them, they only vote Democrat.

I see nothing good in an incompetent Trump, nor anything good in a fascist Trump. And what of Supreme Court nominations ? The bad exhaust of a Trump jalopy will infect the nation for 150 years, maybe longer; we still live with the bad consequences of Andrew Jackson. Trump’s vote confirms the Jackson movement’s continuation probably into the future of America as long as the nation exists. It cannot be good for anyone, not even for those who vote for it. Maybe even especially for them.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere