elections

Yesterday was a day of opposites. A day of ups and downs. At different times yesterday, I was in tears and heartbroken. In other moments, my heart was filled with hope and love and optimism.

In the morning, I attended a memorial service for my friend and mentor, Flo Kong Kee. She was one of the first people I met when I first got involved in local politics. I was a foreigner. I was a haole from Kansas who wanted to work to make Hawaii (and the world) a better, more equitable place for everyone.

Flo welcomed me, mentored me, and listened to me. She had more love for Hawaii and its people, culture, and land more than anyone else I met here. She was more determined, driven, and filled with aloha than anyone else I worked with. When she struggling with personal illness, when she was worn-out, was on the losing end of important battles, she was never bitter. She was never without hope. Even in those times, especially in those time, she was always smiling, optimistic and thinking about what comes next.

We didn’t always agree on issues, on policy priorities or how to reach our goals. But I never doubted her commitment to working people, to making Hawaii better for everyone.

She was taken from us far too early. And I regret never sharing with her how much she meant to me and how much I valued and respected her.

After the memorial, I walked a few blocks through Waikiki back to where the Kuleana Academy was meeting. And I spent a good portion of the rest of the day with the group participating in the third cohort. The people in this group come from all over the state, from different backgrounds, from different experiences.

I also participated in Kuleana Academy earlier in the year, learning and growing with a wonderful and dynamic group of people.

Yesterday and during previous weekends, I sat in the back of the room, listening to this group of people talking story, questioning each other and learning from each other. I talk to this current cohort and smile and feel inspired.

Then, as the sun set and the day crept to its conclusion, I witnessed their graduation from the program. And I couldn’t help but be hopeful for our future. I am so excited to continue to get to know this fantastic group of people and work with them for the betterment of Hawaii and the most disadvantaged of those who live here.

It was a hard and hopeful day. I will miss Flo and am sad she isn’t here to help us shape a better future for Hawaii, but we will persevere. Imua!

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It seems the only traffic my site gets anymore is when I post a video of my lip syncing to songs I like. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time (or much energy) to make any new videos in the last few weeks. Sorry.

School. The legislative session. Trying to wrangle supporters for a fight on a $15 minimum wage for Hawaii. The Kuleana Academy. All these efforts have sucked up so much of my energy, that there’s little left. I’m working to increase my efficiency and time management, but adjustments to my routine are slow to come; I’m a creature of habit. So, until that happens, not only can I not promise regular posts, but I can’t promise regular videos, either.

Still, it’s (mostly) for my intellectual and career betterment, so I hope you’ll understand.

I’ve got a few minutes while my phone and iPad update their software, so I thought I’d share with you a recent assignment I completed. It’s a mock speech I wrote for Donald Trump. This past week in class, we studied the construction of speeches and how people make (political) decisions. The lesson’s final assignment was to write a speech, using polling data from 2015 and the lessons we learned to write a speech for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

At first, I thought writing a speech for Trump would make my skin crawl and my guts and progressive instincts would revolt if I attempt a speech for the cheeto man. But after thinking about it, I thought it would not only be easier (less wonky) and could actually be kinda fun. And so it was.

Hopefully, it will tickle you as much to read it as it did for me to write it:

There are so many wonderful people here today. There are thousands of people here today and all of you want America to be great again. I will make America great again!

Over the past eight years, crime has risen, violence against Americans around the world has risen, the cost of health care has risen, our economy has stagnated, and good jobs have been hard to find. These are all bad things and all are the product of a President and a Congress that has failed too many ordinary, hard-working Americans.

But Wall Street has done gangbusters. They have done terrific while everyday people, ordinary Americans like you good folks here today, have fallen behind. You have struggled. You have lost jobs. And you have lost faith and hope in the America we all love. I love this country!

The politicians in Washington have done nothing. Nothing! They are all talk. When they come home to tell you what they’re doing, what they are going to do to make your lives better, they say all sorts of things. They make promises and do not keep them. When I am elected President of the United States of America, my first order of business, on day one, will be to make sure government is working for the people, not Wall Street and the corporate lobbyists.

You know, I saw a poll the other day. I Pew poll, I think it was. This poll said half of all Americans feel like they are falling behind. Half! And the other half? Well, they are doing ok, but most of them do not see things getting any better for themselves or for their families. If you are not making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and most of you are not, you are struggling. Your families and your friends are struggling.

This same poll, the Pew poll, found that more than eighty percent of you who are making less than one hundred thousand dollars a year, view the economy as poor.

Too many of you believe there aren’t enough good paying jobs. How can this be in the country with the greatest economy in the world? Well, I will tell you. Those good jobs are being given to illegal immigrants. People are crossing our borders, entering our country illegally and taking good jobs from folks like you.

For the greatest country in the history of the world, this is unacceptable. What happened? How did we come to this?

For starters, this country has been taken over by status quo politicians. Lobbyists and banks have rigged the system for themselves. The Washington establishment and Wall Street elites have forgotten about you and have utterly ignored the cries and the needs of good, hard working ordinary Americans. All of you here today because you are being left behind by a system and by leaders who don’t care about you.

The Democrats’ front-runner Hillary Clinton, says America never stopped being great. She says America has always been great. Wow, is she wrong. She is so wrong! She is the queen of the Washington elite. She is bought and paid for by Wall Street and the big banks and she is so out of touch with ordinary Americans. Even Democrats aren’t thrilled with the economic prospects of the country; only about one quarter of them think the economy will improve in the next year.

But I am not like Hillary. I am not a career politician intent on maintaining the status quo. I am not a high-paid Wall Street lobbyist looking out for the interests of my clients. I am not a member of the political establishment. I am a political outsider.

I am in the race for President, not for myself or my family. I am already a very successful businessman with billions of dollars. I am in this race for President of the United States because I love this country. I love its citizens. I love the hard-working people of this country and I want them to be prosperous and successful. I am in this race for President to make that happen, to help all of you who are here with me today.

How can we fix everything that is wrong with our country? How make this country great again?

First, I will start by getting the government out of the pockets of ordinary Americans. Your taxes are too high! And how does the political establishment in Washington spend those hard-earned dollars? They spend them by sending money around the world to help people you have never met in countries you have never heard of. They use your tax dollars to subsidize banks and corporations; the wealthiest among us. I should know. I pay so little in taxes it is unbelievable! This has to change.

As President, I will make sure the government is working for ordinary people. Government will stop taxing to death people like you, people who work hard to support their families.

Second, as President I will make sure good paying jobs stop getting taken by illegal immigrants. We need to put a stop to this right away, but the Washington establishment has done nothing about it. They triangulate, they posture, and they compromise. They worry about how they will be perceived by pollsters and by people around the world. They are more concerned about politics than about doing what is necessary to help Americans now. When I am elected President, I will see to it that our borders are secure and that jobs right here in America are going to hard working citizens!

It is true, too, that too many American jobs are being sent overseas. We are losing too many jobs to places like China. The Chinese are laughing at us. American businesses, tired of wages that are too high and government regulations that are too stringent, are sending their manufacturing jobs, their call center jobs, and even their high-tech jobs to countries all over the world. All the while, the career politicians, the Washington establishment talk to us about free trade and globalization.

And everyone is talking about the minimum wage being too low.

We do not need to raise the federal minimum wage! We need to reduce regulation! We need to get government off the backs of businesses so they can create good paying jobs and bring back good paying jobs to America. Businesses will be set free from burdensome regulations. There will be good paying jobs for Americans, not illegal immigrants. I tell you, when I bring those jobs back from places like China, there will be so many good paying jobs in this country, it will be amazing!

I will do all this and more to make sure Americans can work in jobs they can be proud of. Jobs that will allow them to provide for themselves, for their families. When I become President, Americans will not have to struggle just to get by. And you all will be proud of your country again.

Vote for me and I will take away this rigged government system from the Washington establishment and from Wall Street lobbyists, and giving it back to the people. I will make this country great again.

Vote for me and I will make sure America’s economy is the greatest in the world again!

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I went to my Prime Photos in Amazon to look for a picture for today’s throwback, but Amazon did the work for me.

Hawaii For Bernie - Oahu 010516

This group photo, from one year ago today, was taken after (one of?) the first Hawaii For Bernie organizing meetings in Honolulu.

It marked the beginning of a rollercoaster year. Young and old, there are so many in this picture who weren’t previously politically active. Despite a disappointing Democratic National Convention and General Election, these folks are still engaged, determined to change the world.

I may not always show it, or say so, but these people are awesome.

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in the weeks following the general election in november, there have been countless commentaries on “what happened” and “who’s to blame.” with little deviation, the consensus i’ve seen develop seems to coalesce around a list of problems and failures:

  • mainstream news misreading, or ignoring signs of deep discontent
  • pervasive “fake news”
  • polling flaws
  • democrats’ and the clinton campaign’s failure to appeal to and turn out a core portion of their base, i.e. white-working class voters

but the other day i saw an article shared on facebook which absolutely made me angry: it’s time for bernie sanders to apologize to his supporters, and to president obama.

i think everyone knows at this point that i was a strong sanders supporter. i was a campaign leader here in hawaii and went to philadelphia as a sanders-pledged delegate.

the author, a perfect example of a whiny, entitled white woman who had no problem with clinton being anointed the nominee and next president by the dnc and media elite, respectively. the author’s myopic view atop her pedestal is bernie shouldn’t have run at all, let alone mount a competitive campaign of hope and change. he should “apologize for disrupting the historic milestone of the first female nominee for president of the united states with threats and fears.” then she goes on to insult his supporters.

never mind the fact that clinton was wildly unpopular among primary and general voters. never mind working class people across the country haven’t climbed out of the 2008 recession hole, but she claimed america is already great. never mind she angrily and uniformly insulted everyone who was inclined toward trump. it seems the article’s author is one who thinks democracy is a formality; it was hillary’s turn and how dare anyone challenge the democratic establishment and the democratic leadership council (dlc).

the author also seems to either have selective memory, or wasn’t paying close attention to things post convention. bernie spoke to issues, not personality. she also refers to obama’s popularity, as a sign that people would have been happy with clinton, which i think is a flawed assumption.

for one, as of december 5, his approval rating was in the mid 50’s; certainly not a glowing endorsement of his job performance. and i’m not sure his number wouldn’t be lower were it not for a certain nostalgia that set in as americans began to pay attention to the presidential election. at the beginning of the year, his approval rating was in the mid 40’s.

two, leading up to, during, and following the democratic national convention in july, bernie urged his supporters to get on board with clinton, telling them she was a far better choice than trump. then he went out and stumped for her for the last few months of the campaign.

three, the author seems to blame sanders and not clinton for the slow and reluctant migration of his supporters to her. in during a town hall with rachel meadow, clinton oozes contempt at the suggestion that she needs to woo sanders supporters. “i have a bigger lead in pledged delegates than senator obama, when i ran against him in 2008, ever had over me. i am winning!” for voters who were already disinclined toward clinton, her contempt for us certainly didn’t help.

clinton and the dnc should apologize for refusing to see the signs in front of them. had the system (including mainstream media) been truly neutral, i believe we might have a different president-elect right now. had democrats been more interested in who was the candidate with the best chance of beating the republicans than they were of “breaking the glass ceiling,” maybe clinton supporters and the dnc wouldn’t be standing around pointing fingers at everyone but themselves over who’s to blame.

senator sanders should apologize? i don’t think so.

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five or six weeks ago, about a month before the ghastly and depressing result of election day, i wrote a little about the electoral college.

why the electoral college

since trump’s victory, there have been more than a smattering of posts on facebook, commentaries in magazines and news papers decrying the electoral college as an old, undemocratic, and broken system for electing the president of the united states.

i’ll admit, my inclination toward the electoral college waned a bit, “maybe we should take a serious look at getting rid of it.” so, i’ve been reading as much useful content as i can find on the subject. historical articles and commentary on both sides of the issue. i’ll attempt to lay out both sides as i see them.

even the historical context for the creation of the electoral college seems to be steeped in controversy. whether you support the system, or not, there is a historical theme for you.

why the hell do we have this system in the first place

the constitution is the result of negotiations between representatives from the 13 original colonies. the election of the president is no different. some suggested the president should be elected by popular vote. others thought it better that the congress be tasked with the job.

for the founders, a direct democracy raised cause for concern. they feared the “tyranny of the majority.” and they worried that the average citizen would be unable to reach an informed, untarnished decision.

on the other hand, an election of the president by congress was also problematic. there was a concern that a president elected in the fashion would be beholden to congress, thus potentially tipping the balance between the three branches in favor of the legislative branch.

underpinning all this was a tension between the more populous “free” northern colonies and the less populous “slave” southern colonies.

in the end, a compromise was reached: election by the electoral college. included in the compromise was how representation in congress and the electoral college would be determined.

“according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”

so, congressional and electoral college representation is identical and based on the census. every state gets at least three members in congress (one representative and two senators) and at least three electors in the electoral college.

why we should abolish the electoral college

the most immediate and obvious reason to do away with the electoral college is that for the second time in less than 20 years the popular vote result differs from that of the electoral college.

with the overwhelming majority of states apportioning their electors on a winner-take-all basis (except for maine and nebraska), even narrow popular-vote victories in a state result in massive electoral wins. this year, narrow trump wins in florida, ohio, pennsylvania, wisconsin, and michigan led to his decisive win.

because of this winner-take-all dynamic, candidates tend to focus their energy on a handful of states. they otherwise ignore any states they are either certain to win, or have no hope of doing so. and so the election is decided by a handful of states and voters who receive all the attention.

also, the structure of the electoral college creates lopsided voting strength for those who live in lower-populated states in comparison to the larger states. california, the state with the largest population, receives 55 electors (equal to the number of senators and representatives in congress). wyoming, on the other hand, receives just three.

according to the 2010 census, california had just over 37 million residents to wyoming’s 560,000. so, in california, each elector represents 677,000 residents. in wyoming, each elector represents just 188,000 people. voters in wyoming have nearly four times as much power as voters in california.

the electoral college operates contrary to the democratic “one person, one vote” principle.

so, the system by which we choose our president today is a result of concerns and political compromises made by the founders over 200 years ago. neither are relevant in the modern age.

why we should keep the electoral college

despite the flaws described above, there are good reasons to keep the system we have now. or, at a minimum, any attempt to do away with the electoral college should be carefully considered.

for starters, it’s important to point out that in the more than 200 years since the founders established the electoral college, it’s result has failed to mirror the popular vote just five times. that’s a 91% success rate. prior to the 2000 election, it hadn’t happened since 1888.

at both the state and federal levels, we are a representative democracy. and that representation isn’t directly proportional to “one person, one vote.” the house of representatives is based on proportional representation, but the senate is not; each state gets two senators regardless of population. remember, the united states is a federal republic. though imperfect, the electoral college is an integral part of that federalism. to do away with the electoral college would arguably leave little reason to retain the senate, since it’s creation is tied to the creation of the electoral college.

since it is mostly democrats, progressives who are calling for the abolition of the electoral college, consider what congress would be like without the democratic minority in the senate serving as the only bulwark against the republican majority.

with one exception, the electoral college has only contradicted the popular vote when the election has been within three points. despite clinton’s growing popular vote lead, the result is still less than one percent of the total. so, only when the election is a near tie does the electoral college become a frustrating aberration. and in these circumstances, it is indeed the smaller states that end up deciding the election.

the electoral college forces presidential candidates to have broad appeal across different regions of the country. a candidate cannot win by the south, or northeast, or west coast alone. they must establish their appeal beyond their “safe bets.”

though frustrating at times, the “winner-take-all” system that is currently in place further forces candidates to focus their attention beyond the large states. once a candidate reaches 51% in any given state, it makes no sense to continue to campaign in that state. instead, they must move on to other states. this mechanism further guarantees a candidate has broad appeal across multiple states and regions.

in a similar vein, were the electoral college abolished for a nation-wide popular vote, there’s little reason to believe candidates would campaign to everyone. instead, candidates would either focus all their attention in large cities (democrats) or in rural areas (republicans). in either case, direct campaigning would likely be replaced by even greater television campaigning via ads and interviews and by mass mailings. this shift of focus would also likely result in even more attention paid to fundraising and large donors.

another potential problem to consider with a popular nation-wide vote is the potential for a candidate to win the presidency with a plurality (unless run-off elections are established). the current system makes it virtually impossible to reach this result. however, in a popular vote, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that a candidate could win with 30% of the vote. or even less, if more candidates are in the race.

finally, despite the sorry, fear, and frustration democrats and progressives feel in the wake of this year’s election, it’s important to keep a couple of points in mind. one, had clinton focused more on white, working-class voters in wisconsin, michigan, and pennsylvania, she’d have won and this debate would be going on.

two, more than half the country didn’t vote for either of the two major candidates. opponents of the electoral college might blame frustration with the current system as a cause for the turnout. but remember, both candidates had high disapproval ratings. nearly 30% of the most cast in hawaii, a safe “blue state,” went to trump.

conclusion

though i remain open to the debate and think having a thoughtful conversation on the subject is both important and healthy, i return to my original position. replacing the electoral college is both impractical and unlikely to lead to a perfectly fair, flawless presidential election.

also, the united states isn’t the only “democracy” that doesn’t directly elect its head of state. great britain is another example.

its important to remember how difficult it is to amend the constitution. given the added weight afforded the smaller-population states, it is highly unlikely enough states would ratify any constitutional amendment to abolish the electoral college.

in the end, i view this argument against the electoral college similar to that of enacting term limits. i think it is far more important and effective to focus on cultivating better candidates and focus on organizing. progressives and democrats need to do a better job of convincing voters of the virtue of their positions and candidates, rather than trying to change the system.

and, of course, the democratic party needs to realign its messaging and priorities with those of working people.

in the end focusing on these solutions, i believe, will have benefits that go far beyond problems in the process of electing the president of the united states.

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