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.


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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as i laid in bed last night, hoping for sleep to come, (one thing) i wondered if i’d be able to sit down and write a post today. and what i might say.

well, it turns out, there will be a post. but, no, i’m not sure yet what to say about it all.

i’ve spent a fair amount of my day so far reading various commentaries, explanations about how we ended up here. i’ve been talking to friends and family commiserating and consoling.

i don’t know if i’ll be able to put into words how i think we ended up with trump as our next president, but i hope to.

jokingly, i’ve talked about moving. not to canada but new zealand (or london). but hawaii is my home. plus, it’s not in me to walk away, to toss my hands in the air and give up. the work is too important.

for now, let me say this. all you progressive warriors, you champions of working people, defenders of love and equality and fairness, take some time. crying can be good for the soul. read a book, watch a movie, take comfort in friends and family. go for a walk, swim in the ocean. recharge.

so, perhaps now more than ever, we need to suit-up, get together, organize, and work. 2018 isn’t far off and we need to get started.

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my good friend shawn asked me several weeks back to explore…

why politicians ought to consider pushing for a more medium platform rather than pushing far to one extreme or another. this may not be your belief, but it is an idea i’d like to see explored.

i’ve been ruminating off and on about his question since he posed it to me in a comment to another post. shawn’s one of the brightest people i know, but his framing of the question exposes a misframing of the issue i think he’s trying to get at.

most people see the problem with government and politics today as a question of the right and left not being able to get together on common ground to address important issues of the day.

i’d argue the problem is a result of the entire political spectrum in d.c. (and elsewhere) shifting to the right. in public political discourse, there is no “left” represented. instead, the “left” shawn refers to isn’t represented at all.

the public, i think, sees democrats and republicans arguing over how best to maintain the political and corporate elite while addressing critical issues affecting working and middle-class folks. seeing this battle play out via the news media pitting the middle-democrats and right-republicans against each other. democrats blame republicans. conservatives blame democrats and nothing gets done. the public is fed up.

they’re fed up because the system has stopped working for them. and they’re fed up because no one in government or politics is standing up to champion them first.

so, political debates today are framed with democrats on one side and the republican/tea-party on the other. the problem is the democrats represent “the medium platform” shawn refers to. and the gop represents the “right.”

you can look at any debated issue and see this played out.

the budget: in the last several years, there has been some press coverage on budgets proposed by the president, the republican leadership, and the tea party. did you know that in each instance the congressional progressive caucus (the “left”) also introduced a budget? my guess is no.

guns: republicans blame criminals, crazy people, and terrorists for gun violence. they advocate for fewer (or no) regulation or oversight of firearms. and they love conceal-carry laws. democrats, representing the counter position by the news media, want some increased regulation, generally oppose conceal-carry laws, and want to use the terrorist “no-fly” list as a basis for denying people the right to buy a gun.

there’s virtually no discussion about a broad ban on hand guns and assault weapons, purchase of ammunition, etc.

healthcare reform: there was obama’s middle position of public-subsidized private insurance versus…. well, the republicans didn’t have an alternative other than to let everyone fend for themselves. but the “left” position, where was it? it didn’t exist. neither politicians in d.c. nor the news media discussed a single-payer (medicare for all) option.

climate change: the gop, tea-party folks won’t even acknowledge that it exists. democrats decry republican denial on the issue, but obama has done little strengthen international agreements on emissions reduction. exploratory drilling in domestic waters has increased during his administration.

and both obama and clinton have, implicitly if not explicitly, been supportive of ongoing coal mining and “fracking.” and this year the planet reached the 400 ppm atmospheric co2 milestone for the first time in 4 million years.

again, no serious discussion of “left” solutions have received any attention or debate.

economic justice: democrats nibble around the edges. $12 minimum wage. paying lip service to organized labor in election years, while pushing (or quietly supporting) trade agreements that undermine labor law and hand huge concessions to the corporate elite. bailing out wall street and “too-big-to-fail” banks, while doing little to nothing to bail out working-class america.

republicans want everyone to make their own way, unless they’re filthy rich, in which case they get tax breaks and slack regulations.

only here, because of bernie sanders’ presidential bid, have we seen the needle move just a little to the left. $15 instead of $12 minimum wage. free college tuition, opposition to the trans-pacific partnership and strong labor protections. and these received minimum coverage during the primary season. but from where i sit, those are all squarely on the “left” of the political spectrum.

it’s not a “medium platform” that people are clamoring for. it’s not a “medium platform” that will realign american politics and institutional politicians. rather, it is a corrective shift back to the left that is needed.

this year we’ve watched as the gop has imploded under the weight of donald trump as their nominee. we’ve see anemic enthusiasm for hillary clinton among democrats (except as an alternative to trump). one article i read referred to this year’s presidential race as an “unpopularity contest.”

from the beginning, you had donald trump (and ted cruz) representing the far right. you had hillary clinton representing the center. you had bernie sanders (and jill stein) representing the left.

network news media was basically all trump all the time, because he was so “entertaining” hillary received little coverage because it was just a given that she was going to be the democratic nominee. and bernie only seemed to receive coverage when the media covered an over-flowing-crowd event, or commented on his record-breaking fundraising. his issues were cast aside as crazy or so far afield as to be barely worth mentioning.

so, the problem with american politics isn’t an uncompromising left or right. the problem is there’s no one representing the left anymore. they’ve all been squeezed out by disappointing corporate moderates and right-wing… racist-fascists.

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first thing’s first; i voted today!

i love “going to the polls”. i do walk-in voting. there’s just something so satisfying about standing in the booth, surrounded by others fulfilling their civic duty just like me, that i enjoy.

anyway, on to two news stories that piqued my interest (ire?) today.

the first is one with the headline, Breaking: Megyn Kelly is Supporting Hillary Clinton For President, Civil War At Fox News. i’ve never heard of this news site before, but the headline was provocative enough for me to check out. here’s the bit that bothers me:

Megyn Kelly and Trump have a long history of hating each other – and it’s obvious that by denouncing Trump in everything she does, it’s de facto support of Hillary Clinton, simply by default. By attacking Donald Trump on her show, she is directly supporting Hillary, either way you look at it.

its that simple?

this version of the story strikes me as “click-bait”. i find it poorly written and even more poorly conceived.

the only thing that’s “obvious” to me is that she’s disturbed by Trump and his candidacy, both as a conservative and as a woman.

that the mainstream news media has treated this campaign as a circus, or a school yard fight is a travesty. but now that trump is so close to stepping into the white house, pretty much everyone with any sense (or moral compass) is freaking out.

and that’s all i’ve seen in the handful of video clips of megyn kelly’s coverage of trump. she’s been challenging trump’s credibility and practicality as the gop nominee. that, to me, doesn’t equate to support of clinton.

what it is, to me, is the smallest sign of a “journalist” (i’m not sure i’d call her one) doing her fucking job. it is the new’s media’s job to be critical. to challenge standing assumptions that may not prove true. to point out flaws in political logic. and to show when something, or in this case, someone would be a terrible, terrible, terrible thing for this country.

a quick google search found other references to the exchange between hannity and kelly. not one among the main news sites came to the conclusion that kelly was a trump supporter. they all, accurately i’d say, refer to hannity’s comments as what they are, an accusation.

facebook can be a great news aggregator, but we need to view the things we see with skepticism. if a story sounds strange, unlikely, or too good to be true, look for other credible sources. don’t just repost it.

the second story, in a lot of ways, is far more disturbing.

the senate is contemplating taking a stand against any clinton nominations to the supreme court (or any other?).

while browsing news headlines over lunch, i came across this one: This Could Be The Beginning Of The End Of The Supreme Court As We Know It.

the gist of the article is that the cato institute says the senate is well within its constitutional right to never hold hearings on or confirm another supreme court nominee ever again.

the libertarian (and in this context constitutional constructionist) cato institute, it should be noted, is a creation of the koch brothers. so, you might expect this kind of position from them.

i tend to take the huffington post with a grain of salt, as their reporting strikes me as hit and miss, occasionally sensationalist, and typical of mainstream news media. still, this is a concerning claim from the cato institute and one that comes just days after senator mccain said as much would be the case should clinton win.

on the other hand, i found another article on the same subject that suggests an equally radical solution for clinton and the democrats: appoint without confirmation. its radical and, at least for me, completely unheard of.

but this is what at least one progressive lawyer and national common cause board member is suggesting should the senate continue to shirk their constitutional responsibility. i recommend reading the while article, but here’s the core point, i think:

The Constitution glories in its abilities, however, and it is possible to read its language to deny the Senate the right to pocket veto the president’s nominations. Start with the appointments clause of the Constitution. It provides that the president “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint… Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States.” Note that the president has two power: the power to “nominate” and the separate power to “appoint.” In between the nomination and the appointment, the president must seek the “Advice and Consent of the Senate. What does that mean, and what happens when the Senate does nothing?

the common knowledge has always been that the president cannot appoint without the “advice and consent of the senate.” the question here is an interesting one. at least the author seems to believe that if the senate chooses not to act, the president has nonetheless met his constitutional obligation to present the nomination to the senate. why should the president, the supreme court, and arguably our democracy suffer if the senate refuses to “advise and consent?”

It is altogether proper to view a decision by the Senate not to act as a waiver of its right to provide advice and consent. A waiver is an intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known right or privilege. As the Supreme Court has said, “‘No procedural principle is more familiar to this Court than that a constitutional right,’ or a right of any other sort, ‘may be forfeited in criminal as well as civil cases by the failure to make timely assertion of the right before a tribunal having jurisdiction to determine it.’”

its an interesting interpretation of the constitution. one that certainly differs from that of the cato institute’s view.

not being a legal scholar of any kind, i have no idea how it would play out, but it’d be interesting (and possibly entertaining) to watch play out.

taking this course of action, obama or, should she be elected, clinton, would be a bold step to rebalance the checks and balances of our democracy. any such action would certain wind up in court, but that’s ok with me. i’d like to see democrats take a stand and call the republicans on their nonsensical bullshit.

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