Can We Become A Representative Democracy Again?

The Daily Escape:

Toroweap Point, North Rim, Grand Canyon NP, AZ – August 2022 photo by Andrei Stoica

Our democracy is teetering. Minority states representing a fraction of the whole population of the country, have an outsized representation in the Electoral College and in the Senate. This has helped ignite an acute threat to American democracy that’s based in Red State America. The NYT’s David Leonhardt quotes Harvard’s Steven Levitsky:

“We are far and away the most countermajoritarian democracy in the world,”

One reason is that the more populous states over the past century have grown much larger than the small states. That means the bigger state residents now hold (relatively) less political power in the Senate and the Electoral College than they did in the 1900s.

This was something that the founders understood and agreed on. At the time, there was an alternative discussion about maintaining proportional representation in the House. In the first US Congress, (1789-1791), James Madison had proposed 12 potential Constitutional amendments. We all know that ten amendments were quickly ratified as the Bill of Rights. Another amendment was ratified in 1992 as the 27th Amendment which prohibits salary increases for House and Senate members to take effect before the next election.

The only one of the 12 amendments passed by Congress that wasn’t ratified is the Congressional Apportionment Amendment (CAA). The CAA was designed to let the number of seats in the House grow to meet future population growth.

A majority of the (then) states ratified the CAA. But by the end of 1791, it was one state short of adoption. No other state has ratified this potential amendment since 1792. Here’s the text of the proposed CAA:

“After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.”

The CAA lays out a mathematical formula for determining the number of seats in the House of Representatives. Initially, it would have required one representative for every 30,000 constituents, with that number eventually climbing to one representative for every 50,000 constituents.

But the amendment wasn’t added to the Constitution. Today, Congress controls the size of the House of Representatives. They had regularly increased the size of the House to account for population growth until 1911, when it fixed the number of voting House members at 435. Today, that’s about 761,000 Americans per House seat. Miles away from 50,000.

Delaware leads in the malapportionment with 990,000 people per representative, about 250,000 more than the average state. Rhode Island has the most democratic apportionment with 548,000 people per representative. Both are small, Blue states.

The small Red state Wyoming has 578k/representative. All of the big states are higher than the average: NY has 777k, and CA has 761k, while Florida has 770k and Texas has 768k.

This also impacts the distribution of Electoral College votes, which equal the apportionment of House seats. As a result, the Electoral College is also becoming less representative. David Leonhardt points out:

“Before 2000, only three candidates won the presidency while losing the popular vote (John Quincy Adams, Rutherford Hayes, and Benjamin Harrison), and each served only a single term.”

But two of the past four presidents (Trump and GW Bush in his first term) have become president despite losing the popular vote. Small states represent a fraction of the whole population of the country yet, absent something like the CAA, have an outsized representation in both the Senate and the Electoral College.

This was on purpose. But when the filibuster was added in the Senate’s rules, it changed everything. The filibuster has been part of the Senate in many forms, but in 1975, the Senate revised its cloture rule so that three-fifths of Senators (60 votes out of 100) could limit debate.

With the Senate roughly equally divided, each Party has about 50 votes it can count on, but it needs 60 to pass most legislation. This means that the small states have more power in the Senate than they had before.

Using the 2010 US Census as an example, the US population was 308.7 million. If the CAA was in effect, the number of representatives in the House would be more than 6,000. That’s surely unwieldy, but is there a number of House seats between 435 and 6000 that would be more representative?

Our form of proportional representation needs an overhaul. Some changes to consider:

  • Better proportional representation in the House (via the CAA?) to help make the Electoral College more representative than currently
  • A version of ranked choice voting for all state-wide races
  • Overturning Citizens United
  • Ending gerrymandering by using independent commissions to establish district lines

Since only a few hundred people currently control the democratic direction of our country, can these ever be addressed?

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Monday Wake Up Call – September 19, 2022

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Willard Beach, South Portland, ME – September 2022 photo by Eric Storm Photo

Last week, Wrongo wrote about how if you know a little about politics, your issues are guns, abortion, and taxes. We need to think about adding immigration to that list. Blog reader Craig G. asked, “when is enough, enough?” in response to Wrongo’s column on DeSantis sending immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard.

It’s a great question. We tend to think of immigration as an American/Mexican border problem, but it is much, much worse than that. The UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees reported in May 2022, that the world, for the first time in history, had 100 million forcibly displaced people either in camps or on the move.

Of those who were on the move, “conflict and violence” accounted for 14.4 million, and “weather-related events” accounted for 23.7 million. The distinction between these numbers is often hard to understand. The civil war in Syria for example, produced large numbers of refugees. In 2021, more than 6.8 million refugees were from Syria, more than any other country in the world. At the same time, another 6.9 million people were displaced within Syria. The Syrian civil war followed the most profound drought ever recorded in what used to be the Fertile Crescent.

About 100 million migrants is huge, more than the population of Germany, Turkey or, Vietnam. But it could get worse as the impacts of climate change broaden throughout the 3rd world. The International Organization for Migration has predicted that we could see 1.5 billion people forced from their homes by 2050.

These numbers are staggering. Now couple them with America’s declining birth rate. Econofact reports that the US birth rate has fallen by 20% since 2007. They say the decline cannot be explained by demographic, economic, or policy changes. So, what if it continues while the number of people knocking on America’s doors continues to grow?

As Craig G. implies, there could come a time when all Americans will agree to limit immigration. Otherwise, a smaller, aging America will be asking what some on the Right are asking today: Who are the “real” Americans? What do we owe recent immigrants?

The Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1 says:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

How will we adjust when the majority of our population are from different cultures, different races and speak different languages? The children of first-generation immigrants generally are well-adapted to the broad American culture; for the most part, they sound and act like Americans. If they were born here they ARE Americans. But the first generation migrant has an understandably difficult time.

This has caused the Right and specifically, the Christian nationalists on the right to be stingy about who they say is a true American, despite when many kids of immigrants are born here in America.The 14th Amendment doesn’t require any ideological, racial or language prerequisite.

Our low birth rates mean we can’t replace our population, so our economic growth will slow. If we replace our population with immigrants, we’ll have economic growth, but our culture will inexorably change.

Our history gives us some pointers. Immigration to the US peaked in the 19th century in the decade 1880-89 when it reached 5,248,568. The first decade of the 20th century saw another record with 8,202,388 people entering the country. In 1910, 75% of the population of New York, Chicago, Detroit and Boston consisted of first and second generation immigrants.

Remember that the US population was 62,979,766 in 1890, an increase of 25.5% percent since the prior census in 1880.  Contrast that with today. Stastia says that 710,000 legal immigrants arrived here in 2021, and that we had 11.39 million illegal immigrants living in the US at year end 2018. We’re five times larger today.

Think about it: In 1890, our foreign-born population was 9.2 million. The total US population was 62.9 million. 5.2/62.9 = 14.6% of our population were immigrants. In 2018, out foreign-born population is 44.8 million. 44.8/320 million in US = 14.0%. Is our problem worse today?

Time to wake up America! A tsunami of immigrants will try to move from the 3rd world to the developed world. The numbers will be staggering, beyond anything experienced so far by Europe or the US. Our ability to cope with so many people in motion in some even modestly humane fashion will determine the character of our country over the next century.

To help you wake up, listen to John Moreland perform “Ugly Faces” from his 2022 album “Birds in the Ceiling”.

Sample Lyric:

You’re seeing ugly faces in your dreams
Let me know what it means
We told ourselves we’d tell it true
But I learned how to lie, watching you
This dirty place don’t want you here
Looks like you’re stuck another year
You close your eyes, a scene rolls by
A strip mall under sunburst sky
My back was to a corner, lonely in a crowd
I couldn’t hear you calling, the bullshit was so loud

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – September 18, 2022

On Friday, the DOJ filed a motion in the 11th Federal Circuit Court for a partial stay of judge Cannon’s order appointing a special master to review the stolen documents that the FBI recovered at Mar-a-Lago (MAL). They are asking the federal appeals court to temporarily block Cannon’s ruling that prevents the DOJ from using thousands of pages of government documents seized from Trump at MAL.

It came after judge Cannon, for the second time in two weeks, issued a ruling in Trump’s favor that flabbergasted legal experts. From the WaPo:

“US District Judge Aileen M. Cannon on Thursday night rejected the Justice Department’s request to allow it to review the documents seized from Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago that were marked classified. Cannon previously ruled that a special master review all the seized documents, at least temporarily delaying the government’s criminal probe.”

The brief is here: Motion for Partial Stay Pending Appeal. The essence of the DOJ’s argument is summarized at page 6:

“Plaintiff has no claim for the return of those records, which belong to the Government and were seized in a court-authorized search. The records are not subject to any possible claim of personal attorney-client privilege. And neither the Plaintiff nor the court has cited any authority suggesting that a former President could successfully invoke executive privilege to prevent the Executive Branch from reviewing its own records.”

Let’s leave it to Robert Hubbell to point out the double standard at work in a recent Supreme Court decision: (brackets and emphasis by Wrongo)

“Here is a fun fact: “Executive privilege” is not mentioned in the Constitution. Instead, the Supreme Court ruled that executive privilege is “implied” in the Constitution because it is “inextricably rooted in the separation of powers under the Constitution.”

Another fun fact: The Constitution does not mention “separation of powers.” So, executive privilege is an implied right based on an implied principle [in the Constitution].

Compare the Court’s recognition of the implied right of a president to invoke executive privilege to the Court’s recent pronouncement in Dobbs regarding reproductive liberty: “The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.”

With its decision in Dobbs, the Supreme Court eliminated an implied right that offends its religious agenda.

But Cannon and most likely, the Supremes will likely protect Trump by implying a right based on the general structure of the Constitution. On to cartoons.

Judge Cannon bars the DOJ from Trump. We thought we’d hit bottom and then we heard knocking from below:

Trump envies Charles. There’s always Burger King:

Republican immigration plan:

Ukraine advances supported by Russian troops:

Putin maintains same strategy:

Right to choose has many meanings:

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Saturday Soother – September 17, 2022

The Daily Escape:

View from Schnebly Hill Road, Sedona, AZ – August 2022 photo by Cathy Franklin

As we discussed yesterday, DeSantis is one of many Republican politicians who are working overtime to convince MAGA-land that they are yuuge Christians. Here’s DeSantis in February, talking to students at the very Christian Hillsdale College:

“Put on the full armor of God. Stand firm against the left’s schemes. You will face flaming arrows, but if you have the shield of faith, you will overcome them, and in Florida we walk the line here. And I can tell you this, I have only begun to fight.”

The Tampa Bay Times takes issue with their governor: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“The biblical reference DeSantis is using is from Ephesians 6, and calls on Christians to spiritually arm themselves against the “devil’s schemes.” In DeSantis’ speeches, he has replaced the ”devil” with “the left” as he tries to mobilize supporters ahead of his reelection in November and possibly a run for the White House in 2024.”

It’s dangerous that Republicans on the ballot in November are openly saying that the only true Americans are Christians. They’re portraying the battle against their political opponents as between good and evil.

The Tampa Bay Times (TBT) says that it has some religious leaders worrying that such rhetoric could mobilize fringe groups who may be prone to violence. From the TBT: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Christian nationalism for many Conservatives has become a political identity, and unlike Conservative politicians in the past who used their faith to inform their arguments, DeSantis is more aggressive, using war imagery to describe the political debates as a battle over who will be the better American.”

The TBT quotes Philip Gorski, a comparative-history sociologist at Yale University who co-wrote the book “The Flag and the Cross: White Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy”:

“The full armor of God passage is a favorite amongst certain types of Pentecostals who really do see the world in terms of spiritual warfare,”

They also quote Allyson Shortle, a political science professor at the University of Oklahoma who has co-written the book “The Everyday Crusade: Christian Nationalism in American Politics”:

“I think DeSantis has really stood out as someone who has effectively used this type of God talk and used these types of Christian nationalist talking points to curry favor…”

For Republicans, talking about the importance of faith is nothing new, and debates about how visible Christianity should be in our society — whether it be prayer in schools or religious symbols outside American courthouses — have been ongoing for decades.

But there is something different emerging: A strain of Conservative thought that sees the country’s politics as an open battle between good and evil. TBT quotes Marilyn Mayo, senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism:

“There’s always been candidates who espouse Christian values, but what I think is very different is you have many people on the right and the far right seeing the current situation in the US as a battle, an absolute battle, between good and evil….And the good are the mostly white, Christian conservatives. And on the other side are the liberals, progressives, left-wingers, and certainly the LGBTQ community…. They really see this as a battle and paint the other side as…an evil force that needs to be defeated.”

Shortle says that Christian nationalism is the belief that a “true” American should be Christian. Some Christian national extremists say that the US is no longer a Christian nation, that it’s been taken over by secular forces.

Over the summer, Florida social studies teachers were alarmed that a civics training session led by DeSantis’ administration had a “Christian nationalism philosophy that was baked into everything” that was taught.

The initiative emphasized that the Founding Fathers did not desire a strict separation of state and church. State trainers also told teachers that the 1962 US Supreme Court case that found school-sponsored prayer violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment was unjustly decided.

In July, DeSantis was endorsed by Moms for Liberty, a group that focuses on adding Christian nationals to school boards across America. It has more than 200 chapters and 95,000 members in 38 states. At the group’s first national summit, DeSantis said that he intended to “leave Florida to God and to our children better than I found it.”

And what is “better” is in the eye of the beholder.

On to our Saturday Soother. We had our first sub 50° night on Thursday. Soon the indoor plants will return to the sunroom.

Take a few moments of your Saturday and listen and watch “Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5” by Heitor Villa-Lobos. He wrote a series of nine suites between 1930 and 1945. Here the 5th is played by Hauser on cello and Petrit Çeku on guitar in 2017 at the Lisinski Concert Hall in Zagreb:

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DeSantis Dickitude

The Daily Escape:

Cathedral Valley, Capitol Reef NP – September 2022 photo by Mary Warner

Pretty sure everyone saw the news about planes landing on Martha’s Vineyard full of Venezuelan immigrants. From the NYT:

“The migrant group, which included children, arrived on two planes around 3 p.m. without any warning, said State Senator Julian Cyr, a Massachusetts Democrat representing Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. Officials and volunteers from the island’s six towns “really moved heaven and earth to essentially set up the response that we would do in the event of a hurricane,”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) took credit for sending the planes with migrants. This is frat-boy behavior from a dick Republican governor. Not to be outdone in showing his big dickitude, Texas governor Greg Abbott (R) sent two busloads of migrants to the home of VP Kamala Harris in Washington DC.

DeSantis isn’t the first to do this. The JFK Library twitter account reminds us that in 1962:

“To embarrass Northern liberals and humiliate Black people, southern White Citizens Councils started their so-called “Reverse Freedom Rides,” giving Black people one-way tickets to northern cities with false promises of jobs, housing, and better lives.”

Maybe DeSantis and Abbott should have read a few history books before deciding to ban books.

DeSantis knows that Florida is home to 60% of the Cubans living in the US. These immigrants fled to the US to escape poverty, violence, and a Communist dictatorship. Many didn’t follow immigration laws at the time. More still try to reach Florida every week. Is DeSantis saying that he doesn’t want Venezuelan migrants but sure, more Cuban migrants are ok?

MA State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, whose district includes Martha’s Vineyard, tweeted: (brackets