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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Could Trump’s Anti Vote-by-Mail Stance Cost Him the Election?

The Daily Escape:

Genesee River, Letchworth State Park, 60 miles southeast of Buffalo NY – photo by Donnelly585

Trump’s crusade against Vote by Mail is hard to explain. He of course, votes by mail. And, there’s every reason to believe that in the battleground states, he might benefit from it. From the Washington Monthly: (brackets by Wrongo)

“According to the Florida Department of State’s Division of Elections, [in 2016] 1,080,808 Republicans cast their votes by mail compared to 1,053,254 Democrats– a net advantage of 27,554.”

Trump ultimately won Florida by about 113,000 votes, not a truly significant margin going into 2020.

Trump world is taking what their leader says about vote by mail very seriously. The Detroit News reported that this happened last Friday:

“People burned letters informing them that they can vote by absentee ballot in future elections during a protest near Grand Rapids. The applications were burned…during an event called Operation Incinerator….Many people had flags, shirts and signs showing support for President Donald Trump and Republicans.”

The protestors were offended that Michigan’s Secretary of State mailed absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. They may have been misled by Trump’s false claim that actual ballots were mailed instead of what was mailed: applications for ballots.

But, it’s widely believed on the Right that making voting easier benefits Democrats.

Many Republicans also believe it will make it easy for the Democrats to commit voter fraud. This belief has also been stoked by Trump. And yet, Pennsylvania voters got mailers from the Republican National Committee encouraging them to apply to vote by mail. The flyers described the option as “convenient and secure.”

At stake for both Parties is what an expansion of mail-in voting this summer means for the November election. If more people vote by mail now, they will likely prefer to vote the same way in the fall. Trump has said:

“Mail ballots, they cheat. People cheat.… Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country because they’re cheaters.”

Nonpartisan voting experts have found that states that conduct entirely mail-in ballot elections report very little fraud.

Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are all vital to Trump’s reelection, and he is sabotaging himself in each of them. It’s important to remember that Trump won those states by a total of just 77,000 votes. Those states all have subsequently amended their election laws to be more permissive for absentee ballots.

Floridians may be less influenced because so many there are already used to voting by mail.

It seems to be an article of faith on the Right that voter suppression is a key to victory, but that seems to have backfired in Georgia. Urban polling stations were subject to serious problems. So you’d think that making urban voters wait several hours to vote would discourage them, that many would give up and leave.

But it didn’t work out that way: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Democratic turnout in Georgia’s primaries skyrocketed — with three times as many votes cast in the Senate primary as in 2016. With 91 percent of the vote in as of Friday, nearly 960,000 voters had cast ballots in the Democratic Senate primary race won by Jon Ossoff, compared to 310,000 who voted in the Senate primary in 2016.”

It appears that for every Georgia vote the Republicans tried to suppress through active and passive means, they somehow created several more actual votes! This result doesn’t make their tactics any less odious, but it calls into question whether as constituted, they actually will work in November.

Still, Republicans are spending $10 million this year on legal battles against attempts to expand voter access in Michigan, Florida, Arizona, and Minnesota.

It’s hard to see a scenario where Trump’s campaign against vote-by-mail won’t make it harder for him to win, particularly since he seems at cross-purposes with many local Republican organizations.

If his lying messaging helps to limit him to one term, please proceed Mr. Trump.

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Gerrymandering: The End of “One Person, One Vote”

The Daily Escape:

Lighting at Devils Tower, Wyoming. It is considered sacred by Northern Plains Indians – photo by Shaun Peterson

It isn’t a secret that aggressive gerrymandering (dividing election districts to give one political party a majority in many districts, while concentrating the voting strength of the other party into as few districts as possible) has been a cornerstone of Republican political strategy for more than a decade. It has been a stunning success.

And in several (mostly Republican) states, officials have also used vote suppression, such as reduced voting hours, closed polling stations, or other barriers to voting, like strict ID rules to create a political advantage.

Democrats tend to win the majority of votes nationally, and in many Congressional and state-wide elections, only to win less than a pro-rata share of seats. 2016 showed the political impact of gerrymandering. Republicans held a 54-46 majority in the US Senate. They used that majority to deny a Supreme Court appointment to President Obama on the pretext that it was an election year. At the time, the 46 Democrats represented 20 million more citizens than their GOP Senate counterparts.

Ian Millhiser at Think Progress hows the logical outcome for our political future: (emphasis by Wrongo)

And then there is the single most frightening projection facing both large-D Democrats and small-d democrats in the United States. By 2040, according to Dean David Birdsell of the school of public and international affairs at Baruch College, ‘about 70% of Americans are expected to live in the 15 largest states.’ That means that 70% of Americans ‘will have only 30 senators representing them, while the remaining 30% of Americans will have 70 senators representing them.’

If this is our future, what does “one person, one vote” mean? “One person, one vote” can have several connotations, but it should denote that fairness is inherent in our electoral system. Gender, race, and importantly, where you live, shouldn’t enhance or diminish the value of your ballot.

Winning the gerrymander battle will only be accomplished on the state and district levels. Whoever controls the state legislature and the governor’s chair will decide how fair or unfair the state’s apportionment of seats will be. Rolling Stone’s Ari Berman writes about North Carolina:

On January 9th, a federal court struck down North Carolina’s US House map, which gives Republicans a 10-to-three advantage over Democrats, the first time a federal court has invalidated congressional lines for partisan gerrymandering. But on January 18th, the Supreme Court blocked the redrawing of North Carolina’s maps, pending appeal.

GOP-drawn districts have also been struck down in Alabama, Florida, Virginia and Texas. Many of these rulings are being appealed by Republicans, making it unlikely these districts will be redrawn before the 2018 elections.

And Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court just struck down the state’s Congressional maps, where Republicans have a 13 to 5 advantage, and ordered they be redrawn in 2018. Booman writes:

If you’re handicapping the likelihood of the Republicans losing control of the House, you need to adjust your odds in light of this news. If it stands, it could be the decisive factor that changes the ultimate outcome.

This is a good reminder that bad laws can be challenged under state constitutions (but not federal laws). States are free to recognize more rights than those recognized under the US Constitution, they just can’t recognize fewer rights. And cases decided under state constitutions are usually outside the US Supreme Court’s jurisdiction. For example, a number of states have stricter search and seizure provisions than the federal constitution. This is the sort of “federalism” that conservatives hope you don’t learn about.

Voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering are the greatest threats to our democracy. Suppression provides states with the opportunity to gerrymander. Taken together, suppression and gerrymandering provide the means to disenfranchise significant parts of the electorate from our democracy.

Here’s Millhiser’s money quote:

The government of the United States no longer derives its powers from the consent of the governed. And by the time voters head to the polls in November to elect a new Congress, America will have existed in this state of profound un-democracy for nearly a decade.

Can this be fixed? Yes, by a combination of voter turnout at the state level, and state court challenges to bad re-districting. We also have to hope that the Supreme Court doesn’t act in a completely partisan manner like they did with Citizens United and the voiding of significant parts of the Voting Rights Act.

It is profoundly wrong that the way we draw legislative districts, and malapportionment, have conspired to rob American voters of much of their ability to choose their leaders.

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Monday Wake Up Call – November 27, 2017

The Daily Escape:

Coyote, Housatonic River – Litchfield County, CT – photo by JH Clery

At the risk of sounding like the discredited Democrat John Edwards, we do live in two Americas. The top rungs of the ladder are living a good life, benefiting from the nine-year rebound from the Great Recession. The other 90% haven’t done well at all. Check out this chart of median household income:

Source

The chart shows median (not average) household income for the US, adjusted for inflation. Unlike average income, median income is not distorted by the enormous gains made by the one-percenters during the past decade.

The chart shows that for a household in the center of the US income distribution, 1999 was the best year ever. The housing bubble brought median household income almost back to its 1999 level in 2007, but not quite. Today, median household income (adjusted for inflation) is slightly lower than it was in 1989, in the first year of the George H.W. Bush administration.

How can this be? The economy is growing, and the US should have a squeaky-tight job market, since unemployment is at a 17-year low at 4.1%, a jobless figure that is near the definition of full employment. We’ve had seven straight years of job growth; job searches lasting 15 weeks or longer are now only 1.5% of the work force, down from 2% a year ago.

But wage growth is anemic. According to the law of supply and demand, employers should be sharply bidding up wages in order to capture increasingly scarce workers. But they aren’t. In October, they raised wages just a bit more than inflation, at an annual rate of 2.4%, down from September’s rate of 2.8%.

This is what imperial decay looks like to the middle class. Keep spending your seed corn tilting at windmills in the Middle East, and pretty soon some in the middle class are dumpster diving.

And consider this: Only a little more than half of America has a retirement account, such as a 401(k) or Individual Retirement Account, according to the Federal Reserve. And the typical household with a retirement account had a balance of $60,000 last year, but there are big variations. Among the top 10% of households by income, the typical amount of savings was $403,000. Middle-income households had a median of $25,000.

Everyone who isn’t in the top 10% knows just how bad things are, and those below the top 20% feel it every day.

But what can they do about it? They work, many working multiple jobs. They get home exhausted. They’re too poor to run for office in a rigged plutocracy. So they go to bed and get up and go to work again in the morning, either depressed and angry, or simply depressed.

That’s about all they can do, except to vote for politicians who have no intention of working to change their economic situation.

Each resulting government is worse than the last. Not to mention at this point in terms of power over people’s lives, even the government is dwarfed by the power of multinational corporations.

It’s long past time to wake up America! We’ve got to stop the hostile takeover of the middle class by plutocrats and corporations, but how to do it? We all have to get off the couch and work for local candidates who will be the bench strength of progressive politics down the road. We also must work to insure that our voting rights are not further eroded by polls that close early, or by efforts to prune the rolls of people who haven’t voted in a few years. This is particularly heinous when less than 55% of eligible people vote even in our presidential elections.

To help us wake up, here is the 1970’s British group XTC with their tune “Wake Up”:

Takeaway Lyric:

You put your cleanest dirty shirt on
Then you stagger down to meet the dawn
You take a ride upon a bus, it’s just a fuss
You know it keeps you born
You get to know a morning face
You get to join the human race
You get to know the world has passed you by

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