Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The New Bolshevism

A lie told often enough becomes the truth. 
-- Vladimir Iliich Lenin 

So the Trump reality show continues.    Now that Trump has fired the FBI director, what can we expect next?   Will there be a staff shakeup with Spicey being shown the door, because he could not anticipate what the President would say next?   Even Mike Pence echoed the first impression he was given that the President followed the recommendation to sack Comey of the acting Attorney General, backed up by his boss, the inimitable, Confederate flag waving Jeff Sessions, who supposedly had been recused by his own hand from anything dealing with the Russian investigation over which the President has clearly been losing sleep.  Spicey and Sessions can be fired; Pence cannot.  Somehow that paradigm of "I am a Christian first, American second, and Republican, third,” must be going home to his equally devout wife and privately saying, "Golly gee, honey!  I may be President sooner than we thought!"

Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have already revealed their unwillingness to stand up to a President who is clearly unhinged, or as David Brooks notes in his New York Times column today, is a child with the inability to control himself.  Witness the revelation of intelligence data that could compromise sources in allied countries, which the Russians can probably clearly figure out. In this case, Israel, the enemy of Russian clients, Assad, Iran, and Hizbollah. And Donald thinks that it was a "productive" meeting, especially the day after he fired Comey, investigating the administration for possible collusion with those same Russians.  And today, breaking news, Putin wants to help with release of information concerning the meeting where American journalists and photographers were excluded.

Ryan, by pushing through the House a health care bill that marginalizes the poor, the unfortunate, the sick and the elderly who have not yet reached the Medicare starting line, should be worrying about voter wrath come the next election.              Under Trumpcare, bulldozed through the House by a President whose ego needed a "win" more than caring about the angry constituents who put him in the White House to "drain the swamp," will have to look up from their far right websites and blame the elites for not recognizing that Trump is not on their side.    The cynicism of it all is unimaginable. 

A recent Netflix documentary about Roger Stone, the consummate Machivellian operator who ports a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back ( I am not making this up,) and described by Trump as a "good guy,"  is so disquieting, that the entire nature of our political process blossoms into some scary Steven King scenario about evil. The court of the Borgias, if you will.   Roy Cohen, the lawyer for Joseph McCarthy, and one of the darker stains on our Communist baiting past, appears as one of Stone's heroes.   Cohen was Trump's mentor and taught him how to defraud with impunity all the naifs who came his way; the documentary catalogs all the dirty tricks that make Frank Underwood look like a volunteer for medcins sans frontiers.  The man is totally  devoid of any moral compass, just as his boss is.  From Watergate to Trump, Stone has triumphed in lowering the bar so far, the most accomplished limboist could not emerge from the other side.

But this time it may be too much.  Even Republicans are beginning to wake up to the "Art of the Deal, the author of which was not really Trump.   In fact the author had to follow Trump around, listening to his phone calls to be able to assemble a skeleton of a manuscript.  We are not some Atlantic City stone masons, stiffed by a scoundrel who now happens to occupy the oval office.  The great legal scholar Lawrence Tribe, has already called for impeachment for obstruction of justice.  Trump's conversation with Comey, possibly taped should be subpoenaed by either the house judiciary committee or by a special prosecutor.  And the assistant Attorney General ought to appoint one immediately.  If the President is exonerated, then we can lurch to the next manufactured crisis.

On top of the daunting issue of possible collusion with the Russian government to tamper with our election, looms the greater threat to the nation:   The subversion of our separation of powers, the disbanding of the administrative state, the denigration of the judiciary and of the press, and the admiration for a Russian kleptocrat and other authoritarian leaders, including African dictators, European and Hungarian autocrats and other scalawags.    The idea that all reliable information (or misinformation) comes from the leader.  The rest is fake news.

Anyone who has studied European history knows that it part and parcel of a mindset that is totally un-American, denigrate the media, call them fake and then disseminate one's own version of the alternative facts.   

It’s all so Bolsheviki.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Electoral College is Inherently Undemocratic


"The 2016 election was the most recent when the candidate who received the greatest number of electoral votes, and thus won the presidency, didn’t win the popular vote. But this scenario has played out in our nation’s history before.

In 1824, John Quincy Adams was elected president despite not winning either the popular vote or the electoral vote. Andrew Jackson was the winner in both categories. Jackson received 38,000 more popular votes than Adams, and beat him in the electoral vote 99 to 84. Despite his victories, Jackson didn’t reach the majority 131 votes needed in the Electoral College to be declared president. In fact, neither candidate did. The decision went to the House of Representatives, which voted Adams into the White House.

In 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes won the election (by a margin of one electoral vote), but he lost the popular vote by more than 250,000 ballots to Samuel J. Tilden.

In 1888, Benjamin Harrison received 233 electoral votes to Grover Cleveland’s 168, winning the presidency. But Harrison lost the popular vote by more than 90,000 votes.

In 2000, George W. Bush was declared the winner of the general election and became the 43rd president, but he didn’t win the popular vote either. Al Gore holds that distinction, garnering about 540,000 more votes than Bush. However, Bush won the electoral vote, 271 to 266.

In 2016, Donald Trump won the electoral vote by 304 to 227 over Hillary Clinton, but Trump lost the popular vote. Clinton received nearly 2.9 million more votes than Trump, according to an analysis by the Associated Press of the certified results in all 50 states and Washington, D.C."

All of the above are examples of flaws, not qualities of the Electoral College,
 established originally to ensure the perpetuation of a balance between slave and free states,

should be relegation to the dustbin.   Many arguments have been advanced for its preservation, including federalism allowing each state the freedom to enact laws without maximizing the incentive of the number of votes cast.  This argument is specious and defeats democratic (with a small d) principles.  Other arguments include enhancement of small states based upon a geographic argument, encourages stability through a two party system and if a presidential candidate dies, then the College would be better positioned to elect a vice president.  Also, proponents argue that the system insures more stability in the event of a recount and that it manages geographic discrepancies in population centers "balancing the vote so that rural communities are fairly treated. 

All of these arguments are specious.   Why are we obliged to maintain a strictly two-party system?  Why not have candidates of various parties face the voters directly?  And then have a run-off between the two highest vote recipients?  Many Americans believe that neither party serves their interests. We are one country now, more so despite polarization of the populace by propaganda outlets like Fox News and people not willing to entertain or even listen to an opposing point of view.  We are connected by Facebook, television, the internet, social media, smart phones, text messages, and no longer rely on a letter delivered by the post, which often took weeks to reach the other side of the nation, often by pony express. The argument that the Electoral College equalizes geographic space is silly.  People are free to live where they wish, but should not be accorded three times the representation in Wyoming than in California. So, as it happens, it is not fair to urban voters.

Creative 21st century arguments in favor of the Electoral college belie the fundamental purposes of the it as originally conceived: To maintain the balance of slave and free states joining the Union, the disenfranchisement of slaves yet the tabulation of those unfortunate souls as 3/5ths of a person for the purpose of apportionment. In addition, the founders did not trust the uneducated, the ignorant, and the agrarian.   Women were not considered capable of rational thought and therefore were not entitled to the vote. 

Direct popular voting for the President of the United States may not have been altered the result in favor of a master of tweeting and of television celebrity.  Perhaps.  But in the disastrous results of the 2016 election where the votes of 3 million Americans were nullified by a 18th century relic, it is time for some serious revisions in the Constitution.  Antonin Scalia and Neil Gorsuch might not agree.  The Constitutuion should stay just as it was in 1787.

The stronger arguments rests with the interpretation of the 14th amendment, which guaranteed suffrage to all voters save women (another subject).

The 14th amendment

The second section I consider the most important in the article. It fixes the basis of representation in Congress. If any State shall exclude any of her adult male citizens from the elective franchise, or abridge that right, she shall forfeit her right to representation in the same proportion. The effect of this provision will be either to compel the States to grant universal suffrage or so shear them of their power as to keep them forever in a hopeless minority in the national Government, both legislative and executive.
Thaddeus Stevens,  in the United States Senate, May 8, 1866

One could argue that since the passage of the 14th amendment, the Electoral College has abrogated equality of vote.  The will of the people has been stifled by an inherently undemocratic system that apportions votes in the Senate giving people in Wyoming, for example three times the representation of people in California and almost the same disparity in Florida?

There have been numerous attempts to reform this thorn in the side of our civic polity.  All have failed. Now, more than ever, we each need the same voice in choosing our President. A two-month television campaign, use of social media, public financing, the overturning of Citizen's United, and a truly democratic one-person one-vote be they live in California, New Hampshire or Iowa.

Looking at the result of the most recent election, the majority of Americans, it is again confirmed, have surrendered their franchise to the minority.   Some intrepid souls should organize a march on Washington.