Our Government In Action, Abominably, 2019-2020

Charles Pierce of Esquire highlights two obscene things the US government did during the previous administration (although, for a change, one of them wasn’t clearly tied to the previous president).

First, the one we already knew something about:

There was only one story worth coverage in our politics as the week began. The story was that, for four years, the United States of America, the world’s oldest democracy, was governed by monsters, and that a substantial portion of the population seems to want some of the monsters back. These were death-dealing scum who dealt death on their own people and then, having dealt death far and wide for their own cheap political purposes, they covered up what they did, also for their own cheap political purposes. I have no illusions about what other American administrations have done. Nobody my age does. But there’s an element of penny-ante nihilism behind the events of 2017-2021 that make the death dealt by that administration* look more casual and, therefore, infinitely more cruel.

Politico looked through emails and documents released by the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis and found a stunning amount of evidence that arraigns the previous administration* for its moral responsibility in hundreds of thousands of deaths.

The emails and transcripts detail how in the early days of 2020 Trump and his allies in the White House blocked media briefings and interviews with CDC officials, attempted to alter public safety guidance normally cleared by the agency and instructed agency officials to destroy evidence that might be construed as political interference. The documents further underscore how Trump appointees tried to undermine the work of scientists and career staff at the CDC to control the administration’s messaging on the spread of the virus and the dangers of transmission and infection.

The previous administration* gagged its own scientists, buried its own reports, bullied its own agencies, soft-pedaled its own data, and created its own reality to sell to the country, all at a crucial time when the pandemic could have been fought seriously and at least partly arrested. . . . 

One particularly egregious example involves the country’s meatpacking industry, which was slammed by the pandemic early on. The workers in that industry were largely poor, many of them were of questionable immigration status, and those circumstances made them vulnerable to being forced into dangerous conditions by their employers. This made some people curious as to why the Centers for Disease Control were not sending out specific guidance to that specific industry.

In an April 2020 email released by the committee Friday, then-Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought emailed Redfield, raising questions about why the CDC was not planning to send public health guidance on meatpacking plants through the White House. At the time, the White House was at odds with CDC about what steps meatpacking plants should take to protect workers from contracting Covid-19. The virus had infected several plants in the Midwest, causing disruptions to workflow.

Also disruptions to some workers’ lifeflows, by making them dead. . . . 

The sheer contempt for active national leadership and the sheer disregard for the public health illustrated by this material has no parallel in American history. For the sake of their own public image—which, ironically, was headed for the storm drain anyway—members of the administration* abandoned even their most rudimentary obligations as public servants. The country was denied the information it desperately needed because some time-servers and coat-holders were trying to avoid a tantrum from the Oval Office. We are lucky we survived this long.

Second, the one we didn’t hear about until now:

The New York Times reported on a special operation in Syria from 2019 in which an American F-15 dropped a 500-pound bomb on a crowd of women and children, despite the fact that there was a drone with eyes on the crowd at the time.

“Who dropped that?” a confused analyst typed on a secure chat system being used by those monitoring the drone, two people who reviewed the chat log recalled. Another responded, “We just dropped on 50 women and children.”

The Baghuz strike was one of the largest civilian casualty incidents of the war against the Islamic State, but it has never been publicly acknowledged by the U.S. military. The details, reported here for the first time, show that the death toll was almost immediately apparent to military officials. A legal officer flagged the strike as a possible war crime that required an investigation. But at nearly every step, the military made moves that concealed the catastrophic strike. The death toll was downplayed. Reports were delayed, sanitized and classified. United States-led coalition forces bulldozed the blast site. And top leaders were not notified.

The magnitude of the cover-up by the military should surprise nobody who was alive during the Vietnam catastrophe, although I admit the fact that CIA personnel were shocked by the bombing campaign’s disregard for civilian casualties, a disregard that reached its peak in the 2019 incident, is an interesting twist in this story. . . . This kind of thing is what happens when you make war in a place. You cannot avoid it. But many people in charge of that effort will move heaven and earth to keep that simple truth from the people paying the bills.

Coalition forces overran the camp that day and defeated the Islamic State a few days later. The years long air war was hailed as a triumph. The commander of the operations center in Qatar authorized all personnel to have four drinks at the base bar, lifting the normal three-drink limit. Civilian observers who came to the area of the strike the next day found piles of dead women and children. The human rights organization Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently posted photos of the bodies, calling it a “terrible massacre.”

Satellite images from four days later show the sheltered bank and area around it, which were in the control of the coalition, appeared to have been bulldozed. David Eubank, a former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier who now runs the humanitarian organization Free Burma Rangers, walked through the area about a week later. “The place had been pulverized by airstrikes,” he said in an interview. “There was a lot of freshly bulldozed earth and the stink of bodies underneath, a lot of bodies.”

Stonewalls went up throughout the military bureaucracy. A non-event was being created out of the bombing and its devastating results. There are some stories about what it does, and the inevitable savagery that is the result, that the military won’t even tell itself.

Unquote.

And “a substantial portion of the population [wants] some of the monsters back”.

An Urgent Message from Amy Siskind

You might remember the Weekly List, an effort by Amy Siskind to document the weekly, in fact daily, abnormal behavior of the previous administration. She published the list because “experts in authoritarianism advise keeping a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember”.

Week 129 of May 4, 2019, for example, included Robert Mueller telling former attorney general Bill Barr that Barr’s four-page summary of the “Mueller Report” didn’t capture “the context, nature, and substance” of Mueller’s work. She’s not putting out new lists anymore, but she’s still as worried about the creeping authoritarianism being delivered by the Republican Party. This week’s message:

January 20, 2021 we were finally able to exhale, believing our near brush with authoritarianism was behind us, and that with President Joe Biden taking office our country and political system would return to normalcy. The ensuing months proved otherwise. Elected Republicans continually questioned the 2020 election results, and attempted to rewrite history, including casting the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol as a mere “tourist visit.” Rep. Liz Cheney, a critic of former President D____ T____, was removed from House leadership and replaced by a loyalist, Rep. Elise Stefanik.

Instead of righting itself, the Republican Party has been subsumed by T____ism. Nearly 6 in 10 Republican voters say believing the Big Lie that T____ won in 2020 is an important part of their party identification. At the same time, Republicans have quietly and methodically taken steps to be in a position to overturn the 2024 election. The 2020 election aftermath may well be a harbinger, much like Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch or the 1905 Russian revolution, a dry run for a coup of our democracy.

Biden understands this too. He has spoken repeatedly about the need to prove a functioning government can deliver for the people. In his first joint address to Congress, he extolled, “We have to prove democracy still works.” We are still, one year later, very much in a battle for the soul of our country, a battle to determine whether we remain a democracy or descend into an authoritarian state. That is why the upcoming midterms are so critically important, and we all need to gear up and get engaged in saving our democracy!

The first part of the Republican playbook is widespread voter suppression. So far this year, 17 states led by Republican legislatures have used the Big Lie to enact restrictive voting laws. It’s a tried and true strategy of a party reliant on white, Christian voters—a declining proportion of our population—to deny the right to vote to people whose skin is not white.

Part of the reason it’s so easy to get away with voter suppression is the Republican Party’s long game of taking control of our nation’s highest court. After invalidating key parts of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, in July 2021 an even more conservatively-stacked Supreme Court signaled their disinterest in protecting the right to vote in a  6-3 ruling on Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, allowing two Arizona voter suppression provisions to stand.  The ruling makes it substantially harder to challenge restrictive measures, effectively leaving it in Congress’ hands to pass voting rights legislation. That window could close after the 2022 midterms.

Already these measures, accompanied by aggressive gerrymandering in some GOP-led states, will make the climb to keeping our majorities that much steeper. Take Georgia, for example, where Sen. Raphael Warnock is up for re-election, this time facing 16 new provisions enacted by Republicans to limit voting. Losing our majorities in the midterms would disable our last safety valve at the federal level to protect against GOP efforts to subvert our democracy with voter suppression. Without federal legislation, these efforts at the state level would go unchallenged—save for states led by a Democratic governor.

Not coincidentally, another target in the Republican playbook will be Democratic governors.  Just last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan vetoed restrictive voting bills put forth by the state’s Republican-led legislature. It was a test flare. Republicans are hyper-focused for 2022 on three key states: Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Ring a bell? In 2016, a mere seventy-seven thousand votes in these three states delivered T____ the presidency. The same three states were also key to Biden’s 2020 victory. On the ballot next year in all three states are the roles of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state—the safeguards not only from voter suppression laws, but also for overturning state results.

T____ had a practice run with overturning the will of voters in 2020, coming closest in the state of Michigan. He invited two Michigan state legislators to the White House, while his allies and lawyers put forward fake claims of widespread voter fraud in Wayne County (part of Detroit with a large Black population). The Michigan State Board of Canvassers eventually held hearings before finally certifying results weeks after Election Day. It was a cliffhanger. As someone who closely monitored the transition of power, it was the one time I feared T____ could invalidate a state’s results and set off a domino effect, overturning the election and ending our democracy.

Ahead of the 2024 election, T____ has been priming his base with the Big Lie. A recent poll found just one-third of Republicans say they will trust the 2024 election results if their candidate loses. Republicans, inspired by T____’s false accusations of widespread fraud, have been systematically threatening election officials and their families, causing an exodus of experienced workers—many of whom will be replaced by T____ loyalists. Imagine a scenario with a close election, but this time Republicans control the House and Senate, and key state positions in the three states stacked with his loyalists. Who would fight back? This is the nightmare scenario the GOP is quietly cobbling together. This would spell the end of the great American experiment in democracy!

As dire as this sounds, it is not too late to fight back and protect our democracy. We know how to do this. We organized resistance groups in 2018 to take back the House, and then in 2020 the White House and Senate. I know many are feeling exhausted from the combination of the T____ era and a once in a century pandemic which has left us with generational trauma. I get it. But it’s time to push the panic button, and awaken into activism! The feeling of calm now is but quicksand.

Reach out to your members of the House and Senate—send them this article—and demand URGENCY and action on voting rights! As leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell carved out an exception to the filibuster to confirm T____’s judges. We can and must do so too in order to protect the core of our democracy: the right to vote. In the end, we are the cavalry. No one is coming to save us.

The Dangerous Extremists We’re Facing, Part 2

Article 4, Section 4 of the Constitution says:

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government . . .

They weren’t referring to a government run by the Republican Party (there weren’t any political parties in America in 1789). They meant that every state should be a republic, not a monarchy. We, the people, along with our elected representatives, should hold supreme power.

The 14th Amendment, Section 1 says that laws should treat us all equally:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; . . . nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Taking those two requirements together, it seems to say that people who live in the same state should be treated equally when it comes to electing their representatives. A state’s laws should not discriminate between voters.

However, Article 1, Section 4 of the Constitution gives state legislatures power to set the borders of congressional districts (and, by implication, of state legislative districts as well). This allows state legislatures to decide which voters live in a particular district, although Congress can overrule how those decisions are made:

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations . . .

This creates a situation the authors of the Constitution probably didn’t foresee. A state’s legislators are responsible for determining the boundaries of their own legislative districts, meaning they decide which voters will be responsible for electing them. They are also responsible for setting the boundaries of congressional districts, the areas in the state that elect particular members of the House of Representatives (senators are elected by the whole state).

Gerrymandering has been the result. Legislators design legislative and congressional districts to give themselves and their parties as much power as possible. Voters who tend to vote for the other party are corralled into certain districts, meaning that those districts are guaranteed to elect members of the other party. But it also means there will be relatively few of those lopsided districts.

The upshot is that most districts in a gerrymandered state will have voters who reliably elect members of the party that controls the state legislature. Suppose, for example, a district in Houston, Texas, might always give tremendous victories (80% of the vote) to a Democrat, while two districts near Houston always give smaller, but still reliable, 60% victories to Republicans. This means that even if Democratic candidates get 50% of the total vote in those three districts, Republicans will almost always win two of them and the Democrats will only win one. In a nutshell, allowing legislators to design legislative districts allows them to pick their voters, when the citizens of a republic are supposed to pick their legislators.

That’s obviously not fair. The voters in those three districts in Texas aren’t being treated equally. Practically speaking, the Democrats who live in those districts will never be able to elect more than one Democrat to the state legislature or the House of Representatives, while the equal number of Republicans who live in the same districts will be able to elect two Republicans.

But wait! Congress could change the rules (such as where the district boundaries are) so that the three elections would be competitive. Sometimes one party would win more seats; sometimes the other party would. Except that the very same legislators are responsible for setting the boundaries for Congressional districts. The result is that, in the example above, gerrymandering would allow the state legislature to arrange the boundaries so that more Republicans are guaranteed to win elections, even if the region is equally divided between Republicans and Democrats. Why would a gerrymandered Congress use its authority to undo the gerrymandering that helped get many of its members elected? And even if the House of Representatives agreed to do something about it, the Senate probably wouldn’t, since the Senate is the bastion of minority rule (given the existence of the Senate filibuster and the fact that the Constitution gives two senators to every state, even the smallest or most rural that frequently vote Republican).

But we have federal courts to intervene! The Supreme Court is ultimately responsible for making sure the nation’s laws at both the state and federal level are constitutional. Given the republican (small-r) government guarantee in Article 1, and the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment, the courts could fix the gerrymandering problem.

Well, the Supreme Court could, but that’s not what the Republican majority on the Court decided two years ago. From NPR:

In a 5-4 decision along . . . ideological lines, the Supreme Court ruled that partisan redistricting is a political question — not reviewable by federal courts — and that those courts can’t judge if extreme gerrymandering violates the Constitution.

The ruling puts the onus on the legislative branch, and on individual states, to police redistricting efforts.

“We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the conservative [i.e. reactionary] majority. 

Roberts noted that excessive partisanship in the drawing of districts does lead to results that “reasonably seem unjust,” but he said that does not mean it is the court’s responsibility to find a solution.

To which Elena Kagan, appointed to the Court by a Democrat, responded:

For the first time ever, this Court refuses to remedy a constitutional violation because it thinks the task beyond judicial capabilities.

And not just any constitutional violation. The partisan gerrymanders in these cases [before the Court] deprived citizens of the most fundamental of their constitutional rights: the rights to participate equally in the political process, to join with others to advance political beliefs, and to choose their political representatives. In so doing, the partisan gerrymanders here debased and dishonored our democracy, turning upside-down the core American idea that all governmental power derives from the people.

These gerrymanders enabled politicians to entrench themselves in office as against voters’ preferences. They promoted partisanship above respect for the popular will. They encouraged a politics of polarization and dysfunction. If left unchecked, gerrymanders like the ones here may irreparably damage our system of government.

And checking them is not beyond the courts. The majority’s abdication comes just when courts across the country, including those below, have coalesced around manageable judicial standards to resolve partisan gerrymandering
claims. . . . They limit courts to correcting only egregious gerrymanders, so judges do not become omnipresent players in the political process.

But yes, the standards used here do allow—as well they should—judicial intervention in the worst-of-the-worst cases of democratic subversion,
causing blatant constitutional harms. In other words, they allow courts to undo partisan gerrymanders of the kind we face today from North Carolina and Maryland. In giving such gerrymanders a pass from judicial review, the
majority goes tragically wrong.

In sum, state legislators are allowed to rig elections, the Supreme Court says it’s up to Congress to stop them and Congress won’t, not unless enough Democrats are elected to state legislatures and Congress, but that’s unlikely because Republican state legislatures have rigged the game.  

Jamelle Bouie of The New York Times summarizes the current situation:

Not content to simply count on the traditional midterm swing against the president’s party, Republicans are set to gerrymander their way to a House majority next year.

Last week, North Carolina’s Republican-controlled statehouse passed a new map that would, in an evenly divided electorate, give it 10 of the state’s 14 congressional seats. To overcome the gerrymander and win a bare majority of seats, according to the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, Democrats would have to win an unattainably large supermajority of votes.

A proposed Republican gerrymander in Ohio would leave Democrats with two seats out of 15 — or around 13 percent of the total — in a state that went 53-45 for T____ in 2020.

It is true that Democrats have pursued their own aggressive gerrymanders in Maryland and Illinois, but it is also true that the Democratic Party is committed, through its voting rights bills, to ending partisan gerrymandering altogether.

The larger context of the Republican Party’s attempt to gerrymander itself into a House majority is its successful effort to gerrymander itself into long-term control of state legislatures across the country. In Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and other states, Republicans have built legislative majorities sturdy enough to withstand all but the most crushing “blue wave.”

And in the age of D___ T___, they are using their majorities to seize control of election administration in states all over the country, on the basis of an outlandish but still influential claim that the Constitution gives sovereign power over elections to state legislatures [Note: which it doesn’t, according to Article 1, Section 4 of the Constitution].

These are the dangerous extremists we’re facing.

The Dangerous Extremists We’re Facing, Part 1

Paul Waldman of The Washington Post summarizes the Republican Party’s “violence problem”:

. . . Let’s take a quick tour around the day’s news.

In new audio released by . . .  ABC News, D____ T____ is asked about his supporters chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” on Jan. 6 as they rampaged through the Capitol in search of the vice president. T____ was unconcerned, both because he thought Pence was “well-protected” and because the protesters were justified in their rage: “It’s common sense” that Pence should have attempted to overturn the results of the election so T____ could remain president, he said, so the rioters’ pursuit of Pence was understandable. . . . .

In other news, members of the House are debating what to do about Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.), who recently tweeted an animated video in which he is depicted killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Gosar’s defense is that the video was merely a symbolic representation “of a battle between lawful and unlawful policies.”

Meanwhile, in Kenosha, Wis., the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who became a hero of the right after he went to a protest with an AR-15-style rifle and killed two people, is nearing its end.

And if you’re a Republican who does so much as vote for a bipartisan bill to bring infrastructure spending to your district, you can expect death threats. The quickest way for Republican candidates to demonstrate their bona fides is by shooting guns in an ad.

The thread running through all these events and controversies is the belief that liberals are so wicked that violence and the threat of violence are reasonable responses to the possibility of them getting their way. Right along with that belief is a fantasy, that of a man (almost always a man) who rather than being an ordinary schlub at the mercy of a world in which he has no power is actually bursting with testosterone and potency, someone who can and perhaps should become a killing machine.

That’s the story of the Jan. 6 rioters, who believed they could break down doors and smash windows and the American system of government would bend to their will.

It’s Rittenhouse’s story, too: When you go to a protest with a rifle, you’ve cast yourself as a potential killer in a righteous cause, and a killer was what he became. He’s now being cheered on by all those who stockpile weapons and say our country is headed for a civil war.

And, of course, no one embodies that fantasy more than T____ himself. He may be a corpulent senior citizen who dodged the draft, but in his own mind he’s Jack Bauer or Jason Bourne, just waiting for the opportunity to display his deadly skills and save the day. After the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., he mused that had he been on the scene, “I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon,” so brave and capable is he.

His most ardent supporters absolutely love that fantasy of T____ as someone who dishes out violence to their enemies. Check out the wares sold outside his rallies, and you’ll see him transformed on T-shirts and posters into a muscle-bound warrior wielding a rifle . . . 

There are moments when Republican politicians grow a bit uneasy at their supporters’ thirst for violence, particularly when it’s aimed at them. After Jan. 6, one Republican member of Congress wrote about a colleague who voted to overturn the election because they “feared for family members, and the danger the vote would put them in,” if they didn’t give in to the mob. The Republican leader in the Pennsylvania state Senate said last December that if she didn’t support T____’s efforts to overturn the state’s election results, “I’d get my house bombed tonight.”

But before the threats turn back on them, Republicans encourage those violent impulses and apocalyptic beliefs, figuring that they can be exploited without spinning out of control. Are local election officials and school board members being driven from their jobs by death threats? If it means they’ll be replaced by conspiracy theorists, Republicans are happy to watch it happen. . . . 

Unquote:

The New York Times has a report on the same topic. Some selections:

At a conservative rally in western Idaho last month, a young man stepped up to a microphone to ask when he could start killing Democrats. “When do we get to use the guns?” he said as the audience applauded. “How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?” The local state representative, a Republican, later called it a “fair” question.

In Ohio, the leading candidate in the Republican primary for Senate blasted out a video urging Republicans to resist the “tyranny” of a federal government that pushed them to wear masks and take F.D.A.-authorized vaccines. “When the Gestapo show up at your front door,” the candidate, Josh Mandel, a grandson of Holocaust survivors, said in the video in September, “you know what to do.”

 . . . School board members and public health officials have faced a wave of threats, prompting hundreds to leave their posts. A recent investigation by Reuters documented nearly 800 intimidating messages to election officials in 12 states. And threats against members of Congress have jumped by 107 percent compared with the same period in 2020, according to the Capitol Police

. . . Historians and those who study democracy say what has changed [in recent years] has been the embrace of violent speech by a sizable portion of one party, including some of its loudest voices inside government and most influential voices outside. In effect, they warn, the Republican Party is mainstreaming menace as a political tool. . . . 

Even with the former president largely out of the public eye and after a deadly attack on the Capitol where rioters tried to overturn the presidential election, the Republican acceptance of violence has only spread. Polling indicates that 30 percent of Republicans, and 40 percent of people who “most trust” far-right news sources, believe that “true patriots” may have to resort to violence to “save” the country — a statement that gets far less support among Democrats and independents.

Such views, routinely expressed in warlike or revolutionary terms, are often intertwined with white racial resentments and evangelical Christian religious fervor . . . as the most animated Republican voters increasingly see themselves as participants in a struggle, if not a kind of holy war, to preserve their idea of American culture and their place in society.

Notably few Republican leaders have spoken out against violent language or behavior since Jan. 6, suggesting with their silent acquiescence that doing so would put them at odds with a significant share of their party’s voters. . . .  The ranking Republican lawmakers, Senator Mitch McConnell and Representative Kevin McCarthy, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Unquote.

If that weren’t enough, the Times points out that the former president, who’s been accused of rape more than once, has endorsed several Republican candidates accused of domestic violence. Herschel Walker, running for the Senate in Georgia, “is accused of repeatedly threatening his ex-wife’s life”; Max Miller, running for congress in Ohio, “faces allegations of violence from his ex-girlfriend”; and Sean Parnell, a Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, has been accused by his “estranged wife . . .  of choking her and physically harming their children”.

This is today’s Republican Party.

Why Hasn’t Rupert Murdoch Damaged Australia Like He Has America?

Brian Leiter, philosophy professor at the University of Chicago, has a blog and asks “Why hasn’t Rupert Murdoch’s media empire destroyed Australia the way it has destroyed America?”

“Destroyed” is an exaggeration, so let’s rephrase it: Why hasn’t Murdoch destroyed the right-wing in Australia like he has in the US?

The rise of Murdoch’s Fox News in America since 1996 has coincided with the complete crazification of the Republican Party in the U.S., with the result that America is now ungovernable and teetering towards collapse as a democracy (I discussed some of this development in this recent paper). 

Yet Murdoch’s media empire has not had such deleterious effects in his native Australia.  Here’s the program of the Australian Liberal Party, the party of the right in Australia.  With only a couple of exceptions, it’s a set of proposals that would be associated with the more progressive end of the Democratic Party in the U.S.:  spend money on infrastructure, on the elderly, on families, on healthcare, on women.  Of course, Australian politics started from a different baseline, but the question that naturally arises is: why didn’t the Murdoch media wreck Australia too?

I was discussing this with a friend who recently relocated to Australia, and her explanation was striking: mandatory voting.  Everyone has to vote, which means elections (and, in the US, especially primary elections) aren’t dominated by highly motivated partisans.   Most people, so the hypothesis goes, are interested in stability, peace, and services, and since everyone must vote, that’s what they vote on, with the result that even the right-wing party has to stand for a program that delivers stability, peace, and services.  The Murdoch media rant and rave, as they do here, but since most people (including in the US) ignore the Murdoch media, their effect in Australia is muted by the fact that everyone is voting.

He asked what his readers think. One answer was:

Yes, mandatory voting is part of the difference. But I suspect that the preferential voting system is also important, and tends to select more sensible, stable legislators.

The Australian government explains its system of preferential voting:

Elections that use a simple majority, or “first-past-the-post” systems, elect a candidate who has received the most number of votes in a contest after a single count. This is regardless of whether or not the number of votes for the successful candidate represents a majority of the total amount of votes.

First-past-the-post voting systems are used in many countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and India.

Preferential voting

There are many different types of preferential voting systems in use across Australia and the world.

Some preferential voting systems make it compulsory for voters to mark a preference for every single candidate on the ballot paper, some require a certain number of preferences to be indicated and others are optional preferential.

Australian federal elections use a preferential voting system where voters are required to:

  • mark a preference for every candidate on the green ballot paper (House of Representatives)
  • mark a preference for a designated number of preferences on the white ballot paper (Senate)

Note: voters in Australia are subject to a small fine if they don’t vote.

Of course, we could never institute mandatory voting in America, because, you know, FREEDOM!

In other words, a right-wing minority is free to destroy American democracy because, you know, a Constitution ratified 232 years ago.