Whereof One Can Speak 🇺🇦

Nothing special, one post at a time since 2012

Almost Anyone Can Be a U.S. Senator (There May Be New Evidence Pretty Soon)

The Constitution has three requirements to be a member of the U.S. Senate. You have to be at least 30 years old, have been a U.S. citizen for at least 9 years, and — by the time of the election — live in the state you will represent (so it’s perfectly fine if you live in New Jersey but, for some vague reason, are running for the Senate in Pennsylvania). Competence and interest in the job aren’t required.

Paul Waldman of The Washington Post asks what it means that a well-known, former football player (who meets the three qualifications) is running for the Senate in Georgia:

In the race for U.S. Senate in Georgia, Republican nominee Herschel Walker is forcing people to ask: Just how clueless is too clueless to serve in Congress? And what would it mean if our national legislature was filled with people like Walker?

The former football star’s campaign has been a series of howlers and head-scratchers, the latest of which is his argument against the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act: “They continue to try to fool you that they are helping you out. But they’re not … Because a lot of money it’s going to trees … Don’t we have enough trees around here?”

The possibility that Georgians are fed up with all their trees notwithstanding, no one says that Walker is the first office-seeker to lack even the most rudimentary understanding of policy or the issues he would confront. And there is in fact some money in the IRA to promote trees, including urban “heat islands” where a lack of shade trees increases temperatures.

But Walker’s comments on policy have been particularly colorful, including his thoughts on China hurting our environment by taking “our good air” and his proposal to address school shootings with “a department that can look at young men that’s looking at women that’s looking at social media.” Then there’s his recent debunking of evolution: “If that is true, why are there still apes? Think about it.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently predicted his party might not win control of the chamber, saying “candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome” of these races. No one doubted that Walker was one of the candidates he had in mind.

Yet Walker is hardly the only one; since so much rides on former president T____’s endorsement in Republican primaries and the most important qualification for winning that endorsement is an embrace of his conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, from coast to coast we’ve seen the party’s nominations won by crackpots and halfwits, perhaps more than ever before.

What would it mean if a bunch of these people actually won?

The greatest danger lies in executive positions such as governor and secretary of state, where they would have the power to steal elections and create all kinds of other disasters. But it’s not immediately clear that a Republican-controlled Congress dominated by the party’s worst and dimmest would be appreciably different from one led by its best and brightest, or at the very least its marginally clever.

There are multiple ways to be a terrible legislator, and being a dolt is only one of them. For instance, until 2021, Georgia was represented in the Senate by Republican David Perdue, who in his six years in the chamber wrote just a few bills that became law, including one to create a parking lot at the National Zoo and another renaming a post office. Georgians were left to wonder what, if anything, Perdue was actually doing in Washington, and when given the chance they tossed him out.

Perdue wasn’t too dumb to legislate; the job just didn’t seem to grab his interest. The truth is that while it doesn’t hurt to be smart if you’re a senator, you don’t have to be. You can let other people write the laws, and just have your party’s leadership or the hosts on Fox News tell you which way to vote when the time comes.

Today’s Republican Party also contains a cadre of extremely smart politicians educated at the most prestigious universities, people such as Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas (Princeton undergrad, Harvard Law School), Tom Cotton of Arkansas (Harvard undergrad and law school) and Josh Hawley of Missouri (Stanford undergrad, Yale Law School), who spend most of their time trying to Own the Libs, because they see that as the path to success in their party.

Which may be the smart thing to do if you’re a Republican who wants to run for president. And it shows the problem: When there are few incentives to do the hard work of legislating to address complex policy challenges, even the smart people see advantage in pretending to be stupid.

There’s a critical imbalance here as well: As members of the party that believes in government, Democrats know their supporters expect them to produce results, and as we’ve seen this year, that takes a lot of doing. Some may be better at it than others, but all are expected to demonstrate their commitment to the process.

Liberal voters also tend to value intellect in a way conservative voters just don’t. They may not always choose the smartest person (if they did, Sen. Elizabeth Warren would have been their 2020 presidential nominee). But they’re far less likely to fall for a politician telling them that all their problems can be solved by nurturing their resentment of supposedly snooty “elites.”

So the truth is that while Walker would probably displace Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) as the widely acknowledged dopiest member of the Senate if he were elected, that’s not why he’s such a threat. It’s not even Walker’s extraordinary record of telling easily disprovable lies. It’s the fact that if he wins it could mean Congress being in control of a party that elevates people like him.

The problem isn’t Walker, it’s that the Republican Party is dominated by politicians who in one way or another resemble him. His party doesn’t just tolerate ignorance and dishonesty, it often seems to want nothing more….


According to the FiveThirtyEight site, Georgia opinion polls say the incumbent, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock (a longtime Baptist minister and political activist with a PhD in theology, who has never threatened his wife with a gun, hasn’t lied about how many children he has and has never played football for the University of Georgia), has a small lead over Herschel Walker, after trailing in the Spring.


Explanations and Actions

Yesterday, I cited election results showing how the United States is still divided by the Civil War and the western frontier: 

. . . Of the twenty-four states that stayed in the Union in the 1860s (the northern, border and Far West states), Biden won nineteen and lost five.

Of the twenty-six states that left the Union or weren’t fully part of the country in 1861 [i.e. the Wild West], Biden won seven and lost nineteen.

Paul Krugman thinks these divisions aren’t that important anymore:

For a long time, the geographic battle lines in US politics were pretty much the battle lines of the Civil War. That’s no longer true. Trump won Ohio by more than he won Texas; Biden appears to have won Georgia. 

What we’re seeing is that the divide in US politics now is more about education and metropolitan growth than traditional regional orientation. Thx to Atlanta, GA now more educated than most of the “blue wall”.

But why did Dems take GA and still have a shot at its Senate seats, while losing NC? Two words: Stacey Abrams. Organization matters! Also why low-education NV is blue: it’s the unions.

A writer for The Atlantic agrees:

The economist Jed Kolko calculated that, as of midday yesterday, large urban areas remained staunchly pro-Democrat as inner suburbs moved hard to the left. In the Northern Virginia suburb of Fairfax, just across the river from Washington, D.C., Biden won 70 percent of the votes in a county that George W. Bush carried in 2000. Meanwhile, Kolko found, Txxxx held on to a 40-point lead in rural America and carried low-density suburbs, such as Ocean, New Jersey, outside New York City. From coast to coast, inner suburbs are voting more like cities—that is, for Democrats—and outer suburbs are voting more like rural areas, for Republicans.

Driving both the polarization of place and the depolarization of race is the diploma divide. Non-college-educated Latino and Black Americans are voting a little bit more like non-college-educated white Americans, and these groups are disproportionately concentrated in sparser suburbs and small towns that reliably vote Republican. Meanwhile, low-income, college-educated 20-somethings, many of whom live in urban areas, are voting more like rich, college-educated people who tend to live in the inner suburbs that are moving left.

Demographics were never destiny. Density and diplomas form the most important divide in American politics. At least for now.

As always, there is no single explanation for a complex event. The 67% of us who voted this time all had our reasons. So did the 33% who didn’t.

History professor Akim Reinhardt offers his own take:

More than 70,000,000 people just voted for [him]. Again.

After four years of observing, on a near daily basis, his presidential grotesquerie. The racism, the sexism, the vindictiveness, the endless vitriol, the knee-jerk authoritarianism and ceaseless attacks on and erosion of American constitutional mechanisms and democratic norms.

The number plagues us like a cancerous tumor unfazed by chemotherapy or radiation, and too large for a scalpel to carve away without disfiguring the corpus: 70,000,000.

The selfish, the nasty, and the naive: seventy million of them without enough savvy to notice his dictatorial yearnings, without enough empathy to recognize his racism and sexism. Or, if they perceive any of it, without enough decency to care.

Okay, well, they had their reasons.

If you’d like to support the two Democrats still running for the Senate in Georgia, you can contribute to their campaigns and Stacey Abrams’s voter mobilization effort. It’s definitely not a sure thing, but two more Democrats joining the Senate would make a very big difference. Vice President Kamala Harris’s job would be much more important (she could break tie votes) and odious Sen. Turtle Face’s new designation would be “Senate MINORITY Leader”.

Donate now to elect Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff and help Democrats take back the Senate!

You might also consider telling Emily Murphy, the Republican political appointee who runs the General Services Administration in Washington, to begin the presidential transition process. The votes have been counted, so it’s time for her to obey the law by transferring funds to the Biden campaign (and begin her boss’s return to private life). Her email address is emily.murphy@gsa.gov.

The Criminals Who Poison Our Elections

Anybody with the sense God gave a goose understands that Republican efforts to stamp out voter fraud are really an attempt to reduce the number of Democratic voters. Here’s what’s been happening in Georgia:

[The Republican] Secretary of State publicly accused the New Georgia Project in September of submitting fraudulent registration forms. A subsequent investigation found just 25 confirmed forgeries out of more than 85,000 forms—a fraud rate of about 3/100ths of 1 percent [in decimal terms, that’s a rate of 0.000294].

Meanwhile, a group of civil rights lawyers filed a lawsuit claiming that thousands of registration forms submitted this summer still haven’t been recorded in Georgia’s voter database, “nearly all of them belonging to people of color in the Democratic-leaning regions around Atlanta, Savannah and Columbus”. State and county officials, however, said they have already processed all of the applications sent to them by the October 6 registration deadline, and anyway, there is no state law that requires properly-submitted registrations to be processed by any particular date. A local judge has declined to intervene, citing a lack of proof that the registrations have gone missing.

Then there is this detailed report from Al Jazeera America:

Election officials in 27 states, most of them Republicans, have launched a program that threatens a massive purge of voters from the rolls. Millions, especially black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters, are at risk. Already, tens of thousands have been removed in at least one battleground state, and the numbers are expected to climb…

At the heart of this voter-roll scrub is the Interstate Crosscheck program, which has generated a master list of nearly 7 million names. Officials say that these names represent legions of fraudsters who are not only registered but have actually voted in two or more states in the same election — a felony punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison.

How does this Crosscheck program work? You can appear on the list as a suspected felon if your first and last name matches the first and last name of someone who voted in another state:

The actual lists show that not only are middle names commonly mismatched and suffix discrepancies ignored [such as Jr. or Sr.], even birthdates don’t seem to have been taken into account. Moreover, Crosscheck deliberately ignores Social Security mismatches, in the few instances when the numbers are even collected.

A statistical analysis revealed that African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans appear on the list much more often than their percentage of the population would indicate, while white Americans appear less often. The reason is that there is less variety in the names of certain ethnic groups, and among those groups are African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian-Americans, groups that all tend to vote for Democrats. (By the way, you can enter your own name at the Al Jazeera America site and see if you’re right to vote may be challenged.)

If you’ve watched enough Fox News, you might conclude that the hordes of Democrats who poison our elections by illegally voting in more than one state don’t use the same birthdates or Social Security numbers when they register to vote in this state and that, so why bother matching on those criteria?

Or you might infer that America does indeed have a criminal element bent on interfering with the electoral process. Unfortunately, the most crafty and dangerous members of this criminal conspiracy are Republican officials whose job it is to administer elections.

PS — Paul Krugman wrote an excellent column the other day called “Plutocrats Against Democracy”. I suggest reading the whole thing, which isn’t very long. It ends this way:

But now you understand why there’s so much furor on the right over the alleged but actually almost nonexistent problem of voter fraud, and so much support for voter ID laws that make it hard for the poor and even the working class to cast ballots. American politicians don’t dare say outright that only the wealthy should have political rights — at least not yet. But if you follow the currents of thought now prevalent on the political right to their logical conclusion, that’s where you end up.

The truth is that a lot of what’s going on in American politics is, at root, a fight between democracy and plutocracy.

Professor Krugman is an optimist. He thinks the plutocrats haven’t already won.

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