Democrats and Republicans

Today, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, gave the longest speech in the history of the House, which goes back to 1789. After it was discovered that the House rules allow party leaders to speak as long as they want, Pelosi stood and spoke for a little over eight hours.

The longest speech in the history of the U.S. Senate lasted 24 hours. It was given in 1957 by a racist Southerner in opposition to that year’s Civil Rights Act. At the time, he was a Democrat (because most Southerners were), but he became a Republican after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights act (as most Southerners did). He remained a Republican for the next thirty-nine years.

That basically sums up our two political parties. A woman wants people illegally brought here as children to be protected against deportation and to have a chance to become American citizens. A man wanted to stop everyone from having equal rights, especially black people.

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It Isn’t Too Late To Stop Him

When Michigan finishes auditing its election, T—p is expected to have 306 electoral votes to Clinton’s 232. She will have received a couple million more votes nationwide, maybe 2.5 million more, but that won’t matter. 

Therefore, when the Electoral College votes next month, we only need 37 Republican electors to demonstrate some bravery and good sense – or to follow orders from the Republican hierarchy, a very different thing – and vote for someone other than T—p. If that happens, he won’t get the required 270 electoral votes to become President.

Assuming Hillary Clinton doesn’t get 270 either (it’s highly unlikely that any Republican electors would vote for a Democrat), and the Kasich/Kaine national unity ticket I proposed fails to sweep the nation (despite the 100 people, many of them real, who have signed my petition so far), the election will be decided by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

According to the little-known 12th Amendment to the Constitution, each of the 50 states will get one vote. There will be three candidates in the running. Presumably, two of them will be T—p and Clinton. But the third will be whoever came in third in the Electoral College. Maybe it will be Mike Pence. Or Paul Ryan. Or Matthew McConaughey. Or you.

The voting would continue until one of the candidates received at least 26 votes. (Meanwhile, the Senate would be picking the Vice President.) T—p might win in the House anyway, depending on who that third candidate was, but the Republican leadership could easily find an excuse to dump T—p for a more traditional Republican, protecting us from the worst. President. Ever. 

Of course, I didn’t expect my petition to take flight and change history (although I kind of hoped it would), but anything any of us can do to “normalize” the idea that the Electoral College should intervene is worth doing. The more we spread the idea, the more acceptable the idea will become, especially because rejecting terrible candidates is part of the Electoral College’s job!

And the idea is spreading. Yesterday, a Democratic elector wrote an article for Daily Kos called “Yes, I am one of those 538 national electors and the Electoral College is in play”. He is trying to get Republican electors to vote for anyone but T—p. The Denver Post has covered the story (although the accompanying video throws cold water on the idea, because that’s what seasoned, cynical political reporters are expected to do).

Today, a professor of journalism and political science published an article at The Atlantic entitled “The Electoral College Was Meant to Stop Men Like Trump From Being President: The founders envisioned electors as people who could prevent an irresponsible demagogue from taking office”.

His conclusion:

Before this election, I supported abolishing the Electoral College. Now I think America needs electors who, in times of national emergency, can prevent demagogues from taking power.

Go ahead and call me an elitist; Donald Trump has changed the way I view American government. Before this year, I would have considered Hamilton’s demand for independent-minded electors who could prevent candidates with “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity” from winning the presidency to be antiquated and retrograde. Now I think the framers were prescient and I was naïve. Eighteen months ago, I could never have imagined President Donald Trump. Now I’m grateful that, two hundred and twenty-seven years ago, they did.

So please spread the word. It isn’t too late.

An Open Letter to the Leading Democrat in the House

As foreign diplomats and business people begin funneling cash to the President-Elect by taking rooms and scheduling events at T—p’s new Washington hotel (see “kleptocracy”), someone shared the following letter with me. It’s addressed to Nancy Pelosi, the current leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives.

I am writing to you on the assumption that you will continue to be leader of the Democratic members of the House of Representatives, and am urging you and the Democratic Caucus to immediately start drafting Articles of Impeachment for our presumptive President, Vice President, and other executive positions subject to impeachment.

Like many Americans, I am deeply troubled by the results of the November election. Assuming the lobbying of the Electoral College comes to naught and we do end up with this amazingly unqualified individual as President, my feeling is that everyone should do whatever they can to minimize damage to the country during his tenure.

Impeachment of executive branch officials, both elected and appointed, is the domain of the House of Representatives. There is surely zero chance that Articles of Impeachment drafted by the Democratic Caucus would pass the Judiciary Committee. But I do believe a steady stream of draft impeachment documents presented to the committee would help keep the incompetence of the Executive Branch and its appointments in the public eye. Even if the majority party does not allow draft Articles of Impeachment to come under committee consideration, their existence and content can still be publicized.

When considering the President and Vice President, and the people who are being named for other positions subject to impeachment, there is no doubt in my mind that it would be no trouble to create a steadily growing list of impeachable offenses for several years to come.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Meanwhile, a few Republicans in the Electoral College can still interfere with the monster’s journey to the White House. 

This Editorial Would Have Made a Good Blog Post

Editorials in the New York Times tend to be rather restrained, befitting the dignified nature of the place (the Times still refers to Vladimir Putin as Mr. Putin and Nancy Pelosi as Ms. Pelosi, for example). But in an editorial called “Center Ring at the Republican Circus”, they’ve finally had enough, adopting a level of scorn and sarcasm befitting angry bloggers everywhere. Good for them!

Quote:

The hottest competition in Washington this week is among House Republicans vying for a seat on the Benghazi kangaroo court, also known as the Select House Committee to Inflate a Tragedy Into a Scandal. Half the House has asked to “serve” on the committee, which is understandable since it’s the perfect opportunity to avoid any real work while waving frantically to right-wing voters stomping their feet in the grandstand.

They won’t pass a serious jobs bill, or raise the minimum wage, or reform immigration, but House Republicans think they can earn their pay for the rest of the year by exposing nonexistent malfeasance on the part of the Obama administration. On Thursday, they voted to create a committee to spend such sums as may be necessary to conduct an investigation of the 2012 attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The day before, they voted to hold in contempt Lois Lerner, the former Internal Revenue Service official whom they would love to blame for the administration’s crackdown on conservative groups, if only they could prove there was a crackdown, which they can’t, because there wasn’t.

Both actions stem from the same impulse: a need to rouse the most fervent anti-Obama wing of the party and keep it angry enough to deliver its donations and votes to Republicans in the November elections. For a while it seemed as if the Affordable Care Act would perform that role, but Republicans ran into a problem when the country began to realize that it was not destroying American civilization but in fact helping millions of people.

The entire editorial is here.

Nuts to You, Creep!

John Boehner represents the 8th congressional district of Ohio. It’s made up of suburbs and farmland and sits along the border with Indiana. The biggest city in the 8th district is Hamilton, with a population of 62,000. Republicans have represented Boehner’s district since 1939. He got elected in 1990 after he challenged the incumbent congressman, who had been convicted of paying a 16-year old girl $40 for sex. Boehner has been elected without significant opposition since then, twice with no opposition at all. 

This creep, who is now Speaker of the House, has decided to shut down much of the federal government in a vain attempt to interfere with implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Senate Democrats have been asking for negotiations on the 2014 budget for six months, but Boehner and his Republican colleagues decided it would make more sense to become extortionists. Go back and renegotiate Obamacare, you Democrats, or else we’ll send 800,000 Federal workers home, force another million to work without pay, close various government facilities and suspend programs like the Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children!

There’s common agreement that there are some relatively moderate Republicans who would join Democrats in voting to keep the government open, if Boehner allowed that simple vote to take place. But he hasn’t done that yet. He’s apparently terrified that he’s going to lose the support of the craziest Republicans and not be Speaker of the House anymore. He might even lose his seat in Congress to some Tea Party clown next time the Republicans in the 8th district go to the polls.

If Republicans who don’t represent places like the 8th district of Ohio were allowed to “vote their conscience” (something members of the House might want to do sometimes), this stupid shutdown wouldn’t be happening.

There are two good things about it, however. The Republicans look bad and might even lose some seats next year. And the Democrats are holding firm. If I were Senator Harry Reid or President Obama, my answer to Boehner would be a simple “Fuck you!”, or, a bit more politely, what General McAuliffe told the Germans when they demanded our surrender at the Battle of the Bulge: “Nuts!”

P.S. — For some history regarding the Republican concept of “negotiation”:

The Republican position has been clear for three years: they will refuse to negotiate if negotiation could mean having to give something up. But they will loudly demand a negotiation over something that is not open to compromise, namely a settled law from 2009…

http://takingnote.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/01/the-g-o-p-definition-of-negotiation/?hp

Democracy by the Numbers

For several years, I’ve occasionally driven back and forth between Vermont and upstate New York. The difference between the two states is always noticeable.

On the Vermont side of the border, everything seems neat and tidy and pleasant. There are billboards that say even the gas stations are nice in Vermont (I don’t remember seeing vases of plastic flowers in gas station restrooms in other states.)

The New York side of the border, however, which is equally rural, always looks shabby and rundown. The atmosphere in towns like Whitehall and Fort Ann is depressing. Every time I drive through there I wonder what the people do for a living.

So it was good to see confirmation of my assessment, and a possible explanation, in the New York Times: 

“In the four years after the financial crisis struck, a great wave of federal stimulus money washed over Rutland County (Vermont). It helped pay for bridges, roads, preschool programs, a community health center, buses and fire trucks, water mains and tanks… Just down Route 4, at the New York border, the landscape abruptly turns from spiffy to scruffy. Washington County, N.Y., which is home to about 60,000 people — just as Rutland is — saw only a quarter as much money.”

The Times suggests that the key difference between these adjoining regions is that Vermont, as a small state, has the same number of U.S. senators as New York, a very large state:

“Vermont’s 625,000 residents have two United States senators, and so do New York’s 19 million. That means that a Vermonter has 30 times the voting power in the Senate of a New Yorker just over the state line — the biggest inequality between two adjacent states.”

There are surely other reasons for the obvious discrepancy between Vermont and upstate New York, but it’s very likely that different levels of political representation are an important factor. States like Vermont and Wyoming (population 580,000) have the same number of senators as New York and California (population 38 million). That affects where the money goes.

Small states are even over-represented in the House. The representative from Wyoming has 580,000 constituents. The average representative from California has 720,000. Throw in the effect of gerrymandering in the House, which recently helped Republicans win 53% of the seats while receiving 48% of the popular vote, and it shouldn’t be surprising that Congress doesn’t reflect the will of the people.

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/03/11/us/politics/democracy-tested.html?pagewanted=all