Sunday, November 15, 2020

The American people chose the right candidates twice, by increasing margins

supporters of joe biden celebrate across the country, after major networks projection him winning the presidency

(The pro-American alternative. Photo source here.)

I suppose you could even say the people chose right three times if you skip to the 2000 election. In the two modern splits between between the Electoral College and the American public, the public chose twice, and in this last election were the Electoral College could've gone the wrong way if less than 100,000 votes shifted, the public was even more right.

Hillary Clinton won the November 2016 election by 2% and three million votes. As of today, Biden's ahead by five million votes, a 3.5% margin over Trump, and that's going to increase to between 4% and 5% as late votes from California and New York finally get counted. An incumbent president also has an edge when running for re-election probably worth about 2-4%, so that also got beat.

I don't expect democracy to get it right all the time, and I have personal experience to verify that, but the flaws in our democratic republic that resulted in terrible presidents have come from not being a sufficiently democratic republic. When idiots like Mike Lee say we're a republic, not a democracy, and pretends he's saying something meaningful, it's an excuse for why the majority shouldn't get to choose the candidate they elected, while saying nothing about what constitutes a meaningful republic. The hoaxsters are full of garbage about vote fraud costing the election, but even so, almost none of them claim the hoax was 6+ million voters or more. It's as if they don't care about that.

What I find interesting about all this is the many Republicans who profess their great love for America while not being very interested in having Americans, not the Electoral College, choose the leaders of the Republic. There is a conflict between waving that American flag and talking up your belief in American exceptionalism while not thinking the people who you profess to love so much should make the decision about leadership.

There are of course areas of policy where minorities should have their rights protected against majorities, and it's self-evident that selection of elected leaders are the least-appropriate category for that, especially for the head of government. Yes, there are borderline arguments for reserving a percentage of parliamentary seats in countries for women and minorities, and that's not what we're talking about. There are also situations where the plurality winner in multi-candidate elections may not best reflect the popular will, which also isn't what we're talking about here.

What we have instead is a system that is fundamentally disrespectful of the American people's will, fundamentally supported by people claiming to be patriotic supporters of those Americans. And they probably never even thought it through.

This year, fortunately, the Electoral College will reflect what a democratic republic would do. And we have the great news of Colorado joining the National Popular Vote Compact to get a step closer to neutralizing the Electoral College. Until we fix it, the right side just has to keep winning by comfortable margins.

UPDATE: The Washington Post agrees on abolishing the Electoral College.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Unbreaking the election that could break America

 Reading The Election That Could Break America will turn your stomach. I think even Barton Gellman thinks none of his three main scenarios are likely to occur, but just the risk that our democracy could go from being deformed as it was in 2000 and 2016 to truly broken is bad enough.

So I want to think about what to do about it. His third scenario is the most likely so I'll deal with it for now. In this scenario, even with dubious challenges of individual ballots, Republicans look like they'll lose the necessary states to win the Electoral College. However, they control the state legislatures in those states. The Republican legislatures therefore make up a bunch of lies about voter fraud, claim the Republicans won their state, and on that basis appoint Republican electors, and not the Democratic ones chosen by the ballot. As the article outlines, potential legal chaos ensues, possibly ending with Biden, Trump, and Pelosi all having plausible claims to the presidency, and factors other than the law may take over. The Republicans are already exploring this, at least in Pennsylvania.

So, first things first: false claims of fraud are themselves fraudulent. Legislatures using false claims of fraud to overturn the choice of the people are no different from ballot-stuffing, or from hacking software to change the results. It's not "republic not a democracy" bull, it's banana-republic turned dictatorship. 

 I've previously and recently condemned some Lawyers Guns and Money bloggers and commenters for their enthusiastic support of violence (usually done by others, not themselves) to beat up Americans they despise. In this case, I won't take a violent response completely off the table, although it should only be the last response to violence by the dictatorship. So yes, kind of a big deal.

Unbreaking this means stopping the Republican legislatures from making it happen, and I see several weak points. First, the Republicans haven't laid a lot of groundwork. They certainly haven't talked to dozens of legislators in three or four states or we'd be hearing a lot more about it - these people leak like sieves. So the Republicans don't know what support they will actually get from legislators. Those Republicans legislators have to decide if they're going to support a coup or not. Getting them on the record ASAP might help make it difficult.

Two other factors might also help. First, unless I misunderstand this, the Republican legislators can claim the vote count is fraudulent and therefore they'll choose electors themselves for the presidential election, but they can't do the same thing for their own election. I think it will be hard to claim the same votes that are fine for seating the Pennsylvania legislature are invalid for choosing Pennsylvania's electors. The fact that Republicans are running the electoral process themselves will also make it hard to claim it's inaccurate.

The second overlapping factor is more about self-interest: some Republicans might be losing shortly after Nov. 3, and still hope the late votes might end up in their favor. Probably not, but not definitely, so it's in their interest for those votes to count on the outside chance they'll win. Again I suppose they could say that somehow the late votes are only legitimate on the state level, but that gets pretty thin.

One last thought - Dems should make it pretty clear to key Republican legislators who do the right thing that despite whatever happens to them in the legislature, they won't suffer. Jobs can be found for them. Doing the right thing shouldn't require rewards, but this is not the time to get up on a pedestal.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

One week to go

 Some punditry thoughts:


Looking at the last 4 weeks of this weighted polling average from 538, the simplest explanation of the movement is that 1%-2% in the undecided middle shifted to Biden and stayed with him, while 1%  drifted from Trump to undecided and then drifted back. The changes started around Trump's disastrous first debate and his getting covid. They partially match a pattern over the last four years where Trump does something that even some of his base dislikes and becomes even more unpopular than usual, then gradually drifts back to baseline, fairly unpopular level.

This doesn't totally match that usual pattern, in that Biden hasn't lost the voters he gained. It could be due to undecided voters feeling like they need to make up their minds and stick with it, or even having set their opinion in stone for a while by having already voted. One other possibility is the third covid wave, which started nationally about three weeks ago, and earlier in a few states. There's not a lot of obvious evidence, yet, of it affecting the polls, but maybe Biden wouldn't have been able to keep his new supporters absent the third wave reinforcing his message that Trump mishandled the pandemic.

In this last week before Nov. 3, Trump is way down in the polls, he's got much less money to advertise than Biden, and covid is really getting going. I think hospitalizations in particular are media- and especially television-friendly, and the rise for them isn't yet at record levels but is enough to take media attention. Some covid surprise from Pence or other prominent person on the Democratic side could shake up things.

The Electoral College is undemocratically shifted about 3-4% towards Republicans, and a near-extreme-case-scenario is polls underestimate Trump by 4%, so if polls drift down to an 8% differential then Trump has an outside chance. Except that a lot of people, maybe half, will have voted by Election Day. I'd guess Trump needs polls to move to a differential of 7% to 7.5% by Election Day to have a chance of winning the Electoral College.

This is assuming attempts to stop the vote count after Election Day are unsuccessful. Hard to predict what would happen in that case, to say the least.