Imagine: You’re afraid. Fidgeting, you rub your fingers against the palm of your hand and feel the clammy coolness of half-evaporated sweat. You’ve done something wrong, and they’re after you. The penalty for your crime will be forfeiting a great portion of your life spent staring through a tiny window on one side of your claustrophobic hole and the spaces between metal bars on the other. The only freedom from your cell will be spent surrounded by dangerous characters that have done even worse than you.
I got to meet Pat Caddell, who has worked in presidential offices and campaigns since the Carter Administration. He has done a combination of personal interviews, polling, and soul-searching to get a sense of why Trump won the election when, in his words, Trump had no real strategy, few solid positions, and very little in the way of a campaign at all.
In the Atlantic’s April 2017 issue there is a powerful read called “Making Athens Great Again.” It recounts the faltering of Athens with the execution of Socrates then its renewal with Plato’s creation of the Academy. It discusses why a nation with a sense of exceptionalism must include self-criticism and self-questioning to be worthy of itself. It is an article recounting an ancient history that is still relevant.
There's a strong sense of a major problem and a deep desire for a big shake-up, rather than just another election. And no doubt there are major problems. But please, please do not go with cutting the politicians out of politics as the solution.
There was much ado about the Hamilton Electors, a pack of Electoral College Electors trying to get the College to elect a Republican alternative to Trump. Despite unprecedented public support and pressure, the Hamilton Elector movement went out with a mighty fizzle. It was probably doomed from the start.
Xander and I had the great pleasure of visiting Berlin for the 2nd time over the past 5 days. But Berlin is a city that can haunt you constantly, if you're looking even a bit close. Those scars have a lot to teach us and remind us.
Seth Stevenson of Slate wrote an article on Monday called "Don't Blame Voters for the Rise of Trump. Blame the Stupid Way We Vote." Slate isn't known for being particularly easy on the right-wing, so this is one of those "Only Nixon can open China" sorts of deals, and very much worth a read. But the axe I want to grind is that we can't take responsibility away from voters for who they ended up picking.
The Millennial picture wasn't looking very good for the Republican party as we know it. They're much less socially conservative than their older counterparts, and more inclined to support folks like Bernie Sanders and Gary Johnson than guys like Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.
But people can change: the Baby Boomers used to be represented by pinkos and hippies. Then look what happened.
But demographic change has a much more sturdy kind of impact, and it's gonna be yuge.
Warning of American fascism is all the rage these days, right? It's easy to notice something after the klaxons already start blaring, but we can learn a lot more from those that saw it coming ahead of time. Back in August of 2014, Xander began piecing together some of the early signs, and leaves us with a powerful warning.
The record setting distaste of Clinton and Trump has some people thinking about getting an alternative into office. Really serious people are considering using the Constitution to hack the electoral college. What are the potential implications if they pull it off?
There has been much rigamarole about the convention process being fairly undemocratic. Many stories have popped up of Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz slurping up delegates even as they didn't win the popular vote of a given state. The practice brings to mind the image of fat deal-makers sitting about in a smoke-filled room, deciding who the nominee will be. A reader asked whether it was the democratization of primaries that actually lead to greater political polarization.
A paper from 2014 by Martin Gilens and Bejamin Page shook the bedrock of the American democracy by showing quite decisively that the likelihood of a policy being adopted in Congress is almost entirely unrelated to the amount of preference that citizens have for the policy. The preferences of economic elites (rich folks) and special interest groups (generally representing businesses) are far more likely to be enacted by Congress. The wedge in American politics may explain this perfectly.
One thing we've observed is that folks are very excited about the proposed policies of each candidate. This is a great thing: it adds some substance to a debate that can often be dominated by more superficial stuff.
But there's an opportunity to consider the candidates at a higher level of sophistication: how will they accomplish their goals?
Step one, then, of ending gerrymandering, is to remove the arbitrary power of legislators to draw lines however they please. Therefore, we need some objective principle or system that draws the lines, rather than people. We can bemoan gerrymandering all we want, but to stop it, we need an alternative.