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April 20, 2020

Comments

It seems to me that anyone arguing for a "reset" needs to have in hand an outline for how "something better" might work. Subject to negotiations on the details, of course. But at least laying out the high points.

But overall, is it another republic, just with repositioned basic guardrails? Or is it a different type of structure altogether? Can you point to a place where it has been tried, even if only on a small scale? What are its known weak points?

Just arguing we need something different, with nothing to propose instead, is maybe a fun way to while away an evening. But it's not a step towards a change.

Steps toward change often begin with whiling away evenings. Conversation stimulates the imagination.

Too late for me tonight, but I will make a more substantive reply tomorrow.

(All #s from Wikipedia.)

The 1790 census counted 3,939,214 people in the US (this did not include Native Americans). So, that's roughly the population of the country when George Washington was elected for the first time.

It's also roughly the current population of Oklahoma (the 28th most populous state).

It's less than 1.2 times the current combined population of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

To get a little closer, it's barely more than the current combined population of Maine, NH, and RI.

It's no wonder the campaign for the presidency barely ever stops. I would add this unwieldiness to some of the other factors the Levinson piece mentions as contributing to our dysfunctionality.

*****

As for the "reset" question -- I think we are seeing a "reset" in progress, which is not consensual or democratic, and for which I'm afraid no one knows where the brakes are, toward an implicit abandonment of the separation of powers, and away from much more than a pretense at democracy, at least no more pretense than they have in places like Russia and China. If SFJ-fka-Clickbait is re-elected, that will be "that's all she wrote" in that department. At least for my lifetime.

I think we desperately need a reset, but I fear it would be a nightmare that would include significant bloodshed and destruction. We are so divided that it's hard to imagine a path that would get us to where we could even agree to talk about talking about a divorce, much less a new framework for staying in one piece.

*****

I see that while I've been writing, wj has said this: Just arguing we need something different, with nothing to propose instead, is maybe a fun way to while away an evening. But it's not a step towards a change.

Ummmmmm.....are you suggesting that all the other things that get written here do constitute practical steps toward change? We must be reading wildly different versions of the blog.

First, what wj said.

A reset will only be as good as the people resetting, and the same people who have power now would be doing that work. Our country has the tools to be as good as the best of us if we insist on it in strong enough numbers. If enough of us don't step up, we have no chance of making it better, reset or no.

If you, russell, are talking about dissolving the United States, that might happen. It might make people in Massachusetts or California feel that their values were better represented. It's not going to help the disenfranchised people in Georgia. It's not going to happen peacefully. And it's not going to prevent disease from crossing borders. Look anywhere else in the world at how well provincialism works out. The smaller the country, the nastier the wars.

I would, instead, like to see people of good will get with the program, participate to make sure that Democrats remain a reasonable and vibrant party whose members are dedicated to institutional integrity and public service, vote for the Democrat, help Democrats take and keep the Senate, reform the courts, and keep that going for a couple of decades with tweaks to the Constitution as needed. That would work. It involves longterm discipline, and wholehearted solidarity until we have a habitual lock on electing people who are, at minimum, decent. It involves citizenship.

Anybody who thinks there's a better alternative should set it out in detail. Anyone who thinks that any other plan would require less work, or achieve better results, should show us how it can be done. I think we should keep in mind that most of the major problems that we face are global, and that much of the philosophical divide in our country is urban versus rural, not regional.

I think you have to start with redefining capitalism. For acceptance you need to call it that, with russells view of worker ownership and build out an inclusive infrastructure on the grounding.

"that grounding". The challenge is creating a vision of the compact that rewards risk while also rewarding effort.

I'm worried too that the election in November won't eject Putin's pretender to the presidency. But if the American people are smart enough to do a "reset" that benefits the people of this country, they're certainly smart enough to elect Biden over Trump.

People here complained incessantly about Obama. I was happy with Obama. I wasn't happy with every little problem that the country had, nor was I happy with every little word spoken by our President. But the government functioned in favor of the people (probably someone can point to a screw-up, so go right ahead). But we didn't need a reset. We needed to keep that going instead of one step forward, two steps back, like we have done during my entire lifetime because only Republicans support their President, and Democrats do nothing but criticize. Let's elect a decent person, support that person, and keep it going. That would be so much easier than a "reset" of some kind which would probably mean violent civil war with an ugly outcome. I really hope that we're not already too far down that path.

Gigantic utopian procedural type changes are usually a waste of time. Fine for a blog discussion topic, of course. But this is a rare occasion where I agree to a limited degree with sapient and wj.

Plus if we had another constitutional convention we’d probably bring back slavery or some dumb shite. Maybe an electoral college where every state is equal or gets votes according to land mass.

If you want gigantic changes, go straight for the policies you want to see.

Also, if it is a question of splitting the red and the blue, there is a lot of red and blue in every state afaik. Another point where I agree with sapient when this has come up before.

Thinking of dumb shite that AstroTurf Republican protestors might propose

State representation in electoral college is to be to proportional to ( number of assault rifles purchased per year per capita) *times Gini coefficient. times percentage of Ayn Rand fans

Though to be fair, Gini must be pretty high in liberal bastions like nyc. It is the assault rifle selling that would bring it down.

( number of assault rifles purchased per year per capita)

Brilliant! If corporations can be people, why not assault rifles? The gun manufacturers will love it! A new variation on an old concept: the arms race.

number of assault rifles purchased per year per capita

I think this would be great. My wife and I can buy one gun, and sell it back and forth daily. Hourly even. Run our vote weight way up! And if we hold the price down,** we don't even create significant taxable income. Later, we can go to computer-based trading, and do multiple sales per second.

** For some reason, I'm put in mind of those trading stamps of my youth. The face said "retail value: 1 mil". Though I expect we could bring that down.

"that grounding". The challenge is creating a vision of the compact that rewards risk while also rewarding effort.

The problem is the current paradigm of this compact subsidizes "risk" (see lower tax rate for capital gains-just one example of many), while actually punishing effort (cf. income inequality, squashing unions via terrible NLRB rulings--again, just two of many). The so-called "effort" it takes to create a tax dodging LLC is nothing compared to the risk that the person cleaning the office toilet every night faces.

There is a huge disconnect there.

When Ted Cruz takes a cane to Chuck Schumer on the floor of the Senate, then we shall realize the shit is about to hit the fan.

The challenge is creating a vision of the compact that rewards risk while also rewarding effort.

Except, we don't need to exercise imagination to come up with one. We've got one available (within living memory, even), and home-grown as well (for those who get concerned about that): the way we ran market capitalism for a couple decades after WW II.

Was it a perfect economic system? Not even close. Was it better (for however you define the term) than what we see today? I'd certainly say so.
Rewards for hard work? Check. Better correlation than today, anyway.
Rewards for innovation? Check. At least, we seem to have done a fair amount of it, so apparently adequate incentives.
Income inequality present, but moderate? Check.
General (i.e. across the population) opportunity for economic/social mobility? Check.

I expect it will take some work to lay out the legal, especially tax, changes required to recreate those features. And there may be other kinds of changes needed as well.** Especially because we can doubtless think of some tweeks we would like -- think of non-discrimination laws that we don't want to lose. But at least we start out knowning it can be done because we did it before.

** To take a totally arbitrary example, we might discover that the only effective way to generate the required worldview adjustments is to reinstitute the draft. Across both genders. And make it universal -- maybe with an option for delay, paid for by longer service. Force everybody to rub elbows, with equivalent (local) status, for a couple of years. Just to drive home the lesson that those other people, who you never encounteted before at home, are real people, too.

wj, none of that is different than the ststem we have now. The levers to try and maintain it just hadn't been pulled. You want to go back to a system that had failed by 1977.

The things I find problematic mostly are stuff like the Electoral College and the Senate. Legacies of states being jealous of their own autonomy, and wanting to be represented as a political entity - i.e., the state per se, not the people in the state - in federal governance.

We have never made the transition from being a nation of states, to being a nation of people. It gets in the way.

Some would say that is by intent - it's meant to get in the way. I agree. And I disagree that that serves a useful function anymore.

The counter-argument is that states serve as a useful proxy for certain interests or demographics, basically (at this point) urban vs rural. Without the states as an actor at the federal level, rural folks' interests would be overrun by those of city or suburban folk.

That's a reasonable concern, but I'm not sure that state boundaries are an accurate or effective proxy for those interests.

NYC ain't Cobleskill. For example.

I'd also like to see a uniform national standard for who can vote, defined in the Constitution. That standard should be every adult American citizen, full stop.

And I would like a crisp bright line between natural and purely legal persons defined in the Constitution, with the rights pertaining to persons limited to the natural kind. And with participation in political institutions - including financial contributions - limited to the natural kind.

I'd like to see American governance returned to, or more likely achieving for the first time, Lincoln's ideal - of, by, and for the people.

It ain't that now.

I understand and share everyone's concern about the possibilities for violence and dissolution. Seems to me those exist anyway, with or without considering structural changes. Seems to me the real possibilty of dissolution and violence point out the need for change, rather than the opposite.

Also, FWIW, I liked Obama, too. Most folks did, see also his popular and electoral margins. Obama as POTUS has and had little to do with the questions raised here.

I think you have to start with redefining capitalism

?????

Not really where I was going with this, but curious to know what you're thinking here.

Back to bed for me, now. G'night all.

I agree with all of what you said at 5:09, russell. (What you doin up that early?)

What's standing in the way of our achieving an improved version of the system we have now is the 39%. We have to hope either to convert them, to infiltrate their states, or to hope demographics are the cure. I have little hope for the first option. The second would be possible, but would require a movement. The third seems too slow to me.

I personally am pessimistic about the future of the country. I do not think it can go on as it is going. I agree with Levinson about the flaws in the Constitution, and I don't think they can be cured.

Nor do I think the divides in thinking can be papered over. The gap is too large and too absolute.

In short, I think the country is going to break up, and the best thing is to try to have it happen in a peaceful, orderly way.

If that's possible.

If not, why not a reset?

because trillions upon trillions of dollars of wealth is dependent on the US as it currently exists. it's dependent on this law being in just the right amount of opposition to this one, on this agency having exactly this amount of leverage, on the price supports provided by this department, on the rules and regulations that define the market for this product, etc. x10,000,000,000,000.

byomtov, I'm pessimistic too. I'm extremely worried about what will happen in November, and shortly thereafter.

There is a strong divide, but it's between reason and lies, democracy and fascism. We can't give it to them; we have to win. Fascism has to be eradicated. Period. There's room for discussion about "government's role". There is no room for discussion about truth versus lies.

Also, thanks, Donald, for acknowledging our agreements.

I like Donald's formulation of "Gigantic utopian procedural type changes". While it is not conscious, I'm sure a reason why I am living overseas is that I really want to say not my monkeys, not my circus. Of course, the irony is that that doesn't matter, I still get pushed out into the center ring to stick my head in the lion's mouth. Oh well.

My own take is that the changes are inevitable, but we'll get some story to suggest that we have some agency in the whole thing, which we don't. All the other nations of Europe couldn't keep their way of organizing their militaries after Napoleon started the whole levy system. Hunter gatherers couldn't cope with the agrian cultures. Never mind that the story of divine right theory is bullshit every which way you look at it, it gave a good enough story (and I can't resist a Monty Python quote, after Arthur explains how he was chosen by the Lady of the Lake, the peasant replies " Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government! Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!")

It seems inevitable that a system that looks more like Asian countries is going to happen, with more surveillance and monitoring, more social pressure, coopted by business as a way to 'monetize' things. We might be able to spin a fun story (no, I wanted twitter to tell me how to behave), but we are going to get to the same place.


“ My wife and I can buy one gun, and sell it back and forth daily. Hourly even. Run our vote weight way up! “

Now you are just trying to game the system. The original intent of the second constitution is to give power to the hands of Real Americans.

On the pessimism here, I don’t share it in the same form. The conservatives I know in real life aren’t interested in splitting the country. Plus we always had extremes. The difference in the past was that there were liberals and conservatives in both parties. And just three or four TV networks and one or two local newspapers. Now for better or worse it is easier to compartmentalize if you are someone who is into politics.

But we all live in the same areas. The electoral college gives the illusion otherwise, but all states are varying shades of purple.

But there is no reason why we can’t all decline together as a nation.

To be clear, I am not interested in splitting the country. It's hard for me to imagine how, exactly, that would work. Or not even exactly - how, approximately and vaguely, that would work.

I'm happy to "go straight for the policies (I) want to see", see my 5:09.

What we have now is a polarized electorate, reflected in a polarized Congress that is incapable of getting useful, necessary things done. Or, maybe not incapable, but profoundly dysfunctional and inefficient. And we have a highly politicized SCOTUS and federal judiciary. And an incompetent and toxic executive.

So, for example, to the degree that something like this is so:

The electoral college gives the illusion otherwise, but all states are varying shades of purple.

Then the institution that distorts the composition of the people, and distorts their intent and will - in this case the EC - should go.

Governance at the federal level is not working. Unless your idea of what "working" looks like is to abdicate its responsibility and stand down from any form of directive policy-making. It's been captured by people with a lot of freaking money, no small number of whom aren't even Americans, and no small number of whom aren't even natural human beings.

But there is no reason why we can’t all decline together as a nation.

Also no reason that we have to.

none of that is different than the ststem we have now. The levers to try and maintain it just hadn't been pulled.

Marty, the problem with the system is that it requires manual interventions to pull the levers. Which, as you note, have been thin on the ground for a while now. To my mind, a system ought to function without needing major or frequent interventions in order to work right.

I'd also note that by 1977 the (mostly libertarian) efforts to break the system were well under way.

I agree with Levinson about the flaws in the Constitution, and I don't think they can be cured.

Nor do I think the divides in thinking can be papered over. The gap is too large and too absolute.

You might want to do some reading on the divides around the turn of the last century. They read to me to have been every bit as large and as nasty. Yet we (eventually) got past them. We've since generated new ones, but that's not the same as the prior bunch being too big to overcome.

"in republican form", using Original Interpretation circa 1790, means

NO DAMNED MONARCH!

(I, for one, am willing to cut a break for Emperor Norton of the United States, and Protector of Mexico. He seemed nice...but a modern 'monarch'? They get the Louis XVI treatment)

I'd also note that by 1977 the (mostly libertarian) efforts to break the system were well under way.

You beat me to it. It didn't "fail." It was systematically dismantled. The process is ongoing.

*****

Without the states as an actor at the federal level, rural folks' interests would be overrun by those of city or suburban folk.

That's a reasonable concern,

At the moment, city/suburban folks interests are being overrun by those of the rural states. From the link in the OP:

Today, California, approaching 40 million residents, has the same voting power in the Senate as does Wyoming, with less than 600,000 people. Vermont, with about 650,000, balances Texas with its approximately 28 million. As a matter of fact, more than half the American population now live in 9 states, represented by a total of 18 senators. By definition, this means that the remaining number, a minority, live in 41 states that receive 82 of the 100 senators.

Without looking up the numbers and doing the calculations again, I seem to recall that the population ratios between the largest and smallest states (Cali and WY now) is three times the ratio between those (VA and RI or DE, maybe?) when the constitution was written.

So the disproportion in senate representation has become more disproportionate.

It was Virginia (691,937) / Delaware (59,096) for a ratio of 11.7.

California (37,253,956) / Wyoming (563,626) is 66.1.

So, unless I've screwed something up, it's not three times the ratio, it's five and a half times the ratio.

But for sheer appallingness, Levinson's factoid that more than half the population is represented by 18 senators takes the cake.

I didn't quote the part where he points out the racial disparities of representation implied by these numbers.

because trillions upon trillions of dollars of wealth is dependent on the US as it currently exists.

What cleek said.

trillions upon trillions of dollars of wealth is dependent on the US as it currently exists.

Just out of curiosity, how much of that involves assets of people with a net worth over, say, $20 million? That is, people who have more money than they can spend in a lifetime anyway.

Sometimes I think we need someone to invent a new status marker. One that doesn't involve money (or anything else other people might actually need). Just something useful for those whose lives totally revolve around their dick-measuring contest with their peers.

It seems inevitable that a system that looks more like Asian countries is going to happen

This seems plausible to me, simply because there are so many more people in the world (and in this country) than there were in 1789. We no longer live in a world where people grew much of their own food, made their own homes and clothes, and bought whatever they bought from somebody who they knew personally and who lived within a couple of miles of them.

Things exist at a different scale now, and the Asian model, as lj has characterized it here, may (will?) simply be more successful in that context.

Which complicates the "consent of the governed" thing, because consent without meaningful agency is... maybe irrelevant?

If the "Asian model" simply proves to be better adapted to modern circumstances, will we be satisfied with being out-competed - with no longer being a, or the, dominant player in the world - if that means we can retain (some of) our own traditions?

So, unless I've screwed something up, it's not three times the ratio, it's five and a half times the ratio.

You did not. I was going by faulty memory. I knew for sure is was a single-digit factor, and it was something more than 2. ;^)

Sometimes I think we need someone to invent a new status marker. One that doesn't involve money (or anything else other people might actually need). Just something useful for those whose lives totally revolve around their dick-measuring contest with their peers.

Hm, what about owning actual people? Exotic ones with a non-white skin colour maybe. Apart from being a valuable status marker, they probably could be taught to do simple menial work. Plus it would be almost philanthropical given the way these people have to live otherwise.
[ / s ]

Hartmut, at least it demonstrates that something other than a bank/brokerage balance can be used. ;-)

In ancient Rome, the go-to status marker was erecting large, expensive, grandiose (and yet, useful) PUBLIC buildings.

With an inscription, of course.

That's how we know, 2000 years later, what a great public-spirited guy that M. Agrippa was.

Nowdays, it's more like "build a piece of shit, slap TRUMP on it, and try to get out before it collapses".

They don't make 'em like they used to.

(and yes, I know that Hadrian rebuilt Agrippa's Pantheon, and put up an inscription crediting it to Agrippa)

I don't have specifics to add to the discussion of what happens to the US if and when the current dysfunction ceases to be acceptable. But I do have a suggestion of where to start exploring the possibilities.

One of the best courses I took as an undergrad was a comparative politics course surveying the political institutions in Europe ca. 2002. The text was Political Institutions in Europe ed. by Josep Colomer. We had a familiarization dive into institutional rules and electoral systems through a Game Theory lens.

My biggest lasting impression from that class was that the US had only barely functioned since 1929 because it was running on consensus house-rules by protocol. That is no longer the case. Protocol is dead.

The beauty of that textbook was that we got to look at a lot of modern systems of representative government, the conditions that drove their consensus rules, and the dynamics that emerge from working within the institutions shaped by those rules.

We have a ton of information about how the US v. 2.0 might work once Americans get over the narcissistic idea of our own exceptionalism. This is not uncharted territory. Europe was a lab for much of this during the 20th C.

The text book is (sadly) out-of-print and out-of-date, but Colomer has a blog and I'm sure other books could be found that cover the same subjects.

The useful public building tradition of rich people is not dead that long in the US. Guys like Carnegie seem to have put some more value in proper and lasting architecture than the typical ultra-rich guy of to-day.

In ancient Rome, the go-to status marker was erecting large, expensive, grandiose (and yet, useful) PUBLIC buildings.

With an inscription, of course.

. . .

They don't make 'em like they used to.

And yet, Carnegie Libraries. So not just an ancient Roman phenomena.

Hartmut and I seem to have had the same thought at (roughly!) the same moment.

Guys like Carnegie seem to have put some more value in proper and lasting architecture than the typical ultra-rich guy of to-day.

Some of them, like Bill Gates, are investing in people and their flourishing instead of building edifices.

The near term solution is to run the table in November. And follow that up by having those in power in the federal government do everything in their power to start putting things right, acting in full knowledge that notions like "norms" and "comity" have been flushed down the toilet by Republicans, and it's not worth the time and effort to wade in the sewer to see if they can be salvaged.

In practical terms that means things like - Filibuster-gone. Adding seats to the Supreme Court, which can then be standing ready to overturn all of the egregious previous rulings, and reject ludicrous rulings made by lower Federal courts. All manner of Federal voting rights laws, regulations, etc., to limit voter suppression. A lot of fixes/changes that Russell mentions could follow from this, with no need for amendments.

This generation of political leaders seems to lack the creativity necessary for this, but overturning the 19th law that prescribes geographic-based districts for representatives would eliminate Federal gerrymandering, replaced with proportional representation in each state. No amendments necessary.

Heck, maybe some clever person could write up a list of such concrete proposals, promising their swift enactment once in office. Give it a catchy name, Contract With America, or something. Who knows, campaigning in favor of ideas and plans that will effect positive change, rather than just "Not Trump", might get a some folks motivated to vote.

Some of them, like Bill Gates, are investing in people and their flourishing instead of building edifices.

I agree completely about Gates, but it's worth saying that, at the time Carnegie (and guys like Carnegie) were alive, building things like public libraries truly was a form of investing in people and their flourishing.

While I don't necessarily agree with Priest's characterization of the problem, I do agree with the thinking. There is plenty that could be done coloring within the lines (or even coloring outside the lines as has been our wont).

I think a breakup would be a disaster. And wrong thinking.

IMHO, the most important aspect of the Constitution is the separation of powers. I don't think it is necessarily a problem when different branches are at loggerheads or even when one can't get something done.

I see your Citizens United and raise it one huge, freaking, powerful, unaccountable administrative state.

If the California/Wyoming imbalance is a problem, then move to Wyoming. Problem solved.

I live in California. Talk about political power imbalance. You want to assign electors proportionally by popular vote? Let's start with California and see how that goes.

California is bleeding people to Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Texas. There is a reason why and it's not simply economic.

I've lived in one of the least populated states (was at one time) and now the most populous. Senate composition makes perfect sense to me. But I was born in Alaska.

Washington is not responsive to the people. We have a political class. We have an extreme partisan divide. All real problems. And, IMHO, none of them solved by a reset. Soft reset, sure.

Adding seats to the Supreme Court

would be immediately followed by more seats added by the GOP, as soon as they got the chance.

repeat until the public gets fed up with the game and caps the size with an Amendment.

can we make elementary game theory a required course in high school?

Democratic politicians could stand some Game Theory education themselves, seeing as they too frequently find themselves in the worst square of the Prisoners' Dilemma grid.

Cleek,

Adding seats to the Supreme Court

would be immediately followed by more seats added by the GOP, as soon as they got the chance.

Maybe, but:

It takes control of the Senate, the House, and the Presidency to do it. The chance might not come.

I don't trust the Republicans not to add seats if they have control and want to, regardless of whether the Democrats do it or not. Why do you think they wouldn't? They will justify it by referring to Democrats who advocated it. Remember the BS "Biden rule" that they used to defend the Garland travesty?

bc,

If the California/Wyoming imbalance is a problem, then move to Wyoming. Problem solved.

I live in California. Talk about political power imbalance. You want to assign electors proportionally by popular vote? Let's start with California and see how that goes.

Some of what you say is rational, but these two paragraphs are just silly. Sorry.

If we need to negotiate a reset, it will be a lot easier if we stay away from foolish arguments. In fact, the fondness of the right for this sort of thing is one reason I am pessimistic about being able to reset.

I don't think it is necessarily a problem when different branches are at loggerheads or even when one can't get something done

By way of contrast, I think it's pretty much always a problem when any or all branches, or even just the plain old administrative state, can't get things done.

Things need doing.

Washington is not responsive to the people.

It's extremely responsive to some people. The "some" part is, IMO, the problem.

russell: Don't really disagree, I just see inaction as a benefit much of the time.

byomtov: meant to be ridiculous in part. But it's not entirely silly. One's political influence can be diluted in many ways, only one of which is the structure of the Senate. And, being a free country, if that bothers one enough, you can move to a state with low population and viola! Influence.

I don't disagree that it is a legitimate issue to consider that the imbalance between states has grown larger. I'd look for ways to address that outside of a reboot.

I think people in general, Democrats in particular, should stop trying to change the rules so they can gain power. What an awful place to live this will be. I have no idea why the people in Massachusetts so desperately want to tell the people in Texas how to live, or kansas or Alabama.

Bullshit.

What an awful place to live this will be.

Ha ha. To me, an awful place is now, where Democrats are disenfranchised by the electoral college and the Senate. To the majority of people, likewise. To the overwhelming majority of people under 60, likewise.

Marty, you're protecting your world which won't exist shortly. You survive. Fine. For me too.

I think people in general, Democrats in particular, should stop trying to change the rules so they can gain power.

Does that include changing voting registration and voting rules, to make it harder for "the wrong people" to vote? You know, they kind who, if you let them all vote, nobody would ever get elected again as a Republican. (Not that I believe that would actually be the result. Just probably not RWNJ Republicans.)

I think people in general, Democrats in particular, should stop trying to change the rules so they can gain power. What an awful place to live this will be.

Talk about projection.

Merrick Garland.

Massive voter suppression.

Caging of immigrants.

The list could go on and on and on and on.

This is already an awful place to live for an awful lot of people, and it isn't the Democrats who have been pushing it in that direction for decades.

I just love it when Marty comes around to play savior of the poor and oppressed.

Game theory twist on the "expand the SC" proposal.

Expand it to 15 justices, but do that over a six year term 2/2/2. Institute a 10 year limit on SC tenure. Phase out one seat a year beginning as soon as the five new justices are seated. Allow justices to retire early if they wish to aim for an ideologically sympathetic congress.

You can find the book nous recommends here

http://gen.lib.rus.ec/search.php?req=Political+Institutions+in+Europe&open=0&res=25&view=simple&phrase=1&column=def

I just love it when Marty comes around to play savior of the poor and oppressed.

Thank you. Especially when we learn that, when he's gainfully employed, taxes are what drive him insane.

Actually, for the only time in history, taxes are my problem too. Last year I took out a lot of money from my IRA, and did so without considering that taxes on that money is due this year. I do have just enough left to pay it, but I'm going to be in a world of hurt for the coming few years. But that's because I'm just a normal old person who decided to do something different, and made a rash move without planning properly. It will be fine. Or not. Eventually.

In any case, I'm not whining about my status. Sooner than I'd like, my status will be "dead". Taking a short-term win!

What an awful place to live this will be. I have no idea why the people in Massachusetts so desperately want to tell the people in Texas how to live, or kansas or Alabama.

I live in MA and have zero desire to tell people in other states how to live. By the same token, I don't want them telling me, either.

But I do want decisions as to how we all live made by a represenative government. There are two aspects to the whole federalism issue and it's extremely important to keep them apart.

One is decentralization of matters that it makes sense to decentralize (though I remark that the fervent decentralizers of the right really aren't happy with cities making their own decisions - happy to overrule those, but never mind).

The other is how to make decisions that affect everyone, or lots of people in lots of places. There is zip reason why we should allow the population of Alabama or Wyoming an equal voice with that of California and Florida in those decisions. There is no logical reason for it.

What it amounts to is exactly what you object to, in reverse. Alabama and Wyoming voters, with a combined population about 80% that of Massachusetts, outvote it in the Senate 4-2.

When it comes to federal policy matters it's those states that tell the others "how to live."

Sleep tight:

https://www.newyorker.com/cartoon/a22728

Actuallybyomtov. If we went by the current rules very few things about the way you live should be decided by the federal government.

You cant be for moving everything to fed control and then claim those states are telling everyone how to live.

The only reason to go through all those gyrations is because you do want to use the fed government to tell people in Texas how to live.

The only reason to go through all those gyrations is because you do want to use the fed government to tell people in Texas how to live.

This is all my bollocks.

Thank you and good night.

sapient, other than occasionally pointing out that the desire to be in charge is behind all the high minded bullshit about the electoral college, I am happy to leave those decisions to the next few generations.

To fundamentally change the rules will require a lot more than a 3 million vote difference solely based in the big cities.

Its unfathomable to me to think 26,000 human beings should live per square mile. But if people want to do that they will. But they shouldnt try to make everybody do it.

And to finish, I'm trying to carry on a serious discussion about these things, with some occasional harsh words, but I get lists of asshole things I dont support.

Gerrymandering isnt uniquely Republican but it has served them well in places, and Democrats in others.

Aside from the people here, Democrats care about voter id because they perceive it might cost them votes. If the Republicans were going to lose votes the Democrats would be all for voter id.

The question is, aside from all that should you have to identify yourself adequately and uniformly to vote, which happens some places, I dont feel strongly about this but the objections to it seem completely politically motivated.

If I am being accused of defending a way of life that allowed a dirt poor kid from the worst part of Dallas to be the first person in his family to go to junior college and then college and ultimately provide a better life for four kids, who are busy doing the same for 7 grandkids. I'm guilty.

I see a few of my nieces and nephews trying to get there. So, every discussion here isnt about how much tax I pay, it's about supporting a society and economy providing those kids the opportunity to succeed.

I have and dont have all I'm going to get. I'm scratching by for a few more years so my wife will have enough to have a decent life once I die. I suspect she will outlive me by twenty years.

So maybe ease up on the judgement. I dont support sleazy politicians anymore than anyone here, we differ on policies to create a better society and everyone makes compromises on the people they vote for that they perceive will most likely achieve those.


bc,

OK.You were kidding. I'll buy it.

But I spend some time on relatively right-wing blogs, notably Volokh, where there are lots of idiots who make those kinds of arguments seriously. That influences my opinions about the futiure of the country.

One's political influence can be diluted in many ways,

Have you considered that the EC makes your opinion on Presidential elections meaningless? Because you live within the boundaries of an area we call "California" you get no say-so as to who will be elected President. You don't count.

I don't know who you voted for in 2016, but 4.5 million of your fellow Californians voted for Trump. Only in FL and TX did he get more votes. Yet their votes didn't count. Didn't matter.

Doesn't that seem odd?

So maybe ease up on the judgement

Back atcha. A two-way street, that.

I feel pretty comfortable saying that nobody here other than whoever lives in TX devotes any time or thought whatsoever to the project of telling anybody in TX how to live.

It's great that you've done well, sorry things are tight right now. It's a freaking virus, nobody asked for it, we all, like you, are just trying to get through it.

The trouble is Marty, that the party you support has a) systematically made it harder for your kids and grandkids to have a better life and future, by syphoning off disproportionate riches to themselves and their backers and impoverishing everybody else, and b) systematically lied to you, using all the black arts that money can buy, to convince you that they are the champions of the common man, and that their opponents are (variously) communists, criminals, baby-murderers, incompetents or any number of other demonisations. Whereas of course you will find crooks and incompetents in both parties, but only one party ensures that your grandkids will probably not benefit from the kind of upward social mobility you have earned.

Its unfathomable to me to think 26,000 human beings should live per square mile.

Don't move to NYC. Problem solved.

I wouldn't live there either. See? Common ground.

I think people in general, Democrats in particular, should stop trying to change the rules so they can gain power. What an awful place to live this will be. I have no idea why the people in Massachusetts so desperately want to tell the people in Texas how to live, or kansas or Alabama.

So maybe ease up on the judgement.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

As I said already: projection much?

And honestly, WTF is this about: "I have no idea why the people in Massachusetts so desperately want to tell the people in Texas how to live" --
I have my suspicions, and one of the things they involve goes back to one of my first encounters with Marty on this blog. But in that case, Marty's real goal is to make sure that some of the people in Texas get to tell other people in Texas how to live, i.e. back in the closet with you, buddy.

the desire to be in charge is behind all the high minded bullshit about the electoral college

More projection. It is either a concept too difficult for Marty to grasp (rocks? post?), or one that he will never ever ever admit, that the current situation means a distinct minority of the people in this country are in charge of the majority, by virtue of having a voice in government wildly out of proportion with their numbers.

And, where the virus is concerned, only one party is supporting the buffoon in the White House while he thrashes around appointing incompetents to handle an unprecedented (but foreseeable, which is why there was a pandemic response department until he disbanded it) health emergency. And while we know you don't support him, the party you do support is all in for him.

It's 3.30 in the morning. I shouldn't get into this so late, and on my phone! Peace out, and good night.

What an awful place to live this will be.

Yeah, how horrible to be as awful as Massachusetts, the cesspit of the nation, where no one would possibly live if they could help it.

think people in general, Democrats in particular, should stop trying to change the rules so they can gain power

There are not that many people who are interested in power. Most people activelt DO NOT want power.

Ask around and see.

Most people want agency, which is a different thing. They want the ability to act effectively in their own lives and circumstances.

Not everybody else's. Their own, and int their own communities.

Marty and bc should be nodding their heads right now.

At the moment, a political minority has unwarranted control over the operation of the federal government. Which leaves the majority of the population lacking agency, as regards federal governance.

That's not sustainable. It has to change, or things will break.

"Things will break" likely sounds ok to some folks, I suspect it will be less palatable IRL.

That's just bullshint janie, I dont want anyone in the closet. Never have. We had one disagreement over marriage, not even gay marriage ten years ago. As an executive in the early 2000s I supported our LGBT employees, one of the earliest companies in the country to provide domestic partner insurance. We paid for IVF for anyone who wanted it. Up to two rounds, when the insurance didn't. There is not a fucking homophobic bone in my body. You are just wrong.

There is not a distinct minority in charge, there is a majority of voting districts in this country that prefer GOP policies. Some I agree with and some I dont. That's the way this country was built. The only reason Democrsts dont like it is because they havent won the Senate lately win. Well, and then Trump.

There is not a distinct minority in charge

BULLSHIT.

Districts are not human beings.

And so what it that's how it was built? It was built two hundred years ago by people who had a fucking clue about how times change and needs along with them. I for one am tired of being told what to do by Kentucky and Alabama.

Supposing that Marty is living in MA at the moment (based on his complaints about Baker), I invite him to tell me something:

If we MA residents shouldn't "tell people in Texas how to live", shouldn't Lexington residents refrain from "telling people in Concord how to live"? IOW, should we also rein back state government, and let each city or town decide its own "way of life"?

Should we maybe give the small towns in MA each the same State Senate representation as Boston or Worcester, to protect their "interests" vis a vis the big cities?

If people like me and Bernie and Russell outnumber people like Marty in our little Commonwealth, so that we are effectively "telling Marty how to live", is it maybe time for Cape Cod to secede?

--TP

"I have no idea why the people in Massachusetts so desperately want to tell the people in Texas how to live" --

. . . to make sure that some of the people in Texas get to tell other people in Texas how to live

The essence of government is that some people get to tell other people what they can and can't do. In some cases, it's the guys with the biggest guns and the nastiest disposition. In others, it's the guys in the majority -- maybe in the towm, maybe in the state, maybe in the country, conceivably on the planet.

In every case, somebody (even if it's just some would-be thief or rapist) is getting his liberty infringed. If you aren't OK with that, become a libertarian, stock up on guns and ammo, and move to Somalia. Otherwise, feel free to try to convince othets to do things your way. And be prepared to live with the reality that sometimes, perhaps even most of the time, you will be less than totally successful.

"The only reason Democrats don't like it" is because it is broken.

Merrick Garland
Merrick Garland
Merrick Garland
Merrick Garland
Merrick Garland
Merrick Garland
Merrick Garland
Merrick Garland
And Clickbait, let's not forget.

We had one disagreement over marriage, not even gay marriage ten years ago.

Utter revisionist history bullshit. It was most directly and explicitly about gay marriage. Your core position was that because people like me wanted gay marriage, we were saying "fuck you I got mine" to your unmarried son and his partner. As if we were selfish shits because we were righting for a right (to get married) that your unmarried son and his partner already had. As if we were selfish shits for fighting for what we wanted for our lives, instead of for what you wanted for someone else's life.

You haven't budged an inch about anything in all these years, and you come on here and say how awful it would be to live in a place where people like me had a fair say in the rules, and then you complain about how divided the country is.

Talk to yourself from now on, I'm done with you.

Tony. The country was built on the agreement that each state had certain rights. not cities, not towns not cape cod.

How many off point hypotheticals can you come up with in a day?

Janie, I dont think you should be told by them. Maine is responsible for defending your rights.

The country was built on the agreement that each state had certain rights.

An agreement which was no longer operative at least since the XVII Amendment, which was a century ago. Or, at absolute minimum, modified out of all recognition from the original.

Janie, I havent initiated a dialogue with you in years. But you took one comment that I used to defend my view that the discussion should be expanded to more people and carry it around like a club for anytime you are mad at me. It was one comment, ffs. Where do you think I should move? I was supporting domestic partnership as a universal solution. I still am. There are more varied family situations now than there were then.

Laws shouldnt becdependent on whether someone is married. And they have changed some, adoption laws have changed in lots of places. I think there is still work to do.

Your answer at the time was that you were focused on gay marriage and someone else could fight the bigger battle. I'm still fighting it as best I can. I dont know why that pushes you off so much.

How many off point hypotheticals can you come up with in a day?

Someone owes me a new keyboard!!!

Meanwhile, absolutely incoherent, malign madness jacking us around every day from one extreme to another:

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-disagrees-with-georgias-decision-to-reopen-economy-cdc-chief-tries-to-soften-controversial-coronavirus-remarks-2020-04-22?siteid=bigcharts&dist=bigcharts

The country is shattering.

Marty,
The country was built of 13 colonies. Coastal ones at that. But I was pretty sure you'd reply as you did: stand on originalism and nothing else. Not, for instance, any rationale for why that original arrangement was good then or is still good now.

--TP

bc: Its unfathomable to me to think 26,000 human beings should live per square mile. But if people want to do that they will. But they shouldnt try to make everybody do it.

What? Who's making everyone live in the city? Last I heard, it's really expensive to do that, and although I would love to have a walkable lifestyle, to go to restaurants and cultural events (if only, whenever in the future we can have that again) I can't afford it. What are you even talking about? I wish to hell someone would force me into a lovely urban lifestyle. Obviously, they would have to pay my bills! But for now I am loving suburban Charlottesville. With garden and so forth. Also nice.

In other words, I'm not complaining. I do want to maintain my situation, to be able to live in a sheltered place, eat, enjoy my hobbies, my friends, and be well. I don't want more.

No Tony, it was built a state at a time, with a variety of agreements but all based on that original assurance that the states retained rights not explicitly granted the feds. 50 states joined. or were split up, based on the agreement that was established by those 13 colonies. The latest two states as recently as 1959.

absolutely incoherent, malign madness jacking us around every day from one extreme to another:

Nah, totally, utterly, predictable. If it works for Georgia, hey he said he respected the governor's decision. BUT, if it blows up, Trump's in the clear because he said he disagreed. Total avoidance of responsibility, even when people do what you called for: Trumpism in essence.

Wow, this is amazing

https://youtu.be/APoSHB9pQk8

There is zip reason why we should allow the population of Alabama or Wyoming an equal voice with that of California and Florida in those decisions.

I guess it depends on what you mean by "those decisions." In Alaska, despite having two senators, decisions were often made that were simply not informed. Mainly regarding land use of federal lands. Alaska is a state where over 60% of the land is federal and the federal government has a disproportionate impact for good and for ill. Having two senators meant at a minimum someone had to listen. I think about the NYT reporter who came to ANWAR and left changed. Informed. He understood the "Alaskan" position (which is varied, BTW).

The west in general has land issues very different than the east. Western states bargained for mineral rights, water rights, etc. that are critical to the people of those states. Federal decisions can have a disproportionate impact.

In terms of "how we live our lives," if that is what you mean by "those decisions," I do see the point. But that was not lost on the Framers. I think some were way to quick to jump on Marty for pointing out the obvious: the more you mandate nation-wide rules for everyone, the more influence the small states will have. Even if done through SCOTUS vs. legislation, small states have more of a say through appointments, right?

Have you considered that the EC makes your opinion on Presidential elections meaningless?

Not only have I considered it, that was actually my point. But I don't need an amendment. I just need to convince my Californian friends to award EC votes proportionately according to population. Ha ha ha ha.

Marty and bc should be nodding their heads right now.

Sure. So far.

At the moment, a political minority has unwarranted control over the operation of the federal government. Which leaves the majority of the population lacking agency, as regards federal governance.

That depends on the meaning of "political minority" and "unwarranted." I get that is in your opinion and hence the post about changing the system, because under the system we have, it is warranted and there is a majority in some ways, not others. And while there might be some impact on agency, it is far from complete.

I think states both large and small have a lot to offer and we consider further federalization at our peril. The problems outlined here are fixable but not with the current divisiveness. I don't think the instinct to move towards pure democracy for the nation is a good idea. COVID has shown how important food production is and a lot of that occurs in smaller states. A lot of different concerns.

bc: Its unfathomable to me to think 26,000 human beings . . .

That was Marty, Sapient. I love to visit the city. I could see myself living in the city for a time and get those that do. I really do. Like you, I'd love to take advantage of the cultural variety of the city. But overall I'd much rather visit.

Iirc the proposed deal is that several (currently) Dem dominated states are very willing* to go to proportional representation IF AND ONLY IF GOP dominated states do likewise AT THE SAME TIME. I distinctly remember calls from the latter to the former to go first while making clear by their demeanor that they themselves have not the least interest to follow. That's bad faith 101 because the (fully intended) effect would be to skew the (im)balance even further in favor of the GOP.
Unfortunately, I fully expect calls to SCOTUS to declare that mandatory PR to be unconstitutional should the movement succeed and given the current composition of the court it will be done with some BS excuse.

*correct me, if I am wrong but I believe some states even put that into law already, i.e. PR will take effect the moment enough states pass equivalent laws.

Hartmut:

I'm not sure about the legislative status of the different proposals. I think Trump would have won under any method except for national popular vote. https://www.270towin.com/alternative-electoral-college-allocation-methods/?year=2016

And Obama's victory less grand. Interesting.

Grand victories seem a thing of the past anyway.
And even if Jabbabonk had won noentheless, it would have lessened the question of legitimacy at least a bit. He would be no less of a disaster in office, of course.
Also even with national popular vote right out as an option it (PR on the state level) would at least force the campaigns (and the big donors*) to not completely ignore larege swaths of the land.

A rather radical approach would tie the voting weight of a congresscritter to the proportion of the citizens that actually voted for him/her (not voters, citizens of the state/district (s)he comes from). So, low turnout and low margins of victory would massively devalue the voice of the critter. "Ah, Mr.Cowback, you purged 50% of the citizens from the voter roles, only half of those left voted and you won that election by a single (and highly suspicious) vote. So according to our calculations you get 1/8 of a vote in these halls. You also have to wear this badge with that information on your person at all times. Apps we have installed via the backdoors you voted for last session will also put that info into all your emails and phonecalls to remind potential donors etc. of the diminished returns they can expect from bribing..eh..financially appreciating you and your work. Have a nice time here in Congress!"

*the other herd of elephants in the room

And Obama's victory less grand. Interesting

Sorry, I'm not sure what this means? I may be missing something, but dealing with students on LINE all day has me a bit fuzzy.

Hartmut,

I thing what you are talking about is the Popular Vote Compact.

The Constitution says that each state is free to choose its electors as it likes. A state entering this compact agrees to have its electoral votes cast in favor of the national popular vote winner, regardless of the outcome in the particular state. This only takes effect when states awith a total of 270 or more electoral college votes join.

So far, sixteen largely blue states, with a total of 196 EV's, have passed the legislation.

Would both versions actually make a difference as far as the outcome is concerned (apart from electors being discreet numbers so proportional representation would not be exact)?
---
Thinking about it: yes it could because iirc the senators are electors too and they would not be affected by PR and could tip the scales.

First - the powers not delegated to the feds by the Constitution are reserved to the states, *or the people*.

There is not a distinct minority in charge, there is a majority of voting districts in this country that prefer GOP policies.

This begs the question, because voting districts are quite often constructed, deliberately, to give minority interests electoral advantage.

As far as rules go, "the rules" that you refer to were themselves changes to the previous rules. And those were changes to the rules before them.

I recognize that you feel strongly about state autonomy. That's fine, for you. If it doesn't work for more of the people in the country than it does work for, then it's entirely legitimate for the rules to be changed.

How to do that in practical terms is profoundly challenging, and it might therefore never happen. But "changing the rules" per se is absolutely a legitimate exercise of self-governance.

That, in fact, is how we got the rules we have now.

I can tell you with confidence that the number of people in MA who give a single solitary crap about what people in TX do is vanishingly small. I have no idea what you are even on about. What do you think people in MA are gonna try to make people in TX do?

The number of people in MA, and not just in MA, however, who are sick of dealing with the obstructive nihilistic anti-government mania of modern conservatism is really freaking large.

And do not by god underestimate the impact of "and then Trump". That is exhibit A, if any such was even needed, of the utter lack of any sense of plain civic responsibility on the part of conservative America. It renders any claim of a desire to seek compromise or common ground a nullity.

The election of Trump was, frankly, a crossing of a political Rubicon. It will never be forgotten. I'm not talking about revenge here, or any desire to "stick it to" Trump supporters. I'm talking about trust. Trump supporters have demonstrated, above all, their lack of regard for anyone else who lives in this country, and have demonstrated over and over, at length, their sheer delight in pissing all of the rest of us off.

Why the fuck should the rest of us put up with that? Short answer: we won't.

People who want the rules changed want them changed because they no longer serve a constructive function.

Would both versions actually make a difference as far as the outcome is concerned (apart from electors being discreet numbers so proportional representation would not be exact)?
---
Thinking about it: yes it could because iirc the senators are electors too and they would not be affected by PR and could tip the scales.

I'm not sure what you mean by "both versions," but as far as the second paragraph goes, senators are not electors. They are counted in determining how many electoral votes a state gets, that's all.

E.g. Maine, where I live, has two members of Congress and the usual complement of two senators, so we get 4 electoral votes.

Maine happens to be one of two states that allocate electors somewhat proportionally (along with Nebraska). The 2 electoral votes representing the two senators go to whoever wins the statewide vote. The 2 representing the two congresscritters go individually to whoever wins each district.

It really doesn't make a lot of sense unless other states do it the same way, but I didn't make the rules.

"I recognize that you feel strongly about state autonomy. That's fine, for you. If it doesn't work for more of the people in the country than it does work for, then it's entirely legitimate for the rules to be changed."

This is the failure in the logic. We. The States, signed a contract. You dont get change the contract AND require me to go along. If you want to change the contract I get to opt out.

IMO, if the popular vote majority want to change the basic contract, which is what we are discussing not some rules tweaking, then each state should get the opportunity to opt out. Some cant do that reasonably but others could. But a bunch of people in NY and LA and Boston shouldn't get to unilaterally decide they are now in charge.

The lack of trust you keep talking about works both ways.

I don't think the instinct to move towards pure democracy for the nation is a good idea.

FWIW, the only situation where I advocate for "pure democracy" - one person, one vote in the outcome, straight up - is in the election of the POTUS.

It is, uniquely, a national office, representing every person in every part of the country. It should be decided on that basis.

The conditions that made the EC an acceptable compromise - notably, different definitions of who could and could not vote in each state - no longer apply.

I can see the argument for disproportionate representation in e.g. the Senate, although I have my issues with it. "My issues" here being that I'm not sure state boundaries are the best proxy for a given set of interests.

But I don't see the argument for disproportionate representation at the state level, or in fact for any representation at the state level, for election of the POTUS and VPOTUS. That should be simple popular vote, period.

You dont get change the contract AND require me to go along. If you want to change the contract I get to opt out.

That's actually not how democracy works. No one gets their way all the time. That's necessarily part of the deal. We aren't each little sovereign countries with a population of one.

But a bunch of people in NY and LA and Boston shouldn't get to unilaterally decide they are now in charge.

No one is proposing any such thing.

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