Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Could this be the end of the Electoral College?

It looks like California is looking to make an end run around the Electoral College. It plans to tie its 55 electoral votes (by far the most in the country) to the national popular vote. Similar proposals are in the heavily populated states of New York and Illinois, plus the moderately populated state of Missouri.

What this would mean is that if a presidential candidate wants those large states' electoral votes, he or she will have to pay more attention to the popular vote. If California (and these other states) pull this off, it'll be a good first step toward popular election of the president. This is a much more workable solution, since an actual change to the Electoral College would require a Constitutional amendment. The beauty is that this is entirely constitutional, too: all states are permitted to decide how their electoral votes are allocated.

The Electoral College is the way it is because President Jefferson didn't trust the people to elect a decent president all the time. The electors were to be informed, upstanding men who would overthrow the will of the people in case they chose some lunatic to rule them.

Jefferson's 1804 model was based on the 1787 compromise that gave every state two senators, regardless of its population. That grew from the complaint among smaller states that the larger states would overrule them in Congress if representation were done in a proportional way. The Senate was created to let both sides have their cake and eat it, too.

It's a bad deal, but abolishing the Senate is more or less out of the question, and a dubious solution, at best. However, now that we have popular election of Senators, and since we've always had it for the House of Representatives, why not have the same for the president? People in smaller states complain that their votes for president won't be worth two to six times as much as the votes for those in larger states, so they won't get their voices heard because candidates won't campaign in those states, they say. But think about it: if a state is competitive, a candidate is going to go there. Period. Bush and Gore both went after New Hampshire's four electoral votes in 2000 because things were down to the wire. Neither made a play for the 32 votes in Texas and the 31 votes in New York because their outcomes were foregone conclusions—never mind that there were Democratic voters in Texas and Republican voters in New York who might have bothered if they felt their votes would have counted.

During presidential elections, the trend already is for candidates to work largely to energize the suburbs for themselves. Democrats work to get urban areas energized; Republicans work to get rural areas energized, and they fight over the suburbs. This Electoral College change would mean that there would be a point for Democrats to campaign in cities like Indianapolis and Oklahoma City, instead of just ignoring those places because the states overall go Republican. And it would mean that there would be a point for Republicans to campaign in upstate New York and downstate Illinois, instead of just ignoring those places because the big cities in those states render the towns and rural areas there irrelevant. Downstate voters in Delaware wouldn't be wagged by what goes on upstate in Wilmington; Pennsylvania would be more than just Philadelphia and Pittsburgh; Illinois would be more than just Chicago; Alaska, Wyoming and Nebraska wouldn't be irrelevant!

Furthermore, according to the original Electoral College model, the states were supposed to let their own electors make up their own minds. But state parties ran roughshod over that model, instead setting things up so that all electoral votes cast in one state would go for the same candidate (originally done so that a presidential candidate from Virginia wouldn't have to suffer the humiliation of losing even one of his state's electoral votes.) These days, how many states still follow this model? None. Maine and Nebraska follow something similar to it, but theirs are still slanted toward the statewide winner. No one liked the model enough to stick with it, and I don't blame them.

It's been tinkered with to the point that it's become irrelevant, and a stumbling block to the expression of the will of the people. It's time for the Electoral College to go.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Al Gore would like you to announce his candidacy for 2008

The recent comment that Al Gore made to a reporter for the Atlanta Progressive News about how he’s not averse to seeking the 2008 nomination has churned up a storm—on the net, at least. He might just do this, but I wouldn’t read too much into it yet. Lots of politicians either declare their candidacy or spread speculation that they’re thinking about it in order to increase their political stock. This strategy is one that’s used on both sides of the aisle.

On the other hand, Gore’s in a good place to do this. He’s got name recognition, and he’s got a groundswell pushing for him to run. Plus recent climate issues are getting harder to ignore, so the man who was ridiculed in 2000 for his stance on global warning might seem uncommonly wise come 2008, especially if we see more hurricanes and unseasonably warm winters and other weather events. Unlike most other Democrats and Republicans who might seek the ’08 nod, Gore doesn’t have to hang out in Iowa and New Hampshire to generate buzz about him; he’s past that. (Similarly, Hillary Clinton doesn’t need to hit those states, either, and has been strenuously avoiding them since the mid-1990s. I remember hearing an anecdote about how Senator Clinton needed to travel from Boston to southern Maine for some kind of junket or something, but instead of driving up and passing through the twenty miles of New Hampshire that stood in the way, she and her entourage chartered a plane and flew, in order to ensure she didn’t set foot in the Granite State, lest she fan flames of speculation.)

Al Gore has reïnvented himself recently, and this new personal has resonated with a number of people, including myself. However, I’m taking it all with a grain of salt at this point. Gore is really coming across as an honest, competent adult, and while I’m sure the voters will be more than ready for an honest, competent adult by 2008, I don’t know if Gore’s really thinking about it. I doubt it, especially in light of the fact that candidates need to secure donors before the campaign season gets fully underway, and Gore hasn’t been doing that. I would be very pleased with him as president, but I suspect he isn’t running.

After winning the Democratic nomination three times but losing the presidential election three times, William Jennings Bryan showed up at the 1912 Democratic convention, and there was plenty of talk that he was getting ready to try for a fourth run. It was a good year to do it—President Taft was a weak incumbent, and former President Roosevelt had quit the Republican Party and was mounting an independent campaign. Bryan was very active at the convention, but he wasn’t seeking the nomination. He played power broker, outmaneuvered Tammany Hall and secured the nomination for Woodrow Wilson. Hurrah! My hunch is that Al Gore is going to do something similar this time, and speculation that he’s seeking the nomination again will only help to raise his stock-in-trade. Al Gore is smart. So was Bryan. Bryan landed the job of Secretary of State in the Wilson administration. Maybe Gore could land a job in a future, say, Warner administration?

So Al Gore most likely isn’t running for president—but I’m sure he’d consider it a great personal favor if you talk about his triumphant return to the road to the White House!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

George Bush and father say Jeb would make good president

Have you heard? George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush have publicly stated that John Ellis "Jeb" Bush would make a good president. As if those two haven't come up with enough bad ideas for the country already! Jeb Bush says he's not considering a run in 2008 and isn't sure if he'll ever run. Actually, I believe him. I'll bet Jeb once considered running, but at this point the Bush name is so toxic, he'll probably never be able to be considered. But you never know.

So, hell... the Bushes are looking to keep their hand in American politics ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Well, the ad nauseum part is easily enough accomplished, but what about ad infinitum? What will we do about that?

For that, I propose the following:


No candidate for president will be considered eligible to serve in that office unless he or she meets the following prerequisites:

A. Born in the United States.
B. At least thirty-five (35) years of age.
C. Able to prove relation to the descendents of Senator Prescott Bush (R-CT).

No President Bush may serve more than two consecutive terms unless there is no other eligible Bush available. If this is the case, that particular President Bush may retain the office of the presidency until another President Bush becomes eligible or has sufficiently worked off his or her stupor.

This amendment will be law four years after passage, and will apply to whoever might happen to be president at the time of its passage.

C'mon... it's inevitable! So why don't we just face up to it?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Bush's CIA chief resigns amid the sniping of insider Washington politics

Erm... nope, I meant to say, "Bush's CIA chief resigns amid allegations of bribes and whores." Sorry about that. I accidentally regurgitated the White House's spin in my title, which makes for a boring story where conservative voters are concerned. But the now-ex-chief of the CIA, former Florida Representative Porter Goss (Republican, of course,) is resigning after getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar... and the whore jar.

What makes me sad is that I really wish that Goss would be getting the axe because of bribery or gross incompetence, but it's the whore business that would really skewer him in the press, and thus cause the Bush administration to lean on him. I don't care if he's patronizing whores; I'd even be willing to allow politicians and federal appointees a stipend of my tax dollars for that, if it helps them do their jobs better. But it's the whores that makes this interesting, despite the uninteresting spin the White House tried to put on it, but it looks like it won't work this time. Worse for the White House: this news is getting out on the more-damaging Monday morning, rather than the sweep-it-under-the-rug Friday afternoon!

I love the way that Goss and his number-three man Dusty Foggo are trying to say they went to the Watergate Hotel whore-and-poker parties "just for the poker." That's like saying you read Hustler "just for the articles." Of course, this could be some sort of vulgar code, a sly way of saying, "Just for the poke her." Then they could admit to their whoring without their faces drawing a straight flush on the TV cameras...

On the other hand, Bush has nominated Air Force General Michael Hayden to head the CIA, which could serve as a smokescreen for the whole Goss mess. Hayden will never be confirmed, but at least this lets Bush appear to be standing tall with the military while not alienating his conservative base, which votes largely on whether a candidate believes that sex is acceptable or not. Something like this would be difficult to spin where that kind of voter is concerned. The fact that Goss was brought in as a hatchet man to hack out anyone who didn't swear unwavering fealty to the Bush administration and its goals is much easier to spin, because the media don't find that to be an interesting enough issue to report on, and the public doesn't seem to find substantial issues anything to get upset about in the first place. Until they do, though... Hey! Porter Goss was buying whores!!!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Bush supports Spanish Star-Spangled Banner... and doesn't.

Okay, remember the other day when President George W. Bush popped off about the Star-Spangled Banner, declaring that "it should be sung in English"? Perhaps this bit of xenophobia went past you unnoticed. A thoughtless clod makes a thoughtless remark designed to exclude a group of people based on something as superficial as their native language—nothing terribly strange about that.

However, on the U.S. Government information site, there are four different Spanish-language versions of the Star-Spangled Banner listed, and they've been there since last October.

Now don't get me wrong: I have no problem with people singing The Star-Spangled Banner in Spanish or in any other language. I'm an American; I'm all for free speech. But what galls me here is that George W. Bush has been caught pandering to the white trash wing of the Republican Party while his own government site has been actively promoting the very foreign-language versions of the anthem that he's railing against. Sure, it's entirely possible that Bush had no idea what was going on; I mean, it wouldn't be the first time. But he's having it both ways, and we've got to call him on it. If we had a liberal media, he'd be up to his eyeballs in it over this. Lucky for him that we don't.

Tancredo: Immigrants' speech is irrelevent.

Tom Tancredo has declared that yesterday's immigrant boycotts will have no effect. Considering the source, that assessment is no great surprise. Tancredo is a nutcase with a following. He's a Colorado congressman who's running for president in 2008 on an anti-immigrant platform. He probably has no illusions that he could win, but no doubt he's looking to raise his own profile and highlight the anti-immigrant sentiment in the Republican Party. I can see Tancredo making a Senate bid in 2010 against Colorado's Democratic Senator Ken Salazar, who was just elected in 2004. (Salazar's name is unmistakably Spanish, and as a result he and his brother, Representative John Salazar (D-Colorado), get plenty of go-back-to-your-own-country mail—never mind the fact that the Salazar family has been in Colorado for at least five generations.)

I don't think crackpot Tancredo has a leg to stand on about the protests. A single day of protest is unlikely to change policy, but that single day is indicative of an attempt, of a movement. There were plenty of immigrants who didn't march, and there are plenty of people sympathetic to the marchers who aren't immigrants who didn't march, either. I'm one of those people. This march represents those who took part in it plus many who didn't take part in it. It lets politicians know that there's a lot of people out there who are concerned about this issue, and who will speak out about it, and who will possibly vote about it. If all the protesters stayed home, it would be more likely that anti-immigrant sentiment would dominate the political debate more than it would otherwise, and let the immigrant-bashers have more sway over who gets elected during the midterm elections this November. Anti-immigrant sentiment will still be on the ballot, but with an energized immigrant community out there, politicians will be more hesitant to rail against them. After all, you can gripe about the "illegals" all you want, but the fact is that the legal immigrants are upset by this. And these days, it's increasingly difficult to tell the difference between those who are concerned about the propriety of immigration protocols and those who just want all the non-white non-Protestants to assume their mantle as second-class citizens.

I'm personally opposed to illegal immigration, myself, but blaming these immigrants for the problem is the wrong way to go about addressing the problem. If you've got eleven million people breaking a particular law, it's safe to say your system is broken somehow. Declaring eleven million people felons and driving them out of the country is a ridiculous notion, particularly in light of the fact that there are lots of businesses that continue to knowingly hire undocumented workers and pay them starvation wages to work long hours in dangerous conditions. As long as those jobs are there, as long as employers continue to hire undocumented aliens, they're going to keep on coming. If anyone really wanted to do something about this, they'd stop things at the source, which means punishing employers rather than building a 2,000 mile wall along the Mexican border and posting armed guards all along it (after we've packed truckloads of undocumented Hispanics and Chinese across that Mexican border, of course.)

Tancredo has a vested interest in believing that there will be a backlash against the protest, against Hispanics. He's counting on it, in fact. That's why he compared the protests to the crowds celebrating a football win. That comment stinks of desperation. The Broncos' Super Bowl win isn't a movement; if Tancredo can't tell the difference, then he's in serious trouble. Maybe a better analogy would be how anti-Iraq War protesters drastically outnumbered the pro-Iraq War protesters on February 15, 2003, but we went to war, anyway. There are problems with that analogy, too, but my point is that not all demonstrations are the same, and dismissing them out of hand doesn't render them irrelevent, necessarily.

Tancredo's crazy. I have a suspicion that the glee of the conservative base is going to carry this hatred of immigrants too far. Bashing those who translate "The Star-Spangled Banner" into Spanish? That's going overboard, and a sign of things to come. But the Republicans have made good use of energized bigots before. The best hope of stopping them lies with the Hispanic community—the ones who are here legally, who can turn out to vote. If they get themselves politically active and turn out to vote in significant numbers this November, the bigots' movement will be blunted. Tom Tancredo will never be president, but one thing I'm sure of is that he'll succeed at further radicalizing the Republican Party. Whether this bigoted populism translates into energizing the Republican Party remains to be seen. This is similar to their anti-gay strategy of 2004, but there are many more Hispanics than there are gays, so the reaction will be louder this time. If the Hispanics keep speaking up, it could backfire—but maybe it won't. It looks like the Republicans are getting to paint themselves as the anti-immigrant party, while the Democrats (so far) are avoiding the tag of the pro-illigal immigrant party. If they can keep that status quo, this will only hurt the Republicans.

Amnesty, by the way, worked once before. In the 1980s, President Reagan gave amnesty to millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States, turning them into taxpayers and Republican voters—except for the ones who knew they'd lose their sub-minimum wage jobs if they became citizens. I expect things would be much the same these days if amnesty were granted, except that there are many more undocumented aliens than there were twenty years ago, and they'd be far less inclined to vote Republican, especially considering the Republican Party's attitude toward them. Mexico's President Fox opposes amnesty for Mexicans in America because it would mean less money sent back to Mexico, since formerly-undocumented immigrants would be paying taxes, paying bills and making a life north of the border—thus sending less money south.