How Democrats can lose again: The litmus test

The GOP is doing its damnest to rip itself apart, fighting among themselves, looking like fools, and with the lowest approval rating for a President in his first few months ever.  So Democrats can be optimistic, right?

Nah. This is kind of what we had over the last year and we still lost, didn’t we?  Oh, sure, you can argue that technically we won because we got more votes, but this is America, and we’re still doing things stupidly simply because a bunch of rich white men 225 years ago thought it was a good idea.

We Democrats will screw it up again. We’re already seeing that. Democratic Representative Ben Ray Luján said there will be no litmus tests for candidates as the party looks to get a majority in 2020. Roe-v-Wade-protest

Liberals are already screaming, because we don’t want anti-abortionists taking away our rights. How dare we support a candidate like that!

Well, while in a perfect world, I’d agree with that, the bottom line is that we need to win in places where we usually don’t if we want our majority back (especially given GOP dirty tricks involving gerrymandering and voter suppression — without those two things, we’d probably already have a majority).

So we can be absolute purists and then whine about how perfect we are while the GOP keeps its majority and destroys everything we stand for — or we can face the real world and understand that it’s better to support a candidate you agree with only 70% of the time in order to keep out one you agree with 0% of the time.download (5)

“As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America,” said Luján. Does that mean we may end up with candidates who aren’t perfect?

Well, sure. But it’s better than ending up with elected representatives who are sworn enemies.

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Winning Elections by Cheating: The Gerrymandering way!

Ohio is a lot like Pennsylvania in that the Republicans have gerrymandered the state so much that even though more Democrats vote in the state than Republicans, the GOP wins the vast majority of seats.

This isn’t democracy. This isn’t “one man, one vote.” They’re not winning by having a majority agree with them or want them in there. This is winning by rewriting the rules in your favor.

Fortunately, Ohio has a ballot measure that would require a bipartisan council to fix the districts (like California has done). Let’s hope it passes.

The_Ohio_Gerrymander

It’s time the Supreme Court held that gerrymandering violates the Constitution by preventing proper representation. We need impartial committees using computer-generated models. Seriously, we have the programs to do it now. A computer just looks at population and natural barriers and makes districts compact and reasonable. (Here, look at these examples).

But this is the Republican way of winning elections these days. You create districts that disenfranchise Democrats; you pass “voter protection” laws that keep them from voting; and you get the courts to declare that secret unlimited money is “free speech”.

“Republicans will do everything they can to win elections except get the most votes.” – Bill Maher

Poetic justice for Republicans

A few days ago, I wrote about how the GOP is trying to get rid of the Tea Party crazies that are driving the party into the ground. They’ve lost a bunch of races they should have won because the party has nominated people so far out of the mainstream that even Republican voters couldn’t stand them.  01-dead-gop-elephant

But it’s their own fault, and they should have seen it coming.

Support for the GOP is at an all time low, partially because they are associated with these people who refuse to compromise, spout nonsense as if it were facts, and whose sole purpose is to get people to hate our own government as much as they do. Admittedly, support for both parties and the President is at an all-time low, but it’s not surprising that support for government is at its lowest when a large segment of one of the parties has “hate the government” as its goal. These people should realize that hatred for the government includes them.

The Republicans only have themselves to blame for their condition, because of gerrymandering.

Over the past fifteen years or so, the GOP has managed to redraw the state lines in the most ridiculous way to create as many safe districts as possible for them. By diluting Democratic votes, they were able to guarantee majorities in states where they did not hold the majority. Here in Pennsylvania, for instance, more people voted for Democrats in the last election yet more Republicans were elected because of the strange way the districts were drawn.

So if you are a Republican politician in a district that is safely Republican, you shouldn’t have to worry, right?  Wrong.

The problem is with primaries.  Hardly anyone votes in primaries, where the parties choose their candidates.  You’re lucky if you get a 20% turnout in a primary election.  That’s 20% of registered voters, not 20% of the eligible voters.

And who votes in primaries?  Just those people who really really care about politics.  And if you really really care about politics, chances are you are much more conservative or much more liberal than the average voter.

So primaries give us the more extreme members of each party.  Then if you gerrymander to remove even the moderates of your own party, you end up with a voting electorate that is at the very edge of political thought — the extremes of the extremes.

These extremes on the right are represented primarily by those who identify themselves these days as “Tea Party” members.  And they think that anyone who does things like compromise in order to accomplish anything are traitors and not Real Americans — even very conservative members of their own party.

So they run “Real Americans” against the incumbents.  Incumbents get scared and refuse to challenge them and sometimes take their extremist views in order to stay elected.  And ultimately, the extremists win the primary either by electing their own favorite or by forcing the incumbent to come to their side.

However, once the fall election comes around, their numbers don’t increase. Moderate voters (that is, the majority of Americans) turn away from these extremists and elect Democrats instead.

In some districts these extremists still get elected in the fall election, and then they go to Washington and shut the government down, which hurts the reputation of the rest of the Republican party.   It drives their poll numbers down and ultimately hurts all of them.

And it’s all their own fault for gerrymandering districts in the first place.  Unfortunately, we are all suffering because of it.

Constitutional Amendments I’d add

Which amendments would I like to see made to our Constitution?

After discussing Schwarzenegger’s pledge to run for President a few days ago, I began thinking of them.  Here then is my list, in order of preference.constitution_quill_pen

Abolish the Electoral College and replace it with popular vote.  This will get rid of “red” and “blue” states, allow for every vote to count, and prevent someone the majority of Americans don’t want from becoming President.

Abolish the requirement that you have to be a natural born citizen to be President.  Keep the requirement for citizenship, of course, but there is no reason why someone who became a citizen should not run.

Establish an independent commission to redraw congressional districts every ten years.  In order to prevent gerrymandering, we need to take district drawing out of the hands of politicians.  Ideally, they should do this for the states too, under the idea of Equal Protection.

Limit Senators to two six-year terms and Congress members to six two-year terms.   Come on, it’s not like there aren’t other qualified people out there.  Serve your terms and go home.  Treat this like a public service instead of a career.

Abolish Washington DC and make Washington part of Maryland. It’s ridiculous that these people do not get a representative in Congress. While there are enough people living there to make DC a state (more people live in DC than in Wyoming), the easiest solution is to just merge it with Maryland.

Define the death penalty as “cruel and unusual punishment” and thus prohibited.  It’s time we recognized that the death penalty is prone to mistakes, applied in a discriminatory manner, and doesn’t belong in a modern civilized society.

Then there are some that are needed to overturn Supreme Court decisions, but honestly, a few more votes on the Court would prevent that.  Back in the 70s we fought for an Equal Rights Amendment to prohibit discrimination against women.  Since that time, the Courts have held that women are, indeed, “people” under the 14th amendment and as such are entitled to protection against discrimination.  However, a different court could come along and go back the other way.  Therefore, the following amendments would be nice:

Amend the 14th amendment to prohibit discrimination against women, gays, and non-English speaking people.  I’m including transgender people and such in this.

Define “people” to exclude corporations.  A person has morals and eventually dies.  Conservatives who cite the Founding Fathers for anything to support their views are oddly silent on this one.

Define “speech” to exclude money.  These last two are needed to overturn the Citizen’s United case.

GOP betting the House

The GOP only won the House of Representatives in 2012 because of gerrymandering — more people voted for Democrats overall but because of the way districts are drawn, the majority didn’t win.

Thanks to the Shutdown, which most Americans correctly attribute to Republicans, there are enough Republicans in jeopardy of losing their seats that we could see Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2016.

Of course, this poll is of the “If the election were held today, who would you vote for” variety, placing the incumbent against a nameless opponent. These are tremendously unreliable because (a) anything can happen within a year; and (b) people compare their current representative with an ideal opponent of the other party, and that’s usually not what happens.

Still, this poll is important because it emphasizes what many of us have been saying: This shutdown is hurting Republicans. They are so much in a bubble that they do not see this, but the numbers don’t lie.

How gerrymandering distorts elections

Gerrymandering is an American tradition that has been around since Governor Gerry (look it up). Like the Electoral College, it’s a great way to make sure the will of the people is ignored.

In some states, they have passed laws to prevent it as much as possible by keeping politics out of it.

Anyway, a new study has been done which shows what the last election would be like if all states used that procedure. Surprise! The Democrats would have won the House. OK, it’s not really a surprise, because more people voted for Democrats in the House races than Republicans.

Check out this study. Yes, it’s on a liberal blog, but the math looks good.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/04/22/1201551/-Did-Gerrymandering-Cost-Dems-the-House-A-33-State-Look-at-Alternative-Non-Partisan-Maps