Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

The Electoral College Isn’t the Problem . . .   Leave a comment

Hopefully, you already know that United States Presidential elections are decided by something called the Electoral College and not directly by popular vote.  Because two of the last five Presidential elections have produced an Electoral College winner (and thus, President) than the popular vote winner, it has become a vogue political position to propose eliminating the electoral college.

The Electoral College gives electoral votes to each state based on the number of House and Senate seats each state has.  The number of House seats is proportional based on population, while the number of Senate seats is two for every state regardless of population.  The Electoral College was a compromise between larger states, who wanted political power to be entirely based on population, and the smaller states, who wanted political power to be even for every state.

I would argue that eliminating the Electoral College completely is a horrible idea, as noted here.  I would argue, instead, that the size of the House of Representatives needs to be increased to restore the balance of power between small and large states that the founding fathers intended.

In the 1796 Presidential election, the first one in which electoral votes were based on the first (1790) census, the largest state, Virginia, had an apportioned* population of 630,559 and 21 electoral votes.  The smallest state, Delaware, an apportioned* population of 55,539 and 3 electoral votes.  As a result, a Delaware voter had about 1.6 times more impact on the Presidential election than a Virginia voter.

Article I, Section 2 of the US Constitution required that each state have at least one Representative, and otherwrise set an upper limit of no more than one representative per 30,000 people, but set no requirements nor guidelines on how to increase the size of the House over time as the nation’s population grew.  Between 1792 and 1911, various apportionment acts were passed to increase the size of the House and/or change the apportionment method.  The Apportionment Act of 1911 set the size of the House at 435 members, and presumably for logistical reasons, has not been increased since.

The most obvious problem with the failure to continue to increase the size of the House since 1911 lies in census results, with the 1910 Census counting about 92 million people and the 2010 Census counting about 309 million people.  So the US population has more than tripled since 1910 yet the number of House members has not changed.  Therefore each House member is now representing over three times as many people (about 710,000 on average) as when the House size first increased to 435 (about 212,000 on average), and that figure was already over six times as many people as when the Apportionment Act of 1791 was enacted (about 33,000 on average).

I feel that having House members representing hundreds of thousands of people now instead of tens of thousands creates a lot of problems in the House itself, but the hidden, and more drastic impact is on the Electoral College.  Going back to the 1796 Presidential election, the Electoral College provided voters in the smallest state about 1.6 times more impact than in the largest state.  Because the size of the House has failed to increase, the total number of electoral votes has not increased, and based on the 2010 Census, voters in the smallest state (Wyoming) about 3.6 times more impact than voters in the largest state (California).  In other words, the failure to continue to increase the size of the House has severely distorted the weight of Presidential election votes in small and large states compared to what existed at the country’s founding.

In order to bring the current electoral weight between the smallest and largest states in line with 1796, California would need to have 122 Electoral Votes, which means that California would need 120 House members (compared to currently having 53).  Extrapolating California’s 120 House members to the rest of the country sets the size of the House at 993 members.

All of this has been a long way of saying this: Increasing the size of the House of Representatives to 1000 members would restore the balance of voting power between small and large states in Presidential elections that existed at our nation’s founding.  In addition to being truer to the intentions of the country’s founders than eliminating the Electoral College, it has the added benefit of being much more achievable as it requires only passage by Congress and the President as opposed to requiring a constitutional amendment.  I know that there are major logistical issues with getting 1000 people in the existing space in the US Capitol and adjoining offices, but this is important enough that some sort of solution needs to be found.

*Prior to the abolition of slavery, apportioned population was different from actual population due to only 3/5 of other persons (slaves) counting for apportionment purposes.

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Photo credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ElectoralCollege2016.svg

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Posted April 23, 2019 by Andrew Cabiness in Geography, Politics

We Created This Mess   Leave a comment

I Googled the phrase ‘Mike Pence would be just as bad’ and the top four results came from opinion pieces from thehill.com, thenation.com, New Yorker Magazine, the Twitter account of an Upworthy writer.  All had the same basic theme that despite all the negatives associated with our current President, his resignation or removal and the promotion of the Vice President would not improve anything.  I’ve seen the same comment from no fewer than a half dozen friends on Facebook.

Think about this for a minute:  the current President is a habitual liar, attacks anybody who disagrees with him on Twitter, has been accused of all sorts of sexual misconduct, and has alienated a good chunk of his own political party.  Yet somehow we think a guy who has done none of these things isn’t an improvement?

I have been struggling for a while to encapsulate what is wrong with politics in our country, and I think the “Pence would be just as bad” sentiment does it exactly.  Our politics have become so polarized that we equate everybody on our side as good and everybody on the other side as bad without actually thinking about the people we are labeling.  Yes, it’s true that a Pence Presidency would not likely produce any better results for those who feel strongly about a woman’s right to choose or income inequality, but if we can’t start viewing politicians as individuals who have shades of grey rather than just members of political parties who are strictly black or white, then we are going to continue to have more Donald Trumps, Al Frankens, Roy Moores and John Conyers representing us because we are completely abandoning character in favor of ideology.

This may be easier for me to grasp, because I’m more politically moderate and there are a few things about both parties that I like and a lot of things about both parties that I don’t like.  Mike Pence is far more conservative than I, and Elizabeth Warren is far more liberal than I, but as far as I know both of them are of outstanding character and if either were in an election against a politically moderate candidate with whom I aligned more closely, but were a person of questionable character, I’d have little hesitation in voting for the Pence/Warren type candidate.  I’m just that sick of terrible, despicable human beings winning elections just because of their political party.

I don’t know how to convince people to abandon blind loyalty to a political party, but if we don’t figure it out, things are only going to get worse.  I certainly don’t need another government shutdown that occurs because of blind party loyalty overruling practical common sense.

Posted December 3, 2017 by Andrew Cabiness in Politics

Line, Line, Everywhere a Line   Leave a comment

Today, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on the constitutionality of gerrymandering.

For those of you not familiar with the concept, for states with more than one seat in the US House of Representatives, state legislatures get to draw the lines for districts.  In many states, the lines get drawn in very bizarre ways with the intention of favoring the political party that controls that state’s legislature.  This is how the Republican Party was able to win 24.2% more seats than the Democratic Party despite only winning 1.1% more actual votes nationwide.  Republican states certainly aren’t the only ones doing the gerrymandering, though.  The Democratic-dominated Illinois legislature drew up this district:

illinois

Here’s an outside the box that would eliminate the difficult question of when the ‘creativity’ of drawing lines has gone too far: eliminate districts entirely.  For any state with more than one seat in the US House, the candidates are voted for statewide, rather than individually by district.  Take my home state of Indiana and its nine seats for example.  Instead of splitting the state’s voters into nine separate groups, each choosing among candidates ‘living’ in their district (more on that word ‘living’ later), all voters in the state would select one of a party’s slate of nine candidates: the Democratic slate, Republican slate, Libertarian slate, or any other party that wanted to field a slate.  The number of seats allotted to each party would be determined by the percentage of votes each slate won nationwide.

Again using Indiana as an example, in 2016 the combined vote of the nine Congressional districts was 54.28% Republican, 39.61% Democrat and 6.12% Libertarian.  Due to the way the districts were drawn, the Republicans actually won 7 seats and the Democrats only 2.  The statewide method would have given the Republicans 5 seats and the Democrats 4 seats. The Libertarians would have very narrowly missed winning one of the seats that went to the Democrats.  With nine candidates on the ballot together instead of separated by district, each party would have to have a priority order to their candidates, meaning that the top five of nine Republican candidates and top four of nine Democratic candidates get seats.  Presumably the candidates would be ranked based on their vote totals from the primary elections.

Two benefits to this method:

The first is that state delegations would better reflect each state.  54 percent of the vote would no longer get you 78 percent of the seats.  Also, Libertarians and other third parties would start getting seats.  No individual Libertarian got close to enough votes to win a seat in any district anywhere in the US, but the party did get 1.3% nationwide and enough votes to win a seat or two in a few states by the statewide method.  Also, knowing that the statewide method would provide a lower threshold for winning seats might encourage more voters to vote for third parties, which in turn (hopefully) would make the two major parties more accountable to the voters.

The second is that the statewide method would reduce, if not eliminate, the process of carpetbagging.  Carpetbagging is when a person moves to a place that (s)he has never lived in previously, purely for the purpose of establishing residency in order to run for office in that location.  As a purely hypothetical example, in 2016 the US House member for my district, Todd Young, decided to give up his House seat to run for Senate.  This created a rare open seat in a Republican leaning district.  A Republican who wanted to run for Congress but lived in a district with a popular incumbent Republican Congressman, such as the 3rd district in Tennessee, might have to wait a while for a seat to open up.  Instead, (s)he could simply move to Indiana’s 9th district a few months before the primary election to establish residency, and then run to represent that district in Congress.  With the statewide method, such a person is much less likely to get elected and possibly deterred from even trying.

So, what do you think of my idea?  What are the downsides to such a method?

 

Posted June 19, 2017 by Andrew Cabiness in Politics

How to NOT End Up Here Again   Leave a comment

Full disclosure up front:  I voted for Gary Johnson.  Like the majority of Americans, I found both of the major party candidates unfit to be President.  Unlike the majority of Americans, I refused to decide to vote for the “lesser of two evils.”  My conscience wouldn’t allow me to vote for either and I don’t care that my candidate had “no chance to win” and that all my vote did was “help someone else win” (which in my state at least, wasn’t true–Trump won Indiana by a much larger total than the 3rd party vote could have made up).

There is plenty of good analysis you can get from plenty of sources about the general election, but I want to use my strong point–math–to add a take you probably haven’t heard yet.  If you subscribe to the conventional wisdom that a Democratic candidate other than Hillary Clinton would have beaten Donald Trump, and that a Republican candidate “less evil” than Donald Trump also would have beaten Hillary Clinton, likely by a larger margin, then please note this:

There were 126,247,767 votes cast for President in the November 8 general election (most updated totals I could find as of Thursday evening).   Between January and June, 24.5% of them voted for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in a Presidential Primary or Caucus.  Yes, that’s right, less than a quarter of the voters of the general election were responsible for providing the rest of us these two choices.  Another 24.4% actually tried to provide the country with a different alternative by voting for Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, John Kasich or one of the other candidates in their party’s Primary/Caucus.  If you’ve already done the math, you know that over half of the people who cast a vote in Tuesday’s Presidential election didn’t even bother to weigh in on who they thought should be one of the two major party candidates.

If you are someone who is very upset that Donald Trump is going to be President, you may have some anger toward people who voted for him.  I’m not going to pass any judgment on that, but I am going to suggest that all the people who didn’t bother to come out to vote in January-June to try and get us better candidates deserve just as much of your anger.  An awful lot of people sat around and let others decide that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton should be our choices.

So let’s do this better in 2020.  Vote in a Primary/Caucus.  Encourage your family and friends to vote as well.  Don’t let less than a quarter of voters decide in the Spring on the two that the rest of us get as choices in the Fall.

If you liked this post, please share it, and set yourself a reminder to share it again in early 2020.  If you disagree, leave a comment.  I always welcome discussion.

Posted November 10, 2016 by Andrew Cabiness in Politics

Something for Democrats and Republicans to Consider   Leave a comment

Somehow, our nation has managed to nominate two of the most repulsive, dishonest, unethical and borderline criminal people to be the major party candidates for President.  Despite this, polling suggests that about 84% of registered voters intend to vote for one of the two on November 8.

I do understand the basic argument.  “Even though (s)he is terrible, I’m voting for him/her because the other one is worse, so much worse that I can’t risk voting for a third party candidate and causing the worse one to win.

I’m not going to try to change your opinion on which one you think is worse.  I am, however, going to present an argument that it may not be a bad thing if the one you think is worse actually wins, and why that makes it OK to consider voting for a third party.

Either a President Clinton or a President Trump is going to be one of the most, if not the most unpopular President ever.  Very few of the things they want to do that you consider terrible will have any chance of getting past Congress.  On top of that, the President’s massive popularity will almost certainly create a massive swing in the House and Senate toward the other party, and re-election in 2020 seems incredibly unlikely.

So, as unpalatable as the immediate future might seem, Democrats/Liberals do much better in the long run if Hillary Clinton loses this election and Republicans/Conservatives do much better in the long run if Donald Trump loses this election.  This line of thinking is already out there among both conservatives and liberals.  In other words, whoever wins this battle is going to lose the war, or, to use a sports analogy, you don’t want to end up like the Cubs where things look great now but are destined to end badly down the road. [I may only have a couple weeks left to make jokes at the Cubs’ expense–I need to get in as many as I can now.]

Keep this in mind anybody tries to tell you that a vote for a third party candidate is dangerous because it might mean the other side wins.  It’s not the end of the world if the other side wins and in the long run it actually turns out better.  Plus, if enough of us decide to subscribe to this theory and vote for a third party candidate, then neither of them win which is what most of us are secretly hoping for anyway.

Posted October 13, 2016 by Andrew Cabiness in Politics

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Stealing Away and Leaving GCCS Behind   Leave a comment

In December 2014, Greater Clark County Schools board member Teresa Bottorff-Perkins pled guilty to felony shoplifting in Tennessee.  Fifteen months later, she is still a board member.  I find this unacceptable.  I can’t understand why the superintendent, the other six board members, and the teachers and parents of the school district don’t also find this unacceptable.  I’m not one to suggest that we all shouldn’t be perfect and mistakes can’t be forgiven, but I also think that the people who make critical educational decisions for kids really need to be held to a high standard.  I try to teach my students that there are consequences for their actions.  I assume that GCCS teachers also teach students that there are consequences for their actions.  Apparently school board members believe that they are above consequences.

There are elections coming up in November, and it’s entirely possible that Ms. Bottorff-Perkins will lose her seat.  However, we have reached a point where we need to sell our house and move to one that has more room for our family, and I’m not willing to take a chance on the outcome of a future election.  As such, we decided to focus our search outside of the GCCS district.  If we weren’t already going to be making a move, we may have waited out the election and then considered private/charter school options if the felon was indeed reelected.

As of today, we’ve had an offer accepted on a home in Floyd County.  The kids will miss their school and their teachers, but I just couldn’t bring myself to consider homes within the district.  In the big picture my actions will probably have little impact on GCCS, but I need to follow my conscience.

Am I being unreasonable?

Posted March 15, 2016 by Andrew Cabiness in Indiana, Politics

This Post Has Been Rescheduled   Leave a comment

The blog post originally scheduled for October 1, 2015, has been rescheduled.  It is now tentatively scheduled for December 14, 2015.

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Posted October 1, 2015 by Andrew Cabiness in Politics

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