Allyn Gibson

Allyn as a Southpark character

On Electoral College “Reform”

Electoral College reform is in the air.

But rather than abolish the Electoral College to ensure that the national popular vote winner takes the presidency (or using the National Popular Vote compact to do the same without the laborious process of a Constitutional amendment), the reform that’s in the air would all but guarantee that the national popular vote runner up would take the White House.

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Republicans in a variety of states — including Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Ohio — have raised the prospect of changing the way their states’ electoral votes are allocated in presidential elections. Instead of winner-take-all contests in which the candidate who wins the most votes in the state then wins that state’s electoral haul, some in the GOP want district-by-district races.

That way, in a state like Wisconsin, President Obama can beat Mitt Romney by over 200,000 popular votes, but when it came time for the electoral college, Obama and Romney would split Wisconsin’s electoral votes, five to five. Expand this to the national level and Obama would have finished 2012 with 5 million more popular votes than Romney, but Obama still would have lost the election thanks to gerrymandered districts.

And here:

It wasn’t so long ago, coming off a bruising presidential election, that Republicans were looking at ways to increase vote percentages among younger and minority voters to remain a contender in national elections.  But it appears professional Republicans have decided that’s either impossible, unnecessary or perhaps just too hard. Because now they’re going for another possibility: rig the electoral college to insure Republican presidential victories with a decreasing voter base.

In other words, nuclear gerrymandering.

The plan is to game the electoral college to rig the system for Republicans. It works like this.  Because of big victories in the 2010 midterm — and defending majorities in 2012 — Republicans now enjoy complete control of a number of midwestern states that usually vote Democratic in national (and increasingly in senatorial) elections.  It may be temporary control but for now it’s total. Use that unified control in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania to change the system of electoral vote allocation from winner-take-all to proportional allotment.

People may not like the Electoral College, but they understand the rules — win the state, win the state’s Electoral votes.  This scheme would be rigging the rules in favor of the minority party, and I suspect that it would change the complexion of the 2016 race in ways that I’m not sure the GOP would be prepared for.

Let’s suppose that the GOP rig the Electoral College so that even if Democrats win Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia it’s a net negative for the Democratic candidate in the Electoral Collge because the Republican candidate will net out more Electoral votes from that state due to gerrymandering.

This means that the Democrats will have to make a play for states that they’ve written off since the turn of the century.  That means going hard for Texas, the south, the high plains, and the Rocky Mountains.

No, this strategy won’t win 2016 for them; these areas are still very Red.  But it will lay the groundwork for the Democrats to win them in 2020 by building the local Democratic machinery and infusing these areas with Democratic ideas.  That’s a long term thing — and it may also cause states that were on the fence about the National Popular Vote compact to pass it.

If the GOP gain the presidency by losing the popular vote nationwide and specifically losing the popular vote in states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin while also winning a plurality of those states’ Electoral votes, there would be a widespread sense that the GOP didn’t play by the rules.  Even in 2000, there was a sense that Bush had won, albeit on a technicality.  This situation, however, would strike many as cheating, and the elected President would be seen by many as illegitimate.

As I pointed out here, five years ago, this concept isn’t bad, so long as every state does it and apportionment is done not by congressional district but by percentages so that the Electoral vote apportionment reflects the actual vote within the state.  But to implement this system only in states that have voted for the Democratic candidate and to apportion the votes along the partisan lines of the Congressional districts will invite electoral chaos and outrage.

On Ken Cuccinelli, Vice Presidential Candidate

Mitt Romney is closing in on choosing his running mate for November.

Last week, coinciding with the pummeling he took in the nedia over some disclosures about his tenure at Bain Capital, the suggestion of Condi Rice was floated.† Rumors this week are swirling around Rob Portman and Tim Pawlenty.† And, of course, Virginia governor Bob McDonnell is interested.

Condi Rice isn’t a realistic choice; the Republican base already doesn’t trust Romney, and they would like a pro-choice running mate even less.

Pawlenty?† Boring, to say nothing of the stench of being a quitter (he abandoned his own presidential campaign without doing anything of note).

Portman?† Who?† Seriously, that’s his problem.† He’s a boring, anonymous nobody.† Romney is already boring; Portman on the ticket would create a naked singularity of such unchecked boringness that it will consume all reality.

McDonnell?† He would be acceptable to the religious extremists in the Republican base, and he presents himself as a more moderate candidate than he actually is.† However, McDonnell doesn’t seem to have much tenacity or personality.† He’s not as boring as Portman, but he wouldn’t be an exciting pick, either.

Michael Tomasky thinks that Romney will opt for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.  However, there is another possibility in the Old Dominion.† A tenacious pit bill.† A cultural warrior that will excite the base.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

A left field choice, to be sure.† Not a mainstream choice, and I find his politics vaguely appalling.  But he fits Romney’s needs.

Cuccinelli would reassure the Republican Party’s religious extremists that Romney had their back.† As a cultural warrior and a Tea Party favorite, Cuccinelli has proven his commitment to the issues that matter to the base — no health care reform, vehement opposition to global warming, rabidly pro-life, and so on.† He doggedly pursues his goals, he fights for what he believes in, he’s young, he’s telegenic.  In short, Cuccinelli complements Romney’s deficiencies as a candidate, would help Romney make a play for the crucial swing state of Virginia, and would create a formidable ticket.

Yes, Cuccinelli has his sights on the Virginia statehouse (campaign site here), but that’s clearly in his mind merely the stepping stone for a larger stage.  If Romney is serious about winning, though, he needs to do something splashy.  He needs to take a gamble.  Safe, boring choice?  Not splashy.

If I were advising Mitt Romney, that would be my advice — Ken Cuccinelli for the Republican Vice Presidential nod.

On the PPACA Primal Scream

Last week, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, upheld the Constitutionality of the PPACA, commonly referred to as “Obamacare.”

Surprisingly, Chief Justice John Roberts was the deciding vote in the decision.  More surprisingly, he initially voted against upholding the PPACA and changed his vote.

Unsurprisingly, the Republicans, who had been so bothered under the collar by the bill (which, ironically, was a policy they had originally championed), have been calling for a full repeal of the bill since the decision was handed down.  Not that they have any plans to replace it (which they don’t); they just want the bill gone, no matter the consequences, and making sure the uninsured have access to affordable health care, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, “is not the issue.”  The issue for McConnell, apparently, is in ensuring that the United States doesn’t have a European-style social safety net.

That said, I expect that the chorus of Republicans screaming about ACA repeal will die down within the next two weeks, probably once the House votes on a repeal bill that will go nowhere in the Senate.  (Though, if I were Harry Reid, I might actually allow it to come up for a vote, if only for messaging purposes.)

There are two reasons I think this.  First, the more they talk about repealing the health care reform, the more they sound, like Mitch McConnell did this morning, like callous, inhumane assholes.  It’s an uncomfortable truth, but Republican elites consider health care a privilege, not a right.  That’s a difficult position for Republicans to argue to their base because it lacks in human decency.

Cecond, while talk of repeal plays well to the base, it won’t play well with the corporate interests, especially with the insurance companies salivating at the thought of 30 million more customers that the Republicans say they want to take away from them.  The thing about the PPACA is that it’s as market-friendly a universal health care plan as could be imagined.  The government steps in to regulate the insurance companies to make sure there’s a level playing field, the government gives subsidies and tax credits to people who can’t afford insurance, and the insurance companies are the ones actually doing the heavy lifting.  In short, the system that we have, dysfunctional as it is, is left intact; the difference is that the barriers that prevent customers from entering the market are lowered, if not outright removed.  Repealing the PPACA takes away those customers and their money.  Republicans can vote to repeal the PPACA now as a feel-good measure (and as red meat to their base), but if there were a serious effort to overturn the PPACA the insurance companies are likely to step in and say, “Hey, what about us?  You’re not helping.”

If left alone, the Republicans will let this one go because it does them no good.  Yes, railing against the PPACA will fire up the base, but it also puts Republicans on difficult rhetorical ground (as they discovered on the Sunday talk shows this morning) and it will alienate the corporate donors in the insurance industry.  I think Obama is canny enough to not taunt the Republicans with the PPACA, and Mitt Romney knows, thanks to Massachusetts, that he has his own damage there.  Two weeks, they’ll scream it out, and it’ll be done.  That’s my guess.

On Talking Politics on Facebook

This is going to be a disjointed post, because it comes from something I wrote on Facebook.  And obviously I don’t want it to fall down the memory hole that is Facebook. :)

First, some background.

I linked to this — Steve Benen of MaddowBlog pointed to an appearance of Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein on Up with Chris Hayes on Sunday.  Mann and Ornstein, two gray personages in Washington, wrote an editorial in the Washington Post several weeks ago that “Letís just say it: The Republicans are the problem” with the dysfunction in Washington:

“The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

They make a point that I’ve seen with increasing frequency — Democrats have become, the conservative party (in the classical sense) because the Republicans have morphed into a band of radical nihilists:

“[Under] the presidencies of Clinton and Obama, the Democrats have become more of a status-quo party. They are centrist protectors of government, reluctantly willing to revamp programs and trim retirement and health benefits to maintain its central commitments in the face of fiscal pressures.”

Benen noted two weeks ago that Ornstein and Mann have received no attention in the media because “the rules dictate that ‘both sides’ are always to blame for everything in all instances.  Even if reality clearly shows one party more responsible than the other, no one’s allowed to say so — to assign responsibility to those who deserve it is to be biased and irresponsible.”

I merely posted a link, and I received a comment with a link to an editorial by Jonah Goldberg in USA Today: “‘Compromise’ is not a dirty word.”  Goldberg writes that Republicans are more than happy to compromise, but Republicans and Democrats start out from fundamentally different points of view.

I pondered this.  And here is what I wrote…

The problem extends beyond compromise, because even when Obama has adopted Republican ideas (like the health care reform) Republicans have turned against those ideas.  Democrats can, and have, compromised on their programs and ideas in search for elusive Republican votes, and yet those elusive votes are never found.

The problem, I think, is that the Republican Party has decided that it’s unwilling to govern or cooperative on any policy that would promote the common good because they would only be helping the President if they did so.  And as the debt ceiling debacle clearly indicated, they are willing to harm the country if it results in a “loss” for the President.  They are willing to put personal power and party ahead of country.

I don’t know what to make of Jonah Goldberg’s editorial, to be honest.  It reminds me of what Dick Mourdock said after he defeated Dick Lugar in the Indiana Senate primary, words to the effect that compromise is fine if it means Democrats adopting Republican positions.

I recently read Young Guns, the policy book written by Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy.  It’s an appallingly written book, even allowing for the failings of the genre, but it’s also an astonishing superficial book.  I finished the book having absolutely no idea what they would actually do.  Instead, the three Congressmen spend pages writing about how Obama is a meanie and how society is on the wrong track.  I wanted a vision of what the conservative utopia should look like.  I didn’t get that.

And I know that’s deliberate.  Mitt Romney’s policies are deliberately vague so that he can’t be nailed down by them and so that he can’t be critiqued on them.  If he says platitudinal, aspirational things, that sounds better than saying that his budget priorities would see Medicare privatized, Social Security cut, and Pell Grants abolished.  Paul Ryan says his budgetary roadmap doesn’t do things like this, but the only way the numbers work is if it does things like this.  But so long as they don’t say themselves that the policies they want to pursue would do things like this, they know they can get away with being vague.  The media won’t catch them on it, and the people who do notice can be said safely to be crazy liberals.

Jonah Goldberg is right, by the way, that there are vast differences in opinion between the two parties about the direction of the country that makes compromise difficult.  It’s impossible to have a compromise position between a party that sees government as having a positive role in society and a party sees government as having no role in society.  There’s no shared principle there.  That’s why I call Republicans “nihilists.”  They would rather do nothing than do something that would have any positive benefit.

It’s a clever scam, when you think about it.  They can violate the social norms of government and induce governmental dysfunction, thus increasing public cynicism about government, which leads to more Republicans in Congress, which increases government dysfunction.

I agree with Jonathan Chait.  This cycle isn’t going to end anytime soon, and it’s pie-in-the-sky optimism to think otherwise.  I think it will take the dismantlement of the New Deal/Great Society programs and the resulting social disruption for people to really grasp what’s been done.  People like the idea of a libertarian small government in theory, but in practice they like the social contract more.

At that point, I stopped writing.  I’d already spent the better part of an hour writing that.  I also wasn’t sure what more needed to be said. :)

The one thing I would add is this.

The Republican Party, as we know it, is a dying party.  Demographic trends are running against it, as Chait explained several months ago.  The voter purges in Florida and Texas, to say nothing of the Congressional redistricting process, are all attempts to stem the tide against it.

Why is why this election is so important.  This really could be the last roll of the dice for the current Republican Party.  And if they win both houses of Congress and the Presidency this year, they can lock in policies, roll back environmental, safety, and employment regulations, dismantle the social safety net, and dominate the courts in ways that it will take a generation or more to undo.

This election will be interesting.  And frightening.  Often simultaneously.

On Mitt Romney’s Detachment from Reality

There’s only one conclusion to draw — Mitt Romney is as detached from reality as a phildickian mindfuck:

More proof of Romney’s detachment of reality:

I begin to fear that a vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for Palmer Eldritch.

On Hulled Boats and Rising Tides

Something I threw up on Facebook, but it’s worth preserving before it falls down the memory hole.

I linked to this, an article by Steve Benen on opposition to the minimum wage by Senate candidates in Missouri.  Benen writes:

Indeed, the fact that U.S. Senate candidates would have no qualms about standing against the existence of a minimum wage is a reminder about how far the Republican mainstream has shifted. It’s no longer unusual for statewide GOP candidates to oppose the minimum wage, child-labor laws, the existing structure of Medicare and guaranteed benefits, restrictions on torture, collective bargaining, and unemployment benefits.

I posted the link to Benen’s article, and this is what I wrote:

Here’s what I want to know.  Why are Republicans waging war on the American quality of life?  What’s their endgame?  I know they like to say that “a rising tide lifts all boats,” but no tide will lift a boat whose hull has been shot through by the cannonballs fired by the Republican Party.

I like that last part.  It’s something that had never occurred to me.

Every policy that makes it harder for someone to succeed in life — from underfunding schools to making college more difficult to afford to keeping health care out of financial reach to gutting workplace protections — amounts to scuttling the “boats” of millions of Americans.  When the tides of prosperity rise, those hulled boats won’t float.  They won’t even move.  They’ll be stuck on the sand, and the water will rush over them, leaving their owners to drown in the oncoming tide.

That’s worth keeping in mind.

On Mitt Romney’s Inhumanity

After winning the Florida Primary, Mitt Romney wanted America to know — he’s “not concerned about the very poor.”

Erick Erickson, the CNN pundit and proprietor of Red State wrote that Romney’s line “played straight into the liberal caricature that Republicans donít have hearts.”

That’s not how it is, though.  It’s not that Republicans, especially the free market/libertarian-fueled Republicanism that’s taken root in the last twenty or thirty years, lacks heart.  It’s that Republicanism lacks humanity.

The reason Romney says he’s “not concerned” about the poor?  They “have a safety net there.”

But there’s a problem with that, one that Jonathan Chait and Matt Yglesias both point out — Romney’s budget plan would shred the very social safety net that Romney says supports the poor.

Romney’s cuts to Medicare “would threaten beneficiaries’ access to care.”  His Social Security cuts would “leave poor elderly and disabled people far below the poverty line.”  Romney “would throw 10 million low-income people off the benefit rolls” for the Food Stamp program.  Romney “would leave 34 million people uninsured who would have gained coverage under health reform.”

I’m reminded of something Gandhi said: “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”  Romney would have this nation turn its back on the weak.

No, it’s not heart that today’s Republican party lacks.  It’s basic humanity they lack.  They may look like humans, but like a Nexus-6 Android, they’re not authentic human beings. :(

On Stephen Colbert’s Poll Numbers

Last week, comedian Stephen Colbert shocked the media by announcing his intention to explore the possibility of running for President of the United States of South Carolina.

Or somesuch like that.

Because pollsters need something to fill the endless hours between now and November, Public Policy Polling decided to put the question to a test — How would Colbert fare as a candidate in a three-way race with Barack Obama and Mitt Romney?

The answer?

He’d pull 13 percent of the vote.

According to the poll, Obama would win the election with 41 percent of the votes, and Romney would come in a close second with 38 percent.

Colbert, thankfully, is smart enough not to run as a third-party candidate. :)

Colbert would draw on two bases of support.

First, he would run strong in the 18-25 voting bloc, to the point where I think he would be in a good position to take that vote.  There are many people in that group who would vote for Colbert just so they could say, years later, that they voted for Stephen Colbert.  Hell, I might vote for Stephen Colbert if he were to run as a third party candidate; I live in a state that’s certain to go for Obama no matter what.  But in some other states, with large college-age populations?  Colbert would draw enough support from Obama to possibly flip some lean-Obama states to Romney wins.

Second, he would run strong with far-right conservatives.  They seem not to realize that Colbert is sending them up.  It boggles my mind, but the conservatives I know genuinely think that Colbert is “one of them.”

Colbert knows that while he would split the conservative vote with, say, Romney, he would also gut Obama’s Millennial support and possibly throw the election to the GOP.

Yes, it’s fun to think about a Stephen Colbert third party candidacy.  But it’s not going to happen. :h2g2: