Monday, November 28, 2016

California's Independence movement

1860 was not the first time states wanted so secede from the union.  The first such movement, while not successful, was what Henry Adams called a "conspiracy" in 1804.  Back then everyone, both Republicans and Federalists interpreted the constitution literally and many of the major thinkers and leaders in both parties believed that the Louisiana Purchase violated the constitution in that the constitution made no provision for the acquisition of new territory.  Pickering of the Federalist party attempted to get New England Federalist behind a move to leave the union (not for that reason but because the Virginian-led Republicans won the national election and had control of congress).  He argued that while secession was difficult under the constitution, the acquisition of Louisiana made that constitution null and void; therefore the New England states led by Massachusetts and New York should secede from the Union.   Jefferson and his Republicans (led by Virginia) had defeated the Federalists at every turn; so it was time to break away and form an independent nation.

Pickering and others involved in the secessionist "conspiracy" chose Aaron Burr as their champion.  Hamilton was also for secession but in the sense that Fukuyama has been for the success throughout the world of Liberal Democracy.  That is, Fukuyama believes it is going to happen but he refused to join an activist group (the Neocons) who tried to hasten that process.  Hamilton, perhaps as disgruntled as Fukuyama was while the activists were making hay, said and wrote some things Aaron Burr took offense at, a duel resulted, Hamilton was killed, Burr was discredited, and the Conspiracy of the New England secessionists was ended. 

The California secessionist movement seems from the little I know about it equally Quixotic.  This is from one of the Wikipedia article discussing how California might secede from the Union:

The first step to California (or any state for that matter) seceding from the Union is likely a ballot measure for voters. There is already a group called Yes California pushing for a referendum on Californian independence, noting that the state would be the sixth-largest economy in the world if it were its own country. 

Getting the referendum on the ballot and winning in an election might be the easiest part of this procedure. As Yes California notes, there are two possible next steps. First, a member of California’s congressional delegation could propose an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to allow California to leave. The Amendment needs to pass two-thirds of the House and senate and then be approved by at least 38 of 50 states. 

A second possible path after a referendum would be California calling for a states convention, where two-thirds of the delegates from 50 states approve it. If it passes, it would still need to be ratified by 38 of the 50 state legislatures. 

However, if I understand matters correctly, this movement originated because Hillary Clinton won the popular vote despite loosing the electoral college vote.  In looking at the vote count at  we see that Hillary Clinton's popular vote tally is 62,523,126, of which 5,589,936 came from California.  Donald Trump on the other hand had a popular vote tally of 61,201,031 of which 3,021,095 came from California.   If California had successfully seceded before this election took place Donald Trump would have won the popular vote as well as the electoral college vote.  If we subtract California's votes, Hillary Clinton would have 56,933,190 popular votes to Trump's 58,179,936 (assuming my math is sound).   Thus, it would seem to me, the Democratic states would have more reason for opposing California's secession than the Republican states. 

On Trump's lack of experience

All of our founding fathers were inexperienced.   It is being tossed about that Trump will be the first president who hasn't either served in government or been a general.  But let us look at George Washington, our first president.  He was indeed a general.  He had charge of the continental army, but when whoever it was that created the above choice created it, I suspect he had Eisenhower in mind when they thought "general."  Eisenhower managed the Western Forces during the final defeat of Hitler.  He had a huge challenging job.  Washington on the other hand managed a small ill-equipped sometimes starving collection of farmers.  He was more like a guerilla leader than a general.  He was indeed challenged, but to keep his men alive during a cold winter, not to something like managing an invasion into France.  Trump building up a billion dollar empire probably has more useful experience than Washington had before he became president.  Of course there wasn't that much for Washington to do, relatively.  Still . . .

Our second president, John Adams had about as much experience as anyone back then, but he wasn't a big personality like Washington or Jefferson and became our first one-term president.   If we make allowances for the times, Adams could be said to have a lot more experience than Trump but because Trump has a Jefferson-type personality, if he pulls off the few things he promised to do, e.g., slow-down the influx of illegal aliens, slow-down the outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries, fix or improve Obamacare, get a conservative judge appointed to the supreme court, the voters will probably appreciate his efforts and vote him in for a second term.  Adams was of the Federalist party and became the last Federalist president.  He was competent, some would argue more competent than Jefferson.  For example he wanted to build up an army and a navy and did get several warships built.  Jefferson when he became president didn't want an army and tried to get the warships put into a dry-dock.  Adams was right.  War at that time couldn't be avoided.  A well trained U.S. army would have been a big help in the War of 1812.  Jefferson was president from 1801 to 1809 and was directly responsible for the army and navy we had (or mostly didn't have) to face the British three years after Jefferson left office.

Jefferson wasn't a general but he was governor of Virginia for two years, America's first Secretary of State under Washington, and Adam's vice president.  However, we did not have a strong centralized government back then.  The individual states took care of their own problems.  The U.S. government took care of the big stuff like wars and international relations.  On paper it might look like Jefferson had a lot of experience but everything back then was new and in constant change.  He figured things out as he went along and he wasn't always right.

Jefferson along with Madison and a few others wrote political articles building up to the declaring of independence.   But theorist though he was, many of his ideas were naive.  He thought the union needed neither an army nor a navy.  He thought a few thousand soldiers to keep the Indians at bay was all we needed, certainly nothing on the order of a European army.  He thought by threatening to withhold goods needed by European nations he could keep them from threatening or invading the U.S.

As to Bush invading Iraq without knowing the difference between Sunni and Shia sects (although he had advisors who could have told him the difference), Jefferson did something similar.   Back in his day pirates made a good living by capturing ships, holding them and their passengers for ransom and only allowing a nation's shipping to proceed if it paid a price  At first Jefferson accepted that arrangement and paid, but the pirates increased their demands and being the frugal fellow he was (with the government's money, not his own), he sent one of the ships he inherited from Adam's administration out to do battle.  The ship's captain and its fighting force (Marines) exceeded expectations and defeated the Barbary pirates, a victory that redounded to Jefferson's credit.  Yes Jefferson's efforts were successful while Bush's were less so, but Jefferson had very little to do with this success.  A small fledgling naval force equipped with some fledgling Marines defeated some Barbary pirates.  Hurrah for Jefferson!  Bush wanted to retaliate for the bombing of the twin towers and went after everyone his intelligence people told him were "probably" involved.  Boo on Bush. 

Well, someone once said something like "success favors the prepared mind," and Jefferson's mind was more prepared than Bush's -- although "prepared" isn't probably an appropriate word.  Jefferson was highly educated for his time and place.  He was truly a deep thinker.  An example is the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon.  Napoleon had denied the American's the use of the harbor at New Orleans.  A lot of American shipping needed to use that harbor and a lot of Americans wanted to go to war to restore access.  Maybe if Bush had been president we would have gone to war.  But Jefferson delayed, put people off, kept delaying and finally told Livingston (ambassador to France I think) to offer to buy New Orleans.  He then sent James Monroe (another Virginian) to France to help Livingston.  Neither Jefferson nor any one else involved from the U.S. thought Napoleon would sell New Orleans.  This was just one more delaying tactic, but Napoleon had been having some problems.  The center for his colonial operations in the Americas was at St. Domingo.  The blacks living there were freed during the French revolution.  Napoleon ordered that they be re-enslaved and they revolted.  The French force trying to enslave them was mostly wiped out from disease.  When Napoleon finally faced the fact that St. Domingo was lost to him, he reasoned that if he couldn't use St. Domingo to manage Louisiana then he didn't need that territory.  Thus, when Livingston approached Napoleon's minister and asked to buy New Orleans, the minister said, "only if you buy all of the Louisiana territory as well."  If I remember right Livingston was authorized to pay about $8,000,000 for New Orleans.  The final payment for the Louisiana territory was $15,000,000.  At first Livingston argued, "can't we just buy New Orleans?"

Henry Adams thought that Livingston didn't get enough credit for the Louisiana Purchase.  If you look at the territory involved it is huge -- not as much territory as the states perhaps but nearly so:  American politicians were not initially pleased.  Livingston's career suffered, but eventually Jefferson,  Monroe but mostly Jefferson were credited with a brilliant coup.   We know they didn't really cause it, but Jefferson, perhaps because of who he was, put himself and his people in a position for this to happen.  They needed to be there when the mercurial Napoleon decided he wanted to sell the Louisiana territory. 

As a side note, the Louisiana territory wasn't really Napoleon's to sell.  He received it from Spain with the stipulation that he would not sell it.  The Spanish gave Talleyrand a bit of a bad time, but Spain was a long way from having the power to come to blows with Napoleon, so this illegal sale was allowed to stand.

I don't know if Trump will do good things or not.  I only started reading about him after the election.  I'm especially interested in what his intentions are with Russia.  I'm reminded of Samuel P. Huntington's thesis that each "civilization" (civilization as it is defined by some scientists he invokes) has a "core" leader.  The "core" leader of the Western Civilization is the U.S.  The "core" leader of the "Orthodox" [at least I think that was what he called it -- meaning the nations who adhere more or less to Orthodox Christianity] is Russia.  If indeed Trump as the leader of the West met with Putin as the leader the Orthodox, and if they did it in agreement with Huntington's theories, we might indeed have an interesting future.  I can imagine it taking a ruthless turn in Syria and perhaps some of Russia's border states.  Perhaps Putin won't feel a need to move his nuclear weapons closer to Europe. 

Trump and Executive power

I'm 254/300 through Jefferson's first term in Henry Adams history.  Adams has quite a lot to say about the executive position.  Jefferson like Trump believed in a small, not very powerful central government.  He favored the preservation of State's rights.  Ironically, Adams writes, there was no one in either the Senate or the House with as much competence, force, ability etc as Jefferson.  And so Jefferson assumed the power that he argued against in order to do what he believed was necessary.  And the House & Senate, peopled by lesser folk, supported him.  In his day the opposing party was the Federalists and Jefferson's resounding victory over them ended them as a party.  It is hard to believe something like that happening today.  Democrats or Republicans might lose but they are too well established to end.  John Adams, the Federalist (one-term) president who preceded Jefferson did one finally thing before he left the presidency, something that preserved Federalism.  He appointed John Marshall head of the supreme court.  Marshall was another powerful personality like Jefferson.  Marshall was a Federalist who didn't mind legislating from the Supreme Court.

And so the idea that the Democratic Party had some power over Hillary Clinton, power to approve or deny her the ability to run for President doesn't ring true in the Jefferson/Marshall sense.  She was too big a personality to be controlled.  Was Trump also too big?  I frankly haven't been following politics for a long time so I don't know.  He is either the truest Republican who has come along in a long time or he has made some very clever decisions about what to do during his first term, especially, reduce immigration, negotiate with businesses by means of tax incentives to do their business here in the U.S. and thus keep more jobs here (something some important swing states will especially appreciate), and reduce taxes.  He also intends to appoint conservative judges to the supreme court, judges who will do less legislating of the sort that Marshall did, judges who favor decentralizing power (something Marshall did not favor), that is restoring more power to the States.  An early test case may be Row vs Wade.  The right of abortion may be left to the individual states rather than dictated as it is now by Central Government, i.e., the supreme court.  

As to giving Trump guidance, that may be difficult.  If he is the huge personality that he seems to be (something on the order of a Jefferson or a Marshall), he may just hire the "reason' and "guidance" his non-political background has denied him.

Abolition of all internal taxes

The British tax people have discovered of a new tax source.  The smiling face of the head tax man Phillip Hammond appearing prominently in this article:

I thought of the Beatles song while reading it.  By coincidental contrast I've been reading Henry Adams First Administration of Jefferson.  Jefferson was a Republican who didn't believe in a strong executive, the examples of strong monarch's in European nations were too powerful a threat for him to think otherwise, and yet there he was, President of the United States, and someone needed to be in charge.  He wasn't being hypocritical in exercising more power than he believed the U.S. president ought to have, but in doing what he believed was right he was indeed exercising the power available to him as president.  In 1801 he did something that would be anathema to Phillip Hammond.  He abolished all internal taxes.

Actually what Jefferson did would be anathema to most American politicians as well.  Maybe modern day Republicans would lean a bit more in his direction, but they wouldn't abolish all internal taxes.  Trump as Bush (the younger) and Reagan before him intends to lower taxes, but no one today suggests that government can do without something from each one of us.  And the Federalists of Jefferson's day, a minority in congress but possessing the best orators, were very uncomfortable with Jefferson's decision.  However, as Adams writes on page 184 of the Library of America edition, "Resistance to the abolition of taxes was impossible after the promise which the President's Message held out.  The Federalists themselves had made peace with France, and hostilities between France and England had ceased.  For the first time in ten years no danger of foreign war was apparent, and if the Administration offered to effect economies in the public service, Congress could hardly deny that economies were possible."

I need to read ahead to discover whether all taxes were indeed abolished.  If so where did Jefferson get the money later on to purchase the Louisiana territory from Napoleon, and wouldn't Jefferson have been better off beefing up the U.S. military in accordance with Federalist wishes?  Had they done so the War of 1812 wouldn't have been such an iffy thing.  Indeed the U.S. might well have accomplished the goals of some politicians at the time (not Jefferson) and conquered Canada; which would mean that instead of hoping to move to Northern Idaho I might today be considering a move to British Colombia -- or maybe not.  I suspect everyone up there would have voted for Hillary and our own Tax Man would be scouring records of our incomes to find new things to tax.

In the meantime my favorite hiking area, the usually dry riverbed of the San Jacinto River has been inundated by "street people."  I've been referring to them as trolls since there is no "street" down there, and the first ones that interfered with my hiking activities lived under a bridge.  The last time I was down there, hiking through some brush not hitherto inhabited by trolls, my dogs veered off to some bushes.  I stopped and looked back and there was a little man with some binoculars staring off toward the south levee.    Without looking at me he said, "ah ha.  You walked right by me without seeing me.  Your dogs saw me, but you never did." 

I found that a curious thing for him to say but only asked, "are you staying here."  He answered, "Yep, I'm one of them"; which made it sound as though he and the others were getting criticism from somewhere.  I asked, "are you from Riverside"?  I had heard that the street people in Riverside had been chased out of the parks they had been camping in.  He said, "nope.  I was destined for this life six months ago."  I didn't ask him where he was getting money to live on.  Living off of the land clearly wasn't possible at the river.  Was he getting enough government support (from internal taxes) to go down from the river to Stater Bros and buy groceries? 

Jessica, my energetic seven-month old Irish Terrier was jumping up on him for attention.  He didn't put his hands on her, needing both of them to hold his field glasses, but he turned sideways.  Having been jumped on by her myself I knew it wasn't a pleasant experience; so I called her and we went on. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Way Out

    I am too old to be told
    This will not last.  It is
    All that will and on sunnier
    Days when the thrill of eternity
    Spins ethereal music and I see
    New possibilities, they are all
    Now without her who said

    She could not sing.  I’m not
    So sure now of all that has
    Past before, whether creator
    God will sum us up or we’ll
    On our own blink out.
    Perhaps if our species can
    Escape this corrupted earth

    Before it implodes our DNA
    Will inhabit planets light years
    From here.  I’m bearing it with
    Plans of my own escape, a
    New dog will help – new thoughts
    As far away as I can think
    In the few blinks I have left.

On Keeping Her from Harm

    I guided Susan away from
    Dark forms traveling at night,
    Even before she got Sentry –
    On the beach for all we
    Knew meaning her harm;
    She of course believed
    The best and discounted
    My fears for her – dancing
    A smile and laughing a
    Word of chiding, making
    Me put my Marine Corps
    Fighting knife thoughts
    Back in their sheath.
    I’d experienced a Korean

    Night years ago, an
    Attempted attack, but was
    Too quick with that knife
    At a throat deflating whatever
    His thoughts were in their foreign
    Tongue.  I was invincible.
    Quick of eye and foot, but

    Go now over this loss as a
    Losing team, or a failed fighter
    Stunned that reality and time
    Quashed the foot speed and arm
    Strength. I no longer look at
    The stirring of shadows.
    My thoughts have rusted.

The Dream


    Having you in the night, how
    Would I recognize a dream
    With each face seeming no
    More familiar than the last?
    You would simply be, and I
    Being used to your being I
    Wouldn’t remark any strangeness.

    Then waking I’d remain for
    A time in that world in which
    You still lived, looking down
    The hall toward your room
    I’d recall my passing
    By earlier, dreaming
    I’d hang on to you.

    There were no revelations,
    No words to take with
    Me into the day.  You
    Were just as you always
    Were, moving about,
    Walking beside me a though
    Tied and not torn asunder.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Pertaining to the electoral college

Here is a site  (and written by by William C. Kimberling, Deputy Director FEC National Clearinghouse on Election Administration) providing background about the electoral college:  specifically,

One idea was to have the Congress choose the president. This idea was rejected, however, because some felt that making such a choice would be too divisive an issue and leave too many hard feelings in the Congress. Others felt that such a procedure would invite unseemly political bargaining, corruption, and perhaps even interference from foreign powers. Still others felt that such an arrangement would upset the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of the federal government.

A second idea was to have the State legislatures select the president. This idea, too, was rejected out of fears that a president so beholden to the State legislatures might permit them to erode federal authority and thus undermine the whole idea of a federation.

A third idea was to have the president elected by a direct popular vote. Direct election was rejected not because the Framers of the Constitution doubted public intelligence but rather because they feared that without sufficient information about candidates from outside their State, people would naturally vote for a "favorite son" from their own State or region. At worst, no president would emerge with a popular majority sufficient to govern the whole country. At best, the choice of president would always be decided by the largest, most populous States with little regard for the smaller ones.

Finally, a so-called "Committee of Eleven" in the Constitutional Convention proposed an indirect election of the president through a College of Electors.

The function of the College of Electors in choosing the president can be likened to that in the Roman Catholic Church of the College of Cardinals selecting the Pope. The original idea was for the most knowledgeable and informed individuals from each State to select the president based solely on merit and without regard to State of origin or political party.

The structure of the Electoral College can be traced to the Centurial Assembly system of the Roman Republic. Under that system, the adult male citizens of Rome were divided, according to their wealth, into groups of 100 (called Centuries). Each group of 100 was entitled to cast only one vote either in favor or against proposals submitted to them by the Roman Senate. In the Electoral College system, the States serve as the Centurial groups (though they are not, of course, based on wealth), and the number of votes per State is determined by the size of each State's Congressional delegation. Still, the two systems are similar in design and share many of the same advantages and disadvantages.

The similarities between the Electoral College and classical institutions are not accidental. Many of the Founding Fathers were well schooled in ancient history and its lessons.

Here is a U.S. government provided PDF file on the electoral college:    Note especially the conclusion:

The Electoral College has worked well for 56 elections with the exception of a few historical
anomalies. Even in close elections, it gives one candidate a majority of electoral votes with
which to claim a mandate to govern. While it is not a direct election of the president, the public
has significant influence in the outcome and much more than in parliamentary systems in which
  the executive is chosen by the ruling political party.
Aside from modest statutory changes, the Electoral College has not been structurally changed
by Constitutional amendment since 1804. There have been attempts to change or abolish the
Electoral College through the years. Still, while the Electoral College may be a system that
  some people today and the founding fathers at the Constitutional Convention regarded as
  imperfect, it remains likely the way Americans will continue to elect their president.

Note also this Washington Post in a November 9th article:  specifically,

. . . If Trump wins every state left -- Alaska, Arizona, Minnesota, Michigan and New Hampshire -- he could even win by more than 100 electoral votes, 320-218. Take Minnesota away, and it's still 310-228 -- a very big margin.

So you can bet that there are a whole bunch of Democrats right now that would like to put an end to this whole electoral college thing.

The bad news: They have virtually no power to make that happen -- and even if they did have any power, it'd be immensely difficult.

The electoral college, after all, is enshrined in our Constitution, which means getting rid of it requires a constitutional amendment. That's a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate and the ratification of three-fourths (38) of the 50 states.

Democrats not only lost the presidency on Tuesday; they failed to win a majority in the Senate and didn't gain as much ground in the House as they had hoped. The idea that this would even be brought up in a GOP-controlled Congress -- much less approved with a two-thirds majority in both chambers -- just isn't in the cards. And even if it passed that congressional threshold, 38 states aren't going to ratify it. Red states won't like the idea because it's been a perceived boon to Republicans, and swing states won't like it because it means they lose their prized status in the presidential campaign.

Such efforts have also been tried -- unsuccessfully, of course -- several times before.

1)  Of the elections wherein the candidate winning the electoral college majority did not win the popular vote, the election of 1828 may not be pertinent to modern times because both Adams and Jackson were at the time in the same party.  The Hayes-Tilden 1876 election may also not be pertinent since it involved the deal that gave the presidency to Republican Hayes in return for the end of reconstruction in the south.  The election of 1888 in which Harrison got 233 electoral votes to Cleveland's 145 may also not be pertinent to the modern discussions because Harrison was a Democrat.  If you follow my reasoning here we are left with just two elections which disturb some modern voters, the 2000 election in which Gore got about 500,000 more popular votes than Bush but lost the electoral college vote by 266 to Bush's 271.   And the current election in which Clinton got 232 electoral votes to Trump's 290; although I can't tell if Michigan's votes are being counted in the 290.  They seem to be still counting up there.  The current Michigan count is 2,279,221 for Trump vs 2,267,298 for Clinton with 100% reporting; so I don't know why the election map at doesn't show Michigan as having allocated its 16 electoral college votes for Trump.

2)   It seems more than coincidence that those arguing most stridently for the elimination of the electoral college at the president time are Democrats, the losers of the current election.  These Democrats preponderantly inhabit the big cities which of necessity require greater bureaucracies to run than the smaller outlying cities and towns.  These smaller cities and towns might understandably view such attempts to get rid of the electoral college with alarm.  It might seem and in fact be the case that the larger cities wish to tell the smaller cities and towns how to behave, and this was one of the concerns at the very beginning.  Note Thomas Jefferson's comments on July 30, 31 Aug 1st in regard to the Articles of Confederations ) page 28 in Library of America's Thomas Jefferson, Writings:  This isn't quite the same thing, but inasmuch as it pertains to article 17 (i.e., how to amend the constitution) of the constitution it touches not only on the thinking at the time but something of what would need to be involved to eliminate the electoral college:

"Present 41 members.  Mr Chase observed that this article was the most likely to divide us of any one proposed in the draught [sic] then under consideration.  That the larger colonies had threatened they would not confederate at all if their weight in congress should not be equal to the numbers of people they added to the confederacy; while the smaller ones declared against a union if they did not retain an equal vote for the protection of their rights.  That it was of the utmost consequence to bring the parties together, as should we sever from each other, either no foreign power will ally with us at all, or the different states will form different alliances, and thus increase the horrors of those scenes of civil war and bloodshed which in such a state of separation & independence would render us a miserable people.  That our importance, our interests, our peace required that we should confederate, and that mutual sacrifices should be made to effect a compromise of this difficult question.  He was of opinion that smaller colonies would lose their rights, if they were not in some instances allowed and equal vote; and therefore that a discrimination should take place among the questions which would come before Congress.  That the smaller states should be secured in all questions concerning life or liberty & the greater ones in all respecting property.  He therefore proposed that in votes relating to money, the voice of each colony should be proportioned to the number of its inhabitants."

3)   Here is a site that shows how the nations of the world elect their leaders:    While it was said  someplace that I shouldn't consider Germany in this regard, I have to consider them this one last time inasmuch as this site lists Germany's means for selecting its leader as an "Electoral College." 

I did a further check to see how European nations voted in their leaders.  Not as many use direct vote as one might think.   I used this site:

4) I have heard the argument that the US electoral college system is old and obsolete and should therefore be abolished and replaced with the Direct system of selecting our leader, but look at our European models.  One might reasonably argue that a "Monarchy" is an even older and more obsolete system then the one we use in the U.S.  Are there movements in each of these monarchies to abolished them and replace them with a modern system?  Possibly.  I know there are such movements in Japan, but the emperor as also the Queen of England, remains.  May our electoral college not like them remain as well?

A German view of our electoral college

Someone wrote, "Among the points it would make is that it is inadequate to use the notion of "Republic" as trumping "Democracy" - or many tacit versions of this notion: whether based on the history, evolution and theoretical underpinnings of the US political system and its constitution. We need to look at the underlying merits (rather than presenting certain kinds of fact as if they, without further ado, constitute adequate justification)." 

I don't think "trumping 'democracy'" is a valid concept.  Our form of government is a Republic and we use democratic means for electing our electors.  Behind the elector concept, something I didn't mention in my previous note, is the idea that the people au naturale are subject to demigods.  The 18th century "founding fathers" didn't trust the gullibility of the ordinary citizen who got to vote.   So perhaps if you want to enter into the United States experience and argue that the electoral college ought to be done away with by an amendment of the constitution, and this is true even though no one believes that you could get something like 2/3 or 3/4 of the states to vote for such an amendment, you would want to show that the American people today aren't as gullible and easily influenced as their 18th century predecessors.  I would be very interested in such an argument for I myself could not make one.  Our ordinary citizens seem to me at least as gullible and perhaps even more so than their 18th century predecessors.  Perhaps the electors don't debate the choices before them, but they could, and at least once did in the case of Hayes vs Tilden for the good of the country, or at least the good of the South by making the end of Reconstruction as part of the deal.   There are three million signatures thus far on the petition intended by die-hard Hillery followers to be presented to the electors in hope they will over-turn the Trump victory.  Hillary herself (from all reports I've seen) on the other hand has conceded defeat and is moving on.  But not even the Democrats aren't saying that the pure popular vote "trumps" the electoral college mediation.

Further down you write, "Without going further in the merits and demerits of the current US system, I do not think Lawrence's comments about the "Republic" and its relation to "Democracy" amount to anything like an adequate defence of that current US 'electoral college' system on the merits. That such comments may suit Republicans for the purpose of defending the recent outcome is, frankly, neither here nor there as far as the true underlying merits are concerned. (Fwiw, we may bet what Trump would be saying if he had won the popular vote but lost the 'electoral college'; and what he might be saying to protestors against Clinton.)" 

You should probably rephrase this to some extent because I don't think our form of government needs a "defense."   We developed the first modern democracy and all those in the west and elsewhere followed our model to some extent.  Francis Fukuyama decided upon the term "Liberal democracy" to encompass the Western nations and those others such as Japan and South Korea who have been influenced by our systems.  Fukuyama, an American, doesn't find it necessary (at least in the books by him that I've read) to rehash the details of our voting system.  He bases his devinition upon the particular freedoms that we enjoy.  Our Bill of Rights was something else adopted to a greater or lesser extent.  Nations where citizens have these rights and freedoms are considered "Liberal Democracies."    Notice that while the United States considers itself a "Republic", Britain with most of the same rights and freedoms and considered a "Liberal Democracy" by Fukuyama calls itself a "Constitutional Monarchy."   Are there some in Britain who want to get rid of Monarchy in a similar fashion to those in the U.S. who want to get rid of the Electoral College system?  As it happens there are. 

The British and German people don't get to vote directly for their Prime Ministers.  Have they need a defense of their systems?

I scrolled down several times to see who was responsible for the following site but my computer kept locking up.  In any case the distinctions it present between Republics and Democracies seem . . . valid:

On the U.S. Electoral College

Wikipedia explains things as follows:
The Constitutional Convention in 1787 used the Virginia Plan as the basis for discussions, as the Virginia delegation had proposed it first. The Virginia Plan called for the Congress to elect the president.[14] Delegates from a majority of states agreed to this mode of election.[15] However, a committee formed to work out various details including the mode of election of the president, recommended instead the election be by a group of people apportioned among the states in the same numbers as their representatives in Congress (the formula for which had been resolved in lengthy debates resulting in the Connecticut Compromise and Three-Fifths Compromise), but chosen by each state "in such manner as its Legislature may direct." Committee member Gouverneur Morris explained the reasons for the change; among others, there were fears of "intrigue" if the president were chosen by a small group of men who met together regularly, as well as concerns for the independence of the president if he was elected by the Congress.[16] Some delegates, including James Wilson and James Madison, preferred popular election of the executive. Madison acknowledged that while a popular vote would be ideal, it would be difficult to get consensus on the proposal given the prevalence of slavery in the South:
There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections.[17]
The Convention approved the Committee's Electoral College proposal, with minor modifications, on September 6, 1787.[18] Delegates from the small states generally favored the Electoral College out of concern large states would otherwise control presidential elections.[19]
In The Federalist Papers, James Madison explained his views on the selection of the president and the Constitution. In Federalist No. 39, Madison argued the Constitution was designed to be a mixture of state-based and population-based government. Congress would have two houses: the state-based Senate and the population-based House of Representatives. Meanwhile, the president would be elected by a mixture of the two modes.[20] Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 68 laid out the key advantages to the Electoral College. The electors come directly from the people and them alone for that purpose only, and for that time only. This avoided a party-run legislature, or a permanent body that could be influenced by foreign interests before each election.[21]
Alexander Hamilton explained the election was to take place among all the states, so no corruption in any state could taint "the great body of the people" in their selection. The choice was to be made by a majority of the Electoral College, as majority rule is critical to the principles of republican government. Hamilton argued, electors meeting in the state capitals were able to have information unavailable to the general public. No one who is an elector can be a U.S. officeholder, so none of the electors would be immediately beholden to a given presidential candidate.[21]
Another consideration was the decision would be made without "tumult and disorder", as it would be a broad-based one made simultaneously in various locales where the decision-makers could deliberate reasonably, not in one place, where decision-makers could be threatened or intimidated. If the Electoral College did not achieve a decisive majority, then the House of Representatives were to choose the president, and the Senate the vice president, selecting among the top five candidates, ensuring selection of a presiding officer administering the laws would have both ability and good character.[21]
Additionally, in the Federalist No. 10, James Madison argued against "an interested and overbearing majority" and the "mischiefs of faction" in an electoral system. He defined a faction as "a number of citizens whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community." What was then called republican government (i.e., federalism, as opposed to direct democracy), with its varied distribution of voter rights and powers, would countervail against factions. Madison further postulated in the Federalist No. 10 that the greater the population and expanse of the Republic, the more difficulty factions would face in organizing due to such issues as sectionalism.[22]
Although the United States Constitution refers to "Electors" and "electors," neither the phrase "Electoral College" nor any other name is used to describe the electors collectively. It was not until the early 19th century the name "Electoral College" came into general usage as the collective designation for the electors selected to cast votes for president and vice president. The phrase was first written into federal law in 1845 and today the term appears in 3 U.S.C. § 4, in the section heading and in the text as "college of electors."[23]

Perhaps Germans don't like our electoral college and think they have a better hold of how best to vote (although they have an electoral college of their own).  In any case we have a system that has worked for us for a long time.   Would it be appropriate for the leader of one of the competing parties to declare, "I reject the Electoral College system and will declare myself president if I win the popular vote"?  Well, Tilden seems to have done that in a sense (see below), but Hillary never said anything like that.  She and her team strove to get at least 270 electoral college votes because she knew as everyone who has striven to be the American president has known that the popular vote by itself isn't going to get one elected president.  Usually the one who wins the electoral college vote also wins the popular vote but not always. 

There was a time when many of the original States behaved, some of the time, as though they were independent nations.  But the solution we decided upon  provided a system that would allow these independent states to "unite."    Although no provision was made to prevent any state from succeding until after the Northern States defeated the Southern in a Civil War.

This is the fifth time in American History that the winner of the electoral college vote did not win the popular vote.  Read about the other times here:

The election of 1876 contended by Hayes and Tilden was the most acrimonious -- even worse than the Bush/Gore controversy.   It is possible for the electors to declare Hillary the winner and over-rule the "popular" votes in the states that selected Trump as the winner.  A decision was made in 1876 to the effect that if the electoral college would declare Hayes the winner, the North would end reconstruction and pull its troops out of the South.  Tilden had plenty of support in objecting to this agreement:  "
While Hayes and the Republicans presumptively claimed rights to victory, Tilden proved to be a timid fighter and discouraged his party from challenging the commission’s decision. Instead, he spent more than a month preparing a report on the history of electoral counts—which, in the end, had no effect on the outcome.
“I can retire to public life with the consciousness that I shall receive from posterity the credit of having been elected to the highest position in the gift of the people,” Tilden said after his defeat, “without any of the cares and responsibilities of the office.”
His health did indeed fail him shortly after the election. He died in 1886 a wealthy man, leaving $3 million to the New York Public Library."

Thursday, November 10, 2016

On modern elections, especially Trump's

The German comment was that we were "damaging democracy," the implied assumption of that comment being that there was something to damage.

We have always considered ourselves a "Republic" and not a Democracy.  Democracy is what we as a Republic practice not what we are.  Just as the EU is composed of Welfare States and not Democracies and yet practice democracy to some extent.  We all in the west practice it enough to fit into Francis Fukuyama's definition of "Liberal democracy." 

We began here in the United States as a collection of states and so states rights are never far from view.  No one here is proposing that we get rid of state governments and have just one centralized government.  

As background, we began our "United States" mistrusting a strong centralized government and many (most?) of us still do.  Although if you look at a map of how we voted you will see that the largest cities, being used to the necessity of large bureaucracies to manage their complicated needs favor the EU type centralized government and welfare-state socialistic laws and regulations; whereas the outlying smaller cities and towns tend to let people do more things for themselves.  These people and I count myself one of them tend to resent centralized government interference.   We favor more state's rights and less government interference. 

Our voting system, using the electoral college, is one of the means we have for protecting the rights of smaller states to exist without being overruled by the larger ones.  I'm seeing a future when smaller towns and cities are going to wish they had a similar right to prevent their being overruled by the larger cities.  

Is it absurd NOT to allow the majority to over-rule states rights?  We feel the large more populous cities and states breathing down our necks and would be appalled at the idea of abandoning our Republic for a Democracy and so risk (as I believe Plato argued) some crowd pleaser making an empire or dictatorship of us. 

Our system requires a peaceful transference of power every eight years (or four if a standing president is defeated in an election).  I read recently in which a reviewer describes one of the causes of Germany's 20th century ills as their having no experience in transferring power peacefully. 

We've made it difficult to change our constitution or Bill of Rights in order to prevent some current majority from easily changing laws to suit current fads and opinions.

Is there a standard of democratic government that we need a defense for not adhering to?  I certainly don't assume that.  Francis Fukuyama has used the term "Liberal Democracy" to encompass any of the mostly western states who have a variety of governmental forms all of which practice more or less modern economic techniques which require considerable freedom to achieve the maximum amount of success.  The idea of a centralized government dictating to its citizens has been curtailed in these governments to a considerable degree thanks to lessons taught them by German systems of government. 

One of the reasons for Trump's success is his argument that our government needs to place fewer restrictions upon our corporations and businesses in order for them to be willing to do their work here rather than outsourcing it to foreign nations.  One of the methods he proposes for doing this is lowering taxes, which an administration which believes in smaller government is willing to do because it has fewer ambitions regarding the dictation to and administration of its citizens.  A large Welfare-state type government will need more tax money in order to manage the needs of its people.  Thus, here in the United States the Democratic Party, favoring the welfare state to a large extent, also favors higher taxes.  The Republican party on the other hand has traditionally favored smaller government and so needs (or ought to need) less money from taxes.

Are any Germans criticizing the rioting some of our malcontents are engaging in over here?  The reasons the rioters give for these riots is a hatred of the person elected.   We didn't vote their way and so they riot.  What are we teaching our children that they think this acceptable?  Maybe we need to lay this off on Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.  Demonstrations and or riots seem to be a modern addendum to our Liberal-Democratic forms of government.

Der Spiegel on the election

Someone quoted from Der Speigel (see quote below):  Some interesting comments although I'm not sure what is meant here by "damaging democracy."  How can America be damaging democracy if we just held a democratic election and are willing to abide by the results?   I can't help but suspect that what is meant by this term is the Welfare-statism that is under attack in Europe by those who don't agree with the non-democratic decisions being made in Brussels.

Then too I think that Bush's attacks were against extremists in an already destabilized Middle East.  He may have been naive in thinking he could stabilize the region, but it seemed reasonable at the time to take some sort of action to discourage attacks against the West.  Of course there were many at the time who supported the "stabilization" of Saddam Hussein.  Many politicians on the other hand couldn't do that with a straight face.

As to the weakening of the U.S. and Western Europe, there are many who blame EU-type policies (policies which Obama also subscribed to) for that, especially the practice of experimental regulations not designed to protect the livelihoods of ordinary citizens. Mistrust of these "democratic" policies  gave rise to Brexit and during the political discussions yesterday I heard a British reporter who was covering the U.S. election say he saw a relationship between Brexit and Trump.  The dissatisfaction with Welfare (Democratic?) policies gave rise to policies and people who would oppose them.

I haven't been interested in politics in recent years but I have to admit that I found what happened yesterday very interesting. Some of the German comments seem naive.  Trump is a president not an emperor or a dictator.  If he takes actions that are unlawful he can be impeached.  If his political acumen turns out to be deficient, he can be removed from office in four years.  But the sorts of things he spoke of, such as lowering corporate income tax (we apparently have the highest such tax in the world) so that corporations will be willing to keep their activities (and consequent jobs) here in the U.S.  are policies many blue-collar workers appreciate.  Trump also excoriated the Bush and Clinton wars saying he wouldn't be engaging in that sort of thing.  In fact some see an implied Isolationism.  And in view of this, I would think the reverse would be a more legitimate fear, that is, that a war would start, say by Russia, that would threaten some EU nations and rather than step in as the U.S. has been willing to do in the past, Trump keeps his hands in his pockets and says, "good luck over there."

America’s Election Is Damaging Democracy - SPIEGEL ONLINE November 07, 2016  11:06 PM

"There used to be an American sense of comfort in transformation, in change, in the pendulum's eternal swing. It was an American certainty: Even if the present is dreary and gray, there would still be the future, and the future would be bright.

"But there was more than that -- this age-old American attitude that anyone can take charge of their destiny at any time. If you don't like your job, you just quit. If you don't like the East Coast, you move out west. You thought George W. Bush was the worst president since 1945? No worries -- there are term limits, after all, and a Barack Obama can always come along.

"Such was the thinking of millions of people in the United States -- even among political scientists and historians. It was perhaps a childish view -- the idea that opportunity would always be there because lasting failure and destruction was something that could only happen elsewhere. A Germany that triggered and lost World War II is incapable of that kind of thinking. But for an America that has long been pleased with itself, optimism about life was the default setting.

"The fear, though, is new. Fear of social decline, of all things foreign and even of progress.

"So, too, are the errors, and there have been far too many of them.

"How, for example, could the Democratic Party have allowed itself to arrive at this level of dependency on the Clintons -- how could it have slumped into such dynastic thinking? Everyone in the party knows that Hillary Clinton was strong in her campaign against Obama eight years ago -- and they know that she is no longer strong today. Instead, she's frozen, someone who has been around for what feels like an eternity. She still doesn't grasp her 2008 defeat and this time wants to prevail in her aspiration. It is reckless for a party to push through a weak candidate purely out of principle. And how sad it is that few are still speaking of this wonderful goal, of finally -- after 43 men -- shattering possibly the last remaining glass ceiling by electing the first female president. There is no more passion or lightness in the Clinton camp -- just panic, fear that the most absurd opponent seen in the past 100 years cannot be defeated.

"How could the entire country have allowed the democracy for which it stands to fall into this degree of decline? Years ago, two ranting men emerged at the margins of society with a format called "talk radio": Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Americans have always been addicted to entertainment and that helped allow these two stars to enter the mainstream. And little by little, mainstream society began resembling them. Hateful. Self-righteous. Intolerant. Frightened. Loud. And disdainful of all that seemed too distant: education, ideas, industriousness. The US became a dysfunctional country that was no longer capable of debate, barely capable of making or sticking to decisions and one that had lost that which had once been its source of strength -- and it found nothing new to replace it, at least nothing novel and good. Were this a company, the diagnosis would be as follows: management has abandoned the core brand and botched the restructuring process; bankruptcy is around the corner.

"The entire American democracy has also become an endless show, because CNN and other broadcasters are thirsty for breaking news every hour to ensure good ratings and advertising. Even lies pay off and are thus desired -- the result being that, after 18 months of campaigning, 50 percent of those eligible to vote, 100 million people, still do not know today where Trump and Clinton stand on policy. Instead, people scream "Lock Her Up" and "Build the Wall" as soon as Trump takes the stage. Good politicians don't play along with such nonsense.

"And no, it's hardly worth saying anything more about the man. How could the Republicans ever have elevated a candidate like Trump to their throne, one so self-absorbed, so misogynistic, so racist and so unqualified? At the very least, the Republican Party has earned its own downfall.

"On Tuesday, voting will finally be complete, but there will be no solace -- only, we can hope, the lesser of two evils. Things won't automatically return to normal. Indeed, the American pendulum theory was always naïve because history never starts over from scratch. The 2000 election, decided by the Supreme Court, gave us George W. Bush who, after Sept. 11, attacked Afghanistan and later Iraq, leading to the destabilization of the Middle East, the fall of Libya, Iraq and Syria, to Islamic State, to Turkish and Egyptian dictatorships, to the refugee crisis, Brexit, Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage, Frauke Petry and Trump, to the weakening of America and Europe. To the weakening of the West and liberal democracy.

"The relationship between these events is not causal, of course. But elections and political action have consequences, as we in Germany well know. And the same could happen in America -- it could commit one irreversible error too many."