America’s broken democratic system

Written By: - Date published: 9:20 am, November 27th, 2016 - 91 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, Deep stuff, democracy under attack, democratic participation, elections, International, Politics, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, us politics, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: , ,

If there was any doubt the results of the recent US elections conclusively show that America’s democratic system is broken.

Consider the following.

In general terms the President is meant to be the person with most votes.  This did not happen.  Despite Clinton winning 1.4% more of the popular vote she lost.

State legislatures are entrusted with the management of the local electoral system.  This has resulted in gerrymanders that give new meaning to the word “gerrymander” like this one in the 7th congressional district of Pennsylvania:

pennsylvania-7th-district-gerrymander

What other reason could there be for such an absurd result than to maximise the chances of the incumbent who happens to be a Republican?

The gerrymander is effective.  Despite Democrat candidates winning in total considerably more votes than Republicans in 2012 the Republicans retained control of the House of Representatives.  I suspect the result for this election will be similar.  As said by David Daley in Salon:

As we head into the 2016 election, it’s worth taking a look at how well those new maps performed in the last presidential cycle, a solid 2012 win by Barack Obama in which he defeated Mitt Romney by 126 electoral votes. It was a good year for the Democrats nationally; taken in the aggregate, Democratic House candidates earned 1.4 million more votes than their GOP counterparts. Despite that plurality, Democrats gained merely eight seats in the House; the GOP retained a big majority of 33 seats, down a little from the previous 41-seat edge.

And in continuing an age old tradition the Republican Party continues to do its best to disenfranchise millions of Americans essentially on race grounds and essentially because they tend to vote for the Democrats. Like this effort which was struck down by the Federal Appeals Court because it was too surgically precise:

A federal appeals court decisively struck down North Carolina’s voter identification law on Friday, saying its provisions deliberately “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision” in an effort to depress black turnout at the polls.

The sweeping 83-page decision by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upended voting procedures in a battleground state about three months before Election Day. That ruling and a second wide-ranging decision on Friday, in Wisconsin, continued a string of recent court opinions against restrictive voting laws that critics say were created solely to keep minority and other traditionally Democratic voters away from the polls.

The North Carolina ruling tossed out the state’s requirement that voters present photo identification at the polls and restored voters’ ability to register on Election Day, to register before reaching the 18-year-old voting age, and to cast early ballots, provisions the law had fully or partly eliminated.

The court also held that the ballots of people who had mistakenly voted at the wrong polling stations should be deemed valid.

This makes you realise how important the Supreme Court is and how vital for Republican interests the unconstitutional delaying of consideration of Obama’s nomination for the vacant seat was. Because the last time it looked at voter suppression it loosened by a bare majority DOJ oversight of State changes to voter law despite there being clear evidence that oversight should continue.

From the New York Times:

As evidence of change, Roberts pointed to the end of the literacy test and other methods of barring voter registration, which included the poll tax. But his conservative majority didn’t account for the hassle tax — the new price that minority voters disproportionately pay. In North Carolina over the weekend, people stood in line for hours in counties with large black and student populations. In a study of 381 counties covered by Section 5, about half the total number, the Leadership Conference Education Fund found 868 fewer places to vote than existed in 2012.

There are legitimate reasons to close a polling place, like saving money, while increasing access to voting by mail and early voting. But before the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling, the D.O.J. had the power to ensure that state and local voting boards did not use “budget cuts or voter modernization as cover to disenfranchise people of color,” the L.C.E.F. study points out. “In a world without Section 5, that process — that protection for minority voters — has ceased.”

And so voters of color are once again fighting for access to the most basic right of citizenship. When the Supreme Court heard arguments in the 2013 case, Shelby County v. Holder, experts predicted that the biggest impact of striking down Section 5 would be the cumulative effect of all the small stuff — “under the radar” local tinkering to district lines and polling locations and hours, as Heather Gerken, a Yale Law School professor, put it. When Section 5 was enforced, state and county officials chafed at submitting every alteration for federal approval. But the alternative is to resort to after-the-fact remedies. People are turned away from the polls, or purged from the rolls, or refused ID, and then these violations of their rights can be challenged.

How effective were Republican efforts to suppress the vote? In Wisconsin, one of the three rustbelt states that cost Clinton the election Trump’s majority was 27,000.  But there are claims that up to 300,000 voters were disenfranchised by strict voter ID laws.  The problem may or may not have remedied by this decision but the flow on effect in getting people enrolled and actually out to vote is unknown.

The United States of America, supposedly the world’s most robust democracy, has a system where boundaries are drawn on arbitrary lines to maximise the value of votes for one party, where partisan officials are motivated not by maximising the vote but by suppressing the vote of those wanting to support the other side, and where a candidate for the top job can lose even though she gained the most votes.

The system is broken.  The United Nations should send in observers next election.

91 comments on “America’s broken democratic system”

  1. Ad 1

    Over-democratisation of such essential democratic instruments as boundaries turns the whole political process into some febrile eruption of national id, rather than an aggregate measure of the whole opinion of the whole country as democratic elections should be.

    Micky, I suspect you have appeared before our Boundaries Commission here many times to argue whether specific blocs of neighborhoods should be in or out. There is no way politicians themselves should be determining that.

    As a minor aside, I think Jill Stein is showing some courage here. She’s about to start off a total shit storm. Whichever side had lost, lodging recount protests would have been courageous.

    But it’s her. She’s going to get an almighty public beating for it. That’s courageous.

    • Or, you know, they could run a system of at-large voting like STV or RRV that elects at least three winners, which is less vulnerable to gerrymandering because even if you do putz around with the borders it’s difficult not to end up with at least one minority party candidate.

      Also, you’re confusing “democratisation” with “politicisation.” Gerrymandering results from politicised boundary decisions, not from democratised ones. Arguably democratising boundary decisions means finding a way to make them apolitical.

      Agree with you on recounts though, it looks really necessary in Wisconsin right now.

      • alwyn 1.1.1

        “a system of at-large voting like STV or RRV that elects at least three winners”.

        That would be a real change to the US system of Government wouldn’t it?
        Given that most of the moaning is by the left of politics complaining about the unexpected, to them, win by Trump in the Presidential election you appear to be wanting a “Troika” type of President. Do you really think it would work?

        I haven’t heard of anything like that structure since Khrushchev proposed such a thing in the early 1960s for the job of United Nations Secretary-General.

        • What I was talking about was districting of the House, not the Presidential race, which outside of two largely irrelevant states, doesn’t rely on districting. It would be a huge change, albeit a constitutional one. It would also require congress to repeal an earlier federal law for any individual states to move to at-large voting.

          Australia and Ireland already use STV, and we use it for some of our local-body elections. (although confusingly we also use IRV, its single-winner cousin, for some contests like mayoral elections while calling it the same thing)

          Boundaries are largely irrelevant to the Presidential contest, as it is rather an issue of state instructions to electors in 48 states and DC that makes all of those contests winner-takes-all instead of proportional. (the constitution specifies that only the states can pass rules or regulations about who electors can vote for) The Electoral College would still be less-than-ideal with each state awarding proportions of its votes to all candidates winning enough votes to earn at least 1 electoral college vote, but it would at least then be relatively unlikely to elect a different winner than the popular vote. There have also been numerous attempts to scrap or short-circuit the electoral college in favour of a popular vote, two of which have failed, and one of which is only about halfway to succeeding. (but has the advantage of having an effectively unlimited timeframe to succeed)

          There are many legitimate cases being made that it’s not unreasonable to ask electors to follow the popular vote. I agree, but only if you’re intending to make abolishing the electoral college the next step. You can’t say the popular vote is the valid way to win and then not move to abolish the EC.

          In terms of reforming the Presidential vote, getting money out of politics, abolishing the electoral college, and eliminating electronic voting are probably the priorities to ensure a fair contest.

    • The Chairman 1.2

      A little something to ponder in regards to Stein wanting a recount
       

  2. save nz 2

    Is America an example of democracy anymore? Do they really have free and fair elections?

    And why only talk about this now when Trump unexpectedly gets in.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      Is America an example of democracy anymore?

      Were they ever?

      Their entire system was designed to keep the rich in power.

      Do they really have free and fair elections?

      Of course not. That would remove the rich from power.

      Thing is: These also apply to NZ.

  3. Colonial Viper 3

    You would have to ignore the original federalist intentions and ideas of the Founding Fathers of the United States in order to go down the route of ‘popular’ pure democracy.

    There is no mention of popular democracy in the Constitution or Bill of Rights for instance.

    These Founding Fathers also clearly decided to disenfranchise certain groups of people (blacks, women) and put most of the power to choose a government into the hands of a small number of elite white Electors from each state who participate in the Electoral College.

    This clearly shows that they chose not to enable a popular pure/classical Athenian democracy in the set up of the USA.

    The USA is a federal union of states set up as a republic. Not as a popular democracy.

    If you want to turn it into a popular democracy and change the fundamental basis of the creation of the union, you will have to give all the states the choice to leave the union.

    http://history.stackexchange.com/questions/5562/did-the-founding-fathers-of-the-usa-really-make-a-distinction-between-a-republic

    • mickysavage 3.1

      The states rights federalist argument has been used for hundreds of years to justify the disenfranchisement of the black vote. Doesn’t justify it. If America is a democratic state it should make sure that all of its citizens can vote unless there is a compelling reason not to do so.

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.1

        But the US constitution did not found the country as a popular democracy. It is a federalised union of individual states into a republic.

        The states rights federalist argument has been used for hundreds of years to justify the disenfranchisement of the black vote.

        Hence the passing of the fifteenth amendment to the US constitution.

        If you now want the US to convert to becoming a popular democracy then you will have to recognise that fundamental changes will be required to alter the founding constitution of the country.

        The article V amendment process which would need to be followed is here:

        https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/articles/article-v

        The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress

        • mickysavage 3.1.1.1

          As I ask below are you comfortable with one party using targeted changes in the voting system to disenfranchise black people because there is political advantage in doing so?

          • Colonial Viper 3.1.1.1.1

            If you can point out the statement where I said or implied that I was comfortable, happy with or approved of any kind of voter disenfranchisment or suppression, do let me know.

            But for the record, I believe that ALL legally registered voters, and ONLY legally registered voters, should have a say in a nation’s elections, and without any unfair impediments put in their way.

            Let’s just face facts here. Clinton could not motivate African American and Latino voters to choose her. Trump massively closed the gap with those voters (by 7% and 8% respectively), as compared to Obama in 2012. She deserved to lose, as did the failing Democratic Party who chose the ultimate status quo candidate in a change election year.

            • Ad 3.1.1.1.1.1

              Gerrymandered US districts decrease the ability of blacks and minorities to be represented in US government. That’s not a Democrat argument.

            • Matthew Whitehead 3.1.1.1.1.2

              What about the people that Republicans routinely throw off the voter rolls for spurious reasons? They even threw off a bunch of people as ostensibly duplicates for having the same first name/last name combination, even though they had different middle names or addresses.

              Clinton was a shitty candidate who looked like she might nose through to a victory based on polling.

              But given how massively she’s won the popular vote by, it’s actually getting to the point that recounts are looking eminently reasonable just to be sure there’s no additional vote-rigging going on.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.2

      This clearly shows that they chose not to enable a popular pure/classical Athenian democracy in the set up of the USA.

      Athenian democracy had quite significant exclusion.

  4. Colonial Viper 4

    A good WaPo article about the effects of Congressional gerrymandering and how it could be solved using computerised algorithms.

    It notes that both Republicans AND Democrats actively participate in gerrymandering.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/01/13/this-is-actually-what-america-would-look-like-without-gerrymandering/

    • garibaldi 4.1

      Well done CV, you’ve pretty well covered it all there.
      So ,in plain language…….

      If the Americans want all states to be fairly represented then they cannot run a populist system.
      It has to be proportionally weighted for fairness. Same applies here in NZ .I can’t see why the losers in USA are pursuing this silly line of populism.

    • mickysavage 4.2

      Democrats do it too? Funny I’m not aware of any recent effort for the blanket suppression of voters’ rights.

      • Colonial Viper 4.2.1

        Vote rigging works in different ways for the two different parties.

        For the Repugs they will try and suppress voter turnout and ability to vote eg. laws requiring multiple forms of ID.

        For the Demorats they will try and massively enlarge the pool of people who can vote, eg. importing and legalising millions of new voting immigrants.

        • mickysavage 4.2.1.1

          Let me get this right. You are comfortable with one party using targeted changes in the voting system to disenfranchise black people because there is political advantage in doing so?

          • Colonial Viper 4.2.1.1.1

            Any reason why you are just stating one side of the cheating when I gave examples of both sides of the cheating?

            • mickysavage 4.2.1.1.1.1

              Your argument is gerrymandering is done by both sides so therefore it is ok and sure the Republicans suppress the black vote but that is ok because it is a union of states. The essence of my post is that their democracy is broken. Your argument is a false equivalence and minimises the horrendous things the Republicans are doing to the voting system.

              • Colonial Viper

                Never said that any of this stuff was “OK”.

                As for their “democracy is broken” of course it is. But let’s recognise for starters that the United States was not founded as a popular democracy.

                The authors of the Constitution deliberately turned AWAY from the system of popular democracy, to that of a federalised republic.

                But taking big money, gerrymandering, voter suppression, importing millions of new voters etc. out of the picture – sure why not.

                • Ad

                  States rights via the electoral collage is a different point to MS’s post about disabling actual franchise and a reasonable shot at representation.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    How the President is selected is defined by the Constitution.

                    The writers of the Constitution turned away from a popular democracy in favour of a state based electoral college.

                    You cannot transition to a popular democracy to choose the President and not undermine the role of the individual states.

                    • Ad

                      The writers of the constitution are not the end of anything, nor it their intent.
                      The US constitution has been amended many times since, for many good reasons. No point being a black letter constitutionalist.

                      However, there is no need to shift the role of the states in choosing the President of the US, by eradicating gerrymandering. It’s a false threat.

        • Peter Swift 4.2.1.2

          “the Demorats they will try and massively enlarge the pool of people who can vote, eg. importing and legalising millions of new voting immigrants.”

          Who gave the order to import millions of immigrants? Where and when?
          If “millions” of immigrants were “imported” by the government, surely there would be legislation passed and a traceable paper trail to follow.
          Citation needed.

          And don’t, as a way of justifying your spurious claim, use the plan to document illegal immigrants who made it there by themselves who weren’t “imported” by the Democrats,

        • Macro 4.2.1.3

          You are deliberatley misinterpreting the term “gerrymandering” and to be perfectly honest there is, and can be, only one party in the US doing that. Furthermore, they are quite open about it, and boast of their achievement – They call it the REDMAP.
          From their own report (by the Republican State Leadership Committee) (now removed from the web for obvious reasons) they said this:

          Farther down-ballot, aggregated numbers show voters pulled the lever for Republicans only 49 percent of the time in congressional races, suggesting that 2012 could have been a repeat of 2008, when voters gave control of the White House and both chambers of Congress to Democrats.
          But, as we see today, that was not the case. Instead, Republicans enjoy a 33-seat margin in the U.S. House seated yesterday in the 113th Congress, having endured Democratic successes atop the ticket and over one million more votes cast for Democratic House candidates than Republicans. The only analogous election in recent political history in which this aberration has taken place was immediately after reapportionment in 1972, when Democrats held a 50 seat majority in the U.S. House of Representatives while losing the presidency and the popular congressional vote by 2.6 million votes.

          https://thinkprogress.org/republicans-brag-they-won-house-majority-because-of-gerrymandering-b8dd46d6c355#.yqm7bppmo

          The report credits gerrymandered maps in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin with allowing Republicans to overcome a 1.1 million popular-vote deficit. In Ohio, for instance, Republicans won 12 out of 16 House races “despite voters casting only 52 percent of their vote for Republican congressional candidates.” The situation was even more egregious to the north. “Michiganders cast over 240,000 more votes for Democratic congressional candidates than Republicans, but still elected a 9–5 Republican delegation to Congress.”

          Though party officials typically dance around the unseemly issue of gerrymandering, this report is surprisingly candid and unabashed. The RSLC, after all, is tasked with winning control of state legislatures in large part so they can redraw congressional maps to the GOP’s benefit after redistricting. Because most states allow partisan redistricting, its understandable that the RSLC would release a report boasting of its gerrymandering success that “paved the way to Republicans retaining a U.S. House majority in 2012.”

          The GOP are the only party to be able to do this because they are the ones controlling the legislature, and more importantly the Courts through the control of appointments to the Supreme Court.

          I’ve said this more than once, but the US is a very sick society and unfortunately it is about to become a whole lot sicker.

          The control of voting rights in individual States is also an effective means to Gerrymander the outcome of the Presidential election as well as the control of Senate and the House. By making it more difficult to vote in poor areas and easy to vote in wealthy areas the results are heavily swung in the direction of the wealthy (ie the right).

          But I realise that this does not concern you as I take it from other comments by you that the end justifies the means – e.g. the eradication of TPP justifies the election of Trump. Frankly if it came to a choice – i’d suffer the TPP over Trump any day.

          • Colonial Viper 4.2.1.3.1

            Yes, at the level of the House and Senate, gerrymandering is a real problem.

            Nevertheless, it still amazes me that Hillary Clinton preferrers continue to blame what are well known long standing technical issues for the Democrat’s stunning defeats at every level of government.

            e.g. the eradication of TPP justifies the election of Trump. Frankly if it came to a choice – i’d suffer the TPP over Trump any day.

            Sure, and your view represents the preference of some who have the privilege and the wherewithal to prioritise identity and personality politics over substantial trade policy.

            Trade policy which might shut down the only meatworks or factory or exporter left in your town which brings in serious money and jobs into your community.

            Now, read what else Pat Buchanon is saying that the Trump Administration should do about trade policy:

            Every foreign manufacturer, to maintain free access to the U.S. market of $17 trillion, greatest on earth, would have to consider shifting production — factories, technology, jobs — to the USA.

            The incentive to produce abroad would diminish and disappear. The incentive to produce here would grow correspondingly.

            Inversions — U.S. companies seeking lower tax rates by moving to places like Ireland — would end. Foreign companies and banks would be clamoring to get into the United States.

            With a zero corporate tax, minority businesses would spring up. Existing businesses would have more cash to hire. America would shove China aside as the Enterprise Zone of the world.

            Most important, by having Americans buy more from each other, and rely more on each other for the necessities of life, U.S. trade and tax policies would work to create a greater interdependence among us, rather than pull us apart as they do today.

            http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-11-26/towards-america-first-trump-trade-policy

            Furthermore, they are quite open about it, and boast of their achievement – They call it the REDMAP.

            Yep, as you say it wasn’t even a secret.

            And how did the politically effective and decisive Democrats respond?

            By losing even more state governorships in 2016.

            By losing the White House because they ran a candidate so weak that she lost to a multiple-bankrupt inexperienced political neophyte self confessed tax avoiding Mexican villifying pussy grabber with tiny hands.

            That’s who Hillary Clinton lost against.

            And by doing so, owning the weakest position the Democratic Party has been in at every level of government since the 1920s.

            Hillary Preferrers need to recognise much bigger problems on their side than gerrymandering and voter suppression, both of which are real but also long standing problems.

            Jimmy Dore is closer to the mark – Bernie Sanders gets why Democrats lost, even while Democrats are making excuses:

            • Macro 4.2.1.3.1.1

              I’m not going to respond to such a clueless reply except to this – because it represents the inept and incredibly naive understanding you have:

              “Yep, as you say it wasn’t even a secret.

              And how did the politically effective and decisive Democrats respond?

              By losing even more state governorships in 2016.”

              Of course they did!

              The whole fucking system in many States has now been gerrymandered out of Democrat control… Essentially there is now no way Bernie or any other Democrat can win. The only hope for “progressive politics” lies in rebellion. It certainly isn’t going to come from Trump. His appointment to the Supreme Court will be hard right.

              • Good stuff Macro.

                I notice those that oppose trump and his disturbing personal qualities are now branded as ‘Hillary Preferrers’ – already been explained to them multiple times – shows how dishonest and devious they are imo.

                • Colonial Viper

                  You’re a Hillary Preferrer as welll, aren’t you?

                  • you’re making up the story – what do you think – remember the truth is irrelevant oh dishonest and devious one

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Come on, just admit it, exactly like Macro you prefer Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump any day of the week.

                    • mickysavage []

                      Well dang I do. Can’t stand her but at least she is sane.

                    • is that what you want me to say – will that stop your prattling – nah didn’t think so – not devious enough yet but well over the dishonest high water mark – c-minus – please try harder try hard

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Well dang I do. Can’t stand her but at least she is sane.

                      Cheers MS, you are one of the few people here who have been willing to come forward and actually declare your preference. As opposed to most everyone else with their chickenshit stance of “my criticism of Trump doesn’t imply that I like Hillary any better”.

                      BTW Trump is quite sane, quite rational and quite methodical. Well, as much as the next human being.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      marty mars – sorry you can’t seem to admit the obvs. In a Trump/Clinton match up, you’re a Clinton Preferrer.

                      No shame in that.

                    • clinton preferer has all sorts of nasty connotations when a trump sycophant, dishonest and devious nobody from dunners says it so I’d prefer, as someone like you who cannot vote there, to say that in the 2 horse race, yes I wish clinton had won. I still consider her flawed in many ways and in no way do I ‘prefer’ her unless it is against a multiple-bankrupt inexperienced political neophyte, 0.1% property tycoon billionaire, self confessed tax avoiding, Hispanic and Muslim vilifying, russian suck-up toady, women genitalia grabber, racist rightwinger and a unbelievable haircut, with tiny, very tiny rat-like hands.

                      So yep you’ve got me there

              • Colonial Viper

                By losing even more state governorships in 2016.”

                Of course they did!

                The whole fucking system in many States has now been gerrymandered out of Democrat control<

                Huh? You can’t blame gerrymandering of congressional districts for the result in state governorships. The whole state votes for those as a unity.

                And that’s my point. Voters are even taking away state governorships from the Democratic Party.

                But yeah, keep blaming technicalities Macro.

            • alwyn 4.2.1.3.1.2

              You say “Yes, at the level of the House and Senate, gerrymandering is a real problem”.

              At the House level you are correct, in most States. A few have Independent groups to allocate the Congressional boundaries. There are only 6 states that do this and interestingly only one of these is controlled by the Democrats. Four are controlled by the Republican party. In 2 of these 4 of course, Alaska and Montana, gerrymandering is impossible regardless of the rules used by the state.

              At the Senate level however the electorate is the entire state, just like the election of a Governor. The only “gerrymandering” happened when the states were created and the boundaries allocated. I can’t see any way to change that now.

              • Colonial Viper

                My mistake, thanks for the correction Alwyn. Question – what is the gerrymandering situation for state senates as opposed to the US Senate?

                • alwyn

                  “gerrymandering situation for state senates “.

                  I shudder to think. If the state representatives are willing to indulge in the practice for the National election districts they are probably even keener to do it for themselves. The US Supreme Court has ruled that districts have to be roughly equal in population but not in how the boundaries are to be set.

                  Those states that have an Upper House do all seem to have districts rather than some sort of state-wide election so they are probably indulging in the practice.

                  Both parties are quite happy with the practice of course. Their primary interest is in having a safe seat for themselves, not with having a proper parliament.

              • Macro

                Alwyn you overlook the disenfranchisment of many voters within state boundaries. Good access to voting in some areas, restrictions in others. The net result is that the minorities and poor are consistently disadvantaged to the benefit of the white and better off.

                • alwyn

                  Your points may be entirely valid but they have nothing whatsoever to do with the idea of “gerrymandering”.

                  That is exclusively reserved for the practice of setting the boundaries of the electoral districts to include a solid majority of one parties voters. You should note that both the major parties are in favour of the practice. If you cook the boundaries so that there are a majority of voters for one party in one electorate it tends to mean that there are a majority for the other party in another district. You end up with all the districts in a state being safe for one party OR the other. Most politicians are in favour. The last thing a politician wants is a swing seat.

                  The real problem with gerrymandering isn’t that the seat is basically safe for one party. It is that the election that counts is the primary to pick the party candidate and leads to all the Republican members of Congress being well to the right and all the Democrats being well to the left.
                  The old situation where you had Liberal Republicans and Conservative Democrats and compromises being possible in Congress has long gone.

                  • Macro

                    I know precisely what the word means – “the practice of setting the boundaries of the electoral districts to include a solid majority of one parties voters”. And that is precisely how the electorial system has been rigged to give some areas where people have easy access to voting places and others poor access. A vote can be dissallowed if one votes at the incorrect polling booth. Only around half of the total voting population voted – or were able to vote. Some having to queue for hours in order to do so.
                    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/10/minority-voters-election-long-lines-id

                    • alwyn

                      ” the electorial system has been rigged to give some areas where people have easy access to voting places and others poor access”

                      That is, of course, the situation that applies in New Zealand if you have to go to a polling place in order to cast a General Election vote. Here of course it tends to act to the benefit of Labour and to the disadvantage of National.

                      The areas that tend to favour Labour over National are in the large cities. The population density is generally higher than in rural districts. Thus, although the Labour favouring areas may have less polling places they are much closer together and that makes it easier for people to vote. They don’t have to travel as far as they do In the rural areas to get to a polling booth.

                      Have a look at the size of Clutha-Southland compared to Mt Roskill say.
                      Would you say the New Zealand system was rigged to provide advantage to the left leaning parties?

        • Lloyd 4.2.1.4

          Please explain how the Democrats import all these illegal aliens. I would expect any organising of populations moving illegally into the USA is well outside the ability of the Democrats.
          If these illegal aliens are living in the country, then maybe giving them a vote is a action supportive of democracy. I don’t see that a party which is trying to give a vote to EVERYONE that lives in a country as being anything close to the un-democratic actions of Republicans over the decades to put barrier after barrier in front of non-wasp populations to prevent ‘persons of colour’ voting.

      • Democrats absolutely do gerrymandering too, by the way. They’re not as aggressive with it as the republicans, but establishment Democrats are just as enamored with big money and unfair districting as establishment Republicans are, it’s just they’re not as good at rigging the system for themselves so they tend to lose out more because of it.

        In any fair political system the Republicans would have been out of power since Clinton won.

        • Colonial Viper 4.2.2.1

          Yes, possibly, but the Democrats would have gained and retained that power by continuing to ignore or talk down to huge swathes of their former core white working class voter base.

          Many of these same voters chose Obama twice, but this time around told the DC establishment (from both parties) F*** YOU.

          • Oh, the “since Clinton won” comment was referring to Bill Clinton. As in, we wouldn’t have had Bush and probably no Trump either, unless Republican policies changed dramatically from what we see today. Trump argues that he would have campaigned differently and won anyway if it were a popular vote system, but I highly doubt he would have been as successful, given this is the biggest popular vote loss for a President-elect since reconstruction, and that one literally only happened because the Republicans agreed to a compromise where they’d get the Presidency but pull out law enforcement from the South so the Klan could get back in business.

            I absolutely agree that the weak vote for Hillary was absolutely about working people rejecting her and not showing up for Democrats, as the statistics look a lot like Bernie’s people showed up better for Hillary than Hillary’s did for Obama, and that if the Democrats want to win in 2 or 4 years, they need to embrace Bernie’s new wing of the party, and rally behind other figures like Keith Ellison and Elizabeth Warren, and run new Democrats along those lines. If they rebuild that way and run a populist with working class appeal in 2020, Trump is a goner.

            • Colonial Viper 4.2.2.1.1.1

              First up to look for: does new rustbelt up and comer Ryan beat long timer Pelosi for the position of Minority Leader of the House.

              • Given Chuck Schumer seems to have gotten away without giving any significant authority to either Sanders or Warren despite them arguably being the real leaders of the party in the Senate, I’m not optimistic. (That said, Sanders is now technically in the leadership team, but his “outreach” position keeps him well away from the levers of power, and may even be a stick for establishment Democrats to beat him with if he doesn’t “provide them” with enough votes, assuming they feel they can force him out without a practical revolt among activists)

                Tim Ryan hasn’t even formally thrown his hat into the ring for the contest yet, which is a bad sign. You can’t vote for a guy who’s not willing to stand up and say they want your vote. I expect that Pelosi will be re-elected with significant complaint for now, but that there is room for a coup in the future.

                There is the real win though is that Keith Ellison is leader of the DNC, which means that if some rubbish establishment figure like Clinton tries to run in 2020, that they won’t have a Debbie Wasserman-Schultz figure behind the scenes helping to overtly-but-legally rig the primary process in their favour, and will actually have to win somewhat fairly. And if you get an actual progressive winning the primary in 2020, that’s a great year for it, as it’s a census year, which could mean down-ballot wins for the Democrats in state contests, which means they might be able to undo some of the damage the Republicans did to the representativeness of the House, and start winning it back reliably in 2022 and forward.

                • Colonial Viper

                  Note that in 2018, 25 out of the 33 US Senate seats up for re-election have Democrat aligned incumbents.

                  10 of the Dems hold their senate seats in states that Trump won.

                  The Repugs are going to push hard to grab as many of those that they can, in order to push their senate majority closer to 60.

                  Re: Keith Ellison. I’ve seen a few interviews with him. He is clearly and definitively left wing, but I am undecided if he has got the calibre of talent require to start turning the big Democratic ship around.

                  • Remember the DNC is a backroom position, so what matters is whether he’s effective, (it seems likely) whether he’ll be able to be neutral between candidates, (it seems likely) and whether he’ll have a good political strategy for the party as a whole. (it seems more likely than any establishment candidate that may still decide to contest his position, but honestly with democrats, who the hell knows?) He doesn’t actually have to be any good in public or as a spokesperson, as that’s not really the role. Hell, Wasserman-Shulz was a terrible spokesperson by any measure, and until Bernie’s wing of the party came along, they thought she was eminently qualified and she was an uncontroversial pick, and he’s likely better than Donna Brazil, who is likely to be relegated to a seat filler no matter what objections Obama has to Ellison.

                    I agree that the Republicans will be going hard to get a filibuster-proof majority. They’ll also be reforming filibuster rules even further so that Democrats can’t filibuster as easily as they did, so that Democrats really need to aim to have a majority in the Senate. (it would be very hard to achieve, as I believe they’d need to win 5/8 seats with Republican incumbents, assuming they don’t win any seats vacated due to cabinet positions, and that they successfully defend all their senate seats, but this is absolutely possible if Trump is considered a Bush-league failure within his first 2 years)

    • red-blooded 4.3

      CV, it’s not like Mickey plucked the idea of the US as a democracy from out of nowhere. They are constantly boasting about their democratic principals, about being a model for the world to follow, the world’s greatest democracy, about bringing democracy to other parts of the world… And there’s been plenty of discussion of this issue during Obama’s presidency; a lot of it focused on how he’s been hamstrung by the (Republican-dominated) Senate and how gerrymandering ensures that this institution stays Republican even when the popular vote is won by the Democrats.

      You seem to be a born again Republican, CV.

      • Colonial Viper 4.3.1

        Their history, constitution and electoral system makes it clear that they are a federalised republic, not a popular democracy.

        • red-blooded 4.3.1.1

          Where did I say that their constitution (which is a document of its time, buggered in many ways – supporting “the right to bear arms”, disenfranchising women and allowing for slavery, amongst other things) set them up as a popular democracy? Countries evolve and the US sees itself and constantly promotes itself as a democracy. The idiocy of their written constitution is a big part of their problem. Believe it or not, it’s possible for something to be “constitutional” and still be wrong; just ask any woman (whose foremothers were denied a vote) or the descendant of any slave (whose forefathers were also seen as non-citizens).
          http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/conlaw/thirteenthamendment.html

          • Colonial Viper 4.3.1.1.1

            Of course.

            But if you want this change there needs either to be a legal Constitutional Amendment, or an illegal abrogation of the US Constitution.

            • alwyn 4.3.1.1.1.1

              I assume that anyone holding views such as those of red-blooded or mickeysavage will be opposed to Geoffrey Palmer’s dribbling about what he proposes as a written constitution. A written constitution will clearly be far too constricting.

              Near the top of the original post mickeysavage also said “In general terms the President is meant to be the person with most votes. This did not happen.”.
              I assume he thinks the same thing should apply in New Zealand. This would of course mean that National would be the only party that could be allowed to form a Government after next years election. I don’t think anyone can possibly believe they will not be the Party with the most votes?

              • Colonial Viper

                quite droll

                “In general terms the President is meant to be the person with most votes.”

                Strictly speaking, MS should have said that the President is meant to be the person with the most ELECTORAL COLLEGE votes. At least, that’s what the US Constitution says.

                • alwyn

                  Of course MS should have said “the President is meant to be the person with the most ELECTORAL COLLEGE votes”.

                  However if he had said that he would, although being accurate, have been left with nothing else to say. Trump is the one with the most Electoral College votes and therefore will be the President.
                  MS however wants them to use a different method to the one they have been happily using for the last 230 years.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    Well, “happily” is a bit of an exaggeration, I would suggest.

                    Also, individual states are (IMO) very unlikely to approve any constitutional amendment which reduces the amount of say that they have over who is in the White House.

              • Ad

                If a government was formed here while losing the popular vote by a good few percentage points, I guarantee the same questions would be asked here. I am sure you can remember New Zealand First 1996.

                • alwyn

                  Yes, I do remember the 1996 election.
                  I don’t really see what that result has to do with your comment.
                  After all the main party votes were, rounded.
                  National 701,000
                  Labour 584,000
                  NZF 276,000
                  Alliance 209,000
                  ACT 126,000.
                  As mickeysavage, and you, would seem to want the party that got the most votes went on to form the Government. National beat Labour very easily, didn’t they?

        • Mmmm, yes and no.

          As the names of the political parties might indicate, there have always been arguments as to whether the US should be a representative Democracy or an oligarchical Republic that just happens to hold popular elections. It’s been relatively recently that the Democrats became so bought that the Republicans have won de facto because Democrats have essentially ceded the point to their donors.

          The forerunners of the Republicans happened to win the first couple of elections and be in power for the beginning of the country, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the whole government was definitively an oligarchical republic that whole time. (especially as several compromises with the more democratic forces in opposition were necessary to get key bills through congress, thus putting limits on the frankly nearly monarchical ambitions of the early Federalists) There were arguably several eras of US government that can be characterised as representative democracy.

          • Colonial Viper 4.3.1.2.1

            But we’re not disputing the fact that the United States was originally set up and structured by a white male wealthy elite to give more say to a white male wealthy elite.

            Citizens United, the revolving door between the White House and Wall St etc, has dramatically worsened the situation of course.

            • Matthew Whitehead 4.3.1.2.1.1

              France had similar issues with its transition to democracy as the USA had with its independence from the UK, it’s just that their modern history has worked out differently and they’re not suffering from democratic decay to the degree that the USA is.

              Every democracy has a parasitical elite built in that want to undermine and possibly even destroy it, it’s practically inevitable that allowing enough freedom to actually be a democracy allows enough inequality in to create an elite, and then the elite sets out to undermine democracy as far as it reasonably can.

              The US is just where that elite has concentrated and had the most success, likely as a result of their overbuilt constitution that’s difficult to amend, powerful executive Presidency, and long-standing racial tensions, and that’s just the big ones. I could write an entire book about it and still leave things out, the upside is that most democracies don’t duplicate many of the things that have lead to the US’ current democratic decay. The downside is that a very big factor, a lack of real media, is now becoming a reality in actual democracies, so we’ll have to work out how to maintain a functioning democracy with a largely compliant media ecosystem.

      • KJT 4.3.2

        The USA has never been a Democracy, in reality power has always been concentrated in a ruling class.

        • Colonial Viper 4.3.2.1

          ^^ this

          Like all the slave owning Founding Fathers, George Washington who made himself the richest man in the USA on the back of land stolen from dead Indians, etc.

        • The definition of a democracy is not about whether the wealthy have outsized power, it’s largely about whether government is responsive to public opinion. The USA used to be responsive to public opinion. It hasn’t been for at least the last 20 years.

          • Colonial Viper 4.3.2.2.1

            Again, who was President 20 years ago…

          • KJT 4.3.2.2.2

            That is called “populist” these days.
            As if following peoples wishes is a bad thing!

            • Matthew Whitehead 4.3.2.2.2.1

              Populists can be good or bad.

              Winston is a populist on several issues, but not all of them are good ideas where he’s got things right. It’s okay sometimes to say that the direction the populace wants to go is wrong, but you better be willing to explain why and try to move public opinion with you rather than just saying “no.”

              John Key is also a populist on social issues, largely determining policy direction by focus group in that arena. As political strategy, populism is an excellent idea in the internet age when we can all talk to each other so easily, and media is much more democratic than it was before.

              But as policy, populism can be dangerous. Remember, there were times when it was populist to deny gay rights. There are times where it’s populist to deny Māori their rights under the Treaty. There are times where it’s populist to cut back on needed government spending to cut taxes. There was a time when a CGT wasn’t populist, but Labour made the case to the public, and now people actually want a new tax. (talk about effectively moving opinion on an issue!)

              We should always err on the side of populism, but we don’t need to be slaves to it. It’s perfectly reasonable for a Party to have their own ideas and convince the public that they’re right, so long as they’re willing to listen in return and address people’s concerns. (In fact, many of the best bills are written by starting from a premise that rightly disagrees with the public’s opinion, but then goes on to address all of their largest concerns with the bill)

  5. Sabine 5

    i don’t think there will be a ‘next’ election in 4 years.
    but then what do i know.

  6. Andre 6

    Funny you should use Pennsylvania’s 7th district for illustration. The two places I lived in Philadelphia were Ridley Park and Havertown, both in what is now the 7th.

    Both Election Days I lived there, I rocked up to the polling place, signed in, straight to the booth, out again in a couple minutes. Drove to work through Philadelphia city (now the 1st District), where there were massive lines at every polling place (there weren’t many).

    Hmmm, wonder why there was a difference?

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      Is that the Governor’s doing?

      • Ad 6.1.1

        It’s certainly something that only the state (at whichever level) can fix.
        And it should.

        • Colonial Viper 6.1.1.1

          Philly has had Democratic mayors for 60 years straight. And a Democratic state governor for most of the years since 2003.

          Maybe they could have sorted something out.

          • Andre 6.1.1.1.1

            From memory, responsibility for running elections is split between some state-level commissions and county-level commissions. Because of gerrymandering, Pennsylvania usually has a Repug dominated legislature.

  7. NZ Groover 7

    Mickey, you’re not comparing apples with apples. It’s irrelevant that Clinton got more votes because the rules are based on the Electoral College. It’s like saying that the All Blacks won 24-0 but the opposition really won because they had more possession. The strategies and tactics that you’d use for most points vs possession would be totally different.

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      It’s like saying that the All Blacks won 24-0 but the opposition really won because they had more possession.

      Ha – I thought of this very analogy a little while ago but never used it. Very pleased that you did, though.

      • DoublePlusGood 7.1.1

        It only really works as an analogy if the rules of rugby lead to results as unrepresentative of quality as the electoral college is undemocratic though.

  8. AmaKiwi 8

    Germany and Japan got reasonably democratic governments because constitutional scholars imposed new governments on them after they were utterly destroyed in WWII. That’s the only way the US and UK will ever become reasonably democratic. Defeat in war.

    I accept that the US form of government cannot be changed. But I am hopeful we can make the fundamental changes required to make NZ democratic.

  9. SayMyName 9

    I went to this thread thinking I would find some good arguments but all I got was “blah blah blah we lost blah blah blah I don’t understand how representative democracy works blah blah blah but more Americans voted for Hillary then Trump blah blah blah Republicans are cheaters blah blah blah.”

  10. Hone 10

    I think the photo id to vote is to prove your a legal citizen of America.

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