What part of democracy don’t we understand?

I hear a helluva lotta people who ought to know better defending the electoral college. It was designed to keep democracy in check. To make sure the people didn’t elect anyone dangerous. That was the theory. It was used that way just once, in 1824. In 1828 the people who used it that way were swept away in a landslide by a very angry, vengeful electorate. Then in 1876 it was used to break a tie that threatened a renewed civil war, cash switched hands, electors switched votes, and the losing candidate won. Sleazy, sure, but better than another war, they said. In 1888 it just so happened that Benjamin Harrison won sixty five more electoral votes than his counterpart despite losing the popular vote. (Ballot box stuffing in the right states helped Harrison’s cause considerably, it was said.) From 1892 to 1996 the electoral college played no role whatsoever, as the winner always had more popular votes than the loser, so the electoral college was merely a vaguely ridiculous formality performed pretty much unnoticed. It seemed harmless enough.

Then came 2000, and the most conservative presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater (who was probably the most conservative nominee ever) was elected by the electoral college even though he was down half a million votes. I remember railing against that and getting fierce opposition from people defending the vaunted institution. What good is it? What is its point. It’s in the constitution I was told. That, apparently was enough, despite the horrendous damage inflicted upon the people, the body politic, the economy and foreign policy by the Bush/Cheney administration who most people had voted against. There’s a reactionary streak deep in even progressive bones. They like things, some things, left the same way. Me, I was left so bitter I nearly gave up on voting itself. I hated the fact that an archaic machination tucked into the Constitution centuries before invalidated the vote of the majority. Undermined the whole concept of democracy. I dreaded the next time it happened.

Well, it has happened. And only sixteen years later. By the time all the absentee and provisional ballots are counted in California–and there are about six million left to go through–Hillary will rack up a huge popular vote margin. She’s winning those ballots 2 to 1. If there are six million votes remaining, that means she’ll wind up with two million more votes than Donald Trump. That is more than the margin that JFK had in 1960 and Nixon had in 1968 combined, and more than Carter had in 1976. More too than Trump had in Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Iowa combined, and maybe more than he had in all the battleground states combined. Yet by the rules of the electoral college, Donald Trump wins. The damage he will do the country is so far unimaginable. This is a moral and political catastrophe the likes of which this country has never faced. And it would not be happening at all if we had direct elections. It has been made possible by the electoral college.

We have direct elections  for governor in California, a state of 40 million people. It never even occurs to us that electing a governor that way is somehow dangerous. And it’s not. The notion seems completely absurd. Imagine our own state electoral college, divided by counties, with a minimum three electors from each county (as in the real electoral college) plus amounts based on population. One could win by winning small counties entirely. Imagine that. Imagine how different government in California would be if our governors were elected by residents of small counties up north, in the Sierra and through the length of the Central Valley. Imagine what they would do to the rest of us in the Bay Area and southern California. Imagine the dysfunction. Its sounds absurd, impossible.

Yet somehow electing Donald J. Trump, who may have lost the popular vote by two million, doesn’t seem odd at all to those devoted to the electoral college. It seems perfectly natural, as if that is what the Founding Fathers intended, that we elect extremist right wing politicians. Twice.

What part of democracy don’t we understand?

This was not 1980

This was not 1980. There was not a landslide. Indeed, when the votes are finally tallied in a couple weeks, Clinton will have a margin in the popular vote that could reach two million votes. Most people did not vote for Trump. But enough did in the right states that enabled Trump to win the electoral college. But American did not change like it did in 1980. There is no national mandate for Trump’s vicious, racist ideology. This was the electoral college equivalent of a coup d’etat. So what do you do? You resist. You resist in every way possible, you fight him at every step, until the next election. Remember, this scumbag declared war on the rest of us. He and his followers treated it like war. They screamed bloody threats, waved guns, and promised to put us in jail. His movement–and he loves calling it that, his movement–is probably the most fascist thing we have seen in this country since the nazi-infiltrated German-American Bund in the 1930’s. Trump and his movement have some really freaky tie ins to the far right movements in Europe, to the creepy insane Alt Right in this country, and most bizarrely of all is affiliated with the kleptocratic regime of Vladimir Putin. The most dangerous right wing ideologues in this country will be working in his Administration. There has never been such a threat to American democracy as the presidency of Donald Trump. We can’t afford to lighten up on them for a minute. We are like the French when they suddenly found themselves conquered by the Nazis in 1940. Some collaborated. Some hid and pretended it wasn’t happening. And some joined with others and resisted. It’s your choice.

If you love your country, loathe Donald Trump.

The electoral college is a built in guard against pure democracy, a constitutional means of rigging a presidential election. This is the fifth time it has happened (1824, 1876, 1888, 2000 and now 2016). So Trump was very much correct, it turns out, when he said the system was rigged. Hopefully people will not stop pointing this out, especially as Hillary’s lead keeps piling up. It means nothing, that lead–all that counts is the vote of the electoral college–but it is a constant reminder that this so called agent for change was actually elected by a minority of voters, while nearly all of the majority dislike him intensely. Indeed, he is probably flat out despised by more people than there are supporting him. Does that mean he’s not president? No. Does that limit his constitutional prerogatives in any way? Of course not. He won the most electoral votes. But does that mean, as I keep hearing today, that we have to support him? Not at all. Indeed, it is perhaps a patriotic duty to undermine him. I say hate the racist, misogynist, quasi-fascist sonofabitch. Detest everything he stands for. Everything he represents. If you love your country, loathe Donald Trump.

Rigged election

It’s going on midnight on election night, and there have been a little over six million votes counted in California so far. In 2012 there were over 13 million cast in the presidential election in the state, so there are probably about another seven million to be counted. Hillary is getting a steady 61%, Trump 34%. Which means Hillary has about two million more votes coming to her out of California than will Trump. If you figure that the remaining votes left in all the other states east of here amount to maybe a million and are roughly divided equally–maybe 52% for Trump, 48% for Hillary–that means that the pile of California votes alone will give Hillary a popular vote edge of two million votes over Trump. Add in the uncounted votes from Washington state–a couple hundred thousand more Hillary than Trump–and Hillary might wind up with well above two million more popular votes than Trump.

Back in 2000, Al Gore had a little over a half million more votes than George W. Bush, while still losing the electoral college. And this year Hillary has also clearly lost the electoral college, yet her popular vote margin might be four or five times as big as that of Gore’s. Indeed, Hillary’s popular vote margin might easily be twice that of Trump’s margins in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida combined. It might even surpass his margin in all the battleground states combined. Think of it. Hillary Clinton was probably more popular than Donald Trump in California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada than Donald Trump was more popular than Hillary Clinton in all the battleground states put together. That is something you don’t notice till long after the states have been divvied up and the electoral college numbers totaled. It’s the kind of thing you have to wait to observe, as the hours pass by and the vote totals out west inexorably climb.

I suspect that then reason that Hillary’s campaign hasn’t conceded yet is that they want to wait until those California and Oregon and Washington votes come rolling in. She wants to concede when she has millions more votes than the Donald. Because that is what everyone will talk about when she concedes, about how she received millions more votes than Donald Trump, but how he won the electoral college anyway. A rigged election, one might even say.

A lotta white men

Most women voted for Hillary Clinton. Most men voted for Donald Trump. A slightly higher proportion of men voted for Trump than women voted for Hillary. But I think what happened was that there was a significant increase in the number of men voting. Usually women vote more, I suspect this time more men voted. This is just a hunch, but it would help account for the fact that Trump got more votes even though more women voted for Hillary. His majority was provided by a big upsurge in white men, mostly baby boomers. I was just thinking this morning about what a baby boomer phenomenon Trump is, and baby boomers are at their peak voting strength right now. All us angry white guys born between 1945 and 1966. I was worrying about that this morning and looked at the polls again and said nahhh, I was just being paranoid.

Presidential election deja vu

Despite all the sturm and drang and media frenzy, this general election campaign has been predictable, following the same old patterns as most general campaigns–same states, same demographics, same predictable ebb and flow. Fundamental change occurs slowly, over generations, culminating in one stunning landslide–1932, 1980–though even those elections follow fairly predictable patterns after the conventions. The craziness happens in the primaries–1964, 1972, 1976, 2016– but in the post convention months leading to November, everything falls into the old patterns. You can look back at the final weeks of 2012, 2008, 2004, 2000, 1996, 1992, 1988, 1984, 1980 and all the way back to 1960, maybe even 1948, and unless there is a major third party–1968, 1992–the pattern is almost narcotically the same. Indeed, once best selling campaign histories have fallen out of fashion because the races are so identical. It’ll remain this way as long as there is the electoral college. You will never see things blown wide open until we finally dump that archaic machinery and replace it with the direct vote. In the meantime the last month of every presidential election will give veteran campaign watchers a stultifying sensation of deja vu. You already know how it will end, you’ve seen it before. It took an electoral vote tie in 2000 (courtesy Ralph Nader’s ideologically nihilistic campaign) to suddenly jar us out of the familiar and into the strange and scary. Now that was different. Too different.

Voting by mail

Last week:

Never did get my vote by mail packet. Wife did. I can’t tell if it was the Russians, or “clerical error”, or the deliberate Republican repression of big, dumb, epileptic guys. Whatever. Somebody is machinating something. If machinate is a word. I’d look it up but my dictionary is untrustable. Benghazi, Ben Turpin, Ben Franklin. Or just Ben, the rat.

My vote by mail packet came yesterday, just in time. Now voting is convenient. Even more convenient is that the registrar of voters changed my name to Mrs. Elia K. Fliegman, which I had been planning to do, actually, and this save me reams of inconvenient paperwork. This does sound eerily like one of Woody Allen’s bits when he was a stand up comic and actually funny, but it’s real life, and hence tragic. Think of Mrs. Elia K. Fliegman waking up transformed into a giant drummer. Think of poor Mr. Fliegman. Suddenly his wife is an epileptic weirdo, and my wife is stuck with Mrs. Fliegman’s entire collection of Hummels.

It’s the Russians’ hand. There’s no doubt about it.

Anyway, I considered voting by mail as Mrs. Elia K. Fliegman, but just my luck I’d be detected by a Trump poll watcher. Imagine my shame. You don’t look like Mrs. Elia K. Fliegman, Chuck Todd would say, and I’d deck him. Who wouldn’t?

Republican civil war

Odds are that the GOP will lose a couple dozen seats in the house this year. It seems as of now highly doubtful that they’ll lose more than that. Very effective gerrymandering by GOP controlled statehouses have left enough Republicans in safe districts that can withstand even a severe drubbing of their presidential candidate and a big increase in Democratic voters. But the irony is that the Republicans in districts that are not safe veer to the more moderate side of the GOP, being that the districts they are in are not conservative enough to have elected a Tea Partier. Democrats will pick up those seats, leaving a GOP majority in the house that, though smaller, will be even more conservative than it is now. Trump won’t win the White House, and a lot of Republican senators will be losing their seats because of Trump and likely losing the majority to the Democrats, but the House will be more Trumpified than it is now. There has been a long running Republican trend since 1980 (maybe since 1978) where every election brings more hard line conservatives into the House than before. In 1994–seven elections after the Reagan landslide in 1980–Newt Gingrich took control of the House GOP and set it firmly to the right. Indeed to the right of Reagan, certainly to the right of George S Bush. Clinton’s national health insurance plan was destroyed by the Gingrich revolution. Fast forward ten more congressional elections and Paul Ryan–more Reagan than Reagan just four years ago–is now far too moderate for most conservatives in the House (and among Republican Party rank and file) and in all likelihood will not be Speaker in 2017. Just four years ago he was hardline conservative. Now he is a RINO. Every Republican you see interviewed seems to see nothing but intra-party civil war and bloodletting. Meanwhile, the demographics in the general population run against them, and their base grows smaller and smaller. Parties do disappear sometimes. The Federalists were gone by the 1820’s after being dominant in the first twenty years of the country. The Whigs elected presidents before the Civil War and were national and growing until they almost instantaneously disappeared in the late 1850’s. But we’ve had two dominant parties since the Civil War, it’s hard to imagine one disintegrating completely. Yet that is what seems to be happening. A surreal time. Perhaps it is just a phase and the GOP will re-emerge. Perhaps it will split into multiple parties. The liberal Democrat in me snickers. The historian in me looks on in astonishment. To think I lived to see this day.

Bitch

I see a lot of people bandying the word bitch around whenever there a famous woman they have issues with. Right now it’s Hillary, for a few years it was Michelle Obama, before then it was Condoleeza Rice and even, ludicrously enough considering how harmless she was, Laura Bush. But bitch fills basically the name nomenclatural role as the N-word or any other racial insult. And it’s essentially the same as calling someone a faggot or calling a disabled person a spazz or retard. It’s harsh and mean and intended, in a political context, to reinforce the fact that a woman is operating in a man’s world. So Hillary is a bitch, but there is no exact male equivalent to apply to Trump. Asshole, maybe, though that is not gender specific. And Condoleeza was a bitch. You could call her that and be a card carrying progressive, but if you called her an N-word bitch you were a racist. Hence Colin Powell never received the same vituperative venom from progressives that Condoleeza did, because the only thing as insulting and dehumanizing as bitch that could be applied to Colin Powell was the N-word, which was off limits, and rightly so. Odd to see this pattern repeated in the Obama years. Michelle could be called a bitch, but the only equivalent for her husband was the N-word, which automatically marked anyone who uttered it as a racist, and probably rightly so. Now with Hillary running, the choruses of bitches has come from both sides. The Left called her bitch all primary long. But reply in kind and call Bernie Sanders a kike, say, labelled the utterer an anti-Semite and very rightly so. Call him a communist and find yourself unfriended by half the people you know. Communist was absolutely off limits, even in jest. But calling Hillary a bitch was OK. Come the general election both candidates on the Left–Hillary and Jill Stein–are women (an extraordinary political watershed remarkably unrecognized by the public and media) and bitch has disappeared from the Left leaning lexicon. On the GOP side, though, it is everywhere. Jail that bitch. Shoot that bitch. Fuck that bitch. Bitch is still OK on the Left and the Right. Bitch is the N-word that you can apply to strong women but it is OK because everyone uses it, on both sides of the political spectrum, and because so many women have no problem with it. Indeed, many women seem to relish using it. Some of the most feminist women I know spat out Hillary is a bitch–or all capped BITCH–right up to the Democratic convention, because bitch is socially acceptable. Indeed, it is more acceptable now than it has been in decades, I think, because progressives and feminists have made it acceptable. Interesting. The last great slur.

Presidential election on drugs

So Trump says Hillary is on drugs? And all this time I thought I was on some really bad acid. Maybe Trump is flying on a Viagra/PCP cocktail. Damn, things are so weird I’m sounding like Hunter S. Thompson. Bad deja vu. Nixon must be stirring somewhere, amidst indignant reporters, slouching toward Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Lehigh Valley, battleground central. I stared at the television news while in line at the pharmacy and wondered why I bothered with seizure medications at all. Look at Trump there raging at a rally like a lunatic. Look at that crowd confusing a presidential election with professional wrestling. Look at the silver haired ladies in obscene tee shirts screaming lock her up and talking revolution. And it’s Hillary who needs a neurologist? Half the country seems to be completely out of its mind. I could lay off these meds right now and fit right in.