Video of the day

Saw this on HuffPo a while back, but it wasn’t embeddable.  Now it is.  Great stuff:

Simple truth is guns are very, very dangerous and there’s far too many people who have guns who should obviously not be trusted with something very, very dangerous.

GOP Electoral College shenanigans

I’ll admit, I had been getting at least a bit worried about the Republicans evil (yes, evil) plans to try and game the next presidential election by using GOP-gerrymandered congressional districts in leaning Blue states as the basis of the electoral college.  Ta-Nehisi Coates provides my favorite take:

In Virginia, the legislature is moving to apportion its electoral votes by congressional district, instead of by direct popular vote:

Sen. Charles W. “Bill” Carrico, R-Grayson, said the change is necessary because Virginia’s populous, urbanized areas such as the Washington, D.C., suburbs and Hampton Roads can outvote rural regions such as his, rendering their will irrelevant.

 Last fall, President Barack Obama carried Virginia for the second election in a row, making him the first Democrat since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win Virginia in back-to-back presidential elections.
For his victories, he received all 13 of the state’s electoral votes. Under Carrico’s revision, Obama would have received only four Virginia electoral votes last year while Republican Mitt Romney would have received nine. Romney carried conservative rural areas while Obama dominated Virginia’s cities and fast-growing suburbs.
One reason the rural areas were “outvoted” is because there were fewer votes in rural areas, and more in urban ones. If the GOP can’t convince enough people to win, it will rig the rules so that certain people matter less than others.  [emphasis mine]
Jamelle Bouie calls this exactly what it is:

In addition to disenfranchising voters in dense areas, this would end the principle of “one person, one vote.” If Ohio operated under this scheme, for example, Obama would have received just 22 percent of the electoral votes, despite winning 52 percent of the popular vote in the state…

It’s also worth noting, again, that this constitutes a massive disenfranchisement of African American and other nonwhite voters, who tend to cluster near urban areas. When you couple this with the move on Monday to redraw the state’s electoral maps — eliminating one state senate district and packing black voters into another, diluting their strength — it’s as if Virginia Republicans are responding to Obama’s repeat victory in the state by building an electoral facsimile of Jim Crow.

I’d like to double down on that point. Efforts to disenfranchise black people, have always been most successful when they worked indirectly. After the initial post-war Black Codes were repealed, white supremacists turned to less obvious modes of discrimination — poll taxes, grandfather clauses, and literacy tests.
These were cloaked under a colorblind argument — “We don’t discriminate against black people, we discriminate against people who can’t read the Constitution.” By “read the Constitution,” they meant “recite the Bill of Rights by heart.” And they’d ask you to do this after reducing your school funding to a pittance. I say this to point that this is not a “new” racism. This is how it scheme went before the civil-rights movement, and this is how the scheme works today.
To see the only other major political party in the country effectively giving up on convincing voters, and instead embarking on a strategy of disenfranchisement is bad sign for American democracy. There is nothing gleeful in this.

And a great take from The Week’s Joshua Spivak, concluding thus:

Attempts to game the Electoral College for short-term political gain may temporarily help Republican candidates. But in the long term, they would have a devastating impact on the concept of fair elections, and on the ideals of federalism and conservativism. Republicans would be well advised to consider whether the short-term pleasure is worth the long-term pain.

So, just to be clear here, Republicans are perfectly willing to undermine the fundamentals of democracy for short-term gain.  That said, election law expert, Richard Hasen, has a nice piece in Slate explaining why we really shouldn’t worry too much:

First, it is wrong to assume, as the right’s National Review and the left’s Think Progress have, that Mitt Romney would have won had this rule been in place. As Donald Rumsfeld might say, you go into a campaign with the Electoral College rules you have, not the rules you wish them to be. The Obama and Romney campaigns would have campaigned very differently in these states if they were under a district system, targeting not voters across the state, but voters in the key districts needed to win the election. Yes, Republican gerrymandering of districts would have given the GOP some advantage, but it is far from clear it would have been enough to defeat the Obama campaign machine.

Think about it: The last thing Republican legislators want is national Democratic campaigns scrounging for every vote in conservative-leaning districts. Fewer Republicans will win legislative and Congressional seats because Republican districts will become more competitive by design. Why would Republican legislators vote for a plan that will make it harder for them to keep their jobs?

Further, adopting such a system immediately turns a battleground state into a less important state. If all that’s up for grabs in Ohio are the three or four marginal Electoral College votes, then the presidential campaigns pay less attention to Ohio, and Ohio gets fewer promises and benefits from presidential candidates coming through. Such a plan is not good for those states that cherish being crucial to presidential election outcomes—states like Virginia, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

In addition, the districting plan adopted in most of the swing states is a kind of unilateral disarmament. It is a sign of defeatism, an admission that the Republican Party no longer expects to win presidential elections in the state. Giving up on capturing a state’s full complement of Electoral College votes will make it harder in close elections for Republican presidential candidates to put together the number of votes they need to win the election. Do Republicans really want to give up on Virginia and Wisconsin? It might make sense on these grounds for Republicans to adopt this plan in Pennsylvania, but all of the other states are just too competitive to take this risk.

Good point, indeed.  And it certainly makes me feel much less worried about the likelihood of any of this coming to pass.  That said, the latest Republican approach to politics seems to be, if you can’t beat ’em, just give up and change the rules.  Not “cheating” per se, but pretty damn close.  And the lack of respect for democracy is truly disheartening.

Photo of the day

From N&O day’s best.  Oh my!

CHELTENHAM, ENGLAND – JANUARY 26: Peter Buchanan falls from Bold Sir Brian in The Murphy Group Steeple Chase at Cheltenham racecourse on January 26, 2013 in Cheltenham, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Unions and income

As Tim Noah’s Great Divergence makes clear, the sources of growing inequality are many, but the decline of labor unions is definitely a big part of the story.  At his talk this week he said if you weren’t willing to talk about the union issue, you weren’t really serious about addressing the growing inequality.

This has also been a major concern of Kevin Drum.  A couple days ago he published two very useful charts comparing us to Canada:


This is only one data point, and you can draw different conclusions depending on whether you look at pretax or post-tax income inequality. Still, it’s an instructive data point because the U.S. and Canadian economies are so closely bound together. In Canada, income inequality has gone up, just as it’s gone up in most English-speaking countries. That’s no surprise, largely because the Canadian economy really is similar to the U.S. economy, and subject to similar globalization pressures. But it hasn’t gone up as much, and part of the reason is probably unionization rates. Most research finds that the decline of unions has contributed to perhaps a third of the growth of income inequality in the United States, and comparisons like this confirm that. It’s not the whole story, not by a long way, but it’s a significant chunk of the story.


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