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Thursday, November 04, 2004

Am I Blue?

On Tuesday, the state I live in, Georgia, went for Mr. Bush by a margin of 59% to 41%. This was no surprise to anyone; Georgia had been written off as a Red state since at least the mid-term elections two years ago. Neither major candidate burdened us with a visit, and our exposure to vile political ads was limited to those of local interest. My vote for Mr. Kerry was symbolic at best. Thanks to the Electoral College, my interest, my vote, my participation were pointless, and the only voters who counted were those in so-called “Battleground States.”

Our system is broken and our method of choosing a President is a mockery of democracy. Filtering the will of the people through the Electoral College is to the practice of democracy what light beer is to stout or porter: a pale, watered-down, flavorless substitute.

The two-party system is also broken. Why moderate Republicans don’t just declare themselves as Democrats, I’m not sure. Their beliefs are closer to the Democratic platform than the current Republican platform is. And the Democratic platform is further from my beliefs than ever before.

My mother’s father explained why he was a Democrat in the following way: “They’ll both steal from you, but the Democrats will give a little bit back.” I’m not sure that that is still true. As the years have passed and as the consensus has moved steadily to the right, so has the Democratic Party, and this abandonment of it liberal basis threatens to turn it into the 21st Century Whig Party.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I took an online test that showed the testee which political party or candidates the testee’s beliefs lined up with. And, although Mr. Kerry outscored Mr. Bush by some margin for both of us, Mr. Kerry was easily outpaced by the Green Party. And after Tuesday, after a lifetime as a Democrat, I am thinking of going Green.

Here’s the headline: “Reds Make Blue Green.” You heard it here first.


Anonymous said...

As a slight word of caution, don't get your hopes too high about the fulfillment that comes with joining a fringe party. I was a registered member of the Peace and Freedom Party for many years. I didn't know much about us but I liked our name. Every year, when the ac-u-trak polls confirmed that my vote was meaningless, I took some small pleasure in having cast my ballot for Shakira Wesson-Jones, or whoever it was that we had up for President. It isn't like being part of a winning team or really accomplishing anything but I did, however, stick it to the man.

About six years ago or so I registered with the Green Party. I assume I agree with everything we stand for. I am shaking my tambourine for the fringe! Hear me roar. I think I now periodically vote for Mr. Peter Camejo, who I am sure is a nice man. This year I went nuts and voted for Kerry. Next time I think I will be voting for whoever the Blue Man Group puts up. From my experience, just don't expect any real satisfaction.

I'm thinking that what is now most likey to work for me will be a return to a tribal system, with elders and chieftains. A world where, should I dishonor your wife, I will need to give you three fine Nubian goats. That's now officially what I'm after. Please let me know if you run across it.

Anonymously sincerely yours,


Len said...

I hear you, Anon (an' on an' on an' on). I'm having some problems with joining the Green Party just because I'm really not much of a joiner. I've been a Democrat in the same way that I've been part Irish, Italian, and Canadian-French: I was born that way. We were Kennedy Democrats. The only political campaign my mother ever worked on was Bobby's California campaign in '68.

Interestingly enough, in that online test I took, I matched up just as well with the Socialists as the Greens. That's what I get for thinking that access to healthcare is a right and not a priveledge (sp?).

I'm beginning to think that all the Blue people should move to the Blue states and all the Red people should move to the Red states and all the people whose states are too close to call should just go to hell. The we can just divide into three countries: Red States of America, Blue States of America, and Go to Hell States of America. Just an idea.

Len said...

I had another thought that I forgot to work into my previous post. Actually three thoughts, because there are three things that we need to take care of if the Good Ol' US of A if going to be able to function in the long haul. 1) We need to abolish the Electoral College. 2) We need to reform the process for determining Congressional redistricting so that each congessional district is some normal shape, like a square, triangle, rectangle or even trapzoid. These current ones that are look like food stains on my shirt in order to institutionalize marginalizing voters have to go. 3) The two-party system must die. If you look at the actual belief systems of the American populace, there is room for about five major political parties.

I'm not completely sure how to bring these changes about, but I'm willing to get onboard if somebody else does.

Robert G. Margolis said...

From an essay by investigative journalist and author Jeffrey St. Clair:

"...Now even the Green Party name is probably tarnished beyond any utility. So say a little prayer and then get to work.

A new party must rise from the carnage of the Greens and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which was once again bound, gagged and abused by the lords of the party to little avail. No doubt Kerry's debacle at the hands of Bush will soon be blamed on them and will serve as yet another excuse by the party establishment to compel the Democrats to bow even deeper at the feet of the corporations and military interventionists.

Freedom can come from such losses. Freedom from illusions, for starters. There's a crisp clarity to the political landscape now that will cloud up as the days and months go by. The time to bolt is now, while the guards are changing.

There are many fellow travelers, leftists and libertarians, wandering out here in the wilderness searching for a new party of resistance to corporatism and imperial wars that will be led by those who will not flinch under fire.

Where to begin?

There's a whole swath of country which the Dem elites have not only abandoned, but are literally scared to tread across. Start there in the Red States,
where there many, many thousands of souls desperate for a militant party that will fight for them-the "lesbian enclave" in southeastern Oklahoma that the vile Tom Coburn kept screaching about in his senate campaign; or Earth First!ers in the depths of Idaho; peace activists in Huntsville, Alabama, HQ of Star Wars; or civil rights organizers in South Carolina, birthplace (and living museum) of the Confederacy.

The Red States harbor most of the unprotected wilderness in America and endangered species; they are also home to our most toxic communities, from Cancer Alley to Libby, Montana; more blacks and Hispanics and working poor live in Red than Blue states. There's a lot to fight for and against out there.

Move to France? Ridiculous. Why not move to Iowa? Or Wyoming? It's wide open political terrain now.

Red is a good color, a color with a pulse and
an honorable history. Here's to a Red States Party ... Onward!

Len said...

There was a forum in "Harper's" a few months ago that was questioning what direction the Progressive movement would head in. Interesting stuff. Progressives are found all over the map. Perhaps that is the group that will start to rise. Who knows?

WV910 said...

If we didn't have the Electoral College, all candidates would have to do is court about 10 large cities. The EC makes sure the rest of the country matters, too.

Does your vote only matter when your guy wins?

Len said...

OK, WV910, first, there's no need to be snippy. Everyone's is entitled to their opinion, even me.

Second, everything you state is patently false. Although it was the intention of the Framers to keep candidates from politicking only in areas with large populations, the result (thanks to the rise of radio, TV, the Internet, and national newspapers) has been quite different.

Let's look at this most recent election. I live in Georgia. Mr Bush came here once. Mr Kerry not at all. How many times did each one visit Ohio? Pennsylvania? Wisconsin? Look at the states that got few or no visits: Do you think that either candidate spent time courting voters in Oklahoma? Or Kansas? Or Nebraska? No. But each found time to make forty-something trips to Ohio. Why? That's where the electoral votes were in play.

Without the Electoral College, the citizens of no state could be taken for granted. I want them to have to campaign in all 50 and not be able to skip over Wyoming (2 electoral votes) or Rhode Island (4 electoral votes). This time, they even skipped over California (55 electoral votes) and New York (I don't remember how many off the top of my head, but a bunch) because they weren't "swing states."

I want Mr Bush to give a rat's ass about my vote and Mr Kerry to give a rat's ass about yours. They should have to try to win them. Even if they fail, democracy is served.

And finally, my actual hope was that Mr Kerry would win the Electoral College, and Mr Bush the popular vote because then we would have seen action on this artifact in the next four years. But Mr Bush won both, fair and square. I have no quarrel with that. I disagree with his policies. I don't think four more years of his leadership will be good for the country. I also think that the country will survive. And the tide will turn. And eventually the Blue States will choose who goes to the White House. Conservatives should actually be concerned about this election. For, as a great Chinese sage said, "When the sun is at its zenith, it is beginning to set."

In other words, "To everything, turn, turn, turn."

Len said...

In regards to my last post, let me correct one mistake and one omission. Wyoming, of course, has three electoral votes, the minimum possible. What I omitted was the rise of polling, which makes it possible for presidential candidates to ignore any state that isn't "too close to call."

By the way, the Framers also didn't extend suffrage to any but landholders, withheld it from women, and counted blacks as 3/5 of a person. They did an amazing job, but they weren't perfect.

Robert G. Margolis said...

"On December 31, 1800, Thomas Jefferson, locked in his own electoral battle, wrote a letter to his old firend Tenche Coxe that was so private he noted he wouldn't trust it "to the fidelty of the post-office" (he suspected Adams of having his agents open and read his opponents' mail), in which he complained to Cox that the Electoral College was a mistake: "The contrivance in the Constitution for marking the votes works badly, because it does not enounce precisely the true expression of the public will," he said bluntly."

--"What Would Jefferson Do?", by Thom Hartmann, p.251

"...In the presidential contests of 1796 and 1800 each party nominated two presidential candidates. This practice was necessitated by the Constitution, which originally stipulated that each member of the electoral college was to cast two votes for president, "of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves." The Founders settled on this method at the tail end of the lengthy Philadelphia Convention. They had not wanted Congress to select the chief executive, fearing that the president would beomce the puppet of the legislature. Nor had they desired popular elections, partly from the belief that few candidates would have the national reputation to ensure that a popular vote would be decisive, and partly because the southern delegates were convinced that after George Washington no southerner would ever again be likely to be elected to the presidency. The notion of having each elector cast two votes grew from the belief that most electors would inevitably cast one vote for a man from their own state. The Constitution additionally stipulated that the person receiving the largest number of votes, if a majority, was to be the president. The runner-up was to be the vice president."

--"Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800," by John Ferling, pages 5-6

Len said...

Jefferson is such a complicated figure in American history, but you have to give him credit for being on the side of The People. It's easy to forget what a revolutionary document the Declaration of Independence is and that the fundamental impulse in our system is revolutionary and not reactionary. And yet, we still want our kings.

I also think that the Founders left us in a bit of a pickle by playing up the importance of the states and not diving in and becoming one large State. I'd like to see national driver's licenses and auto registrations, for example, but I'm not waiting around for it to happen. (I've moved around enough where having to get a new license and registration time after time has begun to grate.)

I guess, on the other hand, the states tend to lead the way on issues like the legalization of marijuana, issues on which national politicians lack the balls to try anything new.

Robert G. Margolis said...

With regard to the perception that the Framers "counted blacks as 3/5 of a person", Thom Hartmann, in "What Would Jefferson Do?", under the heading "African Americans and the three-fifths argument," writes (pp. 81-83):

"...The argument that the Constitution...defined African Americans as "three-fifths human" is inaccurate. Slavery was the hottest issue debated at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and--to keep the Union together--ultimately led to several compromises. One was that the importation of slaves would be phased out by 1807 (Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution still reads: "The migration or importation of such persons as any of the states now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight..."), and the other being an effort to prevent the southern states from using their large slave populations to gain such influence in the House of Representatives that they might be able to keep legislating in favor of slavery.

The southern representatives argued that, since it was agreed that their slaves would eventually be free (even if it was in future generations), the slaves should be considered part of the census that determined the number of representatives a state should send to Congress. The northern states argued that because the slaves were not allowed to vote in the South (free blacks did in the NOrth), they should not be counted in the census at all. This would have dramatically reduced the power of the southern states, because they didn't have large cities like New York or Boston but were instead mostly rural and agrarian. Without their slaves being counted toward their census numbers, they'd have so few representatives that, they suggested, they would be wasting their time joining the republic that was being forged in Philadellphia that summer of 1787.

Because this issue was a deal breaker that could have ended the nation before it began, a compromise was reached. The South could count three-fifths of its slaves toward the census, even though they couldn't vote, and thus have a bit more power in the Congress, but it couldn't count any more African Americans than that until they were freed.

The language, as written into Section 2 of ther U.S. Constitution, lays this out: "Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

As West notes in "Vindicating the Founders", the Constitution, while it allowed slavery, also allowed freedom for slaves. Millions of African Americans exercised the right to vote and other civil rights long before the Civil War, and, "The rest won their liberty through a [Civil] war fought under its authority.""

Len said...

Thanks, Robert. The 3/5 of a person thing has become a bit of a cliche and your post is proof that cliches aren't always true.

Len said...

Well, now I’ve had to go back and look at the Constitution, and what interesting nuggets I’ve found!

First, let me clear up an earlier statement of mine. I should have said that slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person in determining the number of members of the House of Representatives that they would not get to vote for.

There are no qualifications for voters in the Constitution. It does not address this issue. Therefore, according to Amendment X, the qualifications for voting are reserved to the States (or the people, wink, wink) to decide. Therefore, technically, the Framers didn’t extend the franchise to anybody. We regret the error.

Actually, according to The Constitution and Amendment XII, the states aren’t required to put the selection of the Electors up to a vote of the people. They could be chosen by a state’s legislature or by the governor or by choosing names from slips of paper dropped in a hat. As far as I can tell, having a general election for electors is more a tradition than anything else. Perhaps there is a provision in Federal law, but I’m too lazy to look it up.

Interestingly, it’s implied that there was no intention of having a two-party system. In Article II, Scetion 1, it says, “…and if no person have a majority, then from the five highest on the list the said House shall in like manner choose the President.” They were expecting at least the possibility of there being a bunch of series candidates, not just two. Interesting.

As far as removing the Electoral College goes, the historical precedent favors it. In the matter of elections, The Constitution has been amended seven times in order to either change the method by which the President, Vice President, Senators, and Representatives are chosen or by whom the franchise is extended.

Amendment XII separates the selection of the President from the selection of the Vice President. (If it worked in the original manner, Kerry would, as of January 20th, be Vice President.) The Fourteenth Amendments extends citizenship to former slaves and sets 21 as the age at which males must be allowed the right to vote.

The Fifteenth Amendment prohibits race discrimination.

The Seventeenth Amendment changes the method by which Senators are chosen. This had been the provenience of the state legislatures. Now that right fell to the people.

Women were extended the franchise via the 19th Amendment, of course.

The citizens of the District of Columbia were given the right to vote for presidential electors by the 23rd Amendment in 1961. It only took 182 years to give them this right. How much longer will it be before they are given the right to representative taxation? Thirty-three years down, only 149 to go! Woo-hoo!

The 24th Amendment protected the poor, and particularly poor blacks, from having the right to vote removed from them by the imposition of poll taxes.

The 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18.

In each case, the tendency was toward dispersing power and extending the franchise. The impulse was democratic, and placed greater faith in the people. Therefore, I would contend that the removal of the Electoral College would be in line with that trend, as would somehow providing the citizens of the District of Columbia with representation in both the House and the Senate. (The best suggestion I’ve seen on this was in the Washington "City Paper" back when I lived in the area. They suggested ceding the land back to Maryland, which makes sense to me.)

Jeez! What a windbag!