What Now?

I’ve been asked to make a speech addressing a question that several  commenters to this blog have asked: what now? How do we rescue our democracy? Here’s an abbreviated version (still long–sorry) of what I plan to say.

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Let me begin by admitting that I was stunned and dismayed by the election’s result. Anyone who isn’t concerned about handing nuclear codes over to someone both thin-skinned and unstable hasn’t been paying attention.

That said, a Hillary Clinton Presidency would have simply been a continuation of the Obama years: irrational Republican opposition to anything and everything the President proposes, even when those proposals originated with Republicans. It would simply have delayed the day of reckoning, and the realization of the extent to which we have lost important American democratic norms.

That loss has been increasingly obvious for some time. Pundits and political scientists have their pet theories for how this has happened: In American Amnesia, for example, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson focused upon what they call a “war on government” that has accelerated since the Reagan Administration; in Democracy for Realists, Christopher H. Achen & Larry M. Bartels argued that the generally accepted theory of democratic citizenship is inconsistent with actual human nature. Much of that analysis has been intriguing. None of it that I’m aware of, however, has attempted to answer the question you have asked me: what should we do and why should we do it?

We don’t always appreciate the extent to which cultural or legal institutions—what we call folkways or norms—shape our understanding of the world around us.  In some cases, institutions that have worked well, or at least adequately, for a number of years simply outlive whatever original utility they may have had, made obsolete by modern communications and transportation technologies, corrupt usages, or cultural change. Such obsolescence is a particularly acute element of American political life today.

Eight examples:

The Electoral College. In November, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by approximately 2.85 million votes. Donald Trump won the Electoral College because fewer than 80,000 votes translated into paper-thin victories in three states. Thanks to “winner take all” election laws, Trump received all of the electoral votes of those three states. “Winner take all” systems, in place in most states, award all of a state’s electoral votes to the winner of that state’s popular vote, no matter how close the result; if a candidate wins a state 50.1% to 49.9% or 70% to 30%, the result is the same; votes cast for the losing candidate don’t count.

The Electoral College gives  outsized influence to swing states, is a disincentive to vote if you favor the minority party in a winner-take-all state, and over-represents rural and less populated states. (Wyoming, our least populous state, has one-sixty-sixth of California’s population, but it has one-eighteenth of California’s electoral votes.) It advantages rural voters over urban ones, and white voters over voters of color. In 2016, Hillary Clinton drew her votes largely from women, minorities, and educated whites, and those voters were disproportionately urban; Trump supporters were primarily (albeit not exclusively) less-educated white Christian males, and they were overwhelmingly rural.

Akil Reed Amar teaches Constitutional Law at Yale Law School; he says the Electoral College was a concession to the demands of Southern slave states. In a direct-election system, the South would have lost every time because a huge proportion of its population — slaves — couldn’t vote. The electoral college allowed slave states to count their slaves (albeit at a discount, under the Constitution’s three-fifths clause) in the electoral college apportionment. Amar notes that Americans pick mayors and governors by direct election, and there is no obvious reason that a system that works for those chief executives can’t also work for President. He also points out that no other country employs a similar mechanism.

Jamin Raskin, a Professor of Constitutional Law at American University, and a Congressman representing the state of Maryland, favors the National Popular Vote Project, a nationwide interstate agreement to guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes. Under the NPV, all of a participating state’s electoral votes would go to the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes overall. It would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states holding a majority of  electoral votes. To date, states possessing 132 electoral votes – 49% of the 270 electoral votes needed to activate it – have signed on. As Raskin says:

Every citizen’s vote should count equally in presidential elections, as in elections for governor or mayor. But the current regime makes votes in swing states hugely valuable while rendering votes in non-competitive states virtually meaningless. This weird lottery, as we have seen, dramatically increases incentives for strategic partisan mischief and electoral corruption in states like Florida and Ohio. You can swing a whole election by suppressing, deterring, rejecting and disqualifying just a few thousand votes.

Partisan gerrymandering. After each census, states redraw state and federal district lines to reflect population changes. The party that controls the state legislature at the time controls the redistricting process, and draws districts to maximize its own electoral prospects and minimize those of the opposing party. The process became far more sophisticated and precise with the advent of computers, leading to a situation which has been aptly described as legislators choosing their voters, rather than the other way around.

A 2008 book co-authored by Norman Orenstein and Thomas Mann argued that the decline in competition fostered by gerrymandering has entrenched partisan behavior and diminished incentives for compromise and bipartisanship.

Mann and Orenstein are political scientists who have written extensively about redistricting, and about “packing” (creating districts with supermajorities of the opposing party) “cracking” (distributing members of the opposing party among several districts to ensure that they don’t have a majority in any of them) and “tacking” (expanding the boundaries of a district to include a desirable group from a neighboring district). They have shown how redistricting advantages incumbents, and shown that the reliance by House candidates upon maps drawn by state-level politicians reinforces “partisan rigidity,” the increasing nationalization of the political parties.

The most pernicious effect of gerrymandering is the proliferation of safe seats. Safe districts breed voter apathy and reduce political participation. What is the incentive to volunteer or vote when it obviously doesn’t matter? It isn’t only voters who lack incentives for participation, either; it is difficult for the “sure loser” party to recruit credible candidates. As a result, in many of these races, voters are left with no meaningful choice.  Ironically, the anemic voter turnout that gerrymandering produces leads to handwringing about citizen apathy, usually characterized as a civic or moral deficiency. Voter apathy may instead be a highly rational response to noncompetitive politics. People save their efforts for places where those efforts count, and thanks to the increasing lack of competitiveness, those places often do not include the voting booth.

In safe districts, the only way to oppose an incumbent is in the primary–and that means that challenges usually come from the “flank” or extreme. When the primary is, in effect, the general election, the battle takes place among the party faithful, who also tend to be the most ideological voters. Republican incumbents will be challenged by the Right and Democratic incumbents from the Left. Even where those challenges fail, they create a powerful incentive for incumbents to “toe the line”— to placate the most rigid elements of their respective parties. This system produces nominees who represent the most extreme voters on each side of the philosophical divide.

The consequence of ever-more-precise state-level and Congressional district gerrymandering is a growing philosophical gap between the parties and— especially but not exclusively in the Republican party— an empowered, rigidly ideological base intent on punishing any deviation from orthodoxy and/or any hint of compromise.

After the 2010 census, Republicans dominated state governments in a significant majority of states, and they proceeded to engage in one of the most thorough, strategic and competent gerrymanders in history. The 2011 gerrymander did two things: as intended, it gave Republicans control of the House of Representatives; the GOP held 247 seats to the Democrats’ 186, a 61 vote margin– despite the fact that nationally, Democratic House candidates had received over a million more votes than Republican House candidates. But that gerrymander also did something unintended; it destroyed Republican party discipline. It created and empowered the significant number of Republican Representatives who make up what has been called the “lunatic caucus” and made it virtually impossible for Republicans to govern.

The Electoral College and Gerrymandering are the “big two,” but there are other changes that would reinvigorate American democracy.

The way we administer elections is ridiculous. State-level control over elections made sense when difficulties in communication and transportation translated into significant isolation of populations; today, state-level control allows for all manner of mischief, including—as we’ve recently seen– significant and effective efforts at vote suppression. There are wide variations from state to state in the hours polls are open, in provisions for early and absentee voting, and for the placement and accessibility of polling places. In states that have instituted “Voter ID” laws, documentation that satisfies those laws varies widely. (Voter ID measures are popular with the public, despite the fact that in-person voter fraud is virtually non-existent, and despite clear evidence that the impetus for these laws is a desire to suppress turnout among poor and minority populations likely to vote Democratic.)

State-level control of voting makes it difficult to implement measures that would encourage more citizen participation, like the effort to make election day a national holiday. A uniform national system, overseen by a nonpartisan or bipartisan federal agency with the sole mission of administering fair, honest elections, would also facilitate consideration of other improvements proposed by good government organizations.

Campaign Finance/Money in Politics. Common Cause sums it up: “American political campaigns are now financed through a system of legalized bribery.”  But big contributions  aren’t the only ways wealthier citizens influence policy. The ability to hire lobbyists, many of whom are former legislators, gives corporate interests considerable clout. Money doesn’t just give big spenders the chance to express a view or support a candidate; it gives them leverage to reshape the American economy in their favor.

A system that privileges the speech of wealthy citizens by allowing them to use their greater resources to amplify their message in ways that average Americans cannot does great damage to notions of fundamental democratic fairness, ethical probity and civic equality.

The filibuster. Whatever the original purpose or former utility of the filibuster, when its use was infrequent and it required a Senator to actually make a lengthy speech on the Senate floor, today, the filibuster operates to require government by super-majority. It has become a weapon employed by extremists to hold the country hostage.

The original idea of a filibuster was that so long as a senator kept talking, the bill in question couldn’t move forward. Once those opposed to the measure felt they had made their case, or at least exhausted their argument, they would leave the floor and allow a vote. In 1917, when filibustering Senators threatened President Wilson’s ability to respond to a perceived military threat, the Senate adopted a mechanism called cloture, allowing a super-majority vote to end a filibuster.

In 1975, the Senate changed several of its rules and made it much easier to filibuster. The new rules allowed other business to be conducted during the time a filibuster is theoretically taking place. Senators no longer are required to take to the Senate floor and argue their case. This “virtual” use, which has increased dramatically as partisan polarization has worsened, has effectively abolished the principle of majority rule: it now takes sixty votes (the number needed for cloture) to pass any legislation. This anti-democratic result isn’t just in direct conflict with the intent of the Founders, it has brought normal government operation to a standstill, and allows senators to effortlessly place personal political agendas above the common good and suffer no consequence.

Excessive democracy isn’t as important as many of the others, but it’s not insignificant. When we go to the polls, we face choices that few of us are sufficiently informed to make. At the state level, voters choose not only governors, but Secretaries of State, State Auditors, Superintendents of Public Instruction and Attorneys General; at the local level, we vote for Recorder, Auditor, Treasurer, Clerk and Coroner. I find it hard to believe that the average voter investigates the medical credentials of the contending coroner candidates, or the administrative skills of those running for Auditor.

In the real world, most voters make these choices on the basis of party affiliation. That being the case, it would make more sense to elect Governors and Mayors, and allow them to appoint people to most of these offices. That would improve accountability, since the executive making the appointments would be responsible for the choice of the individuals involved. When the positions are elective, chief executives can reasonably distance themselves from scandals or incompetence by pointing out that the officeholder was the choice of the voters.

Making many of these positions appointive would make voting simpler and faster, without doing actual damage to democratic decision-making. Removing a layer of “excess” democracy is hardly as important as reforming redistricting or ensuring that the Electoral College votes for the winner of the popular vote, but it would reinforce an important element of governmental legitimacy: the belief that public officials hold office as a result of a process in which informed citizens make considered democratic choices.

Substandard civic education. I won’t belabor this, but when significant segments of the population do not know the history, philosophy or contents of the Constitution or the legal system under which they live, are ignorant of basic economic principles and don’t know the difference between science and religion, they cannot engage productively in political activities or accurately evaluate the behavior of their elected officials.

The final institution that has massively failed us also doesn’t need much editorial comment from me: the current Media—including talk radio, Fox News, and the wild west that is the Internet.

The Pew Research Center published an extensive investigation into political polarization and media habits in 2014; among their findings was that “consistent conservatives” clustered around a single news source: 47% cited Fox News as their main source for news about government and politics, with no other source even close. Consistent liberals listed a wider range of news outlets as main sources — no outlet was named by more than 15%.

People who routinely consume sharply partisan news coverage are less likely to accept uncongenial facts even when they are accompanied by overwhelming evidence. Fox News and talk radio were forerunners of the thousands of Internet sites offering spin, outright propaganda and fake news. Contemporary Americans can choose their preferred “realities” and simply insulate themselves from information that is inconsistent with their worldviews.

America is marinating in media, but we’re in danger of losing what used to be called the journalism of verification. The frantic competition for eyeballs and clicks has given us a 24/7 “news hole” that media outlets race to fill, far too often prioritizing speed over accuracy. That same competition has increased media attention to sports, celebrity gossip and opinion, and has greatly reduced coverage of government and policy. The scope and range of watchdog journalism that informs citizens about their government has dramatically declined, especially at the local level. We still have national coverage but with the exception of niche media, we have lost local news. The pathetic Indianapolis Star is an example. I should also point out that there is a rather obvious relationship between those low levels of civic literacy and the rise of propaganda and fake news.

The fundamental democratic idea is a fair fight, a contest between candidates with competing policy proposals, with the winner authorized to implement his or her agenda. Increasingly, however, those democratic norms have been replaced by bare-knuckled power plays. The refusal of the Republican-led Senate to “advise and consent” to a sitting President’s nominee for the Supreme Court was a stunning and unprecedented breach of duty that elevated political advantage over the national interest. Just after the election, North Carolina Republicans called a special session and voted to strip the incoming Democratic Governor of many of the powers of that office.

Such behaviors are shocking and damaging deviations from American norms.

These and other demonstrations of toxic partisanship have undermined trust in government and other social institutions. Without that trust—without a widespread public belief in an overarching political community to which all citizens belong and in which all citizens are valued—tribalism thrives. Especially in times of rapid social change, racial resentments grow. The divide between urban and rural Americans widens. Economic insecurity and social dysfunction grow in the absence of an adequate social safety net, adding to resentment of both government and “the Other.” It is a prescription for civic unrest and national decline.

If Americans do not engage civically in far greater numbers than we have previously—If we do not reform our institutions, improve civic education, and support legitimate journalism—that decline will be irreversible. The good news is that there is evidence that a revival of civic engagement is underway.

We the People can do this.

But we have a lot of work to do if we are going to save American democracy, and there really is no time to waste.

 

 

40 thoughts on “What Now?

  1. “In a direct-election system, the South would have lost every time because a huge proportion of its population — slaves — couldn’t vote.”

    Thanks to the Electoral College and rampant GOP gerrymandering, the “slaves” still cannot vote or their votes are discounted. Today, the “slaves” are of a different makeup; it is the urban working class, many without jobs, of all colors and denominations. I continue to have doubts that my straight Democratic ticket vote counted on November 8th; the ballot machine rejected my ballot – twice! It was accepted by the second machine but was it counted?

    The Electoral College, gerrymandering and unworking ballot machines; controlled by the dominating GOP, puts Americans in a precarious position regarding leadership. The Trump/Putin/Russia connection was news for months before the election and was ignored by the FBI and the total sitting Congress.

    What can we do?
    “The good news is that there is evidence that a revival of civic engagement is underway.”

    This civic engagement must be highly and tightly organized to succeed…our battle is just beginning. We are greatly outnumbered and the enemy (our own government) is more heavily armed. Thanks to Sheila and others who refuse to give up the fight, we will be kept informed. Information is ammunition!

  2. I’d pay attention to what’s happening in Davos.

    We are clearly one of the most powerful nations on the globe, but we don’t have a functioning democracy. As you’ve pointed out, there are structural failures within many of our systems. Our systems are not only corrupt, but the inherent obstruction breeds obsolescence. Our technology is advancing rapidly. Industries existing today may be replaced tomorrow with an app.

    Yet, we still work 8-5pm, Monday thru Friday and struggle to pay the bills. If our wages are stagnant, yet utilities and healthcare expenses expand by double digit per annum, how long can we sustain this practice?

    We educate kids along an assembly line which is 19th century thinking. We prepare them for jobs which are mind numbing and by the time they graduate high school, may be obsolete.

    And, what about the global risks of climate change? Water shortages. Deforestation. When one country abuses our planet’s resources, and it impacts another country thousands of miles away, what are the responsibilities or accountable of those negatively impacting the environment?

    Do you know we have countries waging war over fresh water? Some countries have sold fresh water supplies to private companies. Does anyone see a problem with this as populist anger keeps rising globally?

    With a legal background, I’m surprised you’ve not touched on the moral dilemmas facing us. Einstein’s 1940’s dictum on socialism (planning) called capitalism and communism “evil” for what they do to the individual spirit. How many global governments are still using capitalism and communism in 2017?

    In addition to the the damage imposed on the human spirit, what about the damage we inflict on our entire ecosystem? We are all connected. If we damage our planet’s resources, we’ll pay a hefty price.

    Thanks to advances in our society, we are now a global community. Despite Trump’s best efforts to isolate the U.S. from the world, it won’t work. It’s 100% fear.

    I firmly believe the U.S. will have to let go of its independence to some extent. Our society will have to restructure our public and private sectors to ensure “cooperative models” versus our “competitive models”. Having 50 individual states competing with one another when we all belong to a global community, doesn’t make much sense. Gerrymandering and all the other power plays creates winners and losers. We need systems to be collaborative – or win/win.

    Our systemic failures are vast. Daniel Pink points to our outdated business models which contradict scientific evidence. He shows that money doesn’t motivate people to do better. In fact, it hinders productivity. Yet, we still use 19th and 20th century business models.

    To me, the bigger question is, “Do we want to fix our failing systems, or replace them with ones positioned for the future?”

  3. Thank you for this lesson!
    Democracies throughout history have failed, and without actually knowing the numbers, I’d guess they have failed more often than any other kind/system of government.
    Two are well-known — Athens and Rome — Athens being closer to a true Democracy than any in history, and Rome being a Republic which relied on voting by the citizens to choose its leaders and, indirectly, its policies.
    One thing stands out among both which you have well described in our situation today — the refusal of the losing party to cede power, repair to its quarters and figure out how it can change its policies to regain the support of the voters. The story or Rome is exactly what we are repeating.
    I’d be remiss if I did not say that although Rome did lose its democratic ‘style’, it was not missed. The western empire went on with emperors and a ‘do nothing’ senate for another 476 years — because it worked, where republican government and the resulting civil wars failed to do so.
    My guess is: we will see our votes continue to be meaningless, primary elections will determine who rules, and a small clique of party leaders will determine the policies that are set and followed.
    Does this sound familiar? There is a word that many of us remember that describes it :: politburo.

  4. Such a wealth of valuable information is contained in today’s blog post. Thank you for sharing your speech. I wish that I could listen to it in person. Is that possible, or is it for a closed group?

    I will be referring to this post frequently in my efforts to educate local voters.

    Thank you Sheila.

    Todd – great points you have made today. Thanks for sharing. Maybe you should run for office.

    Typed this on my phone, please excuse any typos that may show up.

  5. I would add that the incursion of Corporatism into the American political scene is corrosive. Corporations are poised to merge the public and private sectors and squeeze out the non-profit mediating sector. Perhaps it will be the new form of governance but if so it will be the end of democracy as we’ve known it. Corporate self-interest does not equate with the public good but focuses almost entirely on the good of the shareholders. Combine this with a lack of civic understanding and the subtle effectiveness of political advertising and we will be stepping towards Huxley’ s Brave New World.

  6. Todd,

    One of the things you learn in business school is that there is no such thing as a win/win. There is an I win/you think you win.

  7. “We the People can do this.”

    “But we have a lot of work to do if we are going to save American democracy, and there really is no time to waste.”

    I wouldn’ give up on American democracy, just yet. I was at our main library yesterday, looking over the new release section, and found the book I had hoped would be finally written.

    The book is “Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt” by Sarah Jaffe (New York: Nation Books, 2016)

    The book starts with the following quote:

    “This is the way another generation did it, and you too can follow that path, studying the way of peace, love and nonviolence, and finding the way to get in the way. Finding a way to get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble.”

    ~Rep. John Lewis, U.S. Congress (D-GA) [Trump took him on yesterday. That could be the biggest mistake he has made so far]

    The book also confirms the route Sheila and her son Stephen have taken with Activism Engine. The author points out that the main problem is the lack of centralization in the revolt.

    I would add more specifically: “centralization in both information and command.”

  8. Sheila’s effort published today is excellent and covers the waterfront. I have thought many times that the situation is hopeless, that our democracy is going down the drain while we watch it gurgle and do little to nothing to plug the leak, and that we, like Athens when its 169 year history of democracy fell as much or more to internal discord than to Roman legions, have institutionalized discord among ourselves for political advantage of the rich few to control the organs of power (which I call corporate takeover, my greatest fear) while we the cowed, the impoverished and the gerrymandered just sit here, apparently unwilling to do what we must if our democracy is to survive (unless it is already gone and I didn’t notice it – like the frog that starts out in warm water on the stove). What to do, asks Sheila? Let’s consider our dwindling options.
    Democracy can be had under many different headings, and though the Constitution does not prescribe a particular economic form, it does very carefully prescribe our political form of government, so given that understanding here is something I have often thought of as an answer to maintaining and/or strengthening our democratic institutions: Adopt a parliamentary form of government. This would involve major amendments to the language of our current Constitution and might take years of citizen street time to finally get it done, but I reason that if our current political structure does not does not provide us with the blessings of democracy that have been stolen from us by the rich and corporate class and ensure its robust continuation that perhaps we should change structures. Six year terms for senators in a world that is changing overnight is an outdated idea; even two years for House members is of questionable utility. Madison’s idea of throwing a bone to the states with their jurisdiction over voting (even for federal offices) should be reversed, at least for federal offices; gerrymandering by state legislatures should be ended etc. etc. etc. Perhaps we will under such amended language have a democracy based on majority vote as did the ancient Athenians (women and slaves excluded) but this time around include women and wage slaves (see worsening wage inequality) as well.
    So, fellow contributors, is this an idea worth pursuing, or must we stick with the current political regimen and hope to rid ourselves of all the nasty problems Sheila has so well documented while retaining the present form of government, subverted as it may be by a rich minority and their political toadies? I am in favor of working on both solutions simultaneously. We can (politically speaking) walk and chew gum at the same time. Won’t work, Gerald? Well, how are things working now? What say you?

  9. “The divide between urban and rural Americans widens. Economic insecurity and social dysfunction grow in the absence of an adequate social safety net, adding to resentment of both government and “the Other.” It is a prescription for civic unrest and national decline.”

    I was unable to find the source to share, but I believe that I heard it on A-1, a new program format on NPR. It was a correlation between the areas of the country where opiate addiction is epidemic and votes for Trump. Economic insecurity and social dysfunction go hand in hand. Whether it is bread and games or heroin/alcohol, the short term escapes from pain and hopelessness are personally, politically and socially an avenue to destruction for all but the extremely wealthy and powerful. Combined with ignorance and fear, it will marshal in an era of declining literacy, health and mobility. It may be that the board has been tilted already and the slide down has begun. It certainly has precedence in history and despite our belief in our own exceptionalism, we may already be beyond the point of no return.

  10. Nancy, Sheila speaks tonight, 1/15, 7 pm at Robin Run Village (retirement community), 5354 w. 62nd St. in our Community Room. Our Village Forum sponsors 6 speakers/year Sheila’s topic is “Can Democracy Be Saved?” Lucky us.

  11. Wayne,

    It can.

    Just remember:
    I have not yet begun to fight!~ Captain, John Paul Jones

    [This is] his famous response, in the early phase of the Battle of Flamborough Head, (23 September 1779) to an inquiry by his opponent (Captain Richard Pearson of the Royal Navy ship HMS Serapis) as to whether he was surrendering his ship, the USS Bonhomme Richard, as recounted in the reminiscences of Jones’s First Lieutenant, Richard Dale, as published in The Life and Character of John Paul Jones, a Captain in the United States Navy (1825) by John Henry Sherburne:

    …the Bon Homme Richard, having head way, ran her bows into the stern of the Serapis. We had remained in this situation but a few minutes when we were again hailed by the Serapis, “Has your ship struck?” To which Captain Jones answered, “I have not yet begun to fight!”

    In Naval teminology to “strike the colours” means to haul down the ship’s flag to signify surrender, but here the use of the ship as subject of the sentence may imply a pun on the non-naval use of “struck”

    The above is from Wikiquote.

  12. I am going to print this out and save this article – very impressive.
    In reading articles yesterday, I was shocked to learn that Pence made a video of his speech (sermon) to send to over 1000 churches right before the election talking about God’s plans, T/P support for sanctity of life and the Johnson Amendment. How did I miss this? Pence has been eerily silent lately, and I feel the plan is to get Trump inaugurated, then impeached so your holiness is POTUS. To be honest, Pence scares me more than Trump. This is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrNfXR-bh6c
    My question is – was it legal for Pence to send this video to churches?
    I know that there was Obama bashing in little white churches across Indiana during the last eight years. The comments were scary and insulting. It does not surprise me that the same churches are supporting a white evangelist. Good ole’ Indiana.
    I am angry at neighbors, friends, and some family members who voted for T/P. I am angry as I watch a parade of rich, arrogant, power-hungry hypocrites joining Trump to improve their situation with his leadership at our country’s expense. I am angry that Trump’s actions are being normalized. Ethics and laws are being ignored… I am saddened that many ignore facts and are conned by tweets, memes, and false news. I am scared by your one comment that says it all – “legalized bribery.” We are all caught up in a fast and furious downhill spiral of Trumpland.
    I appreciate your guidance and blog – a sane spot in a mixed-up world. Thank you also for the Activism Engine.

  13. Perhaps I WILL live long enough to see the next revolution. Because it’s certainly going to take one to break the grip of the monied interests holding our Constitution by the throat.

  14. pam,

    Thank you for the connection to Pence’s speech to the evangelicals. Sorry, I could not watch the whole thing… it made me gag. Does anyone else see and worry that Pence describes himself as a “christian first, a conservative second and a republican last”? He never embraces being an American, and his behavior throughout his political career certainly proves that he does not see himself as a “Constitution defending American”. By his repeated use of his self description he has given evangelicals permission to jettison their own devotion to the country and the Constitution in order to replace it with a theocracy. That is the agenda of the christian right.

  15. Re: gerrymandering, I remember reading a Sheila blog about a commission that was addressing redistricting and was charged w making recommendations to the State about how to deal with it. I spent a few minutes last night perusing the proposed bills in the Indiana state house. The senate bill is short and doesn’t have anything about how such a commission would be convened or operate. The house version has some detail, but if I interpret it correctly, the appointment of the commissions still rests with the parties, and will not function independently.

    If anyone else has read this bill, could you please weigh in on my interpretation.

  16. It appears that Trump/Pence is “bent on”setting up a regime very similar to that which was put in place in Spain under General Franco after his victory in the Spanish Civil War in the late 30’s.

    Again, it appears to be a perfect marriage between TYRANNY and THE CHURCH.

  17. Daleb and others interested: both Common Cause and the League of Women Voters have explanations of the bill on their websites. It isn’t perfect but it is light-years better than the current system. It will probably pass the House, but the Senate will deep-six it without LOTS of citizen pressure.

  18. Sheila:
    My state senator (Crider) sent a newsletter/questionnaire and one of the questions was whether I supported a constitutional amendment to establish an APPOINTED commission to draw state legislative and congressional district boundaries. Two things made me immediately suspicious: 1) Is this the republican response to the independent commission’s recommendations; 2) the only reason they consider a constitutional amendment for redistricting is to continue the one-party control that exists and the constitutional amendment is the red herring to make it look like something that it is not.

    I have no trust of our representatives.

  19. A historical answer to Trump/Pence would for all of us who care about “Saving the Republic” to become like the PRE-EMPTIVE, ANTI-FASCISTS who foresaw the dangers of Franco Spain not only to Spain but also to the Free World. And you better believe they were right. It was the prelude to WW II.

    What will be the prelude from the Trump/Pence regime? It has already started to unsettle the precarious situation between the European Union members. Will its legacy be a prelude to WW III and FUTURCIDE?

  20. As usual Sheila is our shinning example of civic literacy as was our outgoing President and VP.

    Running a country is infinitely more complex than running a corporation yet thanks to fake news we as a country have been swayed into giving rank amateurs with zero qualifications a shot at it.

    Failure is a foregone conclusion with greater certainty than would be failure of any business turned over to those totally inexperienced in it.

    The only hope for continuing the great American experiment in democracy is to limit the failures to the least substantive long term consequences, and address urgently what created this failure of democracy.

    Sheila’s list defines those priorities.

  21. I would recommend a dose of H.G. Well’s “The Country of the Blind.” In the book, the quote is attributed to a line from Proverbs in the Old Testament…. “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King.”

    Understanding, “what created the failure of democracy” will come from the knowledge that there are two systems we need to know about: the surface system and the sub-surface systems of America’s body politic. Not to be aware of the effects of the sub-surface systems is analogous to being blind in one eye.

    “The Country of the Blind” written, as I remember over 100 years ago, by H. G. Wells, is available from Amazon.com for only $0.99 on Kindle cloud. It’s a must read.

  22. The “war on government” at least my Boomer lifetime began when Civil Rights Legislation at the Federal Level pre-empted all the Jim Crow Laws. The Neo-Confederates of that era (late 1950’s and 1960’s) opposed any laws that provided equality for all. The next victim was the EPA, which forced upon the states some from environmental protections. The Neo-Confederates, red neck theologians, the 1% and corporations could and did make a common cause against the government. This common cause found a home in the Republican Party.

    Sadly, the Democratic Party was also bought out by the 1% and Wall Street, there are a few exceptions.

    Certainly, one more hammer was the conglomeration and coagulation of the media into McMega-Media. News and honest investigative reporting was booted off the bus as ratings and therefor profits became the name of the game. The Trumpet knew this from his celebrity status and played the McMega-Media like a heavy metal band.

    We have in essence a one party state, it is called Corporatism. Oh we are allowed to complain on face book, etc., because that generates profits to someone. Bernie Sanders was the proverbial nail that stood out and he had to be hammered down, by what ever means necessary. Among those that wielded the hammer against Bernie were the Super delegates whose allegiance was to the Corporate Establishment Democrats and the DNC.

  23. Silly woman. We are a Republic and not a democracy. Representative government. Who determined it needs saving?

    Representative government works just fine when it is the rights of the minority that needs defending.

    Silly woman. Silly.

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