Category Archives: Elections

How to Fix the Nomination Process

Reagan_1980_GOP

Whether you are a Trump supporter, Cruz supporter, Kasich supporter, Sanders supporter, Hillary supporter, or a disinterested observer fed up with the whole thing like myself, we can all agree that the nomination process is a complete disaster. Not that any of this is new to this particular election; the 2016 campaign has only exposed the flaws in the process that have existed since the earliest days of the leading political parties.

No, neither Trump nor Sanders are having the nomination ‘stolen’ from them, at least not in a sense where actual ‘cheating’ is happening (best I can tell from afar anyway). The fact that Trump doesn’t understand how the process works does not mean Cruz is doing something wrong. And the irony of ironies where some of Sanders’s delegates are being redistributed…well, Hillary Clinton would never cheat right?

If the argument is that the game is rigged at worst or just a little screwy at best then I can certainly agree with that. The rules and process as was set up long before the 2016 campaign is really what is causing confusion leaving many primary voters angry and disillusioned. While it may be too late to cure what ails the nomination process for 2016, I believe I have a few ideas that would vastly improve the process and I would encourage any political party to at least give this a try.

A National Primary Day

This incredibly long drawn out byzantine primary system has outlived its usefulness. There is no reason to have a few states vote early while other vote later. If it’s good enough to have the general election on one day than the primary should be no different. My proposal is to have every state and territory vote on the same day, say 40-60 days before the party’s convention. If the states want to follow roughly the same calendar as the traditional primaries holding town halls, debates, or even non-binding straw polls then by all means, do so. The days of a handful of states determining who emerges should be done away with forever.

Allocation of Delegates

In the 2016 South Carolina Primary Donald Trump “won” the election with a whopping 32.5% of the vote. To put this another way, 67.5% of South Carolina voters voted for someone other than Donald Trump *but* because South Carolina is winner take all, Trump will be awarded all 50 of the state’s delegates! While I’m not one of these people who think that “majority rule” is a good thing in and of itself (actually it’s often terrible), it seems that in a primary or caucus which purports to reflect the “will of the people” should at a minimum, require that the winning candidate actually earned the majority of the vote.

If the goal of the nomination process is to nominate an individual who represents the “will of the people” in the party then the parties are not doing a very good job in achieving that goal. My proposal to improve this aspect of the process is as follows:

Each state/territory is to have one delegate for each congressional district and two at large delegates. Each would-be delegate is bound to a particular candidate and can only become a delegate if his/her candidate wins 50%+1 of the vote in the congressional district or, in the case of the at large would-be delegates, 50%+1 of the entire state, commonwealth, or territory. The candidates would keep every delegate s/he won (i.e. no winner take all states). The 50%+1 threshold would be easily achieved by implementing instant runoff voting (this is key). This way every vote actually would matter and the “spoiler effect” would be minimized if not eliminated.

Rather than explain how instant runoff voting (a.k.a. alternative voting) works for those who are not familiar, here’s a short video:

The Nominating Convention

The convention would operate more or less like it does now. The delegates would then go about choosing the nominee by either multiple rounds of voting or using the instant runoff method as described above. Because all the delegates would be bound to their candidate (at least to start with) in the former method s/he must vote for the candidate in the first round, in the latter s/he must rank the bound candidate #1 and the candidate of his or her choice for #2, #3, and so on. Whichever way the convention decided to go, the important thing is no winner would be selected without a majority recorded vote (i.e. no voice votes where the Chairperson decides which way the vote went based on his/her opinion).

Oh yeah, one other thing: no other candidates could be nominated who was not running on National Primary Day.

Would this process be perfect? Of course not. There is no system I can think of which will prevent a truly terrible person from being nominated or even elected. If there’s a better way, I would certainly would love to hear it. That being said, I believe this process is much superior than the one either party is using now.

All this makes me wonder though: if the parties are having this much trouble determining the will of the majority of their party members (assuming that’s really what they are trying to do), how can they be trusted to solve the more complex problems they want us to believe they can solve?
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One Point of Clarification

If you read carefully, you will notice that everything I wrote is just a suggestion about how any political party can improve its nomination process. None of this in any way is meant to advocate that the law should be changed to comply with my opinion. Its free advice and the parties can take it or leave it (and they probably will leave it…who am I to advise them right?).

I’ve come across some individuals who are upset about how some state parties have gone about choosing delegates (which I can sympathize with; I hate how the Colorado Republican Party chooses delegates). What everyone needs to understand though is that regardless of what they think they know about how the system works, the U.S. is not a democracy. It never was and never was intended to be. Some misguided individuals believe that the shenanigans (as they see it anyway) taking place in some of these state conventions is tantamount to treason against the U.S. Constitution.

For those who think this way, I’m about to drop a giant atomic truth bomb so here it goes…

There is no constitutional right for the average citizen to vote in a presidential election (neither in the party primaries nor in the general election). No, really there’s not.

For those who don’t believe me, the part of the U.S. Constitution that addresses how the POTUS is to be elected is located in Article II, Section 1, Paragraphs 2 through 4. I’ll share the most relevant part (paragraph 2):

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

As stated from the excerpt above, each state determines how Electors are picked to vote for POTUS. This means that if the state legislature wants to choose Electors by drawing names out of a hat or by roshambo, the state legislature may do so. As it happens, every state legislature has decided that the people have a right to vote for the Electors provided they are eligible to vote (as determined by that state’s laws).

Did you notice something else? What about all the explaining about the nomination process of delegates of a particular political party?

Read the excerpt again, no actually read Article II in its entirety because I know some people reading this think that I cherry picked one small part from the U.S. Constitution to make my point.

Did you notice that there wasn’t a single word about political parties, much less how they go about choosing a nominee for president?

Themoreyouknow

The Social Media Revolution–An American Spring?

"Television". Photo. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.

Regular readers know that I–an irregular contributor here–have long said that the power of the internet is as-yet poorly understood and mostly untapped. Sure, we’ve seen the Arab Spring, but what is the internet really going to do in America beyond providing us endless hours of cat videos?

Well, Scott Adams [of Dilbert fame] suggests that it’s broken down our electoral politics and is turning us into a direct democracy:

The media has led you to believe that this is a presidential contest between Democrats and Republicans. But Sanders is barely a real Democrat and Trump is barely a conservative Republican. If Bloomberg jumps into the race, we will have three candidates with ambiguous party affiliations. So maybe there is a more helpful way to frame this contest.

Naval Ravikant calls it The American Spring, and points out that social media has become the real conduit to power. That’s a revolution. We the People are on the brink of replacing the entrenched powers and their monied interests. If the patriots in Iowa, New Hampshire, and the other early primary states put both Sanders and Trump in commanding leads, they will be – in effect – firing the government. But they would also be firing the system of government that was created by the Founders. Direct democracy via social media – chaotic and ugly – is about to replace the Republic. No longer can a strong leader ignore the will of the people when it is pounding on every door and tapping on every window. The Republic was designed to give elected officials the power to decide for the people. But the elected elites have lost their legitimacy and The People are on the brink of taking back power.

I’ve said before that technology has led America to an increasingly centralized society, culture, and government.

  1. The printing press itself was the first step in creating durable broadsheet dissemination of information to a wide audience. The pen is mightier than the sword, but owning a printing press is like being the general of an army of penmen.
  2. Newspapers have followed an overwhelming consolidation and much of their news-gathering is centralized via the AP. And they had real power, because you “never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.
  3. The introduction of radio enabled a true real-time broadcast to allow single voices to reach much more widely than ever before.
  4. TV came along, and video truly killed the radio star. Because of the expense, consolidation into the “big 3” networks meant that the largest corporations could filter and control the presentation of information to the masses.

"Television". Photo. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.

“Television”. Photo. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.


Each step increased the flow of information. But each step also drove the control of which information would flow into a narrower and narrower group of people. But technology marches on, and the filters of broadcast media are increasingly being sidestepped, democratized, and subsumed. It started with Cable, as the cost of getting into the television business dropped dramatically, and the appearance of the 24-hour cable news station widened the number of voices in the market. But nothing has come close to becoming relevant as quickly as the internet and social media. We now see major news productions no longer driving the reporting, but rather highlighting the tweets of feet on the ground. And Presidential primary political debates are taking questions from YouTube “stars”.

The internet has been around the “mainstream” less than 20 years now… Since then, it’s basically broken or fundamentally changed multiple business models in all sorts of industries, as any unemployed former travel agent will tell you. Politically, by 2004, blogs had changed the political landscape enough to give us Rathergate. But 2004–a mere 12 years ago–only brought us the first inklings of the social media future with MySpace. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, all of these hadn’t even been invented yet. Essentially the “modern” social media landscape was built in ~2006, with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and integrated with the “computer in a pocket”, the iPhone and Android devices, over the following few years. We’ve been living with it for only a decade.
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The first decade of television was exciting, but raw. Everyone could tell that this was something new, and something important. Much like they can tell with the internet and social media now. It created new stars and obsoleted many former ones. It changed the world of politics. Much like internet and social media has done since. And now, as streaming video is replacing broadcast video for more and more households, and with Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu becoming production companies in their own right, the traditional hold of the TV networks is breaking with it.

The “out of the blue” appearance of Ron Paul and now Bernie Sanders? Voices who have spent decades with no “mainstream” platform are now finding their audience. The growth of “outsider, anti-establishment” candidates gaining real traction? This is due to media conglomerates no longer being able to control the message and marginalize them. These candidates, rightly or wrongly, stand in stark contrast to the politicians who have been screwing us over for years while growing their own power. And can you imagine the quick changes in public opinion on the gay marriage, medical/recreational marijuana legalization fights, and civil liberties issues without a democratized communication platform like the internet? And the internet is not only domestic–it’s making these changes on a global scale.

So, what is the point? Well, it remains to be seen. We are witnessing the greatest social transformation the world has seen since at least the invention of television, but probably since the creation of “mass media” at all. We’re seeing the replacement of “broadcasting” with “narrowcasting”, or “sidecasting”, or “targetedcasting”, or “peercasting” or whatever you want to name it. But the fact is that information no longer only flows downhill from the powerful to the rest of us. Now, while each of us may individually be no more powerful than we ever once were, all of us are collectively more powerful than any individual media magnate or opinion-maker on the globe. While much of Scott Adams post goes into suggesting an idea that I don’t think will ever come to pass, the question of demolishing our system of government is well under way, whether the visible structures of government change or not.

Is this a good thing? Will it advance liberty? I’m not sure. But it’s certainly different, and the world–be it politicians, media folks, leaders of industry, etc–hasn’t quite figured out the implications of that yet.

Margin of Error

Sorry, pet peeve time.

Reason, discussing Chris Christie’s candidacy:

Not only did Christie not get the traditional “bump” in polling that candidates get when they first officially announced, he’s dropped from 4 percent to 2 percent in a Monmouth University poll over that time period. With a 5 percent margin of error, it means Christie’s support could be at 0 percent.

He could be at 0 percent? No, that’s not what that means. I suppose I should give credit for not saying he could be at -3 percent, but clearly he can’t be at 0 percent unless the 2 percent in the Monmouth University poll were just flat lying.

He could be at nearly 0 percent, yes. Those 2 percent of a very small poll could be the only people in America who support Chris Christie’s presidency. But that’s still non-zero.

It’s like a “statistical tie”. If one candidate is polling at 30% and another at 20% in a poll with a 5% margin of error, that doesn’t mean the two are tied. It means that there is a VERY SMALL probability that they are tied, but that there is a very high probability that one candidate has a sizable lead.

I understand that in America’s public education system and Kardashian-driven pop culture, we’ve reached a state where most people think numbers are hard. But they’re not this hard, people!

Gun Control and Electoral Math – The Scoreboard

Two years ago, I wrote a piece about electoral math and gun control, and how it was unlikely that we would have any serious national level gun control… and we have not (state level is another story unfortunately).

In that, I included a list of democratic senators who were up for re-election this year, their position on gun control, and how “at risk” their seat was:

Stupidity, Politics, and Electoral Math

So, now that we have the results of all of their elections, let’s see what the last two years hath wrought among them:

XX = Unelected (or resigned and replaced by Republican)

  1. XX – Alaska – Mark Begich – Very Pro Gun – very unsafe seat
  2. XX – Arkansas – Mark Pryor – neutral – very unsafe seat
  3. XX – Colorado – Mark Udall – neutral – not a safe seat
  4. Delaware – Chris Coons – Very anti-gun – safe seat
  5. Hawaii – UNKNOWN (special election to replace Daniel Inouye) – safe seat
  6. Illinois – Dick Durbin – Very anti-gun – safe seat
  7. XX – Iowa – Tom Harkin – Very anti-gun – iffy, can’t afford to screw up
  8. XX – Louisiana – Mary Landrieu – neutral – very unsafe seat
  9. Massachusetts – UNKNOWN (special election to replace John Kerry) – safe seat
  10. Michigan – Carl Levin – very anti-gun – safe seat
  11. Minnesota – Al Franken – very anti-gun – not a safe seat
  12. XX – Montana – Max Baucus – very pro-gun – iffy, can’t afford to screw up
  13. New Hampshire – Jeanne Shaheen – very anti-gun – not a safe seat
  14. New Jersey – Frank Lautenberg – very anti-gun – safe seat
  15. New Mexico – Tom Udall – slightly anti-gun – safe seat
  16. XX – North Carolina – Kay Hagan – very anti-gun – not a safe seat
  17. Oregon – Jeff Merkley – very anti-gun – safe seat
  18. Rhode Island – Jack Reed – very anti-gun – safe seat
  19. XX – South Dakota – Tim Johnson – very pro-gun – very unsafe seat
  20. Virginia – Mark Warner – very pro-gun – not a safe seat
  21. XX – West Virginia – Jay Rockefeller – moderately anti-gun – very unsafe seat

Lotta XX’s there… 9 actually, out of 21 (10 of those 21 were considered safe seats, barely challenged by Republicans). Pretty much every anti-gun democrat that wasn’t in a safe seat, except Shaheen and Franken (and they’re kinda weird cases).

And THAT folks, is why we will not have any significant gun control on the national level any time soon.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

The Republican Traveling Interstate Electoral Paradox and Clown Show

While I have no interest in Jeb Bush as president… really I think very few people do… he’s absolutely correct on the ideological problem Republicans face.

From The Hill:

“Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made the case for a more centrist Republican Party on Monday night, saying a nominee should “lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles.”

Bush’s apparent strategy not to try to appeal to the most conservative elements of the party contrasts to some degree with Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, where some questioned whether he tacked too far to the right in the primary, hurting his ability to get back toward the center for the general election.

Bush laid out policy positions that could be controversial among the conservative base.”

Unfortunately, we have the example of 2012 and Mitt Romney to show us both side of this problem INCREDIBLY clearly.

In order to win in the primaries, you generally have to appeal to strongly motivated partisans, and fundraisers. In order to get their support, you generally have to stake out stronger ideological positions, which appeal to single states or regions, than much of “the center” is comfortable with, on a national basis. The positions that appeal to Floridians, don’t necessarily appeal to Pennsylvanians, or Iowans, or Ohioans.

An aside: Of course, in reality, there is no such thing as a political “center”, or an “independent”. These are polite fictions and rhetorical constructs, adopted by the media, and by people who either don’t understand their own political positions, or are trying to convince people of something (including themselves). 

While both major parties have this problem, and prior to the 90s democrats generally suffered from it worse than Republicans; since Bush the elder, the reverse has generally been true.

I think in part it’s because Democrats got smarter, and more cynical… while at the same time, Republicans seemingly got stupider (politically that is)… and also more cynical but in a less politically useful way.

Bush the Elder failed to win reelection, because 40% of the country thought he was too conservative, and 40% of the country thought he was too liberal. When presented with an “alternative” in Ross Perot, whom both liberals and conservatives, and “independents”, were able to project their aspirations on; Bush lost just enough more support than Clinton, that Clinton was able to squeak a plurality victory in.

We repeated the same charade with Romney and Obama in 2012 (and in fact McCain and Obama in 2008).

Obama didn’t win re-election because of increasing or even maintaining democrat and “centrist” support (he actually lost some)… He won reelection because a very large portion of the right decided to stay home rather than vote for Romney, whom they considered a closet liberal.

In 2012, there were honestly millions of people in this country, who opposed Obama and everything he stood for, but somehow convinced themselves that:

“it’s better if Obama stays in power and we fight against him, and the country gets even worse so that everyone will know how bad liberals are, and next time we can get a “REAL CONSERVATIVE”; because if we elect Romney, he’ll be just as bad as Obama, and harder to fight against”.

If you don’t believe that people could be that silly… just ask a hard right “conservative”, or a “tea party” supporter (or for that matter, a liberal who voted for the “green” party, because Obama wasn’t liberal enough).

Meanwhile, the media and the left very effectively painted Romney as a radical right wing nut job… so successfully, that they seemingly actually believed their own BS…

I’m not sure if they just completely ignored the facts that Romney had almost no actual conservative support prior to the general, that his actual stated positions were relatively “moderate”, and that there were YEARS worth of articles, editorials, fox news opinion pieces, and general conservative HATE of Romney…

…Or if somehow they convinced themselves that all that was a psyop against them, to slip manchurian ultraconservative Romney in under their noses?

…’cuz seriously… the Republican party, and conservative media, are not that smart, that competent, or anywhere NEAR that unified and coordinated.

…If they were, they could actually have elected a president.

The Republican primary process has been an absurd clown show the last two electoral cycles.

On what planet, would Michele Bachmann ever be taken seriously as a national candidate? Because it certainly isn’t this one.

How about Mike Huckabee?

Or Rick Santorum?

… And yet, these clowns were able to make a decent enough showing in the primaries to be taken seriously, because they had small but passionate single issue followings, who donated sufficient money to keep their nutjob single issue panderers on the campaign trail.

After 8 years of Obama and the Dems in congress finding new and interesting ways of getting the country to hate them, one would generally assume a Republican presidential LOCK for 2016.

The only way it won’t be, is if they screw up really badly in congress in the next two years (a significant possibility)…

… Or if they end up with another clown show primary process, from which they attempt to pick the least offensive clown as their candidate.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

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