ALEC Is Talking About Changing the Way Senators Are Elected and Taking Away Your Vote

A proposed resolution advocates for overturning the 17th Amendment so Republican-controlled state legislatures could pick senators.

(Reuters / Jonathan Ernst)

By John Nichols

The United States Senate is an undemocratic institution. Just do the math: Progressive California Senator Kamala Harris was elected in 2016 with 7,542,753 votes. Yet her vote on issues such as health-care reform counts for no more than that of conservative Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi, who was elected in 2014 with 121,554 votes.

This is an absurd imbalance. In fact, the only thing that would make it more absurd would be if voters were removed from the equation altogether.

Say “hello” to the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, the corporate-funded project to impose a top-down right-wing agenda on the states. ALEC is considering whether to adopt a new piece of “model legislation” that proposes to do away with an elected Senate.

The idea of reversing 104 years of representative democracy and returning to the bad old days when senators were chosen via backroom deals between wealthy campaign donors, corporate lobbyists, and crooked legislators, is not new. The John Birch Society peddled the proposal decades ago. But with the rise of the “Tea Party
movement, the notion moved into the conservative mainstream.

The Nation

Yes, Democrats need a civil war: Believe it or not, it’s the only real path back to power

Papering over the party’s internal conflicts only led to defeat. Without open debate, victory will never come

Former Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders takes the stage during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 25, 2016.

By Bill Curry

In April, Bernie Sanders and Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez took off on a bumpy cross-country road trip. Their “unity tour” mostly served to highlight their differences and remind people that Sanders is not actually a Democrat. May it be a lesson to Democrats: Unity requires agreement, which requires debate.

Many expected 2016’s losing party to engage in fierce debate and a bloody civil war. Had Republicans lost, they’d have opened fire on one another in their concession speeches. Democrats took another tack. First, they rehired all their top management; their discredited consultants and decrepit congressional leaders. Then, in the spirit of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, they cancelled the debate.

Party elders say it’s no time to squabble. They always say that. The specter of an emotionally arrested, proto-fascist fraud in the White House adds force to their argument, but ducking debate is what got Democrats here in the first place. This is in fact the exact right time, maybe even their last chance, to have one. So, what’s stopping them?

In 2016 Sanders backers fumed over the Democratic National Committee’s conniving with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. But the DNC could screw up a two-car funeral. It’s too ineffectual to effect anything as big and complicated as an election. Progressives made Clinton. Without labor, she’d have opened the 2016 campaign with three straight losses (in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada). Labor’s top goals were blocking trade deals and enacting a living wage. Sanders was with labor. Clinton wasn’t. He outperformed her in nearly every general election poll. Labor went with her anyway, often without consulting the rank and file.

Most old line, Washington-based African-American, women’s, LGBT and environmental groups did likewise. It was the progressive establishment, not the party establishment, that secured Clinton’s nomination. The udemocratization of the Democratic Party starts with the democratization of the left.

Salon

Why Democrats Lost

Kenneth Whitley, WPA poster, 1939

I voted for Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama was absolutely right when he said that there was no candidate better qualified to be president than Hillary Clinton. So, why did Democrats lose?

When asked about raising the minimum wage–while Bernie Sanders was calling for a $15.00 an hour minimum wage–Hillary took the politically safe route and said we should pursue “incremental changes.” Holy crap. My head exploded. Talk about poor optics. Talk about being completely out of touch with your base of support. Let’s do another fundraiser with Wall Street bankers in the freaking Hamptons. Can you imagine how that sounded to a single mother trying to feed her kids on a $9.00 an hour job? Incremental change? We don’t need incremental change. We need someone to call 911. We’re dying here.

Hillary Clinton lost one million Democratic and independent women voters in 2016. Imagine that.

So here’s the not-so-secret answer to why Democrats lost in 2016: Bernie Sanders supporters aren’t a radical fringe element. They are the Democratic Party. They are the ideological heirs of FDR, John F. Kennedy and LBJ. They are the same social democrats who created social security, medicaid, passed the civil rights acts, and protested the unnecessary wars and the military-industrial complex. They didn’t abandon the Democratic Party. They were abandoned by the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party has strived to become more conservative and politically safe. And in doing so has become politically irrelevant.

The Democrats’ Davos ideology won’t win back the midwest

The party has harmed millions of their own former constituents. If they change course, they can reverse their losses

‘The wreckage that you see every day as you tour this part of the country is the utterly predictable fruit of the Democratic party’s neoliberal turn.’ Photograph: Barry Lewis/Corbis via Getty Images

By Thomas Frank

The tragedy of the 2016 election is connected closely, at least for me, to the larger tragedy of the industrial midwest. It was in the ruined industrial city of Cleveland that the Republican Party came together in convention last July, and it was the deindustrialized, addiction-harrowed precincts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin that switched sides in November and delivered Donald Trump to the Oval Office.

I am a midwesterner too, and I like to think I share the values and outlook of that part of the country. I have spent many of the last 15 years trying to understand my region’s gradual drift to the political right. And I have spent the last three weeks driving around the deindustrialized midwest, visiting 13 different cities to talk about the appeal of Donald Trump and what ails the Democratic Party. I met labor leaders and progressive politicians; average people and rank-and-file union members; senior citizens and Millennials; sages and cranks.

And what I am here to say is that the midwest is not an exotic place. It isn’t a benighted region of unknowable people and mysterious urges. It isn’t backward or hopelessly superstitious or hostile to learning. It is solid, familiar, ordinary America, and Democrats can have no excuse for not seeing the wave of heartland rage that swamped them last November.

The wreckage that you see every day as you tour this part of the country is the utterly predictable fruit of the Democratic party’s neoliberal turn. Every time our liberal leaders signed off on some lousy trade deal, figuring that working-class people had “nowhere else to go,” they were making what happened last November a little more likely.

What we need is for the Democratic party and its media enablers to alter course. It’s not enough to hear people’s voices and feel their pain; the party actually needs to change. They need to understand that the enlightened Davos ideology they have embraced over the years has done material harm to millions of their own former constituents. The Democrats need to offer something different next time. And then they need to deliver.

The Guardian

What Keith Ellison’s Defeat Says About the DNC

Insider Dems simply do not accept the fact that the party must break its bonds with big money and link itself with grassroots activists.

 In December of 2016, Keith Ellison listens as Ray Buckley speaks during a forum on the future of the Democratic Party. (AP Photo / David Zalubowski)
In December of 2016, Keith Ellison listens as Ray Buckley speaks during a forum on the future of the Democratic Party. (AP Photo / David Zalubowski)

By John Nichols

The most significant election result for Democrats on February 25 wasn’t the selection of former labor secretary Tom Perez as the new party chair at an all-too-predictable gathering of Democratic National Committee members in Atlanta. It was the result announced that evening in Middletown, Delaware, where environmental attorney Stephanie Hansen won what was supposed to be a close special election for an open State Senate seat with 58 percent of the vote. That win gave Delaware Democrats something their party now has in only five other states: “trifecta” control of the governorship and both houses of the legislature. In other words, they can govern.

The point of political parties is to win elections, thousands of them, in communities like Middletown, and to add those victories together so that people with a shared set of values—as opposed to the same campaign donors—are in control of city councils, legislatures, and Congress. Democratic insiders lost sight of that point over the years, becoming so presidentially obsessed that they told themselves they could somehow survive without legislators and governors, congresspeople and senators. If they could just keep the presidency, these Democratic partisans imagined, everything would be OK—and the media, which is more focused than ever on Washington, reinforced that fantasy. Then Hillary Clinton lost, and the Democrats suddenly recognized that they were at their weakest point since 1928 in the House, and at their weakest point since 1925 in the states.

No matter who won the competition between Perez and Representative Keith Ellison to lead the DNC, the new chair’s only real job was always going to be to end this losing streak. That’s not some crass partisan calculus; it’s an absolute necessity if America is going to undo not just Trump and Trumpism but the program of inequality and injustice that contemporary conservatives advance. Ellison had the bolder vision for merging the “demonstration energy” of the resistance to Trump with the “electoral energy” that Democrats must muster in 2018. His approach extended from the left-wing, small-donor-funded, millennial-energizing presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders, which Ellison backed—and which Perez, and most of the party establishment, opposed. The Working Families Party’s Dan Cantor described Ellison’s narrow defeat as “a missed opportunity”—and so it is. But it’s important to recognize that a majority of DNC members were willing to miss that opportunity, as they’ve missed so many others over so many years.

The Nation

Trump’s Numbers Continue To Tank As 60% Of Americans Don’t Think He’s ‘Level-Headed’

Overall, the poll reflects a resounding rejection of Trump as a person and the agenda he has worked to implement over the course of his first several weeks in office.

trump-insane-701x367

By Sean Colarossi

It’s been less than three weeks since Donald Trump took the oath of office, and the American people are starting to question whether the new president is even sane enough to hold a job.

According to a new Quinnipiac University poll, a whopping 60 percent of registered voters say that Trump is not “level-headed.” Just a dismal 35 percent of the survey’s respondents say that he is.

This is no surprise given what Trump has managed to do over the first several weeks of his presidency, from lying about crowd sizes and wreaking havoc on American airports to threatening war with two countries and making a deadly and ill-formed foreign policy decision.

Quinnipiac’s finding is just one in a series of devastating numbers showing that a majority of the American people don’t think the president has positive leadership traits.

Politicus

The War on Facts Is a War on Democracy

In a time when facts don’t matter, and science is being muzzled, American democracy is the real victim

 Credit: Gage Skidmore Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Credit: Gage Skidmore Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

By Jonathan Foley

There is a new incumbent in the White House, a new Congress has been sworn in, and scientists around the country are nervous as hell.

We’re nervous because there seems to be a seismic shift going on in Washington, D.C., and its relationship with facts, scientific reality, and objective truth has never been more strained.

Already, in the opening days of his administration, Mr. Trump’s Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, willfully ignored clear, empirical evidence about the size of the inauguration crowds, and bristled at the suggestion experts said they were smaller than in years past. He seemed almost paranoid, and insinuated that a media conspiracy—rather than simple arithmetic—was trying to embarrass his boss. And the Trump Administration continues to claim, without any evidence, that widespread voter fraud cost Mr. Trump the popular vote, even though this has been thoroughly debunked by numerous, bipartisan sources—including his own lawyers.

Even more bizarrely, Kellyanne Conway, a senior advisor to Mr. Trump, has offered up the notion that “alternative facts”, rather than actual truth, were in play now. I don’t know what “alternative facts” are, but I think my parent’s generation would have called them “falsehoods” or even “lies.”

But it’s not just absence of facts that’s troubling, it is the apparent effort to derail science and the pursuit of facts themselves.

Ultimately, a healthy democracy depends on science. The pursuit of truth, having an informed citizenry, and the free and open exchange of ideas are all cornerstones of our democracy. That’s one thing that always made America truly great—the fact that, when all is said and done, evidence and the truth would always win the day in America. Without that, we join the league of ordinary nations.

Scientific American

The Constitution lets the electoral college choose the winner. They should choose Clinton.

Hillary Clinton (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)
Hillary Clinton (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

By Lawrence Lessig

Conventional wisdom tells us that the electoral college requires that the person who lost the popular vote this year must nonetheless become our president. That view is an insult to our framers. It is compelled by nothing in our Constitution. It should be rejected by anyone with any understanding of our democratic traditions  — most important, the electors themselves.

The framers believed, as Alexander Hamilton put it, that “the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the [president].” But no nation had ever tried that idea before. So the framers created a safety valve on the people’s choice. Like a judge reviewing a jury verdict, where the people voted, the electoral college was intended to confirm — or not — the people’s choice. Electors were to apply, in Hamilton’s words, “a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice” — and then decide. The Constitution says nothing about “winner take all.” It says nothing to suggest that electors’ freedom should be constrained in any way. Instead, their wisdom — about whether to overrule “the people” or not — was to be free of political control yet guided by democratic values. They were to be citizens exercising judgment,  not cogs turning a wheel.

Many think we should abolish the electoral college. I’m not convinced that we should. Properly understood, the electors can serve an important function. What if the people elect a Manchurian candidate? Or a child rapist? What if evidence of massive fraud pervades a close election? It is a useful thing to have a body confirm the results of a democratic election — so long as that body exercises its power reflectively and conservatively. Rarely — if ever — should it veto the people’s choice. And if it does, it needs a very good reason.

So, do the electors in 2016 have such a reason?

In this election, the people did not go crazy. The winner, by far, of the popular vote is the most qualified candidate for president in more than a generation. Like her or not, no elector could have a good-faith reason to vote against her because of her qualifications. Choosing her is thus plainly within the bounds of a reasonable judgment by the people.

Yet that is not the question the electors must weigh as they decide how to cast their ballots. Instead, the question they must ask themselves is whether there is any good reason to veto the people’s choice.

There is not. And indeed, there is an especially good reason for them not to nullify what the people have said — the fundamental principle of one person, one vote. We are all citizens equally. Our votes should count equally. And since nothing in our Constitution compels a decision otherwise, the electors should respect the equal vote by the people by ratifying it on Dec. 19.

The Washington Post

Under Darkness

Rows of bodies of dead inmates fill the yard of Lager Nordhausen, a Gestapo concentration camp. This photo shows less than half of the bodies of the several hundred inmates who died of starvation or were shot by Gestapo men. Germany, April 12, 1945. Myers. (Army) NARA FILE #: 111-SC-203456 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 1121
Rows of bodies of dead inmates fill the yard of Lager Nordhausen, a Gestapo concentration camp. This photo shows less than half of the bodies of the several hundred inmates who died of starvation or were shot by Gestapo men. Germany, April 12, 1945. Myers. (U.S. Army)

By konigludwig

They came without warning late one night in 1943 and took 7 year-old Rebekkah Dunst and her parents from their home. The next day my mother cried and cried. Her older brothers too. Rebekkah had been my mother’s best friend. My grandmother wept bitterly for the Dunst family. They had been close neighbors, good friends, kind, decent and gentle people. They had done nothing wrong. Nothing.

My mother and her brothers were warned by my grandmother not to be seen crying for the Dunst family in public. In Nazi Germany, to show empathy for Jews, foreigners, the disabled, homosexuals, or anyone else who didn’t represent the Nazi ideal of an ethnically pure and glorious Greater Germany revealed a moral weakness that was not to be tolerated nor excused. The slightest sign of nonconformity was dangerous. Germans were afraid. Everyone was afraid. Not just Jews.

My grandfather was a soldier in the German Wehrmacht. His family had lived in Germany since 1482. But that did not stop the Gestapo from ransacking my grandmother’s house, a German soldier’s home, on several occasions. My uncles were in the Hitler youth but that did not matter either.

They were looking for letters from my grandfather’s brother and sister, who had emigrated to Brazil when the Nazis first came to power in Germany. Even possessing a simple letter from someone whose loyalty to the Third Reich was suspect could be a death warrant.

And so here we are again. We have failed to learn the lessons of history. We have elected a president openly supported by Nazis and White Supremacists–a man who has refused to disavow their support–and who now finalizes plans to “relocate” millions of Hispanic immigrants and to forcibly register millions of Muslim-Americans. Suddenly, the American Right is no longer preoccupied with our constitutional guarantee of Freedom of Religion nor their abstract fears of imagined government concentration camps.

The majority of Germans didn’t vote for Hitler. But now, like then, a great nation has lost its moral compass, and the long established relations of the civilized world have been suddenly swept in a single night into an abyss of pure darkness.

Ⓒ 2016 by konigludwig

This is racism.

Let’s call this what it is.

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump react as they watch the election results during Trump’s election night rally, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in New York. CREDIT: AP/John Locher
Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump react as they watch the election results during Trump’s election night rally, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in New York. CREDIT: AP/John Locher

By Casey Quinlan

Donald Trump won the presidency last night. Many voters were stunned, after the media overwhelmingly predicted a Clinton win and Trump began to look desperate, sending a lawyer to Nevada to demand information about when a line ended for early voting. Now, Americans are looking back at the past few months and trying to understand what happened.

In the days before the election, the Washington Post published a piece entitled, “What is this election missing? Empathy for Trump voters.” But a lot of people who have watched this election closely pointed out there has actually been a lot of outpouring of empathy for Trump voters.

Throughout the campaign, the media was on a perpetual quest to understand what attracted people to Trump’s message. Journalists considered economic disadvantage as a major factor for why Trump voters felt unheard — and interpreted Trump’s support as evidence that these people reject the establishment Republicans and Democrats who have left them behind.

That was the popular narrative for months. It appears that many members of the media wanted to consider anything but racism, as if it couldn’t possibly that be so straightforward. But it really is.

America’s demographics are changing, and they’re changing quickly. By 2055, there will no longer be a single racial or ethnic majority in the United States and 14 percent of the country will be foreign born, according to the Pew Research Center. Forty-three percent of Millennials are people of color.

Let’s be clear: This is scaring white voters. White people believe that they are more often the victims of racism than black people, according to a 2011 new study from researchers at Tufts University’s School of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Business School. The research also found that white voters perceived social progress for people of color to be much swifter than it actually is.

The authors wrote, “These data are the first to demonstrate that not only do whites think more progress has been made toward equality than do blacks, but whites also now believe that this progress is linked to a new inequality — at their expense.”

ThinkProgress