Tag Archives: democracy

More, not fewer, voters make democracy work

One of the obligatory editorials I would write back when I was a working stiff involved seeking to get voters to get off their duffs and do their duty as citizens of this great country.

Their duty involved voting. One of the arguments I sought to make at three newspapers where I wrote these opinion pieces was a straightforward one: More voters, not fewer of them, create a stronger democratic system.

Thus, when I hear arguments from mostly Republican officials who want to suppress voter participation, why, it just infuriates me to no end.

GOP officials in Texas and elsewhere are flinging the red herring about “rampant voter fraud” by opposing mail-in voting. What they really intend to do is to prevent voters from casting ballots particularly in this frightening moment … with the world reeling from the global coronavirus pandemic.

This bit of idiocy even came from the nation’s No. 1 Republican, Donald “Imbecile in Chief” Trump, who said mail-in voting — in addition to promoting voter fraud — would doom Republicans from getting elected. Keep that in mind. I’ll get back to that.

A federal judge recently ruled that Texans who fear coming down with the COVID-19 virus by voting in person on Election Day are free to cast their ballots by mail; the U.S. Fifth Circuit of Appeals, though, put the brakes on the judge’s ruling. So we’re now back to Square One.

Republicans in Texans, led by Attorney General Ken Paxton, appear more frightened at the prospect of more voters taking part in an all-mail election. Paxton hides behind the bogus notion of “widespread voter fraud.” The five states that conduct their elections by mail-in voting report no evidence of rampant fraudulent voting. Is there some voter fraud? Sure. There also is fraudulent voting when citizens cast their ballots on Election Day — in polling booths.

Back to my fundamental point. My argument about more voters making for a stronger democratic system than fewer of them holds up now as it has all along.

Paltry voter turnouts undeniably hand more power to fewer people. They deny consensus decisions. They result in voters ceding the power granted to them in the U.S. Constitution to someone who might feel differently about issues and candidates.

Thus, if we are facing an ongoing global pandemic, I want there to be a mail-in option to ensure greater voter turnout. I want a stronger, not a weaker, democratic system.

We desperately need to shore up faith in our electoral system

I make this statement with considerable pain in my heart.

Our nation’s electoral system is in potentially dire peril. The Russians sought to sow seeds of mistrust when they interfered in — or attacked, if you prefer that verb — our electoral process in the 2016 presidential campaign.

They have succeeded. Maybe beyond their expectations.

They hacked into Hillary Clinton’s campaign system, apparently heeding the request of Clinton’s Republican opponent, Donald Trump. The mistrust began, seemingly at that moment.

It’s gotten worse.

The Iowa caucus just this past week and the “app” glitch that fouled up the vote-counting and the delegate-apportioning process has made it all the more troublesome.

As Ross Ramsey writes in the Texas Tribune, when you trifle with our electoral process, you are messing with democracy itself. Read Ramsey’s analysis here.

One gets the sense that everyone is going to suspect hanky-panky at damn near every electoral level. Legislative races? Statewide contests? Presidential primary contest? How about the 2020 presidential election itself this coming November?

If the Russians sought to spark discontent among Americans, they can declare victory. They were able to do so during the 2016 election.

The Russians aren’t the only villains. American politicians are looking for ways to suppress voter turnout. They scheme and conspire to make voting among minority Americans more difficult. Their aim is to elect non-minority candidates to public office, thus depriving minority Americans a voice in the halls of power among those who look like the voters they represent.

Yes, democracy is under attack. As we move more deeply into this election year, I believe we need to more vigilant against enemies — foreign and, yes, domestic — who seek to undermine all Americans’ right to vote their conscience.

The Electoral College is worth keeping

I traveled to Greece in November 2000, at a time when the U.S. presidential election was still being deliberated.

Al Gore won more votes than George W. Bush. That recount of ballots in Florida hung up the final decision. Then came the Supreme Court ruling to stop the recount. Bush won the state’s electoral votes and was elected president.

The Greeks I met on that trip were baffled. How can someone get more votes than the other person and still lose an election? they wondered. Greeks are sophisticated folks. Their forebears gave birth to democratic government nearly 3,000 years ago. They understand politics and government.

I tried my best to explain the Electoral College to them. I sought to interpret what our nation’s founders had in mind when they created the system.

Here we are nearly two decades later. Another president was elected with fewer votes than his opponent. Now we hear from Democratic candidates for president who want to abolish the Electoral College.

Sigh.

I do not favor that electoral overhaul.

Here is what the Electoral College means

Am I happy with the way the most recent election turned out? Of course not! That’s not my point. Nor should it be the point of those who want to throw out the system that has worked quite well during the existence of our republic.

Eliminating the Electoral College would surrender smaller states’ power to the vast urban centers. The founders intended to spread the power among all the states.

I will concede that the past several election cycles have turned into fights for selected “battleground states'” electoral votes. Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa, Florida have gotten the bulk of candidates’ attention; occasionally, New Hampshire sneaks in among the bigger states.

In 2020, Texas might join the list of battleground states as well.

I just do not see the need to toss out the Electoral College system because someone was elected even though he piled up nearly 3 million fewer votes than his opponent, which is what happened when Donald Trump got elected in 2016 over Hillary Clinton.

The system isn’t perfect, but keep it anyway.

Here is what I wrote on the subject nearly five years ago:

https://highplainsblogger.com/2014/04/presidential-election-change-at-hand/

 

Democracy at its messiest best

The great British statesman Winston Churchill had it right when he described representative democracy as an inefficient, clumsy and messy form government, but better than any other form that had devised.

We’re witnessing it in its messiest form right now.

Congress and the president are locking horns over spending for a wall along our southern border. Donald Trump wants money to pay for the wall, although he initially promised he would make Mexico pay for it. That won’t happen.

Failure to pay for the wall would result in a partial shutdown of the government at midnight Friday. Merry Christmas, to thousands of federal employees who will not be paid for the time they are being forced to take away from work.

I am just one of those Americans who doesn’t quite understand why we reach this precipice every few months. Why in the world must we subject ourselves to this kind of melodrama? Why do Congress and the White House fail continually to provide long-term budgets that allow them to avoid this kind of brinksmanship?

The president has his constituency. Each member of Congress — 435 House members and 100 senators — answers to his or her own constituencies. They fight. They wrangle. They haggle. They argue. They threaten each other. They toss insults. And all the while the government that is supposed to serve all Americans is being kicked around like some kind of cow chip.

We don’t need to build a wall to secure our southern border. The president doesn’t seem to get that. He wants the wall because he made some idiotic campaign promise. Congressional Democrats want to secure the border through other means.

At last report, the White House indicates that Trump is backing away from the wall. The impasse remains.

Churchill was right about representative democracy. So help me, though, it doesn’t need to be this messy.

It's getting even messier on Capitol Hill

Winston Churchill had it exactly right when he sought to describe a democratic form of government.

He lamented its messiness and inefficiency when he said: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

I wish he was here today to see what’s transpiring on Capitol Hill. Republicans are fighting among themselves in a TEA party vs. establishment conflict. Now the Democrats have begun cannibalizing each other in a progressive vs. centrist fight.

At the center of it all is a $1.1 trillion spending bill that extremists in either party don’t like, for differing reasons, obviously.

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/elizabeth-warren-budget-cromnibus-2016-elections-113561.html?hp=t4_r

Just as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has become the face of the TEA party insurgency within the Republican Party, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has assumed the Democratic mantle of gadfly in chief.

They both have at least one thing in common. They’re freshmen legislators. Neither of them has much Capitol Hill seasoning under the belts. Cruz is more of a loudmouth. Warren doesn’t bellow her dislike of Democratic comprises, but she’s becoming a tiger in the Senate.

Warren has become the liberals’ latest best hope for a possible challenge to prohibitive Democratic presidential favorite Hillary Rodham Clinton. They see Warren as a spokeswoman for the common man and woman who distrusts the power brokers who are lining up behind Clinton’s still-unannounced presidential candidacy.

Cruz, meanwhile, has become the darling of the conservative movement within his own party. Will he challenge, say, Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination?

Let’s think about this for a moment: Cruz and Warren both catch fire enough to snatch their parties’ nomination from the favorites. Clinton lost in 2008 to a young senator with zero name ID nationally. Barack Obama went on to win the presidency in a near-landslide and then score a decisive re-election victory four years later. Will history repeat itself? I doubt it — for now.

As for Cruz, the GOP establishment will fight him tooth and nail if he keeps roiling the waters, demanding government shutdowns and insisting on outcomes that won’t occur.

Our form of representative democracy, Sir Winston, is about to get a whole lot messier.

 

Early voting still not as good as Election Day

Here’s what I did this week. I voted early.

I’ve said it to anyone who’ll listen that I hate to vote early. I did it this week because next week I’m going to be busy throughout the entire Election Day.

I’ll be working as an exit pollster representing news gathering organizations: all the major cable networks, the broadcast networks and The Associated Press.

A polling research outfit has hired me to interview voters leaving the Randall County Courthouse Annex in south Amarillo. Their answers will be confidential and my goal is to give questionnaires to every other voter who leaves the annex. Good luck with that.

So, I voted early at the annex.

It still isn’t nearly as much fun as standing in line on Election Day, chatting with fellow voters and awaiting my turn to cast a ballot on one of those fancy-shmancy electronic voting machines.

There remains a certain pageantry to voting. People in countries where voting isn’t the norm have stood for hours, even days, waiting to do their civic duty. Surely you remember the 1994 presidential election in South Africa, the one that elected Nelson Mandela. Black South Africans who never before had been given the opportunity to vote stood in line for days awaiting their turn at the polling place. Imagine something like that happening here.

I didn’t vote in all the races. I left some of them blank. Rather than just cast a vote against someone because I don’t like their views or their party’s views, I didn’t vote for candidates about which I know too little.

Yes, I split my ballot. I cast votes for some Republicans as well as Democrats.

I feel good that my vote has been recorded. It’ll be spit out when the polls close Election Night at 7.

Having declared to you all that I’ve actually voted, I hereby reserve the right to gripe when the folks who actually win take office and fail to run things the way I want them run.

 

 

Scots show the way

Well done, Scotland! 85-percent turnout, 10-percentage points won the voting question, a solid, unquestionable majority. Scotland won either way. It will now wield more sway in the UK. Democracy works. I hope we would take a lesson from it and regard ours as lovingly.

The above message comes from my friend Dan Wallach, who posted it on Facebook today.

His comment comes in the wake of Scotland’s landmark election in which the Scots decided to remain a part of the United Kingdom.

Dan isn’t making any judgment here on the correctness of the Scots’ vote, but he is saying something profound about Americans’ own lack of civic involvement in matters of vital national importance.

Eighty-five percent of Scotland’s eligible voters turned out. Americans are facing a mid-term election in a few weeks that likely will draw less than 40 percent of those who are eligible to vote.

What’s at stake in the U.S. of A.? Oh, just the control of Congress, one-third of that thing we call “co-equal government.” We elect our presidents usually with less than 60 percent of eligible voters taking part. That’s a big deal, too, given that presidents get to select judges to sit on our federal court benches, giving them lifetime jobs in which they interpret whether laws are constitutional.

The Nov. 4 election turnout in Texas, I’m sorry to predict, will be less than the national average. I fear it’s going to be significantly less.

Americans don’t quite care enough to vote for lawmakers or for their president. At least they don’t care the way the Scots showed they cared about whether to declare their independence or stay attached to England as part of the UK.

Dan is right. “Democracy works.” It always works better the more people get involved in that exercise we call voting.