Politics is not about Willpower

Math rules.

Matthew Yglesias (Superior ruthlessness isn’t why Republicans control the Supreme Court) writes:

A strange explanation for Brett Kavanaugh’s ascension to the Supreme Court emerged soon after the Senate confirmed him. Kavanaugh, the argument goes, didn’t get through because Republicans had the votes; he got through because Democrats weren’t tough enough to stop him.

He then links to a tweet from Paul Begala, who should know better, linking to a piece making such an argument.  To paraphrase a slogan from a campaign Begala worked on: it’s the math, stupid.

All of this remind me of the Green Lantern theory of the presidency:  that enough willpower can overcome actual power.  But this is, of course, ridiculous.  And even if the Democrats had somehow willed Kavanaugh out of the process, Trump still would have filled the seats.

It is simple:  Republicans needed only 50 votes and they had 51.

As Yglesias notes:

At the end of the day, the belief that getting two Supreme Court nominees confirmed reflects some kind of peculiar legislative genius on the part of McConnell doesn’t stand up to any kind of scrutiny. After all, Barack Obama and Harry Reid (the former Senate majority leader) also got two Supreme Court justices confirmed. So did George W. Bush and Bill Frist. So did Bill Clinton and George Mitchell. That’s just what happens.

[…]

That’s not to deny that McConnell is a shrewd legislative tactician — he’s an experienced politician and legislative leader, and he’s good at his job. It’s just to emphasize that in many ways, circumstances make the man.

Had the 2016 election broken slightly differently, after all, the blockage on Merrick Garland might have ended up looking like a fiasco that ultimately allowed President Hillary Clinton to swap him out in favor of a younger and more left-wing justice.

Indeed.

FILED UNDER: Politics 101, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Guarneri says:

    “It is simple: Republicans needed only 50 votes and they had 51.”

    Well, it is certainly hard to argue with that math, as it is a truism. But it presumes that they “had” 51 as some immutable law of physics. Legislative expertise (though certainly not genius) produces the word “had.” Its kind of like saying the Red Sox won because they “had” 4 runs and the Yankees only 3.

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  2. Kylopod says:

    I don’t agree with the criticism that Dems could have stopped this nomination if they’d tried harder, and I certainly am no subscriber to the “Green Lantern” theory of politics.

    That said, Yglesias goes too far, in my opinion, in bringing up Obama’s and Bush’s relative ease in getting their SCOTUS nominations through (though he doesn’t mention Harriet Miers, of course). None of those nominees became embroiled in scandal. It was really something for McConnell to persist in pushing Kavanaugh through after the assault allegations came out. He did everything he could to ignore it entirely and push a vote as quickly as possible, only agreeing to the quick Ford hearing and the joke of an FBI investigation after being temporarily forced into that position by Flake. Now that takes balls. What sets McConnell apart is his utter, brazen shamelessness in maximizing the levers of power without the slightest regard for norms, precedent, or in this case basic moral accountability.

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  3. Jake says:

    Best video regarding politics and Kavanaugh

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=628&v=2a1dtcZrPWY

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  4. steve says:

    They had the numbers. They never needed to listen to the Democrats at all. McConnell’s genius in this case was pretending like he was listening. This nomination was never in doubt.

    Steve

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  5. Bob@Youngstown says:

    You aren’t paying attention, Trump said Kavanaugh was born to be a Supreme court justice.

    There you have it, conceived by the will of God to be on SCOTUS.

    From God’s lips to Pence’s ears who told Trump ‘it is the will of God’

    /s/

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  6. Kylopod says:

    @Rupert Simmons:

    The Dems threw out Pelosi’s Wrap Up Smear, and it just didn’t work.

    I know your comment will soon be deleted, but I’ll just reiterate: what you’re alluding to (the idea that Pelosi openly boasted about smearing Republicans) is a pure hoax.

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  7. Scott O says:

    Had the 2016 election broken slightly differently, after all, the blockage on Merrick Garland might have ended up looking like a fiasco that ultimately allowed President Hillary Clinton to swap him out in favor of a younger and more left-wing justice.

    Only if McConnell allowed a Hillary nominee to go forward. I don’t think we can assume that he would.

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  8. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Rupert Simmons: Do you have enough brain candlepower to make an intelligent comment?

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  9. @Guarneri:

    Its kind of like saying the Red Sox won because they “had” 4 runs and the Yankees only 3.

    Except that it is nothing like that. In a baseball game the teams start each game 0-0 and each has to work to earn each run.

    In a legislative process each party has X votes and then the question becomes what will cause them to lose votes?

    Those are very different games.

    Losing those votes is actually hard to do in a vote like this. That is the point.

    Beyond that: willpower on behalf of the Dems was not how those votes were going to be lost.

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  10. @Kylopod:

    though he doesn’t mention Harriet Miers, of course

    Miers was opposed on qualification grounds from within the GOP, and hence the withdrawal. This actually strengthens the point: she was not going to be confirmed because Bush didn’t have adequate support in his own party, not because the Dems willed her out of the nomination.

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  11. @Scott O:

    Only if McConnell allowed a Hillary nominee to go forward. I don’t think we can assume that he would.

    A not unfair point.

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  12. Ben Wolf says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    You’re looking at the issue on too short a time-scale. That vote was the product of a decade of decision-making by Democrats that reduced them from a national to a regional party. Acqusition of power requires the will, which Democrats have in short supply.

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  13. @Ben Wolf:

    That vote was the product of a decade of decision-making by Democrats that reduced them from a national to a regional party.

    I would question that characterization.

    And even if, for the sake of argument, it is accurate, I don’t see a “will” issue here.

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  14. Kathy says:

    come on, Steven. Next you’ll be telling us wishing won’t make it so 🙂

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  15. Ben Wolf says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.

    Republicans understand this. Centrists do not. All acts of creation begin with the will to imagine a different world.

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  16. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I would question that characterization.

    But it’s spot on.

    There are entire regions in this country with little to no Democratic representation and it’s not because no Democrats live there. The Dems have retreated so far into their enclaves (the coasts, the cities) that it’s now sometimes considered unjust that Wyoming and California have the same amount of senators.

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  17. @James Pearce:

    But it’s spot on.

    There are entire regions in this country with little to no Democratic representation and it’s not because no Democrats live there. The Dems have retreated so far into their enclaves (the coasts, the cities) that it’s now sometimes considered unjust that Wyoming and California have the same amount of senators.

    There is some regionality to both parties, yes, but the ultimately the representation in Congress is as much about the rules (single seat districting, sometime aided by gerrymandering, but not always) and two senators per state.

    There has been an ideological resorting of the parties, especially since 1994, that has shifted a lot of conservative Democrats into the Republican Party.

    The Dems have not “retreated.”

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  18. @Ben Wolf: Goals are nice, as is planning. Will does not make 49 votes into a majority.

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  19. @James Pearce:

    it’s now sometimes considered unjust that Wyoming and California have the same amount of senators.

    BTW: this is not new to anyone who has paying attention to this topic.

    Indeed, a lot of our problems are long-standing buy were masked by things like the solid Democratic South, which was not because of ideology or will or lack of retreat, but because the Civil War and Reconstruction made it nearly impossible to be a Republican in South for roughly a century.

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  20. Ben Wolf says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Elections and politics are not acts of physical law. They are products of human imagination, human relationships, and human motivations. Imagination is not a “goal”. Imagination is the will to act in service to a greater moral vision. That makes 49 votes into a majority.

    The problem is not that will doesn’t make a majority, as it clearly can. The problem is that you are choosing to impose temporal parameters on the issue that exclude will as a factor, then declaring will can’t play a significant role.

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  21. Kylopod says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Losing those votes is actually hard to do in a vote like this.

    I have to push back on this. Keeping one’s entire caucus on board can be challenging for any controversial or unpopular vote, especially when it includes members who have to worry about reelection in places that aren’t so friendly to their party. That was my point about the Bush/Obama SCOTUS nominees: none of those (sans Miers) were controversial. So they were easy votes. A better example would be the Dems squeezing the ACA through, and the way the holdouts suddenly folded at the last moment. I’m thinking in particular of the anti-abortion bloc led by Bart Stupak, and how they very suddenly decided to support the ACA after weeks of opposing it, accepting a largely meaningless executive order that was simply a reaffirmation of the Hyde Amendment and didn’t actually change anything about the law to meet any of their demands. (Stupak ultimately declined to run for reelection that year, and his seat was won by a Republican.)

    I happen to think a lot more highly of the ACA than the Kavanaugh nomination, of course, but looked at from a distance the dance is remarkably similar, where there’s always a small set of House or Senate members who hem and haw for weeks until suddenly giving in at the last moment, often without any real concessions on the leadership’s part. Maybe it’s all theater–an attempt by the holdouts to make it look like they were carefully considering their vote when it was certain from the start–but I suspect there’s some element of backroom bribery and/or threats involved.

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  22. @Ben Wolf:

    The problem is that you are choosing to impose temporal parameters on the issue

    I am not sure how one does anything other than impose temporal parameters to a legislature already in place for a set amount of time on a vote that is temporally bounded. Anything else is saying that if things had been difference in the past then things in the present would also be different. To which all I can say is: indeed, but that doesn’t change the fact that a legislative party with a two vote margin is likely to win a key vote at a specific point in time. Anything else is speculation and wish.

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  23. @Kylopod:

    Keeping one’s entire caucus on board can be challenging for any controversial or unpopular vote, especially when it includes members who have to worry about reelection in places that aren’t so friendly to their party.

    Except that almost always in these cases, a vote on the floor (especially for a SCOTUS nominee) is very likely to go in the majority party’s favor. (This is my McCain’s ACA vote was so dramatic).

    Yes, by definition, enough controversy can derail a vote, but the Kavanaugh helps illustrate that even a great deal of controversy is unlikely to derail the majority.

    Partisans are partisans for a reason, even Susan Collins (indeed, her speech was remarkably partisan, as was her reasoning).

    And yes: legislative outcomes can often boil down to a focus on a few votes. But I think that the media narrative often overblows the ability of the opposition to peal off those votes. Do we not hear every time that Collins might defect? And?

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  24. Kylopod says:

    OT. I’ll understand if you don’t want to answer this, or if you simply don’t know, but I’ve been curious for months if you can shed any light on this. Was MBunge Jenos?

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  25. @Kylopod: And yes, a lot of it is theater, sometimes for internal consumption and concession, but often for external consumption.

    I am not saying, btw, that it is impossible for close votes to break for the opposition. What I am saying is that such outcomes are not because the opposition wanted it so bad that they made it happen.

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  26. @Kylopod:

    A better example would be the Dems squeezing the ACA through, and the way the holdouts suddenly folded at the last moment

    BTW: doesn’t the ACA vote make my point? The majority won.

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  27. Ben Wolf says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am not sure how one does anything other than impose temporal parameters to a legislature already in place for a set amount of time on a vote that is temporally bounded.

    This is exactly what I’m talking about. Just because we have an election every two years does not mean, or even remotely suggest, that a political project can only extend out for two years.

    Republicans have an agenda and a movement that will work for decades to achieve the world they envision. Kavanaugh is the culmination of four decades of labour by the Right. Democrats don’t even have a coherent agenda for 2019.

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  28. @Ben Wolf:

    This is exactly what I’m talking about. Just because we have an election every two years does not mean, or even remotely suggest, that a political project can only extend out for two years.

    That is a different matter than what this post is about.

    This is like saying one cannot analyze the outcome of a specific decision in a football game because if the team had drafted differently, or had had a different personnel decision on coaching that the outcome of the game might have been different. This is, of course, quite true, but is still independent of whether the team should have gone for it on 4th down or not.

    Republicans have an agenda and a movement that will work for decades to achieve the world they envision. Kavanaugh is the culmination of four decades of labour by the Right. Democrats don’t even have a coherent agenda for 2019.

    On the one hand, sure. On the other, as it pertains to the vote, if wishes were horse, beggars would ride.

    You overarching point is that if the past had been different the present would be different. No kidding.

    And yes, one can analysis the mistakes of the past. That isn’t the point of this post.

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  29. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Pearce: There are entire regions in this country with little to no Republican representation and it’s not because no Republicans live there.

    It’s a nonsense argument no matter who you are talking about.

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  30. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @James Pearce: It’s problematic that Wyoming and California have the same number of senators. It’s true that Democrats should increase their share of the white vote and should be more willing to win elections in red states, but even this distribution of senators is pretty problematic.

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  31. Kylopod says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Except that almost always in these cases, a vote on the floor (especially for a SCOTUS nominee) is very likely to go in the majority party’s favor. (This is my McCain’s ACA vote was so dramatic).

    But that’s just a procedural matter. The fact that McConnell failed four times to pass ACA repeal–whether he brought it to the floor or not–undercuts the thesis that it’s easy to keep a legislative majority on board for a controversial vote.

    Yes, by definition, enough controversy can derail a vote, but the Kavanaugh helps illustrate that even a great deal of controversy is unlikely to derail the majority.

    That conclusion sounds circular to me: because McConnell managed to push through this controversial vote, that proves it was unlikely to fail. Do we really know that?

    BTW: doesn’t the ACA vote make my point? The majority won.

    Again, the fact that a particular vote succeeded in the end doesn’t tell us anything about how likely or unlikely it was to do so. An effective Congressional leader can beat the odds with enough finesse.

    I am not saying, btw, that it is impossible for close votes to break for the opposition. What I am saying is that such outcomes are not because the opposition wanted it so bad that they made it happen.

    I already made it clear that I don’t subscribe to the idea that the opposition (in this case Democrats) had the ability to stop the Kavanaugh confirmation. What I am disputing is the idea that it’s easy for the majority party to keep its own caucus together for something controversial. I believe the Dems did do their part to make the confirmation harder, by keeping the public opposition alive. That was all they could do, and it wasn’t nothing. At that point, the ball was in the GOP’s court, and the GOP chose to move ahead despite the public opposition–but that doesn’t mean it was easy.

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  32. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The Dems have not “retreated.”

    Their voters have. Suggest to a liberal that they move to a red state and watch them crinkle up their nose. Nothing is worth having to live near a bunch of deplorables, with their white rage and their rapey men: not a good job, not low housing costs, not natural beauty.

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    There are entire regions in this country with little to no Republican representation and it’s not because no Republicans live there.

    Name the place with no Republicans. The Republican sphincter doesn’t clinch when crossing the border into California.

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  33. @James Pearce:

    Suggest to a liberal that they move to a red state and watch them crinkle up their nose.

    Suggest to some of my more rural acquaintances that they should move to the north (too cold) or to some large city (which they don’t like) and they may crinkle their noses as well.

    Further, there are a plenty of Dems in Red states and Reps in Blue states.

    Your point makes no sense. People don’t move for politics and you are ignoring the way the rules benefit Reps (or, more accurately, benefit rural voters, who tend to be Reps).

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  34. James Pearce says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    It’s problematic that Wyoming and California have the same number of senators.

    No, it’s really not. It’s how our country was set-up.

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  35. @James Pearce:

    No, it’s really not. It’s how our country was set-up.

    Our country was set up to deny women the vote.

    Our country was set up to allow for chattel slavery.

    Our country was set up to count slaves as 3/5th of a person.

    Our country was set up to have no term limits on the presidency.

    Our country was set up to have state legislatures choose senators.

    Our country was set up for the second place recipient of electoral votes to becomes the VP.

    Our country was set up with only 13 states.

    Out country was set up as a backwater and not a superpower.

    I could go on.

    (All of these things are not of the same category, but surely you get the point).

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  36. gVOR08 says:

    @James Pearce: @Steven L. Taylor: I just moved to a red state. Climate and family. Politics (and taxes) have nothing to do with it.

    What we seem to have here is Murc’s Law, named for a commenter at LGM who stated the common fallacy that only Democrats have agency, that any action by Republicans can, somehow, be blamed on Democrats.

    The other element is the huge “wingnut welfare” infrastructure behind Republicans. It represents the agenda of its funders, the Billionaire Boys Club of the Kochs, Adelson, Friess, and the seemingly hundreds of very successful car dealers. To some extent they are in competition, but they all coalesce around a simple agenda of not wanting to pay taxes and not wanting their businesses regulated. Dems have infrastructure, donors, think tanks, advocacy groups, but a pale shadow of what the GOPs have, and don’t have a similar simple, unifying agenda. And they certainly do not have the propaganda arm the GOPs have. They’ve demonized George Soros, whose activities are mostly benign, and we can’t manage to demonize the Kochs, who richly deserve it.

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  37. Moosebreath says:

    @James Pearce:

    “Name the place with no Republicans. The Republican sphincter doesn’t clinch when crossing the border into California.”

    New England. The last time a Republican Congressperson from Massachusetts was elected was 1994. The last time a Republican Congressperson from Connecticut was elected was 2006. Rhode Island 1992. Vermont 1988. Maine went from 1996 until 2014 without electing one. Even anti-tax New Hampshire currently has both Representatives as Democrats.

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  38. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    People don’t move for politics

    Yes, they do…

    and you are ignoring the way the rules benefit Reps

    The rules don’t benefit Republicans. Clustering in cities does.

    @Moosebreath:

    New England.

    Home of Susan Collins? Remind me again, was Mitt Romney governor of Utah… or Massachusetts?

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  39. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kylopod:

    The fact that McConnell failed four times to pass ACA repeal–whether he brought it to the floor or not–undercuts the thesis that it’s easy to keep a legislative majority on board for a controversial vote.

    I’m not sure that the ACA repeal and Kavanaugh can be compared with regard to controversy. There was no particular controversy within the GOP caucus and base over Kavanaugh–everybody on the team wants an anti-Roe v Wade political hack. On ACA, the only part not popular with the base is the fact that it’s connected to a person of color. Everyone wants free lunch with cake included (okay, there are a few people out there who will stick to principle against their own interests, but how many people are actually saying “I’d rather die from this cancer that I have right now than accept a penny of gubmint aid?”). You can’t compare the two.

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  40. Kylopod says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    There was no particular controversy within the GOP caucus and base over Kavanaugh–everybody on the team wants an anti-Roe v Wade political hack.

    Really? You think Collins actually wants an anti-Roe justice? That she’s actually a radical pro-lifer in secret and that she’s been lying all those years when she claimed to be pro-choice, and her generally pro-choice voting record is only a cover?

    Her vote for Kavanaugh isn’t proof of what she “wants”; it’s proof of what she can be bribed to do.

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  41. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @James Pearce:

    No, it’s really not. It’s how our country was set-up.

    It was, but it creates problems because small states are more likely to be dominated by a single industry. I do agree that Democrats ignore Rural States at their own peril and that you can’t win nationwide elections without White Heterosexual Married Men. There are lots of people that does not want late term abortions on demand that does not want Social Security to be privatized.

    That does not mean that equal apportionment of Senators is a good idea. Far from that.

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  42. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    (All of these things are not of the same category, but surely you get the point).

    A crisp new $20 says he does not. (Or that he will pretend he does not.)

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  43. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @James Pearce: Suggest to Don the Con that he start spending his weekends staying in the small towns in “flyover country” that seem to love him so much. And I mean, STAY there, not just fly in and fly out a few hours later. You’d get an interesting reaction.

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  44. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “Their voters have. Suggest to a liberal that they move to a red state and watch them crinkle up their nose. ”

    This is your criterion? Jesus, find me one person of any party who has ever moved to a different state to affect its politics. They don’t exist.

    Hell, every five years or so, some libertarian genius proudly announces that if only 60,000 or so libertarians move to some sparsely populated state they could take over and bring on the libertarian paradise. And it never happens. Because real human beings don’t quit their jobs and uproot their lives to further their political party’s aims.

    I once almost moved to central Missouri, where I could have effected the vote, I suppose. But that would have been for a job that looked appealing, but which I ultimately turned down. Later I moved to NYC, not really caring that I wasn’t going to tip the political balance, but because that’s where a more appealing job was to be found. (Also: New York City…)

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  45. @wr:

    Hell, every five years or so, some libertarian genius proudly announces that if only 60,000 or so libertarians move to some sparsely populated state they could take over and bring on the libertarian paradise. And it never happens. Because real human beings don’t quit their jobs and uproot their lives to further their political party’s aims.

    Exactly.

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  46. @James Pearce:

    The rules don’t benefit Republicans.

    They benefit rural voters in both the Senate and House elections (and, also, therefore, the EC). If we had a national popular vote for president, HR would have won (that’s the most direct example).

    Note that what causes this is not Dems all fled the countryside and clustered in cities. It is the living in an urban environment tends to generate a greater recognition of the need for government. This is why, on balance, urban dwellers are more “liberal.”

    The fact that more densely populated areas are disadvantaged by single seat districts is a problem if you take the notion of representative democracy seriously. Its math (which is then worsened by gerrymandering).

    Likewise, this means that highly urban states, with more “liberals” are limited to the same number of senators as less populated ones. The Senate majority party does not currently represent a majority of the people in the US, for example.

    None of this is because liberals “crinkle their nose[s]” at moving to certain states. It has everything to do with rules that favor rural, and likely more “conservative” voters.

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  47. James Pearce says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    That does not mean that equal apportionment of Senators is a good idea.

    Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But it’s how the Constitution was set-up.

    There is a process to change it, but it’s going to be waaaaaay harder than getting a simple majority in the Senate, which isn’t that hard.

    @Neil Hudelson:

    A crisp new $20 says he does not.

    I take the point. “2 Senators per state” is a historical mistake, on par with chattel slavery and men-only voting?

    @wr:

    Because real human beings don’t quit their jobs and uproot their lives to further their political party’s aims.

    Yes, real human beings do quit their jobs and uproot their lives to further their political aims. It’s how this country was settled.

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  48. @James Pearce:

    I take the point. “2 Senators per state” is a historical mistake, on par with chattel slavery and men-only voting?

    I guess I owe Neil $20. The point is: just because something was “set up” a given way is not a measure of its empirical nor its normative worth. That and: things change. Further, even if they don’t, one can evaluate them. The whole “that’s the way it is” is not an argument.

    And yes, BTW, since the Great Comprise was very much about getting lower-population slave states to sign on to the union, the two senators per state is tinged by slavery, without a doubt.

    Yes, real human beings do quit their jobs and uproot their lives to further their political aims. It’s how this country was settled.

    This is asinine. People didn’t resettle in the New World, nor the west, to change the partisan mix of a location.

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  49. JohnMcC says:

    @Kylopod:You say: “…the fact that a particular vote succeeded in the end doesn’t tell us anything about how likely or unlikely it was to do so.” Hmmmm. Did you proofread that? Doesn’t tell us ANYTHING?

    @gVOR08: Well darnit! I was all ready to cite Murc’s law and you beat me to it. But for those who don’t visit the jolly crew at Lawyers Guns Money: “Murc’s law, for the uninitiated, is the widespread assumption that only Democrats have any agency or causal influence over American politics.” Which overstates the case but they are not shy nor retiring folks over there.

    Since the assumption that with sufficient legislative acumen and a pure heart (and silver bullets?) a Dem minority can work it’s magic is actually a statement of faith, one can find a biblical expression of it in Ecclesiastes 9: …the race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong….

    As Daymon Runyon famously said however, that IS the way to bet.

    There was not a single minute of the Kavanaugh business in which I’d have put any money on Sen Feinstein and friends. My friend Kylopod – what sort of odds would have induced you to bet the ranch on the Democrats?

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  50. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The point is: just because something was “set up” a given way is not a measure of its empirical nor its normative worth.

    My point is that “2 Senators per state” is how the Senate has been apportioned for centuries. I’m sorry the Democrats can’t get elected in certain states, but that not a “Senate apportionment” problem. That’s a Democrats problem.

    People didn’t resettle in the New World, nor the west, to change the partisan mix of a location.

    No, they did not. They moved away from an unbearable situation, hoping to find one more bearable.

    That moving is not even an option tells me the situation isn’t unbearable. So what am I left to think of the Democrats? They won’t move. They won’t moderate. They won’t do the heavy lifting required to re-apportion the Senate.

    Maybe living under Republicans isn’t that bad after all?

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  51. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:

    The Dems have retreated so far into their enclaves (the coasts, the cities)

    If this were true, Republicans wouldn’t have to rely so heavily on gerrymandering and voter suppression.
    Classic chicken and the egg. (hint; the mutation happens in the egg)
    Republicans have so rigged the playing field that it LOOKS LIKE Democrats have retreated.

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  52. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “Yes, real human beings do quit their jobs and uproot their lives to further their political aims. It’s how this country was settled.”

    This country was “settled” 150 years ago. And I doubt that a fraction of the settlers set out across the plains because they wanted to vote for a particular party. They were looking for new economic possibilities and a different kind of life — not to elect a congressman.

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  53. James Pearce says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    If this were true, Republicans wouldn’t have to rely so heavily on gerrymandering and voter suppression.

    Gerrymandering is for the House.

    (I’m also a little dubious about certain claims about voter suppression, finding most Republican suppression efforts to be laughable and easily thwarted by a determined electorate.)

    ReplyReply
  54. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @James Pearce:

    There is a process to change it, but it’s going to be waaaaaay harder than getting a simple majority in the Senate, which isn’t that hard.

    Yes, but my point is that even Liberal Democratic Senators in Rural, Small states are going to protect the interests of farmers that produce a single commodity(Like Corn or Potatoes). That can is even worse than Republican Control.

    Sure, Democrats should be doing a better job of being competitive even in places like Idaho or Wyoming, even if that means actively supporting people like Joe Manchin or Ben Nelson. That does not mean that two senators for each and every state is good. Or even not pernicious.

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  55. James Pearce says:

    @wr:

    This country was “settled” 150 years ago.

    It’s a little more complicated than that, and at any rate I’m not talking about 19th century Manifest Destiny settlement, but that of the 20th century.

    The Great Migration and White Flight and Jewish migration post WWII, boat people, whether from Cuba or Laos.

    ReplyReply
  56. Teve says:

    I guess I owe Neil $20.

    😛 😀 😛

    ReplyReply
  57. @James Pearce:

    I’m sorry the Democrats can’t get elected in certain states, but that not a “Senate apportionment” problem. That’s a Democrats problem.

    That is not what I (or anyone else) is talking about in regards to the Senate. Do you really not understand the national representational problem that two Senators per state creates?

    ReplyReply
  58. wr says:

    @James Pearce: So white flight was people moving so they could elect certain politicians? You are babbling incoherently — and that’s the most generous interpretation. Much more likely you’ve given up on any interest in having a conversation and have dedicated yourself to trolling. I guess with Bungles gone the floor is yours.

    ReplyReply
  59. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Do you really not understand the national representational problem that two Senators per state creates?

    I think I do. That’s why I suggested migration to deal with it because let’s face it, the Constitution isn’t going to be amended anytime soon. (Not only that, but as soon as the Senate flips, you can bet that this “problem” will seem a whole lot less urgent.)

    @wr: White flight increased the political power of suburbs, while reducing the political power of the inner cities. They didn’t move with the express purpose of electing certain politicians, that’s true, but realignments occurred nonetheless.

    ReplyReply
  60. An Interested Party says:

    What’s the point of being a contrarian if the contrary points are mostly a bunch of easily refutable bullshit…

    ReplyReply
  61. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    The problem of the idea of moving to flip red states is that, with the exception of Wyoming, all the small red states are not THAT small. Like, Idaho has 1,7 million people. You could build a entire new city of the size of Pittsburgh or Tampa, moving only the purest left-wing people in the world to live there, and that could not be enough to flip a state like North Dakota or Idaho.

    A liberal that moves to a red state would be simply be voting for sacrificial lambs in the statewide elections, would not have his votes counted in the electoral college and would be at best help elect some back bencher in the minority in the State Senate. Ironically he would be voting in the Democratic Primaries and probably would be helping to nominate candidates that are not fit for his state or district.

    Besides that, in many of these states it only makes sense to move there if you are going to live from farming or around farming.

    There are lots of things to criticize on the left-wing of the Democratic Party. Not moving to South Dakota or Idaho is not one of these things. And as many people notes even states in the Deep South could be competitive if you increased the share of the White Vote by relatively small margins or by increasing turnout.

    ReplyReply
  62. James Pearce says:

    @An Interested Party: Yeah, yeah, just being contrarian over here, not trying to express ideas or anything…

    A little context, I guess. You all know I’m from Colorado, home of the 2-3 Denver Broncos (major disappointment) and just a little bit of American history. You may have heard of this thing called the Sand Creek Massacre. Suffice it to say, it was the literal end of the Arapaho and Cheyenne in this state. They were massacred; the survivors were removed –permanently– and they did not return.

    This last fact has always struck me as…weird. If you’ve ever been to Colorado, you’d know that civilization basically stops once you get out of view of the Front Range. There was, at one time, an attempt to create farmland out there complete with the attendant small towns, but since almost all of our water is sent down stream and small towns in the middle of nowhere aren’t economically viable, that effort has largely been abandoned. The territory was deliberately emptied a hundred and 50 years ago, and it remains empty now.

    Which brings me back to why the Cheyenne/Arapaho haven’t returned. Why are they still stuck on reservation lands, one band in OK and the other in WY? Why haven’t they come back and incorporated new communities? No person or law is preventing it. Economic realities may not allow it, but in theory, the eastern plains of Colorado could be populated by thriving Cheyenne/Arapaho communities restored to their ancestral lands.

    But they have not returned. Why? Initially, the Medicine Lodge Treaty forbade it. As the years wore on, though, land allotments to individuals starting anchoring people on the reservation. Yet even later, government policy started recognizing tribal authority more and more, further anchoring people to the res.

    Sure, they could leave and move back to Colorado, but to do so, they would need to live as regular old residents of a state, not as a sovereign nation. Is it really all that surprising that they’re in no hurry to reclaim their ancestral lands? They have something more valuable: Sovereignty.

    Perhaps a similar process is happening with the liberal enclaves: their sovereignty also becoming their leash, their refuge also their prison.

    ReplyReply
  63. @James Pearce: I think the problem (or one of them) is that it is honestly not clear what point you seem to be making insofar as you are, at times, conflating moving to try and influence partisan make-up of a state with colonization with white flight with western expansion with forced migration.

    While it is true that all of those things are, in general terms, moving and they have some political aspects, they just aren’t the same thing. None of them are.

    ReplyReply
  64. And moving doesn’t solve the mismatch in representation in the Senate between the largest and smallest units.

    ReplyReply
  65. Unless, of course, said moving creates 50 equal units in terms of population. At that point: problem solved.

    ReplyReply
  66. James Pearce says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    A liberal that moves to a red state would be simply be voting for sacrificial lambs in the statewide elections, would not have his votes counted in the electoral college and would be at best help elect some back bencher in the minority in the State Senate

    If one were to gauge this by electoral victories for Democrats, that’s probably true. But we’re supposed to be an integrated country.

    And we’re not.

    ReplyReply
  67. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    in general terms, moving and they have some political aspects, they just aren’t the same thing.

    I’m not attempting to flatten out all these migrations and beat them into one singular thing. I’m attempting to suggest a conscious migration within our country to help improve our national culture.

    I recognize that it’s a goofy idea. But I’m gonna spread it anyway.

    ReplyReply
  68. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kylopod: No, but I don’t think she cares as much about women’s rights to choose as she says she does. She’s not so stupid that she really believes that a justice can make the Federalist Society’s short list and believe that Roe v Wade constitutes “settled law” is she? Surely you’re not that stupid either, are you?

    His lying sack of shit answer about “settled law” and the cursory investigation by the FBI gave her the cover that she needed to keep her “pro choice” cred with Emily’s List. That’s all she wanted.

    “I’m shocked, shocked I say, to find out that there’s gambling going on here he was pro-life all along!”

    ReplyReply
  69. @James Pearce:

    If one were to gauge this by electoral victories for Democrats, that’s probably true. But we’re supposed to be an integrated country.

    The reason that discussions like this come down to question of party victories (at least for me) is a question of the representativeness of the system. That is: do the electoral rules create an elected government that is representative of the population’s basic views? (That is, of course, complicated question). Our system does a terrible job of that. There are gerrymanders that help both Dems and Reps–this is not a good thing. And the inherent nature of single seat districts creates any manner of representational distortions.

    The Senate exacerbates the representation problem because of the population ratios and other factors.

    The EC creates its other, related distortions.

    To me, the issue is not, and never has been, which party benefits from the distortions, but that the distortions are created by the rules in the first place.

    A country that purports to be a representative democracy but that actually installs minority rule (which we have in the Senate and White House at the moment, and almost in the House*) is a problem.

    *The House has specific state and district problem and can even have a situation in which the party that wins the most national votes doesn’t win the chamber.

    I understand how the rules work and that they have been set up as they are for some time. That doesn’t make them good nor does it mean that there aren’t better ways of doing things (as comparative study of democratic systems easily reveals).

    We will continue to have trouble operating as “an integrated country” if the rules distort popular will–which is what the system is currently doing. It is a system that also contributes to polarization (something we were saved from for a century due to the weirdness of post-Civil War, post-Reconstruction party politics).

    @James Pearce:

    I recognize that it’s a goofy idea. But I’m gonna spread it anyway.

    Indeed it is, and I don’t see the need to continue to engage with it, but you are free to raise whatever issue you like.

    But I will say that your goofiness does hit on the fundamental problem here: the notion that we need to move people around to help create a better representational balance in our government does underscore the utter stupidity of basing all of our elections on territory and not on voters. It is why, to choose the easiest example, we should have a national popular vote for president. If the presidency is determined (as it now is) based not on the overall preferences of the population, but is instead determined by the distribution of those same people into arbitrary containers, that is one f’d up system, yes?

    ReplyReply
  70. MarkedMan says:

    Much as I try to avoid engaging with “non-hysterical MBunge” and thereby aiding in his efforts to derail all criticism of Trump or the Republicans, this thread has been thoroughly hijacked, so he succeeded and I may as well take the opportunity to make a couple of historical observations.

    First, when the country was founded there were 13 states and the least populated 6 were not so dramatically different than the most populated in size. Different, yes, but convincing one Senator was often all it took to sway a vote. Today the least populous 25 states encompass about 55M people while the most populated encompass 265M. The dynamics of the 2 Senator rule has shifted dramatically since 1792.

    More dramatically, the percentage of rural America has changed even more dramatically. In 1790 only 5% of the population was urban. In 1990 it was 75%. A system that gives supermajority strength to rural areas was inevitable in 1790. It should not remain so today.

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  71. An Interested Party says:

    (I’m also a little dubious about certain claims about voter suppression, finding most Republican suppression efforts to be laughable and easily thwarted by a determined electorate.)

    Uh huhsure…the New Jim Crow is alive and well…

    ReplyReply
  72. MarkedMan says:

    Can someone check the mod queue? I either have something in there or I’ve lost the post forever. And since it contained the meaning of life, the secret to eternal happiness and the winning lottery numbers, that would be a bummer…

    ReplyReply
  73. Kylopod says:

    @An Interested Party: Pearce’s logic is also absurd. Any unfair and discriminatory condition can, under the right circumstances, be overcome with determination. JFK’s razor-thin electoral victory in 1960 was in part attributed to African Americans in the South, despite the fact that the vast majority of them were disenfranchised.

    Beating a cheater doesn’t prove the cheating didn’t happen or that it’s unimportant.

    ReplyReply
  74. Kylopod says:

    @MarkedMan: One of my posts in this thread got thrown out–not even put into the mod queue–because I uttered the dreaded name of J*nos. I see his name got Voldemorted again. It hasn’t been that way in a while.

    ReplyReply
  75. @MarkedMan: @Kylopod: I think I saved it after some digging.

    ReplyReply
  76. MarkedMan says:

    @Kylopod: Oh. I did refer to the person who hijacked this thread with a trail of nonsense as “Non-hysterical M*unge”. I wonder if M*unge on the death list too?

    Short summary:
    -Thread is effectively hijacked so I may as well throw in with two historical observations
    – Initially there were only 13 states so the difference between the cluster of low population states wasn’t as dramatic, and could be overcome by convincing just a Senator or two. Today the 25 lowest population states, controlling 50% of the Senate, comprise 55M people versus the remaining 265M.
    – At the time the system was created, the country was 5% urban / 95% rural. Today we are 75% urban / and 25% rural (and I suspect much of that 25% is non-farm. I believe farm employment is well under 5%). The low population states make up the bulk of the rural states. So we get a radical shift in how much disproportionate power is wielded by the rural states.

    ReplyReply
  77. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Thanks!

    ReplyReply
  78. @MarkedMan: The thread has deviated, yes, but at least in a way that is tangentially related to the OP and without much of the commensurate rudeness certain people liked to inject.

    And at least JP will attempt to defend his positions, unlike some people…

    ReplyReply
  79. Mikey says:

    @Kylopod:

    Pearce’s logic is also absurd.

    Not if you understand his overriding intent is to shift the blame away from white people.

    ReplyReply
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  80. @Kylopod:

    Was MB*nge J*nos?

    I do not think so. Their styles are quite different.

    ReplyReply
  81. Kylopod says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Thanks! I didn’t even request it to be rescued, because it wasn’t that big a deal to me. But a while back, before I knew about the Voldemort Effect on J*nos’s name, I wrote a lengthy post I put some thought into, and I didn’t save a copy before I submitted it. It didn’t even seem to go into the mod queue; it was like the page just reloaded without any additional post (which is what happened in this thread as well). I asked the mods to rescue it, but it never was.

    I agree that he and B*ng seem to have different styles, and I never suspected the two of being the same…until a few months ago when J*nos responded to my criticism of a B*ng comment as if he himself had made the comment. It was a certifiably weird moment, like something out of a movie (e.g. The Stepfather in that moment when the killer temporarily mixes up the details of his two fake personas).

    https://www.outsidethebeltway.com/ron-desantis-opens-mouth-inserts-foot/#comment-2344037

    At this point I wouldn’t put anything past a committed troll, including to adopt different styles under different personas. And there are similarities between the two, including a heavy reliance on the Gish Gallop, while being generally more articulate than the usual resident Foxoids of these parts.

    ReplyReply
  82. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    We will continue to have trouble operating as “an integrated country” if the rules distort popular will–which is what the system is currently doing.

    I’m okay with the way the rules “distort popular will,” because sometimes what’s popular is terrible. How are we going to limit the powers of government if we’re not distorting popular will?

    (I, of course, take “limiting the powers of the government” to be a desirable feature of any government.)

    ReplyReply
  83. James Pearce says:

    @An Interested Party:

    the New Jim Crow is alive and well

    Yawn… I’m no voter suppression apologist, but I think of these complaints the same way I’d think of a roommate who was complaining about having to go to work. “You’re still gonna pay your half of the rent, right?”

    Accept that voting will be difficult and do it anyway. (And if your side wins, make it less difficult. That follow-up is what’s important.)

    ReplyReply
  84. James Pearce says:

    @Kylopod:

    Any unfair and discriminatory condition can, under the right circumstances, be overcome with determination.

    So, in some sense, politics is about willpower?

    ReplyReply
  85. @James Pearce:

    I’m okay with the way the rules “distort popular will,” because sometimes what’s popular is terrible. How are we going to limit the powers of government if we’re not distorting popular will?

    Well, unless you can guarantee that the minority will is superior to the majority will (especially while promising that we are government of, by, and for the people), then I am not sure how you can be okay with the current set up.

    ReplyReply
  86. @James Pearce:

    Yawn… I’m no voter suppression apologist

    You have been in previous threads. You tend to accept the best case explanation for every action that suppresses voter access.

    ReplyReply
  87. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am not sure how you can be okay with the current set up.

    It’s been said that our current set-up is the worst form of government…except for all the others.

    You have been in previous threads.

    No, no apologies. Just tough love.

    Republicans making you get IDs and register and go to remote polling places? Do it. Do it all and vote. And vote them out. Enough excuses. Enough motivation. Just do it.

    ReplyReply
  88. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    You tend to accept the best case explanation for every action that suppresses voter access.

    Isn’t there a word for that? Oh yeah, “Apologist”.

    ReplyReply
  89. An Interested Party says:

    No, no apologies. Just tough love.

    Tough love my ass…we’re not taking about taking the car keys away from some wayward teenager, we’re talking about a fundamental right that all of us have as citizens, and your excusing of Republicans making it harder for people to vote puts you in the same despicable category as them…

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  90. @James Pearce:

    It’s been said that our current set-up is the worst form of government…except for all the others.

    No, it has been said the democracy is the worst form of government that has every been tried, except for all the others. American democracy is not going a very good job of living up to the title of “democracy” and that is the fundamental problem.

    Minority rules is not, and cannot be, democracy. (Minority protections, yes and not just simplistic majority rule).

    No, no apologies. Just tough love.

    No–always assuming the best is being an apologist (pretty much by definition).

    ReplyReply
  91. I would add: minority rule presented as majority rule is especially egregious.

    ReplyReply
  92. Kylopod says:

    @James Pearce:

    I’m okay with the way the rules “distort popular will,” because sometimes what’s popular is terrible.

    That’s fine as a justification for why we have a Bill of Rights, a SCOTUS, and a representative democracy as opposed to a direct one. How is it a justification for favoring rural voters over urban ones?

    ReplyReply
  93. James Pearce says:

    @An Interested Party:

    we’re talking about a fundamental right that all of us have as citizens, and your excusing of Republicans

    No, I’m telling you how to thwart their feeble little “voter suppression” efforts.

    When Tangina came to help the Freelings clear their house of ghosts, was she an apologist for poltergeists?

    ReplyReply
  94. James Pearce says:

    @Kylopod:

    How is it a justification for favoring rural voters over urban ones?

    That’s not my argument.

    If the complaint is that rural voters have more say than urban voters, increasing the number of friendly rural voters seems like it will have the intended effect. What’s your plan?

    ReplyReply
  95. @James Pearce:

    That’s not my argument.

    It pretty is, actually. In some cases it is literally your position (the whole “this is how it was set up” bit).

    ReplyReply
  96. An Interested Party says:

    When Tangina came to help the Freelings clear their house of ghosts, was she an apologist for poltergeists?

    And yet, for all of her powers, she wasn’t able to free the house of ghosts…using your mindset, stores should be allowed to discriminate against people of color, after all, if they do, said people only have to travel a little farther to another store that will sell to them…

    ReplyReply
  97. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    In some cases it is literally your position

    So…when I say “that’s not my argument,” either I’m lying or I’m too stupid to know what my argument is?

    It’s possible I’ve failed to effectively communicate my argument, but that’s a different problem altogether.

    @An Interested Party:

    And yet, for all of her powers, she wasn’t able to free the house of ghosts

    She got Carolanne back, didn’t she?

    using your mindset, stores should be allowed to discriminate against people of color, after all, if they do, said people only have to travel a little farther to another store that will sell to them

    Uh…no.

    To review: If Republicans are passing “voter suppression” laws, endure them long enough to vote, and then vote those suckers out. It’s very simple. It’s very understandable. It can be described in one sentence.

    ReplyReply
  98. @James Pearce:

    So…when I say “that’s not my argument,” either I’m lying or I’m too stupid to know what my argument is?

    It’s possible I’ve failed to effectively communicate my argument, but that’s a different problem altogether.

    I am to the point where I think that you do not fully acknowledge the implications of the positions you are taking, yes. (Or you are arguing for arguing’s sake).

    To review: If Republicans are passing “voter suppression” laws, endure them long enough to vote, and then vote those suckers out. It’s very simple. It’s very understandable. It can be described in one sentence.

    So, to pick an example you and I argued about recently (and that has emerged in the news in a different guise): if there is voter suppression in GA and the GOP wins a close race, how is your solution going to work?

    ReplyReply
  99. It is as if you don’t acknowledge that the point of voter suppression (and gerrymandering, for that matter) is to give one party (the one that passed the voter suppression or gerrymandering the district) an unfair advantage that might unfairly keep them in power.

    ReplyReply
  100. Kylopod says:

    @James Pearce:

    So…when I say “that’s not my argument,” either I’m lying or I’m too stupid to know what my argument is?

    The most generous interpretation I can come up with is you’re being obtuse.

    Here’s what you said that I was responding to: “I’m okay with the way the rules “distort popular will,” because sometimes what’s popular is terrible.”

    That was your response to Steven’s argument that the US system distorts the public will by disproportionately favoring voters in lower-population, rural areas. By answering in the way you did, you were saying in effect (whether you realized it or not) that distorting the popular will in favor of rural voters is okay because sometimes what’s popular is terrible–precisely the position you’ve now denied taking.

    The problem is that you’re getting hooked on broad, generalized arguments as a substitute for addressing the specific matters under discussion. Hence your previous reply to me “So, in some sense, politics is about willpower?”–when I was talking about how voters can sometimes succeed in the face of massive discrimination and disenfranchisement against them, which has no bearing on the original topic of this thread, which was about the institutional limitations on governance. The only connection between the two is semantic.

    Similarly, you bring up the fact that “sometimes what’s popular is terrible” simply because Steven brought up the distortions of popular will in our system, even though his examples don’t have anything to do with curbing the irrational whims of the majority. You’re trying to keep everything on an abstract, general plane so you don’t have to consider the relevant arguments.

    ReplyReply
  101. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    It is as if you don’t acknowledge that the point of voter suppression

    I acknowledge that, but rather than going “look at this horrible thing; just look at it,” I’ve proposed a solution: Get an ID. Register to vote. Show up on election day. VOTE.

    Don’t fret about playing into Republican hands. Don’t moan about how unfair it is. Vote, and make it fair.

    ReplyReply
  102. @James Pearce: No one said not to vote. No one said moan.

    It is as if you aren’t arguing in good faith…

    ReplyReply
  103. An Interested Party says:

    It can be described in one sentence.

    So can voter suppression laws…

    …if there is voter suppression in GA and the GOP wins a close race, how is your solution going to work?

    Indeed…the GOP nominee for governor in Georgia is currently in charge of elections and is doing everything he can to make it easier for him to win…but don’t dare say anything about that as that would be “moaning” and “fretting”…

    ReplyReply
  104. James Pearce says:

    @Kylopod:

    you’re being obtuse.

    I’m being obtuse?

    distorts the public will by disproportionately favoring voters in lower-population, rural areas

    “Disproportionately favoring?” They get the same number of votes as you: One.

    ReplyReply
  105. DrDaveT says:

    @James Pearce:

    They get the same number of votes as you: One.

    Which part of “20% of the population gets 50% of the Senators” did you not understand?

    So…when I say “that’s not my argument,” either I’m lying or I’m too stupid to know what my argument is?

    Pretty much, yeah.

    ReplyReply
  106. de stijl says:

    Folks subject a poll tax should just should have got a better job to earn more money. Register to vote. Show up on election day. VOTE.

    People subject to a literacy test should just get a better education. Get an ID. Register to vote. Show up on election day. VOTE.

    (Here is the Louisiana literacy test given to black, and only black, voters in the 1960s
    http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_vault/2013/06/28/voting_rights_and_the_supreme_court_the_impossible_literacy_test_louisiana.html)

    It is the fault of the disenfranchised that they lack the franchise.

    /s

    ReplyReply
  107. James Pearce says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Which part of “20% of the population gets 50% of the Senators” did you not understand?

    All of it. Which part of “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State” did you not understand?

    @de stijl:

    It is the fault of the disenfranchised that they lack the franchise.

    Are we talking about Georgia again? Because no doubt you’ve read or heard stuff in the media about how their rolls were “purged.”

    Their rolls were not purged.

    Saw this tweet this morning:

    53,000 Georgians will NOT be shut out of the election. This is false. They will be able to vote, and they will vote a regular ballot. That is, unless coverage like this convinces them that there’s no use in trying. Please stop.

    ReplyReply
  108. @James Pearce:

    Which part of “20% of the population gets 50% of the Senators” did you not understand?

    All of it. Which part of “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State” did you not understand?

    I am going to assume you weren’t admitting to not understanding all of it (although I will admit that such an admission makes this interchange make more sense).

    Yes, we understand what the constitution says. Pointing that out is not an argument, nor is it a defense.

    ReplyReply
  109. @James Pearce:

    I’m being obtuse?

    Yes, it does seem that way. Else, you are saying that it is fine that our system does not create representative outcomes. If you fine with that, then just say so, please. Perhaps that is what you are saying when say the system was set up that way. But I will again note that the system was set up to allow for slaves and count them as 3/5th of a human. (And to be clear, the point is not say voter suppression is as bad as slavery, it is to point out the moral vacuity of appealing to “it was set up that way” as a defense).

    “Disproportionately favoring?” They get the same number of votes as you: One.

    And yet, those votes are not equal. Do you not see that? Or, do you think that is just and appropriate?

    It is clear a Texan’s one vote for president is worth less than a vote in Vermont.

    It is clear that a vote for Senate is not the same in Florida and Alaska.

    It is also clear (although not as obvious) that the way districts are drawn for the House, often very purposefully, dilute the one vote of a lot of voters and privilege others.

    The very fact, which you admit, that if people simply lived in different places the outcome would be different makes my point, which is that if electoral outcomes are predicated on where people are, rather than on the actual preferences of people, location (i.e., distribution of voters in physical space) is what is determining outcomes, not the summed up one votes each person has.

    Additionally, rules that make it harder for some people to vote diminishes the influence of those votes and enhances the power of other votes.

    Are you really suffering under the idea that all votes are equal?

    ReplyReply
  110. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    There are two issues here, that in some sense are unrelated: the two Senators for each state is a horrible idea. On the other hand even if these rules are horrible they are the rules of the game and Democrats should be doing a better job of playing with these rules.

    We would not have such large agricultural subsidies if small states weren’t overrepresented.

    On the other hand Democrats should be doing a better job with White and Rural voters. Even states on the Deep South could be competitive if you increased the share of the White vote by relatively small margins.

    It’s unfair and problematic that Montana or South Dakota have two senators. On the other hand, Democrats should be doing a better job of increasing turnout there instead of wasting our time writing long articles about “packing the Supreme Court” or “impeaching a Supreme Court Justice”.

    I probably agree with Pearce’s general point, but not with some arguments in the margins.

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  111. James Pearce says:

    Yes, we understand what the constitution says. Pointing that out is not an argument, nor is it a defense.

    No, it’s just a statement of fact.

    The argument is “Each state gets two senators, so don’t cluster with like-minded people in a few high-population states. You’re diminishing your political power. Disperse.” No one wants to do that? Fine.

    I don’t want to move to shore up the Dem chances either.

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  112. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    which is that if electoral outcomes are predicated on where people are, rather than on the actual preferences of people, location (i.e., distribution of voters in physical space) is what is determining outcomes, not the summed up one votes each person has.

    If we were going on the “actual preferences of people,” 40 out of 50 states would be red, and I’d bet that California would be one of them.

    Urban areas haven’t shed their conservative voters the way rural areas have shed their liberals.

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  113. @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    Democrats should be doing a better job of playing with these rules.

    That’s not unfair (and was especially true with the EC in 2016), but despite what some may thing, my arguments are not vested in helping the Democrats, but in seeing more democratic (small “d”) outcomes.

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  114. @James Pearce: @James Pearce: I am to the point that I can only come to one of the three, not mutually exclusive, conclusions:

    1) You don’t understand your own position,
    2) You don’t understand mine,
    3) You aren’t arguing in good faith (i.e., arguing for aruging’s sake, trolling, not being honest about your position, some combo thereof, etc.).

    In regards to possibility #2: I fully accept that I could always be clearer, but since you don’t engage my attempts at lengthy explanation, I have to shift to #1 or #3 as being more likely the case.

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  115. Again: the idea that spatial distribution should trump actual voter preference is an anti-democratic argument. You are literally saying that where people live is more important that what their political preferences are.

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  116. BTW: forget urban/rural and Dem/Rep: it is problematic that the voters in Wyoming (a Republican state) have more electoral power than voters in Texas (a Republican state).

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  117. @Pearce: One more thought. You can’t argue that everyone has a vote and then defend institutions and practices that make that vote count differently for different people.

    Either you think each human being is equal and should have an equal say in the electoral process or you think that geography should determine the relative power of each vote. Own your position one way or another.

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  118. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    BTW: forget urban/rural and Dem/Rep: it is problematic that the voters in Wyoming (a Republican state) have more electoral power than voters in Texas (a Republican state).

    But that’s only true for the Senate, and I’m fine with that. “Two senators per state” gives every state a baseline of equality.

    For the House, for the EC, for pretty much anything else voters in TX have more influence than voters in Wyoming because there are more of them. I’m fine with that too.

    It’s not just checks. It’s checks and balances.

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  119. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Either you think each human being is equal and should have an equal say in the electoral process or you think that geography should determine the relative power of each vote.

    It’s not either/or.

    We have both because we have a bicameral congress and multiple layers of government.

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  120. @James Pearce: @James Pearce: You are demonstrating that, in fact, you don’t understand your own argument,

    To wit:

    -On a voter-by-voter level a voter in Wyoming has more power than a voter in Texas in the EC.

    -Bicamerialism/federalism does not account for the distortions created by single seat district elections nor does it justify, in any moral of theoretical sense, two Senators per state.

    Germany is federal, and its federal chamber isn’t even elected, but because of the way that the first chamber is elected, and the powers outlines in their constitution about federalism, Germany has substantially more representative politics than does the US. Indeed, the electoral system they use (MMP) mitigates entirely the problem of location driving the value of a vote.

    There are numerous other federal systems that don’t have the problems ours has. As such, “that is the way it was set up” is a craptacular argument.

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  121. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I see the same problems in Brazil, where every state has three Senators – that creates resentment and cynicism. It’s not a coincidence that the country is on the verge of electing as President a backbencher that was considered a joke some years ago.

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  122. @James Pearce:

    It’s not just checks. It’s checks and balances.

    I just noticed this. This is more evidence you don’t understand your own position. Checks and balance is about the internal relationship between institutions in government, not how those institutions are populated or empowered.

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  123. wr says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: “3) You aren’t arguing in good faith (i.e., arguing for aruging’s sake, trolling, not being honest about your position, some combo thereof, etc.).”

    If you actually need proof that he’s trolling, you might notice that after spending two years claiming that all tweets are worthless and must be ignored, he claimed that there is no racially-based voter disenfranchisement in Georgia by quoting a tweet — and a tweet from the office that is accused of doing the disenfranchisement, at that.

    There may once have been a time when he had points to make, but clearly now he’s just a troll.

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  124. @wr:

    you might notice that after spending two years claiming that all tweets are worthless and must be ignored, he claimed that there is no racially-based voter disenfranchisement in Georgia by quoting a tweet — and a tweet from the office that is accused of doing the disenfranchisement, at that.

    Good catch–I should have noticed that myself.

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  125. Teve says:

    There are numerous other federal systems that don’t have the problems ours has. As such, “that is the way it was set up” is a craptacular argument.

    Yep.

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