Benghazi hearing more about campaigning than Clinton or the truth

Clinton's face said it all.

Clinton’s face said it all.

After eleven grueling, often mind-numbing hours of testimony by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it seemed as if the GOP member of the Benghazi committee had met their match. Clinton remained calm, cool, and collected for most of the hearing, with Democratic members throwing barbs, while Republicans found new ways to ask the same question several dozen times. As the hearings wound to an end, I had a thought: what if this has nothing to do with Benghazi or stopping Clinton’s march to the White House? It sounds ludicrous. After all, Republicans have orchestrated Benghazi hearings for years with the goal of putting an end to Clinton’s dreams of winning the presidency, but with just a year until the general election, and a clown car of a GOP primary field, Republican members of Congress may consider Clinton all-but-invetiable. So why grill Clinton for 11 hours?

Congressional Republicans have elections to win in 2016 too. Their own.

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The GOP “pledge” is a ridiculous stunt and means nothing

Do you see anything binding about this "pledge?" I sure don't... (Photo credit: The Associated Press)

Do you see anything binding about this “pledge?” I sure don’t… (Photo credit: The Associated Press)

The headline sounds like a Trump-ism and it probably resembles what Trump will say when he announces his run as an independent around July 2016. Here’s the thing, without a binding agreement, the pledge is nothing more than a great way for the GOP to earn media and for GOP chair Reince Priebus to look like he’s leading the party, but he’s missing a crucial element: Trump’s supporters aren’t necessarily ardent Republicans, they are just conservatives.

Confusing partisanship and ideology is fairly commonplace in American politics and it remains confusing for some studying political behavior at the graduate level. Yes, partisanship and ideology are closely related, with most liberals identifying as Democrats and most conservatives identifying as Republicans, but one’s ideology doesn’t mean they are “party people.” Yes, they may tell a pollster they are a “Republican,” but that may have more to do with their ideology lining up with one particular party than the strength of their partisanship. (Essentially, the Republicans better represent a conservative ideology, therefore a conservative identifies as a Republican.) Trump attract ideologues on the right. Conservatives who fully agree that we need to kick out the “illegals” and build a gigantic wall along both the Mexican AND Canadian borders don’t necessarily rock elephant lapel pins and pendants, but they do support the tea party and other movements associated with the Republican party, but more explicitly tied to the conservative ideology.

This is an important point for Priebus and other Republican bigwigs worried about the Trump-effect. Trump can sign the loyalty pledge now, in early-September 2015 when the stakes are high for both Trump and the Republican Party, but if Trump’s support among Republican party elites starts to wane, but his support among those identifying as very conservative remains high, the likelihood Trump bucks the pledge and runs as an independent strengthens.

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Kanye 2020 and the end of the American democracy?

No, Kanye, you can't be president, bruh! (Photo credit: Getty Images)

No, Kanye, you can’t be president, bruh! (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Alright, so the headline is a bit hyperbolic, but Kanye West’s rambling, 12-minute diatribe at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday left me grumpy about the future of our grand experiment in democracy. A few bad apples aside, Americans typically come together every four years to hire someone to run the country. It’s quite possibly the most challenging job in the country, even if it doesn’t require the skills as a brain surgeon–although Dr. Ben Carson would probably tell you otherwise.

Kanye’s bizarre remarks made a mockery of our presidential system, even if Kanye’s goal was to address the candidacy of jokers like Donald Trump. However, young people who hopped on the #Kanye2020 train immediately following his remarks are sadly growing up in a country where we belittle the concept of public service, believe all politicians are self-serving and that any person has the capacity to run the country.

A few things:

  1. Public service should absolutely be taken seriously
  2. A few bad politicians should not spoil those truly looking to make their community, state, country, or world a better place
  3. It requires incredible intelligence, patience, and tenor to be president.

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The Noise Machine: How Democrats can buck historical trends and win in 2016

The only adults in the room. Will that lead one of them to victory next November?

The only adults in the room. Will that lead one of them to victory next November?

Last week, the Republican circus moved from Cleveland, to Atlanta, with no signs of slowing down. Early poll numbers suggest Donald Trump wasn’t permanently damaged by his erratic–and predictable–behavior at the debate, while Jeb! Bush and Scott Walker’s poll numbers sank. Of course, all of this is subject to change, just like a weather forecast. Meanwhile, the juxtaposition of the Democrats and the Republicans grew wider. As Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders continues to draw record crowds, demonstrating the frustration among Americans on the left, Hillary Clinton unveiled plans for “debt-free college,” among other major policy changes for the millions suffering under the burden of student loans.

Whether Clinton’s plans for student loans are a silver bullet remains to be seen–not including full out debt relief may stoke the ire of many progressives–but it is refreshing to see the adults in the room actually discuss policies that matter. While Republicans debated how best to repeal the Obama years, what their faith means to them, and how best to outflank one another from the right, few provided details into the issues that are truly defining the United States today. In fact, by the time the RedState Gathering started in Atlanta, many Republicans and pundits were focused on Donald Trump’s crass comments toward FOX News host Megyn Kelly, not policy, nor what it takes to govern.

While policy and governing may come off as boring, it may be Democrats’ ticket to a third consecutive term.

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Getting your story straight: Mitt Romney edition

Mitt Romney is in the news again. Contain yourselves.

I encourage you to read the entirety of this fascinating article.

There are two things that stand out to me upon initial reading.

  1. First, this:
    “At that Christmas gathering, the family took a vote on whether Romney should run. . . Even some of Romney’s closest political advisers might have been surprised. When the family members took a vote, 10 of the 12 said no. Mitt Romney was one of the 10 who opposed another campaign. The only “yes” votes were from Ann Romney and Tagg Romney.”What was going on in Mr. Romney’s mind here? He opposed his own campaign before it started?This, to me, is not so much a criticism but a curiosity of our human nature.Perhaps I’m being too charitable. So be it.It’s truly a mind-boggling vote.
  2. “When Romney had mentioned his “lousy September,” it was an evident reference to what may have been the low point of his campaign: the “47 percent” video. He was in California and said at first he couldn’t get a look at the video. His advisers were pushing him to respond as quickly as he could. “As I understood it, and as they described it to me, not having heard it, it was saying, ‘Look, the Democrats have 47 percent, we’ve got 45 percent, my job is to get the people in the middle, and I’ve got to get the people in the middle,’ ” he said. “And I thought, ‘Well, that’s a reasonable thing.’ . . . It’s not a topic I talk about in public, but there’s nothing wrong with it. They’ve got a bloc of voters, we’ve got a bloc of voters, I’ve got to get the ones in the middle. And I thought that that would be how it would be perceived — as a candidate talking about the process of focusing on the people in the middle who can either vote Republican or Democrat.As it turned out, down the road, it became perceived as being something very different.”You mean that you were insensitive to a whole group of people? I asked. “Right,” he responded. “And I think the president said he’s writing off 47 percent of Americans and so forth. And that wasn’t at all what was intended. That wasn’t what was meant by it. That is the way it was perceived.” I interjected, “But when you said there are 47 percent who won’t take personal responsibility — ” Before I finished, he jumped in. “Actually, I didn’t say that. . . .That’s how it began to be perceived, and so I had to ultimately respond to the perception, because perception is reality.””
    Emphasis mine. I truly have no response. This is the most mind-boggling comment from Romney since, oh, the hilarious and inane “Binders Full of Women” gaffe.This insistence of his also seems to be an out-right lie.We’ve all seen the notorious 47% video.  It lives forever.

 There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right—there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. …And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

And as charitable as I try to be, these opposing quotes by Romney indicate that he will not take “personal responsibility” for his own words or actions.

Excuse me, I need to get back to work so I can be “personally responsible” for not being able to afford health insurance STILL, but making sure my family is fed, housed, and maybe I’ll make phone calls to friends on my Obamaphone so I don’t bang my head on the desk thinking about how out of touch this man–and so many others in POWER–are.

Weekend Round-Up

What we’ve been reading:

Electing Presidents – Part III: The Popular Vote is Gaining Momentum

The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that the direct-popular-vote method for electing the President and Vice-President is essential to representative government. The League of Women Voters believes, therefore, that the Electoral College should be abolished. We support the use of the National Popular Vote Compact as one acceptable way to achieve the goal of the direct popular vote for election of the president until the abolition of the Electoral College is accomplished.  The League also supports uniform voting qualifications and procedures for presidential elections. The League supports changes in the presidential election system – from the candidate selection process to the general election. We support efforts to provide voters with sufficient information about candidates and their positions, public policy issues and the selection process itself. The League supports action to ensure that the media, political parties, candidates, and all levels of government achieve these goals and provide that information.

Statement of Position on Selection of the President, as Announced by National Board, January 1970, Revised March 1982, Updated June 2004 and Revised by the 2010 Convention

The previous posts in this series focused on changing the Electoral College. This one proposes abolishing it. The current system encourages presidential candidates and campaigns to focus on a handful of swing-states while ignoring the rest. Four out of five voters were ignored during the 2012 presidential contest.

This winner-take-all system has produced four presidents who lost the popular vote (1 out of 14 elections): John Q. Adams (1824), Rutherford B. Hayes (1876), Benjamin Harrison (1888), and George W. Bush (2000). In these instances, voters view the outcome as unfair and feel disenfranchised. Furthermore, the process loses credibility.

 A 2007 Washington Post poll revealed that a majority of Americans favor the popular vote (question 22)—Democrats 78%, Republicans 60%, and Independents 73%. More recently, it was reported that by a two-to-one margin Americans want the Electoral College eliminated.

The National Popular Vote (NPV) bill has been gaining traction for all the above reasons, and more. The League of Women Voters (LWV) conducted a NPV Compact Study in 2009 though this is different than the direct-popular-vote method they support. As of August 1, 2012, this bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions holding 132 electoral votes (VT, MD, WA, IL, NJ, DC, MA, CA, HI). The NPV bill preserves the Electoral College and states retain control of elections, therefore, 270 electoral votes are necessary in order to activate the NPV. How does this work?

All electoral votes from the enacting states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). Seems easy enough, yet the below arguments reveal the complexities of passing the NPV.

Opposing:

Supporting:

  • Eliminates the chance of electing a president who did not win the popular vote.
  • Candidates and campaigns will pay attention to all states.
  • Voters will feel their vote matters, likely increasing voter turnout as voters have a higher stake in elections.
  • The NPV does not require a constitutional amendment.
  • The political power of small states would be increased.
  • Attempts of voter suppression and election fraud would be diminished since the battleground states would have less influence.
  • Per the LWV, the NPV Compact is in “total harmony with both the terms and purpose of the Voting Rights Act.” (Other Issues, p.4)
  • Every vote is counted fairly and equally.

Clearly, there is movement toward the popular vote. The LWV reject reforming the Electoral College, particularly apportioning electoral votes based on the percentage of a state’s popular vote—the very solution proposed in my February 19 post—because of the increased chance that no candidate would receive a majority of electoral votes thus relinquishing the fate of the presidency to the House of Representatives.

That is a possibility. However, the three elections I analyzed met the 270-vote threshold. My assessments excluded third-party candidates, so I revisited the data and found that third-party candidates obtained anywhere from 0-3% of the popular vote in any state, so their influence was negligible on my results. However, this may not always be the case.

The way to ensure fair, representative elections is to abolish the Electoral College and implement the direct popular vote, as supported by the LWV. Whoever wins the majority of votes, wins the presidency. This may open up the process to the election of a third-party candidate, who currently stands little chance of winning against the two-party system.

The NPV may be a suitable alternative for now since it does not require a constitutional amendment, which abolishing the Electoral College most definitely would. However, the push for the direct popular vote should proceed because it would eliminate many of the arguments opposing implementation of the NPV.

Updated February 27, 2013: League of Women Voters Position on the National Popular Vote, submitted by FairVote.org