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Thursday, November 24, 2016

What kind of democracy is this anyway?

by digby

I have no idea if anything is wrong with the vote count that gave Donald Trump the electoral college victory. It was very close in a few states and Clinton is slated to win the popular vote by a large margin. In fact, she will have won more votes that any white male president ever won in American history including our president-elect. (That is another way of saying she won more votes than anyone but Barack Obama.)

There is also the matter of the hacking that took place throughout the election to benefit Trump. Whether it might have also happened in ways we don't know about seems remote, but not impossible. Clinton's large popular vote victory combined with the razor edge electoral vote victory in specific states is bound to raise questions in this environment. Hacking happened in 2016 and there are ways to hack without a machine being connected to he internet. Likely? Not really. But nothing seems impossible these days. After all, we have an unqualified, cretinous white nationalist demagogue as president now, and millions more people voted against him than for him. And there were warnings in the major papers prior to the election about just such possibilities.

Jill Stein is raising money for a recount and is evidently raising millions. I don't know if it will add up to anything but I can't see why recounting would hurt anything either. If, as everyone predicts, it will not change the outcome then Trump should probably welcome it.

This piece by Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns and Money takes a look at the bigger picture:

Hillary Clinton is going to win the popular vote by a margin greater than the total population of 40% of the states

A couple of days after the election I estimated that Clinton would end up winning the popular vote by about two million ballots. That now seems like a significant underestimate.

As of this morning, Clinton is already ahead by nearly 2.1 million votes, and that’s with nearly 1.5 million California ballots still to be counted. California, home to just under 40 million coastal elites, voted for Clinton by a nearly two to one margin, so the outstanding California vote alone is likely to bump Clinton’s lead by another 400,000+ votes.

Most of the rest of the uncounted votes comes from places like New York and Washington, collectively home to 27 million coastal elites. By the time all the ballots are counted, Clinton could well have THREE MILLION more votes than Trump. Note that 40% of the United States of America have total populations of less than three million. In 34 of the 50 states, Clinton’s projected vote margin is larger than all the votes cast in the presidential election in those states.

I’m old enough to remember (which is to say I can remember stuff before December 2000) when the prospect of a presidential candidate winning the electoral college but losing the popular vote was talked about as if it would constitute a potentially major political and even constitutional crisis. After all such a thing hadn’t happened since the 19th century, at a time when democratic norms were much weaker, given that most of the adult population couldn’t legally vote.

Now that the vote has been extended to women, blacks, and other coastal elites you would think it would be, to use what my political science colleagues tell me is the appropriate technical term, a huge fucking deal that the losing candidate is going to end up with many millions of more votes than the winner.

The arguments that it isn’t are all quite lame. The major ones, in ascending order of stupidity, are:

(1) No one knows if Clinton would have gotten more votes than Trump if we had an actual democracy, as opposed to a bunch of creaky nonsense left over from the 18th century aka The Wisdom of the Framers. Yes, this question is like asking what the square root of a million is — nobody will ever be able to solve it.

Srsly, what basis is there for thinking that the national popular vote total would be significantly different in a direct national election? Campaign resources would be deployed differently at the margin, but so what? If this election tells us anything it’s that campaign resources at the margin seem to end up having little effect on the actual vote.

Would turnout be higher overall? And even if you assume it would be, again so what? Some people are actually making the argument that since turnout would supposedly be higher in a national popular vote, and there are more white voters than non-white voters, and the majority of white voters voted for Trump, this means that Trump would have won a national popular vote, or at least that it would have been much closer, because after all more white people would have voted! (That more non-white people would also have voted, and that these people voted overwhelmingly for Clinton, is not being factored into this particular equation).

(2) Whining about the popular vote is like a football team claiming it should have won because it got more total yards even though it scored fewer points. This argument can be summed up as, the rules are the rules so shut up already. Also it’s a terrible analogy. The rules that define which team wins a football game are inherently arbitrary. By contrast, the principle that the person who gets the most votes should win isn’t arbitrary. Rather, it’s called “democracy.”

Speaking of which . . .

(3) America is a republic, not a democracy, derp.

Apparently millions of people don’t know what the words “republic” and “democracy” mean. If the Electoral College was actually an example of a republican form of government it would now vote to make Clinton president, on the grounds that Donald Trump is a ludicrously unqualified joke of a candidate, leaving aside the noxious character of his political beliefs, if any, and therefore it would be best to elect somebody who was vastly better qualified and got millions of more votes to boot.

But I more than suspect that the media are going to treat this increasingly embarrassing situation in the same way they treated the unpleasantness back in 2000,* i.e., we must no longer speak of this, because of the need to unite behind the People’s Choice, even though he actually wasn’t, but who’s counting anyway?

That's exactly what will happen. I'm waiting for the day that Wolf Blitzer looks at the camera and smirks that Democrats have to "get over it." That's how we do this. 2000 was a trial run for the way the nation would deal with this undemocratic bullshit.

This is not common. It happened three times in the first 100 years of the nation and didn't happen again for another 112:

1824: John Quincy Adams
1876: Rutherford B. Hayes
1888: Benjamin Harrison
2000: George W. Bush

Now it's happened twice in 16 years. And it's delivered two of the most ignorant, unfit men to lead the country in our history.

This is not working.

After 2000, I would go to activist gatherings and meetings and someone would ask me what I would change about the constitution if I could and I always said abolish the electoral college, that it was undemocratic, unnecessary and a disaster that was always waiting to happen. To me 2000 was a turning point in our democracy (well, the ridiculous impeachment that came before was the precursor) when the norms really started to fade away and the GOP decided they could win by any means necessary. But I was always scoffed at and laughed at for saying it with people rolling their eyes at me like I was obsessing over something trivial and silly.

But here we are. It's the most valuable vote suppression mechanism the right has going for it. Twice in sixteen years they have proved to Democratic voters that even if they vote and even if they win, they can still lose. It's very hard to argue that every vote counts at this point.

If we survive Trump it's important to get rid of this anachronism. You cannot call yourself a democracy and allow this to continue.