I’veng thought to myself that if I could blog for a living I would write a blog about different elections around the world.
I can’t blog for a living and just doing this blog is taxing enough.
No worries though!
I’ve found a blog called World Elections. This blog looks at various elections across the globe and uses color charts to illustrate various points and voting patterns. The most recent post on World Elections as I write this tonight is about elections in Sardinia. Other posts are about—among many other places—Iraq, Boliva and Switzerland.
(Above is a picture of Sardinia. What a dream come true it would be to vist a place like that. Here is some information about Sardinia.)
Please review World Elections and help give this blogger the large audience he deserves. I think–though I’m not fully sure– that this blogger is based in France. Maybe he will allow his blog reading public to stay with him at his castle or chateau.
( Here is information about what a chateau is and below is a picture of one in a rural area. It seems that the lord of the manor lives in a chateau. I did not know that. )
I sometimes find it difficult to take seriously the subjects of Houston City Council, and, also, municipal elections here in Houston. I find it hard to do so for the following reasons–
1. Few Houstonians vote in city elections and given my limited resources of time, I can’t always muster much effort on something people don’t care about and that does not seem to make a big difference in the lives of people of Houston.
2. The six year term limits mean that councilmembers come and go and you really have no idea who they are. They dance around and wait for an empty seat to run for. Just like this game of musical chairs you see below. ( No..I don’t know who those people are.)
3. Despite the fact that so-called Democrats have a majority on the Council, they don’t appear to do anything in a cohesive fashion. Does the caucus have meetings? Have they offered a vision of what they would like to see from the ongoing Texas Legislative session? Or from the Obama stimulus package? Is there any agenda all except the separate agendas of individuals?
At least one Council Democrat, James Rodriguez, will possibly be supporting a Republican for citywide office. What is his agenda? Can we trust Mr. Rodriguez to serve our city well? The verdict is still out.
4. I’ve been voting for Democrats at the municipal level since I was first eligible to vote in 1985. I feel that often they take the votes and offer in little in return in terms of imagination and concern for people who need the most help from government. (Though I’m glad to see that Barack Obama of Chicago is saying he has a focus on urban issues. Maybe that focus will trickle down and offer some new energy to local urban policy makers.)
What got me thinking about the topic of the Houston City Council was a post by Houston blogger Charles Kuffner. Mr. Kuffner’s post dealt with possible candidates for municipal offices in Houston in 2009. ( 50,000 page views this month Charles. I’m getting there.) Mr. Kuffner, who is one of the best sources for these things in Houston, reports various people running for the various offices.
How does the process work? Here’s what I’m seeing—Some political insider, or some person who feels they might be able to access sufficient funds to run a campaign, waits for the right moment and the right opportunity and decides to give it a whirl.
For the average person it is all very nebulous. (Below—A nebula. Click here for information about nebulas.) Where do these folks come from? For what reason are people donating to their campaigns? What political party and beliefs do candidates represent as they hide behind the lie of the so-called “non-partisan” municipal ballot?
What are the candidates and councilmembers themselves thinking?
Maybe they wonder why people don’t care who represents them at City Hall. They could be thinking that if the public does not trust them to serve more than six years, why then should they trust the public?
It might be that council candidates and councilmembers are thinking that with low turnout and term limits the public has, in effect, ceded control of city government to special interests and the personal ambitions of office holders.
In 2009, I’m going to make some effort to listen to what our Houston municipal candidates are saying. I’ll offer my views as we go along. I’ll be looking for a specific agenda, and for some connection between Houston and the big changes and new resources we are seeing in Washington. It won’t be nearly enough that a candidate claims that he or she is a Democrat. That is a road I have been down often before. (Below—An old road not used as much as it once was.)
What if recently deposed Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick had announced himself a god? Would this have kept him from losing his post? Is declaring himself a god an option to save the career of politically troubled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich? (above)
Let’s review the record from antiquity.
In his History of Government from the Earliest Times–Volume I, Ancient Monarchies and Empires, the late Oxford political scientist S.E. Finer addressed the subject of rulers as gods or as chosen by heaven.
In ancient Egypt, the Pharaoh asserted divinity. Professor Finer wrote that these claims held the most weight in the early years of the Egyptian kingdom. But in time, as Pharaohs lasted for only brief stretches before dying or being usurped, the claim to divininty must have been nearly impossible for anyone to really believe.
In this era of 24 hour cable news and irreverent coverage by political blogs, it would seem, at best, that only some of the public would believe a claim by a leader that he or she was a god. If rulers had a hard time maintaining the fiction back in ancient Egypt, imagine convincing people today.
Professor Finer also wrote that the Egyptians responded to the diminished stature of the Pharaoh’s person by giving the throne divinity more so than the individaul holding the throne.
“In my view…originally the (pharaohs) person was a sacred person, because, in accordance with certain rules or portents, he was, uniquely, indicated as the rightful possessor of the throne. But later it was the throne that made the king..irrespective of a particular individuals personal history or qualities.”
By this logic, the holder of the office of Speaker of the Texas House or the Governorship of Illinois would be a god by definition. It would not make any difference if Mr. Craddick or Mr. Blagojevich were gods because their successors would be gods as well. This, in my view, would limit the value of declaring yourself a god. No matter what, you’re going to get a god in the position.
In ancient China, the Emperor had the “Mandate of Heaven.”
“…the Chinese emperorship…was irreducibly ritualistic: ying-yang and the perfect harmony of Earth, Man ans Heaven turned exclusively upon the emperor’s actions….so the emperor, the Son of Heaven, was sacred because he alone could offer to Heaven the supreme sacrifices and maintain the harmony between the terrestrial order and the cosmos.”
Reading this you’d think a politician looking for a firm hold on power would try to establish himself as holding such importance. But the power of the Chinese emperor came with a catch not unlike what we have already seen in Egypt. The presumption was that if you challenged the emperor and prevailed, that you then had the Mandate of Heaven.
The verdict here, informed by history, is that declaring yourself to be god or as heaven-sent is not a viable strategy to keep political power. Though it sure would be fun if someone would try. It does seem possible that Governor Blagojevich has at least considered this idea.
Tom Craddick, an autocratic far-right extremist, has been deposed as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. He does not have the votes within the House to win election for another term as Speaker.
The Texas House has 76 Republicans and 74 Democrats
( Update—Mr. Smithee has pulled out and the race appears to be over. While it’s a crazy process we have here in Texas, let’s hope that Mr. Straus is really change for the better.)
Mr. Straus appears the more moderate of the two choices. The overwhelming majority of the 74 House Democrats have pledged to support his bid. He also has the support of as many 16 Republicans. Mr. Smithee has the support of the clear majority of Republican members, but few, if any, Democrats. As it stands now, the numbers favor Mr. Straus.
It’s quite possible the elevation of Mr. Straus would move the House away from the right and towards the center. Mr. Smithee appears to be a Craddick-lite option.
Yet on Election Day last November, Texans elected a majority of Republicans to the House. That is what was decided at the ballot box. It is the majoroty Republican party that should decide who serves as Speaker.
I believe in political parties. They provide a shorthand for voters to sift through the great number of often complex issues any modern governing body faces. It’s nearly impossible for a person who has to work for a living, or who has a family to raise, to have a clear sense of all the issues up for debate at any given point.
On Election Day, ideally, we look at what party a candidate represents, as well as his or her stands on the issues most important to us and our fellow citizens.
We know that a Democrat from a rural area may have different views on some questions than a Democrat from an urban area. We know that a Republican from Maine may have conflicting views in contrast to a Republican from Alabama. But we also know that in many cases there is a set of core values that informs members of the same political party regardless of other differences.
We also know, or trust, that when it comes to organizing a legislative chamber, members of the same party will come together to elect a Speaker and other officers.
Where party structure breaks down, what’s left is behind-the-scenes deal cutting that is often far less transparent than party ID. When things go wrong, voters are left to guess where to place the blame as legislators hide under whatever label or excuse suits them at the moment.
It’s bad enough that our Texas legislature meets only once every two years. Or that members are not paid a living wage so only a well-connected few can serve. Or that a one-third minority can hold up action in the State Senate. The least we can ask is that the parties we vote for, and the men and women who represent these parties and the ideas behind the parties, act in a coherent and accountable way once seated in Austin.
Once a legislative session begins, members can easily work across the aisle on various bills and proposals. There’s nothing wrong with that. But a basic coherence must exist in the structure of a legislative chamber for voters to be able to make sense of the records of both political parties and individaul members.
Here’s hoping that between now and the opening of the legislative session on January 13, the majority party as elected by the people of Texas gets its’ act together.
This is the position I will hold on that better day, not so far in the future,when Democrats control the Texas House.
Yestrerday I early voted at the Harris County Administration building (above) located at 1001 Preston Avenue in Downtown Houston, Texas.
The electronic voting gizmo, which I feel is programmed to flip all my votes to the Republican Party, allowed me to vote in Vietnamese—
(Sunset in a Vietnamese fishing village called Mui Ne)
…And in Spanish as well.
( Below is Valparaiso, Chile.)
If English is the official language of the United States, how come I can vote in Vietnamese and Spanish in a right wing place like Texas? We’ve even been at war with Vietnam and Spain in the past.
I’m glad we have the ability to make peace with former enemies. We are all brothers and sisters.
I’m very glad I got the chance to vote for a black man named Barack H. Obama for President of the United States. That is what I call progress.
( Below–Blacks voting in 1867. Here is a history of Reconstruction. )
I voted for each Democrat on the ballot. Though I did not use the straight party ticket button. I enjoy voting and I went down and selected the name of each candidate.
I’ve written before, and still assert, that the straight ticket voter is possibly the most rational voter of all. Party identification serves as a kind of shorthand for voters to be able to navigate the large number of issues we confront in our complex society.
However, we do retain the right not to support all the candidates of our favored political party. Inevitably, some will be hard to take.
I paused over the names of Michael Skelly for the 7th U.S. House district from Texas and David Mincberg for the office of Harris County Judge Executive.
Mr. Skelly has campaigned in large part on the false issues of earmark reform and a balanced budget. These are irresponsible postions at a time when swift and decisive action from government is needed to bring our economy back to health.
Here is what Nobel Prize winning New York Times columnist recently said about government’s role in our economic recovery—
….there’s a lot the federal government can do for the economy. It can provide extended benefits to the unemployed, which will both help distressed families cope…It can provide emergency aid to state and local governments, so that they aren’t forced into steep spending cuts that both degrade public services and destroy jobs. It can buy up mortgages (but not at face value, as John McCain has proposed) and restructure the terms to help families stay in their homes. And this is also a good time to engage in some serious infrastructure spending, which the country badly needs in any case. The usual argument against public works as economic stimulus is that they take too long: by the time you get around to repairing that bridge and upgrading that rail line, the slump is over and the stimulus isn’t needed. Well, that argument has no force now, since the chances that this slump will be over anytime soon are virtually nil. Will the next administration do what’s needed to deal with the economic slump? Not if Mr. McCain pulls off an upset. What we need right now is more government spending — but when Mr. McCain was asked in one of the debates how he would deal with the economic crisis, he answered: “Well, the first thing we have to do is get spending under control.”
If Mr. Skelly’s opponent has been bringing earmarks to this district, that is one way we would be better served by keeping the incumbent. Regretfully, the incumbent is quite far to the right.
David Mincberg has been running a tone deaf negative campaign against the Republican incumbent. After so many years of Republican rule in Harris County, there are so many unmet needs and things to to be done. Why don’t we hear about some of that? Instead, what we are getting are attacks against incumbent that are simply not going to resonate with the public after his very visible role during Hurricane Ike.
Also, Mr. Mincberg has a campaign sign—one so big that it needs to be propped up from behind with rods—located on the right of way on a 610 feeder road near the Galleria. I’d like to take that sign and nail it to the side of Mr. Mincberg’s house. (I won’t though. And don’t you either.)
I did in the end vote for Mr. Skelly and Mr. Mincberg. Though I’m not sure that was the right course. There is little doubt these men would be better than the incumbents. But from my view, as a liberal who has lived in a city all his life and had my vote taken for granted by Democrats who deliver little, both Mr.Skelly and Mr. Mincberg send up warning flags.
It’s not about ideological differences. There are only two main political parties for 300 million people and a big tent is required. It’s about the issues you choose to focus on and how you campaign. There is plenty of room for political creativity and correct behavior in even the most Republican of constituencies.
In contrast to Mr. Skelly and Mr. Mincberg, there were votes I was glad to cast—
Rick Noriega for the United States Senate—Mr. Noriega will be quite a contrast to the far right incumbent. He has served his country in war and is now ready to serve in Washington. Also, his wife has been known to visit this blog.
Ellen Cohen for the Texas House District 134—It is good that Ms. Cohen appears to have an easy race after banishing the lousy Martha Wong in 2006.
Loren Jackson for Harris County District Clerk—Mr. Jackson is very honest, never puts a campaign sign in the public space, and once gave me a campaign tee-shirt. Below is a picture of Mr. Jackson. If you see him be certain to shake his hand and to tell him you share his commitment to freedom.
The so-called “Bradley Effect” is a topic of conversation and, for Democrats, concern in the 2008 campaign.
What is the Bradley effect? Who was Bradley?
The Bradley effect is the idea that persons contacted by pollsters lie about support for a black candidate for public office. They tell the pollster they support a black candidate because they don’t wish to be seen as racist. But when they go to vote, they vote for the white candidate in the race instead of the black person they had told the pollster they favored.
A recent Associated Press story suggests that Senator Obama will have to have a lead in the polls of at least six points to overcome this factor on Election Day. This idea is disputed by a leading analyst of poll data. This New York Times article discusses the issue.
The term Bradley effect comes from the 1982 election for Governor of California. Los Angles Mayor Tom Bradley ( photo above), a black man, was leading in the polls over California Attorney General George Deukmejian. Mr. Bradley was a Democrat and Mr. Deukmejian a Republican.
Despite Mr. Bradley’s lead in the polls, Mr. Deukmejian won the election by a small margin.
From the New York Times 1998 obituary of Mayor Bradley—
“Tom Bradley, the sharecropper’s son who became Mayor of Los Angeles and presided over the city for two decades of explosive growth and change, died yesterday..He was 80. Mr. Bradley was Mayor from 1973 to 1993, an era in which Los Angeles was transformed from a collection of suburban neighborhoods to what Mr. Bradley liked to call a ”world-class city,” a place with glittering skyscrapers, a striking new skyline and a vibrant downtown…. His election as the first black Mayor of Los Angeles, which was then the nation’s third largest city and largely white, reflected a significant change in local politics in the United States. For most of that time, Mr. Bradley was an immensely popular figure whose stately bearing and placid demeanor seemed to reassure his increasingly polyglot city….Soft-spoken and self-effacing, Mr. Bradley shunned some of the perquisites that his stature and office might have brought him. Calling it a foolish waste of money, he refused to use a cellular telephone that was installed in his car, a former aide recalled. Still, Mr. Bradley learned to move as easily in the society of the fabulously wealthy as he did in the world of the poor and disadvantaged from which he had come.”
Is the Bradley effect for real? Have we moved ahead in the 26 years since 1982? Will a kind of reverse Bradley effect take place this year where Senator Obama actually gains votes because he is black?
I’ve been wanting to do a post on the issue of abortion. I’ve just not found the right way to express myself on the matter.
A few days ago I read the views on this question of Democratic U.S. Representative David Obey of Wisconsin. I’m going to let him speak for me—
“While I detest abortion and agree with Catholic teaching that in most instances it is morally wrong, I decline to force my views into laws that, if adopted, would be unenforceable and would tear this society apart.”
Though I’m not Catholic or a follower of any religion, I go here with Mr. Obey. I feel a deep wariness of abortion is the stance most consistent with my opposition to the death penalty, my opposition to unnecessary war and obscene amounts of defense spending, and my support of an activist government that helps meet the needs of individuals in society.
I feel this society will kill any anytime it gets the chance. This whether it be high rates of murder or a barbaric affinity for the death penalty, Afghan or Iraqi civilians at the wrong place at the wrong time when our drones and airplanes come around, or poor people who are in essence left to die because they can’t afford the basic needs of our society.
I support a woman’s right to choose. Not because I assume a good choice will be made, but because of the mix of abstract reasoning, optimism, and nihilism that makes my support for democracy personally tenable.
If you don’t like nihilism, than how about a strong sense of the absurd.
People must be able to choose the course they will follow in life. ( As long as they pay their taxes. You can’t have a society without taxes.) This ability to choose is essential in a society that would see itself as free.
Birth control, access to affordable day care, and the prospect of decent-paying jobs for hard working people might lower the abortion rate in our country. But politicians absurdly identified as “pro-life” don’t do much to encourage these things. Instead, they often work diligently to make life even more difficult for young families, single mothers and children of all ages.
Congressman Obey represents much of rural northwestern Wisconsin. The largest city in his district is Wausau. Why rural voters keep voting Republican when they get little in return, just as Democrats often use city voters, is something of a mystery.
Rep. Obey seems in many respects close to my own views. Mr. Obey advocates government mandated universal health care, and a government with a role in job creation and in the economy as a whole. At the same time, he seems hesitant about libertine personal behavior, but without race-baiting or gay-baiting. He favors stem cell research.
Please click here an account of many of Mr. Obey’s votes and positions. Mr. Obey is 69 and has been a member of the House since 1969.
At the top of this blog it says All People Matter. I believe this. Everybody has value.
At the same time, I am not a bridge-builder. I have the resources of time and effort that I have. These resources allow me to reach the people I can reach. There will always be people who don’t agree with what I say. That’s just as well because I’m often wrong and because people have minds of their own.
I would not restrict the ability of others to say what they wish. I’m for as open a society as possible. If my view loses out in public debate and at the ballot box, so be it. That there is an element of nihilism in that view may or not be apparent, but life is what it is.
I think that in this country, as much as it has offer in many regards, nothing is so awful it can’t be true. Our history bears this assertion out in many respects. As do current conditions for many. I’m not going hide my views that many in our society are as mean-spirited and as selfish as could be.
Disagreement, and partisanship, is natural. I’m not a strict partisan for the Democratic Party because I’m open to third parties, such as Greens, and because I often criticize the Democratic Party for its frequent disregard of poor voters and minority voters. I view my blog as ideological more than partisan.
When I say “All People Matter”, I’m telling you, among other things, that I support universal health care, decent wages, a fair criminal justice system, and peace instead of unnecessary war. I’m telling you I support the rights of people to have the beliefs they choose, follow the religion they choose, and live pretty much as they wish. ( As long as you pay your damn taxes. You can’t have a civilization without raising sufficient taxes.)
What I’m telling you with this post is that I’m not going to go out of my way to make my views more palatable to others. If you agree with me–Wonderful. If not—maybe I’m mistaken—but maybe you’re wrong.
What we do with the people in our personal lives is one thing. We’ve got to reach out when possible. How we conduct our political lives in a country that has made so many wrong choices at the polls in recent years is another thing. I only have so much energy and, as my time grows shorter, so much willingness, to engage in debate with people who believe mean and crazy things.
It is often only mean and crazy things that are on the table anymore when you are dealing with modern conservatives and Republicans.
I will, however, include below a picture of a good-sized ferry to show that while I’m not a bridge-builder, nor do I feel we can fully cut off communication. I will use the ferry below to bring others back on over to my point of view.
( Blogger’s note–Pressed for time today, this is a post I made last fall. Thanks for reading Texas Liberal.)
This is part of an occasional Texas Liberal series called “Central Questions.”
Is political representation a “two-way street?” Can voters, or citizens who do not vote, perform their civic duties so poorly that they no longer merit representation?
Here in Houston, for one example, our Mayor and City Council members are limited to three two-year terms. A condition of employment for these officials is acceptance of the fact that your employers, the citizens of Houston, do not trust you beyond a certain point.
Why would someone want that job?
Further, voter turnout in Houston for municipal elections is terrible. Runoffs for council seats have been know to attract between 5% and 10% of voters. Even on General Municipal Election Day, most citizens do not vote.
If people don’t care who represents them, why bother to run?
If the question seems abstract, and there is nothing wrong with abstract, it might be said that by limiting Council terms and not voting, citizens do, in fact, cede municipal representation to large money donors and interest groups who, for whatever reasons, are involved in the process.
In this way, maybe this possibly abstract question does lead to a solid, and distressing, answer.
Above is a “big picture” way to look at Houston.
When did it all start to go wrong?
When the first words were put on paper, and the secret rites and acts of Pharohs and kings were no longer guarded over by powerful priests?
When the Catholic mass was no longer required to be delivered in Latin?
When the franchise was expanded beyond noble lords and long-established and well-propertied families?
Was it Andrew Jackson and the rise of American democracy?
Public education? Libraries? Paperback books?
It seems that democratic norms and the pretensions of the lowest orders have breeched the barriers of tolerance when people like me are allowed into the Boston Museum of Fine Arts to view the works of the great masters.
Any yahoo with $16 can get in.
You say not everybody has $16 to spare to look at art?
Just how far would you have us fall.
My inner-Federalist has been stirred by being in Boston.
I’m just the type our more discerning founders were afraid of.
A blogger is the most vile creature of them all. He or she presumes no barrier but ownership of a computer to sharing even the most obnoxious views with the entire world.
I’ve had one glass of wine tonight. A few more and I’d confess that this liberal might even be a loyalist at heart.
I’d be in safe in saying so because a defining characteristic of the lower orders is fickleness of mind and view.
The likes of me can change their minds as often as they wish
I’ve long had identification with Harry Truman. Mr. Truman was our last President who did not attend college. He had a personal library of many books. While I did go to college, I’m not, strictly speaking, a white collar worker. And I have many books.
I see Mr. Truman as a man who did the best he could with the knowledge he had. And, also, as a good representative of what average folks can accomplish. He was self-made to a degree, but did not have a chip on his shoulder when it came to helping others.
In contrast to President Truman, Gouverneur Morris, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and a Senator from New York, was not a champion of the average person.
Mr. Morris believed in an aristocracy. I don’t. He also had doubts about the ability of average people to govern themselves. That I can understand.
I’d take Mr. Truman over Mr. Morris any day, but I can see where Mr. Morris was coming from.
Where does this mix leave me with Barack Obama?
I’d say he is the right combination of common origins and elitism to be an effective leader.
Mostly of the people and a little bit above the people at the same time.
This is at least what I am hoping.
On my Facebook account a few days ago I got an invitation to be a friend from Kevin Murphy.
I don’t know any Kevin Murphy.
I investigated the matter. I established that Mr. Murphy is running as a Democrat for the Texas State House of Representatives from the Pearland area. This is House District 29.
Good enough— While I have no idea who he is running against, Mr. Murphy has my strong support.
For one thing, I’ll endorse and support any Democrat running for office who makes me a friend on Facebook. Doing so helps serve my need for attention.
For another thing, I’m a strong believer in partisanship. I don’t need to know what Republican is running against Mr. Murphy.
I’ve read about the founding of our party system in Richard Hofstadter’s The Idea of a Party System—The Rise of Legitimate Opposition in the United States, 1780-1840.
I agree with what Martin Van Buren says as quoted in Hofstadter’s book—
“…political parties are inseparable from free governments…the disposition to abuse power, so deeply ingrained in the human heart, can be by no other means be more effectually checked.”
(Please click here for an essay on Mr. Van Buren’s role as a party builder in American history. There is also much more information on Mr. Van Buren to be found at that link. The above cartoon suggest that Mr. Van Buren could not get anywhere without the help of Andrew Jackson. Such a charge is simply not the case. President Jackson had the good sense to often listen to Mr. Van Buren for advice and Mr. Van Buren was as skilled a politician as they come. )
Not only do parties help check the tendency towards an accumulation of power based on personality, they also provide a shorthand for voters to figure out where candidates stand on the overwhelming number of issues we face in the modern day.
In the Texas House of Representatives, the absence of a party line vote for House Speaker makes that office a focus of backroom intrigue and sneaky double dealing. Democracy calls for the Speaker’s office to be awarded based only on what party wins control of the chamber on Election Day.
There are, of course, limits to partisanship at the ballot box. A party that is certain it has your vote may be motivated to serve interests other than those of voters.
Voters have the option to not vote at all for a specific position on the ballot if they find the Democrat intolerable. Or they can vote for a Green or other minor party candidate. I personally never vote for any Republican because I feel to elect one Republican assists all Republicans.
Also, voters should recall that with time the parties can switch ideological places. It’s possible that today’s Democrat would have voted for the more progressive Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, over the more conservative Democrat Alton Parker in 1904. In the end it is ideas that motivate the partisan.
This is especially so now that we don’t have party machines handing our free turkeys at Thanksgiving or able to give your brother-in-law a job with the sanitation department.
The bottom line?
Vote for Murphy!
A basic concept of democracy is “majority rules.” We accept that whoever gets the most votes in an election wins. (Except, strangely, in elections for President.) It seems only fair.
It is difficult to define the word majority so it retains real meaning. A majority is arbitrary and fluid. A winning coalition in one election may flop in the next. And elected legislative majorities are in fact elected by what turns out to be a minority of the people.
These conditions, while contributing to the incoherence and illogic of political life, provide hope and opportunity for politically committed individuals. When most don’t take part in public life– as depressing as that may be– the contributions of those who do take part are multiplied.
No election ever involves everyone. People under 18 years old can’t vote. Many states impose restrictions on the rights of those convicted of crimes. While these limitations on who may vote may have public support, this does not change the fact that we dilute the concept of the majority by disenfranchising some people before elections are even held.
Many choose not to vote. Presidential elections draw only between 50 and 60 percent of those over 18. Midterm elections for the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S Senate often draw just one-third of possible voters. In odd-year elections, important municipal offices in large cities are sometimes determined with turnouts of 20 percent or less.
Almost all elections are won by candidates winning just a fraction of the eligible population. These candidates cannot claim they are backed by a majority of all people or even of all potentially eligible voters.
This absence of a majority can also be said to apply to successful “mass” political and social movements. Turnout in the four elections won by Franklin Roosevelt was generally around 60 percent of eligible voters. Almost all black voters in the South were excluded from the ballot. Many of those who voted did not vote for Roosevelt.
The New Deal changed American life and Roosevelt was a highly successful politician, but the New Deal was not something a majority of people had a role in bringing about even at the relatively passive level of casting a ballot.
In the Civil Rights movement, which is seen as a mass movement, most people did nothing. Most blacks didn’t work for Civil Rights. Most whites did nothing to either promote or prevent integration. But because enough blacks and some whites were willing to work for a more just society significant gains were made. The gains did not require anywhere close to a majority of people to act.
In recent years, the Republican Party held the House and Senate by slender majorities. (A legislative chamber is a place where majority is a meaningful and quantifiable concept.) By remaining highly disciplined this slight legislative majority was effective in passing its agenda. As a result, the ideologically committed core of conservative voters— a minority— that elected these legislators had an impact beyond its numbers.
The lessons are clear. You can a make a difference beyond being just one person. While it is discouraging in many ways, your vote counts for more when few are voting.
You can organize and motivate friends and acquaintances, write a letter to the editor, volunteer and donate to political campaigns or run for office yourself. You can occupy the space left by the only true majority: Those who do little or nothing. A person committed to his beliefs should take advantage of the situation. Work hard and be part of the willful minority that prevails
Many white Democratic women are feeling shut-out by a Democratic Party now rallying around Barack Obama.
It makes sense that someone, man or woman, waiting a long time in life for a woman President, would be upset by Senator Hillary Clinton’s apparent loss in the nomination fight.
Someone waiting a long time for a Black President might feel the same way.
Some of these women—It’s not clear how many–say that they just won’t line up and support the Democratic nominee. They say that women—white women in this case—have been an important group for Democrats at the polls and this fact should be recognized.
Okay. Folks have that right to vote for John McCain.
But political parties “use” core constituencies all the time.
They use them in two ways. One way as a natural result of the pluralism in American society, and in one way less benign.
When you have two major political parties for 300 million people, the fact is that some people are going to be left out for the top spots in any given election cycle. And policy choices are going to made by governing majorities in legislative chambers that reward some core groups of political supporters more than others.
To some extent, this is the way it has to work.
Less benign, is the expectation that reliable voters will vote for a party no matter what.
I’ve said a number of times in this blog that as a lifelong city dweller, I have, like the majority of others in the two cities I’ve lived in as an adult, always voted for Democrats at the local level. I’ve often not seen very much in return.
In honesty, if I ever see a viable option at the polls at the municipal level, I might take that option.
What have Black voters gained over the last 20 or 30 years from 90% support for the Democratic Party?
Has the Republican Party delivered for rural voters and Evangelicals? I bet many would tell you they have been used as well.
I believe in political parties. They provide voters with a shorthand to navigate a very complex set of issues in our very big and complex country.
Political races are, in my view, about issues.
But it is also so that politics is an industry with office-holders, staffers, and campaign professionals who want to keep things as they are for their own benefit.
It’s up to voters and activists to change this fact.
For people on the left side of the aisle and upset about Senator Clinton’s apparent loss, this election is going to come down to either winning and moving ahead, or losing and wasting yet more years of our lives in a country not making progress.
People can decide what they want to do.
I recently booked a car rental over the phone.
I use the phone instead of the computer so I can help keep people employed.
The rental car reservation guy, based on his accent and the fact the connection was lousy, was, I guessed, in India.
I want to keep people employed in India as well.
He seemed like a nice guy. He was telling me what a great deal I’d get if I rented this car or that car. It was quite a pitch. It was funny.
I said to him–”Hey, where are you? India?”
He said–”That’s right sir.”
I told him that while I have never been to India, that I would vote for the Congress Party and never for the BJP.
Congress and the BJP are the two leading parties of India. Congress is currently in government while the BJP is in opposition.
Broadly speaking, the Congress Party, for all its many flaws, sees pluralistic democracy as the underlying principle of the Indian state, while the BJP sees Hindu nationalism as the underlying principle of the Indian state.
Well–You know what side of the aisle you and I are on when faced with a choice such as that.
The political state and the operations of democracy must rest on the widest possible foundations.
The man in India told me he had voted BJP in the last election, but had been considering a switch.
I said that I love both Hindus and Muslims and that this pluralism was the proper basis of democracy.
Who knows if he agreed with me, but he did seem to grasp what I was saying. I gave him credit just for that.
It is always the right time for politics. It is always the right time to express concern for our Hindu and Muslim brothers and sisters and for all people.
And here is a link to Indian politics as seen by The Economist. If you click the country briefing link at the bottom of the politics info, you’ll find much more information.