A lot of state legislators want to require presidential candidates to publish their tax returns before they’re allowed on the ballot. Today at The Federalist, I wrote about why that’s unconstitutional.
Today at The Federalist, I wrote that respect for the Founding Fathers doesn’t mean you have to love everything they did, including the Electoral College. Check it out.
After posting that map of Philadelphia’s presidential votes the other day, I wanted to see how much had changed since 2012. So I came up with this:
You’re still looking at a vast sea of blue, but the differences jump out at you. Clinton and Obama both won the city easily, but Obama won it much more thoroughly. Trump won wide swathes of the 45th ward where Obama had carried every single division four years earlier. Trump’s victories in the Northeast were also much deeper and widespread. Even in the dark blue areas of North and West Philly, we can see that Obama was the stronger candidate. Where Clinton had three divisions with 100% of the votes for her, Obama had twenty-seven. The pattern held throughout the area. Clinton didn’t lose much of Obama’s totals, just a handful of votes in each division. But it was enough.
This year, at last, the dream of Republicans in Pennsylvania came true as our swing state finally swung. It wasn’t my dream for 2016, exactly, since I voted for Johnson, but for many who pushed back against the idea that the Commonwealth was a purely Democratic state at the Presidential level, it was gratifying. In fact, according to Nate Silver’s 538 website, Pennsylvania was the tipping point in electing Trump.
Over the weekend, I charted the precinct-level results in Philadelphia, the city Hillary thought would save the state for her. As most observers of the Philly political scene would have expected, Clinton was weakest in the Far Northeast. I was also surprised at Trump’s strength in South Philly and the river wards. Trump’s best division (we call precincts divisions here) was in South Philly, 39-14, where he tallied 70.3% of the vote (it’s the big one in the far south of the 39th ward). Clinton had three divisions in North Philly where the people chose her unanimously (29-07, 29-16, and 32-29,) which I’ve marked with asterisks on the map. There were also two ties, both in the Northeast (64-17 and 66-18).
Most of this is only of interest to my Pennsylvania readers, but I hope you all enjoy the map. You can click on it to zoom in, but the file is pretty big, so it may take a minute.
A short post on the election, the electors, and the idea of a mandate.
Trump won a thumping majority in the Electoral College, surprising nearly everyone in media, including me. Like everything else about Trump, we didn’t see it coming.
There’s a lot of focus now on the popular vote. It’s not what determines the election, or anything else, but it seems to be the focus of a lot of Clintonist bitter-enders. They seem to think (or hope) that not having a popular vote plurality diminishes Trump’s legitimacy somehow, even though everyone knew the rules when they entered the race. This is not like Donovan McNabb not knowing that NFL games could end in ties. The rules are well-established and well-understood.
More importantly, as Jonathan Adler wrote in the Washington Post, the popular vote does not reflect a national sentiment precisely because it is not determinative.
The reason for this is because the electoral college system encourages the campaigns (and their surrogates and allies) to concentrate their efforts on swing states — those states in which the electoral votes are up for grabs — at the expense of those states in which one party or the other has no meaningful chance to prevail. The presidential campaigns make no meaningful effort to turn out votes in populous, but non-competitive states such as California, New York and Texas. There is no advantage to running up the score in a state that is solidly in one camp, nor is there much benefit in trying to drive up turnout in pursuit of a hopeless cause. … Under a popular-vote system, on the other hand, every vote in every state would count equally, and campaigns would be likely to devote substantial resources driving up turnout in these same states. We don’t have any particularly reliable guide as to what vote tallies such efforts would produce.
Maybe Clinton would have had a plurality under such a system, and maybe she wouldn’t. We have no way of knowing such a hypothetical result because that’s not the game the campaigns were playing.
So why even bring it up? That’s the question Kai Ryssdal of NPR’s Marketplace asked today.
Serious question: what’s the ultimate political purpose of pointing out Clinton won the popular vote?
— Kai Ryssdal (@kairyssdal) November 12, 2016
Many of the answers he received related to the idea of a mandate. Apparently, reminding Trump that he received fewer popular votes than Clinton will dispel the notion that he has a mandate. He can be President, they’re saying, but he should not enact any of his policies.
This is patent nonsense.
No one knows why the voters vote. We have exit polls, but even they can hardly discern what the voters want. The only thing we know is that a plurality of voters in states casting a majority of the electoral votes chose Trump. We do not know their reasons. And that would not change even if he had a popular vote majority, let alone a plurality.
In 2004, George W. Bush won a majority in the electoral college and in the popular vote. He considered this a mandate from the people and spent his political capital on a plan to privatize social security. Majority or not, the plan was dead on arrival. The people and the electors had cast more votes for Bush than his opponents, but that did not mean that they or Congress had voted for that scheme in particular.
Besides being fanciful, the mandate issue is also quite obviously born of convenience. If the vote count ends with Trump having a plurality, does anyone think the anti-Trump protestors will lay down their placards and say “Yes, let’s build that wall”? No, they would not. Instead, they would oppose Trump for a reason that requires no math at all: because they think he is wrong.
A President need not lack a majority to earn your opposition, nor does the presence of a majority require your acquiescence. Trump won, but if you find yourself opposed to any of his policies, you should work against them no matter how the vote turns out. And you don’t have to eliminate the Electoral College to do it.
I hope no one cares enough about how I vote to be influenced by it, but I want to explain why after a lifetime of voting for Republicans for President, I have abandoned the party of Lincoln, Coolidge, and Reagan, at least in terms of my vote for President.
I’ve given my thoughts on Trump before, about how he’s a caricature of conservatism, not the genuine article, and how he appeals to the baser parts of people’s nature. Back in March, before he was the nominee, I said:
If we nominate Donald Trump, we become everything they said we were. And so, if he is nominated, for the first time, I will vote for a third party candidate for president. It’s not in my nature to boycott the polls altogether, but neither will I close my eyes and pull the GOP lever. The party has meant a lot to me, but it is a means, not an end. If fulfilling conservative principles means destroying the party that once stood for them, so be it. It is better than the alternative of accepting Trump, and seeing the party poisoned to death from within.
That’s still true. Mrs. Clinton is also unacceptable, though in a more conventionally awful way. I reviewed the campaign book that she and Tim Kaine “wrote,” if you need a longer version of my thought on their plan for a more progressive America. It’s all bad, both the means and the end, and that doesn’t even get into her corruption, let alone her abortion advocacy, which is a dealbreaker for me. As much as I admire her pro-war foreign policy, I can’t vote for Clinton in good conscience.
Of the minor-party candidates, the Green and Constitution Parties are both too extreme on their respective corners of the political spectrum. My only real choices are Gary Johnson, who is on the ballot in Pennsylvania, and Evan McMullin, who is not. Based on experience, Johnson is the easy winner, even over Clinton, with his two terms as governor of New Mexico. His running mate, Bill Weld, is if anything more qualified. In a normal year, I’d never give McMullin a second look on this basis. On policy positions, though, McMullin is more of a small-government conservative than Johnson, who at times seems caught up in the intra-party Republican fights of the ’90s than the policy disputes of today. I’m confident Johnson is up to the job, even if I have policy disagreements with his brand of libertarianism. McMullin might be more capable than the average guy who’s never held office or high military rank, but he’s still a novice, even if his ideas sound good in my ear.
Long story short: it comes down to mundane practicalities. I know my vote is a protest vote, but I want it to be for someone I could be happy with as President, even though that will never happen. Moreover, I want it to be counted along with other like-minded votes in a tally that says to the Republican Party, “these could’ve been your voters if you had nominated anyone within hailing distance of normalcy.” If McMullin were on Pennsylvania’s ballot, he would have my vote. Since he isn’t, and since I want my vote to be counted as more than one of the generic “others/write-in” at the bottom of the page, I will cast my ballot for Gary Johnson and William Weld.
I’ll vote Republican for the other offices and if Trump loses, I’ll remain with the party and help rebuild from this disaster. If he wins, well, that’s a blog post for another day.
I’ve seen this article from the New York Times going around on Facebook and Twitter. The premise, that the two major party nominees were selected by just 9% of the American population, is true. And in a year where people are shaking their heads at the deeply unpleasant candidates we’re left to choose from, it answers a common question: how did we get here?
But when you think about it, this is basically true every year. Admittedly, Trump won with a smaller percent of the Republican primary vote than previous nominees, and Clinton had a vigorous challenger as well, but even in a more settled year, that would increase the percentage of primary voters who selected the nominees only slightly. Ten, maybe eleven percent. Would that make you feel that much better?
Even if both candidates got 100% of their respective primaries’ votes, that would mean that 14% of the populace would have selected them. In practice, it would have been even fewer people, since uncontested primaries have low turnout. This year, Clinton got 16 million votes out of 30 million cast in the Democratic primaries. In 2012, President Obama had no serious primary opposition, so he got nearly 89% of the vote, but in a low-turnout election that only added up to a little over 6 million votes.
Add that to Romney’s vote total in the Republican primaries (10 million out of 19 million cast) and we get 16 million people selecting the nominees. That’s 4.9% of the American population. Even if Obama had fought a contested primary and received as many votes as Romney, that raises the total to 20 million–just over 6%. Does that make Romney’s and Obama’s nominations somehow less representative of the people’s will? Of course not.
There are many problems with the primary process, but this is not one of them. The barriers to entry are ridiculously low. In open primary states, you just have to register to vote. In closed primary states, you have to register to vote with a party. Both of these are free, and voting takes just a few minutes of one day. Caucuses take a little longer–a couple of hours, but still a minor commitment for someone who cares about the direction the country takes in the next four years.
The Times article is nicely presented and has their usual great graphics. But as an attempt to point out a legitimate problem in the electoral process, it falls short.
I wrote this piece about instant-runoff voting and the Republican primaries for The Federalist.
Last night, the Democrats’ retreat from Appalachia turned into a rout as Matt Bevin was elected governor of Kentucky. The state had elected a Democrat to the office four years ago with a large majority, and mainstream opinion this time was that Bevin (who unsuccessfully challenged Mitch McConnell from the right in a primary in 2014) had no chance. He won by 9 percentage points.
This was a real test in Republican strength, and two points show that strength to be quite real. The first we knew for months: GOP voters outnumbered Democrats in the primary for the first time ever. That’s not always dispositive, but it shows a core party strength of numbers that conveys at least some advantage.
Second, the success carried down the ballot to some of the fairly anonymous row offices. These are as good a test as any for a parties’ statewide base, since it involves choosing a candidate that you know little or nothing about for an office you might not have known even existed. All you have to go on is the person’s name and party. The Republicans took most of these, with the Democrats holding only those in which their candidates had famous names (both are the children of Democratic politicians).
Kentucky has been Republican in presidential politics for a while now, but after last night we can say that it is well and truly a red state.
Yesterday, Joe Biden announced that he would not seek the Presidency, effectively ceding the field to Hillary Clinton. I had planned to write up my thoughts on each of the contenders, but we’ve already lost two Republicans and two Democrats. What’s worse is they were some of the better candidates out there. I should write up my thoughts on Chafee before it’s too late.
Webb and Biden were my two favorite Democrats, although that’s not saying much. Webb I liked because he is, in many ways, more of a Republican than a Democrat. Biden was the best of the real Dems, to me, because he seemed likable and not corrupt, even if he’s been wrong on most of the issues other than his support for Amtrak. But let’s be honest: I would almost certainly never have voted for him.
What excited me about a Biden candidacy, beyond an indecent schadenfreude in seeing her1 discomfited, was the thought that if he were to get in, it would have to mean that he knew something was coming down for her. Something bad. Something disqualifying.
I figured that Biden jumping in, against his better judgement, would have meant that he knew Clinton would be indicted for her crimes and that the Democrats would need some suave Trans Am enthusiast to save them from Sanders and his legions of Wobblies. Now that Biden’s out, the same thought process makes me fear that he knows the fix is in, which leaves him with no shot.
There’s still a chance that President Obama’s Justice Department will indict a former member of his cabinet, but that chance is a little smaller today.
- Yes, like Shelob to the Orcs of Mordor, there is only one her on this blog. ↩