Choose the Voter Bill of Rights over Voter Suppression

votingrights3

According to State Rep Jeff Irwin, whom I just traded emails with, it looks as though the controversial Voter ID law being pushed through the Michigan House this lame duck session by Republican lawmakers, will be coming up for a vote tomorrow. Given that the House is currently divided 63 to 46, with Republicans having a 17 vote advantage, I’m not holding out much hope that the body will do the right thing, but, as I suppose there’s still a chance, I wanted to share this Detroit News op-ed by Irwin and his fellow State Reps Gretchen Driskell and Jon Hoadley, all of whom serve on the House Elections Committee. If, after reading what they have to say about why these proposed voter suppression bills [HB 6066, 6067, and 6068] are bad for Michigan, and why we should instead be enacting laws to increase participation, please call you elected officials, especially if you live in Republican districts, and demand that they vote no… Or, better yes, demand that they instead support the Voter Bill of Rights sponsored by Driskell and Hoadley, that would increase, rather than limit, participation in the democratic process… Here’s the op-ed.

As we continue to analyze this year’s unconventional election, two things have become very clear: Michiganians are concerned about the integrity of our elections, and voters want their voices to be heard in our democracy. A package of bills in the Michigan Legislature claims to be addressing those concerns.

Don’t be fooled.

The House Committee on Elections, on which we sit, held a hearing on House Bills 6066, 6067, and 6068 on the morning of Nov. 30, just hours after they were introduced and made available to the public the previous evening.

The bills would require voters who do not bring a photo ID to their polling place on Election Day to vote with a provisional ballot. Their ballot would only be counted if the voter then returned to their clerk with valid photo ID within 10 days.

This is an attack on our freedom disguised as an appeal to security.

Having to show additional identification at the polls is a duplicative requirement. The fact is that these voters have already proven their identity in the past. Requiring voters who lost, forgot, or otherwise don’t currently have an ID to prove their innocence while assuming their guilt is an insult to our rule of law.

Furthermore, forcing working mothers and fathers, disabled voters, elderly voters, sick voters, impoverished voters, and other vulnerable citizens to jump through extra hoops, while other voters do not, is discrimination, plain and simple.

If the Michigan Legislature really wanted to make our elections secure, accurate, and modern, they would have passed the Voter Bill of Rights, a joint resolution we introduced in July of this year. The resolution would give voters the opportunity to add the Voter Bill of Rights to the Michigan Constitution, ensuring that every citizen who is a Michigan resident and is of voting age has the right to:

■ Vote a secret ballot;

■ If serving in the military or living overseas, have an absentee ballot sent at least 45 days before the election to ensure he/she has adequate time to send it back;

■ Remain registered wherever he/she resides in Michigan;

■ Be automatically registered to vote while conducting other business (such as driver’s license renewal) with the Secretary of State;

■ Register to vote in person or by mail up to 15 days before the election;

■ Vote by absentee ballot in person for at least 15 days before an election;

■ Vote by absentee ballot without giving a reason.

Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia offer in-person early voting. Twenty-seven states and D.C. offer no-reason absentee voting. If we really want to ensure the integrity of our elections — to make sure they are safe, secure and accurate — we should modernize our voting systems. We shouldn’t be putting up barriers to our voting rights as the recent package of bills does.

As we discussed a few days ago, these three Republican bills being forced through the Michigan House constitute an expensive solution in search of a problem. The Republican supporters of the legislation tell us that it’s necessary in order to decrease incidents of voter impersonation. The only problem is, they can’t present evidence showing that voter impersonation really even happens in Michigan. [A comprehensive investigation in 2014 found that, out of 1 billion votes cast in the United States, there were only 31 credible incidents of voter impersonation.] And, perhaps just as importantly, they haven’t shown, at least to my knowledge, how they’d pay to enact the legislation, if it should pass. [As I understand it, if this passes, we’ll have to offer Michigan IDs for free, as well as help subsidize the acquisition of birth certificates and the documentation required to obtain an ID, as not doing so would render the legislation unconstitutional, as American citizens cannot, under the law, be forced to `expend any money in order to vote, as doing so would be considered a poll tax.] No, this is nothing more that straight-up voter suppression, the likes of which we’re seeing pushed in every Republican held statehouse across the land right now in hopes of further gutting the Voting Rights Act and driving down the liberal vote.

Here, in case you missed my last post on HB 6066, is how I summed things up before asking people to call their State Reps.

…I know it may not sound like a big deal to require that people have photo IDs in order to vote. You might be thinking, “I stood in line at the Secretary of State office, why can’t everyone else?” The truth is, however, that not everyone has the means to track down the required paperwork, or the time to invest in navigating the state bureaucracy. More importantly, though, we should be looking ways to open up access right now, and not limit it. Not only is there no credible evidence that voter fraud, like that which HB 6066 is seeking to stop, even exists, but a huge percentage of our citizens aren’t participating as it is. [Michigan, with a population of 9.91 million, has 7,481,074 registered voters, 4.9 million of whom voted in the last presidential election.] If we want to pass any election related laws right now, they should be directed toward increasing access, not limiting it.

And, one last thing… If we don’t stop this now, they’ll keep at it. You can be sure there will be even fewer polling places in communities of color, and even greater hurdles intended to keep certain people from voting. As we’ve discussed before, the Republicans cannot win otherwise. They just don’t have the numbers. So they need to find ways, through gerrymandering and voter suppression, to stay in power. And it’s our job not only to stop them, but to turn the tide in the other direction, fighting for non-partisan redistricting, early voting, and anything else that we can think of to increase democratic participation…

Now call your State Reps and demand that they vote against 6066 on Wednesday, and start lobbying on behalf of the Voter Bill of Rights instead.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Michigan, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Trump demonstrates how he’ll respond to corporate dissent, and it’s not pretty

OK, there was other stuff I wanted to talk about tonight, but, goddammit, I’ve been sucked into a Trump vortex that I can’t seem to escape from. It started innocently enough, with the reading of a single tweet, but then it just kind of snowballed out of control. Here, in hopes that it helps some of you avoid my fate, is the timeline I’ve pieced together thus far.

1. It all started with that call from Taiwan… On Friday, December 2nd, in violation of standing U.S. protocol dating back to 1979, President-elect Donald Trump took a call from Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, greatly upsetting the powers-that-be in China, who see the island as a renegade province that should not be dealt with directly by other nations. Trump, as is his custom, took to Twitter to say that his intention wasn’t to legitimize Taiwan, and undermine the “one China” policy that U.S. Presidents have respected for over 35 years. “The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today,” he tweeted to his 16.9 million followers, as though the fact that she called him somehow made the gaffe acceptable.

2. Shortly after the news broke of Trump’s call, Dennis Muilenburg, the CEO of Boeing, speaking before the annual meeting of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, referenced the phone call between Trump and Ing-wen. “The last thing Boeing, with $96 billion in annual revenues, wants is an international trade war that could raise tariffs or greatly disrupt long-standing, albeit imperfect, global agreements,” Muilenburg said. He then went on to say that, last year alone, Boeing delivered 495 737s from its factory in Renton, Washington to customers around the world, with about one-third going to China.

3. Tump, it would seem, not appreciating Muilenburg’s critique, then took to Twitter again, implying early this morning that he intended to cancel Boeing’s contract to replace our now 26 year old Air Force One fleet… Here’s the tweet.

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4. As you might expect, Boeing stock took a hit in pre-market trading this morning in response. “At the close of the market on Monday,” according to the Business Insider, “Boeing stock was at $152.16.” This morning, however, after Trump’s tweet, the stock “continued to dip in early trading, falling 0.9% to $150.90.”

5. Reinforcing his message, Trump then told reporters outside Trump Tower this morning, “It’s going to be over $4 billion for Air Force One program, and I think it’s ridiculous. I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number. We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money.

6. Boeing responded by stating that they were making every effort to keep costs under control. “We are currently under contract for $170 million to help determine the capabilities of these complex military aircraft that serve the unique requirements of the President of the United States,” the company said in a statement. “We look forward to working with the US Air Force on subsequent phases of the program allowing us to deliver the best planes for the President at the best value for the American taxpayer.

7. Politico and others then point out that this new Air Force One fleet isn’t even scheduled to be produced for another decade. “It will be the president after the next president who actually flies on this Air Force One,” said Deborah Lee James, the secretary of the Air Force.

And that, my friends, is as far as I’ve gotten in putting the pieces of the puzzle together. If you have more to add, please feel free to leave a comment.

So, just to recap, on the day when it was reported that the Pentagon tried to hide $125 billion in waste, our President-elect, instead of focusing on this very real incidence of government waste, chose instead to focus on the costs associated with replacing the Air Force One fleet, which won’t happen for another ten years, when the planes are 36 years old. Why? It would seem because the CEO of Boeing had the audacity to suggest that Trump’s call with the President of Taiwan may have been bad for American business. And, as a result of this vindictive nonsense, the company took a significant, although likely temporary, financial hit. It’s hard to know what kind of effect this exchange might have of dissent, but one suspects that CEOs in the future may thing twice before questioning the moves of our President-elect, and, if you think about it, that’s kind of terrifying.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Thank you, Kid Rock and Warner Brothers Records, for elevating the American discourse this holiday season

Not ones to miss an opportunity to cash in on the stupid, Bob Ritchie and Warner Brothers just rolled out a line of pro-Trump merchandise aimed directly at the core Kid Rock demographic. Here’s an example from their holiday store. [#HatePays]

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I know you’ve probably got a lot of other stuff to do today, but, if you have a moment, and feel like writing to Warner Brothers Records CEO Cameron Strang to ask about the dick in your mouth, here’s how:

Warner Bros. Records Inc.
3300 Warner Blvd.
Burbank,CA 91505
ph: 818-846-9090
fansupport@wbr.com

Speaking of Kid Rock, it’s not something that we’ve discussed before, but my guess, given how unpopular Trump is among musicians, is that we’ll be seeing a lot more of him between now and the inevitable impeachment. Whereas Obama had different esteemed musicians at every state function, I’m imaging that Trump will just rotate back and forth between Kid Rock and Ted Nugent, with Wayne Newton stopping by for the “really fancy” state dinners. I know it’s not really a big deal, at least in comparison with everything else coming at us, but it certainly adds insult to injury that Mr. Ritchie will be more ubiquitous now that we’ve entered the end times. But I guess it’s fitting.

[note: An earlier iteration of this post identified Warner Brothers as the entity behind Bob Ritchie and his loud, white and drunk Kid Rock character. (He’s kind of like Tony Clifton, but without the underlying subversive intelligence.) Little did I know at the time, however, that the pieces of the Warner Brothers empire had been smashed and scattered to the winds some time ago. As it turns out, Warner Brothers Records, after several sales and acquisitions, is now the property of Warner Music Group. This post has been edited accordingly.]

Posted in Marketing, Michigan, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Who are our Electors who will choose our next President, what are the rules that constrain them, and how many are likely to go rogue against Trump?

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Unless something truly remarkable happens, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on January 20, 2017. This, given the very real threat he poses to our nation, is incredibly distressing to many of us. And, with that in mind, it’s probably not surprising that quite a few very bright people have been searching for ways to keep him from taking office. Of the many ideas I’ve heard thus far, the most compelling scenarios involve the Electoral College, the group of 538 men and women whose job it is to actually elect the President of the United States, and the possibility that something unprecedented could happen when it comes time for them to cast their votes on December 19. It’s essentially a Constitutional “Hail Mary,” but, given the reality we’re facing, it’s just about the only thing we’ve got left to cling to, assuming the recounts in Wisconsin and Michigan don’t yield any surprises. So a lot of us, despite the fact that it’s extremely unlikely, are crossing our fingers and hoping for a miracle. And some are even actively trying to make it happen.

A number of individuals have stepped up to say that they would help pay the legal fees of those Electors who turn “faithless” and refuse to vote for Trump, while others have started fighting in the courts to change the laws in the 29 states where Electors are “bound”, meaning that they’re legally obligated to vote for whichever presidential candidate won the popular vote in their state. And, of course, thousands are contacting their Electors, urging them to reconsider as more evidence mounts that a Trump presidency would be disastrous for the nation. [Speaking of additional evidence, did you see today that eight members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are fighting to declassify reports on Russia’s involvement in the election? One would think that such information might be of interest to our Electors, especially given that, despite Trump’s claims to the contrary, it looks as though he apparently was in contact with representatives of Putin’s government during the campaign.]

Before we get into the specifics of the Electoral College and how things may play out, I’d like to make three things clear. First, I fully anticipate that, on December 19, the members of the Electoral College will select Donald Trump to be our 45th President. [While I suspect there will be some drama, I doubt it’ll be enough to change the course that we’re on.] Second, while I like the idea that a significant number of Republican electors might consider voting against Trump, as I think it’s pretty clear that he truly does represent a clear and present danger to our nation, the idea that 538 electors could conspire to keep the winner of the general election from taking office does not sit well with me. And, third, even if enough Electors were convinced to turn “faithless,” and vote to keep Trump from the White House, in spite of whatever vows they may have made, I’m not convinced the result would be any less horrific. [In all seriousness, if our Electors were to install anyone but Trump at this point, I think it would likely result in some form of civil war.]

With all of that said, though, I’m fascinated by the various scenarios that have been floated, and the arguments being offered both for and against this idea that each Elector, in keeping with the original intent of the United States Constitution, should feel empowered to vote for whomever they feel would make the best President, regardless of whom the voters in their state selected. [“Contentious Elector” is the MarkMaynard.com phrase of the day.]

The whole thing is just absolutely fascinating to me… If the Trump administration weren’t shaping up to the be the worst and most dangerous, by far, in U.S. history, and I could just watch all of this unfold dispassionately, without worrying about how my children, friends, and neighbors might be adversely effected by all of it, I think I’d really love all of this back and forth about the Electoral College, why it was constructed the way that it was, and how it has evolved since our nation’s founding. It’s one thing to read The Federalist Papers in college, as I did quite a few times as an American Studies student at the University of Michigan, but this is something completely different, an opportunity to see a perfect, real-world example of why our founding fathers created this system of ours the way that they did unfold. And it’s an incredible learning opportunity. I mean, really, how many people know, when they cast their votes for President, that they’re really just voting for those Electors in their state who, over a month later, will then cast their ballots for the President, let alone the possibility that some of these Electors might turn “faithless” and cast their votes for someone else? As someone who loves history and once considered a degree in Political Science, it’s kind of a dream come true. Unfortunately, though, it’s kind of difficult to appreciate it, when, at the same time, you’re worried about the Nazis across town chanting “Hail Trump” and the fact that our new President-elect might have already started moving us toward World War III. [Apparently bad things happen when someone with a great deal of power and very little experience, who lacks the patience to sit through a security briefing, insists on just talking off the cuff with world leaders. Who could have known?]

Here, before we go any further into these murky waters, is a bit of background on our American electoral system, borrowed in part from my recent post on Alexander Hamilton, the founding father most associated with the Electoral College, due to his defense of the institution in The Federalist Papers. [The so-called Federalist Papers are a collection of 85 articles submitted anonymously to New York newspapers beginning in 1787 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution.]

In Federalist Paper #68 (published March 12, 1788), Hamilton, writing under the alias Publius, says the following. “The process of (the Electoral College),” he wrote, “affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

Essentially, what he was saying here, at least as I understand it, was that, when he and his fellow founding fathers drafted the Constitution, they purposefully chose not to have our President selected by a simple majority vote. Having seen examples in history of people selecting unqualified leaders, they chose instead to create a system wherein, instead of voting directly for a specific candidate, the voters in each state would select so-called “Electors,” who would then be given the task of electing the President of the United States. And, in that way, our founding fathers, in their infinite wisdom, built in a safeguard that, in time of emergency, could be employed to save the republic from, say, a dangerous populist who threatened to bring the whole American experiment to an abrupt end.

And, as we discussed earlier, the more alarming the prospect of the Trump presidency looks, the more people seem to be rallying to this idea, as first expressed by Hamilton, that Electors should have the freedom to essentially override the will of the people. [In this case, though, it wouldn’t really be an override of the will of the people, at least if the Electors were to select Clinton instead, as her popular vote count currently exceeds Trump’s by well over 2.5 million.] Here, to give you a sense of what people are saying, is a clip from an article that ran recently in The Atlantic titled The Electoral College Was Meant to Stop Men Like Trump From Being President.

…Americans talk about democracy like it’s sacred. In public discourse, the more democratic American government is, the better. The people are supposed to rule.

But that’s not the premise that underlies America’s political system. Most of the men who founded the United States feared unfettered majority rule. James Madison wrote in Federalist 10 that systems of government based upon “pure democracy … have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property.” John Adams wrote in 1814 that, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself.”

The framers constructed a system that had democratic features. The people had a voice. They could, for instance, directly elect members of the House of Representatives. But the founders also self-consciously limited the people’s voice.

The Bill of Rights is undemocratic. It limits the federal government’s power in profound ways, ways the people often dislike. Yet the people can do almost nothing about it. The Supreme Court is undemocratic, too. Yes, the people elect the president (kind of, more on that later), who appoints justices of the Supreme Court, subject to approval by the Senate, which these days is directly elected, too. But after that, the justices wield their extraordinary power for as long as they wish without any democratic accountability. The vast majority of Americans may desperately want their government to do something. The Supreme Court can say no. The people then lose, unless they pass a constitutional amendment, which is extraordinarily difficult, or those Supreme Court justices die.

That’s the way the framers wanted it. And, oddly, it’s the way most contemporary Americans want it too. Americans say they revere democracy. Yet they also revere those rights—freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms—that the government’s least democratic institutions protect. Americans rarely contemplate these contradictions. If they did, they might be more open to preventing Donald Trump from becoming the next president, the kind of democratic catastrophe that the Constitution, and the Electoral College in particular, were in part designed to prevent.

Donald Trump was not elected on November 8. Under the Constitution, the real election will occur on December 19. That’s when the electors in each state cast their votes.

The Constitution says nothing about the people as a whole electing the president. It says in Article II that “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors.” Those electors then vote for president and vice-president. They can be selected “in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct.” Which is to say, any way the state legislature wants. In 14 states in the early 19th century, state legislatures chose their electors directly. The people did not vote at all.

This ambiguity about how to choose the electors was the result of a compromise. James Madison and some other framers favored some manner of popular vote for president. Others passionately opposed it. Some of the framers wanted Congress to choose the president. Many white southerners supported the Electoral College because it counted their non-voting slaves as three-fifths of a person, and thus gave the South more influence than it would have enjoyed in a national vote. The founders compromised by leaving it up to state legislatures. State legislatures could hand over the selection of electors to the people as a whole. In that case, the people would have a voice in choosing their president. But—and here’s the crucial point—the people’s voice would still not be absolute. No matter how they were selected, the electors would retain the independence to make their own choice…

And others, under Hamilton’s name, are pushing for our 2016 Electors to essentially break the promises they’ve made to cast their votes on behalf of Trump, and cast them for either Clinton, Sanders, or an as-yet-to-be-named Republican instead. [As I understand it, we’ve had 157 “Faithless Electors” in U.S. history, so it’s not unprecedented, but the scale being discussed here, in the movement to get committed electors to vote against Trump, is significantly larger than anything we’ve seen discussed in this country before.]

And, for what it’s worth, they wouldn’t need to flip a majority of electors to keep Trump from the White House. They’d only have to flip 37.

Clinton left the general election with 232 electoral votes. Trump left with 306. And, according to the Constitution, the winner needs 270 votes from the Electoral College in order to win the presidency. So, if 37 Republican electors cast their votes for another candidate, or abstained altogether, that would bring his vote count to 269, which would trigger the involvement of the U.S. House of Representatives, which would then select our next President. If this were to happen, they could, of course, still pick Trump, although I think it’s likely that Republicans in the House would at least consider Paul Ryan for the job. There is, however, another scenario, in which the Electors don’t just deny Trump and hand it over to the House, but actually muster the 270 votes they’d need to put someone other than Trump into office. And some are suggesting that a moderate Republican might have a shot, not only of pulling the votes of quite a few Electors currently pledged to Trump, but also some of the Clinton Electors, who would rather have anyone but Trump in the White House.

So, with all of this in mind, a group calling itself the Hamilton Electors is attempting to facilitate an electoral coup against Trump, in hopes that a person less likely to bring the United States crashing down in an non-ending series of scandals and foreign policy disasters might be drafted to serve as our Commander In Chief.

The following overview, which is from the Hamilton Electors site, sums this initiative up quite well.

#HamiltonElectors are patriots participating in the electoral process who believe that Presidential Electors are responsible for safeguarding our nation’s future and ensuring that the next President is the best person for the job. As Electors, we honor Alexander Hamilton’s vision that the Electoral College should act as a Constitutional failsafe against those lacking requisite qualifications, ability, and virtue from becoming President. Guided by the Framers’ original intent, we’re compelled this year to do our job as Electors, to put party aside, and to put America first. So we are encouraging Electors from both red and blue states to answer the Founding Fathers’ call, deliberate, and unite behind an alternative Republican Candidate: the Hamilton Candidate. Americans of all political persuasions are invited to join us and show their support online by spreading the word online, in their communities, and at their statehouse on December 19 when the Electoral College officially meets.

As of this morning, seven blue state Electors had indicated a willingness to go “faithless”, and support a less objectionable Republican, if one can be found, in order to keep Trump from taking office. The seventh Elector of this group to declare the intention to turn “faithless” was a 19 year old from Vancouver, Washington by the name Levi Guerra. “I stand behind Hamilton Electors,” Guerra said a few days ago in a statement to the Guardian. “I promised those who elected me that I would do everything I could to keep Donald Trump out of office.” [All of these so-called Hamilton Electors, at least so far, appear to be from Washington State and Colorado, relatively close to Michael Baca, one of the main Colorado-based leaders of the group.]

As of today, though, it’s not just people from blue states who are coming forward to declare their intention to help keep Trump from the White House. In an op-ed that was just published by the New York Times, Texas Elector Christopher Suprun, a firefighter who was one of the first responders to the Pentagon on 9/11, announced that he would be voting against Trump out of a sense of “constitutional duty”. Suprun’s letter concludes with the following. “The election of the next president is not yet a done deal,” he says. “Electors of conscience can still do the right thing for the good of the country. Presidential electors have the legal right and a constitutional duty to vote their conscience. I believe electors should unify behind a Republican alternative, an honorable and qualified man or woman such as Gov. John Kasich of Ohio. I pray my fellow electors will do their job and join with me in discovering who that person should be… Fifteen years ago, I swore an oath to defend my country and Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. On Dec. 19, I will do it again.”

The question is, will others follow Suprun’s lead, or, like the other Republican Electors to come out against Trump up till now, will they just step aside, and allow another Elector to take their places. To my knowledge, two Republican Electors have done that thus far. This past August, Georgia elector Baoky Vu indicated that he would not vote for Trump should he win the election, saying that his “antics and asinine behavior” have proven that he “lacks the judgment, temperament and gravitas to lead this nation.” Vu, who has since stepped aside, has also said that Trump is guilty of “despicable demagoguery.” And, just last week, a Texas Elector by the name of Art Sisneros posted the following to the web. “If Trump is not qualified and my role, both morally and historically, as an elected official is to vote my conscience, then I can not and will not vote for Donald Trump for President,” he said. He then went on to add, I believe voting for Trump would bring dishonor to God.” Personally, I don’t see how just walking away makes you any less culpable, but one would hope that others, who truly believe that Trump is a dangerous choice for America, might have the strength of character, like Suprun, to actually stand up and vote against him, rather than just step aside so that someone else can cast a vote for him.

[I’m hesitant to mention it here, as I know it’s very likely bullshit, but here it is… Every time I’ve searched for anything related to “faithless Electors” in Google tonight, I’ve been pointed toward a recent story by the fake news mega-site InfoWars about how they know of 15 Republican Electors planning to collude with Democrats in order to keep Trump from office. If I had to guess, I’d say they’re just putting this out there in order to keep the conservative pressure on the Electors, but I felt compelled to mention that this is something being discussed in the post-fact blogosphere of the far right.]

So, what are the chances that a Michigan Elector might turn “faithless”?

Well, first off, it’s worth noting that Michigan is one of 29 states that, along with the District of Columbia, “binds” its Electors, which essentially means that, under state law, our Electors have to vote for the candidate they’ve pledged to vote for. [The relevant Michigan law, for those of you who might be interested, is MCL §168.47.] And, that’s not all. Whereas these 29 states and D.C. have laws that compel Electors to vote for the candidates selected by the people of their state, Michigan, Utah and Minnesota go one step further, demanding under state law that, if an Elector should not cast their ballot for the candidate they’ve pledged to support, said Elector is to be immediately removed and replaced by someone willing to essentially rubber-stamp the popular vote. [It’s not exactly what Hamilton envisioned, but, since the the Ray v. Blair decision of 1952, we’ve been moving in this direction as a nation, with states passing laws to ensure that their Electors not turn “faithless.”] Here with more on the situation we find ourselves in, is a brief overview from Bustle.

…Many states have laws requiring that their electors vote for the candidates elected by the people of the state, threatening faithless electors with fines or prosecution. However, those “faithless” votes still count.

Well, actually, the situation is a bit more complicated in Michigan, Minnesota, and Utah. Those three states have passed laws that consider faithless electors to have resigned. These laws would void “faithless” votes and replace them with the votes of “faithful” electors.

However, these laws have never been enforced, which leaves them vulnerable to being questioned in court. The Supreme Court ruled in 1952’s Ray v. Blair that requiring electors to pledge to vote a certain way is legal, but that ruling also indicated that it would be unconstitutional to actually require them to vote a certain way…

So, while, according to the National Archive and Records Administration, “there is no Constitutional provision or Federal law that requires Electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their states,” the Supreme Court has allowed states and political parties to pass legislation intended to decrease incidents of faithlessness. The thing is, to my knowledge, no one in recent history has challenged the law in Michigan, so it’s unclear as to what would happen if a Michigan Elector chose to support a candidate other than Trump on December 19. I mean, according to the state of Michigan, the following would happen, but, as no one has ever challenged it in court, it’s hard to tell how it would play out in reality… The following, about Michigan’s rule concerning “faithless” Electors, is from the National Association of Secretaries of State.

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Here, in case you can’t read the print above, is the most pertinent part: “At any time before receipt of the certificate of the governor or within 48 hours thereafter, an elector may resign by submitting his written and verified resignation to the governor. Failure to so resign signifies consent to serve and to cast his vote for the candidates for president and vice-president appearing on the Michigan ballot of the political party which nominated him. Refusal or failure to vote for the candidates for president and vice-president appearing on the Michigan ballot of the political party which nominated the elector constitutes a resignation from the office of elector, his vote shall not be recorded and the remaining electors shall forthwith fill the vacancy. The ballot used by the elector shall bear the name of the elector. If at the time of convening there is any vacancy caused by death, resignation, refusal or failure to vote, neglect to attend, or ineligibility of any person elected, or for any other cause, the qualified electors of president and vice-president shall proceed to fill such vacancy by ballot, by a plurality of votes. When all the electors appear and the vacancy shall be filled, they shall proceed to perform the duties of such electors, as required by the constitution and laws of the United States.”

Oh, and it’s also worth noting that no Elector has ever been prosecuted for failing to vote as pledged.

Like I said at the outset of this post, I doubt it’ll be that close, but can you imagine a situation where it came down to the vote of a single Elector in a state like Michigan who decided to go rogue, was replaced, and then filed a case demanding that his/her vote be counted? And, can you further imagine that, in such an instance, the case would go to the Supreme Court, where, thanks to Republican obstruction, we currently have only 8 Justices? And could you imagine if they deadlocked along party lines? Where would we, as a nation, be then?

At any rate, if someone in Michigan wants to test the legality of our state electoral system this election cycle, it would be one of the following 16 people – our Michigan Electors – all of whom have pledged to vote for Donald Trump on December 19… As you’ll see, I’ve added a few add brief notes, but please feel free to leave a comment if you should have any other relevant information that you’d like to share… Oh, and unless otherwise noted, just assume they’re white men.

John Haggard: Told Buzzzfeed that he’s received 6,000 emails urging him not to, but that he plans on voting for Trump.

Jack Holmes: Retired Hope College Political Science professor who says, as Michigan is one of 29 states where Electors are “bound,” he has no choice but to vote for Trump. But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want to vote for Trump. In fact, he says he’s “enthusiastic” about voting for him.

Kelly Mitchell: African-American employee of the Michigan GOP, where she holds the position of Outreach Vice Chair. She also serves on the RNC Michigan Black Advisory Council.

Judy Rapanos: I’m sure she’s done things in her own right, but, from what I’m seeing, she’s most known for being the widow of Midland developer and entrepreneur John Rapanos.

Henry Hatter: Black Republican, and Clio Board of Education member.

Robert Weitt: From St. Joseph.

Wyckham Seelig: Judging from his Twitter feed Seelig doesn’t care much for either Obama or Clinton. The Ann Arbor man also told WZZM, the ABC TV affiliate in Grand Rapids, that he’d received over 13,000 emails asking him to be a “faithless” Elector, which he said he couldn’t do even if he wanted to. “In Michigan there is a law that says if an elector tries to vote for someone other than the candidate to whom he is pledged that Elector will immediately be replaced and someone who will vote the way the people voted will cast the ballot,” he said. He was elected by the Trump caucus in the 7th Congressional District.

Ross Ensign: A 73-year-old retiree in Northern Oakland County who spent 38 years working for KMART as store manager among other positions. “This is the pinnacle of what I will be able to do in politics,” Ensign told The Oakland Press. “This is much more exciting than I would have thought. It was something that I was not out seeking. I was being asked to do it but didn’t expect it to actually be voted into the position. I try to step up to the plate whenever asked and it’s new ground for me. I like learning new things and about how things operate.”

Michael Banerian: Current youth chairman of the Michigan Republican Party and 22-year-old college student at Oakland University, who would one day like to run for office. “This next generation,” he told the Oakland Press, “is not just casting a vote for Trump but showing they have faith in the system.”

Brian Fairbrother: Shelby Township Deputy Clerk, currently working on his Master of Science in Supply Chain Management at Michigan State University.

Ken Crider: Ran for Livonia City Council and State Rep.

Mary Vaughn: Secretary of the Taylor Republican Club.

Jim Rhoades: Motorcycle lobbyist who says he’s supporting Trump, in spite of the fact that he sometimes acts “like a 12 year old boy,” because he’s the kind of guy who “makes shit happen.”

William Rauwerdink: Served time in federal prison for conspiracy and false statements.

Hank Fuhs: Vietnam vet and Secretary of the Michigan Republican State Committee.

Joseph Guzman: Michigan State professor who serves on Trump’s National Hispanic Advisory Council

Will one of them attempt to cast a ballot for someone other than Trump? I suppose it’s possible, but, given their backgrounds, and the legal hurdles, I suspect it’s doubtful. But, looking over the list, I think it’s conceivable that a few may at least consider the possibility of pushing back. At any rate, I think it’s interesting to know who will be traveling to Lansing on December 19 to officially make Donald Trump our President. It’s these 16 people, all of whom, if they cast their ballots for Trump, will do so knowing full well the kind of man that he is, and the risk he poses to our nation. So, if you know any of them, be prepared to cross them off your Christmas card list this year. [And, yes, they’ll be going to Lansing to vote. Probably like many of you, I thought that the members of the Electoral College assembled in D.C. to vote. That’s not the case, though. Our Electors, by design, stay in their home states, as our founding fathers feared that, otherwise, they could hatch nefarious plans, or fall victim to the influence of others.]

So, where does all of this leave us? I’m not sure. Like I said, it’s doubtful that our Electors will swing things one way or the other this election cycle, unless something truly horrific were to happen between now and December 16. [Whoever has those hot mic tapes from the set of the Apprentice might want to release them now.] With that said, though, I’m glad that we’re having this conversation right now, and thinking about the future of our electoral system. Hopefully it yields something good in the future… like non-partisan redistricting, automatic recounts in tight races, increased access, and any number of other things that would improve participation and make our democracy stronger. As for the future of the Electoral College, I’m undecided. It doesn’t seem to make sense to continue the practice if it’s just a rubber stamp for the general election. At the same time, though, I’m not sure that I’m altogether comfortable with the idea that our President can be selected by 538 Electors, fully empowered to disregard the votes of those people whom they represent. And, for that matter, I’m also not sure that I like the idea of a simple “majority wins” elector system, like many on the left have been pushing for since this election. While it would give Democratic candidates an edge in national races, it just doesn’t strike me as fair, given how much smaller a voice less populated states would have under a “majority wins” system. At the same time, however, it also doesn’t strike me as fair that, as of right now, under our current system, the votes of people in those small states are worth on the order of three times more than our votes here in Michigan. Regardless of what happens on December 19, here’s hoping that all of these are conversations that continue. To be honest, though, I don’t see how we can move forward with the leaders we have now, who seem more motivated by self-interest and party politics than the overall health of the nation. Hopefully that changes, though. If not, I suspect we’ll be going back to the founding fathers more and more often, as their voices are really the only unbiased ones that we have to listen to.

Posted in Michigan, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

How to survive in a world without facts

gasmask2

The utter disregard for truth that we’re seeing with Trump isn’t something that’s completely new… I just went through the archive here and found a number of instances over the past decade or so, where we’ve lamented the fact that truth was becoming a thing of the past. Back in 2008, I apparently even posted something here titled, “Does the truth matter in presidential politics?” Sure, Trump kind of took things to a whole level when he decided to become a national spokesperson for the so-called “birther” movement, suggesting that our President wasn’t even an American, but, really, it’s been with us for quite a while now. From the “swift boating” of John Kerry to the repeated lies concerning Benghazi, we’ve been sliding down this slippery slope for a long, long time.

I mean, lying has been with us from the beginning, but, at least to me, it seems as though we’ve come to a point now where we’re dealing with something now altogether, a completely different animal. In the past, at least as far as I remember, the truth generally won out. Now, though, lies, or at least a significant strain within the broader non-truth ecosystem, have morphed into something much more malignant. Much like antibiotic-resistant “super bugs,” they’ve evolved to the point where we can not longer defeat them. We try to wipe them out with facts, but they’re impervious to it. And the inconsistency of it all is just maddening. One day, we hear audio of Hillary Clinton talking bout being pinned down by sniper fire over video of a scene that doesn’t seem to jive with her story, and we collectively agree to she’s not to be trusted. [See the “lying Hillary” meme.] On another day, though, Trump will say something like “Millions of illegal votes were cast for Clinton,” and it just somehow worms its way into our collective unconscious, to a part of the brain that’s apparently unreachable by logic. Facts, at least for a significant percentage of Americans, simply don’t seem to matter when it comes to a certain kind of lie.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a great example. This is footage, broadcast yesterday, of CNN’s Alisyn Camerota talking with a group of Trump supporters about the perceived problem of voter impersonation.

“Obama told [illegals] they could vote,” one of them tells Camerota. “You can find it on Facebook.” And, when it’s explained to the woman that the footage she’d seen was deceptively edited, and that President Obama never instructed illegal aliens to vote, it doesn’t even seem to register. Instead, the subject turns to California, where, according to those being interviewed, illegal aliens are allowed to vote. Cameron, to her credit, steps in to inform the men and women seated in front of her that this simply isn’t true, but, once again, it doesn’t seem to phase them. They just keep right on going… And, sadly, given the interactions I’ve had with Trump supporters, I don’t think these people are unusual in how tightly they cling to false information, as long, of course, as it reinforces their worldview.

As for that worldview, I hate to generalize, but I suspect, for a large majority of those who support Trump, it can be summed up pretty easily – 1. They see themselves as good, hardworking Americans who are deserving of more than they currently have. 2. They feel that, at least in part, the reason they don’t feel more prosperous and secure is because the liberal elite in Hollywood and Washington, who value diversity more than they do traditional American values, have handed the country over to people who don’t look like them and their neighbors. 3. They’re tired of being told that they should feel ashamed for having the politically incorrect feelings that they’re having… And if you’re lies should happen to line up with that worldview, I think you’ll probably find a receptive audience. And, certainly, a story about Obama, who we all know is probably a Kenyan that was brought up hating America, encouraging “illegals” to cross the border and vote for Clinton, so that she can transfer even more wealth to poor, inner city people of color, has it all. So, really, is it all that surprising that Trump’s most recent lie about voter fraud is as impervious to truth as it is?

And it certainly doesn’t help that more people are getting their “news” from Breitbart and social media than from traditional journalists who ostensibly still value the truth.

Yesterday, on her NPR show, Diane Rehm had Margaret Sullivan of the Washington Post, Glenn Thrush of Politico, and James Fallows of The Atlantic with her to discuss the future of journalism in a post-fact world. The conversation, which centered largely around Trump, who has the ability to spread lies at will to a receptive audience of 16.4 million by way of Twitter, was, as you might imagine, terribly depressing. Rehm’s guests, I think it’s fair to say, were flummoxed by Trump. Responding to his lies with truth, I believe they all agreed, just wasn’t working. And, while they had a few ideas as to how we might want to proceed in light of our current situation, my sense was that, when it came right down to it, they had no fucking idea.

At some point during their discussion, Rehm conferenced in Trump stalwart Scottie Nell Hughes, who immediately began spouting bullshit, and then defended her position by claiming the she too was a “classically studied journalist,” a claim that made her fellow geusts gasp. Hughes, after pushing back against the notion that the truth is somehow the property of the liberal elite, dropped the following piece on knowledge on her fellow guests…

“There’s no such thing anymore, unfortunately, as facts,” she said.

And, for what it’s worth, this is life and death. Here’s a perfect illustration. The following comes from an article in Slate today titled, “The House (Anti-)Science Committee Strikes Again.”

The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is, ironically but shocking to no one who understands the majority party, quite anti-science. For years now, the committee and its chairman, Lamar Smith, R-Texas, have been merciless in their attacks on both climate scientists and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Smith—who receives a large amount of funding from fossil fuel interests—has been subpoenaing NOAA staff and data repeatedly in what is a transparent attempt both to create a chilling effect and to directly prevent them from doing their very important research into human-generated global warming.

The committee’s Twitter account often reflects this ideology. And Thursday afternoon, to the dismay of many, they tweeted a climate-denying “news” story from Breitbart.

And here’s their post.

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-3-28-33-pm

Which brings me to to the point of today’s post. How, I’m wondering, do we as a culture, make our way back to sanity? And, here, with that in mind, is a short list of things that I’m thinking might help push us back in the direction of truth. And please feel free to add your own. I’d like for this to be a conversation.

1. I’m going to start paying for journalism. I’ve put it off long enough, and, this Christmas, I intend to purchase online subscriptions to the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Detroit Free Press, as well as a magazine or two… Real journalism has never been more critical, and I figure that I should start contributing in some way. And, as a subscriber, I intend to use my voice, complaining when, for instance, these entities refer to white supremacists as the “alt-right”, or insist on giving equal time to anti-science global climate change deniers. [And, yes, I know that these three papers aren’t without fault… I too remember Judith Miller… But I think they’re the best bet we have going forward.]

2. I think we need to go after those who advertise on sites that refuse to conform to journalistic standards, like Breitbart News. I was heartened to see that Kellogg had pulled their advertising from the faux-news site yesterday, and I intend to reward them for that with a cereal purchase and a letter of thanks this weekend. I will also, however, be writing to those companies who still advertise on Breitbart, asking that they follow the lead of Kellogg… And here, to give you an idea of just how seriously the folks at Breitbart are taking Kellogg’s advertising boycott, is a statement by Breitbart editor-in-chief Alexander Marlow.

“Breitbart News is the largest platform for pro-family content anywhere on the Internet. We are fearless advocates for traditional American values, perhaps most important among them is freedom of speech, or our motto ‘more voices, not less.’ For Kellogg’s, an American brand, to blacklist Breitbart News in order to placate left-wing totalitarians is a disgraceful act of cowardice. They insult our incredibly diverse staff and spit in the face of our 45,000,000 highly engaged, highly perceptive, highly loyal readers, many of whom are Kellogg’s customers. Boycotting Breitbart News for presenting mainstream American ideas is an act of discrimination and intense prejudice. If you serve Kellogg’s products to your family, you are serving up bigotry at your breakfast table.”

And this, my friends, is where the wars of capitalist America will be fought. These people don’t care about online petitions. They don’t care about protests in the streets. They care about their profits. And we need to continue directing our energy there.

3. No matter how tiring it becomes, I’m going to try my best to keep engaged with people who don’t share my appreciation for objective truth. [Here, if you’re interested, is an example from earlier today.]

4. I’m going to demand more from our existing news sources… Reading up on Scottie Nell Hughes after hearing her on the radio this morning, I discovered that she’s a paid CNN contributor. While I understand that they want people on staff who can provide a window into the mind of Donald Trump, I feel as though there’s a line that should not be crossed, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to demand that our news networks hire only people who are able to acknowledge the existence of true, objective facts.

5. I’m going to do more on the local press front… All I can say at this point is that I have ideas. I do think, however, that we can’t lose sight of the fact that a lot of this starts at home, at the local level. We need to teach media literacy to kids, and we need to encourage and support local initiatives that prioritize good, solid investigative journalism over click-bait headlines.

6. I will encourage social media companies to be more responsible. Facebook, as I understand it, has started cracking down on fake news, but others need to step up as well. While I don’t think it should necessarily be the job of Twitter to factcheck every tweet that goes out on their platform, they need to accept some responsibility for what we’ve seen happening in America, and respond accordingly. As for what that might look like, I’m not sure. Some are suggesting that they remove Trump’s account until such time that he stops using it to amplify his deliberate and destructive lies. I’m sure, however, there are other things that could be done short of this, like prioritizing responses from trusted fact checkers, etc. Whatever we do, we have to shift the culture back in the direction of sanity, and we need out social media companies onboard to make that happen.

7. I will finally get around to reading Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, paying special attention to how people in the past have successfully responded to the lies of totalitarians. Who knows, I may even bring back the old Ypsi-Arbor Progressive Book Club, so that I don’t have to read it alone.

8. I will try not to become discouraged. I will stay busy. I will not wallow in despair. I will force myself to remain optimistic, and keep believing that, in time, science and truth will win out.

There’s more, but I can no longer keep my eyes open… Please keep the list going. I’m just going to rest my eyes for a while.

Posted in Corporate Crime, History, Ideas, Mark's Life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 95 Comments

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