There. Fixed it.

by John Holbo on November 8, 2018

“All that talk about winning x percent of the “national House vote” or the “national Senate vote” — neither of which, you know, exists — is a backhanded way of getting at the fact that they do not like how our governments are organized” (Link.)

All this talk about how neither the national House vote or the national Senate vote – both of which, you know, exist – exist, is a backhanded way of getting at the fact that they do not know why how our governments are organized should be liked.

(On the other hand, if Kevin D. Williamson really denies you can add 50 numbers – well, we’d all love to see the plans.)

In comments, you can make fun of Williamson. Or you could discuss the election.

{ 68 comments }

1

J-D 11.08.18 at 9:26 am

The right-wing media caucus is a new kind of political constituency, one that now has a great deal more power than the Chamber of Commerce or other more traditional Republican interest groups. Conservative talk radio is an endless soap opera with only one story line — “Betrayal!” — which inevitably influences Republican political strategy. … The narrative structure of talk-radio politics precludes compromise and coalition-building, being as it is oriented toward the takfiri model of discourse. That works, until it doesn’t.

Those are the words of somebody for whom the concept that there is any way this kind of development can be evaluated except by whether it works has lost its meaning; and yet, at the same time he utters evaluative statements as if he thought them meaningful.

2

Ray Vinmad 11.08.18 at 9:43 am

I’m not sure I understand the ‘why how’ part of your fix.

I also cannot understand why Williamson layers nonsense together like potatoes in an au gratin casserole. But I can speculate. My best guess would be he’s run out of things to say but is still required to put something down in order to draw his pay.

The title tells you everything you need to know about what it’s like to be the last one left to shut out the lights in the wry ironist branch of the right wing. Even the lies are half-hearted. They can’t evade the meaninglessness of their present but the past will always call to them.

3

Gareth Wilson 11.08.18 at 10:21 am

I don’t know about liking it, exactly. But the last time the organisation of those governments was changed, 80,000 people died. That might make you hesitate to change it again.

4

nastywoman 11.08.18 at 11:29 am

@Kevin D. Williamson
”If you want a good whiff of what it is the Democrats currently are smoking, come visit Portland”.

Good advice! –
with the small correction that smoking – for example very good ”CannaSutra OG” – knows no ”political preference” and might be enjoyed by ”Republicans” alike and about spending ”part of last night following around a troop of so-called anarchists who were marching through the streets chanting the usual obscenities (the formal demand last night was the abolition of ICE, but “F*** Trump!”) – how confusing? – as since when are so-called ”anarchists” are ”Democrats”?

Even the words are different – as the one word starts with an ”a” – and the other one with a yuuuuge ”D”? –
and by the way we aren’t neither -(not ”anarchists” nor ”Democrats”) –
We are just some very cool and relaxed Californian Surfers and even we –
(like lots and lots of other ”Californians” who aren’t even surfers) – LOVE!!
– absolutely love to chant:

“F*** Trump!”

Too!

5

Salem 11.08.18 at 12:25 pm

The national Senate vote definitely doesn’t exist, at least not for a single year. There simply aren’t 50 numbers to add up.

they do not know why how our governments are organized should be liked.

This is a hard sentence to parse. “They do not know why one should like the way our governments are organized.” Still unclear. “The way American governments are currently organized is good, but they like it for the wrong reasons.” Clear, but do you really mean that?

By contrast, I think the Williamson quote is straightforwardly correct. Indeed many Democrats do not like the way American governments are organized, be that the malapportionment of the Senate, the first-past-the-post nature of the House, the electoral college, the structural limits on the federal government, and so on. Indeed many Democrats talk about things like national voter totals precisely because they believe that (say) the discrepancy between the national vote for the HoR and its composition provides a reason to change the system of organization. What could be more obvious?

6

oldster 11.08.18 at 12:38 pm

all that talk about “it’s a republic not a democracy! har har” is a backhanded way of getting at the fact that they do not respect popular sovereignty or the consent of the governed.

Esp. the consent of the governed.

In National Review land there are the governors, who are rich white males. And there are the governed, who are the poor, the women, the wrongly colored. And their lack of consent is immaterial, or something that you ignore by clapping your hand over their mouth and turning up the stereo.

7

steven t johnson 11.08.18 at 1:12 pm

Made the mistake of following the link…the notion that democratic freedom means the majority cannot change the social arrangements because (property) rights is shared by many here with this guy. And the notion that states’ rights are human freedom has been essential to politics in the US since Thomas Jefferson and the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions, and certainly most here favor Thomas Jefferson. A Republican constitutionalism that sees the 14th amendment as one of the inoperative parts no doubt has a future, especially since we have since been taught the 13th amendment instituted slavery.

More generally, the notion this was not a referendum on Trump has a grain of truth. The genius of the constitutional system is that practically no elections are about policy. If the remorseless grind of history produces an election that clearly is, the repudiation of the will of the majority by the constitution produces an immediate crisis.

8

Lee A. Arnold 11.08.18 at 1:50 pm

Williamson defends the constitutional structure of the United States, which, as he writes and everyone should know, is “a union of states, which have interests, powers, and characters of their own”. But he decries Portland’s protesters and Portland’s handling of them, although the election-night protest was planned (presumably meaning City Hall was given a heads-up by the planners of the demonstration so that police officers could be assigned, in advance, to be on location — which is the PROPER way to do a demonstration, people!) and he decries the Portland police for not arresting the flouters of traffic laws (which, everyone should also know, police in every jurisdiction are instructed to handle gingerly at planned demonstrations: it’s part of the protest game). However, in the very same column, Williamson lauds the “admirable” Ted Cruz — without mentioning Cruz’ role in Bush’s Florida 2000 recount strategy, for which, among other successful abrogations of states’ rights in the Constitution, they flew in a band of political operatives to take the law into their own hands and interrupt a recount of votes in Miami-Dade in the so-called “Brooks Brothers riot” which turned violent (look it up and see the videos) and at which, according to the NY Times, “several people were trampled, punched or kicked when protesters tried to rush the doors outside the office of the Miami-Dade supervisor of elections. Sheriff’s deputies restored order.” Now, Ted Cruz may or may not have been involved in the riot itself, but then, Williamson is not one to make distinctions which don’t serve his own narrative, either.

9

Chris Grant 11.08.18 at 3:35 pm

The 2nd paragraph doesn’t parse.

10

Jerry Vinokurov 11.08.18 at 3:35 pm

All that talk about winning x percent of the “national House vote” or the “national Senate vote” — neither of which, you know, exists — is a backhanded way of getting at the fact that they do not like how our governments are organized

For his next trick, KDubs will demonstrate the blueness of the sky and the wetness of water, neither of which, you know, exist.

11

politicalfootball 11.08.18 at 3:48 pm

Bret Stephens shares similar wisdom today, noting that while the Democrats got a lot more votes than the Republicans, they would have gotten more seats had they received still more votes. Deep!

US voters struck an important blow for the rule of law. God bless ’em. With Mueller’s probe in jeopardy, the new House will at least provide a mechanism for getting the truth to the public, even if there will be no mechanism to act on that truth until the next election, and even if that next election, like this one, will be decided in a crippled democracy.

12

Hey Skipper 11.08.18 at 4:24 pm

Dowdification lives!

From the post:

All this talk about how neither the national House vote or the national Senate vote – both of which, you know, exist – exist, is a backhanded way of getting at the fact that they do not know why how our governments are organized should be liked.

What Williamson actually wrote:

The United States is, as the name suggests, a union of states, which have interests, powers, and characters of their own. They are not administrative subdivisions of the federal government. All that talk about winning x percent of the “national House vote” or the “national Senate vote” — neither of which, you know, exists — is a backhanded way of getting at the fact that they do not like how our governments are organized, and that they would prefer a more unitary national government under which the states are so subordinated as to be effectively inconsequential.

Can we make fun of you?

13

Murc 11.08.18 at 4:38 pm

“All that talk about winning x percent of the “national House vote” or the “national Senate vote” — neither of which, you know, exists — is a backhanded way of getting at the fact that they do not like how our governments are organized”

Mr. Williamson is, of course, wrong.

This is a direct, frontal, forehanded way of getting at the fact that we do not like how our governments are organized.

14

JFA 11.08.18 at 5:14 pm

I did see someone (presumably lefty) tweet about how skewed the “national Senate vote” was and blamed it on gerrymandering by Republicans. This is where it can be confusing to talk about state-held elections as national votes. Not even the president is voted for at a national level. That’s why the popular-vote loser can be president. So Williamson is actually making a valid point. Discussing these as “national votes” is a way of expressing dissatisfaction about how the government is organized. That’s why there was so much sturm and drang about the electoral college after Trump’s election.

15

otpup 11.08.18 at 6:05 pm

Haven’t “they” considered blind subservience to tradition as a reason why for liking the organization of the government?

16

Orange Watch 11.08.18 at 6:11 pm

The last line of your second paragraph makes my head hurt. If that was the intent, mission accomplished.

17

anonymousse 11.08.18 at 6:51 pm

“All this talk about how neither the national House vote or the national Senate vote – both of which, you know, exist – exist, is a backhanded way of getting at the fact that they do not know why how our governments are organized should be liked.”

Is this supposed to be English?

anon

18

Lord 11.08.18 at 6:57 pm

The minority wins but its grasp is always tenuous being the minority so it is always fearful and insecure, yet unwilling to become the majority least it lose its fear and insecurity.

19

Cervantes 11.08.18 at 7:10 pm

I do not like how our governments are organized. Which is exactly the point. There’s nothing backhanded about it.

20

John Holbo 11.08.18 at 10:07 pm

Sorry for late comment turn-on, and sorry people didn’t like reading my tangled – but improved, for accuracy! – sentence.

Hey Skipper: “Can we make fun of you?”

You’ve been trying for a couple years. But maybe this time is the one. What’s going to be your angle? (I don’t think the angle you hint at in your comment is going to work, but, you be you.)

I’ll give you a hint: “They are not administrative subdivisions of the federal government.” I think you are thinking that’s the bit that’s going to do it for you. But from this it does not follow that Williamson’s non-existence claim is non-ridiculous.

21

John Holbo 11.08.18 at 10:08 pm

I do hope people know I wrote a humorously tangled sentence on purpose.

22

John Holbo 11.08.18 at 10:15 pm

“I did see someone (presumably lefty) tweet about how skewed the “national Senate vote” was and blamed it on gerrymandering by Republicans.”

OK, if Williamson wants to make fun of people screaming about gerrymandering the Senate, he can laugh at them. Fair is fair. Although, to be fair, the existence of two Dakotas is pretty much a gerrymander. But we’ll let that one slide as unfixable by now. (I remember reading some history of the Bourbons and there was some dual metaphysics “King of the Two Sicilies” or something. We could do with one – and only one – Dakota.)

23

PatinIowa 11.08.18 at 10:28 pm

“[G]errymandered by Republicans,” is pretty stupid.

I prefer, “…designed by racist slaveowners to protect their interests,” myself.

24

Christopher 11.08.18 at 11:09 pm

“All that talk about winning x percent of the “national House vote” or the “national Senate vote” — neither of which, you know, exists

(On the other hand, if Kevin D. Williamson really denies you can add 50 numbers – well, we’d all love to see the plans.)

I would say you are both right (yes, I am doing the squishy centrist thing). Yes, obviously you can sum the results of each separate election in each district. But that is irrelevant to the final result. The US House is elected in 438 separate races, just like the Canadian House is elected in 338 separate races and the British House is elected in 650 separate races. The disconnect is with highly centralized parties and national campaigns, people feel like this total is quite meaningful. It just a feature of the single plurality voting across many districts.

The disagreement here is what should be done about this. Williamson suggest that people should realigned the expectations with the reality, while Holbo wants to realign the reality with the expectations.

We could do with one – and only one – Dakota

But would the good people of Dakota agree?

25

oldster 11.08.18 at 11:30 pm

It’s also false that the United States is a union of states. The contractors to the Constitution are not the states, but (as it says) “we, the people.” The people of many independent states got together to form a more perfect union, which union is the United States. They did so using their current independent states as instrumentalities of that act of unification. But the ratifying parties were the people, acting through the previously existing states, not the states themselves.

That this was the original public understanding of the phrase, “We the People,” can be seen by the terror that it aroused among the Anti-Federalists, who predicted, accurately, that it would mean the death of the autonomy of the pre-existing states, by leading to a “consolidation”rather than a confederation, i.e. the creation of a new state that replaces the independence of the earlier states.

The advocates of the Constitution knew what it meant. The opponents of the Constitution knew what it meant. It meant that the States were being replaced, and that the People of the new entity, The United States of America, would now form a single people.

Exactly the kind 0f “single people” about which one can ask, “what was its national vote for the House?,” or “what was its national vote for the Senate?”

As usual, right-wingers are originalists only so long as its suits their right-wing agenda, and then ignore the original public meaning of the Constitution when it does not.

26

Alan White 11.09.18 at 12:12 am

To chime in with oldster (a moniker I can identify with) it’s just elementary civics that federal law trumps state law. (I hate it that Agent Orange has so contaminated discourse that I can barely stand to use the term”trumps”.) There is a hierarchy to the powers that form the Republic, and reference to ascendancy of Americans as a collective will isn’t silly. This is especially true here in Wisconsin with reference to gerrymandering, where Dems collectively outpoll Rethugs regularly in legislative elections, as they did roundly Tuesday, but the Senate actually picked up an overall Rethug vote. So much for “we the people”.

27

John Holbo 11.09.18 at 12:20 am

“Yes, obviously you can sum the results of each separate election in each district. But that is irrelevant to the final result.”

It’s not irrelevant to the final result since it bears on the validity of the final result, not in a legal sense, but still in a political sense. Williamson is trying to make the question of whether the system is defensible un-askable by declaring non-existent various facts that might bear on that. It’s an extreme example of the sort of thinking he himself pretends to deplore. Nothing the state can’t see exists. It’s not real. Therefore the state can ignore it. Therefore, by ignoring it, the state can make it go away.

28

Steve 11.09.18 at 12:40 am

A note from the Brexit-heading UK: be careful what you wish for…

29

oldster 11.09.18 at 1:46 am

“In comments, you can make fun of Williamson. Or you could discuss the election.”

Okay: did the first, now on to the second.

The election was good, and I feel good about it.

It was not everything I could have hoped for, and for the first 24 hours I still felt a sense of nausea and dread. But as more returns have come in and more small victories have been announced, I am moving from anxiety to relief to feeling pretty damned good.

Look: we didn’t take the Senate, so the parade of Neo-Confederate federal judges will continue. That’s an atrocity, and lamentable.

And the nation did not collectively say, “what the hell were we thinking when we fell for that Russian interference operation and installed a corrupt moron?” Nope; something like 35% of the nation is still totally fine with the corrupt moron. And that’s a second atrocity, and also lamentable.

But waiting for us to take the Senate, or for the racist right-wingers in this country to come to their senses, is simply expecting too much. It is wanting victory on the cheap, when political victory never comes on the cheap. My initial dread was the result of my unrealistic expectations and their inevitable failure.

In the clearer light of day, I see a lot of excellent progressives elected. The all-out assault on entitlements that Mitch McConnell promised if they kept the House has now died a much-deserved death. Obamacare will live unmolested for at least two more years, by which time Republicans will be claiming that they invented it and passed it over the objections of Democrats. Now Trumpian legislation will pass this House, and that is a far, far better outcome than the alternative.

We also deepened our national bench, with break-out stars like O’Rourke, Gillum, and Abrams. They may not get offices this round, but they have bright futures.

The Dems, and the left in general, are energized and inspired. There’s a lot to feel good about.

Now back to the slow boring of crooked timbers, or however that phrase goes. As Kant put it, the metaphysics of morals depends on the gruntwork.

30

oldster 11.09.18 at 3:05 am

typo: “Now Trumpian” should read “No Trumpian”.

31

JPL 11.09.18 at 4:01 am

I loved your “humorously tangled sentence”. It’s perfectly grammatical, but I would make one little nitpicky change: “… neither the national House vote nor the national Senate vote …”. It’s a nice inversion of Williamson’s thought. The clause “… that they do not know why [NP] should be liked, where NP = “[… how our governments are organized …]”, is unusual, but that’s why I like it. I would paraphrase this last subordinate clause (“…that …liked.”) tentatively thus: “that they (i.e., Williamson, et al.) have no idea about the criteria for judging likable ways of organizing governments (in the first place)”. Of course the “national house vote” and the “national senate vote” as defined and then enumerated are objective facts that exist independently of whether or not Williamson does.

32

Patrick Fessenbecker 11.09.18 at 6:23 am

Honestly the disintegration of never-Trump writers is a little disappointing to me. I liked Williamson’s “acting white” piece from two years ago a lot and thought it was smart, and David Frum has similarly written a bunch of things over the last two years that were pretty good. But both seem to have gotten worse recently, presumably because they don’t want to acknowledge that Trump’s success throws into question some of their core assumptions about conservative politics (has either reviewed Corey Robin’s book?)

As for the election like Oldster I’m optimistic and excited. Seizing national power was what mattered and the Dems did it. I would like to see some analysis of what went wrong in Ohio and Florida, though — Dave Weigel had a pretty sobering tweet that pointed out Dems hit their numbers in Ohio (Kasich won in 2014 with 1.9 million votes, while Cordray got 2 million), but an utterly garden-variety Republican in DeWine crushed him by getting to 2.2 million with rural/exurban votes. And I think every Dem state organization needs to take a seminar from the Nevada Dems and figure out what they’re doing right.

33

bad Jim 11.09.18 at 7:51 am

O’Rourke, Gillum and Abrams may not have won, but they had coat tails that dragged other contenders over the threshold to victory.

You know what other obscure congressman lost a high-profile Senate race and then became president? Abraham Lincoln.

California has 4.5 million ballots left to count. Blessed be the procrastinators, for they give us hope.

My congressman’s lead increases, my assemblywoman is now ahead, and so is Senator Sinema in Arizona.

34

Trader Joe 11.09.18 at 12:17 pm

To me the point of tallying something like a national House/Senate vote isn’t the “how many” of the tally but the “why”

If all of the votes were 100% partisan votes it would be fair to leap to the conclusion that the D party has developed some sort of national support and that could well be true with respect to about 60-70% of the vote. Nationally around 40% vote consistently D and 30% vote consistently R so even before the first vote is recorded one should expect a 10% “national” plurality of votes.

What matters it would seem is the swing votes and why they swung. Clearly they did in fact swing – no question. Did they swing because they liked the D candidate’s politics or was it only an “anti-trump” vote? Did votes swing to vote for the woman, the black, the latino on that basis alone or was it that persons politics – maybe its inseparable, but if the D party is winning in certain districts by running, for example a black woman against a white male maybe the lesson isn’t to assume the party platform is the only thing winning the day.

Finally I’d just note that in a certain number of races the D had the advantage of running against some of the fairly ghastly tea-party candidates that enjoyed such success in previous “red waves” – these were entirely win-able races with most any D candidate and the party deserves credit for not only making sure all those races ran opposed and with well funded races, but also for selecting the sort of candidates that might (maybe, hopefully) have better longevity than the schmucks they replaced.

In particular Spanberger beating Brat in the Virginia 7th should be a case study. That district was a gerrymandered safe-seat that had gone R for 38 years (previously Eric Cantor and Tom Bliley, of Graham, Leach, Bliley fame had locked down that district such that it was rarely even contested). Time will tell what Spanberger can do – but even if she eventually loses her win has made a long non-competitive district competitive and none of her narrative was run on ‘local’ politics it was a nationally funded campaign to win a national office.

35

Scott P. 11.09.18 at 1:38 pm

If all of the votes were 100% partisan votes it would be fair to leap to the conclusion that the D party has developed some sort of national support and that could well be true with respect to about 60-70% of the vote. Nationally around 40% vote consistently D and 30% vote consistently R so even before the first vote is recorded one should expect a 10% “national” plurality of votes.

Given that the MSM will take advantage of any Republican electoral success (or sometimes even Republican electoral failure!) to declare the country a ‘center-right nation’, it’s amusing to see the pushback at any notion that the converse might be true.

But that aside, the point of discussing the national House vote is to point out the inequity of a system that requires one part to win by 5% nationwide just to produce an evenly-split house. The number of independents is irrelevant to that conclusion.

36

politicalfootball 11.09.18 at 2:45 pm

Williamson is right about the national Senate vote in 2018, but he can’t admit that he’s right because in doing so, he would refute his point about the House. Only 35 Senate seats were up for election in 2018, 26 of which were held by Democrats. Because of the advantages of incumbency and the fact that Democratic incumbents tend to be in Democratic districts, the 2018 Senate election was strongly tilted toward producing a “national” vote that favored the Democrats.

It’s interesting to me that you never see this obvious point made in discussions of the 2018 national vote. (Surely Nate Silver or Nate Cohn or somebody has mentioned it, but I haven’t seen it.) I suppose we live in a world of spin, and ignoring the partisan tilt of the 2018 national Senate vote serves both sides — liberals because of the “national” Senate landslide, and conservatives because intelligent discussion of the national vote leads to unfortunate conclusions for them.

I wonder what other obvious, true things we miss because it’s in nobody’s interest to speak the truth.

37

Theophylact 11.09.18 at 3:21 pm

I’m disappointed but not surprised by the outcome of the senatorial elections. But let’s recognize that even if the Democrats had captured the Senate, there would be a hell of a lot of damage Trump could do all by himself: through executive orders, by appointment of political hacks at a level not requiring Senate confirmation, by his authority as Commander-in-Chief under various existing statutory authorities, by selective prosecution of enemies and pardon of allies, and not least by vetoing any legislation the Democrats wanted to pass that couldn’t also find support from a substantial number of increasingly right-wing Republicans. Oh, and the Supreme Court may well support him in much of his misdoing.

Obama made good use of executive orders with a Congress run by the opposition party (and was excoriated as “imperial” by them for it). Trump has been far more active in this respect, even when he could have done it legislatively with a compliant Congress.

38

oldster 11.09.18 at 3:29 pm

Also on the election–

Harry B. has been alarmingly quiet about the defeat of Scott Walker.

I want public, exuberant, demonstrative Schadenfreude!

Dems are still too damned nice, even when winning.

39

Alan White 11.09.18 at 10:32 pm

I’ll chime in oldster! Of course I was happier than a puppy with two tails when I woke up at 3 am Wednesday, checked my phone, and saw that the AP called the governor’s race for Evers. Went back to sleep no doubt with a big smile on my face.

Almost immediately there was whining about vote counts and Walker did not actually concede at first–until it was clear that Evers had actually beaten the >1% margin that otherwise would have triggered a recount (and ironically it was Walker who championed lowering the recount margin–so that bit him in the ass). And then right after that the Repub leaders in both houses called for a lame-duck weakening of Evers’ powers as governor (the North Carolina playbook). Right now they seem to be backing off that to some extent because of major blowback. But Evers ain’t entirely safe until January I reckon.

Evers can have a huge impact even with the Repub majority. His line-item/redaction of sentences veto power is the strongest in the country, and the fact that he’s a life-long educator (he was and still is State Superintendent of schools) and probably the only sane member of the UW Board of Regents allows UW to breathe a bit easier. And, he’ll have the authority to appoint new regents during his term, likely reversing years of the higher-ed-as-an-extension-of-business stacking of the Board that Walker accomplished (and which led to the Board ramming through the “tenure-lite” that I warned against as a member of the 2016 Tenure Task Farce, which was needed when the governor and legislature removed UW tenure from state statute without a a single hearing or opportunity for public input).

Anyway, at least Wisconsin is again a truly purple state–I’m not as hopeless as I was just a week ago!

40

CDT 11.10.18 at 4:46 am

I was a bit underwhelmed at the results myself until I realized that Dencrats’ taking of the House had caused me to stop obsessively searching Canadian real estate listings.

41

Ben Alpers 11.10.18 at 6:18 am

I don’t know about liking it, exactly. But the last time the organisation of those governments was changed, 80,000 people died. That might make you hesitate to change it again.

I don’t remember 80,000 people dying when the 17th Amendment was ratified, but I could be misremembering.

I do think that the idea of a “national senate vote” is problematic. And not only because not every state had a Senate election. Due to California’s crazy “jungle primary” system, both candidates for Senate this week were Democrats, so every single voter in California voted for a Democrat for Senate. That’s a substantial thumb on the scale.

42

Roger Gathmann 11.10.18 at 9:17 am

If discussing the national vote makes us dissatisfied with the way the system of government is set up, and we have a convenient tool – amendments to the constitution – to straighten out that system, well, lets talk about the national vote! As the great Sal Alinsky said, to get change you must “rub raw the sores of social discontent.”

43

Gareth Wilson 11.10.18 at 9:48 am

Fair enough. What constitution amendment, of no greater impact than the 17th Amendment, would satisfy you?

44

Hey Skipper 11.10.18 at 2:44 pm

[John Holbo @ 11.08.18/2207:] Hey Skipper: “Can we make fun of you?”

You’ve been trying for a couple years. But maybe this time is the one. What’s going to be your angle?

My angle is that you selectively quoted Williamson, thereby making a hash out of what he meant. In so doing you provided superficial plausibility to your inversion of what he said. Dowd would be proud.

Including what you left out —

The United States is, as the name suggests, a union of states, which have interests, powers, and characters of their own. They are not administrative subdivisions of the federal government.

— means that, while you can add 50 numbers, doing so is a meaningless exercise.

Unless the organization of the the US is radically changed, which would stand as a perfect example of regretting what one asked for.

Further it has no political bearing on the validity of the result. Indeed, if you were to have your way, all political decisions in the US would be driven by western and northeastern coastal enclaves — a very existent fact that roughly the vast majority of the country would be ruled by a tiny portion of it.

45

Donald 11.10.18 at 7:19 pm

“Indeed, if you were to have your way, all political decisions in the US would be driven by western and northeastern coastal enclaves — a very existent fact that roughly the vast majority of the country would be ruled by a tiny portion of it.”

I don’t think the sentence above makes any sense. But you seem to be saying that people who complain that Democrats get the majority of votes want the country to be ruled by a minority. But we already have that. Republicans are the minority and they control the Senate and the WH and possibly the Supreme Court.

46

Orange Watch 11.10.18 at 9:26 pm

Donald@45:

What? No. Go look at the Preamble of the Constitution again, you illiterate pinko. It very clearly states “We the Acres of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…”

47

dilbert dogbert 11.10.18 at 9:28 pm

Keep the Electoral College and be ruled by dirt, cactus, trees, cows, pigs and corn or get rid of it and be ruled by the tyranny of the majority. Pick your tyranny.

48

bob mcmanus 11.10.18 at 10:03 pm

Re: Senate, Electoral college, rural advantages, majorities ideally counted as aggregated personal bodies never ever communities or collectivities. While reading Jameson on architecture and trying to remember David Harvey.

Are we really committed to making space and place and history irrelevant? This is the logic of late galloping neoliberal capitalism, as in global supply-chains and nobody knows where Ipads are “made”, and reinforced by some immigration and refugee idealism, that it no longer matters where you are or where you been, that distance locality particularity becomes entirely private and incommunicable. You know, I live in that world most of the time, the world without distance, of oppressive simulated immediacy. This place.

People choose to live in California or Kansas, just as they choose to form other identities and group affiliations that liberals seems better disposed towards. Those choices should be equally respected, not put into competition such that the Kansan becomes a 3rd or 4th class citizen. I do view the EC and Senate as questions not of majority rule, but the priority of minority rights.

The answer of course, the only real answer is to fix the geographic imbalances by inducing blue to red migration.

49

steven t johnson 11.10.18 at 10:48 pm

Hey Skipper@44 ” Indeed, if you were to have your way, all political decisions in the US would be driven by western and northeastern coastal enclaves — a very existent fact that roughly the vast majority of the country would be ruled by a tiny portion of it.”

This would be deranged were it not so utterly typical of political conservatives. Wyoming and Delaware and Alaska and Maine are tiny portions of the country, and places like that are over represented to prevent the tyranny of majority rule. The purported enclaves are the large portion of the country if one does not pretend the country is States, rather than people. One would wonder what such people think “E pluribus unum” could possibly have been about, or (notoriously) the preamble to the Constitution. But after all these are the kind of people who get sniffy about the Declaration of Independence. And imagine John Adams was a founding father while forgetting Thomas Paine. And delude themselves into thinking Thomas Jefferson was a great thinker while ignoring Benjamin Franklin.

The politics of “This is a Republic, not a democracy!” rest on a an elaborate pack of lies, a morass of intellectual corruption, that matches the fantasies of libertarians.

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oldster 11.10.18 at 11:07 pm

Oh ffs. What absurd b.s.

Of course the “tiny portions” of coastland should rule the “vast majority” of the country’s acreage *if that’s where the majority of the people are.*

The Declaration does not say that all acres are created equal. Nor does democracy guarantee that one acre shall get one vote. Uninhabited acreage has no political significance whatsoever.

Political rights are, and should be, held only by human beings. “A country” in the political sense is the totality of its people, and “the majority of the country” means the majority of its people. What the “coastal enclaves” contain is “the majority of the country”: what the vast uninhabited stretches in between contain is “a tiny minority of the country.”

(Well, all right: there are some fairly populous bits away from the coast. I live in one myself. They are called “cities,” and today’s fascist apologists hate them wherever they are located.)

That acreage is irrelevant to political majorities is as obvious to right-wingers as it is to people of good sense, but since it is not currently convenient for them to admit it out loud, they are forced to mouth absurdities. And that is part of why we laugh at them.

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TM 11.10.18 at 11:48 pm

100 years ago on this day, the Swiss labor movement declared a General Strike, the first and only in the country’s history, to secure political and economic reforms. The first on the list of demands was *”Reelection of the National Assembly under proportional representation”*. That demand was fulfilled a year later. Another demand, the 48 hour week, was fulfilled in 1920. Other demands (there were nine) had to wait longer or were never realized. The strike was called off after two days when it became clear that the Army was ready to mass murder workers (*). Still the Left claims the events of 1918 as a success and progressive milestone in Swiss history.

The bicameral Swiss parliament was blatantly copied from the US constitution in 1848, with a Senate-like upper chamber dominated by conservative rural states. The lower chamber isn’t fully proportional either – it has multi-member districts, which American progressives are also proposing for the US. Americans are politically a hundred years behind most advanced democracies in terms of the representativeness of their political system. That some Americans are proud of this state of affairs is depressing. As of the rest, they should start organizing a General Strike.

(*) The government sent Army units into the cities and it turned out that the recruits, mostly poor guys from rural areas, were fully willing to shoot their working class brothers if their upper class officers gave the order. Nowadays, the rural-urban political divide is discussed as if it were a novel phenomenon.

52

Patrick 11.11.18 at 2:37 am

bob mcmanus wrote: “People choose to live in California or Kansas, just as they choose to form other identities and group affiliations that liberals seems better disposed towards. Those choices should be equally respected,…”

But the choice whether to live in an urban or rural community is f’ing dumb and people who live in cities get what they deserve for it, is how I assume this sentence was supposed to end.

Because that’s the only possible way I can imagine one would justify preaching about the sanctity of state residency based on personal choice and identity and affiliation while ignoring the fact that I have vastly more in common with the urban and suburban areas of my neighboring states than I do with the intra state rural areas in between us.

Right now more than half the people in the house I’m in are here because they didn’t want to live in the rural midwest. But they still live in the same state as their place of birth, and they’re still shackled to the frankly backwards and ugly voting behaviors of their birthplaces. And of course you don’t care in the least about that, because you aren’t making a serious argument.

You’re rationalizing.

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Marc 11.11.18 at 6:21 am

I find the heavy-handed propaganda about the Senate and the electoral college from Democrats to be both pointless and intellectually dishonest. It’s pointless because both systems are anywhere from difficult to impossible to change, and it’s intellectually dishonest because we were perfectly happy with the Senate as long as we had control of it, and we managed to win the electoral college just fine multiple times. With a slight shift of votes, Kerry could have won the electoral college and lost the popular vote.

But now we’re getting endless whining about the Senate – when we’ve controlled the Senate for more of the time than the House in the last 25 years (since the Republican wave of 1994). They’ve controlled the House for 20 of the last 24 years. But apparently having no memory is now a requirement for my team.

Here’s a thought: maybe try to figure out how to appeal to voters across the country. You know, like the new Democratic governor in Kansas did. And try to win with the system as it is, as we have numerous times in the past. Or try to rewrite the constitution, which requires…you know, 3/4 of the *states* to agree to change it…which is not likely to be successful when you’re trying to remove power from, well, most of the states. Just whining about it is the worst of all possible worlds.

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Chetan Murthy 11.11.18 at 8:18 am

Three comments: (1) to John: Your phrase “… should be liked” was lovely. Just lovely. Thank you.

(2) to KDubs: even IF we grant that the Senate is malapportioned *on purpose*, there stands no good reason for the malapportionment of the House (and thankfully, it can be remedied with a simple law). The House should be where “one citizen, one vote, one equal unit of representation” should be most closely adhered-to. And again, this has *nothing* to do with whether or not the US of A is a union of its citizens or of its constituent states.

(3) to bob mcmanus: blue-to-red migration? Surely you jest. You’re asking dwellers of blue states — well-run states with decent governments — to move to shitholes like *Texas* (where I grew up)? Surely you jest. Perhaps you also believe that there should be no net cross-state transfers? B/c if a dirt-poor Tennesseean wants electric power [cf. the TVA] they can move to Noo Yawk? Why should a New Yorker pay for Tennesseeans to get electric power? Or highways? They can pay for it their own damn selves.

The proper governance of *every* state is the business of *every* citizen in *every* state.

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Hey Skipper 11.11.18 at 12:33 pm

This would be deranged were it not so utterly typical of political conservatives. Wyoming and Delaware and Alaska and Maine are tiny portions of the country, and places like that are over represented to prevent the tyranny of majority rule.

Why did you leave off states like Rhode Island, Hawaii, Delaware, etc?

And do not forget that California, with its new jungle primary system had no GOP candidate for senator, meaning no GOP votes were counted, because none were possible.

Here’s a thought: maybe try to figure out how to appeal to voters across the country. You know, like the new Democratic governor in Kansas did. And try to win with the system as it is, as we have numerous times in the past. Or try to rewrite the constitution, which requires…you know, 3/4 of the *states* to agree to change it…which is not likely to be successful when you’re trying to remove power from, well, most of the states. Just whining about it is the worst of all possible worlds.

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steven t johnson 11.11.18 at 3:34 pm

Marc and Hey Skipper seem to think that whining about the Electoral College is some left-wing partisan PC whining. The first complaints about this BS came in the very first election, when people complained about the idea the Electoral College was, well, a college of electors, who were the ones actually voting on their own judgment. They instead held that the electors were to vote as the popular choice mandated. I forget whether they insisted on winner take all. In this case, it was Adams complaining about Hamilton campaigning the electors to make sure Washington got the majority.

Jefferson took this up, and swore to all and sundry that his party’s electors would indeed cast votes for all his party’s candidates. This was a promise they kept. The result was of course the hung election of 1800, when Jefferson and Burr tied in the Electoral College. They were quite vehement in their opposition to the idea that the College, or late the states as voting en bloc in the House of Representatives were thereby empowered to overlook the popular vote, because, Constitution. The Constitution wasn’t pretended to be sacred then. These guys knew the Founding Fathers, and knew they weren’t deities descended to earth.

Not so much later, Jackson won the plurality, and the College, then the House gave the presidency to J.Q. Adams. The rage was intense. Partisan rancor dogged Adams’ single term.

And yet another disputed election, in 1876, also raised a fury. As before in these crises, there were rumblings in the back of the crowd about civil war.

It was of course Gore’s cowardly performance in 2000 that was exceptional. Gore’s shameful acquiescence was I think nonfeasance of his constitutional duty. It certainly was of his small d democratic duty. There are large numbers of people who will still insist that rejection of majority rule is the very meaning of democracy. They’re the kind who condemn Venezuela as a tyranny or excuse fascism in Ukraine. It is a reliable symptom of extreme reaction to prattle about how the US is a republic, not a democracy.

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Chetan Murthy 11.11.18 at 7:36 pm

And do not forget that California, with its new jungle primary system had no GOP candidate for senator, meaning no GOP votes were counted, because none were possible.

In further news, Chief Justice John Roberts discovers a new theory of The Equal Dignitude of The Political Parties. People of color and Democrats everywhere were shocked to learn that crackers and shit-KKKickers are being disenfranchised.

Film at 11.

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Orange Watch 11.12.18 at 1:52 am

steven t johnson@56:
They instead held that the electors were to vote as the popular choice mandated. I forget whether they insisted on winner take all.

IIRC, winner-take-all didn’t become entrenched until after 1820.

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Hey Skipper 11.12.18 at 8:24 am

There are large numbers of people who will still insist that rejection of majority rule is the very meaning of democracy.

And there are large numbers of people who insist, for many good reasons, that the US is not a democracy, but rather a republic, which was deliberately set up to be anti-majoritarian.

That’s not extreme reaction, it’s a fact.

Marc and Hey Skipper seem to think that whining about the Electoral College is some left-wing partisan PC whining.

If the left whined about senators and the electoral college when they were in power, which they didn’t, then this wouldn’t reek of partisan PC whining.

—-

I guess we will never find out why the OP so selectively quoted Williamson.

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Layman 11.12.18 at 10:56 am

Hey Skipper: “— means that, while you can add 50 numbers, doing so is a meaningless exercise.”

Why? I can add the number of e.g. law school graduates from all the law schools in the country — which are, after all, individual entities with interests, powers, and characters of their own, despite being members of the Association of American Law Schools — and produce a result which is both meaningful and interesting.

“I guess we will never find out why the OP so selectively quoted Williamson.”

This suggests that you misunderstand the criticism being leveled at Williamson. The bit that you think was selectively omitted doesn’t improve his argument.

It can be true both that

the States are individual entities etc

and that

it’s silly to say that e.g. the respective percentages of people who voted Dem / Rep in House elections nationwide is a meaningless number.

Why not?

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Orange Watch 11.12.18 at 2:18 pm

“It’s not a democracy, it’s a republic” relies on both a non-standard Madisonian understanding of the word republic, and tends to be applied rather selectively.

Also, “OTHER people I’m conflating you with when they were in power didn’t complain about anti-democratic measures [even though OMFG they did], so you’re just a hypocrite for doing so now” is tiresome. The observation that the US isn’t democratic and the GOP favors that is not new, and it certainly came up when the Democrats were in power… because the GOP was able to aggressively and massively obstruct them when the Democrats had a majority because of the undemocratic structure of the traditional structures.

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oldster 11.12.18 at 2:35 pm

“that the US is not a democracy, but rather a republic, “

At first it’s somewhat funny seeing someone firing blanks when they think their gun is loaded. But after they run out of blanks and are reduced to pointing and making “pew-pew” noises with their mouths, it gets outright pathetic.

The Constitution was designed to protect certain rights of certain minorities. Such a system is not “anti-majoritarian”, it merely allows certain minority rights to act as a side-constraint.

The Constitution was not designed to give minorities *power to rule* over the majority. The fact that a few accidents now give vast structural advantages to a minority of citizens is not a protection of minority rights. Instead, it is an affront to popular sovereignty, and a perversion of the Constitution itself.

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Catchling 11.12.18 at 3:38 pm

“A tomato is a fruit, and therefore not a vegetable.” That’s another example of bogus pedantry because those aren’t exclusive categories and their defitions take rather different things under consideration. Plus I’ve never heard anyone who adheres to the “not a democracy!” argument explain whether or not the United Kingdom (which, like the US, vests power in elected representatives) is a “republic”. It’s just an idiosyncratic way of defining things that nobody actually uses, like insisting that bats are “actually” or “technically” insects.

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J-D 11.12.18 at 8:05 pm

Hey Skipper

And there are large numbers of people who insist, for many good reasons, that the US is not a democracy, but rather a republic, which was deliberately set up to be anti-majoritarian.

If you mean there are good reasons why people insist on asserting that this is an accurate description of what happened, that’s true. But if you mean that they had good reasons for being undemocratic, that’s not true. They had reasons, obviously, because people always have reasons for the things they do, but they weren’t good reasons.

If the left whined about senators and the electoral college when they were in power, which they didn’t, then this wouldn’t reek of partisan PC whining.

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact was launched when George W Bush was President, but it was not abandoned when Barack Obama became President. There were continued attempts at State ratification, some of them successful, during the Obama Presidency (in fact, more States ratified it during the Obama Presidency than during the Bush Presidency).

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Bernard Yomtov 11.12.18 at 9:03 pm

Those choices should be equally respected, not put into competition such that the Kansan becomes a 3rd or 4th class citizen.

Isn’t it rather the Californian, Texan, or New Yorker who is made a 3rd or 4th class citizen?

Under the current system the Kansan’s vote carries much more weight than that of more populated states.

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bob mcmanus 11.12.18 at 10:10 pm

Under the current system the Kansan’s vote carries much more weight than that of more populated states.

I think I can safely say that eg Boston has more jobs, transportation, education, libraries, social services, hospitals media entertainment etc ad infinitum than Des Moines. If Kansas has so much power, why aren’t they better off than New Yorkers? (Maybe because their representatives are less geographically dispersed, and represent more resources, so they can for interest groups and wield collective power? Electoral politics are a small part of what I study.)

Just tiresome. Reading Eduardo Soja. Just finished Catherine Dauvergne New Migration and the End of Settler Societies highly recommended, a very sensible and clear-headed review of horrible situations.

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bob mcmanus 11.12.18 at 10:29 pm

With apologies for a double post, I want to recommend the Dauvergne again. Her thesis of the end of settler societies strikes me as brilliant, important and very useful. Since James Belich Replenishing the Earth The Settler Revolution 1783-1939 taught me that settler societies (whiteness, paths to citizenship) are fueled by boom-and-bust economics (busts leave infrastructure and legends behind…19th c boomtowns needed lumber, food, and horses, lots of horses…and horses need grain that was too expensive to transport. For every gold miner, there was a nearby farmer making good profits, usually a wife whose husband was off making cash).

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roger gathmann 11.13.18 at 1:06 pm

The Dems might not have complained about the Senate, but the progressive case against the senate has a long and honorable tradition. The only branch of the federal government that was fundamentally reformed was, in fact, the senate, by the 17th amendment. If you look at the discussion of the time – if you want to get your originalist jones on – you will see that the issues were the same as they are now: that the senate was easily dominated by special interests, that those interests all in one way or another worked for the plutocrats, that the Senate ignored the will and interest of the majority, etc. In 1900, the newspapers were already fretting over the “rush” to overturn the old system of selecting Senators by means of the state leg and electing them directly. Those who claim the nation is a republic, not a democracy should look back at, well, the constitution, with the argument that the U.S. is a democratic republic being the overwhelming spirit of every amendment since the 13th. The next step in reforming the senate follows directly in the spirit of the direct election of Senators. Logically, this was done in order that the people by majority vote, rather than a minority, rule in the Senate. Far from “whining”, a phrase used by plutocrats and their minions to describe the just indignation of those who they are screwing over, the progressives have long fought for democratic rule.

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