Friday, November 15, 2013

US Democracy Braces for a Decade Under Minority Rule

We have to all act like Southerners now. (image source -David-Horsey)

The US Under Minority Rule
Wait -- we haven't been invaded.

There are "minorities," and then there are "minorities."

When it comes to minority governments, MeanMesa cannot mentally dispatch the lesson of Iraq.  After the invasion, that is, even after the ostensibly "sectarian slaughter" of the civil war had begun, the nation of Iraq still suffered continuing violence based almost solely on the fact that the Iraqi Sunni minority were convinced that they were, in fact, the Iraqi majority.

For years the Sadam Hussein regime had employed Baathist "ground troops" to provide the marching muscle needed to support the autocratic dictatorship.  Because these Baathists were recruited from the Sunni population, the worst part of the autocracy's brutal mayhem was, naturally, directed at the understandably rebellious Shi'a majority. 

The point here is that this arrangement placed the Sunni minority in a situation making the "majority" versus "minority" misperception one which could very conveniently be quite durably "re-interpreted."  With this carefully fabricated error firmly in place the Sunni predictably saw events unfolding in Iraq through a very twisted frame of reference -- one which obscured the political reality of the country, and one which caused plenty of bloody, violent trouble for the US invaders.

All this is included in this post because it has such a very disturbing similarity to contemporary US domestic politics.

In the United States voters are quite realistic about winning and losing elections.  They theoretically vote for candidates, parties and platforms they find attractive, and when candidates win those elections, these voters expect, roughly, at least, some semblance of the same issue to be present in the subsequent practices of governing.

Further, elections in the United States squarely embrace the "majority rule" idea in our Constitution.  A majority of votes should result in that elected majority in power after the election.  Our Founders obviously thought that this would be a clever way to keep citizens sufficiently satisfied to avoid frequent civil wars. Although every election's outcome will inevitably leave some voters frustrated, the idea was that their collective commitment to democracy and their "good natures" would see them through until the next election when they would, again, have a chance to steer things more toward their own way.

This theory for representational democracy depends on voters actually voting.  In 2010 the large majority of Americans had no appetite at all for the "tea bag philosophy" of hopeless austerity and mindless 1950's ideology, yet when the election results came in, the country had regressed socially by a half century. 

A "Tea Bag Revolution?"  Not Hardly.

However, right here we have to "drill down" to expose some of the deeply buried realities at play.  Passing by the essentially irrelevant, dusty hordes of illiterate tea baggers protesting with their misspelled signs amid the wheelchairs and summer flies, we need to consider the ambitions of the corporate oligarchs who have sponsored such a grotesque effort at political influence.  

The fabricated goals on the inflamed tea baggers' signs are NOT the goals of the plutocrats funding and organizing their "inflammation."

No, the "puppet masters" could not care less about 99% of the drivel presented by their staggering, yet useful, tea bag minions -- gays getting married, abortion clinics and doctors, immigration bills and so on.  However, these same "puppet masters" are brutally addicted to that last 1% of the tea bag messaging -- taxes.

In fact, long ago when the tea bag "movement" was just being launched by the corporate lawyers employed in the Freedom Works think tank, the term "tea" was initially presented as an acronym for "Taxed Enough Already."  The Freedom Works CEO, failed politician Dick Armey, soon realized that his largely illiterate, comically zealous, stumbling, mumbling "ground troops" found any question concerning the US tax code incomprehensibly complex and quite beyond their cognitive capacity.

Yet, when it came to the directing motivation for all this public relations imaging, the scheme of the oligarchs funding it remained hidden behind the media's command mission to create a maelstrom of tea bag fog and feathers.

The unseen "big picture" scheme of the money class defined their two precious goals:

1. The development of a large majority of American voters -- both right and left -- strongly dissatisfied with the government, and,

2. Employing that dissatisfaction politically to maintain and protect the advantages of the tormented US tax code they had invested so much to create.

As the calendar pages unfolded toward the 2010 mid-term election, the media had carefully groomed a deep, stoic malaise among most normal voters.  While the mouth foaming tea bags were infuriated under the continuous teasing of the likes of the Freedom Works think thank, the more rational voters had been fed a daily ration of hopeless inconsistency with faux "comparisons" between the new President's campaign and his Administration's actual performance amid the brazen "red meat" GOP saboteurs in the Congress.

The oligarchs' goal was a tactical increase in the Congress -- especially in the House of Representatives, and the plan was to make this possible by a frontal attack on the state legislatures begun even before the Bush autocracy had finally collapsed.  While the rest of the country sat at home bewildered by the relentless pain of an unceasing economic catastrophe -- and losing confidence in the President, the Super PAC cash trucks were rolling into state Republican campaign offices.

The freshly minted tea bag majorities in the state legislatures would have, as their first order of business, the task of further and even more drastically gerrymandering their state's Congressional districts.  They dutifully grabbed the census results along with the instructions from the craven owners of the Republican Party.

Under the provisions of our Constitution when a population minority is concentrating resources to "take command" of the government -- or even, as is the case now with the House, a crucial part of the government --  the conflict need not be decades long at all. If a maximum of the assets can be effectively applied for a period of a single year or less, that is, applied precisely when the census has been completed, and the Constitutional mandate for establishing Congressional election districts "comes due," a political equivalent of blitzkrieg can be inflicted upon the democracy in a way the Constitution's authors never imagined.

The GOP's "Miracle" of 2010

State Legislatures Pre-2010 -( Source)
By the time the 2010 mid-term arrived half the states in the country had been redistricted into snake-like swarms of screaming tea bag voters surrounded by vast, innocuous districts filled with more sensible -- and more despondent -- citizens.  Before the coup state legislatures across the country looked like the map on the left.

This partisan picture generally reflected the state of the nation's politics.   In blog 2008 blog posts David Burns recapped the statistical model presented by the New York Times with what he calls a "bubble map."

The 2008 "Bubble Map" (image source)
"It’s good to see the overlap of these bubbles because it shows that red and blue co-exist in the same places. It’s a finer distinction than the red state/blue state point of view." [Read the article here.]

The Burns article continues with a chart showing the "shift map" which indicates the change in votes with respect to Parties.

The 2008 "Shift Map" (image source}
"Another striking map is the Voting Shift map which shows where each party received more votes in 2008 than they did in 2004. There’s a very identifiable red streak from Texas to West Virginia that’s interesting because it’s so well defined, localized and contained." [Read the article here.]

These models of American voting proclivities paint a fairly coherent picture of the country's political "mind set" for the period.  In the anticipated political "flow of things" this political environment would have continued to produce Democratic majorities in the Congress for some time, at least, for several subsequent elections.

So, what happened?  What political manipulation led to the current state of affairs?

Sadly, the answer has very little to do with political manipulation.  Instead, it has everything to do with election manipulation.  For a clearer view of the scheme which ultimately produced the current madness of John Boehner's admitted ballot minority delivering control of the House of Representatives we can look directly down "the dragon's throat."

How the Minority Saw 2010

Here is an excerpt from a November, 2010, post by Citizen Link, a self-identified Public Policy Partner of Focus on the Family. [Visit the site here.]

According to the National Conference on State Legislatures (NCSL), voters handed over to the Republican Party 19 state chambers previously dominated by Democrats.  This translates into a pickup of six Senate chambers and 13 House chambers (see NCSL map below).

To put this in perspective, Democrats lost 20 chambers to Republicans in 1994, and gained none. Conversely, Republicans lost 21 chambers to Democrats and gained one chamber following Watergate.

The conference also reported that the GOP received an overall net gain of at least 675 state-level seats – the most since 1928 – allowing it to gain control of chambers even in traditionally liberal states.

Karl Kurtz with NCSL said the GOP not only took control of chambers, but also beefed up its presence.  Twenty-four seats were added in the Texas House, 16 in the Missouri House, 15 in the Kansas House, 14 in the North Dakota House, nine in the Wyoming House and eight in the Oklahoma House.

“Republicans gained seats in virtually every state,” Kurtz wrote. “The change was unidirectional. The only state in which Democrats appear to have made a net gain in both chambers is Delaware, where they netted one seat.”

  • Alabama: House and Senate (First time GOP has controlled both chambers since Reconstruction)
  • Colorado: House
  • Indiana: House
  • Iowa: House
  • Maine: House and Senate
  • Michigan: House
  • Minnesota: House and Senate (Senate in GOP hands for first time in history)
  • Montana: House
  • New Hampshire: House and Senate (Over 100 seats in the House went to GOP)
  • North Carolina: House and Senate (First time GOP Senate since 1870)
  • Ohio: House
  • Pennsylvania: House
  • Wisconsin: Assembly and Senate
This is especially important for the 2012 presidential elections, as states like Iowa, New Hampshire and Ohio are testing grounds for presidential candidates.
Republicans now have control of 55 legislative chambers, Democrats control 38 and two chambers – Alaska and Oregon – are split.  Three chambers are still undecided – Oregon, New York and Washington. This is a tidal wave reversal. Prior to the election, Democrats controlled 60 chambers, while the GOP held 36 and two chambers were split.

A few chamber switches caught even the most politically savvy off guard. The Maine House, Minnesota Senate and Oregon House were not considered “in play” this cycle; however, voters knew otherwise.

Republicans control both chambers in the following states:
  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming
All told, this conservative sweep through the states is significant, in terms of offering up and/or defending state marriage amendments, pro-life initiatives, fiscal discipline measures, and defending constitutional freedoms.

Review the NCSL’s 2010 Legislative and State Election Results.
Review the Census’ “Political Party Control of State Legislatures by Party: 1985 to 2009.”
Review the Census’ “Composition of State Legislatures by Political Party Affiliation: 2008 to 2009.” 

The "Rectangle" Amendment to the Constitution
Making Congressional Districts into Boxes

MeanMesa has proposed Constitutional Amendments in the past -- notably one concerning the legislative division of the Supreme Court into a group of six, equally "supreme," courts selected by lottery to hear cases.  You can read this post here:

That April, 2012, commentary was the prompted by the Citizens United decision, but since then, the Roberts Court has aggressively provided a subsequent series of decisions specifically targeting the country's Constitutional imperatives concerning elections and voter enfranchisement.  By the November, 2012, Presidential election approximately 4.5 Mn voters had either been directly  denied the rights guaranteed by the original Constitutional enfranchisement or had been confronted with labyrinthine new registration and identification requirements.

A 29th Amendment to the US Constitution would legally settle enfranchisement issues in all states and establish Federal Election Courts, but MeanMesa thinks it should also stabilize rules for setting boundaries of Congressional districts, affirming a durable and permanent remedy to the treasonous, cynical anti-democracy gerrymandering, the tactic frantically developed by the desperate remnants of the GOP as they confronted their continuing inability to win elections otherwise.

MeanMesa has also previously posted about the current democratic sabotage being inflicted by gerrymandering Congressional Districts.  You can read this post here:

Let's do some thinking.  

The problem we face issues from a variety of origins, but one of them is extremely obvious.  The Constitution, interpreted in a sly way to appease the Southerners still stinging from the Civil War, set out the process of establishing Congressional election district boundaries under state governments.  Since then, there has been no end to the mischief -- delivered opportunistically with resurrected waves of "alternating villains," that is, delivered at the hands of both Republicans and Democrats.

When democracy is being undercut by what is "present or absent" in the Constitution [or in its interpretation], it represents a Constitutional crisis and a threat to the democracy.  This isn't the only case of this kind of threat "knocking at the door" these days, but this is about specifically fixing this one.

Rather than simply continuing to "gore one ox after another," depending on whom is holding the sword at the moment, such an amendment could stabilize -- if not policy -- at least politics.  And, THAT would be a start.

In the historical picture of things, the Republican Party could very well be on its death bed at the time of this posting.  This means that another "Party" will quite possibly be rising up like a Phoenix to step into its vacated place.

There is simply too much "inertia" to consider adopting some form of government radically different than the famous "two party system."  In this event the importance of fair, Constitutional elections would be very great.  With one established Party [the Democrats] and a newly formed party [say, the Greens], continuing inequities in the election mechanism would not lead anywhere good.

Number 29 could be called the "Rectangle Amendment." [Read the post linked above.]

Just don't quit voting.

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