Monday, January 28, 2013

They're doing it -- we can't let them

For those of you who are not paying attention, the Pennsylvania Republican-controlled legislature and governor are pursuing a new, perfectly constitutional, but profoundly undemocratic way  to suppress the vote and steal all future presidential elections from majority voters in the state.
It’s very simple really:  In 2010 the Legislature gerrymandered  the state’s congressional districts to make sure there were more Republican-controlled/safe districts that Democratic districts.  Here’s what the current districts look like:

                                             2010 Pa. Congressional Districts

So now there are five districts – all geographically tiny, urban and densely populated --where the voters are predominately Democratic and 13 where they are predominately Republican.   The Democratic districts are the 1st, 2nd and 13th (Brady, Fattah and Schwartz) in and around Philadelphia, the 14th (Pittsburgh) and the 17th (Harrisburg).  
Why did they do that?  because if they had left the districts alone after the 2000 redistricting, several -- like the 7th in Delaware County -- would have been highly competitive for Democratic candidates.  Indeed, the old 7th was represented for two terms by a very liberal Democrat, Joe Sestak.  The Republicans couldn't have that, so they added the most Democratic areas of the 7th District to Bob Brady's 1st District and shoved the borders of the 7th out into counties where the voter rolls are rural, conservative and Republican.
Then they tried unsuccessfully to suppress the urban, suburban and minority vote by making it harder for people to vote -- which backfired on them spectacularly in the 12012 election. 
Now, however, having carefully drawn and shrunk the number of districts so that widely scattered Republicans -- so thin on the ground they are spread over 15 counties in District 5 and 13 counties in District 10, for example -- can command the largest number of congressional districts, regardless of actual human population (cows, trees and deer not counted),  the Republicans are moving on to step two.

Voter Suppression Step Two

Step two is to enact legislation to change the way Pennsylvania allocates its 20 electoral votes from winner take all -- which reflects the overall popular vote in the state -- to the majority vote within each  congressional district -- plus two electoral votes for the top vote getter.   
In this configuration, President Obama, who got all 20 electoral votes in 2012, would have received 7 electoral votes and Mitt Romney would have gotten 13 in the last election.   If the other large swing states that are contemplating this move-- Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Florida -- had also changed their laws to apply to the 2012 election, Obama would have still won the popular vote by 4 percent and yet lost the election to Romney in electoral votes by a wide margin. 
Thus, the votes of white voters  in rural areas would count for far more than the votes of urban, minority, largely Democratic voters.  In fact, several pundits have calculated that the vote of an urban black or Latino voter would be worth about 3/5ths of that a rural white voter.  Hmm.  Where have we seen that figure before?

The Destruction of Democracy

 Since the rise of the extreme rightwing over the past four years, we have been witnessing the death of the Republican Party.  Unfortunately, it appears ready to pull down the whole nation as it goes. After a couple of election cycles where the presidential candidate chosen by a majority of the popular vote is rejected by the electoral college under the Republicans' plan that several things may happen: 

  1. The disaffection of voters for the entire political process will become complete.   
  2. The  electoral college may be abolished and the country may switch to a straight popular vote like other modern democracies (which would be a good thing).  
  3. Voters will revile and reject the Republic Party utterly and it will go the way of the Federalists and Whigs.
  4. The people will have to resort to violence and perhaps the kind of armed insurrection the right-wing  gun huggers have been pining for. 
  5. The Republican Party could take over the government by fiat, much like the Nazis did in the 1930s with the Reichstag Fire Decree and the Enabling Act.
Whether any or all of these things happen, it will be crystal clear to all Americans that the Republican Party is profoundly undemocratic, unpatriotic and hostile to the American people.
Lawrence Lewis at Daily Kos has the best explanation of this whole process I’ve seen so far.  Give it a read.

 They're Doing It

In the meantime, seven  Pennsylvania Assembly Republicans have introduced House bill 94 to enact the the electoral college vote allocation change, with the deceptively banal title “An Act Concerning Elections.”  It has been referred to the House Committee on State Government where it is to be hoped it dies a quiet death.
But those of us who believe in democracy and representative government cannot depend on our hopes alone.   Find your state legislators here.  Let them know how you feel about the hijacking of your presidential vote. 
Contact Gov. Tom Corbett’s Office.  Let him know that while his chnaces of winning re-election don’t look so hot right now, he will surely be committing political suicide if he signs this bill. 
Contact your local ACLU and League of Women Voters.  Ask your Democratic representatives what the hell they're doing to prevent this from happening.  Fight back now, before the damage is done.   

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Would you stay in line with this guy?

This is a man standing at a check-out counter in a J.C. Penney store in Ogden, Utah, last Wednesday toting not only this rifle, whatever it is, but also a Glock.  He's making a point: Utah is one of 43 states to have an open carry law allowing gun lovers can carry their toys wherever they want, church, restaurants, movie theaters, even into a mall store where mothers are shopping with children.
Other shoppers were supposed to take it on faith that this is one of the NRA's "good guys with guns" as opposed a homicidal maniac ready to start shooting if say, his credit card is rejected or someone says something to him about his weaponry. Or perhaps the police might have showed up thinking he was a potential mass murderer and then God knows what would have happened.
What do you think your reaction would be if he had shown up at the Granite Run Mall J.C. Penney?  What would have been your reaction if the guy was black, wearing a hoodie and toting exactly the same firepower?
My whole life I have felt like I live in two different countries.  There's the eastern and western seaboards, where I've lived my whole life and that vast fly-over middle of the country, the "heartland," the real America," etc. -- like Wyoming, where my father came from and never went back, and Kentucky where my stepfather came from, and made the mistake of going back.
My stepfather never had guns in the house although he was in the military.  He was a submarine sailor and they weren't armed because what were they going to do, shoot a hole in the submarine?
But after he retired he went home to Kentucky and acquired all of the necessary accouterments -- the pickup truck, the rifle rack and the coon dog.  He stopped short one day and threw the coon dog out of the back of the truck.  She was so badly injured her leg had to be amputated. 
Then he shot an unarmed neighbor in the foot and served eight months in the county jail at the age of 69.  The police, even in that rural part of western Kentucky, didn't buy his story that he was "defending his castle."
These two countries in my head are so different and yet not different enough.  Pennsylvanians are rushing to buy guns and get concealed carry permits, and from now on I will have to sit in a crowded movie theater even in the Walnut St. Theater's production of The Music Man and wonder how many people around me are carrying guns?  Which is the quickest way out?  
I don't want to have to pick out the good guys with guns from the bad guys with guns and I most assuredly do not want to be one of the good guys with guns. 
So yesterday, Gun Appreciation Day, hundreds gathered at statehouses around the country, mostly in the Midwest and South, carrying their legal firearms.  Fortunately nothing tragic happened but five people accidentally shot themselves or others at gun shows, again fortunately, none fatally. That's just the way it ids in Gunland.
I'm not going to urge you to boycott J.C. Penney because as commentators pointed out on the blogosphere yesterday, what this jerk did in Utah was perfectly legal, but I am going to urge you to say something to J.C. Penny either online or in person because national retail chains can make quite a stink about this sort of thing when it may cause them to lose other, saner shoppers.