Monday, December 08, 2014

Random Thoughts While Waiting For Kickoff

Anyone else had the thought that the Pentacrest artist could be a Sacha Baron Cohen type, feigning cluelessness and provoking controversy just to test our reaction? Very unlikely, but Borat and Bruno fooled a LOT of people, and this all seems so clumsy as to be unreal...

I'm not ready yet to offer Definitive Thoughts on the incident, and don't know when if ever I will be. All I could do at this point is compile still-live Facebook threads. Everything anyone says offends somebody and I have enough other issues to offend people about.

But I will offer this Washington Post headline: Why Eric Garner is the turning point Ferguson never was. tl;dr: Video.

Here's an unusual thing about Iowa: We're one of the few states where the most Republican places are more Republican than the most Democratic places are Democratic. Some of that is our relatively small minority population; we're one of teh few states where Obama won, twice, with white voters. And it's not just "gerrymandering," that word so many use and so few grasp. Greg Sargent notes:
(Ohio and Pennsylvania) are particularly lopsided because Democratic districts are “heavily urbanized,” with huge numbers of Dem voters concentrated in them around Columbus, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.

But even if Democrats were to get something approaching neutral maps in these big states, Wasserman estimates, it could result in just a couple more seats in each state — adding up to a total of maybe 10 additional House seats for Democrats. That would obviously help, but it would still be short of the 30-seat edge Republicans currently hold. Democrats would still have to post pretty big victories in the next few cycles to get close to the majority. In short, beyond the problem of redistricting is the even more serious problem (for Democrats) of population distribution.

“If Democrats were to get neutral maps drawn by God in all 50 states, they would still fall well short of winning back the House,” Wasserman concludes. “What Democrats really need is a massive resettlement program.”
 Speaking of settlements, the Israeli parliament formally dissolved today...

Israel is a textbook case in proportional representation as government gridlock, with multiple small parties with esoteric demands and major contentiousness over minor differences holding power beyond their numbers when it comes to the rise and fall of governments. The 120 seats are divided among 13 parties, and Netanyahu's party only holds 19. It literally is the Judean People's Front and the People's Front of Judea.

Irony: The other textbook case of extreme proportional representation to the detriment of democracy? Weimar Germany, where 14 parties split the seats in the final free election and a majority of the members opposed democracy itself. But I suppose I'm not allowed to say that.

Of course America goes to the other extreme with Two And Only Two parties. It's not just our winner take all electoral system. The know-nothing nationalist UK Independence Party (UKIP) just won its first two seats in Parliement in "by-elections" (I love that term for special elections) with ex-Conservative MPs who resigned to run. (The ONLY ethical way to do a party change). With their wins, the British Parliament now includes TWELVE parties, and a couple independents, despite a winner take all single member district system. Half these parties are only regional. But both American major parties are being accused of that anyway.

No, it's more the American political culture, as Ezra Klein notes at great length while dismissing the idea of an imminent third party uprising:
In Washington, the yearning for a third party is often by elites — and for elites. It’s for the third party of Unity08, or No Labels, or Mike Bloomberg, or Simpson-Bowles. It’s a third party of technocrats: fiscally moderate, socially permissive. A third party of sober moderates. A third party of things people in Washington already care about.

The space for a third political party — if it exists — isn’t in Washington’s zone of elite agreement. It’s in the zones of popular agreement that elites have little patience for. America’s unaffiliated voters aren’t moderates. They are, by Washington’s standards, extremists — they’re just extreme in a way that blithely crosses left and right lines, then doubles back on itself again. They support single-payer health care and tax cuts. Or they’re against gay marriage but for a living wage. Or they're for open borders and cuts to social spending. Or they want a smaller military and sharp restrictions on abortions.

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