Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Push for a Presidential “Popular” Vote

For as long as I can remember, there have been complainants about the Electoral College – America’s system for officially selecting its President.  Without going into too much detail about the Electoral College (click on the two links) each states gets a certain number of votes equaling their representation in Congress – 2 for the Senators and 1 for each Representative (so each state is guaranteed at least 3 electoral votes).  This system was settled upon by our founding fathers as a compromise between those who wanted a popular vote (large states like Virginia  New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts) and those who wanted equal say regardless of size (smaller states like New Hampshire, Georgia, Delaware and Rhode Island).  Essentially, it was an extended outcome from the decision to have a bicameral legislature – which had the exact same arguments.  Since the 2000 election when Al Gore won the “popular vote” but George W. Bush won the Electoral College, the cries for the popular vote determining the Presidential Election outcome have seemingly increased.

In the past few months, this movement has gained momentum once again.  While it takes a constitutional amendment to formally change the election process, some states are trying to circumvent the process by passing bills in their legislature which dedicate their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of how the citizens of their state voted (example – President Obama could take 65% of the vote in Oregon, but if Oregon passed a bill like this and the GOP candidate had won the National vote, then Oregon’s electoral votes would go to the GOP candidate, not the person who the state’s voters actually voted in favor of).  That actually seems somewhat backwards – an ANTI-popular vote measure created out of the popular vote group-think mentality…”it doesn’t matter what you think, people of our state, everyone else has spoken and our votes have to go to this person, regardless of how you cast your ballots”.  Members of both parties are embracing this renewed movement although neither party has officially sanctioned it.  Saul Anuzis, a prominent Republican from Michigan and one-time candidate for RNC chair, is a proponent of this plan and details it in the Washington Times.

Unfortunately, in their quest give people a greater voice in our election process, they could end up doing the exact opposite.  By ceding all of a state’s votes to the winner of the overall popular vote you give more strength to the political parties and their turnout models.  Candidates will continue to ignore the “fly over states” in search of larger media markets they can populate with TV  radio and print ads.  While every vote is technically “in play” with this method, the overall scheme doesn’t change because under our current method, every vote is “in play”.  Yes, you can point to some weirdness that has transpired the past couple of elections with the popular vote totals and not adding up with the electoral votes.  However, the method being discussed further minimizes the less populous state in favor of the top-tier like California, Texas, and New York.  using past election result disparities to advocate for a complete overhaul is faulty logic.  Candidates campaign for electoral votes currently and the popular vote is merely byproduct, not the true intended result.

If we really that the Electoral College is antiquated, then I suggest updating it rather than killing it off in favor of something that is ultimately untested in our National History.  I had thought of and idea which would give more power to our smaller states, essentially redistributing the Senate allotted electors from our top 25% to our bottom 25% thus balancing out the population inequities between some states in my belief that while our President should represent all American’s it is more important to fairly represent all of America instead.  After thinking this over though, it simply is not feasible – the outcry from our larger states would be too great and in the end it is essentially a partisan ideal as states like Wyoming and Alaska tend to be more GOP friendly than California and New York.  When talking with my wife about this the other evening, she brought up another idea I had toyed with awhile ago and which is based on a plan that has worked very well throughout our history – the Congressional District process.

Two states, Maine and Nebraska, have each electoral vote tied directly to the outcome of the Presidential Race results within each Congressional District and have the winner of the popular vote within the state take the two votes tied to the Senate.  So, if the GOP candidate won the Nebraska 1st by 10K votes and the 2nd by 2K while losing to the Democrat in the 3rd by 13K votes, the GOP would get 2 electoral votes while the D got 3 electoral votes.  While the Republican won a majority of the districts, the popular vote swayed the outcome to give a majority of the electoral votes to the Democrat who won 1 district.  If the Republican had either closed the gap in the 3rd a bit or widened it in the 1st or 2nd, they would have received all 5 votes.  Where a concept like this gets really interesting is when you get to larger states where it would be mathematically possible for a candidate to win the popular vote in the state but have a minority of their electoral votes.  Of course, that leads us into a discussion about Congressional District mapping and how it could/would/should be overhauled (we will cover this another time, don’t worry).

The example of Nebraska shows us that this type of system allows for a more competitive field by doing away the winner take all system and showing the truer reflection of the will of the people.  States that would be overlooked in the past because the majority of the state is Republican or Democrat now is in play as Congressional districts are a draw.  In my opinion, if we are going to overhaul the Electoral College, a system like this makes a lot more sense than a straight popular vote where urban areas and large media markets would continue to enjoy the overwhelming presence that already do in today’s Presidential General Election Seasons.

The eventual rebirth of Detroit

Every so often the media likes to remind us that Detroit is a shell of the city is used to be.  If there is a story about crime, Detroit is probably used as a comparison.  If there was a pictorial magazine about urban blight, Detroit would be the centerfold month after month.  The Detroit Free Press ran an article about how the GOP has been quick to bash Detroit recently (note: lets ignore that the article counters the GOP assertions with one source, a professor who perfectly captures Detroit – died in the wool Democrat who no longer lives in Michigan).  My response to this is…yeah, and?  Detroit is a city synonymous with labor unions, Democratic office holders and a generation of economic failure.  Of course the Republican Party and its candidates are going to bash Detroit, they would be silly not to.  However, just because it is the obvious thing to do does not mean it is the right or correct.

While we can blame Detroit’s problems on the traditional GOP adversaries, we could look to Chicago to see a similar time of Democratic Party control with a strong union presence, and yet that city that continues to thrive.  One main reason has little to do with politics, Detroit was/is essentially built upon one industry – autos – while Chicago is a hub of international commerce and the transportation center of America.  Therefore, Chicago was in a much better position during the economic downturns that America has encountered the past 50 years than Detroit.  The reliance upon the auto industry, and the subsequent mismanagement of the Big Three Automakers (GM, Ford and Chrysler – if you somehow didn’t know) coupled with recessions are what ultimately caused the downfall of Detroit.  Where we can blame the elected leadership of Detroit is their failure to…well, lead.

Throughout the past 50 years Detroit has continued to spiral downward and its leaders have let that happen.  They have failed to re-invent the city by attracting new business and industry or significantly develop areas in despair.  However, that may all be changing in Detroit.  The current Mayor, Dave Bing, is showing the leadership Detroit has lacked by telling his citizens the honest truth – if Detroit continues any further down its current path, it will cease to exist.  Detroit is going to take steps towards a massive makeover, one that will be analyzed in urban planning classes around the world regardless of its success or failures because of the sheer magnitude of the undertaking.

So, while we are right to point fingers as the citizens and leaders of Detroit for what the city has become, we must also look to them for hope as to what the city will hopefully be.  While Republicans look upon the city with scorn they should at the same time offer rays of hope with plans of economic renewal and civic engagement.  Detroit will eventually become a city of prominence once again.  I am not sure it will ever be the city it was in the first half of the 20th century, but it doesn’t need to be.  Detroit doesn’t need to be Chicago or New York, it just needs to be a city that has a positive economic impact on its state and a place that families of all backgrounds want to call home.  The rebirth of Detroit is going to be a long and arduous process; that process can be speed up with Republicans and Democrats working together for the common good to rebuild what once was a shining beacon of American Spirit and Ingenuity, rather than finger-pointing and politicking.  Some things are more important than political ideals and personal profit, one of those things is city of Detroit.

QP: Show Me President Obama

I am normally not one to harp on the President for his overseas trips or vacations or whatever. However, President Obama is currently touring great Britain, our closest ally in every conceivable way while Mother Nature has ripped apart town in the middle of America. While rescue efforts are still ongoing in Missouri, the President is meeting with the Royal newlyweds to discuss…something. As these are the British we are dealing with, they would certainly understand if the President made a return trip across the Atlantic to Missouri, surveyed the damage and showed the symbolic leadership we expect out of a President at a time like this, before returning and resuming his time with them.

In all of this I am not sure what is more frustrating though, the fact that President Obama said he will be there on Sunday (a week after the tornadic devastation occured) or that the media is giving him a pass on this when the same would not have been shown towards his predecessor, President Bush. It sure would be nice if each person who held the office was held to the same standard by the mainstream media.

The GOP should dare to DREAM

Immigration, much like gas costs and things related to it, seems to like it could be a popular topic on this site.  Here in Indiana the topic of the DREAM Act has resurfaced thanks to the early campaigning for the 2012 Republican nomination for United States Senator.  While I am not going to get into the whos, hows and whys that are going around, I do find the topic of immigration to be fascination (and as such, will probably have more on it soon).  It is interesting that a country that was created from/by/for immigrants is now so afraid of them.

The DREAM Act is one of those policy ideas that has seemingly been in existence forever, as it was first introduced in 2001 with the backing of President George W. Bush.  Throughout the years, some wording has changed but the basic premise has remained the same – the DREAM Act affords a sector of immigrants who came here illegally a chance to gain legal status upon meeting a certain set of criteria.  It applies to young immigrants, assumed to have come over with their parents, who want to continue to live and work in the United States (as such, be part of the “American Dream”).

Initially, I had planned to discuss some of the policy implications of the DREAM Act, but that is pretty widely available.  Instead, I want to encourage people to read more into it.  Don’t listen to just the soundbites and news clippings, contact your Congressperson for information and ask why he/she is or is not supporting it.  At the very least, take a look at the Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DREAM_Act) to help make an informed decision.  In my view, equaling the DREAM Act to Amnesty is wrong as these are the children of immigrants and it would only really apply to a small section of those as is.  America is only as strong as its next generation; if we as Republicans and Americans can help residents become citizens through their own contributions, then our country and our party will be better off in the end.

Our crumbling infrastructure

A topic that seems to be gaining interest among cable TV producers is the state of our Nation’s Infrastructure. It seems that every time you turn around Discovery or History have a show discussing it in some form or another.  We take for granted the services that it provides us – power, water and transportation to name just a few.  The problem is that every single facet of our infrastructure is deteriorating – the TV shows aren’t bragging about how good everything, they are pointing out the many things that are in need of improvement through upgrades or repair.  With unemployment being so high, we obviously have the manpower to address these issues.  The question, as with many things, remains as to how do we pay for these improvements.

Travel on any Midwest road network during the non-winter months and you are bound to see orange cones/barrels diverting your path for at least part of your travels.  Growing up in Michigan, there was a joke that I heard quite often (although it was told many different ways) – Most states have four seasons, Michigan only has two…Winter and Road Construction.  While roads and travel are what comes to mind first when we think of infrastructure, they are hardly the only area that is in need of repair, but they are the most visible.  Road/bridge repairs seem to be constant and ever lasting in the Midwest due to the mass of road networks and the climate variability which wreaks havoc on many types of concrete and asphalt.

Currently, we cannot keep up with the many repairs and upgrades that are needed to our networks of roads and bridges throughout the United States.  The tragedy of the I-35 Bridge collapse in Minneapolis/St. Paul is proof of this as the bridge was structurally unsound but it was not at the top of the repair list.  Perhaps part of the problem is that we are not letting those with the know-how solve these problems.  Structural Engineering Firms, who employ Civil, Mechanical, Materials, and Industrial Engineers know the best solutions to these issues but have to cut through massive amounts of red tape put there bureaucrats with much less background in the areas in question.  Universities with top-notch Engineering Faculty and facilities are working on these issues but lack the funding to take their research to the next level – to take what is currently a band-aid and make it into a suture.  Maybe Mitch Daniels had it right when he just washed his hands of the Indiana Toll-road and leased it to another company, taking a lump-sum payout and passing along the responsibilities of upkeep to a company that needs to make sure it is profitable and thus will ensure  the road’s upkeep and a fair price structure on its tolls.  Heck, maybe we just need to let some of this road network go.

I do not know what the solution to our infrastructure dilemmas are.  we only have so much money to go around and have more obligations than income as it is.  What I do know is this – the research being done at today’s Universities holds the keys to future.  they are addressing not only road construction, but transit management, they are working on more efficient energy delivery as our Nation’s Power Grid  becomes more obsolete every day, they are working to create clean drinking water and water for our crops when our population is booming in the desert.  We need Congress to look at what we are currently doing and throw it out the window.  Lets take the most important projects, do the minimum upkeep and divert those funds to finding long-term solutions, not a short-term patchwork.  While I love watching shows like Dirty Jobs that give us examples of hard-working Americans keeping our Country together, I would love it even more if I knew that Mike Rowe wouldn’t have an opportunity to be down in that tunnel or on that road two years later, doing the exact same thing yet again.

Are Bloggers Hurting the Political Process?

Given the media coverage lately on the Gov. Schwarzenegger story, I believe it is a proper time to look at the bad that has come about as a result of blogging, micro-blogging, and other forms of the social network that inundates our lives and the political process.   There are many blogs and those on Facebook who are championing the uncovering of the Gov. Schwarzenegger story.  They are ignoring what the magnification of this story has done to the marriage and what the kids have to go through for the rest of their lives.  They view it as a victory for the Left and another defeat in the Right’s modeling of being the family values side in the political argument.

I believe that such explosion of any news into a political figure’s personal life is coming at a cost to our county.  I believe that there are many intelligent, passionate, and driven individuals who are shying away for running for office because of what the microscope of media exposure is going to do to their family.  They know that a rift in a relationship, a mistake made in youth, a forgotten bill, is going to be seized on by bloggers and pundits and championed as a weapon aimed at the defeat of their candidacy. Political bloggers are passionate about politics, and as a result of the polarization of our political parties, tend to find themselves on the extremes of the American spectrum.  (One of the perks of this blog, for the record, is the ability of the authors to be out-of-sync with the hard party liners)

Look for example at Mitch Daniels, and his decision to run for President.  He is not busy trying to convince politicos or financiers that he is the right person for the job, but rather spending his time weighing the toll on his family life, and if it is worth the cost.  How uncivil, and sad is the state of our country’s politics, that a man with bi-partisan support, magnificent record as governor, and with campaigner staffers and donors lined up waiting to help him out, is seriously considering not running because of what the media and bloggers are going to say about his arrest in youth, marriage life, and his daughters?

The Danger of The Simplification of the Middle East

Much has been written about the revolutions currently going on in the Middle East, but I am very concerned of the over-simplification of what is going on in the streets half a world away.  Many members in Congress (on both sides) and the media have been quick to champion the revolution in Egypt, the rebels in Libya, and other similar movements.  While I always believe in freedom and am against tyrants, our country has a perilous history. Far too many times in our past we have been quick to back one group from overthrowing a terrible dictator, only to have the new group take hold, bring far worse evils to its peoples.  Many pundits have also been quick to criticize President Obama saying he lacks a clear “cookie-cutter” doctrine toward the Middle East.  This concerns me, and shows one of the many short comings of our 24 hour news coverage that is made entirely of 60 second sound bites.  Each one of these countries is in a different situation, with different groups revolting, with different intentions.  All of these must be analyzed intensively by our analysts in the military and clandestine organizations.   The solution isn’t to sit on the sidelines in every situation just as it isn’t rushing the 101st and 82nd Divisions into every fight we can get them in.

There is also a cost associated with the overthrow of governments, even if they are less than ideal.   Many of these governments, Libya included, worked with organizations like the CIA in the sharing of intelligence against organizations like al-Qaeda.  Now with a power vacuum in these countries we do not know who will emerge from power, and if they will work with the US or harbor organizations with the intent to do harm to us. While many of the leaders of these countries facing revolts and revolutions have been terrible human beings, there is that unknown if those who take their place will be any better.  I dream of the day that the entire would has leaders elected in free democracies aimed at world peace.  But the facts are that many of these countries are not ready for the heavy burden associated with a democracy or republic.  We must be careful to understand if those in the streets even believe in a Western government, or if they want a different form of a radicalized Muslim government.

If you started reading this post looking for a solution for the Middle-East, you are probably disappointed at this point.   A solution cannot be crafted in 500 words; rather it takes thousands of hours of intelligence work and hundreds of hours of briefing to come to a solution for what is going on in one country, let alone the entire region.  I look forward to hearing the President’s speech, and I hope he provides one thing that has been missing in the uprising of these countries: leadership from the world’s most powerful nation.  It is going to take a careful balance of military operations, clandestine operations, foreign aid, and other form of diplomacy in order to come to a mutually beneficial solution for the people in these countries and the world as a whole.  What we need most, rather than the presentation of some all-inclusive doctrine, is true leadership and communication as to the approach we are taking with each one of these unique situations.

QP: Capitalizing on a Controversy

Chuck Todd of MSNBC put up a link on his twitter feed to a story that the President is selling t-shirts with his long form birth certificate.  To me, this is not only hilarious, but brilliant.  For $25, the President’s supporters can now continually rub the end result of this “controversy” in the faces of all of those who focused on this, of all reason, as to why he should be President.  Does President Obama need help raising money? Of course not!  But not only does this help him raise money, it sends a message too.  While our Nation is trying to address serious issues both within and outside our borders, a small – yet significant – percentage fought to have his Presidency declared illegal based on the Constitutional rule stating anyone who is President must be a naturally born citizen of the United States (maybe more on this in a later post).

While I do not agree with the President on many policy areas, I think he has a very smart political team and this is further evidence of that.  I congratulate them on a shrewd little jab to the Republican Party and the National Media, both of whom had a few members that chose to focus on the birth location/status of our first non-white male President than on issues that actually matter.

QP: A Friendly Immigration Reminder

I have had this post simmering in the “draft” section for quite a while as I never knew how to finish it up. So, I just blew the whole thing up and started over.

There is something that Americans need to remember about illegal immigration – it isn’t all about our Southern Border.  While the typical thinking is that illegal immigrants = Hispanic, that really isn’t the case.  Every continent on Earth contributes to our illegal immigration problem (with the obvious expect of Antarctica as penguins and ice are not applicable to this discussion).  While there are a lot of people from Mexico and Latin America who cross the southern border, illegal immigrants gain access through Canada too.  They also come in aboard ships on ocean ports and on planes landing in all 50 states.  Sometimes they even arrive legally and then become illegal by having lapsed green cards, arriving under false pretenses, or just becoming lost in the system.

You will get no argument from me that illegal immigration is a problem in the country.  We need a firm NATIONAL policy on immigration that the states can tweak to suit their own circumstances (Arizona likely has different immigration issues than Kentucky does).  However, when we examine this issue, we need to remember not to be focused race and ethnicity because illegal immigrants are of every race, creed, and color.  It is neither responsible or reasonable to assume that someone who is Hispanic is here illegally while someone originally from Europe is in the country by legal means.  When this issue is finally addressed by our Federal Government, we must make sure that it looks at the actual problem, not just the one that exists in our perception of the issue

QP: A Friendly Immigration Reminder

I have had this post simmering in the “draft” section for quite a while as I never knew how to finish it up. So, I just blew the whole thing up and started over.

There is something that Americans need to remember about illegal immigration – it isn’t all about our Southern Border.  While the typical thinking is that illegal immigrants = Hispanic, that really isn’t the case.  Every continent on Earth contributes to our illegal immigration problem (with the obvious expect of Antarctica as penguins and ice are not applicable to this discussion).  While there are a lot of people from Mexico and Latin America who cross the southern border, illegal immigrants gain access through Canada too.  They also come in aboard ships on ocean ports and on planes landing in all 50 states.  Sometimes they even arrive legally and then become illegal by having lapsed green cards, arriving under false pretenses, or just becoming lost in the system.

You will get no argument from me that illegal immigration is a problem in the country.  We need a firm NATIONAL policy on immigration that the states can tweak to suit their own circumstances (Arizona likely has different immigration issues than Kentucky does).  However, when we examine this issue, we need to remember not to be focused race and ethnicity because illegal immigrants are of every race, creed, and color.  It is neither responsible or reasonable to assume that someone who is Hispanic is here illegally while someone originally from Europe is in the country by legal means.  When this issue is finally addressed by our Federal Government, we must make sure that it looks at the actual problem, not just the one that exists in our perception of the issue