In this collection of news chum, I’m clearing out some accumulated articles regarding the upcoming election. I’ll note upfront that some of these items relate to elections other than the Presidential one — yes, there will be other things on the ballot:
- Changing Voting Systems. I’ve always liked LA County’s voting system: You mark a paper ballot with an ink-stamp, which is then optically read for counting (and checked, when you deposit it, for over/under voting). But LA County wants to change the system. An article from back in June notes how LA County envisions the future: instead of being directed to designated polling stations on a single Tuesday, voters will be able to choose from hundreds of voting centers around the county during a 10-day window leading up to election day. Further, instead of marking their selections with pen and paper, they will enter their selections on touch-screen ballot-marking devices, print out a paper ballot to review their selections, and feed the ballot back into the machine to be stored and counted. They have developed prototypes of the new machines. Further, LA officials believe that with voters no longer confined to a single polling place, many of the issues with voter rosters that led to provisional ballots will not occur. Voters wanting to cast a cross-over ballot could have selected the correct ballot through the system’s user interface. This approach dovetails quite nicely with a measure reported on in August. The measure, SB450, which has been sent to the Governor for signature, would give local officials the power to close thousands of neighborhood polling places. In their place, counties would open temporary elections offices known as “vote centers” sprinkled throughout communities, locations offering a wide variety of elections services including early voting and same-day voter registration as well as a limited number of in-person voting booths. SB 450 would offer each of California’s 58 counties the chance to embrace an alternative to traditional elections. In most of those counties, every registered voter would receive a ballot in the mail and polling places would be scrapped. Voters would be able to turn in ballots either at secure drop boxes placed around the county or at the new “vote center” locations. Some of those vote centers would be open at least 10 days before election day, and would allow last-minute registration, a check of existing registration status and the ability to cast a vote in person even if the voter lives in a different city inside county lines. Unlike traditional polling places, the vote centers are envisioned as staffed by paid workers with more than the few hours of training normally given to temporary poll workers. My thoughts on the matter: I can see what they are trying to do and the advantages, but there is also something to be said for local voting and knowing the people in the neighborhood.
- A Gigantic Ballot. The hot air in California in election season will not come from the Presidential candidates (who just visit California for our money), but our propositions. California’s November ballot is going to be very long. In additional to the Presidential campaign, a Senate race (between two Democrats), House, State Senate, and Assembly races, 17 measures have earned a spot on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot, a bumper crop of voter choices ranging from marijuana legalization to repeal of the death penalty and even new workplace rules for actors in adult movies. Four of the propositions earned a spot on the fall ballot with only hours to spare on Thursday, including two tax proposals and a sweeping prison proposal championed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Six of the 17 propositions seek to amend the state constitution. They include Brown’s effort to revamp the rules on parole from state prison, and a requirement that neither house of the Legislature pass any bill that hasn’t been available for public review for at least three days. Nine measures will ask voters to enact new state laws, with proposals on everything from new background checks for buying ammunition to a $9-billion bond for school construction and modernization projects. Voters will consider, too, the merits of an effort to impose a cap on prescription drug prices paid by state healthcare officials that will be fought with an expensive opposition campaign by the pharmaceutical industry. The ballot also includes a referendum — voters will choose to accept or reject a law that bans single-use plastic bags statewide. They have just started printing the ballot guide for all those propositions. It is going to be 224 pages, and cost $15 million to print. It describes some of the most complex laws ever proposed, initiatives with details so granular that they could easily confound all but the most expert legal minds. Leading the pack is Proposition 64, the much-talked-about effort to fully legalize marijuana use for California adults. The broad question may be straightforward, but the initiative is not. Even the guide’s overview analysis of Prop 64 is 10 pages long. The actual proposed state law to make pot legal takes another 33 pages of the document, more than 17,000 words in all. My thoughts on the matter: I’m going to have to wade through all of this to come up with my ballot recommendation. How many other people are going to bother?
- An Expert Negotiator. Donald Trump has emphasized his business skill at negotiating. It appears that skill may create a war — yes, expect a real war — with Mexico when they attempt to take back California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. You see, when the Donald was in Mexico recently, he intimated that he might suspend NAFTA, the free-trade treaty. Mexico’s response? A Mexican senator has filed a bill in their legislature that makes “full use of the foreign policy mandate given to the Mexican Senate by the Constitution,” and if Trump did break NAFTA and start a trade war, it would by law cause our neighbors to reconsider every treaty signed between our two nations. Every treaty. Think about that. Now research the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War and gave the U.S. ownership of California and land that would eventually become New Mexico, most of Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado. If that treaty is reconsidered, Mexico could claim ownership of those lands. This is the impact of diplomacy by someone who isn’t a diplomat, or educated on the nuances of the impact of what they say or do.
- Candidates and Teflon, Bullies and Good Kids. Have you ever wondered why anything outrageous is reported about Clinton and becomes a major scandal, whereas all of the outrageous things about Trump get seemingly swept under the rug. It turns out, there is a reason. The media has been trained to not trust Clinton, and to call to investigate her at the drop of a hat. Why? The reporter’s job is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” — a credo that, humorously, was originally written as a smear of the self-righteous nature of journalists. And so the justification for going after a public figure increases in proportion to his or her stature. The bigger the figure, the looser the restraints. After a quarter of a century on the national stage, there’s no more comfortable political figure to afflict than Hillary Clinton. The Clinton rules are driven by reporters’ and editors’ desire to score the ultimate prize in contemporary journalism: the scoop that brings down Hillary Clinton and her family’s political empire. At least in that way, Republicans and the media have a common interest. Of course, never mind that all these scandals are not true, and have been proven to be not true. As for Trump, no one cares about his well-known acts of naked corruption. Why? It comes down to this: The difference between Trump and Clinton is that Clinton bleeds when they hit her. Writing about Trump’s corruption long ago hit the law of diminishing returns, because everyone knows he’s corrupt and his supporters like it. It is news to no-one. Clinton, however, is clean—but her supporters waver at the thought of dirt. In other words: The media beats up on Clinton for the same reason bullies beat up on kids: because they get joy when the kid reacts to their torture. Clinton reacts to the charges (I know, just like a girl 🙂 ). Trump bullies back and ignores the charages. The net result: Yet again, we give our attention to the bully, and not the good kid. Of course, in the end, it is meaningless, because facts don’t matter to Trump supporters. Again, this is like the real world, where the parents always stand by their child who is bullying (sometimes even after they drive someone — or a country — to suicide).
- The Ultimate Question: Who Is Qualified?. Vox had some interesting analysis of why Trump will never be elected. It isn’t the stupid things he says or does; it isn’t his embrace of Putin; it isn’t his disclosing what happens at intelligence briefings. It will ultimately be because voters don’t believe him to be qualified. Here are the telling paragraphs:
The problem Trump faces is more fundamental than mere candidate preference. He currently fails to clear the most basic bar of the presidency. A majority of voters simply don’t think he’s qualified to serve as president. And it’s not just qualifications — they don’t think he has the personality or temperament to serve as president (67 to 31 percent), they don’t think he has a solid understanding of world affairs (64 to 33 percent), and they don’t think he’s honest and trustworthy (62 to 34 percent).
This is how Trump’s candidacy differs from Clinton’s. Observers often note that Clinton, like Trump, is viewed unfavorably by most Americans, and that’s true (though the 50 percent unfavorable rating Clinton posts in this poll is quite a bit better than Trump’s 63 percent unfavorable rating). But while many Americans don’t like Clinton, they do believe in her ability to do the job. Majorities think her qualified to serve as president (60 to 38 percent), that she has the personality and temperament to serve as president (61 to 38 percent), and say she has a solid knowledge of world affairs (72 to 25 percent).
So this, then, is the election as it stands today: Most Americans don’t like Donald Trump and they don’t think he’s qualified, temperamentally fit, or sufficiently knowledgeable about world affairs to serve as president. Most Americans don’t like Hillary Clinton, but they do believe she’s qualified, temperamentally fit, and sufficiently knowledgeable about world affairs to serve as president.
As PJ O’Rourke put it, when he endorsed Clinton: “I am endorsing Hillary, and all her lies and all her empty promises. It’s the second-worst thing that can happen to this country, but she’s way behind in second place. She’s wrong about absolutely everything, but she’s wrong within normal parameters.”
Or, as the Dallas Morning News put it in their endorsement of Clinton: “There is only one serious candidate on the presidential ballot in November. […] We’ve been critical of Clinton’s handling of certain issues in the past. But unlike Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton has experience in actual governance, a record of service and a willingness to delve into real policy. [… Clinton’s shortcomings …] Those are real shortcomings. But they pale in comparison to the litany of evils some opponents accuse her of. Treason? Murder? Her being cleared of crimes by investigation after investigation has no effect on these political hyenas; they refuse to see anything but conspiracies and cover-ups. We reject the politics of personal destruction. Clinton has made mistakes and displayed bad judgment, but her errors are plainly in a different universe than her opponent’s. […] After nearly four decades in the public spotlight, 25 of them on the national stage, Clinton is a known quantity. For all her warts, she is the candidate more likely to keep our nation safe, to protect American ideals and to work across the aisle to uphold the vital domestic institutions that rely on a competent, experienced president.
November is going to be interesting folks, and it is rapidly approaching. Stay educated, stay informed, and learn the truth about your candidates. Don’t just live in the bubble chamber, but explore all sides, and recognize their bias. Remember that it is vital that you vote, and that you vote for the right person, not the bum. Now, I shall finish my lunch…..