🗳 To Bernie or Not To Bernie, That Is The Question?

As a current (reluctant) Biden support in this period before the nomination is settled, I’m between two camps on Facebook.

On one side, predictably, are my few Conservative friends I’ve retained. They are, again predictably, going on about Sanders and his Socialism. I try to distinguish for them between Social Democracy and Socialism, but they don’t hear me. They’ve likely made up their minds already, but I also know there are loads of Republican moderates out there hearing the same thing, and believing Sanders is a Socialist, which is the same as a Communist.

On the other side are my friends who are (quite rightly) concerned heavily about social justice. They love what Sanders says and want me to love it as well. They feel that we need the most progressive candidate possible to pull the country to a place where it can do the most for the people with the least, where it can protect all those that need protection, where the economic and social inequality that has been acerbated by the Trump administration can be addressed. They fervently believe that Bernie is the only way to get to where they want this country to be; they believe that Biden is only slightly less evil than Trump, given his long history. They fear a Biden administration.

I’m sitting here between these two camps, reluctantly going with Biden because the other choices I like have left the race. Most have endorsed Biden, in fact. I don’t believe Biden is perfect — far from it. But I do believe that (a) he will respect the rule of law and the authority of Congress; (b) he will attempt to restore what Obama did right and fix what Obama got wrong or didn’t complete; and (c) he will respect Science and will work to address the climate crisis. I do sincerely hope that he picks a female running mate, not a sitting Senator, and that he commits to serving only one term (a good way to address the issues, and reduce the appearance of wanting power for power’s sake).

I also strongly believe that Sanders would be most effective in the Senate, working with Warren, Booker, and Klobuchar, to bring about the progressive policy that we need. They are much more effective and persuasive there, and they can introduce (together with their colleagues in the House) and bring the progress we need to put the bills on the President’s desk.

But that doesn’t stop the voices from both sides. So, Sen. Sanders (or your supporters), here’s what I would like from you:

  • A clear statement, explanation, repeated often, as to why you are not a Socialist and why what you are proposing is not Socialism. I don’t think it is, but I understand Social Democracy. Most don’t. Until you can get that clearly articulated, and get America believing that you are not a Socialist, that label will be a bludgeon used against you by the Trump campaign.
  • A clear statement that you will not be an ideological purist. The Congress will quite likely pass policies that are not as progressive as the stands you are promoting in the campaign. I want assurances that you will support moving the needle in the correct direction, even if it isn’t the utopia you want right away.
  • Ideally, the same pledge I want from Biden: You will be a one-term President. You are old, and the best way to address your age is to make your administration transitional. Pick a Vice President who will further your agenda, be younger than you are, and be someone you can train to replace you.

Because I want to get rid of Trump, I’ll still support you if you are the nominee. But others may not. Addressing the items above may help you get that landslide you would need to make the election unquestionable.

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🗳 Biden or Bernie? Making a Decision to Move the Needle Forward

Boy, they are dropping like flies. They’re dropping left and … left and … left and … far left. So, unless you’re in Tulsi‘s camp, you’re left with two old white men: Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. I know some Sanders supporters that indicate that they will not vote for Biden (although these points should be considered). I know people reluctantly voting for Biden who are unsure they could vote for Bernie. I have two things to say, especially to those groups:

  1. Ultimately, the progressive policies you want will come from Congress. Laws need to be a changin’, and that starts with Congress — which is why a Democratic (and progressive) Senate and House is critical. If Biden got a progressive bill from Congress, he would likely sign it. If Sanders got a bill that didn’t reflect his specific policies, would he sign it? I’m not sure. But here’s the key thing: If we don’t have both houses as Democratic, no progressive bills will be landing on anyone’s desk. What is important is moving that needle forward, even if it doesn’t go as far as we would like. The NEXT Democratic president can get it over the goal line if it is closer (and I’d love to see a pledge from both Bernie and Biden that they would be one-term presidents, given their ages). So we need to make sure we take BOTH houses.
  2. There’s a meme going around that makes a great point (which I’ve slightly modified): You’re not voting for President. You’re voting for who replaces Ruth Bader Ginsberg. You’re voting for the next Secretary of Education. You’re voting for who nominates Federal Judges. You’re voting for saving national parks. You’re voting for clean air and clean water. You’re voting for scientists to be allowed to speak about the climate crisis. You’re voting for what the President says on Twitter, and the image that is presented by the President of this nation to the world. You’re voting for housing rights. You’re voting for LGBTQIA people to be treated with dignity. You’re voting for non-Christians to be able to adopt and to feel like full citizens. You’re voting for the Dreamers. You’re voting so there will be Social Security and Medicare when you retire. You’re voting for veterans to get the care they deserve. You’re voting for rural hospitals. You’re voting so that someone else can have health insurance. You’re voting for PBS and the National Endowment of the airs. You’re voting to have a President that doesn’t embarrass this country in the community of nations. Your voting against an administration that only allows congruity with what they are thinking or saying, whether it is right or wrong, constitutional or not. You’re voting to restore us as a nation that respects the checks and balances in the constitution.

No Democrat is perfect. The nominee will not be perfect. They won’t pass your purity test. Both of them have non-problems that Trump will exploit as if they were real problems (Biden has the Ukraine; Bernie has that pesky “Socialist” label). Yet either of them will be better than four more years of Trump. Either of them will help move the nation to a more progressive point. Perhaps it may not be fully to where you want the nation to be. But remember the Pirkei Avot, which notes, “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” We may not be able to elect that perfect candidate, and our nominee may not be whom we want to be. But we need to vote for them, in order to help make progress on the work. The subsequent administration can finish the job. We all know that voting for Trump, or sitting on our hands and not voting, will do nothing to move that needle forward. Further, if you do a partial ordering comparison of the candidates, any Democratic candidate is better than Trump (assuming you are not a Trump sycophant, in which case I’m unsure why you’re reading this).

“You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” Something great to remember this election.

P.S.: For those who are arguing that the moderates lost against Trump, given Hillary’s performance. You’ve fallen for the Trump narrative. Remember: Hillary Clinton WON the popular vote by a significant margin. She lost the Electoral College because of how she managed the ground game, writing off key states and losing their electoral votes. The issue is not the strength of the moderates or the progressives, but the strength of the machine, and the importance of not writing off ANY state in advance. We need to ensure that the Democratic nominee campaigns in all states, and gets out the Democratic vote in all states. Do that, and the Democrats will win — and that’s from the top to the bottom of the ticket.

P.P.S.: Please don’t construe this post as saying you should vote Biden (or vote Bernie) at this point. Until we reach the convention, campaign for the candidate you feel will be the best at the top of the ticket. But remember that the top of the ticket is only part of the story, and the essential thing is to get a Democrat in office to replace Trump, and to take a majority in both houses. Once we are past the convention, we need to remember that our goal is to move the needle forward, not to complete the work … and that either Biden or Bernie is better than the Donald.

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🗯️ Nice Doggy

Back in high school, lo those many many (many) years ago, I learned a phrase with respect to my favorite board game, “Diplomacy”: “Diplomacy is the art of saying “nice doggy” until you find a big enough stick.”

This phrase came into my head with the news of Mayor Pete dropping out of the Democratic primary field, and Joe Biden having a decisive win in the South Carolina primary. It connects with my reticence over Bernie Sanders as an eventual nominee. Let me explain.

Much as we may hate to admit it, America is not a country that loves, it is a country that hates. It started out in racism, and hasn’t yet moved past it. Oh, we Liberals like to believe that we have moved past it. We like to believe that the struggles for women starting in the early 20th century, the battle for civil rights in the 1960s, and the battles for gay rights in the 2000s have settled the issue and we have moved past the racism. But one look at Trump, and what his followers espouse on the Internet will quickly abuse one of that notion. Hate is rampant. Explicit and implicit bias is still there.

Further, we like to believe that we can wave a magic wand and it will disappear. Just by picking the right presidential candidate, we can move past all this hatred and usher in that perfect progressive society. We’ll do that by picking a perfect candidate, one that has no racist or problematic history. One wave, and (poof) society will be great again. After all, we saw how racism disappeared when we elected President Obama.

Diplomacy is the art of saying “nice doggy”, until you find a big enough stick.

Fact The First: The most important thing this election is to ensure a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House, with as large a majority as possible.

Fact The Second: The second most important thing this election is to elect a Democratic president and remove Trump, his croneys, and his sycophants. Why second? Because if we get the first, we have the means to at least remove Trump and his cronys, and hopefully get a more moderate Republican administration.

Fact The Third: The Democratic election majorities at the ballot box must be sufficiently large that the election cannot be contested; large enough that even if they throw out some number of votes, the election still gives a Democratic result.

The corollary of this third fact is that we must therefore convince the moderate Republicans (those who are fed up with Trump) to vote for Democratic candidates, in sufficient numbers to get that majority. That means we must run candidates that are not only palatable to the Democratic base, but to those in the middle. We want a repeat of the 1964 election, in terms of landslide against Trump and his policies.

Combine these facts, and you’ll find yourself saying “Nice Doggy”. We are not going to elect Bernie and magically get his splendiferous agenda. We’re not going to elect Liz and get all those plans. We’re going to get a compromise shaped by the House and the Senate, one that will likely be closer to the moderate policies — because it must be able to pass the House and Senate.

Saying “Nice Doggy” has shaped the field. It is why all the top candidates now are old white men — because old white men aren’t as scary. Well, Bernie might be in the fright mask, but I digress. It is why the Democrats might be coalescing around a moderate, even if Bernie ends up with the most delegates (but not a majority). Remember the implication of that: most delegates, but not a majority, means the majority of the party WANTS SOMEONE ELSE. They just couldn’t unify on precisely who — they just know who they don’t want it to be.

Saying “Nice Doggy” for the election also means the stick is coming. When the election is over, and an acceptable ticket is elected (Biden/Abrams, Sanders/Harris, etc.), then the work can really begin — the work of addressing the structural racism and classism in this country. But we can’t do anything if Trump and McConnell remain in charge. Hell, we can’t do anything even if Sanders is elected, and McConnell remains in charge.

Thus endeth this rant. And I didn’t even mention Amy.

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🗳️ March 2020 Primary Election Ballot Analysis (V): Summary

I’m now registered as a permanent vote-by-mail voter, and I recently received my ballot for the March California Primary. And that means it is time to start doing the detailed ballot analysis. This is where, for most contests, I examine each candidate and share my conclusions, and invite you to convince me to vote for the other jerk.

Because this is a long ballot, I’m splitting it into a few chunks:

  1. The Presidential Primary
  2. The Congressional, State and Local Offices
  3. Judicial Offices
  4. Ballot Measures
  5. Summary (this post)

This part provides a summary of my ballot analysis results. Please read the full explanation of why I chose who I chose in the links above.

 

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🗳️ March 2020 Primary Election Ballot Analysis (IV): Measure for Measure

I’m now registered as a permanent vote-by-mail voter, and I recently received my ballot for the March California Primary. And that means it is time to start doing the detailed ballot analysis. This is where, for most contests, I examine each candidate and share my conclusions, and invite you to convince me to vote for the other jerk.

Because this is a long ballot, I’m splitting it into a few chunks:

  1. The Presidential Primary
  2. The Congressional, State and Local Offices
  3. Judicial Offices
  4. Ballot Measures (this post)
  5. Summary

This part covers the following Ballot Measures: State Measure 13 ❦ Los Angeles County Measure R

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🗳️ March 2020 Primary Election Ballot Analysis (III): Judicial Offices

I’m now registered as a permanent vote-by-mail voter, and I recently received my ballot for the March California Primary. And that means it is time to start doing the detailed ballot analysis. This is where, for most contests, I examine each candidate and share my conclusions, and invite you to convince me to vote for the other jerk.

Because this is a long ballot, I’m splitting it into a few chunks:

  1. The Presidential Primary
  2. The Congressional, State and Local Offices
  3. Judicial Offices (this post)
  4. Ballot Measures
  5. Summary

This part covers the Judicial Offices, all Judges of the Superior Court: 17 ❦ 42 ❦ 72 ❦ 76 ❦ 80 ❦ 97 ❦ 129 ❦ 131 ❦ 141 ❦ 145 ❦ 150 ❦ 162. California’s systems for judges is — in some ways — a strange one. I’m sure it is shaped by past abuses, especially by politicians appointing unqualified judges. How it works is that lawyers wanting to move into the judicial system (and further their careers in a non-corporate law world) must start by running for the Superior Court, from which they can be appointed to the Court of Appeals or California Supreme Court. But winning a seat on the bench is more than a question of just your skills as a jurist. I don’t know whether each office handles different types of cases — that isn’t make clear on the ballot. But each election cycle, a certain offices come up for election. Up for election in 2020 are 188 Los Angeles Superior Court judges. Those who opt not to run in the March 3 primary and do not retire before their terms are up and in time for the governor to appoint a successor, will create open seats. The lawyer/potential candidate has to (a) indicate all the seats they might want to run for, and then (b) pick one of those to actually run in — hopefully the one with no or weak competition. Sometimes you luck out, and no one runs against you. Other times, you end up against equally strong people, and are faced with a public that often only picks people randomly or based on your job title. Lucky for you, I try to sort this all out.

ETA: Here’s a clarification from a friend of mine familiar with the area: A couple points of clarification. First, judges can either be appointed by the governor (more common method) or elected (less common method). Lawyers can theoretically be appointed directly to the Court of Appeal or to the Supreme Court without serving as superior court judges first, but it’s rare. (Justices Groban and Kruger are examples of CSC justices who were never superior court judges.) Second, judges who fill a seat either through appointment or election are not guaranteed a particular assignment. Judges do rotate their assignments so they could be in civil for a few years and then move to juvenile or probate or criminal or whatever. It depends on the needs of the court based on workload. By sleuthing around on the court’s website you can usually figure out what the current judge’s assignment is. Third, if a judge’s term is up, the judge elects to run for re-election, and the judge is unopposed, then that judge does not appear on the ballot and they are automatically re-elected. But if the judge is opposed, then you’ll see their names and the names of their challengers on the ballot.

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🗳️ March 2020 Primary Election Ballot Analysis (II): State and Local Offices

I’m now registered as a permanent vote-by-mail voter, and I recently received my ballot for the March California Primary. And that means it is time to start doing the detailed ballot analysis. This is where, for most contests, I examine each candidate and share my conclusions, and invite you to convince me to vote for the other jerk.

Because this is a long ballot, I’m splitting it into a few chunks:

  1. The Presidential Primary
  2. The Congressional, State and Local Offices (this post)
  3. Judicial Offices
  4. Ballot Measures
  5. Summary

This part covers the Congressional, State and Local Offices:

  • Federal: US Representative, 30th District
  • State: State Senate, 27th District ❦ State Assembly, 45th District
  • LA County: District Attorney
  • LA City: Council District 12
  • LAUSD: Board of Education, District 3
  • Other: Democratic Central Committee, District 45

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🗳️ March 2020 Primary Election Ballot Analysis (I): Introduction & Presidential Primary

I’m now registered as a permanent vote-by-mail voter, and I recently received my ballot for the March California Primary. And that means it is time to start doing the detailed ballot analysis. This is where, for most contests, I examine each candidate and share my conclusions, and invite you to convince me to vote for the other jerk.

In Los Angeles County, this election is bringing big changes. I predict chaos. Los Angeles is getting rid of the old “Inkavote” system, where you would go to your local precinct, and use an inked stamp to mark a ballot, which you then took to a precinct worker to confirm you didn’t mismark (i.e, vote twice for an office, not ink dark enough), and then you put your ballot in the collection box.

Under the new system,  everything — and I mean everything — changes. Gone are your local polling places. Instead, there are regional voting centers — fewer in number, but open for between eleven to four days before the election. You don’t have to go locally — you can go to any center in the county and they will verify your registration and pull up and print your ballot for you to vote.

Here’s a description of the process, somewhat edited, from LAist: “First, a county poll worker looks up your information on new digital “e- pollbook.” The election worker confirms your address and prints a custom ballot specific to your precinct. You then walk that ballot over to a machine, insert it into a slot. The tablet reads your ballot, and presents you the selections to vote on a touchscreen. It then lets you review your selections at the end, and prints it out for you again. After looking things over and confirming they are correct, you insert the ballot back into the machine and you’re done.

The project is called VSAP, There are even videos explaining things. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, lots. They’ve done tests, but small scale. I can just imagine the lines when the electronic verification of registration gets backed up or goes down (here’s your first point of failure, with no backups). There are printers, and tested demonstrated problems with getting ballots printed. Then there are the ballot readers — and remember anything with mechanical collection can break down. That’s not to mention all the behind the scene risks related to the software, counting, collection, and such.

There’s also the user interface: it takes multiple screens to see all the candidates, and on a touch screen, people are more used to swiping as opposed to a “more” button. Some security experts are concerned about independent test results showing vulnerabilities, and there is a vocal contingent of election advocates who believe the only way to safeguard voting is by requiring hand-marked paper ballots whenever possible. Luckily, as the County Registrar notes, “It is still a voter-marked paper ballot. This device is not retaining your voter choices, it’s not tabulating your votes.  It’s just allowing you to mark the ballot in a way that’s clear. For tabulation, the printed ballot is the official ballot.”

Note that, as part of the conditions for certifying the system, everyone has the option of hand-marking a paper ballot.

As for me, I’ll be voting early. Partially, that’s because I’ll be out of town (in Madison WI) on election day. But I also want to try this system when it is less crowded. That’s one reason I’ve been pushing to get this analysis done.

Because this is a long ballot, I’m splitting it into a few chunks:

  1. The Presidential Primary (this post)
  2. The Congressional, State and Local Offices
  3. Judicial Offices
  4. Ballot Measures
  5. Summary

This part covers the Presidential Primary.

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