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How Do You Fix This? Re-establishing a working U.S. government

#1 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2016-October-08, 13:26

Although this https://www.yahoo.co...arty-could.html is a joke, there is the question: what has happened to statesmanship? Is it possible to have a democratic republic where opposing sides are considered the enemy and compromise treason?

What steps are needed to correct these problems?
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#2 User is online   hrothgar 

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Posted 2016-October-08, 16:06

View PostWinstonm, on 2016-October-08, 13:26, said:

Although this https://www.yahoo.co...arty-could.html is a joke, there is the question: what has happened to statesmanship? Is it possible to have a democratic republic where opposing sides are considered the enemy and compromise treason?

What steps are needed to correct these problems?


Proportional representation at the state level is a good starting point...
Alderaan delenda est
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#3 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2016-October-08, 16:29

View Posthrothgar, on 2016-October-08, 16:06, said:

Proportional representation at the state level is a good starting point...


Although I agree with you, I am not convinced that would result in more compromise. A sort of Rubicon has been created and then crossed by first the Moral Majority and later on a substantial amount of the Republican Party itself insomuch they have incorporated religious morality into their planks and platforms. We saw the most obvious example of this in the recent VP debate where Kaine stressed non-intervention by the government in abortion while Pence proposed the government should enforce his morality.

What some do not seem capable of understanding is that without secular government there is no religious freedom. How do you fix that basic misconception?
If something cannot go on forever, it will stop. - Herb Stein
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#4 User is online   hrothgar 

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Posted 2016-October-08, 16:39

View PostWinstonm, on 2016-October-08, 16:29, said:

What some do not seem capable of understanding is that without secular government there is no religious freedom. How do you fix that basic misconception?


Personally, I am waiting for a bunch of old white folks to die...

I am hopeful that deleaded gasoline will help in the long run.
Alderaan delenda est
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#5 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2016-October-08, 17:00

View Posthrothgar, on 2016-October-08, 16:39, said:

Personally, I am waiting for a bunch of old white folks to die...


Patience, patience. All good things come to those who wait.
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#6 User is offline   mike777 

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Posted 2016-October-08, 23:48

geez

honestly
bbo posts really get deeply honest..
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#7 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2016-October-09, 08:08

I thought of this thread when I saw an article by Jay Matthews. He covers education for the WaPo. I am not all that much a Matthews fan, but he addresses the "How Do You Fix This" issue and refers to a conference organized by Ralph Nader. I have to give it some thought before I really have an opinion.

Matthews:
https://www.washingt...id_content_3_na

The Nader conference:
https://www.breakingthroughpower.org/

If by "Fix This" you mean how do we get conservatives to realize that they are wrong and liberals are right, then of course that cannot be done. But if "Fix This" means getting people to be more engaged and thoughtful, perhaps there are things that would help. We all make choices as to how engaged we will be. I will not be running for office.

Waiting for old white people to die could work, although I would oppose any effort to shorten the wait.
Ken
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#8 User is offline   awm 

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Posted 2016-October-09, 09:35

Other than the usual "make more people agree with me" type of thing, I'd say there are three major problems which haven't always existed:

1. Too much influence by a small number of very wealthy individuals on our election process. This is actually worse on the local level, where the candidates are less widely known (so TV ads can have more impact) and where a relatively smaller amount of money can swing a lot of opinions. It's possible that the success of Bernie Sanders (and more recently Donald Trump) in raising large amounts of money online from small donations may already move the needle on this! From a legal perspective, anything that rolls back Citizens United or (at minimum) requires disclosure of donations can help.

2. Too much sorting of voters geographically. This is sometimes blamed on gerrymandering (which is a problem, and can be addressed by non-partisan districting as we have in CA, or more drastically by proportional representation). However, it's a bit deeper than that as much of our present political divide is cities vs. suburban/rural and voters have basically grouped themselves to live near people with similar opinions for the most part. The end result of this is a severe lack of competitive districts, and situations where a substantial majority of the population can only elect a minority of the congressional representatives.

3. The proliferation of highly opinionated and inaccurate news sources. People watching fox news get completely different coverage than people watching msnbc, and each side basically has their own facts. One way to address this would be to bring back requirements of balance in news reporting, another would be to strengthen slander and libel laws (at least when applied to media which claims to be providing "news" rather than "opinion").
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#9 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2016-October-09, 09:52

To add clarity to the thread, I am not talking about right and wrong or believing my way of thinking. I question what happened to statesmen, people in the minority and majority that could find ways to work with one another publicly for the good of the country.

It doesn't matter if the person is right or left wing. How do we restore a working national government?

The obvious answer is through the ballot box but I think there is more than this. I do think it is important to understand how we got to this point in order to unwind the damage and try to prevent recurrences going forward.

Mainly, though, I wanted a thread that moved away from the current election into a more positive territory - how do we get better from here?
If something cannot go on forever, it will stop. - Herb Stein
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#10 User is online   hrothgar 

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Posted 2016-October-09, 10:38

FWIW, my comments about leaded gasoline wasn't a joke...

There's a lot of studies about what this does to the brain and some very well regarded studies of about the impact of leaded gas on crime rates.
I personally think that the rise of the Republican Right owes a lot to the same issues with the lizard brain...
Alderaan delenda est
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#11 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2016-October-09, 11:04

View Posthrothgar, on 2016-October-09, 10:38, said:

FWIW, my comments about leaded gasoline wasn't a joke...

There's a lot of studies about what this does to the brain and some very well regarded studies of about the impact of leaded gas on crime rates.
I personally think that the rise of the Republican Right owes a lot to the same issues with the lizard brain...


The history of leaded gasoline by itself is a pretty good argument for the necessity of government regulation rather than reliance solely on market forces.
If something cannot go on forever, it will stop. - Herb Stein
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#12 User is offline   Trinidad 

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Posted 2016-October-09, 11:49

View PostWinstonm, on 2016-October-08, 16:29, said:

View Posthrothgar, on 2016-October-08, 16:06, said:

Proportional representation at the state level is a good starting point...


Although I agree with you, I am not convinced that would result in more compromise. A sort of Rubicon has been created and then crossed by first the Moral Majority and later on a substantial amount of the Republican Party itself insomuch they have incorporated religious morality into their planks and platforms. We saw the most obvious example of this in the recent VP debate where Kaine stressed non-intervention by the government in abortion while Pence proposed the government should enforce his morality.

What some do not seem capable of understanding is that without secular government there is no religious freedom. How do you fix that basic misconception?

One of the consequences of proportional representation is that it makes a multi-party system possible. In a working multi-party system, no single party has the majority. They will always need to find a compromise.

To create a simple example: Let's say that we cut both the Republican party and the Democratic party into two pieces. The Republicans into "Tea Party" (TP) and "Mainstream Republicans" (MR) and the Democrats into "Society Changers" (SC) and "Mainstream Democrats" (MD). This means that parties will have to co-operate in coalitions. This may well be (or is even likely to be) a coalition of Mainstream Democrats and Mainstream Republicans. They will make moderate decisions (called compromises) that keep both sides happy.

The hardest part in these coalitions is to realize the situations where the compromise is worse than either extreme decision. (E.g. To build half a wall between the US and Mexico is flat out stupid compared to building a whole wall and to not building a wall.) In those cases, the best overall compromise is an exchange of extremes. One party gets its way on one issue, but then also for the full 100%. Another party gets its way on another, for the full 100%.

In a two party system, you are essentially always running from one extreme to another, also in situations where the compromise would work better: Raising taxes, increasing welfare - lowering taxes, decreasing welfare - raising taxes ... instead of steady taxes and steady welfare.

Rik
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#13 User is offline   Winstonm 

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Posted 2016-October-09, 13:52

View PostTrinidad, on 2016-October-09, 11:49, said:

One of the consequences of proportional representation is that it makes a multi-party system possible. In a working multi-party system, no single party has the majority. They will always need to find a compromise.

To create a simple example: Let's say that we cut both the Republican party and the Democratic party into two pieces. The Republicans into "Tea Party" (TP) and "Mainstream Republicans" (MR) and the Democrats into "Society Changers" (SC) and "Mainstream Democrats" (MD). This means that parties will have to co-operate in coalitions. This may well be (or is even likely to be) a coalition of Mainstream Democrats and Mainstream Republicans. They will make moderate decisions (called compromises) that keep both sides happy.

The hardest part in these coalitions is to realize the situations where the compromise is worse than either extreme decision. (E.g. To build half a wall between the US and Mexico is flat out stupid compared to building a whole wall and to not building a wall.) In those cases, the best overall compromise is an exchange of extremes. One party gets its way on one issue, but then also for the full 100%. Another party gets its way on another, for the full 100%.

In a two party system, you are essentially always running from one extreme to another, also in situations where the compromise would work better: Raising taxes, increasing welfare - lowering taxes, decreasing welfare - raising taxes ... instead of steady taxes and steady welfare.

Rik

Thanks for the explanation.
If something cannot go on forever, it will stop. - Herb Stein
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#14 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2016-October-09, 14:11

View PostTrinidad, on 2016-October-09, 11:49, said:

One of the consequences of proportional representation is that it makes a multi-party system possible. In a working multi-party system, no single party has the majority. They will always need to find a compromise.

To create a simple example: Let's say that we cut both the Republican party and the Democratic party into two pieces. The Republicans into "Tea Party" (TP) and "Mainstream Republicans" (MR) and the Democrats into "Society Changers" (SC) and "Mainstream Democrats" (MD). This means that parties will have to co-operate in coalitions. This may well be (or is even likely to be) a coalition of Mainstream Democrats and Mainstream Republicans. They will make moderate decisions (called compromises) that keep both sides happy.

The hardest part in these coalitions is to realize the situations where the compromise is worse than either extreme decision. (E.g. To build half a wall between the US and Mexico is flat out stupid compared to building a whole wall and to not building a wall.) In those cases, the best overall compromise is an exchange of extremes. One party gets its way on one issue, but then also for the full 100%. Another party gets its way on another, for the full 100%.

In a two party system, you are essentially always running from one extreme to another, also in situations where the compromise would work better: Raising taxes, increasing welfare - lowering taxes, decreasing welfare - raising taxes ... instead of steady taxes and steady welfare.

Rik


But you need to get your proportional system right. Look at Israel. The threshold for getting seats is too low, so the religious nutters get the balance of power, and you lose the ability to do anything about the settlers.
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#15 User is offline   Trinidad 

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Posted 2016-October-10, 00:56

View PostCyberyeti, on 2016-October-09, 14:11, said:

But you need to get your proportional system right. Look at Israel. The threshold for getting seats is too low, so the religious nutters get the balance of power, and you lose the ability to do anything about the settlers.

Apparently, the Israeli politicians prefer co-operating with the religious nutters over co-operating with the other side. If the moderate sides of Likud and Labor would split off their party to start a new one, then one could create a Likud + Moderate labor government without religious nutters.

The tricky part in this case, however, is that it is my impression that the view of the Likud politicians (and voters) on issues like settlements isn't far away from that of the religious nutters, but that they let the religious nutters do the work. And I think it has been like that since 1948.

Rik
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#16 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2016-October-10, 02:58

View PostCyberyeti, on 2016-October-09, 14:11, said:

But you need to get your proportional system right. Look at Israel. The threshold for getting seats is too low, so the religious nutters get the balance of power, and you lose the ability to do anything about the settlers.

I am not really convinced by this argument. In Denmark and the Netherlands, smaller parties have often played a constructive and moderating role. Small parties like the Danish Christian People's Party and the Social Liberals in both countries have delivered some of the most professional cabinet members in the coalitions they have contributed to. Caroline Lucas is one of the best MPs, and PR would bring more of her kind. OK, you could say the opposite of the Northern Ireland nutters, but those are regionals which are actually favoured by the district system.

If the major right-wing parties in Israel give in to the nutters rather than cooperate with moderate left, then maybe it is because they are not so far from the nutter positions in the first place (and their voters, ideally, would be aware of this when they voted; if keeping the nutters out of influence was a priority for most Israelis then you would expect the left to have a majority under PR). Or, alternatively, the major right-wing parties reason that their voters are ok with the nutter footprint on their policies.

Sometimes the majority vote against their own interests, and sometimes they vote against vital interests of minorities, and sometimes they even vote for politicians whose voting records go against the will of the electorate. This could happen when the voters are ill-informed, or if they find Milliband's way of eating a bacon sandwich more important than his policies. Under PR, this leads to an unfortunate choice of politicians, but I see no reason why any other electorial system would be better. District systems add a lot of randomness, they favour bigger parties, and they favour regional parties. Of course this could happen to lead to a functioning government in some situations. But I don't see why it would be better in general.
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#17 User is offline   Cyberyeti 

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Posted 2016-October-10, 03:32

View Posthelene_t, on 2016-October-10, 02:58, said:

I am not really convinced by this argument. In Denmark and the Netherlands, smaller parties have often played a constructive and moderating role. Small parties like the Danish Christian People's Party and the Social Liberals in both countries have delivered some of the most professional cabinet members in the coalitions they have contributed to. Caroline Lucas is one of the best PMs, and PR would bring more of her kind. OK, you could say the opposite of the Northern Ireland nutters, but those are regional candidates which are actually favoured by the district system.

If the major right-wing parties in Israel give in to the nutters rather than cooperate with moderate left, then maybe it is because they are not so far from the nutter positions in the first place (and their voters, ideally, would be aware of this when they voted; if keeping the nutters out of influence was a priority for most Israelis then you would expect the left to have a majority under PR). Or, alternatively, the major right-wing parties reason that their voters are ok with the nutter footprint on their policies.

Sometimes the majority vote against their own interests, and sometimes they vote against vital interests of minorities, and sometimes they even vote for politicians whose voting records go against the will of the electorate. This could happen when the voters are ill-informed, or if they find Milliband's way of eating a bacon sandwich more important than his policies. Under PR, this leads to an unfortunate choice of politicians, but I see no reason why any other electorial system would be better. District systems add a lot of randomness, they favour bigger parties, and they favour regional parties. Of course this could happen to lead to a functioning government in some situations. But I don't see why it would be better in general.


Different systems work for different countries. Israel would be much better off with a threshold at say 5-8% before you got any seats and a steeper ramp so 5% only got you one seat so that the major parties would have to co-operate most of the time to get stuff done. Likud don't really have to compromise to deal with the religious parties other than in the defence/settlers area, so it suits them better than working with more moderate parties, particularly under Netanyahu, if a more moderate Likud leader came in it might be different.

I think the system the UK uses for European elections is as good as any.
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#18 User is offline   kenberg 

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Posted 2016-October-10, 07:36

Help a guy out here?

In Maryland, the Dem Chris van Hollen is running against the Rep Kathy Szeliga for the Senate seat now held by the retiring Barbara Mikulski. There are six other candidates of varying plausibility, but van Hollen or Szeliga will win. Only voters from Maryland have a choice between these Maryland candidates.

It we were to adopt proportional representation, there would have to be changes obviously. We cannot have van Holloen hold, say, three-fifths of a Senate seat. So what is being envisioned here? Would Senators be elected nationwide? We would vote for a party and then the parties would send Senators in proportion to their share of the vote?

No doubt I could/should read up on proportional representation in other countries but I am not so sure that even if I did so I would understand how it would apply here. As far as the Constitution is concerned, we don't even recognize political parties. A form of blindness, I know, but the fact is we don't so I gather this would have to be changed. And since there are only two Senators from Maryland, with at most one seat up for grabs in any given election year, I gather this would have to be changed in some way. Presumably by having the Senators be elected nationwide?

My guess is that this is a theoretical discussion with absolutely no chance of being implemented, but I am still interested in understanding just what is being suggested.

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#19 User is offline   helene_t 

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Posted 2016-October-10, 07:53

There are several options.

The simplest is to abolish the districts alltogether so that if a party gets 10% of the votes nationwide they would get 10% of the senate (i.e. 10 senators), and those would selected as the top-ten on the party's list based on individual preference votes, or the top-ten on the ranking chosen by the party, or some combination of those two criteria. This would allow you to vote for a candidate senator in the opposite corner of the country, something which you may see as good or bad. It could lead to your state getting ten senators, or zero senators (even if it were a big state albeit without any popular politicians), or to be represented by a senator who is only popular outside your state.

A modification of this is to let the party be represented by candidates from those ten states in which it got the most votes, maybe by a tweek that would force each region to be represented by a number of senators proportional to its population size or maybe each state by two senators. This would give a more geographically varied representation. However, if the monster looner party gets 1% everywhere then that would mean that some state would need to be represented by the monster looner, something which might piss voters in that state. Of course one could avoid this by making the system not-exactly-proportional i.e. a party needs say 5% nationwide OR a plurality in at least one state in order to get anyrepresentation.

Alternatively, keep the current system but with "transferable" votes so that votes counts can be transfered from one state to another in such a way that it achieves proportionality (maybe with the caveat described above).

Finally, the best system is of course the Danish one in which each region elects say 3 senators based on local vote counts (those will go to big parties or sometimes regionalist parties) plus one candidate which is a socalled "suplementary seat" which is elected based on transferable votes. In practice, it will almost always be possible to acchieve proportionality even if only one fourth of the senators are elected based on trasnfered votes. So without the (say) 5% thresshold, that 4th senator could be the monster looner, but at least you know that 3 of your senators are reasonably popular locally.

Of course you are right that this has zero chance of being implemented. The sitting congressmen are (almost by definition) favoured by the existing system so they will be against changing it. A grassroot movement advancing it is not going to be succesfull since partisans of the bigger parties will be against a system that threatens their hegemony and besides, it is hard to see the ordinary voter getting excited about this issue. I wonder how New Zealand managed to adopt it? Best chance would be a total collapse of the current system so that a new system would need to be build from scratch, as in Central Europe after the collapse of socialism. Maybe that scenario is not completely unthinkable in the USA?

Edit:

Just to elaborate on what "some combination of the above" might mean.

Suppose Repubs get votes for 40 senators, and half of their votes went to McCain while the other half went mostly to 39 random tea-party loonies while the 39 McCain surrogates got almost nothing. Then the McCain supporters might be frustrated if they see the party represented by the 40 repubs who got the most votes. They could have tactically agreed with one another to distribute their votes across the McCain surrogates but that is impractical.

When electing board members for a bridge club, the way this is resolved is usually that you can vote for multiple candidates. I don't know if this is implemented anywhere in countries that have multi-party systems. I can see some problems with it: you don't know in advance how many seat your party gets so it is not trivial to decide how many candidates to vote for. Also, a big nationwide party that wins umpteen seats may not even have umpteen candidates with nationwide name recognition.

In Denmark, it used to be so that most parties had their local comitees prioritize their candidates so that if one candidate got more votes than required to award him a seat, the remainder was transfered to whoever had the highest priority. In this way, you don't need to be afraid of wasting your vote on an already-safe candidate as long as you are happy with number two on the list, which is usually one of his friends anyway. I think most parties currently just award any two seats they might win in the same district to the two most popular picks. Anyway, it doesn't matter much under the Danish system since each district has only three non-suplementary seats so it is not awfully common that the same party gets two seats AND there is controversy about who should have the second seat.

In the Netherlands, most parties put the same candidates on the ballot in every district so this makes the issue a lot more critical - a popular figure could easily get enough votes to award him/her multiple seats. In that case, the remainder "dripples down" along the prioritized list in a way similar to the old Danish system (I don't know the exact details). So Dutch voters are familiar with the concept of an "electable" spot on the ballot, i.e. with a priority index within reach of the expected seat count awarded to his party. Dutch voters tend to vote for their favorite among the electable candidates for their favorite party. Dutch parties tend to put candidates from a variety of regions (as well as a variety of genders and party factions etc) on electable spots because otherwise some voters would refrain from voting for their favourite party if they couldn't find anyone they would like to vote for on an electable spot.

Therefore, in practice, the Dutch second chamber becomes reasonably geographically representative although it doesn't have the same build-in mechanism to acchieve this as they have in Denmark.
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Posted 2016-October-10, 08:00

In my view, proportional representation is the smaller problem -- even though I personally absolutely detest any system where some votes (in competitive states/districts) are much more influential. The bigger problem is that the US is a presidential democracy. When Congress and the presidency are divided between the two parties, then the public gives the president almost all the credit for a well-working government or successful laws. But some of the power for the former and almost all of the latter reside within Congress; and so Congress has no incentive to be constructive, and even some incentive to be destructive.
Whenever the leaders of House and Senate are aware of this, competent and sufficiently Machiavellian, this is potential for disaster.
Obviously we have a recall bias in favour of the assholes. -helene_t
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