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Better Dead than Red
October 6, 2011 10:05 AM   Subscribe

A glimpse inside the Republican Party's little known Red Map Project: "Last fall, we worked together and achieved unprecedented success with the RedMap Project—an effort to capture legislative majorities across the country in preparation for the decennial redistricting process that will redraw districts for 2012 and beyond. The result was the pick up of an unprecedented 20 legislative chambers and over 700 seats."

Meanwhile, despite the overwhelming adoption at the ballot of a constitutional amendment requiring a fairer, non-partisan redistricting process in Florida (one of the US states successfully targeted by the Red Map project) and despite court rulings upholding the will of Florida voters, the state legislature continues to spend large amounts of public funds on fighting the new redistricting rules.
posted by saulgoodman (72 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ain't it supposed to be illegal to use public funds for carrying out partisan political operations? I could have sworn it was...
posted by saulgoodman at 10:13 AM on October 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


So where are the Democratic multimillionaires? You can't tell me they don't exist. Either they're asleep or working on a closet strategy so far undercover nobody has figured out when the hell they'll implement it.
posted by kurosawa's pal at 10:16 AM on October 6, 2011


Primaries are illegal now?
posted by Etrigan at 10:17 AM on October 6, 2011


Ain't it supposed to be illegal to use public funds for carrying out partisan political operations?

Welcome to Post-Legal America
posted by Trurl at 10:20 AM on October 6, 2011 [15 favorites]


So where are the Democratic multimillionaires? You can't tell me they don't exist.

I think they mostly fund humanitarian/social projects. Not ones that would, like, raise their taxes or anything crazy.
posted by DU at 10:20 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rich folks who lean towards the liberal side are spending more money on charities than political donations or lobbying... which is the way it ought to be, so I can't really blame them for doing the right thing. The ones trying to buy politicians are basically corrupt. Unfortunately, we can't really fight fire with fire, and the system has been gamed in favor of the plutocrats by a pet Judiciary.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:21 AM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is what exactly dems should have been doing as well, but once Obama got elected his administration took control of the party reins and, like most things they've touched, dropped the ball.

This is exactly what Howard Dean, with his 50 state strategy, was aiming for. But of course he was too liberal to be allowed to continue and ushered out of the door by the very administration he helped elect.
posted by overhauser at 10:24 AM on October 6, 2011 [27 favorites]


Primaries are illegal now?

The Supreme Court ruled recently in an Arizona case that public campaign financing can't be provided to primary candidates on (perverse) constitutional free speech grounds, so... maybe?

And I'm pretty sure you can't legally spend tax dollars on running a primary campaign outside of whatever specific, regulated campaign finance systems are left standing after the Supreme Court took its hatchet to the law. But those are all separate issues anyway.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:25 AM on October 6, 2011


This is exactly what Howard Dean, with his 50 state strategy, was aiming for.

If this were true, then he did it too soon--redistricting wasn't on the front-burner yet when he ran his campaign. And I don't remember any concerted Dem push to capture state legislatures, which are a whole other manner of beast than what we've got at the national level.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:27 AM on October 6, 2011


I fail to see why one party's efforts at this game are all that interesting.

That redistricting is happening is hardly novel, no, and certainly both sides engage in it -- I live in a rather gerrymandered but also staunchly Democratic city. But I think this is interesting in its explicitness. It's avowedly and openly a national group stepping into state ares to help redraw maps for their own party's benefit, to the extent legally allowed.

There's generally a lot of posturing around redistricting, with both sides claiming to just be stopping the other side from biasing the maps or "just updating things to reflect population changes." I haven't seen many people self-admitting that they draw the maps to make sure they had a better chance of winning.

Which is why I found it odd that the RedMap Project's own homepage has an article stating:

The RSLC has...a focus on helping the eighteen states that have won or lost Congressional representatives as a result of population shifts. We...will be working closely with the RNC, NRCC and State Republican Legislative Caucuses to ensure lines that are fair, legal and maximize our opportunities for success.

You know, fair but also weighted to maximize one group's chance for winning an election at the expense of another group. Right.
posted by cjelli at 10:28 AM on October 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


This is what exactly dems should have been doing as well, but once Obama got elected his administration took control of the party reins and, like most things they've touched, dropped the ball.

This is the difference between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. When Bill Clinton took office - as leader of the DLC - he WAS already the leader of the Democratic Party.

Obama was handed the reins and yeah... didn't even know what to do with the ball.

Obama is the titular leader of the party, but clearly the center of Democratic political power lies somewhere outside the White House. This has been his - and the country's - problem.
posted by three blind mice at 10:31 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


If this were true, then he did it too soon--redistricting wasn't on the front-burner yet when he ran his campaign.

Piffle. The word "gerrymander" dates from 1812.

That said, Dean's 50 state campaign was not (primarily?) about redrawing districts. It was about fighting to win every district, not just spending money on safe and leaning ones.
posted by DU at 10:37 AM on October 6, 2011 [10 favorites]


So, even this issue is all about Obama now? Umm-kay, And here for a while I thought I was the monomaniac...
posted by saulgoodman at 10:38 AM on October 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, but Dean didn't try to win state legislatures. He tried to win national congressional districts. It's not the same thing at all.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:38 AM on October 6, 2011


America is broken.

Darned shame.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:39 AM on October 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Gerrymandering has always been there, doing it with better organization is just the logical next step. If Democrats don't like this, it seems they have too options; they can make gerrymandering illegal, or they can do it themselves. Complaining about the unfairness of it all doesn't accomplish anything.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:46 AM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


More than 60% of the voters in Florida voted to adopt a constitutional amendment making it illegal here. The state legislature is now using our own money to fight that constitutional amendment.

What the hell more can anyone do?
posted by saulgoodman at 10:47 AM on October 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


um should i be concerned that every other day i see a reference to another "little-known Republican project" and i think "okay i must have heard about THIS one" but then i read it and i'm all "ok i guess not"
posted by fetamelter at 10:54 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Speaking as someone in NC, this has really sucked. We've suddenly got a racist school board, an upcoming constitutional amendment to outlaw gay marriage, slashed funds for early voting, defunding of education, etc. The new electoral map has been gerrymandered all to hell.

2012 is going to be a mess. The Department of Elections had its funding slashed, and federal matching funds were lost. This will lead to limited voting locations and long delays for the Presidential election. Should you patiently wait through the line, there's a bill that aims to prevent you from straight-ticket voting. I'm sure any voter suppression effects are accidental.

Thanks to Citizens United, people like Art Pope can pour millions into making sure the 'right' candidates get elected. It's going to be a fun election season.
posted by bitmage at 10:56 AM on October 6, 2011 [9 favorites]


So this ball...has reigns on it?
Or....
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:05 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Obama was handed the reins and yeah... didn't even know what to do with the ball.

That's a horse of a different color.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:06 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


....or one can take the Soros approach, which essentially uses the same strategy as the mysterious, discount-store-magnate, Mr. Pope.

A small tax-exempt political group with ties to wealthy liberals like billionaire financier George Soros has quietly helped elect 11 reform-minded progressive Democrats as secretaries of state to oversee the election process in battleground states and keep Republican “political operatives from deciding who can vote and how those votes are counted.”


Whereas the lovable "investor"/philanthropist, Mr. Soros intentions are clearly and entirely altruistic (an insider trading conviction in France and forcing the Bank of England to raise rates 200 bps in the middle of a recession to defend the pound not withstanding), Mr. Pope's actions are obviously intended to wrest control of the democratic process and hand over power to the Republicans and the Holy See. The man calls himself "Mr. Pope." What more proof do we need that Papists are on the move again?
posted by otto42 at 11:06 AM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Now, I guess just to drive home the point they're deliberately being dicks and don't give a damn about the law or the appearance of propriety or fairness, the Florida legislature is now reportedly even letting Tea Party organizers set up a dedicated base of operations in the Florida capitol building.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:06 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure when the Republican gameplan turned into "If you can't win, cheat," but they're getting ever bolder.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:09 AM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Does this mean the return of the phrase "activist judge" to pundits' pulpits? Or does that only apply to one party's appointments?
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 11:10 AM on October 6, 2011


STATES' RIGHTS to do what the GOP says
posted by Sys Rq at 11:11 AM on October 6, 2011


If the Republicans disagree with it, it's an activist judiciary. If the Republicans agree with it, it's merely divining the founders' original intent.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:13 AM on October 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Now, I guess just to drive home the point they're deliberately being dicks and don't give a damn about the law or the appearance of propriety or fairness, the Florida legislature is now reportedly even letting Tea Party organizers set up a dedicated base of operations in the Florida capitol building.

Well that's a pretty alarmist description of the event "Senator reserves conference room for constituents for two days."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:15 AM on October 6, 2011


Wow, you are adept! But incredibly dishonest!

It's the Tea Party folks themselves, BTW, that are describing the location as a dedicated base of operations within the capitol. Neither I nor the liberal media made that part up.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:16 AM on October 6, 2011


If Democrats don't like this, it seems they have too options; they can make gerrymandering illegal, or they can do it themselves. Complaining about the unfairness of it all doesn't accomplish anything.

That's how the Dems roll.
posted by codswallop at 11:17 AM on October 6, 2011


I'm not sure when the Republican gameplan turned into "If you can't win, cheat,"

No later than 1933
posted by DU at 11:18 AM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


How about a rule that the boundaries of a district, which are not also state boundaries, may consist of only straight lines numbering no more than four. I don't see offhand that that would result in any technical impossibilities.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:19 AM on October 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


>>"Obama was handed the reins and yeah... didn't even know what to do with the ball. "
>>"That's a horse of a different color."

Polo? Does he even play?
posted by twidget at 11:21 AM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]



If Democrats don't like this, it seems they have too options; they can make gerrymandering illegal, or they can do it themselves. Complaining about the unfairness of it all doesn't accomplish anything.


1) "Stop complaining and do something about it!" Is a strange way to react to an internet discussion, by a bunch of people that probably have nothing to do with the political process in the States. How would you suggest that we go about this?

2) Furthermore, if the parties supposedly represent the will of their citizens, shouldn't we encourage discussion about political actions that push the envelope of acceptability?

3) If, as many people seem to think, this is undemocratic... then Republican supporters should be as concerned as Democrats. Don't assume that only the other party in your two party state is going to be frustrated by perceived underhandedness.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:24 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's the Tea Party folks themselves, BTW, that are describing the location as a dedicated base of operations within the capitol. Neither I nor the liberal media made that part up.

Well of course they are describing it that way; they have a vested interest in seeming powerful and connected, it drives donations and support their way. It's really more important to look at the reality of what's going on, rather than what the side that has the most to gain by misleading says about it.

The reality (from the article you linked to) is that there are conference rooms in the Florida Senate Office building, those conference rooms can be reserved by Senators for the use of groups of constituents, are apparently are so reserved on a regular basis. Right now, one senator has reserved a conference room for the use of the Tea Party Network; he reserved it for two days. That's (which is precisely what I said earlier) is what has happened. That is not "Tea Party Opens Headquarters in State Capitol," even if both sides have (different) vested interests in portraying it that way.

1) "Stop complaining and do something about it!" Is a strange way to react to an internet discussion, by a bunch of people that probably have nothing to do with the political process in the States. How would you suggest that we go about this?

I'm not saying YOU need to take action, I'm saying that the discussion should be about actions not sitting around saying "God damn those Republicans! They're so underhanded!" The problem isn't that they're underhanded, the problem is that the system encourages and rewards doing something that people perceive as problematic. I agree, gerrymandering is a problem; it should be eliminated, but because it's a problem in and of itself, not because the Republicans are better at it that the Democrats.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:30 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


And I'm pretty sure you can't legally spend tax dollars on running a primary campaign outside of whatever specific, regulated campaign finance systems are left standing after the Supreme Court took its hatchet to the law.

Campaign, hell. I mean that the primary election itself is a nakedly partisan political operation, but it's conducted (largely) with public monies. Claiming that there is a bright line in the sand that Republicans are suddenly stepping over requires redefinition of the words "bright," "line" and "sand."
posted by Etrigan at 11:30 AM on October 6, 2011


How about a rule that the boundaries of a district, which are not also state boundaries, may consist of only straight lines numbering no more than four. I don't see offhand that that would result in any technical impossibilities.

Well, because then you end up with situations where a given neighborhood has 4 different City Councilors, or 2 different U.S. Congressman or where a logical division (say 2 sides of a river) is ignored in favor of an arbitrary line.

Having just been through this on a City level, there are good reasons for lines to be adjusted, but the adjustments should be minimal.

My preference would be for a computerized GIS system to lay out the districts, then an independent committee (meaning one selected the same way a jury is chosen, not "independent" being shills of the incumbent parties) to nudge the boundaries to suit more human needs.

I would also limit the information available to the committee to household population and lots only (no number of registered voters, political party affillation, etc).
posted by madajb at 11:36 AM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it's more than just undemocratic--its blatantly illegal, at least in the Florida case. And all the talk about how to avoid gerrymandering is misplaced: in Florida, we already banned it overwhelmingly and adopted fairer rules, but now the state legislator is suing to prevent those rules from being implemented.

If there's direct evidence linking the individual state representatives in the Florida house who are racking up huge legal bills on the Florida public's dime in their continuing efforts to make the people of Florida slap themselves in the face with their own hands, then why shouldn't their use of those public funds in coordination with a national partisan political operation be viewed as illegal?

Claiming that there is a bright line in the sand that Republicans are suddenly stepping over requires redefinition of the words "bright," "line" and "sand."

What? There are bright lines in the law already, though. The law does allow the use of public funds in some, specifically enumerated cases. Other, unauthorized uses are illegal. We don't have to imagine where the bright line is, when it's already defined in law.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:51 AM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure when the Republican gameplan turned into "If you can't win, cheat," but they're getting ever bolder.

It was ever thus. Democracy itself is a liberal idea, and from the point of view of political power, it's a subversive one. Deep in their heart of hearts, those who love / crave / respect only power have always been instinctively opposed to it.

Today, in the US, those who love / crave / respect only power call themselves Republicans. At other times in history it was other groups with other names, but today it's them.
posted by Western Infidels at 11:51 AM on October 6, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm not saying YOU need to take action, I'm saying that the discussion should be about actions not sitting around saying "God damn those Republicans! They're so underhanded!"

I am suggesting actions. I'm suggesting there needs to be a criminal investigation.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:57 AM on October 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Today, in the US, those who love / crave / respect only power call themselves Republicans.

I think you are being optimistic that these people are limited to the Republican party.
posted by DU at 11:59 AM on October 6, 2011


I thought this Robert Gates speech was interesting. One of the factors he identifies behind America's political problems is gerrymandering.
First, as a result of a highly partisan redistricting process, more and more seats in the House of Representatives are safe for either the Republican or Democratic Party. As a result, the really consequential campaigns are not the mostly lopsided general elections, but the party primaries, where candidates must cater to the most hard-core ideological elements of their base.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:04 PM on October 6, 2011


If any of the staff of the Florida house has been involved in helping prepare the House's case against the Fair Districting amendment, and it can be proven that those efforts are linked to the RedMap project, then that would constitute a violation of the Hatch Act, and any representatives involved in inducing state employees to violate the act would also be subject to criminal prosecution.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:10 PM on October 6, 2011


We pretty much have this discussion every time. There is no unbiased way to draw districts without knowing the outcome (like using partisan registration). If voting preference is correlated to density (it is, segregated minorities and urban vs suburban/rural) simple-compact districts pack urban constituents into the smallest number of districts possible and screw them over. It would be a disaster for the democratic party.

Furthermore, if you're willing to use registration and trying for something "unbiased" then there are conflicting goals. You can either a) keep as many districts competitive as possible (which tends to elect middle-of-the-road types and lead to landslide shifts) b) keep districts "coherent" so that the full spectrum of ideas is represented in congress, and people tend to like their congressperson (which tends to elect extremists who have a job for life). You can't do both.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:12 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


We pretty much have this discussion every time.

Yeah--and why are we having it now, when it isn't even on subject?
posted by saulgoodman at 12:14 PM on October 6, 2011


I thought this Robert Gates speech was interesting. One of the factors he identifies behind America's political problems is gerrymandering.

That's not well supported by the data; see McCarty and some others or about a billion polisci blog posts about this.

Polarization seems to be happening because in that range of moderate districts that have a nontrivial chance of electing a D or an R, the D's that get elected are really different from the R's. Not an elections thing, but how the same or similar districts get represented by different parties.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:15 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


There were claims floating around that single transferable vote improves the more winners you have, providing one more argument that districts should be abolished all together.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:19 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


We pretty much have this discussion every time. There is no unbiased way to draw districts without knowing the outcome

There's no unbiased way to draw districts, period. Every set of possible districts, including not using SMDs, increases the representational power of some groups while reducing that of others.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:19 PM on October 6, 2011


There's no unbiased way to draw districts, period.

Sure seems that way, especially, if you assume a false equivalence between demographic groups and political parties.

Luckily, ending up with an unequal power distribution across demographic groups is not the same thing as deliberately designing districts to benefit a particular political party. All that current Florida law requires is that we don't do the latter.

Agree or disagree, it's the law, so all these theoretical concerns do and should have precisely the same legal weight as jack squat.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:26 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


More than 60% of the voters in Florida voted to adopt a constitutional amendment making it illegal here. The state legislature is now using our own money to fight that constitutional amendment.

What the hell more can anyone do?


Move to get the money out of politics! This is the subtext for ALL of our political problems.
posted by Vibrissae at 12:29 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


If any of the staff of the Florida house has been involved in helping prepare the House's case against the Fair Districting amendment, and it can be proven that those efforts are linked to the RedMap project, then that would constitute a violation of the Hatch Act,

Has this happened? I get that the Florida Legislature has intervened in the case and is spending money on legal bills to fight this ballot initiative, but that's a bit different from what you've laid out, which is pure speculation. There are at least two ifs in that statement before you get to a crime (assuming the staffers are covered by the Hatch Act which they might not be), and I doubt you can prove that the legislature fighting the ballot initiative has to do with this Red Map project. It seems more likely that the legislature is protecting its power as an institution, it's what institutions do, and one of the two original plaintiffs is a Democrat; legislators of both parties have a reason to want to keep their power to gerrymander.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:37 PM on October 6, 2011


that would constitute a violation of the Hatch Act

Don't they have to be federally funded employees to be subject to the Hatch Act?
posted by Etrigan at 12:38 PM on October 6, 2011


Yeah--and why are we having it now, when it isn't even on subject?

It's the underlying provision under discussion, and people in thread are proposing such measures, when the thing that it's trying to do is impossible. The only aspect of this is not that the legislature is suing to preserve some of its power.

Luckily, ending up with an unequal power distribution across demographic groups is not the same thing as deliberately designing districts to benefit a particular political party. All that current Florida law requires is that we don't do the latter.

If I know the likely effects of all district maps under consideration, any decision made benefits one party relative to some other map. There is also no natural "fair" point that any map can be said to be deviating from, aside possibly from picking the absolute extreme.

Also, as I pointed out above, the provisions that districts should be 1) compact 2) allow minorities to be elected 3) and not benefit incumbents are in conflict. Compact, demographically chosen stationary districts favor incumbents. The provisions that minorities can win and that they not benefit a particular party are also in conflict if ethnicity and voting preference are correlated.

Agree or disagree, it's the law, so all these theoretical concerns do and should have precisely the same legal weight as jack squat.

You're thread-sitting and being kind of a jerk about it.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:41 PM on October 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is the difference between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. When Bill Clinton took office - as leader of the DLC - he WAS already the leader of the Democratic Party.
The DLC was just a group of self-appointed centrists who decided to call themselves the "Democratic Leadership Council". They're totally irrelevant now, Obama made a point of saying he was never a member of the group -- and the most recent leaders have been Harold Ford and Tom Vilsack. They were also big fans of Joe Lieberman.

Anyway, it's not like democrats don't gerrymander themselves. One of the reasons Michel Bachman keeps getting elected is because Minnesota is Gerrymandered to keep most seats democratic, while Bachman's district is basically the leftovers.
posted by delmoi at 12:41 PM on October 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


Don't they have to be federally funded employees to be subject to the Hatch Act?

Yes, state employees in Florida (including legislative staffers) are partly Federally funded; that's all the Hatch Act requires.

It's extremely unlikely legislative staffers aren't doing the bulk of the work for the legal challenges that House Speaker Canon is pursuing to the law. Legislative staff salaries are funded by a mix of state and Federal funds just like other state employees, to the best of my knowledge. But I'll ask my buddy who's an attorney at the senate for clarification on that point.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:44 PM on October 6, 2011


It's extremely unlikely legislative staffers aren't doing the bulk of the work for the legal challenges that House Speaker Canon is pursuing to the law.

Why is it extremely unlikely? Because you say so? The only legal documents I've seen on this point make it look like the various plaintiffs has hired plenty of outside counsel and have run up a fair bit of fees, so I'm kind of wondering what they're doing if legislative staffers are doing the work.

Also, as I said above, you'd still need to show that that what they were doing was political activity; doing legal work on a case defending the power of the government institution you work for? I'm not going to say it could never be shown to be political activity, but it's not the easiest sell in the world.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:52 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ain't it supposed to be illegal to use public funds for carrying out partisan political operations? I could have sworn it was...

They appear to be using their staff to draft (and defend in court) a law, which will have political effects. That is absolutely not the same as carrying out a political operation.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 12:57 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, if the "House Attorneys" mentioned here are the attorneys on staff at the house, which seems to be implied, then there you go, but yes, obviously, there would need to be a serious investigation and a close look at the details. All you'd need is some evidence of a connection between Cannon and RedMap and I think the case could be made, assuming the Florida houses' legal case is being made using house legal resources instead of Cannon's personal attorneys.

That is absolutely not the same as carrying out a political operation.

Unless it is, because Cannon can be directly linked to RedMap in some way. Then it becomes a question for a jury to decide.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:59 PM on October 6, 2011


By the way, the state secretary is also on the other side of this law suit. Public money is being used both to attack and to defend the law in court.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:00 PM on October 6, 2011


I'm looking forward to a glimpse inside the Democratic Party's little known Let's Bicker Among Ourselves project.
posted by happyroach at 1:11 PM on October 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Supreme Court ruled recently in an Arizona case that public campaign financing can't be provided to primary candidates on (perverse) constitutional free speech grounds

I'm not sure how perverse I find it. The real perversity is the degree to which the two party system is entrenched in our election operations.

Why do we spend even a dollar of public monies conducting the elections of primary candidates for Democratic or Republican candidates, much less providing financial support for each candidate? I'm sure every one of us knows at least one person who is such a staunch party loyalists that they wouldn't vote for someone on the "other" side. Given that, why are they financing the process by which that party selects their candidate?

That's close a stance I find pretty odious and short-sighted (why do I pay for schools when I don't have kids???) but when it comes to schools and roads there's a fairly clear societal benefit. What's the societal benefit of the parties? Or more on point, what's the societal benefit that we get by financing a party candidate run that we wouldn't get if the party or the individual running had to shoulder the cost themselves?

Asking a party to compensate the local election board for running their election smells a little too much like a poll tax to me, but I think it's a reasonable question to ask whether we should draw a line somewhere on how involved we should be, as a supposed multi-partisan citizen-financed government, in the operations of these sub-groups.

If we're going to finance this competition why limit it to Democrat and Republican? Here in Virginia you don't register as either, you're just a voter. So when the primaries happen the election board runs it and you're simply only allowed to vote in one.

So why shouldn't my friend Bob and I decide we're starting the Metafilter party and we're going to compete for that slot? We'll each go get some support in our competition from the state (or perhaps just the county, depending on the level of the office we intend to run for) and go duke it out on the public dime. When primary day rolls around our election board will expend money in resources and poll workers to count the votes for our new party.

That doesn't seem like a reasonable use of public funds, but if we're not going to fund some speech and not others then we'd pretty much have to open that primary support to all. I think that AZ case is a step in the right direction - now I'd like to see the parties handle their own damned expenses.
posted by phearlez at 1:13 PM on October 6, 2011


the Florida legislature is now reportedly even letting Tea Party organizers set up a dedicated base of operations in the Florida capitol building.

I don't know why Obama is doing that. I quit. F'ng Obama. I didn't vote for him to have this Tea Party stuff. I quit. Again.

Public money is being used both to attack and to defend the law in court.

Yeah, you look at what happens in the collapse of countries, Empires, etc, it's not just that they over extend themselves or become too monopolitic, etc. it's that they dump the law or set it against itself.

In this case there's some subversion, but that ultimately leads to trashing the legal apparatus involved because once you've gone so far, you have to go further otherwise you're subject to the system leveling itself back into balance. Which typically works out not so much in your favor.
So you have to go after the apparatus that level things back into true (the law - so judges, lawyers, etc. - Education, so teachers, etc)
Sort of a pattern there if you look for it.
And I mean, it's not a conspiracy theory if it's stated agenda. We might quibble about the ends.
And that's what always gets me. What the hell is the end here? One party rule? Do people not know how much that would suck or is there some subconscious will to destruction being pursued.

I mean, yeah, "kill all the lawyers" and we laugh because, hey, they're assholes who make our lives worse and blah blah blah and we let it pass because it's just jokes and talk.

But that line from Shakespeare comes from Dick the butcher in Henry the 6th. Dick was working with Jack Cade who was looking for a popular rebellion (working for Richard the Duke of York, King Richard III's dad)

The idea was that you raise all sorts of hell with the government, screw up law and order, make everything such a pain in the ass that get people fed up. And then you run things because people want to be left alone.

So yeah, the more things change...
posted by Smedleyman at 1:27 PM on October 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


>robot made of meat
it seems like the most competitive map would increase the value of each individual vote. If you balance districts to increase the odds of a tie, where elections are decided by hundreds of votes, it seems like it would increase voter turnout/reduce apathy. I would plot the map based on vote counts from each polling station, normalized by the turnout of each election. Doesn't proportional representation sidestep most of this hassle, though?
posted by MisplaceDisgrace at 2:52 PM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


If we're going to finance this competition why limit it to Democrat and Republican?

Thats what we've done in California too. Primaries are no longer divided by party, all the candidates are on one ballot and the top two vote-getters go to the general, regardless of party. Well, we havent actually done it yet, but the coming primary will be the first test. (This applies to state and federal races _other_ than Presidential, which will still have partisan primaries).
posted by wildcrdj at 3:05 PM on October 6, 2011


it seems like the most competitive map would increase the value of each individual vote. If you balance districts to increase the odds of a tie, where elections are decided by hundreds of votes, it seems like it would increase voter turnout/reduce apathy.

Sure, that's a good thing about that setup. It's just that there are bad things to think about. In a narrowly-divided state, having every district competitive means that in a good year for party A it ends up with a gigantic super-majority and can do whatever it wants. Next election you have a good year for party B, and the same is true. You get huge reversals in policy on a frequent basis. It also means that in every district the candidates are pandering to the median voter, so there are few true liberals or conservatives. That they're all the same is a major cause of voter apathy. If ethnicity is correlated to party preference, you can't have competitive majority-minority districts and have to give those up.

Doesn't proportional representation sidestep most of this hassle, though?

It's a very different system, with its own pros and cons.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 3:43 PM on October 6, 2011


That doesn't seem like a reasonable use of public funds, but if we're not going to fund some speech and not others then we'd pretty much have to open that primary support to all. I think that AZ case is a step in the right direction - now I'd like to see the parties handle their own damned expenses.

This is stupid. We could finance every election fully, requiring television stations to provide equal broadcast time as a condition of broadcast licensing, with strict limits on the amount of advertising each candidate can do (since the aim should be to inform rather than brainwash the public anyway), for a pittance--probably less than 1% of the federal budget. And in making the entire system publicly funded, we could eliminate one of the most corrosive and destructive influences on our Democratic processes, and the only reason--the only reason--that's not a serious possibility is because that doesn't sound so great to the political and economic benefactors of the current system, and they don't even have a decent, principled argument for their position--just a very thinly disguised sense of economic entitlement.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:35 PM on October 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


>meatbot
"You get huge reversals in policy on a frequent basis. It also means that in every district the candidates are pandering to the median voter, so there are few true liberals or conservatives. "
this looks like a contradiction to me. does the median voter undergo huge reversals often? even supermajorities don't always cooperate, think of the democrats after obama was elected.
posted by MisplaceDisgrace at 9:45 PM on October 6, 2011


You're thread-sitting and being kind of a jerk about it.

you're right, i got carried away. sorry about that.

posted by saulgoodman at 6:50 AM on October 7, 2011


@saulgoodman

Sorry, this is going a ways back in the thread, but:



I think it's more than just undemocratic--its blatantly illegal,

I'm actually much more concerned about whether the government is democratic than I am about laws.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:32 AM on October 7, 2011


This is stupid.

(A) You're being rude.

(2) You are in such a hurry to be abusive that you have apparently either ignored that I am talking about the primary system and not the general election.

Further, if you're going to go around abusing folks on the basis of their supposed intelligence you might want to get your own act in order.

We could finance every election fully, requiring television stations to provide equal broadcast time as a condition of broadcast licensing, with strict limits on the amount of advertising each candidate can do (since the aim should be to inform rather than brainwash the public anyway), for a pittance

You plain and simple cannot restrict the quantity of advertising without stepping all over the first amendment. That's not even getting into discussions about whether a corporation or organization can be restricted ala the Citizens United decision. That's getting straight into simple questions of whether you can tell Person A how many times are okay for them to say "I believe this so you should vote for me." 5 is okay but not 6? 60 but not 61?

This is not a new challenge in public financing. Speech guidelines have had to reflect this for a long time. There's a reason they were equal time restrictions and not minimum or maximum times. And we already HAVE equal time laws. You are free to think they should be more encompassing but it's not a neglected area.

Minimum times run up against compulsion of speech, which has always been slightly more acceptable when it comes to businesses than people, but is still rare. We see some of it for television and radio since they have traditionally made use of the publicly owned spectrum, but compelling any other venues is really problematic, free-speech-wise. It's part of why there's some question of how useful they are; venues not under FCC control are expanding quickly. If we push out beyond that and require the MetaFilters and Reddits of the world to provide equal time to all political candidates then where do we draw the line?

Maximum times have been problematic for a hundred years now, since the courts first started questioning whether commercial speech might have some of the same rights as personal speech. Things like Citizens United are the (seemingly) inevitable outgrowth of this position that organizations have the same speech rights as do the people that comprise them, but they're not new and there's up to 100 years of caselaw you have to cope with when trying to restrict organizational speech.

I think money is a pernicious and scary influence in politics too, but your blanket assertion that we could solve it so easily and that the only reason its not done is because of the folks already in power is off-base. You're making a presumption that perfectly leveling the playing fields (a) fixes the problem (b) does so without seriously stomping on the rights of the people outside the pursuit of political office and (c) doesn't just create new equally awful and gameable problems.
posted by phearlez at 10:46 AM on October 10, 2011


phearlez: Don't mean to hurt your feelings, but it still seems like a stupid attitude to me.

To me, free speech is a red herring when it comes to mass media broadcast rights. Access to mass market television and radio broadcast media is highly limited, and commercial air time, is cost prohibitive for most people, amounting to a de facto monopoly on broadcast speech among only (wealthy) broadcast license holders.

As such, US law and broadcast regulations prior to Reagan strictly regulated broadcast content, enforcing strict rules against factual misrepresentation and intentional political bias in news coverage and requiring a certain number of hours of non-commercial programming in the public interest, among other things.

Free speech is not equally protected on the broadcast airwaves to begin with, prior to the government's playing any role in it: wealthy business interests can afford to speak an awful lot louder, and by means of clever accounting legerdemain, make the numbers supporting their various causes seem so much greater than they really are.

We can't all afford to spend billions trying to brain-wash our fellow Americans into doubting the unequivocal scientific consensus on issues like the harmful effects of tobacco and global warming. In effect, our own free speech is being drowned out by the ceaseless drone of various mass media narratives and think tank propaganda.

If we push out beyond that and require the MetaFilters and Reddits of the world to provide equal time to all political candidates then where do we draw the line?

Text isn't as much an issue, to me. Text doesn't fool the brain the way the broadcast media do. And we all have access to many different means for getting our words out cheaply to the rest of the world via printed text. We can still print pamphlets and bulk mail them for pennies per unit. We can blog for free. But we generally can't get our messages out on television or on the radio.

Mass broadcast media channels should be restricted and required to serve the public interest.

The real free speech issues we're having now are more subtle and less obvious than your comment allows. Take for example the new unemployment rules in Florida, where employers can now deny us the benefit of our prepaid unemployment insurance by accusing us of "misconduct"--that is, any behavior on our personal time outside the workplace that doesn't take our employer's business interests into account.

So, say anything politically controversial and you might suddenly find yourself unable to claim even the tiniest fraction of all those unemployment benefits your boss has been withholding from your paycheck every month. That's a real free speech issue. This nonsense about whether matching funds in campaign finance systems hinder free speech (where "free speech" = money spent on broadcasting or advertising speech) is unbelievable.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:17 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


My feelings are not hurt, I just think maybe you should hearken back to what your mommy said to you about using rude words. Calling people stupid is rude, and "Don't mean to hurt your feelings" is an un-apology.

You're obsessing about broadcast media here in a way that's blinding you to some things - what I actually said and, apparently, what you actually said.

This nonsense about whether matching funds in campaign finance systems hinder free speech (where "free speech" = money spent on broadcasting or advertising speech) is unbelievable.

Where are you getting this? The matching funds aren't a hindrance, the hindrance you propose is a hindrance. You said and I quoted once already:

We could finance every election fully, requiring television stations to provide equal broadcast time as a condition of broadcast licensing, with strict limits on the amount of advertising each candidate can do (since the aim should be to inform rather than brainwash the public anyway), for a pittance

I added some emphasis in there this time. You're proposing this idea that we're going to draw a line in the sand and say "you there, this is your limit on how much speech you can have. Then you have to stop."

THAT is hindering free speech, in the exact definition of doing so by HINDERING FREE SPEECH. You may want this to happen but hundreds of years of established speech law say you cannot do it. That's not political will or people trying to hang onto their power, it's just a reality of how the law has been interpreted consistently.

But what the hell, put that aside and we'll give you a magic wand. When you wave it and somehow level the access to the last mile of distribution, making sure every candidate has just as much opportunity to run their ad as any other, what do you think happens next?

What happens is that the dark horse's stuff gets turned out just like the cheap commercials for a local storage place does. They don't look like the multi-million dollar slick ads for Romney or Obama or Budweiser, they look like cable-access stuff and they sound like it both in audio quality and writing. So they get ignored or DVR-skipped. So what then? Restrict PR firms and graphic designers so they have to serve the public interest too?

I'm not unsympathetic to your underlying frustration. I think it's nuts that at-will employment laws are being used the way you're talking about. But you're talking about a structure that violates hundreds of years of free speech caselaw - whether you like it or not - and which is unworkable to boot. Who does this monitoring of news organizations and how do we keep them honest when there's this amount of money at stake? How do you even address the ultimate news censoring that every organization, no matter how fair, engages in - deciding WHAT to cover?

The problem is clearly that it's WORTH, to someone, spending hundreds of millions of dollars to put a person in a $400,000 a year job. Ruling broadcast television with an iron fist doesn't change the fact that those stakes are out there. I don't know what the solution is, but not only is what you proposed legally and practically unworkable but I don't see how it fixes the situation.
posted by phearlez at 2:44 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


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