Getting Power And Keeping It
July 27, 2018 9:37 AM   Subscribe

“Faris is arguing that unless the progressive majority finally learns to emulate the energy and the fighting style of the Republicans, American democracy could disappear altogether within our own lifetimes.” Battle Hymn Of The Democrats: why it’s time for liberals to fight dirty. (The Guardian) “There are some very good ideas in It’s Time to Fight Dirty, but because Faris doesn’t believe that a good policy creates its own constituency, he ends up preferring complicated technocratic solutions like eight Californias, a rotating Supreme Court or fines for non-voters just to get around the problem that he assumes is a permanent feature of American life: that rural states will always be Republican. The recent red state uprisings like the teachers’ strike leave me unconvinced of that argument.” Review of ‘It’s Time To Fight Dirty’ (Midwest Socialist) Faris interviewed about his book and the things Democrats could do once in power on Zero Hour (41:00) Chapo Trap House (1:10:00)
posted by The Whelk (84 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yes, this is good. Although I would go further and amend the Constitution with an entirely new Constitution that would do things like: abolish the Senate (there's really no advantage of bicameral legislatures over unicameral ones and a lot of disadvantages), abolish the Presidency, and massively expand the House of Representatives by making each House district represent many, many fewer people, alongside ranked choice voting. Oh, and give the right to vote to anyone living here, probably.
posted by Automocar at 10:03 AM on July 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


I don't want a much-expanded House as our only national legislative body; I want more votes being done by people who actually know what they're voting on, and tripling the number of representatives just means more splits on party or other ideological lines, based on buzzwords, rather than reading the text of whatever's up for a vote.

I could see having two legislative bodies, one geographical (like the current house and senate) and one based on party affiliation--it'd start with heavy D and R membership and a handful of libertarians and greens, but with guaranteed representation, smaller parties would grow. (I could even see the value in "unaffiliated" representatives for people who don't join any party - but that'd be pretty scattered, and I'd expect to see most of them working to build up smaller parties rather than trying to sway the minds of people who have nothing in common but a distrust of major political parties.)

My former belief that red states were mostly "unsalvageable" got thrown out after the Alabama election. I'd like to see plenty of large-scale changes, but I don't need them to be founded on the idea that the coasts should always be able to override the interests of other states.

(I am in favor of a split California, although I think 8 is ridiculous. 2-6 all have good arguments, but anything more than 2 is going to have at least one conservative state unless there's horrific gerrymandering, which I don't want. The point of splitting shouldn't be "put liberals in charge," but "these regions have substantially different needs and interests from the current state as a whole.")
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:22 AM on July 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


The Midwest Socialist notes correctly that nine Californias would be followed by ten Texases. However, analogously, putting 50 justices on SCOTUS means that the next time the GOP has the presidency and Senate*, they'll push it to 100. For now, the only reason it hasn't happened is inertia and maybe the deterrent of mutually-assured-absurdity. Eventually partisanship will become extreme enough that MAA will not be a sufficient deterrent.

The only way to stop runaway expansion of SCOTUS would be a constitutional amendment that determines its size.

*Yes, I know that some people are hoping that by more effective use of power, Democrats won't let this happen, but of course it's going to happen eventually.
posted by Jpfed at 10:26 AM on July 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


The point of splitting shouldn't be "put liberals in charge,"

That's the entire point of the book, though. Believe me, the right wing absolutely wants to put only themselves in charge and destroy any opposition. Meekly advocating for "balance" is going to eliminate us. The book is literally called It's Time to Fight Dirty because we keep showing up at a gunfight with not even a knife, but a guitar and the sheet music for Kum-Ba-Yah. It's not going to happen. This is not a fight for the moral high ground, it's a fight for survival.
posted by Legomancer at 10:28 AM on July 27, 2018 [52 favorites]


Having a political party go extinct because the Overton window had slid away from them wouldn't be unprecedented, would it? And it wouldn't be a democratic disaster, either, would it? If the Republican Party were to go extinct because the Overton window had moved left, and they were replaced by a democratic socialist party on the actual left, it wouldn't be so bad, would it?
posted by clawsoon at 10:33 AM on July 27, 2018 [15 favorites]


I don't need them to be founded on the idea that the coasts should always be able to override the interests of other states.

You accidentally hit on the core problem: the idea, baked into the founding document of the United States, that state interests are more important than individual interests. Getting rid of the Senate would go a long way towards fixing that problem, as well as getting rid of the second-most undemocratic element of the federal government (the first, of course, being the Supreme Court.)
posted by Automocar at 10:48 AM on July 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


Many countries have high courts that are composed of multiple specialist panels and judges numbering into the dozens. SCOTUS was a radical idea when it was first invented but there's a reason few new constitutions follow that model today.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:48 AM on July 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


OK, some of this is completely ridiculous. Fuck that 9 Californias bullshit, we've got DC, Guam and Puerto Rico that should be states. Let's make that happen, and goddamned right fight dirty. Anybody advocating asking nicely and waiting our turn is hopelessly living in a beautiful fantasy world.
Yes, I know, I say bad things and advocate for horrible actions against bad people. I do. This fucking bullshit makes me angry. But it's time to stop being nice, it's how we got here.
We've gotta get rid of these fuckers now. Make 'em run scared. Not wait 'til they start putting people in camps, and most of us are starving.
I'm looking at you Mitch and the buffoon patrol. You want class warfare? I'm ready to bring it.
posted by evilDoug at 10:49 AM on July 27, 2018 [20 favorites]


Having our bought and paid for neo-liberal democrats in charge is not that much of an improvement. Might make things better domestically, but they are both the war party and think their most important duty is to maintain American Hegemony.

What we need is way to wrest the choosing of candidates away from unelected power brokers and get some other parties into our government.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 10:53 AM on July 27, 2018 [7 favorites]


Seems to me the latent/unrealized desire of many Progressive American subjects is for an end to federalism, the destruction of the States to be replaced with provinces under an all-powerful central government. What would the government be called if it couldn't be "United States" anymore?
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 11:10 AM on July 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


You had me at fighting dirty and lost me at nine Californias.

What would the government be called if it couldn't be "United States" anymore?

Literally do not care.

Some abstract fidelity to a political system that was explicitly devised to allow for chattel slavery is uh...not so important, really, and especially not compared to making sure a crazy minority of authoritarian genocidal bigots can’t abuse and bully the rest of us. This is not a high minded debate among an insulated de facto aristocracy; this is about survival.

Shorter: most of the States have shown they don’t deserve their sovereignty. We gave it a shot, they fucked it up, and I am all out of fucks to give.
posted by schadenfrau at 11:16 AM on July 27, 2018 [43 favorites]


Seems to me the latent/unrealized desire of many Progressive American subjects is for an end to federalism, the destruction of the States to be replaced with provinces under an all-powerful central government.

This is such a laughably wrong-headed interpretation of pretty much the entire history of progressive movements that I'm surprised I'm not reading it on a parody site or TopMindsOfReddit.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:25 AM on July 27, 2018 [17 favorites]


That said, schadenfrau has a point about disenfranchising the specific state governments that were directly built off of slavery and Jim Crow.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:30 AM on July 27, 2018 [9 favorites]


It seems like "do away with first-past-the-post regional elections and use some form of proportional representation" is more or less exactly as easy as making 8 Californias. And, it will continue to work the next time all the assholes who voted for prop 13, prop 187, and prop 8 remember that they're not actually on our side after all. But, it doesn't fill a book. (In short, I agree with the midwestsocialist article. Which is no surprise.)

The idea that the democratic party leadership is actually unhappy with the current US political system is charming.
posted by eotvos at 11:33 AM on July 27, 2018 [5 favorites]


You wonder why Democrats are losing? Because of ideas in this thread.

Well, shit. Mods? Close this up and cure our democracy. Thx!
posted by Barack Spinoza at 11:36 AM on July 27, 2018 [13 favorites]


the destruction of the States to be replaced with provinces under an all-powerful central government. What would the government be called if it couldn't be "United States" anymore

Oh nooooo that sounds terrrrrrible.

- signed A Canadian
posted by Secret Sparrow at 11:40 AM on July 27, 2018 [25 favorites]


You wonder why Democrats are losing? Because of ideas in this thread.

There is very little in politics I find funnier than the voters people imagine. Donald Trump just proved that having your candidate be a legendarily vile person with a hazy at best grasp of 99% of the issues doesn't get a hard no from people who want to buy what he's selling, but you think that a bunch of Ohioans who are interested in Medicare for All are going to drop that and flee for the hills at the thought of DC and Puerto Rico becoming states.
posted by Copronymus at 11:43 AM on July 27, 2018 [35 favorites]


The idea that we shouldn’t try to make changes that will help us gain power because the gop will retaliate in kind is really frustrating. You fight hard now to survive, and then fight hard later against their countermeasures. If you just say we can’t do it because eventually they’ll fight back then you’ve already lost.

This isn’t mutually assured destruction, it’s power politics. If we can get dc and Puerto Rico as states, split California in two and expand the court we’ll also be able to a huge docket of progressive programs signed into law. When that actually improves people’s lives, it might cement a liberal realignment of the parties and ensure a progressive agenda for decades before the fascists are able to regain enough power to roll back things. Those decades will be worth it. Nothing is permanent but that’s no reason to stop trying
posted by dis_integration at 11:45 AM on July 27, 2018 [14 favorites]


What would the government be called if it couldn't be "United States" anymore?

How about "Bob"?
posted by briank at 11:46 AM on July 27, 2018 [7 favorites]


Seems to me the latent/unrealized desire of many Progressive American subjects is for an end to federalism, the destruction of the States to be replaced with provinces under an all-powerful central government.

When federalism means allowing states to oppress their underprivileged residents by denying them the right to vote, the right to healthcare, etc, then yeah, I think progressives are for federal solutions. But that's explicit, not unconscious or latent. All US citizens should be guaranteed the right to vote, the right to an abortion, the right to healthcare. But if you actually talk to progressives, I think you'll find that most are in favor of local control on most other governance. The current situation is clearly what happens when you rely on a powerful executive to achieve your goals: when you lose control of that executive, a lot of bad stuff happens at once. Hell, I can't think of many progressives who are in favor of the federal carceral state, the surveillance state, ICE, CBP, the defense department, and so on.

You wonder why Democrats are losing? Because of ideas in this thread.

I though it was because we called Nazis Nazis, thereby making them Nazis.

But seriously, corporate Dems like Schumer don't actually want progressive goals, and many of them may not actually care about winning, provided they keep their seats and keep that corporate money flowing. You can see it in how they're joining forces to tear down energetic candidates like Cynthia Nixon and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who actually have momentum and progressive goals.
posted by Existential Dread at 11:46 AM on July 27, 2018 [26 favorites]


the destruction of the States to be replaced with provinces under an all-powerful central government. What would the government be called if it couldn't be "United States" anymore


The problem I have is that states aren't empowered enough under current law, but the Federal government also isn't powerful enough, so we end up in an awkward squeeze.

For example, it doesn't matter if a state wants to abolish guns, the Federal government will trample states' rights and allow people to carry. It doesn't matter if a state wants to decriminalize drug use or undocumented entry, the DEA or ICE will trample states' rights and make arrests.

We have a horrendous amount of Federal government overreach, but that Federal government is under the control of a disproportionately small number of people. It's kind of inconceivable that we'll see minimal Federal oversight any time soon, so the solution is to make sure that 40 million people don't get the same representation as 300,000.
posted by explosion at 11:51 AM on July 27, 2018 [5 favorites]


I wonder if it would be possible to sell the idea of merging low population states to reduce taxes and “waste”. Instead of nine Californias, let’s merge Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska into one state. Make Alaska part of Oregon. Maybe we could put a population floor on statehood or something.
posted by rustcrumb at 12:24 PM on July 27, 2018 [8 favorites]


This new political science fiction writing is not post-apocalyptic enough. "OK done! We now have 9 Californias." "But sir, 3 of them are perpetually on fire thanks to climate change!" "So the price of almond milk goes up! Big deal."
posted by Brocktoon at 12:28 PM on July 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


Right now, there is a proposal on the ballot in California to split California into multiple states. It seems to me in the *best* case they don't change the ratio of D to R senators and it's likely enough they effectively gerrymander California to skew offices conservative.

It's deeply irresponsible and possibly outright stupid to pick this moment to talk favorably about splitting California into multiple states, and I hope that's an idea that goes utterly dark for at least the next 6 months.

Beyond that, even if we could pull off a specific mitosis that puts progressive representation closer to parity with its occurrence in the state, the argument that there's nothing to stop 10 Texases is watertight, as far as I can tell. "Well, we'll fight to stop that!" With what? Sounds like an uphill battle once it's established as a legitimate tactic, especially considering that some already think the groundwork is more effectively laid for Texas from a structural standpoint.

This isn't an argument against *any* tactic. Sure, Puerto Rico should absolutely be a state. DC should have representation. Those aren't easy fights but they're easy ones to pick, partly because there is no principled reason for them not to be/have those things. More generally, it's important to the future and health of the nation and its citizens -- even citizens dumb enough to vote for Trump -- that the Republican party loses power and is long-term marginalized until it moderates.

But I really hope nobody's confusing resistance to specific tactics with acceptance of the status quo. They are absolutely not the same thing. You have to have an idea of how an equilibrium gets held or power doesn't get held either.
posted by wildblueyonder at 12:30 PM on July 27, 2018 [10 favorites]


All this talk of principles and consequences and precidents... our political opponents have no intentions of following the law, let alone respecting norms.

Democrats worry about changing the rules of this unfair game because it will offend and anger the party that benefits from the unfairness and holds bystanders as hostages.

One party's "extremists" want to bring about scandinavian or japanese style social welfare and economic regulation with more diversity, the other seeks an apartheid fascist state. ala south africa and the confederacy

.Changing rules isn't fighting dirty: backstabbing our allies and undermining our economy at the behest of a hostile foreign power to cheat in an election is playing dirty. No one here is prosing democrats sell Taiwan to China in exchange for chinese help in rigging an election. Making representation more democratic isn't dirty.

Put me down for 23 million californias with a side order of spine.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 12:42 PM on July 27, 2018 [12 favorites]


Right now, there is a proposal on the ballot in California to split California into multiple states.

Not anymore, it was rightly ruled ineligible by the courts.
posted by Justinian at 12:53 PM on July 27, 2018 [17 favorites]


Also, we have to get over this notion that a white guy living in the middle of nowhere is automatically more important and deserving of jobs, services and representation than anyone who choose to be non-white or live in a city, or move to where there are jobs. Their right to a subsidized pick-up truck and an AR-15 is not more important than some latina's right not to die in childbirth or some native's right not to go hungry.

If the "all" part of "healthcare and welfare for all" is offensive to you, you are free to leave this country.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 12:53 PM on July 27, 2018 [23 favorites]


From afar, it seems to me the problem is that the whole thing is based on an easily exploitable system based on good faith engagement from both sides, and while one side is constantly putting a thumb on their side of the scale, the other just whines a bit, adjusts the calibration to make it look even and problem solved.
Of course, anything that even slightly rocks the status quo isn't getting any far, so, yeah.


But seriously, corporate Dems like Schumer don't actually want progressive goals, and many of them may not actually care about winning, provided they keep their seats and keep that corporate money flowing.
And civility, gosh darn it. Republicans have their right to eat their meals in peace while ICE parks a truck in the backdoor to arrest staff.
posted by lmfsilva at 12:54 PM on July 27, 2018 [5 favorites]


There's not a lot we can do about the Senate but hopefully Dems will clean up in state legislatures and governorships in 2018 and 2020 and we can gerrymander the fuck out of everything and get a strong House majority. It would be insane not to do that.

While, of course, offering to work with Republicans to pass bipartisan bills/amendments setting up non-partisan districting. But it's important that these must be accepted everywhere or done federally with a Constitutional amendment. Otherwise the Republicans will simply accept the bipartisan districting in blue states while rejecting it in Red states and we'll be even worse off.
posted by Justinian at 12:59 PM on July 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


Put me down for 23 million californias with a side order of spine.

Sir, with respect, you’ve already ordered the house red. I recommend an East Dakotan white.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 2:19 PM on July 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


Right now, there is a proposal on the ballot in California to split California into multiple states.
Not anymore, it was rightly ruled ineligible by the courts.


I'm super glad to know my knowledge was out of date on this.

All this talk of principles and consequences and precidents... our political opponents have no intentions of following the law, let alone respecting norms. Democrats worry about changing the rules of this unfair game because it will offend and anger the party that benefits from the unfairness and holds bystanders as hostages.

The objections being thrown up here to ideas like "break apart California" aren't about some form of civility, gentlemanliness, principles, etc etc any pearl clutching fear of base unpleasantness that we should be above, to be clear. They're not being made because anyone's afraid of offending Republicans we already know will describe even centrist third-way candidates as totalitarian communists and the second coming of Fidel Castro's demon gay lover. This isn't about avoiding Republican "fits," and nobody needs to tell me that Republicans are fully committed to low road and even outright criminal activity.

It's about being effective. Throwing effort down a hole like "break apart California" is likely to be running on a treadmill and laden with unintended consequences *aside* from whoever it pisses off, assuming it's an option that is available at all. Like Corcoran says in one of the fine articles, the very idea handwaves a lot of the logistics of picking splits and then actually separating the administration of the states. All for an idea that *may* leave successor states that are "no worse than toss-ups for the Democrats" and depends heavily on the conception that California's blue tilt is permanent (remember it hasn't been that long since Schwarzenegger was governor or since California voted for Prop 8 and a D legislative supermajority is a recent thing rather than a constant). If you have a plan that addresses that and seems like it credibly squashes the possibility of conservative states splitting, maybe it's worth listening.

The impulse to be unrestrained alone doesn't mean you're gonna do something effective.

Winning state legislatures and gerrymandering the ever living shit out of the Republican party (and *then* offering non-partisan districting if they'll play), that's an effective way of changing the rules, assuming we can bring ourselves to care about boring things like winning local elections instead of shiny solutions like state border balkanizing.

Unabashedly arguing that Puerto Rico and DC should have senators and reps because as every schoolchild knows taxation without representation is oppression and then twisting arms to make it happen when we can, that's a potentially effective way of changing the rules.

Figuring out how to media better to make sure good policy is magnified and therefore creates a constituency, that's a game changer.

Populist socialism with concrete working-class help in red and toss-up states? Could help.

Reverse-Voltron plans, I'm gonna say not so much.
posted by wildblueyonder at 2:31 PM on July 27, 2018 [17 favorites]


lol while I occasionally entertain fantasies of California splitting the fuck away from the rest of y'all, the only people around here who seriously want to divide the state itself are the white libertarian State of Jefferson people whose proposed borders, I'm fairly certain, give them control of all the water. To anyone who thinks splitting CA into multiple states is the key to a thousand years of liberal utopia, let me just say, hit me up and I'll be happy to buy you a drink when you visit our state for the very first time.
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:42 PM on July 27, 2018 [27 favorites]


I don’t know why this is striking me as irl lol worthy today, of all days, but like...guys. Federalism isn’t some beautiful grand design, it’s for real internally inconsistent garbage glued together for just long enough to get everyone to agree to it, and everyone knew it was a lie at the time. And it was a lie about fucking slavery.

Like...it’s been a WHILE since I read any of this stuff, but I’m pretty sure discussions of federalism were like 90% code for talking around the fact that some states wanted slavery.

Like our broken political system was always broken, by design, and it was broken by slavers. I do not feel very precious about it.
posted by schadenfrau at 2:55 PM on July 27, 2018 [20 favorites]


Equal people deserve equal votes. All people are equal. Democracy in America is an achievable goal.

Gerrymandering reinforces the power of parties in power, i support its abuse until both sides agree it must be overhauled by independent "i cut, you choose" heuristics.

Filibuster enables a senate minority to obstruct legislation only with the good faith cooperation of the majority party that sets the session rules. Democrats have been beaten at this game. Filibuster is an inherently status-quo defending tool against democratic will. Use it when we can, we should end it.

The senate very purpose and the fact that each state gets at least one repregardless of population, favor majority rural states over majority urban states. All representation could be chosen by ranked choice automatic run-off voting for national at large parliment. Geography is not identity, the homeless, the itinerant and the (& multi-homed weathly) do not have a single long term residence, why should their political opinions be quaranteed to the location of their last utility bill. We have freedom of movement, we should have national voting. This also removes the gerrymander option.

Supreme court justices should have 9 yr terms, staggered by two years each so that each presidential term chooses 2 and no president chooses a majority. Deaths in office temporarily promote designated understudies to carry out rest of term. scotus and understudies get up/down confirmation vote in parliment, if no yes from parliment after 1 yr and 3 nominees, pres appoints nominee closest to yes vote.

President elected by popular vote, voting week is national paid holiday, vote by mail is option, no pre-registration needed. All adult citizens get to vote, living here for 4 years without felonly conviction makes you a citizen.

Public funding of campaigns

23 million californias

a potato
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 3:07 PM on July 27, 2018 [20 favorites]


The fact that we didn’t have a second constitutional conventiom to rewrite the constitution and remove the concessions to slave states is one of the big failures of the reformation.

We need to abolish the Electoral Colledge, it’s undemocratic and when put to the test, fails.

We need to undo The Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929 which pointlessly and arbitrarily raps the number of Representatives. Move to an English style proportional system so people don’t moan about New Hampshire.

We need unbiased or automated gerrymandering to undo decades of crooked dealings and manipulation to favor an unpopular minority of republicans.

In addition to vastly expanding voter access and ease of voting, the Maine experiment in ranked choice voting was a success and should be brought into other states with the goal of making it the norm in all elections.

Of all of these suggestions, breaking states up (or merging them ) and abolishing the electoral colledge require the most amount of work, everything else, up to an including making PR and DC states , is much more attainable with a decent majority in the legislator committed to staying in power. Hell, you could do everything I listed in a year with a motivated party.
posted by The Whelk at 3:13 PM on July 27, 2018 [15 favorites]


Whoa, whoa, whoa, guys, I've got it—nine Californias times a million thirty-six million: we bring about save alive nothing that breatheth's nightmare proposal of a single central government by making every citizen into their own state. Thus reifying sovereign citizenship and pulling over the requisite number of Trump supporters! Who we also know we can lie to about anything as many times as we want!
posted by XMLicious at 3:17 PM on July 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


Dang it Anchorite_of_Palgrave
posted by XMLicious at 3:18 PM on July 27, 2018


making every citizen into their own state

Giving every citizen two senators would seem to pose some logistical challenges.
posted by Pyry at 3:22 PM on July 27, 2018 [15 favorites]


On Palgrave Island the committee of one still is deadlocked most of the time. To politics is human, to progress is divine.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 3:24 PM on July 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


Giving every citizen two senators would seem to pose some logistical challenges.

That's what we need sovereign citizens for, they can easily convince themselves that they're two people.
posted by XMLicious at 3:25 PM on July 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


Senators Georg, who is represented by 750 million senators, is an outlier and should not have been included in this statistic.
posted by idiopath at 3:57 PM on July 27, 2018 [17 favorites]


Second time this week I’ve seen a friend shouted out on the Blue. Dave Faris is a stand-up guy. He’d fit right in here, too.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:16 PM on July 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


AND GET RID OF THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE.
posted by bluesky43 at 4:50 PM on July 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


The problem is that you're not going to get typical liberals to fight dirty because of what liberalism is, what it takes for granted, like, for example the idea that reason is an activity that exists outside historical contigencies, or that tolerance as a first principle is more important than specific projects to make the nation a better place to live for everyone, etc. The Enlightenment idea that human beings are containers of a set of "rights" derived from their natures (or from God, but either way, from outside history) is at odds with the reality that rights derive from agreements about how people are and what a goverment should be allowed to do. The Republicans realized this, cynically, in the late 80s (maybe earlier) and have (d)evolved to the point where they don't work for agreements but for total control over the conversation by any means available. That's how you end up with moments like McConnell simply refusing to do his job so that Obama couldn't seat Garland on the Supreme Court without risking triggering a Constitutional crisis, which Obama wasn't willing to do - because he believed the conversation was one kind of langauge game when it has become something else entirely.
The problem is that while it's true that liberal democracy only works if all parties buy into the premises of it, which are all liberal ideas, and the Republicans don't anymore because it's a game they'd be bound to lose otherwise, the Democrats can't play the same game and still be liberals.
They have to become something else but they're afraid to become leftists who acknowledge that rights derive from social contracts not heaven and that every human idea and activity is inside history so nothing protects us eternally from corruption or fake news or clever lawyers hired by the ultra-rich, or technologies that alter the very way humans communicate that the framers of the Constitution couldn't have anticipated.
The Dems want to govern based on principles because they believe principles can live outside history and save us from our own geeed and shortsightedness and also surprises by history and they haven't realized every policy decision is an ad hoc invention situated in history - ie, you can't govern from principle. That was Obama's big tragic flaw.
But we're not going to change the structure of the government any time soon. The framers created the ammendment process for a small group of sparsely populated states; the current size and population of the US means something better that anticipates and addresses theses issues won't come easily, if it comes at all.
That's why Trump's approach - to ignore the extralegal practices and to try to subvert the normative processes of government - is so appealing to the Republicans - they know we can't meaningfully change or replace the Constitution so they're revolting against the very idea of government itself. The Democrats can't (and shouldn't) do that. They will only win and effect change if they tell a more compelling story about what the future could be like. But that would mean embracing leftism and also rejecting Clinton-style economic policy and being vigilant about regulating the tech sector to prioritize human rights over utopian technocratic visions. That might take a larger crisis than Trump's presidency to bring about.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:29 PM on July 27, 2018 [18 favorites]


And ... uh, a Nintendo! And a subscription to Nintendo Power! And a Power Glove!
posted by Barack Spinoza at 5:32 PM on July 27, 2018


May I interest you in a carriage return, eustace? And a near-mint Power Glove?
posted by Barack Spinoza at 5:33 PM on July 27, 2018


Democrats can't play the same game and still be liberals.

This is why socialists and communists are the only hope for a decent future
posted by bookman117 at 6:03 PM on July 27, 2018 [7 favorites]


See, now you sound like a Nintendon’t.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 6:14 PM on July 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


1. Liberals are intelligent.

2. Conservatives are smart.

3. Smart crushes intelligent every time.
posted by notreally at 6:16 PM on July 27, 2018


Well that intelligent observation settles tha...
MY GOD OH WAIT A SECOND
posted by Barack Spinoza at 6:22 PM on July 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


If you annihilate reactionary parties institutionally and disenfranchise - or just stop overweighting - their electoral base, they can't respond in a tit for tat fashion.

Just saying - if we're imagining "8 Californias", why not just skip to the point where there's no Republican Party left to retaliate? (Hint: do not admit PR as a state. Admit it as 10. Or 30. Same with DC)

A 2 party democracy is dead once one of the two parties decides to undermine the legitimacy of the franchise and finds success by doing so. If you want to spitball radical solutions - and I'm not saying anyone shouldn't - go big or go home.
posted by PMdixon at 9:37 PM on July 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


If you have a plan that addresses that and seems like it credibly squashes the possibility of conservative states splitting, maybe it's worth listening.

And on preview, in the spirit of go big or go home:

The way I've been thinking about it, proposing to break up California (or any large-population blue state) is the simplest way to strong-arm an end to the Electoral College and make other needed repairs to our Constitution. Here's how it works.

Break California into 60 states, break New York into 30 states, break Illinois into 20 states. (Each new state would then have a population slightly larger than that of Wyoming). Carefully Gerrymander each new state so that they are all Democratic. Amend the Constitution immediately. To do this, you need the state legislatures of the states being broken up, a majority in both houses of Congress, and the President. Before the break, there are (being pessimistic) 12 solidly Democratic states and the rest are Republican. After the break, there are 119 solidly Democratic states and 38 Republican. Since 119 / 157 > 2 /3, after the break, amendments can flow like wine. Among the amendments would be ruling out what the Democrats just did. We need better rules for breaking up, merging, and adding states. Also among the amendments would be giving federal-level power to the people, as opposed to the states. Finally, reset the state-structure, which doesn't itself need to be fixed as long as the way the people are represented at the federal level is.

Honestly, I just worry that Republicans are going to figure out that they can play the same procedural game right now with their own states and make it essentially impossible for any progressive agenda to proceed without violence.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 9:53 PM on July 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


As much as I hate Trump, I think a system that locked in long-term Democratic control would be much worse.

One of the goals of democracy is to obtain the consent of the people. If there's a large subgroup of people who feel like they're not being heard, they tend to do things like violently rebel or secede. While I don't like Trump or any of his policies, his election does mean that the people he represents get their moment in the sun and can't plausibly complain about having no political power for at least a few election cycles.

Also, if you look at places that have had long-term guaranteed Democratic control, they have just as much corruption and horrible behavior from politicians as places that have had long-term guaranteed Republican control. If politicians don't face competitive elections, they're not on their toes and start to behave very badly.

Of course it's exactly the same if the GOP locks in their power.
posted by miyabo at 10:41 PM on July 27, 2018 [5 favorites]




Also stuff like Maine’s ranked choice voting make third parties much more viable
posted by The Whelk at 11:33 PM on July 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


while I occasionally entertain fantasies of California splitting the fuck away from the rest of y'all, the only people around here who seriously want to divide the state itself are the white libertarian State of Jefferson people

I think most of California would be better off split into multiple states. I think doing so is a logistics nightmare and the water-rights arguments alone could fuel a couple decades' worth of media storms, so if "split the state" seems like a good idea, we should have California specialists of all sorts getting into that discussion now, so that in 5 years we can have a couple of plausible rough scenarios of how it could work, and in 10, a small handful of actual options to choose from. I'm aware that it's very unlikely to work out; the benefits are nebulous and the problems are huge.

Like many Californians, I have the occasional secession fantasy. Like all sane Californians, I know it can't happen; there is no scenario whatsoever in which the continental US peacefully gives up access to that much coastline, no matter how good the easement contracts are, and that's before we start talking about airports.

Fixing the national problems created by states that want to keep the legacy of slavery need to remove the laws that protect that legacy.
1) Eliminate the influence of the electoral college. This can be done by requiring they vote with the majority nationwide, rather than the constitutional amendment required to remove them entirely.
2) Increase the number of Representatives. I'm not sure about removing the Senate, but certainly reduce their influence.
3) Give felons the right to vote - remove the prison states' white population advantage. (At least - give them the right to vote in federal elections. Requiring them to vote in state elections may be overreaching, but allowing everyone over 18 to vote in a federal election should be within Congress' ability to grant.)
4) No registration required. No address. (Doesn't matter, once you remove the electoral college.) Set up something for ID requirements - you don't want white assholes showing up to vote in someone else's name - but a good computer network can eliminate a whole lot of the current provisional ballot garbage. ID or sworn statement, with photo taken along with a signature, should be enough to verify voters later.
5) Overturn Citizens United, OR allow corporate death penalties for crimes.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:11 AM on July 28, 2018 [6 favorites]


Overturn Citizens United, OR allow corporate death penalties for crimes.

Porque no los dos?
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 12:41 AM on July 28, 2018 [9 favorites]


Also, if you look at places that have had long-term guaranteed Democratic control, they have just as much corruption and horrible behavior from politicians as places that have had long-term guaranteed Republican control.

And yet somehow New York City has free pre-K, guaranteed health plans, summer lunch programs, etc etc etc, while Kansas has a collapsing government and disease outbreaks.

They are definitely not the same.
posted by schadenfrau at 5:39 AM on July 28, 2018 [10 favorites]


While I don't like Trump or any of his policies, his election does mean that the people he represents get their moment in the sun and can't plausibly complain about having no political power for at least a few election cycles.

Since when do any of the complaints of the people he represents need to be plausible in order to be made?
And re-made, parroted by every R candidate down the line, and breathlessly repeated by "news" reports about the Downhome Salt of the Earth Truck-Drivin' Real Amurrcans?

Eight years of Dubya did nothing to diminish the right perceiving itself (and/or feigning perceiving itself) as oppressed. We can't ascribe reason to their methods, or integrity to their motives. This guy had it right in 2007.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:50 AM on July 28, 2018 [11 favorites]


While I don't like Trump or any of his policies, his election does mean that the people he represents get their moment in the sun and can't plausibly complain about having no political power for at least a few election cycles.

This argument relies on assumptions that are disproven by our current situation. Right wing Christians self identify as a persecuted and vulnerable group. Conservative white men claim to be victims of bigotry. Cops call BLM racist. You can't rely on good faith self insight about political power from the current right. They are either lying or delusional or both.
posted by idiopath at 6:03 AM on July 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


They are either lying or delusional or both

Eh either one of those assumes they actually know or care what the truth is. They're emotive bullshitters.

And let me also point out that the "losing" candidate in the last national election had 3M more votes and that it is taken as a fact of nature that a 10% Democrat advantage in votes for the House will result in approximate parity in seats, so locking in Democratic hegemony (as if such were possible given the role of state houses the hollowing out of local media and the political preferences of cops) is really just making up for the last 2 decades of anti-democratic Republican control.
posted by PMdixon at 6:30 AM on July 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


It's apparent that anger at the Republican Party and their current control of the federal government is driving a lot of the commentary here. And of course, the U.S. Constitution has some serious structural issues. But one of the things that we have going for us as Americans is the very longevity of our Constitution and certain attendant norms (like not splitting states or packing the Supreme Court), which discourages arbitrarily changing our long-standing institutions in fundamental ways in pursuit of short-term partisan advantage. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with California or Texas being unitary states, or with the Supreme Court having nine members rather than 49. And if there is, then it needs to be for reasons other than that it helps Our Team win the next three presidential elections. Because otherwise, it leads to two angry factions taking pickaxes and jackhammers to the foundation of our country because it turned out to be somewhat slanted, each side trying to tilt things to their advantage and imperiling the entire edifice of our democracy in the process.

We have to be able to distinguish between the problems of the moment (a Republican President, House, Senate, and conservative-majority Supreme Court), more serious long-term problems (one major party hijacked by its racist populist wing; a president who is demonstrably terrible in almost every way, whom most of his own party's leadership would probably prefer to replace but for the overwhelming opposition of their party's rank-and-file membership), and fundamental institutional problems (the Electoral College, an entrenched two-party system, widespread gerrymandering, vote suppression, the flouting of liberal democratic norms; the rise of neofascism). We also have to make sure that the policies and tactics we use to address one level of problem don't end up making deeper problems even worse. Any solutions worth pursuing need to be appropriate to the level of the problem that they are addressing. They must also not be vulnerable to an endless spiral of tit-for-tat retaliation with no logical endpoint, because that leads us into a political hellhole the likes of which most native-born Americans have never seen.

It is appropriate to run Democrats in every state and federal election in all fifty states, for example, in order to address the problem of Republican majorities in state and federal legislatures. It is not appropriate to divide states into smaller states in order to increase the number of seats that we think Our Team can win. That means destroying and remaking sovereign political entities in constitutionally dubious ways simply to gerrymander one party's way into a Senate majority.

Yes, Trump is a huge problem right now. But Trump is a symptom of much deeper problems in our political system and culture. Hyperpartisanship has trained us to hold our noses and vote for Our Team's candidate, no matter their personal flaws, because of how bad the Other Team's candidate would be if they got into office (and if you don't think that applies to you, ask yourself honestly how much skullduggery and petty corruption you would be willing to tolerate in a presidential candidate in order to ensure a 6-3 pro-choice majority on the Supreme Court, or the repeal of the Second Amendment, for example). Worse, it distorts people's perceptions of reality and trustworthiness based on what Our Team/Their Team supports. And that hyperpartisanship is a result of our entrenched two-party system, which is supported by several state-level laws and policies, not least of which is single-member first-past-the-post voting. I'm sure there are other points of structural change that could be improved upon, but changing to multiple-member instant runoff voting for legislatures, and approval voting for the Presidency, seems both the most salient and something that can be done incrementally, state by state, on a grassroots, nonpartisan basis.

If we're going to shoot for deep solutions, they should address deep problems such as these. And we who care about those problems need to pursue them in a nonpartisan way, by appealing to nonpartisan shared values of fairness and integrity. Otherwise, we will lose before we even begin. I'd love to hear more solutions of this kind.
posted by skoosh at 12:31 PM on July 28, 2018 [6 favorites]


changing to multiple-member instant runoff voting for legislatures, and approval voting for the Presidency, seems both the most salient and something that can be done incrementally, state by state, on a grassroots, nonpartisan basis

I don't think it can be done that way, actually. Consider; what happens when Republicans go along with switching to multi-member districts in blue states but fight it tooth and nail in red states? For your premise to work it requires most people on both sides to be persons of good will who in many cases would have to be willing to give up some power in service of the greater good.

Have you seen anything in the last 20 years which makes you think Republicans would do that? Have you followed the shenanigans in, say, North Carolina?
posted by Justinian at 1:20 PM on July 28, 2018 [7 favorites]


The key is that the two parties' constituents must want it, regardless of the interests of party leadership. Look how many politicians signed up to support term limits back when that was a thing in the 1990s, despite the fact that it directly limits the power of every single elected official, both Republican and Democrat. If we've learned anything from the past two years, it's that party leaders and politicians will do and support whatever they can to avoid a contested primary. The real poison pill is if it became identified as a liberal/Democratic/conservative/Republican project; then it would become vulnerable to partisan attack.
posted by skoosh at 1:42 PM on July 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


But one of the things that we have going for us as Americans is the very longevity of our Constitution and certain attendant norms (like not splitting states or packing the Supreme Court), which discourages arbitrarily changing our long-standing institutions in fundamental ways in pursuit of short-term partisan advantage

Oh hi you must be a time traveler from the 80s let me tell you about mid cycle redistricting.
posted by PMdixon at 2:39 PM on July 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


Fuck Right Off With This
posted by homunculus at 2:55 AM on July 29, 2018


I agree the Fox is doing a fantastic TV campaign for her and this one was likely the most accurate reporting Fox ever did.
posted by lmfsilva at 6:40 AM on July 29, 2018


Oh, is this another round of the "let's pretend that the means don't shape the ends and argue that people who want more and better democracy can obtain it through anti-democratic, authoritarian means" game?

I mean, if the end goal is simply changing the power distribution to favor the Democratic Party over the Republican Party, sure, that's a reasonable argument. But the current tactics of the Republicans work because they align with the current goals of that party to replace democratic institutions with authoritarian ones that advantage specific business interests (in which category I include certain mega-churches and other religious organisations that are mostly about gaining power for themselves). As someone else said above, when the goal is more and better democracy, we need to use democratic methods to get there - collective organising, mass demonstrations, direct action, and nonviolent resistance. I note that many of these do not typically involve working within established structures, since they are tactics that have been developed when established structures are undemocratic or exclude specific subgroups.

As for the Democratic Party, their goal seems to be maintenance of a status quo for a subset of the population? It kind of makes sense then that they favor status quo tactics. The problem is not so much their tactics as the fact that a majority of people in the US do not want the continuation of the status quo (though are split on what they want instead).
posted by eviemath at 8:03 AM on July 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


There's nothing fundamentally wrong with California or Texas being unitary states

Califormia has roughly 12% of the population of the country while only having 2% representation in the Senate, and it's just the most outrageous situation in a body filled with outrages. A country that will soon give 30% of its population an ironclad veto over all legislation plainly has massive legitimacy problems that require a Constitution-level fix.
posted by gerryblog at 11:10 AM on July 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


I am in favor of a split California, although I think 8 is ridiculous.

The Red Hot Chilli Peppers would disagree. Eight Californias is like 16 more albums for them.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:33 PM on July 29, 2018


A country that will soon give 30% of its population an ironclad veto over all legislation plainly has massive legitimacy problems that require a Constitution-level fix.

Right. Now get 3/4 of the states to go along with a constitutional amendment to alter the Senate apportionment/eliminate the electoral College/whatever. Including the ones that would lose power.

Now try to do it with a scheme that doesn't involve megadeaths.

I mean, as long as we're dealing with abject fantasy here, could we toss in cheap fusion power and weakly godlike AI? That would fix a lot of problems.
posted by happyroach at 11:51 AM on July 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


Now get 3/4 of the states to go along with a constitutional amendment to alter the Senate apportionment

Senate apportionment is so far as I am aware literally the only thing that is not subject to Constitutional Amendment. Which is a big problem. Maybe we can turn it into a vestigial body that still gets 2 Senators per state or something.
posted by Justinian at 12:05 PM on July 30, 2018


Original: The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.

The seventeenth amendment changed Senate election from "chosen by state legislature" to "chosen by popular vote." No reason we couldn't have another amendment changing them from two per state to some other number--or changing the number of votes based on population, possibly not as directly as representatives. (So: each senator could get 1-4 votes depending on population of the state, rather than 1-53; it could be recalculated to start on Jan 1 the year after every 10-year census.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:48 PM on July 30, 2018


It's the House apportionment that's determined by law rather than the Constitution. The current 435 seats are fixed by statute.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:52 PM on July 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


The seventeenth amendment changed Senate election from "chosen by state legislature" to "chosen by popular vote." No reason we couldn't have another amendment changing them from two per state to some other number
Article V (Article 5 - Mode of Amendment)
[...] Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.
The plain reading of this passage is that, in fact, you can't change them from two per state without unanimous consent from the states. Ok pedants you could change it from 2 per state to some other number per state but you can't have different states have different numbers of senators which is the point.
posted by Justinian at 2:11 PM on July 30, 2018 [4 favorites]


I mean. You can amend that too, no? Or is this the logical inconsistency that Gödel found.

Either way, our Consitution needs an update.

Morally I’d be fine with being like, oh, hi, Wyoming, you don’t want to ratify? You can be your own little country then, and you can figure out your own infrastructure needs. And we’re not giving you any more money.

Probably the lawyers could figure out a way to do this.

And I’m joking because this honest to God seems like an otherwise intractable problem. Either we fix it through politics, or through like...actual violence. But our current Constitution is not sustainable.
posted by schadenfrau at 2:23 PM on July 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


I mean. You can amend that too, no? Or is this the logical inconsistency that Gödel found.

As much as it pains me I'd argue you can't. If the section on how to amend the Constitution says that you can amend the Constitution by doing X and Y as long as you don't deprive states of equal Representation in the Senate then its hard to see how you could legitimately amend it to deprive states of equal Representation in the Senate. If you could amend that passage to strike out the bit about equal representation then there would be no reason to include it in the first place as it would be a semantically null clause.
posted by Justinian at 2:31 PM on July 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


(I completely agree that the current Constitution is not sustainable. I just think it may be an intractable problem like you suggest.)
posted by Justinian at 2:32 PM on July 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


If you could amend that passage to strike out the bit about equal representation then there would be no reason to include it in the first place as it would be a semantically null clause.

I see no reason to be troubled by such philosophical matters.

Step 1: Amend the part of the Constitution that says you can't make amendments that change the balance of the Senate.
Step 2: Now that that's cleared up, make another amendment changing the balance of the Senate.

It's not intractable, it just requires a McConnell-like willingness to suspend reasonableness and interpret the law in whatever way gives you the most power.
posted by contraption at 2:51 PM on July 30, 2018 [4 favorites]


The plain reading of this passage is that, in fact, you can't change them from two per state without unanimous consent from the states.

Yeah, that's what it looks like. Ugh. So the only solution may be, when states get over a certain size, they get split. No state is more than triple the population of any other, so that they have reasonably equitable representation.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:36 PM on July 30, 2018


If we're gonna DND rules lawyer this fucker nothing in there says you can't amend the Constitution to turn the Senate into a vestigial body with mostly symbolic and advisory power. Make it the House of Lords. Hey, you still get 2 Senators they just don't really do anything.
posted by Justinian at 6:58 PM on July 30, 2018 [6 favorites]


Apparently I brought that up earlier in the thread too. I guess I mostly like the word vestigial.
posted by Justinian at 6:59 PM on July 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


Why are we even one country? My state is bigger than half the goddamn countries in the world. It's absurd we're meant to have one government over all of these various peoples and places. Chop the whole fucking thing up.
posted by GoblinHoney at 12:52 PM on July 31, 2018


If we're gonna DND rules lawyer this fucker nothing in there says you can't amend the Constitution to turn the Senate into a vestigial body with mostly symbolic and advisory power. Make it the House of Lords. Hey, you still get 2 Senators they just don't really do anything.

Yes, that's always been my preferred hack, though I think the system-level problems require a new Constitution in general (our presidency is also a dictatorship waiting to happen or maybe it just did; the balance of powers between localities, states, and the federal government is a tire fire; the Supreme Court needs to be massively rethought; and so on). I think we should bite the bullet on a Constitutional Convention and fight like hell to get a better deal, because otherwise a decadent imperial US is going to make the 21st century a nightmare (and crash the global ecosystem besides). Splitting up the country into multiple regional confederations would be a better outcome than letting this constitutional order continue until someone who is BOTH competent and evil gets the reins.
posted by gerryblog at 8:38 AM on August 1, 2018


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