Category: Politics

Day Three

I think there was an opportunity for either (or both) of them to spin the “woman cannot win the presidency” v/s “Trump will weaponize misogyny in the election” situation in a positive way — maybe Warren took umbrage at the way Sanders conveyed his belief that Trump would mobilize sexists against a female candidate in the way he mobilized racists in 2016, maybe Sanders said something outright offensive. Accusing each other of lying, even privately, doesn’t help anything. “Fairness” in journalism is going to create a false equivalence between the accusation of a lie with Trump’s daily deluge of lies. There’s no recording of the meeting, and litigating what was said, what was meant, and what was understood diminishes both candidates. And, while I don’t normally like when a candidate avoids either the proximal or distal question to avoid having to answer something they don’t want to answer … I think this is a situation where avoiding the proximal question and engaging on the distal one would serve either of them well:
 
[I know Bernie is | I am] a strong advocate for women’s rights, but “how can we overcome Trump’s misogyny in 2020” is something we need to address. If you are no longer forced to decide between groceries and prescription medication, does it matter if a man or woman delivered Medicare for All? If you are breathing clean air and drinking clean water, does it matter if a man or woman enacted the New Green Deal? If your kids can graduate from University debt-free, does it matter if a man or woman ensured access to free public universities?

Bankrupting the Country

There are some argumentative political statements that I can never decide if it’s deliberately obtuse or an actual misunderstanding. Joe the Plumber comes to mind — a lot of people have no understanding of business taxes (or know the difference between gross and net). Maybe he really thought a million dollar gross plumbing business would throw him into the wealth tax level. Or he’s making a disingenuous argument — either bemoaning that a plumbing business netting a million dollars would pay increased taxes or deliberately failing to mention that a million dollar gross business isn’t anywhere near wealth-tax levels and letting people hear “million dollar” and assume as they assume.

“Won’t Medicare for All bankrupt the country” has become this year’s Joe the Plumber for me. Won’t private insurance bankrupt individuals and businesses? I pay around 3k a year for my family’s insurance. If universal health care meant my taxes went up 10k, not having to pay that 3k wouldn’t make me feel much better. But what I pay isn’t the sum of what my health insurance costs. My employer paid about 14,000USD for my medical and dental insurance. Legislation can ensure what employers currently contribute to wasteful private insurance becomes funding for Medicare for All.

If the entirety of my 3k went to Medicare for all, and the remaining 7k came from my employer … they would be saving 7,000USD on a single employee. Maybe all 10k comes from the employer. My taxes go down 3k, the company still saves 4k. Or maybe universal heath care costs 17k and the entirety of what both my employer and I pay gets redirected toward Medicare. The worst case in any of these scenarios is that we’ve broken even, I’ve got better coverage, people who change jobs don’t have lapses in coverage, and people who need to see a doctor or get medicine do so.

Yes, it’s possible implementing universal health care would be a net cost increase. While there’s logical consistency that removing profit, executive salaries, and general overhead would yield a lot of savings … having more people actually use their health care might yield a lot of additional expense. But the gross cost of universal healthcare is offset by what we currently pay — just like the plumbing company with a million dollars in gross receipts isn’t forking over 40% of that million dollars in taxes. 

January Debate

The post-debate chatter where CNN tried to tell me how women were feeling during the exchange was especially irksome. It’s not like they had a huge focus group convened for a virtual watch party, or like they had enough time to poll actual women. They reported what they wanted the reaction to be to the controversy they started just in time to spice up their debate.
 
How I felt during the exchange? As a woman, I’m used to people conflating specific situations with generalizations and screaming sexism. Which exasperates me because there’s so much ACTUAL sexism to combat. I didn’t think Clinton could defeat Obama in 2008. That doesn’t mean I am sexist. That means I thought about the strengths and weaknesses of both candidates, how the public was likely to see those strengths and weaknesses, looked at how Obama was leveraging then-cutting-edge technology. And thought Clinton wasn’t going to win. Sanders says his assessment was that Trump is a sexist, racist liar. I conjecture from that defense that the conversation was essentially that Trump is going to use that against any candidate. A woman running against him needs to be prepared to respond to sexist statements. A minority running against him needs to be prepared to respond to racist statements. And everyone running against him needs to be prepared to counter his lies. Does that make the path more challenging for a woman? Sure. This past summer, my daughter and I were at a playground when a cop rolled up and chatted with us for a few minutes. Do people who play at a different playground or have darker skin have a more challenging chat with their officer? Often, yes. Hell, I know *men* who take their kids to a playground and get grilled as a potential pedo or kidnapper. Discussing this doesn’t make me racist or sexist … it makes me aware of my privilege.
 
I already have a trouble trusting Warren. Not because she’s a woman but because she’s relatively new to her convictions. And, with Medicare for All, seems to be willing to drift away from *my* convictions. Sure, I’ll take “the risk that she’s got whatever belief is polling well this week” over “Trump”. I’d also easily take anything this side of pandemic flu over Trump, so that’s a low bar. And I’d be a lot more invested in supporting her this Autumn than, say, Biden. But compared to someone with a long history of beliefs (even when those beliefs ran against the mainstream thinking)? One of the logical flaws I saw in Clinton’s campaign (and McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin) is the idea that women are so invested in promoting feminism that we’ll vote for any available woman. If there’s a candidate who I agree with who happens to be a woman, yeah that would excite me. But I’m not eager to support someone whose views run opposite to mine just because they are female. That’s sexism too. And I worry that Warren is headed down that same “identity politics” path.
 
The quibbling about 30 years bothered me on two levels. Academically, 1990 is 30 years ago. Sanders didn’t win a special election, it was *Nov* 1990. Which, mathematically, is less than 30 years ago. That is, we don’t need to quibble about whether “in the past 30 years” is an open or closed set. I get rounding, but saying “it’s been almost 30 years since anyone here, other than me, defeated an incumbent Republican opponent” would have retained the big/round number and been factually accurate. “And the only person on this stage who has beaten an incumbent Republican any time in the past 30 years is me.”? Not true. And, just like every car seems to be the ‘best selling automobile in it’s class*’ followed by some small text about how the class has been so narrowly defined that it precludes a few similar-enough and better-selling vehicles … Warren picked the time-frame. Her response was not off-the-cuff; she knew the question was forthcoming and had an answer prepared. She could have picked 25 years which is still a big and round-enough number.
What bothered me more is that, even if her statement were true, it’s a disingenuous argument. It is phrased to sound like “you are worried about electability, well here are a bunch of losers and I’m the one who can win because I have won’. But that doesn’t line up with facts.
 
* Bernie defeated a Republican opponent back in 1990. Then won elections over non-incumbent challengers – including in 1994 when the Republicans did quite well with challengers for House seats. He didn’t have an incumbent *to* defeat since 1990. So he’s got 1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, in the House. Then 2006, 2012, and 2018 in the Senate. That’s not nearly as detrimental to electability as her statement is meant to sound. And, hell, he defeated *Democratic* opponents in this 30 year window too.
 
* Biden defeated his incumbent Republican opponent back in 1972. But we’re only looking at 30 years. So 1990, 1996, 2002, and 2008 he defeated non-incumbent Republicans. And was on the winning ticket in 2008 and 2012.
 
* Kobluchar didn’t have an incumbent to defeat when she ran in 2006. Or in 2012 and 2018. Again, still won against Republican challengers.
 
* Buttigieg — He’s got an actual loss to a Republican incumbent — the state Treasurer race. How much of that race is party line, though? Didn’t have an incumbent to defeat when he ran for mayor in 2011. Or in 2015.
 
* Steyer hasn’t run for anything AFAIK.
 
Her assertion would have made more sense if they had been running against Republicans and losing. Across the entire stage, there was one loss to a Republican in the past 30 years.
At that, Warren defeated Brown in 2012. And won against her non-incumbent challenger in 2018. That’s hardly a the long record of winning that “the only person to beat an incumbent Republican any time in the past 30 years” sounds like. She had a well-rehearsed response to a made-for(and by)-TV controversy {one that my conspiracy theory brain says “hey, who might have leaked damaging scuttlebutt about a strong opponent right before a debate and the caucuses?”}. And her prepared response is an appeal to pathos. As a human who appreciates logos and ethos too, my opinion of Warren is diminished by this debate.

Understanding the law

It irks me how many government officials fail to understand the law (or, at least, make statements that are legally absurd). Today, Devin Nunes says he will sue CNN for defamation. Why? Because CNN reported that a lawyer for Lev Parnas said Parnas knows something about some meetings Nunes scheduled with former Ukrainian prosecutors (and Parnas is willing to testify before Congress).

What’s the requirement for a defamation case? (1) False statement and (2) malicious intent. If Nunes said he intended to sue Parnas, that would be reasonable — still have to prove that the statement was false and uttered with malicious intent, but at least Parnas could have made a maliciously false statement. But a defamation suit against CNN would be an assertion that CNN made up a conversation with Parnas’ lawyers and did so maliciously to harm Nunes.

I’m certain Nunes statement was dramatization — and a way to avoid answering when asked if he did have involvement with the whole Ukraine fiasco. But someone who is responsible for writing laws shouldn’t demonstrate such ignorance of those laws.

The Fifth and Executive Privilege

Intellectually, I know that invoking one’s Fifth Amendment right is not an admission of guilt. But, any time I hear someone taking the 5th, my subconscious assumption is either that they’re guilty of whatever is being asked or the answer brings up some other admission of guilt. Because, seriously, why refuse to answer if the content of the answer is exculpatory and doesn’t implicate someone important to me?

In the same way, I intellectually know that my subconscious brain went somewhere not legally valid when Dr. Fiona Hill refused to answer a question citing executive privilege. The line of questioning was basically “you’ve been high up on the Russia desk for some time, so you’ve been on a lot of these phone calls with foreign heads of state”, “yes”, “is the content of this (the declassified 25 July phone call with Zelensky) call unusual”, PRIVILEGE! Which only makes me think that demanding personal favors that run counter to national interest (or having favors that run counter to the national interest demanded of him) isn’t unusual.

November Debate

I like the point about putting more effort into turning the 50% of non-voters into voters … between single-issue voters who will never vote for a Democrat & the 30 or whatever percent that seriously think the Trump presidency is perfect, it’s not like there’s a lot of people to be swayed there. The huge pool of people who don’t vote? Offer free childcare & transportation. Get them engaged with some piece of the platform.

 

“The fragility of his ego stood in the way of national security” … Harris’ assessment of Trump’s interactions with N. Korea is a good quote, and not just about this particular issue.

I want nothing …

So, if I go jack, say, a Lambo … and when the cops show up say I’m heading out to return it … that’s OK?! Because chatting with an Ambassador and telling them he doesn’t want anything from the Ukraine after knowing the whistle-blower complaint is headed to the House isn’t exactly a great defense. Similarly, saying the money got released after the complaint … not exonerating.

Direct Representation

I always wanted to run for federal office on the platform of direct representation — more a technology than a platform. Develop a system that allows constituents to log in and vote for any legislation — basically like proxy voting for shareholders. I’d deliver summary and full text content of anything in advance of the vote, and I’d cast my vote as dictated by my constituents. And constituents could see the vote totals for each piece of legislation to prove that I am voting based on real input. Obviously, this platform suffers an immense privilege problem — it’s great for a demographic with free time to read through legislation and convenient Internet access. It also suffers a civic disengagement problem — does anyone actually want to read through the text of everything that’s coming up in my committees and to floor votes? It’s quite possible that I’d be voting against the National Law Enforcement Museum Commemorative Coin Act (H.R. 1865) because five people bothered to lodge an opinion … and only to troll the entire idea behind direct representation. And none of that considers the threat of malicious actors.

Once there is a platform available for one legislator, expending it to others in the same chamber is trivial. Adding the other chamber or state legislatures is an undertaking from a content-development standpoint (what *is* on schedule for the Oregon Senate today?), but the underlying development effort is the same. Somewhat like the National Popular Vote compact is an end-run around formalizing the eradication of the Electoral College, this would be an end-run around indirect representation.

But I’ve thought, of late, that starting at the Federal level is misguided — if for no other reason than the incredible amount of money it takes to run a campaign for federal office. But also because getting the six million or so Ohio voters set up for direct representation by their state Senator would be a logistical nightmare. It seems better to begin implementation at the local level — run for school board or a Township Trustee position where you are concerned about a few thousand voters. Use local offices as small proof-of-concept experiments. Maybe it doesn’t work out — maybe no one cares enough to check what’s being discussed and vote for their position. Maybe running and supporting the platform is too expensive or time consuming. Hell, maybe no one is interested enough in direct representation for a direct representation candidate to win in the first place.