Many years ago I was walking from the bus to my place of work, when I saw a woman holding a microphone standing with a guy with a TV camera on his shoulder up ahead, talking to another pedestrian. My workplace at the time happened to be across the street from the headquarters of one of the three local network affiliate TV stations, and two others were within a three or four block radius, so it hadn’t been the first time I saw a pair like that interviewing passers-by. By the time I got close, the young woman asked, “Excuse me, sir, can we ask you a couple of questions?”
I said, “Sure.”
Camera guy points the camera at us, the woman smiles and asks, “Are you aware that today is a primary election, and did you vote?”
Her smile got even broader. “Why did you vote? Is there something special on the ballot this time that compelled you to turn out?”
I think I blinked stupidly for a second before I said. “It’s an election. I always vote. That’s what you’re supposed to do if you’re a responsible citizen.”
I hadn’t finished before her face fell, she turned to the cameraman and made a slashing motion with her hand. The cameraman stopped filming. Then the young woman said, “Thank you, sir,” and started scanning the sidewalk looking for someone else.
I was telling a co-worker about it later that day, and he asked, “How often do you think you forget to vote?” And I explained that I had only ever missed one election—the very first primary that happened the year I moved to Seattle to attend University—and only then because I didn’t get my registration updated in time for the primary, but I did vote in the general that year.
He explained that he did a lot of volunteer work for several election campaigns over the years, including the get-out-the-vote stage of such campaigns and he said, “They have this term, a ‘perfect voter’ by which they mean a person who voted in every general, primary, and special campaign in the last four-year period. That’s you!”
My state is one of the six states holding a Presidential primary or caucus today. We have been an all-mail-in voting state for some years now, so that usually means my husband and I sitting down at the kitchen table with voter pamphlets and the like on the weekend before election day to fill ours out (and make a lot of snarky comments about some of the candidate statements in the pamphlet). When we lived in Ballard we would usually walk together the 10-ish blocks from our place to the local library branch to drop the ballots in the big drop box. Now that we’re in Shoreline, I drive to the nearest library (it’s about two and a half miles away, so I don’t walk) to drop them off.
Which I have already done.
Since the only thing on the Presidential Primary ballot is President, we didn’t need to actually read the pamphlet. I have had the Democratic nominees ranked in my head for some time. The only reason I didn’t fill out my ballot as soon as it arrived was because I was pretty sure a bunch of candidates would drop out after Super Tuesday last week. Which they did. So I wound up voting for the candidate that had started out around fifth or sixth place on my list back during the early debates. And not because my opinion of him has changed, but because every other candidate I liked more has since left the race.
I love the graphic at the top of this post because it so brilliantly illustrates the difference between people’s perception of the political spectrum, and the reality. The media loves to paint Bernie Sanders as a far left liberal, and Elizabeth Warren as nearly as far left, while the truth is that Bernie and Liz would barely be considered left of center in any European country, and when you look at policies most Americans support on various polls, they are pretty much smack dab in the middle compared to the voters.
And if my face was on that graphic, I would be very far to the left of Bernie.
As much as I loved Barack Obama, he wasn’t a liberal. He was right of center, by a bit. Most of his foreign policy was very similar to that of the George W. Bush admin during its second term, for goodness sake! When Bill Clinton was in office, he was actually further to the right than Obama would be. And yeah, the entire Republican party isn’t merely rightwing, it is extremely far rightwing (and quite a lot of it alt-right).
Anyway, I’ve voted for the least conservative option still in the race. Let’s see what happens!
I know it’s been a lot of politics lately, but since most of my writing time is going to NaNoWriMo, blog posts will be short. And the kind of blog post where I share a couple of links and make a shot commentary don’t take much time. So, here we go:
Despite all the things stacked against the blue wave (gerrymandered congressional districts, voter suppression efforts, the non-democratic/non-proportional nature of the Senate), the not-Nazi party has won a lot: Democrats had a good showing on Election Day. It’s been even better for them since. A lot of the races were too close to call on election night, but eager newspeople were more than willing to call them anyway. As more votes are counted, some of those calls are proving to be wrong. As just one example that this isn’t something that should surprise us: six years ago Jeff Flake was elected to represent Arizona in the Senate. On election night in 2012 he led his opponent by nearly 6%, so everyone called it. By the time all of the votes were counting, his lead had shrunk to a teensy bit more that 2%—he still won, but it was a lot closer than it had appeared on election night.
This year, that same Senate seat was up with no incumbent. On election night, the Republican candidate led the Democratic condidate by a woefully thin margin of one-half of a percentage point. As more ballots have been counted, the lead shrank, just like Flake’s did six years ago (because late-coming ballots often lean heavily one way or another; in Arizona’s case, late-arriving ballots tend to be more Democratic). So now the Democrat leads by a bit more than one percent. That’s a smaller shift than what happened six years ago, but well within what should have been expected: ELECTION DRAMA: Democrat Takes Tiny Lead in Arizona Senate Count; Florida Senate & Governor Prepare For Recount.
Will the lead widen? Will it narrow? Will it narrow enough to throw things into a recount? Will it flip? We don’t know for certain until all the ballots are counted. And that’s true of many races. We’re all so eager, as voters, to know the answer right away, forgetting that ballot counting takes time. The results reported on election night are always just a sample.
That’s why two races in Florida are still up in the air. Things were too close to call: Florida Begins Vote Recounts in Senate and Governor’s Races.
It isn’t just a matter of which ballots come in later (because of military ballots being shipped in from overseas, or absentee ballots mailed on the last day, or states like mine where all voting is by mail and we’re allowed to mail or drop off our ballots at the very last moment). Nor is it just because of issues like that story about one county I included a link to on Saturday where an overadundance of gross incompetence delayed the beginning of counting (among other things). In very high population centers, the sheer volume of the number of ballots means that only a tiny fraction are counted by the end of election night. Instead of hundreds or maybe thousands more to be counted in the following days, it’s hundreds of thousands. So we have low-populations counties like one in the Florida panhandle which had counted all but 26 ballots by the end of election night, and then a place like King County in Washington where there were over a quarter of a million (250,000) uncounted ballots in hand the day after election day—and because mail-in ballots were still in the postal system, thousands more on their way.
We don’t get answers fast. The fact that the margins change as more ballots are counted doesn’t mean something fishy is going on. The election ain’t over until every vote is counted.
Democrats will control the House. And that means that there will finally be some Congressional hearings into the corruption and worse that the Executive branch has been committing under Cadet Bonespur. There isn’t much we can do about the destruction of the Judicial branch that is being perpetrated during the next two years, but the thing those of us who care about equal rights and, oh, the future of the planet have to focus on is that we finally have a way to put some brakes on the fascist uprising. It’s a long term fight. We lost big two years ago. We call ourselves the Resistance because the bad guys have already taken over. This is an important step in the fight to take back the country, but we lost in 2016.
There was a bunch of other good news last night. Here are just a few of the highlights:
- Key West elected Teri Johnston, Florida’s first openly lesbian mayor
- New York elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress
- Colorado elected Jared Polis, the first openly gay governor in the US
- Minnesota elected Ilhan Omar, the first Muslim woman (alongside Rashida Tlaib) elected to Congress
- Massachusetts elected Ayanna Pressley, the first black woman elected to Congress in Massachusetts
- Kansas elected Sharice Davids, an openly gay ex-MMA fighter and one of the first Native American women (alongside Deb Haaland) elected to Congress
- Michigan elected Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American (and first Muslim woman, alongside Ilhan Omar) elected to Congress
- Kentucky elected Nima Kulkarni, the first Indian-American elected to Kentucky House of Representatives
- New Mexico elected Deb Haaland, one of the first Native American women (alongside Sharice Davids) elected to Congress
- Flemington, New Jersey elected Betsy Driver, the first openly intersex mayor of a city in the U.S.
- Indiana election J.D. Ford the first openly gay Indiana state legislature, defeating a long-time Republican incumbent in the process
- Kansas elected pro-gay-rights legislator Laura Kelly over pro-Trump and pro-voter suppression Republican
- Florida passed a constitutional amendment granting voting rights to about 1 million felons who have served their time
- Louisiana passed a constitutional amendment repealing a white supremacist policy regarding jury convictions
- Massachusetts voters soundly rejected a measure to strip away non-discrimination protections from transgender people
And election night isn’t the ending. Alexandra Erin put it very well on twitter earlier this week:
Let me be ridiculously clear about something: I am not counting on the Democrats, as a national organization, to fix anything.
Our country is on fire. We need them, but they are not the firefighters. We are.
They’re the water.
We are the firefighters. We can’t check out. This midterm wasn’t a fire and forget situation. We have to stay engaged. We have to call our congresspeople and demand that they stick to the guns, that they oppose Trump on everything. This is just one battle in the long war to take our country back. We can do it, but we have to keep fighting!
Technically, the President (and the Vice-President) are not elected until the electors for each state meet in the capital of said state and each cast one vote for President and one for Vice-President. Each state has a number of electors equal to the total of their representatives in the lower house of Congress plus their Senators. This means that the states with lower populations actually have a disproportionately greater say in the outcome of the Presidential election because even states that don’t have enough population to get more than one Representative have two Senators. We can argue later about why the Founding Fathers set up this system1, but it’s the system we have.
And this is how we’re in a spot where one candidate has received more than 2 million more votes than the one that everyone is calling the winner.
So, on December 19 the electors meet, and under the Constitution can technically cast their votes for just about anyone. Many states levy fines against electors who do not cast their votes for the candidate who won the most votes in that state, but 33 do not. And that’s what this movement is about. And it’s not just about signing a petition. There’s more: 16 DAYS LEFT: AN ACTION PLAN TO STOP DONALD TRUMP.
I don’t have a lot of hope for it, to be honest. Each campaign that has a candidate on a state ballot submits its list of electors, and the electors already pledged to one candidate or the other are the only ones who meet to cast their votes. This is why the recount lawsuits were our best2 shot at stopping the orange narcissist and the band of neo-Nazis that he is putting in charge from coming to power. If a recount in a state showed that a different candidate had won, then a different set of electors would meet in that state’s capitol.
So, if you participate in the letter writing campaign, understand that we’re asking people who committed to vote for the Bratman to, instead, vote for the candidate that most of them loathe3. And know that one of the Texas electors is so angry at people contacting him that he tried to get the Texas Attorney General to file charges4 against the first many people who did so.
Still, even if all we accomplish is get a few more people to understand exactly why the Electoral College must go6, this effort will have been worth it.
1. Two reasons:
- they were extremely fond of legislative bodies which they believed were more thoughtful than ordinary voters,
- the slave states had lower population densities than the non-slave states at the time and liked a system that gave them some leverage to get the northern states from ending slavery by a popular vote.
2. And we knew it was a slim chance, but…
3. Decades of demonization by Fox “news” and white nationalists et al will do that.
4. I don’t know what crime he thought they committed. And here’s the thing: technically, being an elector means that you are, for at least a brief time, a government official. That means petitioning you is a right that we are all guaranteed under the First Amendment of the Constitution. The same one these manbabies are always citing when they want to call discrimination “religious freedom.”5
5. And when I said in the first footnote that the Founding Fathers were fond of legislative bodies, one of the things they envisioned was citizens being able to contact the electors and say, “I know the vote went one way earlier, but we have more information now…”
6. Previous times that the candidate who lost the popular vote won the elector college vote have all resulted in disastrous presidents. Just sayin’!