Thank you. This is very useful and explains why there is so much more counting of electoral votes than convention delegates. Obviously the purpose behind such weighting is to give more power to insiders and to reach consensus more quickly on a candidate.
The question then is, would it be better to have a more democratic process, such as a national primary or real proportional representation ?
I've always wondered about the meaning of Hillary's lead. She's usually got a plurality somewhere in the thirties or low forties. Can anyone explain to me why, since most state's primaries award delegates proportionally, that this won't result in an open convention where Hillary has 35-40% of the votes and other candidates have 60-65%? Seems less than "inevitable" and sounds like the nomination might actually be decided at the convention.
Why isn't it considered anti-Protestant bigotry to form an organization called the Catholic League after the organization dominated by the Guise family, rabid and violent partisans in the sixteenth century Wars of Religion in France? Why does the Catholic Encylopedia claim that the League was the cradle of French democracy while the Protestants were aristocratic and absolutist? The latter is surely a partisan interpretation.
I'm not a French historian or a Christian and both sides in the Wars of Religion had their share of despicable murderous fanatics. But my final question is why does the Wikipedia entry on the Catholic League claim that it is a "civil rights organization"?
1. I opposed the war because, like Vietnam, it seemed to emanate from the exigencies and prejudices of Beltway politics rather than from an empirical consideration of the local situation. This suggested poor planning.
2. I believed that by invading Iraq, and by his general belligerence, Bush was, and remains, Al Qaeda's best recruiter, save for Cheney.
3. I believed General Shinseki that the US was not deploying sufficient numbers of troops for a successful occupation.
4. No one of conscience or good will liked Saddam, but the US can't and doesn't right every wrong in the world. There was never a convincing case that he was a significant danger to the US or had participated in the attacks. Cheney wanted this war because he saw Iraq as lowlying fruit ripe for the picking.
The term "progressive" was not neglected as long as you suggest in your chronology. Nor is its modern provenance 1990s San Francisco. Morris Udall rather proudly used the term in his 1976 presidential bid. (I checked my memory on this and found a NYT article where Christopher Lydon reports that "Representative Morris K. Udall's first move as the self-styled leader of the "progressive" wing of the Democratic Party in the Presidential race was a tactical retreat this weekend from the New York primary on April 6 and a redoubled commitment to the Wisconsin primary on the same day." NYT March 8, 1876.
I did a small and incomplete bit of research on the term. Originally it indicated a salutary generational change in politics, such as the second time the word was used in an 1890 NY Times headline "HOPEFUL SIGNS IN INDIANA; THE OLD SOLDIER LOSING POWER IN POLITICS. YOUNG AND PROGRESSIVE MEN COMING TO THE FRONT -- THE STATUS OF THE TWO OLD PARTIES." NYT Feb 3, 1890.
By the 1960s, as you suggest, the term progressive is rarely used in headlines about American politics, save for Henry Wallace's obituary, or curiously to denote the views of liberal Republicans: "Javits Campaigns for Taft in Ohio House Race; Sees Victory in Cincinnati as Vital for G.O.P. Liberals Hails Son of 'Mr. Republican' for Progressive Views"NYT Oct 17, 1966.
The downside of the progressive label is that authoritarians like Bush and Giuliani also covet an association with Theodore Roosevelt, the 1912 Progressive Party candidate, and not without reason. They share TR's nationalism and militarism. Also, as has been pointed out, it can imply some sort of telology--that history is a narrative of constant improvement--that I think most of us would eschew.
Most "progressives" today would differ from the Progressives of the early twentieth century who, like TR and FDR believed in maximizing executive power, particularly those who fear the irrational judgment of the likes of LBJ and W. when it comes to invading other countries for domestic political gain. But TR's militarism was also criticized by other progressives at the time, such as Jane Addams. Some turn-of-the-century Progressives founded the NAACP, which along with Addams and the labor reformers around Gov. Alfred E. Smith is the progressive tradition with which I feel more kinship, though far from precise identification.
I don't dislike Jimmy Carter personally, and he was certainly not the only actor on the stage, but I think that because of his poor performance as president he bears more responsibility for conservative ascendancy than the DFHs or McGovern.
It's hard to argue that a presidential incumbent who can only muster 41% of the vote for reelection is not a political disaster. Carter's failure to protect the interests of American workers in a profound economic crisis had more to do with the shift of Reagan Democrats than DFHs or any cultural conflict.
Economic cause and effect is difficult to assess and it's far from clear that Volker's policies and Carter's deficit reduction, which ultimately caused the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression helped curb inflation as much as lowered oil prices, because high oil prices, not an excess of money, were the cause of the inflation.
The tight money policy probably just aggravated unemployment. And Carter's economic policies probably accelerated de-industrialization. Judith Stein's study of the US steel industry, Running Steel, Running America argues convincingly that foreign policy concerns have consistently led American presidents to sacrifice the interests of American workers and that Carter was one of the worst offenders in this respect.
It's arguable that the way the human rights policy, commendable in the abstract, was implemented in Iran gave us the worst of both worlds--the reputation for supporting an unjust repressive regime that couldn't feed its own people, despite vast oil wealth, while we weakened the ability of the regime to repress the people we had made our common enemies through Carter's continued support for the regime.
Of course you don't argue that the hostage crisis was a political success for President Carter. Wasn't it Carter's handling of the hostage crisis, more than anything the Left did, that made the Democrats look incompetent to handle foreign policy?
There is one name in this long discussion that has been strangely missing.
Carter's vacillation, conservatism, and toadying to corporate interests had much more to do with the right coming to power than the dirty fucking hippies. And practically every error he made was on the side of conservatism. And even when he didn't toady to corporate interests he supported the stupidest, most impolitic and least libertarian forms of liberalism like cars that wouldn't start unless you fastened your seat belt and the 55 mph speed limit. I support cradle-to-grave welfare, but this sort of paternalistic nanny-state regulation from people whose brains had been damaged by too much DC swamp gas had far more to do with electing Reagan than flag burning or the pathetic SDS "Days of Rage."
Carter dealt with the second biggest US economic crisis of the century unimaginatively and ineffectively, and even practically insured Reagan's reelection by appointing the fiscally conservative Paul Volker to the Fed to administer shock therapy just before the 1980 election. Carter, not Reagan, brought in monetarism and killed his own chances for reelection in the process.
Carter also bowed to pressure from Rockefeller and Kissinger to admit the Shah to the US, and then pathetically failed to deal with the consequent hostage crisis. It's hard to imagine, say Eisenhower or Kennedy temporizing and then showing such military incompetence. I suspect that an Ike (as in Korea) would have threatened effective military action against Teheran and the hostages would have been released faster than you can say Ahmadinejad.
It shows that DLC type Democrats because of their moderation can potentially damage the reputation of the Democratic Party as much or more tham McGovern did. What made FDR great was his willingness to try radical experiments, keep the ones that worked and throw out the ones that didn't, whether they came from Communist sympathizers or Yellow Dogs.
The Carter-Reagan election also shows how our undemocratic electoral system helped construct the meme of a new conservative hegemony. In 1980 Reagan won 90.9% of the electoral vote with only 50.7% of the popular vote. (Carter got 41% and Anderson, a liberal Republican got 6.7%).
The use of affinity groups and consensus process, a hybrid of anarchist and Quaker practices, began with the So Africa divestment movement at Stanford Univ in the late '70s and expanded to the anti-nuclear power demonstrations in Seabrook, NH and Diablo Canyon CA in '78 and '79. It was the first really rigorous way of looking at power, how it was gendered and how it flowed within a protest movement. And the anti-nuclear power movement does deserve some credit for bringing nearly a complete end to nuclear power construction in the United States (unless you think stockpiling radioactive waste with half-lives many times that of a human life is a good idea as Tony Blair and so many Clintonites seem to do).
SDS was initially dedicated to a vague notion of participatory democracy, but it wound up being run by sexist egotistical media stars, and then fractionated into Maoist factions controlled by outside organizations such as the Progressive Labor Party and the Revolutionary Communist Party, then known as the Revolutionary Union. Leninism took it from being a serious political organization to to pseudo-revolutionary farce.
So far, the consensus-based organizations have had their moments, see themselves as part of a global movement--with links to the Zapatistas and the European left, take a much more mature attitude toward electoral politics "Don't just vote" than their forbearers in the eighties. And Seattle and other demonstrations for global justice have challenged corporate globalization with a call for global justice that is much more sensible and moral than a retreat to nationalistic protectionism.
It is silly to talk as if the left disappeared in 1970. My left, the left of the seventies and eighties was just as significant as that of the sixties, though also mixed in its success given the onslaught of neoliberalism in the wake of the 1970s world economic crisis.
In fact there was a left throughout the seventies and eighties that was extremely important and effective, and just as often based in mass protest. Obviously the feminist movement caused much more than cultural change--a complete revolution in the rights of women in the workplace and to be free of occupational restrictions that were commonplace before. Gendered job ads are not beyond my memory and their prohibition is not merely a "cultural" victory. The women's movement has also surprisingly prevented the reversal of Roe v. Wade, despite the Republican majority on the Supreme Court.
Thousands of individuals were arrested in the early 1980s protesting nuclear power and weapons, and US policy in Central America. Particularly successful was the South Africa divestment movement. The direct action movements of the '80s also built models of participatory decision making that repudiated the centralized star-oriented patriarchal models of sixties movements and helped rid the Left of that Leninist oxymoron known as democratic centralism.
The direct descendant of the eighties anti-nuclear movement was the contemporary movement for global justice, which successfully disrupted a WTO meeting in Seattle in 1998, and has begun to heal the gap between anarchists and electoral activists: "Don't just vote" was a huge improvement on radical perspective that saw voting as a "sellout." These movements also emphasized the potentials of new computing and communications technology for organizing and emphasized the limitations of culturally progressive neo-liberals such as Bill Clinton who promoted less than progressive forms of globalization and excessive managerial regulation.
To erase these movements is to succumb to MSM cliches of the Reagan era that constantly dismissed and minimized demonstrations that were significantly larger and more militant than those of the sixties by comparing them to the sixties as if that was the only time that resistance to our undemocratic form of government here in the United States ever had any importance.
Congress has no power by law to make the president popularly elected. Popular election of the president could be accomplished only by constitutional amendment. The electoral college is mandated by the constitution, and is biased toward small states because each state's vote is based on the number of representatives plus senators.
The current constitution leaves it to the states, not the federal Congress to determine how electors are chosen and before the democratization of the country in the 1820s, they were chosen by state legislatures. States can somewhat democratize the process by abolishing the "winner take all" system--a matter of state law. But that would still leave in the unwarranted bias toward the small states.
"It's kind of wacky to sugget there is any connection or that Constitutional amendment is going to fix either one."
I re-titled the diary, and I hope that it will correct your misreading of the essay. The subject is not the specific problem of senatorial succession, but the problem of having an undemocratic constitution.
I don't think that it's wacky to suggest that Congress's inability to pass legislation without the permission of K Street might be remedied by constitutional reform that would make it a more democratic institution and limit the power of corporations within the political system.
The constitution seems to have had an epidemic of "rare" problems lately like Bush v. Gore, or the inability of the government to remain autonomous from large private concentrations of capital, or the fact that we are stuck with an incompetent president who has lost the confidence of the country because of the the ridiculous supermajorities required to remove him.
These are systemic problems. We need constitutional reform.
True, the Johnson system is rare, but it is only one of a number of rare problems, which along with the commonplace ones (such as the inability to get a single-payer health care system on Congress's agenda for one example) that underline the need for us to consider whether the current constitution is sufficiently democratic or just a mechanism for oligarchic manipulation.