Tag Archives: Hillary Clinton

‘Yes, Ma’am’

JIM MCNIVEN: THOUGHTLINES
November, 2016

My wife and I like to watch British mystery shows, notably those shown on PBS. A couple of them, the ‘Inspector Lewis’ series and the ‘Vera’ series, have featured female police officers in senior positions. Invariably, the subordinate officers respond to their advice and orders with the response of, ‘Yes Ma’am’.

Maybe we’d better start getting used to this in North America, once Hillary Clinton takes office. With the exception of Kim Campbell in Canada for a few months twenty-odd years ago, neither country has had a female national leader. At the State and Provincial level, yes, but not nationally.

‘Yes, sir’ obviously won’t do, nor will ‘Madam President’, except on formal occasions. The military probably already have figured this nomenclature out, but it is new to us in the street.

Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers farewell remarks to State Department employees in January, 2013. State Department photo by Michael Gross

 Hillary Clinton, then outgoing Secretary of State, delivers farewell remarks to State Department employees in January, 2013. State Department photo by Michael Gross

 

Some of the pundits during the campaign have noted that she is probably the best-prepared and most experienced Presidential candidate ever. She has been through so much, she’s imperturbable and she appears to be as tough as nails. ‘Yes, Ma’am’ fits. Do what she tells you, because she’s been through it all and knows what works. That goes for foreign powers as well as domestic politicians.

Over the past few months, she has had the guts to not pull away from the Obama record, in spite of the, dare I say it, ‘old wives’ tale that embracing a third term is a recipe for disaster. She has had the sense in this campaign to adopt a broad platform, taking things from the Sanders run. She has had the confidence to co-opt (as far as we can tell from outside) the slick Obama campaign machine. It seems that ignoring Ma’am’s advice might be a career-shortening move, in domestic and foreign spheres alike.

Facing her in the Congress is likely to be a bunch of groups prepared neither to cooperate with her or with each other. If the Senate is evenly split, the Vice-President will have the deciding vote in that body, so Kaine will have plenty to do over there, which may deprive Ma’am from the kind of help Biden gave Obama. At the same time Ma’am will have lots more foreign policy experience on her own than Obama had when he came to office and Biden was the foreign expert.

The House of Representatives will likely remain in Republican hands, but with a narrower majority. It will be a mess. Whatever seats the Republicans might lose would probably come from the more moderate, urban and suburban, side of the party, while the hardliners from ‘safe seats’ will find their relative influence in the caucus expanded. Do they compromise with the moderates, or not, and help to govern the country after the failure of their obstructionism of the past 6 years. Einstein once said that to try the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is madness. We’ll see. She’s dealt with one odd, crazy guy pretty well.

If not, will the moderates, seeing themselves as the only Republicans who have any chance of restoring the party’s glory, cooperate with the Democratic minority to begin to repair the awful damage caused by the campaign? Time and the aging/passing of the Republican Baby-Boomers might present them with a new, positive scenario. At the same time, it may take a very long time, as the literal complexion of the electorate continues to change, away from the white, male voter.

The most interesting challenge for Ma’am will be in foreign affairs, though that is a part of her experience. The bipolar world that lasted until 1990 morphed into a unipolar world that lasted only 11 years, until 9/11. Today, after a decade and a half of low-level, high publicity, asymmetrical warfare, America has succeeded in focusing its attention so much on ‘terrorism’ that it has forfeited much of its advantages relative to the growing powers in South and East Asia. Today, there is no ‘pole’ in the world. The US has 5% of the world’s population, 25% of its economy and somewhat over half of the combined military power on the planet. Most of this power is not effective in fighting asymmetric warfare. Obama used a kind of stiletto to some effect, and for us taking out the ‘bad guys’ like ISIS may be satisfying, but really just spreads the trouble around. The challenge for Ma’am is to figure out how to stop forms of asymmetrical warfare.

On the domestic front, even the most passionate defenders of Obamacare never felt that the legislation was perfect from the get-go, and its deficiencies have begun to make themselves obvious. The health system has to deal with its financial shortcomings, its desire to hold onto the hospital/ factory model of care and the desire of a lot of professionals to build licensing walls around their jobs. The insurance model based on private providers seems like a stitched-together mess. Ma’am was heavily involved in the first attempt to develop a comprehensive system, and may be able to get reforms passed, but they will be piecemeal and the task won’t be completed before she leaves office.

On trade and the economy, Ma’am will have to seek good counsel. There may be a lot of pressure to build walls, or at least not tear them down, but there is a world system in place that has led to a large number of global companies, many of whom are based in America. After all, walls don’t just keep people and companies out; they keep them in.

Some global companies are actually doing more in the US than are US companies. An example is Toyota, who source more of their car parts inside the country than do the so-called American brands. This year, American companies manufactured more by value than at any time in history, but they did it with less workers. This is called technology/automation and is the same thing farmers in the US suffered from 1900 until after the Second World War. Transitioning displaced workers is a difficult challenge in the best of times, but when it is dependent on a do-nothing Congress, it is impossible.

There is always the danger of one campaign absorbing some of the policy stances of its opponent. Trade is a dangerous one to play with, because there are so many myths, misunderstandings and interconnections. The British are beginning to discover this as they try to figure out how to do their Brexit. Like a marriage, getting out of a situation is harder than getting into it in the first place. It can also leave you good and broke.

So, I am going to return to those British mysteries we saved up on our DVR because the campaign circus monopolized our attention for so long. Sometime in January or February, we’ll start to see another mystery. How will ‘Ma’am’ get along with the new people inhabiting Washington DC? Good luck to her with her 4-year contract as the star of the show. It is renewable if the ratings hold up.

 Copyright Jim McNiven 2016

 

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Jim McNiven

James McNiven has a PhD from the University of Michigan. He has written widely on public policy and economic development issues and is the co-author of three books. His most recent research has been about the relationship of demographic changes to Canadian regional economic development. He also has an interest in American business history and continues to teach at Dalhousie on a part-time basis.

 

 

 

 

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Putin, Grand Master of the Great Game, awaits next opponent

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
October 1, 2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, in this October 20, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/ Files

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, in this October 20, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/ Files

When the new United States president moves into the Oval Office early next year, at the top of her foreign policy priorities will be what to do about Vladimir Putin.

Forget the various manifestations of Islamic extremism. Their outrages may be dramatic, but they are, when all is said and done, only irritants committed by a small bunch of mad mullahs and their deranged followers.

Forget the demented Teletubby in North Korea. Kim Jong-un’s tottering regime will implode or be swatted out of existence before it becomes a real danger.

Even concerns about China’s Xi Jinping and his fantasies about recreating the glory days of the Middle Kingdom surrounded by obsequious vassal states can be put on the backburner for the moment. The most pressing concerns for China’s president are the faltering economy and a citizenry ever more willing to take to the streets to display its unhappiness with the terminally corrupt Communist Party.

In contrast, the Russian President is a clear and present danger.

Every now and then the fog of daily life lifts and there is a clear picture of our moment in history. This week is one such.

Two events have brought into sharp relief what many have known about Putin, but which many others – Donald Trump springs to mind – have preferred to overlook.

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The purposeful bombing of hospitals and relief operations in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo shows the value Putin puts in the strategic use of terror and brutality.

And Moscow’s response to evidence presented this week by investigators showing Russia’s involvement in the July 2014 shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is the latest example of Putin’s mastery of disinformation and capitalising on the weaknesses in the western media.

Putin has every reason to feel emboldened by his dealings with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European Union and recent U.S. Presidents. In every confrontation he has either forced a stalemate or won a significant victory.

Putin came to power in Russia in August 1999, and used the eight years of the George W Bush presidency to quietly stabilise the country internally, reassert state Kremlin control of the oligarch economic tsars, and begin to rebuild its military power after the chaos of the collapse of the Soviet Union. In this he was aided by the ease with which Bush was flattered into silence, and the Washington administration’s preoccupation with Islamic extremism and the ill-fated invasion of Iraq after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Putin also had his own Islamic problems in Chechnya, where he honed his predilection for the strategic usefulness of unrestrained brutality in the crushing of the capital Grozny in 2000. In 2003 the United Nations called Grozny “the most destroyed city in history.” But with the West’s attention fixed on Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, no one was ready to push the point with Putin.

Bush was halfway out the door in 2008 when Putin made a move that directly confronted the U.S. and NATO. The Black Sea republic of Georgia, a former Soviet satellite, was leaning heavily towards joining the EU and NATO when, early in 2008, two predominantly ethnic Russian enclaves, South Ossetia and Abkhazia sent a request to Moscow to have their independence recognized. Tensions increased and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili unwisely inflamed the situation in the apparent hope of engaging NATO in the sqabble.

NATO and Bush did not bite. Putin – now taking a temporary and constitutionally-required break from the presidency as Prime Minister – invaded Georgia. Saakashvili’s troops were easily overcome and the West did nothing. The two enclaves remain Russian reserves.

Putin learned from his Georgia escapade that the West’s trip wire for intervention is set very high – in part because of the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more recently in Libya. There is plenty of room closer to the ground for Putin to pursue his objectives of securing Russia’s borders and re-establishing its influence without triggering any meaningful push-back from the West.

Barack Obama came to the U.S. presidency in 2009 with a predilection to get his country out of the wars in which it had been embroiled by Bush. Obama was therefore just as determined to avoid embarking on new ones. With that mindset, it was foolish of him to box himself into a corner in the early months of the Arab Spring in 2011 by saying that any further use by the regime of President Bashar Assad of chemical weapons against rebels would be a “red line” demanding outside intervention. When Assad tested Obama’s resolve with further gas attacks, and Washington backed down, the message echoed around the Middle East, and nowhere louder than in the Kremlin.

The stage was set for Russian intervention in the Ukraine.

In February 2014, protesters in Kiev who wanted closer ties to Europe and NATO forced the resignation and flight of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, who had been democratically elected in 2010. Almost immediately, Moscow began organizing armed groups among the pro-Russian and ethnic Russian populations in the Crimea peninsular and eastern Ukraine. This was the first outing of the “little green men,” the heavily armed and well-trained groups without any national insignia, but who it is now certain are Russian special forces. In mid-March a referendum was held in Crimea, which backed becoming part of Russia. The international community has not approved Russia’s takeover of Crimea, but that is now an established reality.

So is the Russian presence among the anti-Kiev rebels in eastern Ukraine. There is now yet another de facto buffer state in the chain created by Putin to protect Russia from the eastward push of the EU and NATO. At the eastern end are the two enclaves in Georgia. In Moldova is Transdniester, an enclave occupied by Russian troops. This territorial dispute effectively blocks any moves towards EU or NATO membership by the Chisinau government.

No wonder then that NATO allies are now focussed on the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, where there are also large Russian minorities from these countries’ days in the Soviet Union. Troops are being deployed from other parts of NATO to these countries to deter Putin from again using his skills at asymmetrical warfare to create another buffer zone along Russia’s north-western border.

For the moment, Putin is more interested in Syria, where he sent forces last year to back besieged President Assad. Putin’s campaign is going well. It now seems inevitable that any political settlement will involve Assad, and that he will probably remain in power, at least in the western and economically most important part of Syria. Indeed, the battle for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and commercial hub when the country is functioning, suggests Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies may well win outright the war against rebels backed by the U.S. and its Gulf State allies.

Two weeks ago Putin and the Obama administration agreed on a ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered to rebels holed up in the eastern part of Aleppo. But it soon became evident that Putin, Assad and Iran only intended the pause to be a piece of psychological warfare and an opportunity for their forces to prepare for the final assault.

The demoralising effect on the besieged rebels can only be imagined. They knew the United Nations had relief columns all lined up, that they were prevented by Damascus from proceeding, and that one was destroyed by Russian or regime warplanes.

Then came the purposeful bombing of hospitals and relief organizations by regime or Russian bombers. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was incandescent with rage this week. He called the attacks “war crimes” and said “such attacks are often deliberate to aggravate suffering and force people from contested territory.”

That is indeed the purpose, and in all likelihood it will work within the next few days. Putin knows he can do whatever he likes without any serious repercussions, especially not from the U.S. He no longer bothers to portray Russia as a mediating force in the Syrian conflict. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has flatly admitted that there is no point now in trying to negotiate a ceasefire process with Moscow.

Putin’s willingness to use the most brutal methods of warfare against civilians to achieve a strategic aim has been matched by plunging levers into another weakness in Western society.

That fissure was described succinctly by Edward Lucas, a senior editor at The Economist magazine. “Russia has really grasped the post-truth environment,” he wrote. “And they will lie about things absolutely brazenly. They understand the weakness of our media in the post-Cold War environment: that we prioritize fairness over truth.”

(Putin’s great fan, Donald Trump, has also recognized the value of the brazen lie and that the media, especially the U.S. media, is so dedicated to fairness and balance that it would not call him out. In the final days of the presidential campaign, that seems to be changing.)

Putin comes from the culture of the old Soviet secret police and intelligence service, the KGB, of which he was an officer. KGB officers were masters of disinformation and spreading confusion by the planting of fabricated, but marginally plausible stories.

These old skills have been relearned and redeployed under Putin. On the allegations that in July 2014 Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was downed killing all 298 people on board by a Russian 9M38 missile fired from a Buk anti-aircraft system stationed in rebel-held eastern Ukraine, Moscow has mounted a massive disinformation campaign. It has put out doctored photographs and satellite images, trying to make the case that the airliner was either shot down by a Ukrainian fighter jet, or by an anti-aircraft missile fired from territory controlled by the Kiev government. Dutch investigators – they headed the inquiry because the flight originated at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport – conclusively exposed the Russian duplicity this week. The Buk system was tracked coming over the border from Russia into eastern Ukraine and then being taken back after downing the Malaysia Airlines plane. The only remaining questions are who exactly oversaw the operation, which may well have been a mistake. The real target was probably Ukrainian air force cargo planes. The Dutch have the names of 100 suspects.

Yet even with this evidence Moscow continues with its denials. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zarkharova, said in response to the report: “The conclusions of the Dutch Prosecutor’s office confirmed that the investigation is biased and politically motivated.”

Putin is using the same retort to charges that Russia is involved in the bombing of hospitals and relief organizations in Syria. Russian spokesmen have denied that either their or Syrian warplanes have been involved in the destruction of relief convoys or medical centres, even though it is only their planes that have been operating in those areas.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has sown more confusion by blaming the U.S. and its allies for derailing the ceasefire. Peskov said the breakdown was caused by the U.S. failure to separate the so-called “moderate” rebels, backed by Washington and the Gulf States, from extremist groups such as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al Nursa), which recently shifted allegiance from al-Qaida to the Islamic State group.

This is nonsense. A major problem in attempts by Washington to co-ordinate with Russia attacks on the extremist Islamic State group and its allies has been that Moscow and Assad see all the rebels as terrorists and are indiscriminate in trying to slaughter them.

Putin would undoubtedly be delighted to see Donald Trump in the White House; a man with whom he appears to share attitudes towards the truth.

And then there’s all those unanswered questions about how much Russian oligarch money is propping up the Trump real estate empire, if such an empire actually exists. Trump’s disdain for NATO and most U.S. allies is also a great boon for Putin. He won’t have to sow confusion in the ranks of Russia’s adversaries if the President of the United States is willing and able to do it for him.

Hilary Clinton will be an entirely different challenge for Putin. From her record, she is a more willing interventionist than Obama. And when one looks at the record of women who have risen to government leadership in democracies – Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher – they can be more willing to back their country’s interests with military might than their male counterparts.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2016

Contact, including queries about syndication/republishing: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

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Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. He is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan,” and has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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America Reclaims Its Decency?

PENNEY KOME: OVER EASY 
August 13, 2016

This sounds like a story from The Onion, but it’s not: “Decency” has entered the United States presidential race and its appearance has startled the news media.” Compared to the GOP race, the heated contest of ideas between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders feels almost jarring in its decency and intelligence,” runs a Rolling Stone cutline under an early July photo during the Democratic primary campaigns.

By United States Senate - http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/resources/graphic/xlarge/Welch_McCarthy.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27839902

“At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” — Joseph Nye Welch, chief counsel for the US Army, to Senator Joseph McCarthy, in 1954 at the Army-McCarthy hearings. The confrontation is seen as a turning point in the history of McCarthyism. Photo: United States Senate, public domain, via Wikipedia

After the Democratic convention, media kept coming back to the decency theme. Covering the nomination for Tim Kaine, running mate to Democrat presidential contender Clinton, CNN quoted Virgina Senator Mark Warner: “I think you’ll see somebody whose basic humanity and decency will come through.” The Economist noted, “Rarely in recent times have America’s fact-based media, on the left and right, its politicians, its armed forces and citizens’ groups seemed so united, in a face-off between decency and rancour, as they do now.”

Neil Gabler asked on the Bill Moyers website, “Did the media grasp the importance of the moment last night as the Democratic National Convention concluded? I don’t mean the importance of the first woman major-party candidate being nominated for the presidency. On that score, I think they did pretty well.

“I mean the moment of rescue that the convention constituted — the moment at which this country, now on a fulcrum, could either tip toward authoritarianism, hopeless division and chaos, or toward a more charitable and hopeful vision of the future.”

Gabler saw the Democrats making a clearcut “appeal to decency”: the text was “Stronger Together.” The subtext was that “we are a great people who must draw on our better angels even as Donald Trump appeals to our worst devils. ‘America is great,’ intoned Hillary Clinton last night in what may be the most succinct expression of this idea, ‘because America is good.’ This is a stirring idea, if a somewhat self-congratulatory one, and for those of us who want to believe that light beats dark, that hope beats fear, that good beats evil, that unity beats division, it should be a winning idea.” But, Gabler warned, America is not like that.

Bill Maher even teased Hillary Clinton for her new public emphasis on caring and mothering. “Sweet grandma Hillary” might have worked in 2008, he said, but not in 2016. “Since half the country will believe an evil cartoon version of Hillary Clinton, no matter what she says or does, she has to embrace it,” said Maher. Voters now want “a ruthless mafia boss who will protect their frightened souls.”

If media were surprised to see “decency” enter the conversation, they and the public were soon smacked in the face by the disrespect the Republican candidate showed Khizr Khan, a Muslim Gold Star parent. With his wife by his side on the Democratic National Convention stage, Khan called out Donald Trump for wanting to ban Muslims and Mexicans from entering the U.S.

“Have you ever been to Arlington Cemetery?” Khan asked. “Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.” In his usual style, Donald Trump responded by attacking Khizr Khan, suggesting his wife Ghazala hadn’t been allowed to speak. Khan handed him back the scorn. “He has no decency,” said Khan. “He has a dark heart.”

President Obama said something similar while addressing wounded veterans. He rebuked Trump for disrespecting a war hero’s family, and for his general ignorance. Looking back at the 2008 and 2012 elections, the President said that if John McCain or Mitt Romney had won, “I would have said to all Americans: this is our president and I know they’re going to abide by certain norms and rules and common sense, will observe basic decency, will have enough knowledge about economic policy and foreign policy and our constitutional traditions and rule of law that our government will work and then we’ll compete four years from now to try and win an election. But that’s not the situation here. And that’s not just my opinion. That is the opinion of many prominent Republicans.”

Billionaire Warren Buffet was among many who picked up the refrain: “I ask Donald Trump, ‘Have you no decency, sir?'”

After slurring the Khan family, the Republican born with a silver foot in his mouth then stumbled into offhand suggestions that Russia should hack into the former Secretary of State’s personal files, and that “Second Amendment folks” (ie, gun owners) should take care of his political opponent. The trickle of Republicans dissociating themselves from him rose to a roaring stream, and the party plummeted over a precipice in public opinion polls. Clinton opened double-digit leads in key states.

“Decency, today, doesn’t seem the strongest of words,” writes Steven P Murphy in Prospect Magazine. “We know it means moral behavior carried out for — and with respect for — other people. Yet the moments in America’s history of which we are most proud, those events when we have been compelled to join together to do the right thing, have not only been moments of triumph but also moments of decency. A culture of decency describes how we should wish to be seen by people of other nations.”

Decency and basic values as the central concerns in a U.S. election? No wonder the U.S. news media are confused. They’re used to talking about tax cuts and horse race comparisons. Age of Aquarius, anyone?

Copyright Penney Kome 2016

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

Read more F&O columns by Penney Kome here

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Penney KomePenney Kome is co-editor of Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986), with a foreward by the Nobel-winning presidents of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.

Read her bio on Facts and Opinions.

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

 

 

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US Democrats watch their language, as bilingualism grows

PENNEY KOME: OVER EASY 
August, 2016

By United States Senate - http://www.kaine.senate.gov/about, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24544383

Tim Kaine. Official portrait, United States Senate

While the biggest question raised by Donald Trump’s candidacy seems to be whether he can really ruin the Republican Party in one American presidential election, the election remains the Democrats’ to win as much as it is the Republicans’ to lose.  Though Bernie Sanders and his fans may be disappointed not to be picked as the Democrat’s Vice-Presidential candidate, the rest of the world may be intrigued to see bilingualism become a political advantage in the U.S.

Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s pick for vice president, is one of the few Senators who speaks Spanish fluently, in a race where Hispanic voters are crucial in at least six swing states. Pew Research reports 55 million Hispanics in the U.S. population currently. In February, Pew projected  27.3 million Hispanic voters in the 2016 election – larger numbers than any other ethnic group, including African-Americans.  Of those, almost half (44 per cent) are Millennials, not particularly inclined to vote, and perhaps not even fluent in Spanish, if their parents concentrated on teaching them English.  Kaine learned Spanish during the year he took off from Harvard to run a technical school founded by Jesuit missionaries in Honduras, according to his website.

Kaine wears his Catholic sensibilities on his sleeve, as Hillary Clinton wears her own Methodist diligence on hers. In a nation where right-wingers have laid claim to the term,  “religious freedom,” the Democratic Convention was a full out ecumenical faithfest, overflowing with proclamations of faith, including of the Muslim faith.  (Plenty of Jews presented too, but Jews don’t proselytize, and many were sitting on their opinions about Bernie Sanders.) The Democrats welcomed preachers of all colours of cloth to the speaker’s stand, as long as they were inclusive.  Rev. William Barber, a self-described “conservative evangelist preacher,” thundered for a return to the “conservative” value of loving thy neighbour as thyself, and stumbled over the unfamiliar “LBGQ, er, TQ.  He stumbled, but he meant it.

“Si, se puede,” (“Yes, it’s possible,”) said Tim Kaine, in his 30 minutes onstage.  He said it again, fist in front of his chest, every time the phrase sang out from the audience. Besides being only one of 30 Americans who has served as Mayor, Governor and Senator, he is recognizably a Development & Peace kind of Catholic — of the same ilk as Archbishop Oscar Romero – someone more interested in necessities and personal freedoms than in human foibles. He spent a missionary year in Honduras, a country where citizens have fled to the States since the 1990s to escape gang violence and drug cartels. And he’s chanting Caesar Chavez’s farm workers’ slogan.

Actually, despite all the talk about illegal immigrants, many if not most Hispanics do immigrate to the States legally, with a dream and money in hand.  The BBC reported on Rocky De La Fuentes, who immigrated to the U.S. with an entrepreneurial dream. He became a millionaire by selling cars and real estate. Mr De La Fuentes has contributed thousands of dollars to Republicans in the past, but he’s actually been running for President himself, locally, as a Democrat.

Says the BBC: “If the party were to thrive, Republican National Committee analysts wrote in their 2012 post-mortem, they would have to find a way to make their party more welcoming to minority voters – particularly Hispanics. Immigration reform should be a priority. Outreach efforts must be improved. Off-putting rhetoric should be adjusted. …Instead, they elected Donald Trump.”  After Mr Trump’s comments about Mexicans “not sending us their best,” Rocky De La Fuentes switched parties.

In fact, Latino pollsters put Mr Trump’s unfavourability rating with Hispanic voters at an astounding 91 per cent in some places, and about 85 per cent in most.  This, in an election where, unless the Republicans win something like two-thirds of the white vote, they need between 30 and 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in order to win.

Democrats have recognized the States’ changing demographics. According to Pew Research, one in three 2016 voters will be a member of a minority group, be it a linguistic, religious, skin colur or sexual orientation minority. Therefore the Democrats chose the theme, “Stronger Together” and displayed a colourful big tent approach to speakers and audience – in contrast to the Republicans’ mostly-white crowd and presenters, who emphasized fear and xenophobia.

After 50 years of Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” – overt and covert racist appeals to overturn the Civil Rights Act –  the Democrats see a wide open door to a game-changing Hispanic vote. (Fortune Magazine says the Hispanic vote was key to Barack Obama’s victory.) From this perspective, Tim Kaine seems a strategic choice. Alone among the Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates, Mr Kaine knows the language and the culture on the other side of that door.

With four months of campaigning to go, we shall soon see whether a diverse Democratic party and a bilingual Virginia Senator can pull enough of the Hispanic vote (25 million voters among 55 million Hispanics, out of a potential 250 million voters) to overcome the existing racial divide. Meanwhile, the U.S. is joining the rest of the world, becoming a place where it’s an advantage to know at least two languages.

Copyright Penney Kome 2016

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

Clarification: this article was updated to clarify there are 25 million voters within the population of 55 million Hispanics. The original story was unclear about the number of voters.

Read more F&O columns by Penney Kome here

~~~

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Penney KomePenney Kome is co-editor of Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986), with a foreward by the Nobel-winning presidents of International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War.

Read her bio on Facts and Opinions.

Contact:  komeca AT yahoo.com

 

 

~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Squib: Rude but Necessary Questions for Americans

DEBORAH JONES: FREE RANGE
August 2, 2016

Rude and necessary questions for Americans include this: which action by United States leaders is more disrespectful of a nation’s men and women in uniform?

1. Sending thousands of U.S. service members to die invading Iraq for reasons based on lies, leading to at least 251,000 total violent deaths and releasing the furies, including of the Islamic State. (George W. Bush, backed by Hillary Clinton.)

2. Insulting the grieving parents of a soldier killed in that war. (The Orange Man who should not be named)

3. Avoiding or failing to fulfill military service, and later touting its virtues. (Current American Republican leader and former president George W. Bush. Avoidance of military service was and is not an issue in America for Clinton, mostly because she is a woman.)

 

 

 

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Faced with Trump/Clinton, Americans yearn for third choice

The images of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump painted on decorative pumpkins created by artist John Kettman in LaSalle, Illinois. REUTERS/Jim Young

The images of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump painted on decorative pumpkins created by artist John Kettman in LaSalle, Illinois. REUTERS/Jim Young

By Chris Kahn 
July, 2016

Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson speaks during the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition in New York, U.S. June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson speaks during the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition in New York, U.S. June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Americans’ demand for an alternative to the two main presidential candidates has surged since the last election, a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll shows, underscoring the unpopularity of Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Based on 2,153 interviews, the July 8 poll results suggest a strong potential for a third-party candidate – like Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party or Jill Stein of the Green Party – to take enough of the vote in the Nov. 8 presidential election to influence its outcome.

According to the July 1-8 poll, 21 percent of likely voters will not back Trump or Clinton. That compares with about 13 percent of likely voters who opted out of the two main choices at the same point in the 2012 race between incumbent President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

The poll also showed a majority of American voters have an overall “unfavourable” view of both main candidates, with 46 percent of Clinton supporters and 47 percent of Trump supporters saying their top priority when voting will be to stop the opposing candidate from reaching the White House.

Demand for an alternative could be decisive in hotly contested battleground states. In Florida in 2012, for instance, Obama won by less than 1 percentage point. If this year’s race is just as tight, third-party candidates could draw enough support to flip the state from one major party to the other.

Despite this, both Johnson and Stein have a problem that make their influence hard to predict – most voters still do not know who they are. Of likely voters, 23 percent say they are at least “somewhat familiar” with Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico. That drops to 16 percent for Stein, a physician.

SPOILER ALERT

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein speaks at a news conference at the Green Party presidential nominating convention in Baltimore, Maryland, July 14, 2012.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein speaks at a news conference at the Green Party presidential nominating convention in Baltimore, Maryland, July 14, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Johnson could appeal to both liberals and conservatives. He wants to legalize marijuana and replace income and payroll taxes with a consumption tax.

Stein could make a strong bid to backers of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who ran a close race with Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. Stein wants to abolish student debt and raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. She also aims for the country to run on renewable energy by 2030.

Stein’s communications coordinator, David Doonan, said that the campaign is working to boost her numbers and that the Green Party is circulating a letter that directly appeals to people who supported Sanders. “He also started very low” in the polls, Doonan said.

So far it appears that Johnson and Stein draw support evenly from Clinton and Trump when they are included in opinion polls. In a four-way race, 45 percent of likely voters support Clinton, 34 percent Trump, 5 percent Johnson and 4 percent Stein, according to a separate five-day polling average on July 8.

That compares with 46 percent for Clinton and 33 percent for Trump in a two-way race.

Given a little more information about the two alternative candidates, respondents who back Johnson and Stein draw more deeply from Clinton’s support.

Some 44 percent of likely voters support Clinton, 34 percent Trump, 7 percent Johnson and 5 percent Stein, after reading the following statement, according to the poll: “Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for President, has taken an environmental position supporting a strong government role limiting carbon-based fuels, such as coal. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for President, has supported severely limiting the government’s role, including slashing taxes and reducing programs such as Medicare and the military and broadly decriminalising currently illegal drugs.”

The Reuters/Ipsos poll is conducted online in English with American adults in the continental United States, Alaska and Hawaii. The survey of voters who want an alternative to Trump and Clinton included 2,153 likely voters and has a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 2 percentage points. The five-day average poll that ended July 8 included about 1,240 likely voters and has a credibility interval of 3 percentage points.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Editing by Caren Bohan and Howard Goller)

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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US election: manufacturing the masks

By Aly Song, Reuters
May 28, 2016

The manager of Jinhua Partytime Latex Art and Crafts Factory wearing a mask of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump poses as he presents products to reporters at his factory's showroom in Jinhua, Zhejiang Province, China, May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song

The manager of Jinhua Partytime Latex Art and Crafts Factory wearing a mask of U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump poses as he presents products to reporters at his factory’s showroom in Jinhua, Zhejiang Province, China, May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song

There’s no masking the facts. One Chinese factory is expecting Donald Trump to beat his likely U.S. presidential rival Hilary Clinton in the popularity stakes.

At the Jinhua Partytime Latex Art and Crafts Factory, a Halloween and party supply business that produces thousands of rubber and plastic masks of everyone from Osama Bin Laden to Spiderman, masks of Donald Trump and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton faces are being churned out.

Sales of the two expected presidential candidates are at about half a million each but the factory management believes Trump will eventually run out the winner.

“Even though the sales are more or less the same, I think in 2016 this mask will completely sell out,” said factory manager Jacky Chen, indicating a Trump mask.

The firm was already beginning to stockpile the de facto Republican candidate’s mask, he said.

Just like with the sales of the $4-$5 masks, Trump is now running nearly even with Democrat Hillary Clinton among likely U.S. voters ahead of the November election, a Reuters/Ipsos poll from May 11 showed.

That is a big turnaround for the real estate billionaire once considered a fringe figure in the race, but now the Republican party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

Trump has been less than positive in his comments about China, asserting that the world’s number two economy had waged “economic war” against the United States, and used crafty business practices to steal American jobs.

China has largely refrained from responding to Trump’s barbs, but Finance Minister Lou Jiwei described him as “an irrational type” in an interview in April.

Such issues are far removed from the Trump mask production line at the factory in Zhejiang province, south of Shanghai.

Asked if he knew whose face he was making, 43-year-old worker Liu Dahua told reporters: “It’s the president of the U.S., right?”.

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Copyright Reuters 2016

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Trump and Clinton prove America’s voting system is broken

Democracies everywhere are suffering. Voters protest. Citizens don’t vote. Support for the political extremes are increasing. One of the underlying causes, we argue, is majority voting as it is now practiced, and its influence on the media.

By Michel Balinski  an Rida Laraki 
May, 2016

Having outlasted all his opponents, Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. Hillary Clinton is closing in on locking up the Democratic nomination.

Clinton and Trump may have won primaries, but are they really representative of what the American people want? In fact, as we will show, it is John Kasich and Bernie Sanders who are first in the nation’s esteem. Trump and Clinton come last.

So how has it come to this? The media has played a big role, of course, but that Trump versus Clinton will almost surely be the choice this November is the result of the totally absurd method of election used in the primaries: majority voting.

This is a strong statement. But as mathematicians who have spent the last dozen years studying voting systems, we are going to show you why it’s justified and how this problem can be fixed.

With majority voting (MV), voters tick the name of one candidate, at most, and the numbers of ticks determine the winner and the order of finish. It’s a system that is used across the U.S. (and in many other nations) to elect presidents as well as senators, representatives and governors.

But it has often failed to elect the candidate preferred by the majority.

In 2000, for example, George W. Bush was elected president because of Ralph Nader’s candidacy. In the contested state of Florida, Bush had 2,912,790 votes, Al Gore 2,912,253 (a mere 537 fewer) and Nader 97,488. There is little doubt that the large majority of those who voted for Nader, and so preferred him to the others, much preferred Gore to Bush. Had they been able to express this preference, Gore would have been elected with 291 Electoral College votes to Bush’s 246. Similar dysfunctions have also occurred in France.

Imagine how different the U.S. and the world might be today if Gore had won.

A quick glance at the U.S. presidential primaries and caucuses held on or before March 1 shows that when Trump was the “winner,” he typically garnered some 40 percent of the votes. However, nothing in that result factors in the opinions of the 60 percent of voters who cast ballots for someone else.

As Trump is a particularly divisive candidate, it is safe to suppose that most – or at least many – of them strongly opposed him. The media, however, focused on the person who got the largest number of votes – which means Trump. On the Democratic side of the ledger, the media similarly poured its attention on Hillary Clinton, ignoring Bernie Sanders until widespread enthusiastic support forced a change.

An election is nothing but an invented device that measures the electorate’s support of the candidates, ranks them according to their support and declares the winner to be the first in the ranking.

The fact is that majority voting does this very badly.

With MV, voters cannot express their opinions on all candidates. Instead, each voter is limited to backing just one candidate, to the exclusion of all others in the running.

Bush defeated Gore because Nader voters were unable to weigh in on the other two. Moreover, as we argue further on, majority voting can go wrong even when there are just two candidates.

The point is that it is essential for voters to be able to express the nuances of their opinions.

Majority judgment (MJ) is a new method of election that we specifically designed to avoid the pitfalls of the traditional methods.

MJ asks voters to express their opinions much more accurately than simply voting for one candidate. The ballot offers a spectrum of choices and charges voters with a solemn task:

To be the President of the United States of America, having taken into account all relevant considerations, I judge that this candidate as president would be a: Great President | Good President | Average President | Poor President | Terrible President

To see exactly how MJ ranks the candidates, let’s look at specific numbers.

We were lucky to find on the web that the above question was actually posed in a March Pew Research Center poll of 1,787 registered voters of all political stripes. (It should be noted that neither the respondents nor the pollsters were aware that the answers could be the basis for a method of election.) The Pew poll also included the option of answering “Never Heard Of” which here is interpreted as worse than “Terrible” since it amounts to the voter saying the candidate doesn’t exist.

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 5.53.28 PM

Majority judgment of presidential candidates. Authors provided.

As is clear in the table, right, people’s opinions are much more detailed than can be expressed with majority voting. Note in particular the relatively high percentages of voters who believe Clinton and especially Trump would make terrible presidents (Pew reports that Trump’s “Terrible” score increased by 6 percent since January.)

Using majority judgment to calculate the ranked order of the candidates from these evaluations or grades is straightforward. Start from each end of the spectrum and add percentages until a majority of voters’ opinions are included.

Taking John Kasich as an example, 5 percent believe he is “Great,” 5+28=33 percent that he is “Good” or better, and 33+39=72 percent (a majority) that he is “Average” or better. Looked at from the other end, 9 percent “Never Heard” of him, 9+7=16 percent believe he is “Terrible” or worse, 16+13=29 percent that he is “Poor” or worse, and 29+39= 68 percent (a majority) that he is “Average” or worse.

Both calculations end on majorities for “Average,” so Kasich’s majority-grade is “Average President.” (Mathematically, the calculations from both directions for a given candidate will always reach majorities at the same grade.)

Similarly calculated, Sanders, Clinton and Cruz all have the same majority-grade, “Average President.” Trump’s is “Poor President,” ranking him last.

To determine the MJ ranking among the four who all are rated “Average,” two more calculations are necessary.

The first looks at the percentage of voters who rate a candidate more highly than his or her majority-grade, the second at the percentage who rate the candidate lower than his or her majority-grade. This delivers a number called the “gauge.” Think of it as a scale where in some cases the majority grade leans more heavily toward a higher ranking and in others more heavily toward a lower ranking.

In Kasich’s case, 5+28=33 percent evaluated him higher than “Average,” and 13+7+9=29 percent rated him below “Average.” Because the larger share is on the positive side, his gauge is +33 percent. For Sanders, 36 percent evaluated him above and 39 percent below his majority-grade. With the larger share on the negative side, his gauge is -39 percent.

Majority judgment ranking of presidential candidates. Authors provided

Majority judgment ranking of presidential candidates. Authors provided

A candidate is ranked above another when his or her majority-grade is better or, if both have the same majority-grade, according to their gauges (see below). This rule is the logical result of majorities deciding on candidates’ grades instead of the usual rule that ranks candidates by the numbers of votes they get.

When voters are able to express their evaluations of every candidate – the good and the bad – the results are turned upside-down from those with majority voting.

According to majority judgment, the front-runners in the collective opinion are actually Kasich and Sanders. Clinton and Trump are the trailers. From this perspective the dominant media gave far too much attention to the true trailers and far too little to the true leaders.

Tellingly, MJ also shows society’s relatively low esteem for politicians. All five candidates are evaluated as “Average” presidents or worse, and none as “Good” presidents or better.

But, you may object, how can majority voting on just two candidates go wrong? This seems to go against everything you learned since grade school where you raised your hand for or against a classroom choice.

The reason MV can go wrong even with only two candidates is because it does not obtain sufficient information about a voter’s intensity of support.

Take, as an example, the choice between Clinton and Trump, whose evaluations in the Pew poll are given in the first table above.

Lining up their grades from highest to lowest, every one of Clinton’s is either above or the same as Trump’s. Eleven percent, for example, believe Clinton would make a “Great” president to 10 percent for Trump. Trump’s percentages lead Clinton’s only for the Terrible’s and Never Heard Of’s. Given these opinions, in other words, it’s clear that any decent voting method must rank Clinton above Trump.

However, majority voting could fail to do so.

To see why, suppose the “ballots” of the Pew poll were in a pile. Each could be looked at separately. Some would rate Clinton “Average” and Trump “Poor,” some would rate her “Good” and him “Great,” others would assign them any of the 36 possible couples of grades. We can, therefore, find the percentage of occurrence of every couple of grades assigned to Trump and Clinton.

We do not have access to the Pew poll “ballots.” However, one could come up with many different scenarios where the individual ballot percentages are in exact agreement with the overall grades each received in the first table.

Among the various scenarios possible, we have chosen one that could, in theory, be the true one. Indeed, you can check for yourself that it does assign the candidates the grades each received: reading from left to right, Clinton, for example, had 10+12=22 percent “Good,” 16+4=20 percent “Average,” and so on; and the same holds for Trump.

So what does this hypothetical distribution of the ballots concerning the two tell us?

The first column on the left says 10 percent of the voters rated Clinton “Good” and Trump “Great.” In a majority vote they would go for Trump. And moving to the tenth column, 4 percent rated Clinton “Poor” and Trump “Terrible.” In a majority vote this group would opt for Clinton. And so on.

A hypothetical head-to-head matchup. Authors provided

A hypothetical head-to-head matchup. Authors provided

If you add up the votes in each of these 11 columns, Trump receives the votes of the people whose opinions are reflected in four columns: 10+16+12+15=53 percent; Clinton is backed by the voters with the opinions of columns with 33 percent support; and 14 percent are undecided. Even if the undecided all voted for Clinton, Trump would carry the day.

This shows that majority voting can give a very wrong result: a triumphant victory for Trump when Clinton’s grades are consistently above his!

Voting has been the subject of intense mathematical research since 1950, when the economist Kenneth Arrow published his famous “impossibility theorem,” one of the two major contributions for which he was awarded the 1972 Nobel Prize.

Marquis de Condorcet (1743-1794) was a French philosopher and mathematician.

This theorem showed that if voters have to rank candidates – to say, in other words, who comes first, second and so forth – there will inevitably be one of two major potential failures. Either there may be no clear winner at all, the so-called “Condorcet paradox” occurs, or what has come to be called the “Arrow paradox” may occur.

The Arrow paradox is familiar to Americans because of what happened in the 2000 election. Bush beat Gore because Nader was in the running. Had Nader not run, Gore would have won. Surely, it is absurd for the choice between two candidates to depend on whether or not some minor candidate is on the ballot!

Majority judgment resolves the conundrum of Arrow’s theorem: neither the Condorcet nor the Arrow paradox can occur. It does so because voters are asked for more accurate information, to evaluate candidates rather than to rank them.

MJ’s rules, based on the majority principle, meet the basic democratic goals of voting systems. With it:

  • Voters are able to express themselves more fully, so the results depend on much more information than a single vote.
  • The process of voting has proven to be natural, easy and quick: we all know about grading from school (as the Pew poll implicitly realized).
  • Candidates with similar political profiles can run without impinging on each other’s chances: a voter can give high (or low) evaluations to all.
  • The candidate who is evaluated best by the majority wins.
  • MJ is the most difficult system to manipulate: blocs of voters who exaggerate the grades they give beyond their true opinions can only have a limited influence on the results.
  • By asking more of voters, by showing more respect for their opinions, participation is encouraged. Even a voter who evaluates all candidates identically (e.g., all are “Terrible”) has an effect on the outcome.
  • Final grades – majority-grades – enable candidates and the public to understand where each stands in the eyes of the electorate.
  • If the majority decides that no candidate is judged an “Average President” or better, the results of the election may be rescinded, and a new slate of candidates demanded.
  • It is a practical method that has been tested in elections and used many times (for judging prize-winners, wines, job applicants, etc.). It has also been formally proposed as a way to reform the French presidential election system.

It should come as no surprise that in answer to a recent Pew poll’s question “Do you think the primaries have been a good way of determining who the best qualified nominees are or not?” only 35 percent of respondents said yes.

Democracies everywhere are suffering. Voters protest. Citizens don’t vote. Support for the political extremes are increasing. One of the underlying causes, we argue, is majority voting as it is now practiced, and its influence on the media.

Misled by the results of primaries and polls, the media concentrates its attention on candidates who seem to be the leaders, but who are often far from being deemed acceptable by a majority of the electorate. Majority judgment would correct these failings.

The ConversationCreative Commons

Michel Balinski is an applied mathematician and mathematical economist, “Directeur de recherche de classe exceptionnelle” (emeritus) of the C.N.R.S. , École Polytechnique – Université Paris Saclay.  Rida Laraki is Directeur de recherche CNRS au LAMSADE, Professeur à l’École polytechnique, Université Paris Dauphine – PSL.  This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

You may also be interested in these democracy-related stories:

Canada’s strategic, desperate, election: Anybody But Conservative, by Deborah Jones, Free Range column

The shambles of Canada’s democracy, and paralysis in the face of existential economic, environmental and civil threats to the country I call home, drove me from being a lifelong, carefully non-participatory journalist observer of politics, into activism during this federal election.

Fox News Facebook page

The art of manipulating campaign coverage, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda column

Who is manipulating whom in media coverage of United States politics? American media manipulates the way they tell stories in order to increase eyeballs and produce a narrative that suits their tastes. But politicians then manipulate the media into creating those narratives and building on them, despite what is actually going on in the campaign.

Ideal democracy hears both whispers and shouts. By John Wright

To have a healthy democracy, it is not enough to hold regular elections, or for every person to get one – and only one – vote. At the heart of democracy is the idea that by voting for a particular party, the people confer upon that party legitimate authority to govern. But if a vote is to justify a ruler’s claim to authority, a number of conditions need to be met.

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Why Bernie Sanders need to fight on … and surrender

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
April, 2016

I’m not going to pretend I’m a Bernie Sanders supporter. I’m not. I’ve explained in earlier columns why I back Hillary Clinton, even though I’m ideologically much closer to Sanders on almost all of the important issues.  After living in the United States for nearly a quarter century, and seeing how the mainstream media, the right-wing echo chamber, never-ending political gridlock, religious politics, and unfettered access to money combine to create a fetid political miasma, I believe that Bernie would be a sitting duck in this fall’s presidential election, regardless of what the polls say right now. The right hasn’t even started to turn its guns on a self-declared socialist. I can see the ads now.

It looks like the end is nigh for the Sanders campaign. After a double-digit loss in New York, and looming double-digits losses in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut and Delaware, a Sanders win ain’t gonna happen. All the talk by die-hard Bernie supporters of stealing away superdelegates is just that – talk. And Sanders will lose for one main reason – a total inability to connect with minority voters. If he had just drawn even with Clinton with voters in these communities he would be the nominee for sure. But his campaign has mainly appealed to young white progressives, which is an important audience, but without black and Hispanic voters, you will not even get nominated as a Democratic dogcatcher.

(I’m still waiting to see a thorough analysis of why this happened.)

It’s time for Sanders to come to grips with this reality and to start thinking about November. The most important thing is to beat the Republicans, and the Democrats have a golden chance to win back the Senate AND the House because of how the Republican party’s nominating contest has turned into a combination freak show, wrestling cage match and car wreck. It doesn’t matter if it’s Trump or Cruz. Since the GOP contest will probably last until late July, in Cleveland, the Democrats have a golden opportunity to define the terms of the election now, and make a start on defining who the party will be up against.

But that can’t happen if Bernie Sanders and his supporters keep vilifying Clinton. As comedian Patton Oswald, a big Bernie supporter but a realist, said in a recent interview, if you’re a Democrat but you hate Clinton so much you would rather have Trump as president, then, “You’re a fucking child.”

But it is absolutely necessary that Bernie not give up running. Yes, he should start to encourage his supporters to support Clinton. I am, however, totally in favor of him building up his delegate total and going into Philadelphia in late July demanding that the party’s platform reflect his point of view.  He should also pressure Clinton to pick a vice-presidential candidate who reflects his view. Someone like, say, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Warren would be the perfect pick. She is as progressive as Sanders on all the issues that young voters care about. It would be much easier for them to support Clinton if they knew Warren was her backup. She is super intelligent, and fearless. The traditional roll of a vice-president nominee is to say the things about the opponent that a presidential candidate can’t. It’s my opinion that Warren would reduce Trump or Cruz to tears. And heaven help the poor man or woman the GOP pick as their vice-presidential candidate in any debate against her.

Bernie Sanders can bring about change in the Democratic Party in a way that no other candidate has. It’s important that he does so. If the Democrats want to take advantage of the party’s growing support among young people, and the demographic changes in their favor, they need to move forward. Repeating what Barack Obama did is not enough.

That’s why Bernie Sanders needs to both surrender and fight on. It’s time to act. He can both help the Democrats overwhelmingly win the next election, and change the party forever.  I know that would not be the ultimate prize, but it would be a victory not to be sneezed at.

Copyright Tom Regan 2016

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

Facts and Opinions is employee-owned, and relies on the honour system: try one story at no charge and, if you value our no-spam, no-ads work, please chip in at least .27 per story, or a sustaining donation, below. Details here. 

Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92. He is based near Washington, D.C.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

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Why Bernie Sanders won’t win the Democratic nomination

Sanders

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
January, 2016

Let me say first, I don’t care who wins the Democratic nomination for president.

If Bernie Sanders wins, I will vote for Bernie Sanders. If Hillary Clinton wins, I will vote for Hillary Clinton. If Martin O’Malley wins (basically, if hell freezes over) I will vote for Martin O’Malley. To put it in more specific terms, if the Democratic Party nominated a yellow dog (as the saying goes), I would vote for the yellow dog.

Which brings us to Hillary and Bernie. For several months now Hillary Clinton has been the anointed front runner, just as she was in 2008. And just as she did in 2008, she may be about to blow the whole thing. While the circumstances that are leading to Hillary’s current stumbles are different than in 2008, the outcome is eerily familiar.

Recent polls have shown Bernie Sanders picking up steam in Iowa and New Hampshire, leading numerous Beltway pundits to predict Sanders’ victories in both states.

So with all this momentum favoring Bernie Sanders, why is it that I am predicting that ultimately Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016? It boils down to a simple factor: Bernie Sanders is too white. And so are Iowa and New Hampshire.

There are a lot of good reasons why Bernie Sanders is a very attractive candidate. He’s never been beholden to large corporations for funding, he has always walked his own path and, by and large, he says exactly what he thinks. But what he thinks has a lot more appeal to young, urban, and slightly older middle-class and upper-class whites. Bernie Sanders’ core message does not play as well among African-Americans and Latinos.

The Monmouth poll, taken mid-January, showed Sanders gaining a lot of traction on Clinton in almost every demographic group: whites, moderates, liberals, etc. But among African-American and Latinos, Hillary Clinton has increased her lead.

Clinton has three key factors in her favor: she has the support of Barack Obama, which will help her among African-Americans. In 2008 she outpolled Obama among Latinos, and there is little reason to doubt she won’t show the same kind of strengths this time around. And, she has a very important ally, namely her husband, former Pres. Bill Clinton, who is extremely popular among both minority groups.

Bill Clinton’s appeal to black voters especially cannot be underestimated. While talking heads on morning cable TV argue about the relevancy of his past sins, black voters remember a presidency that did a lot for them. Nobel Prize winning writer Toni Morrison once famously called him “our first black president.” It can be argued that Hillary, who is not from the south originally, may not have the same kind of lasting appeal, but having Bill campaign for her will absolutely help.

This is why Sanders’ popularity in Iowa and New Hampshire is a bit of a mirage. These two states are over 90% composed of older whites. In Iowa, 3.5% of the population is African-American, while about 5.6% is Latino. African-Americans are 1.5% of the population in New Hampshire., while Latinos are 3.3% (all according to the most recent US Census).

But take a look at South Carolina. According to fivethirtyeight.com (a site that I consider the absolute best at analysing polls and how they affect the American political landscape) Clinton has an enormous lead. In South Carolina, Clinton leads by almost 30 percentage points. In this southern state, 29% of the population is black, and one can pretty safely assume almost all of them vote Democrat.

In Nevada, a state with a very large Latino population (which actually holds its caucuses before the South Carolina primary) Clinton has a 22 point lead. The same is true of almost every other state across the South and Southwest.

One reason that Sanders is seen as doing better than he may actually be doing, is because of American media coverage of political campaigns. American media almost never takes the longer view. It is almost entirely wrapped up in the moment, and so coverage on American cable news networks now focuses on how Sanders may win both New Hampshire and Iowa. Little effort, if any, is made to show how these small pieces fit into the overall puzzle.

There is, of course, still time for Sanders to do more to attract minority votes. Media reports indicate that the Sanders people are very aware that this is a serious problem for them. But ham-handed attempts in Nevada to attract Latino votes, and a recent ad released in Iowa and New Hampshire that struck people as being very “white,” are not helping.

It just may be that minority voters don’t see a 74-year-old white man from Vermont as the best person to represent their concerns – even if he might be that person. And that means that Hillary Clinton will probably overcome her current problems and win the Democratic nomination.

Copyright Tom Regan 2016

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com.  Address queries about syndication/republishing this column to Tom Regan: motnager@gmail.com

Facts and Opinions is employee-owned, and relies on the honour system: try one story at no charge and, if you value our no-spam, no-ads work, please chip in at least .27 per story, or a sustaining donation, below. Details here. 

References and further reading:

Why Blacks love Bill Clinton, Salon: http://www.salon.com/2002/02/21/clinton_88/

Fivethirtyeight.com’s primary forecast: http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/election-2016/primary-forecast/new-hampshire-republican/

“It’s very white”: Las Vegas audience exposes Bernie Sanders Latino problem, the Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/nov/09/bernie-sanders-latino-voters-hillary-clinton-vegas

New Poll Shows ‘Surging’ Sanders Losing Ground With the Voter Group He Needs Most, NY Magazine: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/01/poll-sanders-gains-stop-short-of-minorities.html

 

Facts and Opinions is employee-owned, and relies on the honour system: try one story at no charge and, if you value our no-spam, no-ads work, please chip in at least .27 per story, or a sustaining donation, below. Details here. 

Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association, he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92. He is based in Washington, D.C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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