Lazy Sunday XXXVII: Best of the Reblogs, Part II

Thanksgiving is almost here!  Regular readers will by now know of my love for Halloween, which is second only to Christmas in my heart.  But Thanksgiving is definitely up there in the Top Five, at least—sandwiched neatly between the former two, a brief taste of the Christmas togetherness and relaxation to come.

This week’s Lazy Sunday continues with some of my favorite reblogged posts.  As I wrote last week, one of the simple joys of blogging is making friends with other bloggers.  Maybe one day we can all meet up at some kind of blogging convention.

This week’s reblogs feature two from Practically Historical, a blog dedicated to historical topics, mostly American History.  The other is from Quintus Curtius, a classicist and world traveler (not to mention a former Marine) who writes beautifully about forgotten chunks of the distant past.  He revives the old tradition of the great antiquarians, much to our benefit.

  • Reblog: Lincoln and Civil Liberties” – This post is an examination of Lincoln’s decision to arrest pro-secessionist legislators in Maryland, in order to prevent the State from seceding from the Union.  He examines John Merryman, for whom the case Ex Parte Merryman is named, and notes Merryman was actively engaged in leading an armed militia in Maryland against federal authority.  Yikes!
  • Reblog: Quintus Curtius, ‘On Living Near the Ocean’” – This essay on the ocean really struck a chord with me.  Quintus Curtius is a strong writer, and his examination of the ways that people respond to living near the water are fascinating.  On the one hand, people enjoy the vigorous health of the salt air and good seafood, but maritime towns tend to be breeding grounds for shabbiness and dingy criminality (see also:  Myrtle Beach).  A worthy read.
  • Reblog: Practically Historical on the Electoral College” – Gordon Sheaffer of Practically Historical delivers again with an excellent examination and defense of the Electoral College.  He has a great takedown for the anti-EC crowd, who argue that individual votes are all that matter:  he argues that we should think of the EC like a series of baseball games.  Yes, the highest score wins individual games, but the wins are what matter.  A team can win ten games by one run each, while another team can win nine games by ten runs each; what matters are the wins, not the overall scoring.

That’s it for this week. Enjoy the fleeting glory of your weekend, and enjoy the short workweek!

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

Trump Up in Polls

Yesterday’s post looked at blogger photog’s musings about the radical implosion of the Democratic Party.  photog surmised that either the Democrats will tone down their ultra-progressive rhetoric, or they will continue to double-down on—and let President Trump bait them into—their death’s embrace with socialism.  My money is on the latter.

Shortly after that post went to press, I read a National Review blurb about Trump’s record-high approval ratings.  Trump has hovered around 35-40% in most approval polls, with a solid base of support.  Democrats and Never Trumpers have been banking on Trump not gaining substantially beyond 40% approval ratings (never mind that the 2016 polling was egregiously far off).  If we figure that some poll respondents simply aren’t confessing that they like the president or will vote for him, we could probably add 3-5% to that support.

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TBT: Third Party Opportunity?

Last night’s first round of Democratic presidential primary debates was what I expected—a contest between largely identical candidates competing to see who could promise each other more free goodies.  Cory Booker came off as a bit light in the loafers, with a bulging lazy eye and a peeved reaction to Robert Francis O’Rourke’s cringe-inducing Spanish (per the rumors that Senator Booker is a closeted homosexual, I thought the look on his face was a mix of annoyance and arousal, but who can say).  Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts just came across as an angry scold.  When will Democrats learn that running a nagging woman is not going to win them elections?

Only Tulsi Gabbard, the mega-babe from Hawaii, seemed interesting, but she barely received any screen time.  Then there were cookie-cutter dudes like Mayor Bill de Blasio and Washington Governor John Inslee who just looked the same, not to mention that guy from Ohio.  In fact, the forgettable dude from Ohio got one of the biggest applauses with a quintessentially Trumpian promise to restore manufacturing (never mind that The Donald has already accomplished that).

Tonight we’ll get more of the same, though hopefully entrepreneur and math nerd Andrew Yang will spice things up with Asiatic wonkery.  Otherwise, the only thing to see will be how many racial gaffes Vice President Joe Biden makes (I would love it if he made reference to Yang’s “Asiatic wonkery”).

So far, it all looks like good news for Trump.  Of course, a weak, generic Democratic field might attract some doomed third-party hopefuls.  That’s why for this week’s #TBT, I thought I’d look back to a lengthy piece from 2016 about the structural disadvantages of third party candidates, “Third Party Opportunity?

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Reblog: Practically Historical on the Electoral College

A quick (and late) post today, as the Internet is still out at home (although this time it’s not entirely due to Frontier’s incompetence).  SheafferHistorianAZ of Practically Historical posted another classic piece yesterday defending the Electoral College.  Rather than rely solely on abstract arguments, he went to the primary sources:  in this case, the words of James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, and Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of Treasury.

Here is an excerpt from SheafferHistorianAZ himself, taken from before and after quotations from Madison (writing in Federal No. 39) and Hamilton (Federalist No. 68; emphasis is Sheaffer’s):

Plurality is part of the Federal electoral process, but integrated to meet the needs of federalism.  States matter in our compound republic.  Madison wanted them involved in the process of choosing the executive.

Think of the electoral vote this way…  In the 1960 World Series, the New York Yankees outscored the Pittsburgh Pirates 55-27  and out-hit the hapless Pirates 91-60.  Using the rationale of plurality as demanded by the national popular vote crowd, the Yankees were clearly world champs that year.  But runs are integrated into games, and in 1960, the Pirates won 4 games, the Yankees 3.  Runs and hits are part of a process, but the process integrates all parts of the sport into choosing a winner[.]

That sports metaphor is one that I think will resonate with many voters, and it’s one that is intuitive.  It’s probably the best I’ve heard.  It’s a tough pitch to say, “the States have rights in our system, and without the Electoral College, LA and NYC would decide every election.”

Anti-Collegiates (the best term I can come up with on the fly for the anti-Electoral College crowd) always argue that States like Wyoming would get more attention from presidential candidates, which is numerically ludicrous—what’s 600,000 Wyomans against millions of New Yorkers?—and disingenuous.  No one arguing against the Electoral College cares about the people in Wyoming; they just want progressive elites and their urban mobs to always carry presidential elections for progressive Democrats.

But the sports metaphors takes something abstract but important—States’ rights and accounting for regional differences—and puts in terms that are more concrete but trivial.  Everyone knows it doesn’t matter if you win every game by an extra point—what matters is that you win every game (college football fans may disagree slightly, but a W is a W).

One final note before wrapping up:  I’ve recently heard proposals to reform the Electoral College to conform with congressional districts, so that it’s more reflective of the popular will, while still retaining the essential “flavor” of the Electoral College.  It’s intriguing, but I also think it’s a trap:  it’s a compromise position for a side that has no leverage.  Engaging in that debate tacitly concedes that there’s something wrong with the Electoral College, when there really isn’t.

Don’t fix what isn’t broken.  Yes, we occasionally get distorted outcomes.  But those “distortions” act as an important break on mob rule and the tyranny it inevitably breeds.

Numbers Don’t Lie – The Electoral College

Pollster Scott Rasmussen writes a brief, daily post for Ballotpedia called “Number of the Day.”  It’s an excellent, bite-sized chunk o’ statistical knowledge that gives an enlightening view of our nation from one of America’s great polltakers.

Monday’s “Number of the Day” was “49.5% of the U.S. Population Will Live in Eight States by 2040“—and continued with a discussion of the Electoral College.

For the unfamiliar, the Electoral College takes a lot of heat, usually from progressives (and especially so since President Trump won the 2016 election in the Electoral College, but lost the popular vote by margin of some millions).  There have been multiple attempts to abolish the Electoral College throughout American history, with the most successful effort coming after Richard Nixon’s electoral victory in 1968 (of course, that effort failed—fortunately).  Critics argue that the institution is “undemocratic,” as it seems to violate the principle of “one person, one vote.”

Fortunately, the Framers of the Constitution were wise enough to realize the pitfalls of popular democracy, which they believed devolved into mob rule and, ultimately, tyranny (see also:  the French Revolution), and also anticipated the dangers of a small group of urban voters being able to swing presidential elections at the expense of voters in rural States.

It is precisely this fear that Rasmussen’s demographic data highlights.  Rasmussen writes that nearly half of the nation’s population will live in one of eight States by 2040:  California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Illinois, and North Carolina.  That means that, in a popular system, those States could nearly swing a presidential election themselves.

Some readers might object that those voters are not uniform, and a popular vote would put a State like Wyoming more into play (as those ~600,000 voters—projected to be around 688,000 in 2040), but that assumes a level of individuality that, while attractive to the libertarian-minded, is not realistic.

Rural sections of the country have different goals, values, and concerns than urban centers.  A State with one or more major metropolitan areas would dominate national politics.

Rasmussen touches on this dynamic in Congress, too.  Currently, large States enjoy a huge advantage in the House of Representatives, the most “democratic” chamber at the federal level.  Small States, on the other hand, possess greater leverage in the Senate, where every State gets two Senators, regardless of population.  California—with its fifty-three Congressmen—can run roughshod over Wyoming in the House, but California’s Senators have the same clout as Wyoming’s two.

In essence, then, the different sections of the country have to reach some level of compromise to accomplish anything.  Rural States have to throw urban States a bone to get legislation passed in the House, and urban States have to support some rural State measures.

Indeed, this is largely how the farm bill and food stamps get passed:  rural Republicans vote for food stamps for the urban poor, and urban Democrats vote for corn subsidies for rural farmers.

That’s all Civics 101, but, as Dr. Samuel Johnson wrote, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.”

A final thought:  what happens when rural-urban compromise breaks down?  The values of the rural portions of the country—chiefly the South and Midwest—are increasingly at odds with the values of the bicoastal elites and their scattered archipelago of continental metropolises.  In that case, shouldn’t we throw out the system, as we’ll just get gridlock?

To quote the Apostle Paul, “God forbid!”  That divide highlights the necessity of separation of powers.  I’d rather not have a demiqueer otherkin alternative poetess-programmer (that’s the most ridiculous caricature I could conjure up) and xyr pansexual two-spirited Wookie life-mate ramming ultra-leftist progressive policies up my butt like a hamster at their next vegan pottery party, just as I’m sure the Wookie life-mates wouldn’t want me dictating my rustic Biblical morality to them (but, just so we’re clear, you people have lost your way).

The only major threat, as I see it, is that Congress has so abdicated its responsibility to the executive branch and its unelected bureaucracy of careerist swamp creatures, that we could see the further rise of executive overreach.  That’s why progressives howl at the moon in protest to President Trump—they think he’s going to wield the sword of executive power against them the way President Obama did against us.

But with the Deep State so ensconced in our national life, I sometimes fear that we’re living in pre-Augustusean times.  In the meantime, let us hope President Trump can correct the course; that Congress will once again jealously guard its prerogatives; and that the Electoral College stands for centuries to come.