Later On

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Archive for the ‘Election’ Category

Nate Silver offers interesting analysis and projections of the Trump phenomenon

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2015 at 1:32 pm

Posted in Election, GOP, Math, Science

The 50-year campaign to roll back the Voting Rights Act

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The GOP really does not want non-Republicans to have the opportunity to vote, so for decades it has worked to keep people from voting. Jim Rutenberg takes a look at the campaign in the NY Times:

On the morning of his wedding, in 1956, Henry Frye realized that he had a few hours to spare before the afternoon ceremony. He was staying at his parents’ house in Ellerbe, N.C.; the ceremony would take place 75 miles away, in Greensboro, the hometown of his fiancée; and the drive wouldn’t take long. Frye, who had always been practical, had a practical thought: Now might be a good time to finally register to vote. He was 24 and had just returned from Korea, where he served as an Air Force officer, but he was also a black man in the American South, so he wasn’t entirely surprised when his efforts at the registrar’s office were blocked.

Adopting a tactic common in the Jim Crow South, the registrar subjected Frye to what election officials called a literacy test. In 1900, North Carolina voters amended the state’s Constitution to require that all new voters “be able to read and write any section of the Constitution in the English language,” but for decades some registrars had been applying that already broad mandate even more aggressively, targeting perfectly literate black registrants with arbitrary and obscure queries, like which president served when or who had the ultimate power to adjourn Congress. “I said, ‘Well, I don’t know why are you asking me all of these questions,’ ” Frye, now 83, recalled. “We went around and around, and he said, ‘Are you going to answer these questions?’ and I said, ‘No, I’m not going to try.’ And he said, ‘Well, then, you’re not going to register today.’ ”

Sitting with me on the enclosed porch of his red-brick ranch house in Greensboro, drinking his wife’s sweet tea, Frye could joke about the exchange now, but at the time it left him upset and determined. When he met Shirley at the altar, the first thing he said was: “You know they wouldn’t let me register?”

“Can we talk about this later?” she replied.

After a few weeks, Frye drove over to the Board of Elections in Rockingham, the county seat, to complain. An official told him to go back and try again. This time a different registrar, after asking if he was the fellow who had gone over to the election board, handed him a paragraph to copy from the Constitution. He copied it, and with that, he became a voter.

But in the American South in 1956, not every would-be black voter was an Air Force officer with the wherewithal to call on the local election board; for decades, most had found it effectively impossible to attain the most elemental rights of citizenship. Only about one-quarter of eligible black voters in the South were registered that year, according to the limited records available. By 1959, when Frye went on to become one of the first black graduates of the University of North Carolina law school, that number had changed little. When Frye became a legal adviser to the students running the antisegregation sit-ins at the Greensboro Woolworth’s in 1960, the number remained roughly the same. And when Frye became a deputy United States attorney in the Kennedy administration, it had grown only slightly. By law, the franchise extended to black voters; in practice, it often did not.

What changed this state of affairs was the passage, 50 years ago this month, of the Voting Rights Act. Signed on Aug. 6, 1965, it was meant to correct “a clear and simple wrong,” as Lyndon Johnson said. “Millions of Americans are denied the right to vote because of their color. This law will ensure them the right to vote.” It eliminated literacy tests and other Jim Crow tactics, and — in a key provision called Section 5 — required North Carolina and six other states with histories of black disenfranchisement to submit any future change in statewide voting law, no matter how small, for approval by federal authorities in Washington. No longer would the states be able to invent clever new ways to suppress the vote. Johnson called the legislation “one of the most monumental laws in the entire history of American freedom,” and not without justification. By 1968, just three years after the Voting Rights Act became law, black registration had increased substantially across the South, to 62 percent. Frye himself became a beneficiary of the act that same year when, after a close election, he became the first black state representative to serve in the North Carolina General Assembly since Reconstruction.

In the decades that followed, Frye and hundreds of other new black legislators built on the promise of the Voting Rights Act, not just easing access to the ballot but finding ways to actively encourage voting, with new state laws allowing people to register at the Department of Motor Vehicles and public-assistance offices; to register and vote on the same day; to have ballots count even when filed in the wrong precinct; to vote by mail; and, perhaps most significant, to vote weeks before Election Day. All of those advances were protected by the Voting Rights Act, and they helped black registration increase steadily. In 2008, for the first time, black turnout was nearly equal to white turnout, and Barack Obama was elected the nation’s first black president.

Since then, however, the legal trend has abruptly reversed. In 2010, Republicans flipped control of 11 state legislatures and, raising the specter of voter fraud, began undoing much of the work of Frye and subsequent generations of state legislators. They rolled back early voting, eliminated same-day registration, disqualified ballots filed outside home precincts and created new demands for photo ID at polling places. In 2013, the Supreme Court, in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, directly countermanded the Section 5 authority of the Justice Department to dispute any of these changes in the states Section 5 covered. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, declared that the Voting Rights Act had done its job, and it was time to move on. Republican state legislators proceeded with a new round of even more restrictive voting laws.

All of these seemingly sudden changes were a result of a little-known part of the American civil rights story. It involves a largely Republican countermovement of ideologues and partisan operatives who, from the moment the Voting Rights Act became law, methodically set out to undercut or dismantle its most important requirements. The story of that decades-long battle over the iconic law’s tenets and effects has rarely been told, but in July many of its veteran warriors met in a North Carolina courthouse to argue the legality of a new state voting law that the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School has called one of the “most restrictive since the Jim Crow era.” The decision, which is expected later this year, could determine whether the civil rights movement’s signature achievement is still justified 50 years after its signing, or if the movement itself is finished.

I. 1865-1980


The fundamental promise of American democracy is that every citizen gets a vote, but delivering the franchise from on high and in the face of violent local opposition has always been a complicated legal proposition.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2015 at 11:09 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Government, Law

NY Times screws up totally in trying to do a hit piece on Hillary Clinton

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The NY Times has always done poor reporting on the Clintons, apparently from personal dislike and nothing more. Bill Keller flogged the Whitewater “scandal” for months if not years, despite nothing coming from it. And now this, as Emily Atkin reports at ThinkProgress:

The New York Times broke a big story on Thursday night. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the Times reported, could be the subject of a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice because of the personal email account she used as secretary of state. The Times reported that two inspectors general had asked for the criminal probe.

This would be a pretty big deal if true. Clinton’s personal email account has already been under intense scrutiny, as many speculated Clinton was using that account to avoid congressional and Freedom of Information Act requests for disclosure. But Clinton publiclyreleased her emails from that account, and insisted nothing was improper or unlawful. A possible criminal investigation would suggest otherwise.

But as the story unfolded, things became a bit more complicated. Most importantly, the Justice Department has said that it never actually received a request for a criminal probeinto Clinton’s email, contradicting the New York Times story. Prior to that announcement, the Times made small but significant changes to its copy, and a high-ranking congressman said the Inspector General’s request was about something entirely different.

The whole thing has been a bit scattered, so it’s worth taking each detail step by step to understand the full picture. Here’s what we know so far.

The Story Breaks, And Clinton Comes Under Fire

The Times’ story was published Thursday night, citing “senior government officials” who said that the Justice Department would be asked to perform a criminal investigation into Clinton’s emails. It asserted that the personal account may have contained “hundreds of potentially classified emails,” and that Clinton herself may have improperly handled the sensitive materials.

The internet then promptly exploded. As a barrage of aggregated articles piled up, pundits put the candidate under fire. On CNN, John King called the allegations “very troubling,” while Michaela Pereira called the story “pretty damning” for Clinton’s presidential campaign. “It feeds into a kind of narrative she can’t quite be trusted,” Earth Institute director Jeffery Sachs said on MSNBC.

Clinton has already faced political lashings over her use of her personal email while at the State Department, mostly from Republicans who imply the emails contain answers to their questions about whether Clinton mishandled the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. So far, Republican investigations over Clinton’s handling of that attack have come up largely empty.

The Times Quietly Alters The Story

Amid the hubbub, it was discovered that the Times had quietly altered the story. “Small but significant” is how Politico described it, and noted that the headline, among other things, had been changed. The first headline, “Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email,” had been changed to “Criminal Inquiry Is Sought in Clinton Email Account.”

The change reflects something very important: that the possible criminal inquiry was not necessarily about Clinton’s direct use of her own email. The potential criminal inquiry, then, could now be read as not being focused on Clinton herself. The correction was made in response to pushback from the Clinton campaign, Politico reported.

A Congressman Clarifies The Situation

Things got even more confusing when Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said he had spoken directly to the State Department Inspector General. According to Cummings, the inspector general said he had never asked the Justice Department to perform a criminal probe of Clinton’s email.

Instead, he said the investigation was about something entirely different. According to Cummings, the inspector general had identified classified information in a few emails that the State Department had publicly released in response to outrage over her personal account, and told the Justice Department about it. Those emails had not been previously marked as classified, though there was no evidence that Clinton had marked them as classified at the time they were transmitted.

“This is the latest example in a series of inaccurate leaks to generate false front-page headlines — only to be corrected later — and they have absolutely nothing to do with the attacks in Benghazi or protecting our diplomatic corps overseas,” Cummings said in a statement.

The Justice Department Says No Criminal Probe Was Requested

Later on Friday afternoon, Reuters reported that the Justice Department said that it had indeed received a request to look at Clinton’s email, but that it wasn’t a request for a criminal investigation. Instead, the story suggested that the requested investigation may be about how the emails were handled as they were being prepared to be released to the public, alluding to concerns that they may not have adequately censored classified information.

If Cumming’s statements are correct, however, those emails would not have been previously marked as classified, meaning Clinton would not be held responsible.

The Clinton Campaign Responds

As the details continue to unfold, Hillary Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill issued a statement speaking harsh words to the Times.

“It is now more clear than ever that the New York Times report claiming there is a criminal inquiry sought in Hillary Clinton’s use of email is false,” he said. “It has now been discredited both by the Justice Department and the Ranking Member of the House Oversight Committee. This incident shows the danger of relying on reckless, inaccurate leaks from partisan sources.”

The Times Story Remains In Place

The story itself is still in place, but on Friday afternoon, the Times added a correction saying the original version “misstated the nature of the referral to the Justice Department regarding Hillary Clinton’s personal email account while she was secretary of state.”

“The referral addressed the potential compromise of classified information in connection with that personal email account,” the correction continued. “It did not specifically request an investigation into Mrs. Clinton.”

You can read the [current version of – LG] Times’ story here. [They keep changing it. – LG]

Written by LeisureGuy

26 July 2015 at 6:56 pm

Those who support Trump

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James Fallows explained in a post why Trump stood zero chance of being elected president. In this post he publishes some of the emails he received, which offer some insight into the nature of those who supports Donald Trump.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2015 at 11:05 am

Posted in Election, Politics

Why the Sarbanes reform might well work

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Part 1 of the Jon Schwarz interview with John Sarbanes is worth reading:

I recently spoke with Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) at length about theGovernment by the People Act, his campaign finance reform bill, and why it’s so different from the standard news about money and politics that makes most people dissolve into a small puddle of despair — see Wednesday’s post about that here. The bill has 160 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and there are 20 co-sponsors for a companion bill in the Senate.

In the first part of the interview,  Sarbanes explains the rationale for his bill, how it would change politicians’ behavior, and how similar systems are already having an impact on a state and local level. In part two, coming Friday, Sarbanes describes how he markets this idea, why it could not just change campaign financing but plausibly diminish the impact of big-money lobbying, and how it would keep incumbents like himself on their toes.

• • •

So why do we need your idea for campaign finance reform?

SARBANES: Most people are sitting there in their kitchens, and they’re watching cable television, and it seems like every day there’s more news about big money, Super PACs, multi-billion dollar presidential campaigns. And the average person is looking at that and saying, “This is crazy, where do I fit into this? How do I possibly have any kind of role to play or any voice that could match what those other players have?”

And that’s where we come along and say: “Well, actually here’s a system that can give you some power, that can make you a player.” And I think if you offer that to people, they’ll say, “Okay, I don’t have to just be a spectator in my own democracy anymore. I can actually go on the field and play the game.” I think this is a very hopeful message.

There’s some great research that’s been done on this in New York City [which instituted a 6 to 1 match for small donations in 2007]. There were whole neighborhoods, before they put their multiple matching system in place at the municipal level, that never gave any money — because no candidate ever showed up asking for a donation. They completely ignored those neighborhoods, because they said, I can’t collect $500 donations there, or $1000 donations, or even $200 donations. So they never set foot over there, they never did the outreach.

Since they put that system in place, it’s completely changed that dynamic. And you’re seeing events and gatherings and outreach on the part of candidates in some of these neighborhoods that were completely ignored before — because it’s worthwhile for those candidates to go find those citizens.

The problem we have now is that if you can give $25 or $50, that may be a heavy lift for you but it’s still not a big enough lift for the candidate to want to come and find you. Right now to make it worth it for a member to attend a fundraising event, they need to come back with $10,000, at least. And on K Street [i.e., at a fundraising event in Washington, D.C. with lobbyists] you know you can walk out of the room with that.

There’s no way a house party with 30 people can compete. They each give $25, and that’s $750. But the cost now is about $1.6 million for a congressional campaign. So you have to go to the thing on K Street to get money.

But let’s say you went to a living room in your district, and they each gave $50 and got their $25 tax credit, so it only cost each of them $25. With the 6 to 1 match, that’s a $350 donation per person. And with 30 people in that living room, that’s over $10,000.

And not just that: none of the people at the K Street event can vote for you [i.e., they don’t live in your district]. The 30 people at the house party, they can do all of it: they can vote, they can donate, they can volunteer, they can rope their friends in. You’re creating an active, engaged group of people around your campaign. That can be worth 2 to 3 points, that’s the difference in a close election.

It’s like with that Verizon ad: “Can you hear me now?” Right now candidates can only hear the $1000 donor, the PAC donor. But if you have those people sitting in that living room with that match, all of a sudden you can hear them. All of a sudden on that Verizon map showing the signal only coming from Potomac, Maryland and Marin County in California and Manhattan and so forth, they’re coming from all these other parts of the country that used to be completely dark, which is where most Americans live.

And what it means is that power shifts again — or maybe for the first time — to everyday citizens when it comes to the funding of campaigns. And where that kind of power resides, there’s influence, but it’s influence that’s coming from the broad public, not coming from special interests.

Are all 150 of your bill’s co-sponsors Democrats?

The huge lion’s share of that is Democrats, but we think we can begin to build support from the other end of the political spectrum. We have one Republican co-sponsor, Walter Jones of North Carolina, who’s very passionate about this issue.

We’re finding that the sentiment of feeling left out, of your voice not being heard, you can find that on either end of the political spectrum. In fact, if you look at the Tea Party movement on the right, and Occupy Wall Street on the left, they both come from the same place: a feeling on the part of the average person that there’s some powerful elite in Washington and New York that is running the country, and that everybody else is getting left behind. I think there’s real potential to create a political coalition that cuts across the political spectrum — where you could have people saying, well, you and I don’t agree on just about anything when it comes to substantive policy, but we can agree that as a matter of democratic process that our voices should be heard.

Are you familiar with John Pudner? Pudner was one of the strategists for David Brat [a Tea Party candidate who beat then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the 2014 Republican primary] and he’s called for everyone getting a $200 tax credit to donate to campaigns.

Yeah, I’m familiar with John. And I was talking to Dave the other day, because I got a sense from his campaign that a lot of his narrative was around this — the feeling that Eric Cantor’s gone Washington, he’s part of the crony capitalism up there on Capitol Hill, and he’s forgotten the little guy on Main Street. And Dave Brat really capitalized on that sentiment and was successful. And that’s the same thing I’m saying, coming from the left and the people I meet every single day. Which includes moderates — a lot of moderates opt out of voting and getting involved in the financing of campaigns because they feel like their voice doesn’t matter.

Are there systems similar to this in the U.S. now besides in New York City? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 July 2015 at 7:08 am

Comparing how easily whites and blacks can access the ballot in voting

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Kevin Drum reports on an interesting report. “Ballot access” involves things like availability of preregistration, availability of in-person early voting, voter ID laws, voting wait times, and so forth. From his post, two maps. He comments:

The top map shows ballot access, with the darker colors indicating poor access. The bottom map shows the percentage of the African-American population in each state. Dark colors indicate a higher black population. Kinda funny how similar they look, isn’t it?




Written by LeisureGuy

7 July 2015 at 2:04 pm

The Hillary in Our Future

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Michael Tomasky reviews a timely book in the NY Review of Books:

Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich
by Peter Schweizer
Harper, 243 pp., $27.99

As Hillary Rodham Clinton pursues the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, we face a situation that is wholly without precedent in modern American electoral history. There have been presumptive nominees before, usually sitting vice-presidents—Al Gore in 2000, George H.W. Bush in 1988, and Hubert Humphrey in 1968, to name three. But even they faced competition from candidates who were certainly from the “first tier”—Bill Bradley, Bob Dole, Jack Kemp, Bobby Kennedy, and Gene McCarthy.

Clinton faces no such opposition within her party. It’s good that Senator Bernie Sanders has decided to enter the race. Clinton will have to debate him, and his mere presence will force her to take positions she could otherwise get away with not taking. But it’s rather unlikely that a socialist from Vermont can capture a major-party nomination. Similarly, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley probably doesn’t arouse much concern at Clinton’s Brooklyn headquarters. He has a solid record of achievement in Annapolis and intriguing credentials as a Catholic committed to social justice. But he comes with baggage, too—the extremely incompetent implementation of Obamacare in his state and, now, the mere fact that he was once the mayor of the sad, segregated city of Baltimore, perpetually suspended in a kind of bitter aspic of deindustrialization, disinvestment, and broken promises. Sometimes governors exude clear presidential potential, as did Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. O’Malley, so far anyway, does not.

And that’s about it. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is out; she plainly does not want to be president. Although she’s been active in opposing Obama’s proposed Pacific trade agreement, she’s never shown a deep interest in foreign policy, which is a rather important part of any president’s job, particularly so at this point in history. Short of incapacitating illness or a scandal of enormous proportions, Clinton will almost certainly be the Democratic nominee.

This puts her in a strong position, but it also places a special burden on her. It means that the nation’s liberals and Democrats, millions of people who usually have a choice to make, in essence don’t have one here. There is much at stake in next year’s election. For a start, a new president who serves two terms may well nominate three or even four justices to the Supreme Court, meaning either that the Court’s conservative majority will be solidified and enlarged, with more allies of Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, or that it will be reversed, giving the country a liberal Supreme Court majority for the first time since the 1980s. Such a Court could spend a generation or two reversing the precedents set by the Courts of William Rehnquist and John Roberts.

So Clinton, who leads in national polls and will benefit from an Electoral College map that favors any Democratic candidate, has a special obligation as a candidate. She has to run a better race than she ran in 2008. She needs to show—as she already has on issues like immigration, criminal justice, and the tax rates of hedge fund managers—that she is attuned to where the electorate is today. And she needs to take all reasonable steps to avoid taints of scandal. If a late-breaking controversy over Clinton’s record and character propels someone like Scott Walker to the White House, the sense of betrayal and despair will be ferocious.

The Clinton Foundation—until recently the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation—has done a lot of good in the world since its founding in 2001. By far its largest program—$128 million spent in 2013—is the Clinton Health Access Initiative, which facilitates the provision of, and negotiates price reductions for, AIDS and malarial drugs to millions of people in Africa and elsewhere. It does other work to expand access to health care in developing countries.

The second-largest of the foundation’s seven major programs ($23.6 million in 2013) is the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), which “convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges,” according to the foundation’s website. In early May, the CGI hosted a meeting in Marrakesh where regional leaders were introduced to experts on youth unemployment, innovation, entrepreneurship, and kindred topics. The foundation also funds work related to domestic poverty and the effects of climate change both in the United States and around the world.

Some critics have raised questions about several of the foundation’s programs. For example, does anything constructive actually happen in poor countries once those regional leaders go back home after getting to hobnob with Bill Clinton for a few days? The foundation often operates at the intersection of the nonprofit, public-sector, and management-consulting worlds, and it is hard to discern clear results of some of its activities. Yet at the same time, there can be little doubt that Bill Clinton’s work has saved and improved lives. Back when the foundation still used to get good press, anAtlantic article described in detail how Clinton and his old friend Ira Magaziner, then working with the foundation, succeeded in negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for lower anti-AIDS drug prices:

So the foundation went to governments in Africa and the Caribbean and organized demand for AIDS drugs, obtaining intentions to place large orders if prices could be cut. It simultaneously went to drug companies, offering them a much larger and less-volatile market for AIDS drugs in return for lower prices based on the projected higher volume. Although the foundation asked for aggressive “forward pricing” to kick-start demand, it pointedly did not ask for donations or charity. “To be sustainable,” says Magaziner, “this can’t be a charitable act.” Rather, the foundation was offering a business proposition: If we get you the demand, can you get us the supply?

It’s hard to argue with that, and no one outside of the right-wing fever swamps really does.

What people argue with are two things: the donations the foundation accepts from foreign governments and individuals, and the speaker fees paid to Bill and Hillary Clinton. For the most part those payments are not specifically related to the foundation; but they are given much emphasis by the Clintons’ numerous opponents. There is palpable fear among them that she will win the presidency, serve eight years, reshape the Supreme Court, and pursue the other lamentable goals one might expect from the Clintons. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 June 2015 at 4:08 pm


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