The Declaration of Resistance

Declaration of Resistance

This is the Declaration of Resistance–a new, restated Declaration of Independence originally published on Twitter by Beau Willimon (@beauwillimon), an American writer, producer and playwright. This declaration succinctly and poignantly lists the grievances the people have against Donald Trump and his administration.

One thing I–and many Americans–took solace in following the slim Electoral College victory that won the election for Donald in spite of a crushing defeat in the popular vote was, “At least the President has limited power, and we have checks and balances. Our government institutions will do what they must to defend and preserve our nation.” Unfortunately, the GOP controls both the House and the Senate, and thus far seem more than willing to ignore the daily–and sometimes hourly–attacks on democracy and freedom by this administration.

History will remember you as a hero or a traitor. Do your part Congress.

1. DECLARATION OF RESISTANCE When in the course of American history it becomes necessary for the people to save our Nation from a Tyrant,

2. To safeguard equality for all and their inalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness from bigotry and corruption,

3. To ensure that our Government continues derive its power from the consent of the governed rather than by autocracy,

4. That whenever any President becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to make such demands upon their Congress:

5. Immediate impeachment of the President for crimes committed, or removal from office by way of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution

6. Donald J. Trump has conducted injuries and usurpations, pursuing the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.

7. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world—

8. He has obstructed the Laws for Naturalization of Immigrants, and illegally banned refugees in need of safe haven.

9. He has continued to violate federal court orders which require the temporary cessation of this ban, thereby violating his executive oath.

10. He has dismissed an Attorney General for fulfilling her oath to defend the Constitution, defying the autonomy of the Dept. of Justice.

11. He has purged the State Dept. of its highest level officials without any regard for a responsible continuity of State Affairs.

12. He has enlisted amateur ideologues – such as the white supremacist Stephen L. Bannon – to make national security decisions.

13. He has vowed to enact policy and legislation which clearly tread on the separation of church and state.

14. He has refused to remove or address conflicts of interest regarding both his own business and that of his cabinet and family.

15. He has hastily signed multiple Executive Orders without the advisement of Congress, policy experts, his cabinet or staff.

16. He has signed an Executive Order which knowingly deprives the sick of desperately needed healthcare with no concern for their lives.

17. He has signed an Executive Order permitting a pipeline that tramples on Native American Rights and endangers safe water supply.

18. He has illegally threatened to cut off funding to Sanctuary Cities which have determined their values through self-governance.

19. He has knowingly, repeatedly and egregiously misled the public, and directed his staff to do the same.

20. He has strongly advocated for the silencing and suppression of a Free Press.

21. He has repeatedly and consistently shown contempt for people based race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity and religion.

22. He has shown disdain and disregard for the judiciary, and the fundamental human rights that are the foundation of Justice.

23. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

24. We shall Resist until our Congress uses the mechanisms afforded to by the Constitution to remove this Tyrant from Power.

25. And for the support of this Declaration we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Honor.

Signed. The Resistance

Inside Donald’s Head: Part 1 of 9

Donald Trump

Have you ever read Donald Trump’s book, The Art of the Deal? It was on my list of things I aspired to read at one point, but I never did get around to it. In my defense, the book was popular when Donald was merely a questionably successful business person–it was pre-Apprentice, never mind pre-politics. In the wake of  Donald’s swearing in as President, one group took a closer look at the book, though, to find clues to how this guy thinks.

One of the quotes pulled from the book addresses Donald’s thoughts on maintaining a schedule. He said, “I try not to schedule too many meetings. I leave my door open. You can’t be imaginative or entrepreneurial if you’ve got too much structure. I prefer to come to work each day and just see what develops.”

I realize Donald probably didn’t actually “write” a single word of the book, and these are really the words of whatever co-author or ghost writer Donald was working with. It’s fair to assume, though, that Donald said something along these lines and based on how he ran his campaign and seems to be operating in the White House, the philosophy seems credible.

Personally, I don’t disagree. Anyone who has worked in a corporation and has been mired down in meetings knows what it feels like. You look at your calendar and see all of your day allocated to various briefings and meetings and just shrug your shoulders, knowing it won’t be a very productive day.

A recent study by Attentiv found that the average meeting includes nine people, and that 63 percent of meetings don’t have a pre-planned agenda. Most meetings are between 31 and 60 minutes, and more than a third of those who participate in the meeting find it to be a waste of their time.

That said, the President of the United States is not a CEO, and the United States government is not a business–so that strategy won’t necessarily work for managing a country. Admittedly, it might make sense to look at all of the various standard meetings, determine the goal or value, and then identify whether or not they can be reduced or eliminated. But, there’s a lot going on in any given day–decisions to be made, crises to address, plans to develop–and it’s not something that can be done by the seat of one’s pants…especially if the one wearing said pants has an adversarial relationship with facts and truth.

The good news is that Donald apparently likes to have an open door policy and keep his calendar clear. He’s not used to being an employee, but as his new boss feel free to stop in and tell him what you think of his performance if you happen to be in the DC area.

 

More Than 50 Million Votes Didn’t Count in the 2016 Election (Thanks to the Electoral College)

electoral college

Every four years, we go out as a nation and do our civic duty to elect a new President of the United States. Every four years the debate is sparked again over whether the Electoral College makes sense or has perhaps outlived its usefulness. The 2016 election makes the debate particularly poignant for most Americans because the candidate who won the Electoral College—and therefore is now President of the United States—did not receive the most votes. Not by a long, long shot. As a matter of fact, thanks to the Electoral College there are nearly 53 million voters whose choice was ignored.

Overview of the Electoral College

For those who may not know, let’s start with a (very) brief overview of what the Electoral College is. Some of the The Founding Fathers were apprehensive about giving too much power directly to average citizens—so they established the concept in Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States. It specifies:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

Essentially, when we all cast our votes we are not voting for a candidate for President. Instead, we are voting for the electors who will represent our respective states when the Electoral College meets to cast the real vote that actually determines who becomes President.

There is a total of 538 electoral votes. The math from Article 2 of the Constitution adds up to 535—there are 100 senators (two for each states) and 435 representatives (spread across the states in proportion to the population of the state based on the most recent census). There are three additional electoral votes that were granted to the District of Columbia, which has neither senators nor congressmen.

My vote math from here on out is going to be based on the vote counts found in this Politico post. There may be totals that are more complete, so the numbers may vary slightly, but these are good enough to get the point across and make my argument. I am also basing my math solely on the votes cast for the candidates from the two major parties—and not counting the votes cast for various third-party of alternative candidates. That isn’t meant to minimalize those candidates, but the votes cast for them are largely irrelevant to the math, so it’s easier to keep it simple and focus on just Donald and Hillary.

Starting from there, we have a total of 123,696,801 votes cast. Those were distilled down to just 538 electoral votes. Donald won 306, while Hillary claimed 232—making the margin of victory in the electoral college 46th out of the 56 elections that have been decided by the Electoral College. In essence, each of those millions of votes cast were equivalent to 0.000004 of an electoral vote. Put another way, each electoral vote represents about 230,000 actual votes.

The Case for the Electoral College

There are plenty of arguments in favor of the Electoral College system. I understand the arguments—and at times have found myself on the side of defending the Electoral College system. For the sake of discussion, I will summarize the major points generally cited to defend the Electoral College from this Slate post:

1. Certainty. Even a marginal victory in a state awards all of the electoral votes to the winner in most states. This can—and often does—have the affect of making the victory appear larger and more certain than it actually is because even if a candidate barely wins victories in the popular vote it can still result in an Electoral College landslide.

2. Inclusive. No region of the country—the South, the West Coast, the East Coast, rural farming states, or major metropolitan areas—has enough electoral votes alone to guarantee victory. That means—according to the logic cited—that candidates are forced to campaign more broadly to appeal to the whole country.

3. Swing States. Because candidates can’t simply campaign where they already know they will win, it gives people in the so-called “Swing States” more incentive to pay attention and be truly engaged in the process.

4. Big States. The idea is that the Electoral College ensures that even small, sparsely populated states still have a voice in the election, and that larger states like New York and California can’t simply choose a President, or dictate the values and direction of the nation. In theory, the Electoral College ensures that even states like Wyoming and Vermont, which each has only 3 electoral votes, still play a role in the process.

5. Avoid Run-Off Elections. We like to think of things in terms of simple majority. 51 percent beats 49 percent and the majority rules. Without the Electoral College, there is a greater chance of a candidate winning a plurality—meaning he or she gets more votes than any other candidate, but still less than 50 percent of the total.

It’s Time for the Electoral College to Die

The one argument I have heard most often in debates over the Electoral College is a variation on Point 2 from above. Basically, many insist that a pure popular vote would give states like New York, Texas, and California an unfair advantage, and marginalize the voice of people in states like Wyoming and Vermont.

I call bullshit on that argument. Even with the Electoral College it’s a simple truth that states like New York, Texas, and California have significantly greater value to candidates than states like Wyoming and Vermont. The electoral votes are dispersed based on the number of United States representatives from each state—which are awarded based on the populations of the states.

The bottom line is that states with higher populations also have significantly more electoral votes at stake, so those states get the most focus when candidates are playing the chess game of trying to win the Electoral College.

The “Certainty” argument doesn’t hold water. In fact, it makes the case against the Electoral College. California and New York combined represent nearly a third of the electoral votes necessary to win an election. Just two states out of 50—51 if you count the District of Columbia—have the power to get a candidate a third of the way to the White House. California and New York are also almost guaranteed to be “Blue” and award those electoral votes to the Democrat. Similarly, Texas represents 38 electoral votes that are essentially guaranteed to go “Red”.

Because those states are relatively safe for their respective parties, there is less incentive for candidates to campaign there, and less incentive for people to even show up to vote. Even within those states, candidates get the most value from campaigning where there are the most people—so they tend to focus on the most densely populated areas. The goal is to win votes, so it doesn’t make sense to campaign hard in rural areas where there are very few people.

That brings us to the Big States argument, and the idea that highly populated states would have too much power to sway an election without the Electoral College. Actually, the reverse is true. The Big States argument assumes that all of a given state will vote the same way—that one view represents the entire population of a big state.

The reality is that there are various views and ideologies even in big states, yet under the Electoral College system big states play a significant role and have more power to influence the outcome than they might under a pure popular vote. Hillary won only 65 percent of the vote in California and 61 percent of New York, but still won all 84 of their electoral votes. Donald won only 55 percent of the votes in Texas, but still got all 38 of its electoral votes.

The conclusion in many states is all-but assured before the first vote is cast. In the most recent election, California, New York and Texas were each decided by a pretty healthy margin, but the winner-takes-all system of awarding electoral votes means that almost 10.5 million votes essentially didn’t count.

There is a total of eight states (including the District of Columbia) with only 3 electoral votes. The total number of votes cast between all 8 of those states was 2,522,754. There are five states—California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas—that have more votes that essentially didn’t count by virtue of the Electoral College system than the entire combined votes of the smallest 8 states. There another three states—Michigan, North Carolina, and Ohio—that come awfully close.

Because of the Electoral College system, more than 52 million of the votes cast—about 43 percent of the total—were cast by voters who chose a candidate other than the one that was awarded the electoral votes from their respective state. In other words, the Electoral College took away the voice of more than 52 million voters.

The reality is that there is effectively no real difference in value to candidates or influence on the election between granting these states a meager 3 electoral votes in the Electoral College system, or simply counting their 2.5 million total votes in a pure popular vote. In fact, even within those smaller states there are more than 825,000 people who voted for a candidate other than the one their state ultimately awarded the electoral votes to. Basically, a third of the voters in those 8 states had their votes not count.

The Electoral College awarded the election to Donald, even though Hillary crushed him by election standards in the popular vote. He did not win a majority—in fact he lost by about 3 million votes—and yet he is President because the Electoral College took away the voice of more than 50 million Americans.

Ultimately, after nearly 124 million votes were cast—and even though Donald lost by 3 million votes overall—the election came down to about 130,000 votes. The combined margin between Florida and Michigan was just over 130,000 votes, and had those 130,000 votes gone the other way, we would now have President Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office. Side note, my rough math shows that there are at least eight states that could have gone the other way if those who voted for third-party candidates would have supported the losing candidate instead.

One variable that is hard to predict or define, is the negative effect the Electoral College has on voter turnout. Even though I knew going in that my state would end up awarding its electoral votes to the candidate I didn’t support, I showed up and voted anyway. However, it’s easy to see why many wouldn’t bother. How many more people might show up if all of the votes were counted that currently sit out because the Electoral College system is rigged against them?

Killing the Electoral College

Unfortunately, getting rid of the Electoral College is easier said than done. It is enshrined in the Constitution. That means that modifying or abolishing it would require a Constitutional amendment. Passing and ratifying an amendment to the Constitution is intentionally and understandably challenging. It should not be easy to alter the fabric of our nation on a whim.

Personally, I would love to see legislation introduced to propose such an amendment, and I would love to see our elected officials and enough states get behind the idea to pass a Constitutional amendment to change or kill the Electoral College. I won’t hold my breath.

The quicker and easier solution would be for more—preferably all—of the states to change the way they award the electoral votes so that they are distributed in proportion to the popular vote in the state.

Currently, only two states—Maine and Nevada—have a system in place to split the electoral votes. More states should follow that lead and implement a similar plan. With electoral votes awarded in relation to the popular vote, many states—Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin—would be split evenly. Another 16 states—Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming—have an odd number of electoral votes, but are still roughly split down the middle. That means in 24 of the 51 electoral contests, the will of roughly half of the votes cast was ignored.

If electoral votes were split based on the popular vote, then the 2016 election would look like this:

STATE REP DEM
Alabama 6 3
Alaska 2 1
Arizona 6 5
Arkansas 4 2
California 19 36
Colorado 4 5
Connecticut 3 4
Delaware 1 2
DC 0 3
Florida 15 14
Georgia 8 8
Hawaii 1 3
Idaho 3 1
Illinois 8 12
Indiana 7 4
Iowa 3 3
Kansas 4 2
Kentucky 5 3
Louisiana 5 3
Maine 2 2
Maryland 4 6
Massachusetts 4 7
Michigan 8 8
Minnesota 5 5
Mississippi 4 2
Missouri 6 4
Montana 2 1
Nebraska 3 2
Nevada 3 3
New Hampshire 2 2
New Jersey 6 8
New Mexico 2 3
New York 11 18
North Carolina 8 7
North Dakota 2 1
Ohio 10 8
Oklahoma 5 2
Oregon 3 4
Pennsylvania 10 10
Rhode Island 2 2
South Carolia 5 4
South Dakota 2 1
Tennessee 7 4
Texas 21 17
Utah 4 2
Vermont 1 2
Virginia 6 7
Washington 5 7
West Virginia 4 1
Wisconsin 5 5
Wyoming 2 1
267 271

The election shouldn’t be a chess game for electoral votes. Candidates should be forced to appeal to the entire nation—not just voters in states they don’t already have locked up by virtue of party affiliation, and not just voters in “swing states” that seem to have a disproportionate impact on the election results—and voters in every state should feel like their vote matters, and not like it’s a waste of time because the Electoral College result for their state is a foregone conclusion.

It’s time that kill off the Electoral College system. It has outlived whatever usefulness it may once have had, and there is simply no excuse to ignore the votes of more than 50 million people and select a President that, in reality, did not win a majority in the election.

A Company Is an “It”, Not a “They”

corporations

Companies are not people. Journalists and media outlets need to stop referring to companies as “they”. A company is an “it”.

When a former editor first beat this into my brain, I thought it was merely semantics. A personal preference of his that I needed to abide by. But, then we have Citizens United, and the Hobby Lobby case to illustrate how dangerous it is to personify corporate entities and make that acceptable to average, mainstream communication.

Companies are things. Not people. Companies do not have rights under the Constitution — the people who create, run, and manage the company do. Companies do not have religious beliefs — the people who create, run, and manage the company do.

Granting the company the Constitutional rights and religious beliefs of its founders or executives results in those founders and executives having an unfair advantage. Not only does it essentially give those people two votes — one as an individual citizen and one as the corporate entity — but the corporate entity typically has significantly greater resources and more financial and political sway than an average citizen. Granting the corporation rights and beliefs also empowers that corporate entity to impose those rights and beliefs on its employees and/or customers — thereby potentially infringing on the rights of many other people in the process.

Referring to businesses and corporate entities as “it” instead of “they” won’t reverse Citizens United or change anything overnight. It does, however — in my opinion — normalize the conversation so that it’s clear that a company is a thing and that the people who make up that company already have rights and votes and should not have additional power to influence the political conversation.