The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

An avenue for thwarting minority rule

In the March 2020 Atlantic, writer and attorney Simon Barnicle laid out one of the simplest ways to re-balance the Senate and Electoral College without a constitutional amendment:

Realizing that the deck is stacked against them, but recognizing that constitutional amendments are a pipe dream, some Democrats have called for structural reforms that could be accomplished with a simple majority in Congress: court packing, filibuster reform, and the legally dubious Senate Reform Act, to name a few. These proposals, while perhaps well intentioned, are inadequate. At best, they are temporary fixes—the minute Republicans regain control, they will retaliate in kind. And given the structural advantages enjoyed by Republicans, Democrats are unlikely to benefit in the long run.

A better solution to the problem of minority rule would address it directly. Democrats—if and when they regain control of Congress—should add new states whose congressional representatives would likely be Democrats. In areas that are not currently states, like Washington, D.C., or territories like Puerto Rico, this could be done with a simple congressional majority. But Democrats should also consider breaking up populous Democratic states and “un-gerrymandering” the Senate. Perhaps there could be a North and South California, or an East and West Massachusetts. A new state of Long Island, an area that is geographically larger than Rhode Island, would be more populous than most of the presently existing states.

In the short term, new Democratic states would remedy the advantages Republicans currently hold in the Senate—and, to a lesser extent, the Electoral College—which allow a party to control the federal government despite a lack of popular support. And unlike other progressive proposals, the risk of retaliation and escalation is low. Because adding states would also add Democratic senators, there would be no way for Republicans to immediately add states of their own without an overwhelming electoral victory.

[T]he federal government is increasingly acting on behalf of a smaller fraction of the population. And unless Democrats get serious about adding new states to counteract the Republican advantage, the disconnect between popular votes and control of the federal government is likely to grow.

My guess is that DC will become the 51st state before the end of the next Congress, possibly followed by Puerto Rico in 2023. But here we have to tread carefully: Puerto Rico would probably send one member of each party to the Senate, if not two Republicans. I'm willing to take that chance though.

The view from a rural county in Ohio

Science-fiction author John Scalzi (Red Shirts, Old Man's War) lives in Darke County, Ohio, population 52,000, 97% of them white. He does not exactly fit in with his neighbors politically, as he describes:

Four years ago in Bradford, the town where I live, there were Trump street signs, like the one in the picture above. Here in 2020, there are multiple signs per yard, and banners, and flags, not just with Trump’s name on them, but of him standing on a moving tank whilst screaming eagles fly alongside him, and no, those flags are not being flown ironically, they really mean it. There are occasional Biden signs, mostly of modest size, but anecdotally they are outnumbered by Trump signs by at least twenty to one. The 2020 Darke County Trump tank is deep and perhaps a bit frantic. If Trump is hoping for “shy voters” to suddenly spring up to take him to victory, he’s not going to get them here. Darke County Trump supporters may be many things, but shy does not appear one of them.

A whole bunch of the voters are being fed shit from social media and questionable news sources and either they don’t know it or they don’t care. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the epistemic capture in the US of (not only, but in particular) poor and working class whites by conservatives, billionaires and propagandists is one of the great social engineering success stories of the last half century. This includes an informational ecosystem that’s easy to get into and hard to get out of because it simultaneously stimulates fear and anger responses, degrades one’s own ability to reason, and breeds mistrust in outside sources and political points of view. In other words: cult conditioning.

Now, it would unfair nonsense to suggest the people of a county that hasn’t gone for a Democrat since LBJ would not be reliably voting for whomever the GOP candidate was every four years. But it’s not unfair nonsense to say that convincing a historically large percentage of these folks to vote for someone who four years ago was clearly not competent to be president, and in 2020 has a nearly four-year record of venal graft and malice, is the fruit of a decades-long effort to get into their heads and make them resistant to actual facts that are right in front of them. It’s not coincidence that QAnon is metastasizing through conservative and GOP circles at breathtaking speed; having a millions-strong corps of voters willing to lap up even that level of rank bullshit is in fact the goal.

Meanwhile, Jamelle Bouie picks apart the nonsense of "constitutional originalism," which to me seems no better than any other fundamentalist religion.

Evening news roundup

I dropped off my completed ballot this afternoon, so if Joe Biden turns out to be the devil made flesh, I can't change my vote.

Tonight, the president and Joe Biden will have competing, concurrent town halls instead of debating each other, mainly because the president is an infant. The Daily Parker will not live-blog either one. Instead, I'll whip up a stir-fry and read something.

In other news:

Finally, a pie-wedge-shaped house in Deerfield, Ill., is now on Airbnb for $113 a night. Enjoy.

Evening news stories

A cold front pushed its way through Chicago this afternoon, making it feel much more like autumn than we've experienced so far. And it got pretty chilly in Washington, where Senate Republicans began the first day of hearings into the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court:

And much farther from home, Mars will be in opposition tomorrow night, coincidentally during the new moon, meaning we'll get a really good look at it.

Graceland Cemetery this evening

We have some decent fall colors this year. They should peak sometime this week, but I didn't want to waste perfect weather this evening, so I took the drone over to Graceland Cemetery and Arboretum:

Here's the end still, with a bit of processing in Lightroom, taken from here:

Graceland closed for the longest period in its history after the August derecho that knocked 200 trees and caused $250,000 in damage. Fortunately the surviving trees look beautiful in their autumn best.

VP debate reactions

Generally, reactions to last night's debate follow three patterns: Vice President Mike Pence mansplained to Senator Kamala Harris; Harris told the truth significantly more than Pence did; and the fly won. (My favorite reaction, from an unknown Twitter user: "If that fly laid eggs in Pence's hair, he'd better carry them to term.") Other reactions:

  • The Washington Post, NBC, and the BBC fact-checked the most egregious distortions, most of which came from Pence.
  • James Fallows believes "both candidates needed to convince voters they possess the right temperament for the job. Only one pulled it off."

In other news:

  • Following the president's positive Covid-19 test, and Pence's and the president's repeated interruptions and talking over the moderators, the Commission on Presidential Debates has decided the October 15th presidential debate will be virtual. The crybaby-in-chief got angry: "It’s ridiculous, and then they cut you off whenever they want." ("Speaking to reporters in Delaware, Biden said it was still possible [the president] would show up because 'he changes his mind every second.'")
  • Alex Shephard bemoans "the final message of a dying campaign:" "With his poll numbers collapsing, [the president] keeps adopting dumber and more destructive political messages."
  • The New Yorker dives into "the secret history of Kimberly Guilfoyle's departure from Fox."
  • For total Daily Parker bait, National Geographic explores the Russian military map collection at Indiana University, with 4,000 secret Russian maps drawn between 1883 and 1947, many captured from wartime intelligence services.
  • As today is the 149th anniversary of the Chicago Fire, the Chicago History Today blog looked at the history of the house at 2121 N. Hudson Ave., the only wood-frame building to survive in the burn zone.
  • Speaking of wood fires in Chicago, the Chicago Tribune has yet another ranking of pizzas. Happy lunchtime.

Finally, the FBI arrested six men who plotted to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat. They didn't get close, but still.

Not all political

Today's lunchtime round-up only had one article about current politics:

Finally, I came across an interview actor Michael Shannon gave Playboy in 2018 that's worth the read.

Travel day!

Today I left the state of Illinois for the first time since January 19th, 259 days ago. It's the longest I've gone without leaving Illinois since I was 3½ years old. And because I drove, I'm continuing to add days to my longest interval without flying. I hope I can fly somewhere before too long.

It wasn't a theoretical crossing of state lines like back in June; today I went into Wisconsin at full speed around 11:30 and left around 5:30, having seen living family, paid respects to dead family, and collected a bag of cheese curds at Mars Cheese Castle.

Regular blogging returns tomorrow.