2016 Elections / Hampton Roads / Local / National / Politics / Race / Virginia

The times, they are a-changin’

dylanTo say I was floored by the election results last week would be an understatement. Only in the last 24 hours have I truly been able to articulate why I am so devastated by Hillary Clinton’s loss. My first reactions were simply to how this affected me personally. But as I have gotten out of the fog, I see clearly that almost all of us are affected.

Being a triple minority – black, female and gay – in a society that values none of those things has always meant my life is a challenge. No matter where I turn, daily I face discrimination in some form. I’ve never allowed it to stand in the way of trying, though, to be the best and to do my best. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t felt a growing fear for my personal safety, one born from witnessing the increasing acts of violence towards minorities, women and the members of the LGBT+ community. It has changed my habits, right down to how I drive my car.

electionmap16Since Tuesday, the acts of violence have shaken me to my core. I have always believed – and have said it publicly – that Democrats and Republicans alike want what is best for our country; the difference between the two is how we get there. I’m sorry to say that I no longer believe that to be the case. The radical alt-right has taken over the Republican Party and, due to the support of those who put party before country and who value wins over everything else, the inmates have been let out of the asylum.

Let me be very clear: I do not believe that all members of the Republican Party are racist, sexist, homophobic xenophobes. But far too many of them have remained silent in the face of racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia, so they are getting tarred with the same brush as those who are.

Our country has never dealt with the issue of race and racism. “Progress” only meant it was no longer acceptable to say nigger in public – not that people didn’t say it under their breath. (And not just black rappers, either, whose use of the term, by the way, I’ve always condemned.) The death of black men and women at the hands of the police who are then not held accountable for those deaths means that black lives are always worth less than white ones. You bet I’m careful when I drive, lest I become another statistic.

Our country has never dealt with the issue of sexism, either. Lip service has been paid to women being equal – but we still earn way less than men for doing the same job. The standards for us are different in every way, from how we dress, to how we speak. Yes, women have to do the same as men – just backwards and in high heels.

hpp_gayAnd no, our country hasn’t dealt with LGBT+ issues, either. Marriage equality may be the law of the land – for now. But there are still too many incidences of crimes being committed against members of our community. Sorry, but being gay is not a choice. Conversion therapy won’t cure it.

Yes, the inmates have been let out. Cultivated during the campaign, they are emboldened to commit acts of violence against anyone who is not them. Just because they haven’t targeted you yet doesn’t mean they won’t. I can’t count how many times have I thought of Martin Niemöller over this past week.

So yes, Trump’s election presents a clear and present danger to me. But there’s more to it than that. Come January, Republicans will have control of the executive and legislative branches, with the judicial branch not far behind. Already, House Speaker Paul Ryan is talking about eliminating Medicare – as soon as next year. Privatization of Social Security won’t be far behind. Republicans will immediately get one SCOTUS judge but there’s a good chance for one, if not two, more in the next 4 years. Say goodbye to Roe and Obergefell if that happens.

How in the hell did we get here?

You see, Republicans and Democrats have been playing a different political game. Republicans have looked at the long term, slowly putting into place that which came to fruition last week. Democrats simply lack the vision to think long term. This is something I’ve been harping on privately for years – but hey, ain’t nobody listening to me because I ain’t nobody.

Taking the long-term view led to:

  • The overturning of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which led to
  • Voting restrictions, including Voter ID laws, a reduction in early voting (NC, for example), and the closure of at least 868 polling locations (pdf), which led to
  • Narrow losses in a handful of states for Democrats.

Don’t even think about blaming Clinton’s loss on fewer black voters. That’s not even close to where the problem lies.

Republicans would not have been able to do what they did without them having control at the state level. Democrats, who barely turn out for Congressional mid-term elections, often ignore state elections. Come January, Republicans will control 32 state legislatures, just 6 short of the 3/4ths of states needed to ratify constitutional amendments.

Are you scared yet?

redistrictingeffectsRepublican control of state legislatures is why gerrymandering is so prevalent. (And yes, the Democrats did it, too. But yesterday’s Democrats and Republicans are nothing like today’s.) I’ve been talking about redistricting on this site almost since I started blogging more than 10 years ago. Many states, including Virginia, leave redistricting – for both state legislatures and for Congress – in the hands of the legislature. They pick us, instead of us picking them.

redistrictingvacourtorderedJust look at the Congressional contests in Virginia. Yes, Democrats picked up a seat – but only because the court redrew the lines affecting five of our 11 congressional districts. In doing so, though, the court continued something about which I wrote in 2008:

Racial gerrymandering – the packing of as many blacks into as few districts as possible – has aided the cause of Republicans as they have taken over state legislative seats and majorities throughout the South. As the result, … only two types of Democratic legislators remain: conservative whites who distance themselves from the national party and young minorities elected from the majority-minority districts.

I happen to live in one of those districts – the 2nd – which became more red. (The 3rd is also in there – but it was so damn blue that even making it more red will have no effect.) For years, the 2nd was relatively even, but in making the 4th more winnable for Democrats – by including more minorities – the 2nd may be out of Democrats’ hands forever. No offense to the candidate who ran this year, but Democrats basically conceded the seat from the beginning. They put no resources in at all.

Which leads me to perhaps my biggest concern: Democrats have done nothing to build a bench. In fact, they have done pretty much everything to not build one. Part of this has to do with the aversion of electeds to growing their own competition, but another – bigger – part of it is structural. There is nothing in place to identify, much less support, the next group of elected officials. Why is it that every time there is an open seat, the Republicans have multiple candidates but the Democrats have one? Or none?  It’s a phenomenon that occurs at every level – local, state and national. This building of a bench was something that Howard Dean had right: his 50-state strategy was dead on. And it’s basically been dead since November 2008.

There are no easy answers to what we are facing going forward. Yes, Virginia, we have elections next year. And while I’m hopeful Democrats can retain the top three offices – Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General – the likelihood of loss is real.

electoralcollegeissue~

One other thing that has bugged me is all this dumping on the Electoral College. (As one of Virginia’s 13 electors, I will be proudly casting my vote for Hillary come December 19th.) The problem isn’t the Electoral College but the House of Representatives. It is time to expand the number of members there.

As shown in the graphic to the right, states with smaller populations essentially have more power than those with larger populations. This is due to the way the Electoral College votes are allocated: one per congressional district plus one for each Senator. According to the linked article:

When Congress last increased the size of Congress in 1912 (setting aside temporary expansions for the admission of states), each representative had just over 200,000 constituents.

Today a representative answers to over 700,000 constituents …

Although the Electoral College vote has only overruled the popular vote five times in our history, the fact that it has happened twice in less than 20 years (2000 and 2016) is cause for concern. Ours is not a direct democracy; nevertheless, having the popular vote overridden is an issue. If we had more members in the House, it would reduce the likelihood of such a thing occurring again. (Plus there’s the added benefit of minimizing gerrymandering!) Yes, I know this is a long shot, but I don’t see its odds being any worse than eliminating the Electoral College or overturning Citizens United.

 

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3 thoughts on “The times, they are a-changin’

  1. We are of the same political persuasions. But I will say that your analysis of what is happening at the state level is correct – gerrymandering which puts Dems at a disadvantage. But the lack of a message was a real low point. Hillary being the anti-Trump wasn’t enough for a lot of people. She seemed more in touch with the elites and the steering of the primaries towards her by the political top also alienated a lot of voters and emboldened voters who were tired of that sort of thing. I think the Trump shaming and the labeling of people of conservative beliefs as bigots made voters in the Midwest resentful and emboldened. Until this stops, look for the GOP to continue to dominate elections.

    One other note, dont you think Elizabeth Warren would have energized the ticket? That little nudge may have pulled her over the finish line. Tim Kaine just fell flat.

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