Monday, April 18, 2016

Is There A Politician In Either Party As Devious As Debt Trap Debbie Wasserman Schultz?


Long before she was ever appointed DNC chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz was widely considered one of the most dishonest and sleazy players in American politics. Watch, in the video above, how she extolled the virtues of debates... and then refused to answer a question from a reporter about why she is refusing to debate her primary opponent, Tim Canova. She's a reprehensible character who disgraces the entire concept of democratic government. (Please consider contributing to Canova's grassroots campaign to defeat her. Bernie supporters can do it here and Hillary supporters can do it here; what's it important is that Wasserman Schultz be removed from Congress, the same way Republican voters in Virginia improved the country by removing Eric Cantor from politics.

On Meet the Press yesterday, she was asked if she agrees with Bernie-- a candidate she has used her perch at the DNC to sabotage since he first announced he was running-- that there is too much money in politics. She carefully parroted the party line: "We agree as a party that there is an obscene amount of money in politics. We need to make sure that we can keep elections that-- like we did with changing congressional districting and redistricting across the country-- that voters can choose their representatives and that we don't have outside undue influence come in and swoop in and, uh, make decisions on behalf of the majority of voters." No one mentioned that between 2004 and 2014, 6 races where she had virtually no opposition and no opponent ever reached 40%, she spent $12,419,504 on reelection campaigns.

One of the early indications of Wasserman Schultz's corrupt nature came when she was still a state senator in Florida and she worked with the Republicans to draw one of the ugliest gerrymandered electoral maps anywhere in America, a map that unfairly gave the Republicans two extra seats in return for Wasserman Schultz being able to draw what amounted to nearly an all-Jewish district for the seat she would soon be running in. She has always been known as someone who would throw the Democratic Party under the bus to get even the slightest advantage for herself-- which is why Nancy Pelosi rejected her as the DCCC chair after Chris Van Hollen's catastrophic regime and gave the position to Steve Israel, a far duller and dumber member than Wasserman Schultz. Israel and Wasserman Schultz always try to deflect blame away from their own corruption and incompetence by blaming the Democratic Party's losses in congressional elections on gerrymandering, even though both have played reprehensible roles in the art of the gerrymander.

This morning Ian Millhiser, reporting for Think Progress explains how two academics may have come up with the formula to break the hold of the thoroughly corrupted a party elite on the gerrymander process. He wrote that "In a paper published in the University of Chicago Law Review last year, law professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos and political scientist Eric McGhee propose a mathematical formula judges can use to identify suspect maps. This formula is now the subject of a federal lawsuit, Whitford v. Nichol, which has survived two motions, submitted by defenders of Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn maps, that sought to kill the case. Moreover, because of a quirk of federal law, the case is overwhelmingly likely to wind up in the Supreme Court."
Stephanopoulos and McGhee’s central insight is that gerrymanders operate by forcing the disadvantaged party to “waste” votes. Some voters are shunted into districts where their party’s candidate has no chance of winning, a process known as “cracking.” Others are crammed into districts that so overwhelmingly favor their party’s candidate that casting an additional ballot for that candidate merely adds padding to a foregone conclusion, a process known as “packing.” “A gerrymander,” Stephanopoulos and McGhee write, “is simply a district plan that results in one party wasting many more votes than its adversary.”

To sniff out possibly gerrymanders, Stephanopoulos and McGhee begin by counting each party’s “wasted” votes. As the three-judge panel hearing the Whitford case explained in a recent opinion, a wasted vote occurs when a voter either casts a ballot “for a candidate who lost the election” (suggesting that the voter was targeted by cracking), or if they cast a ballot “for the winning candidate, but in excess of what the candidate needed to win” (suggesting that the voter was packed).

As Stephanopoulos and McGhee note, some number of wasted votes are inevitable in elections involving single-member districts. But a fair map should produce roughly equal numbers of wasted votes for both parties. To determine which maps diverge too far from the ideal, the two scholars offer a metric they call the “efficiency gap,” which is calculated by taking the difference of the two parties’ wasted votes and then dividing it by the total number of votes cast. The plaintiffs in Whitford (speaking through a team of lawyers that includes Stephanopoulos) offer an example of how to calculate this figure in their complaint:
Suppose, for example, that there are five districts in a plan with 100 voters each. Suppose also that Party A wins three of the districts by a margin of 60 votes to 40, and that Party B wins two of them by a margin of 80 votes to 20. Then Party A wastes 10 votes in each of the three districts it wins and 20 votes in each of the two districts it loses, adding up to 70 wasted votes. Likewise, Party B wastes 30 votes in each of the two districts it wins and 40 votes in each of the three districts it loses, adding up to 180 wasted votes. The difference between the parties’ respective wasted votes is 110, which, when divided by 500 total votes, yields an efficiency gap of 22% in favor of Party A.
An efficiency gap of more than 7 percent, these plaintiffs claim, is indicative of a partisan gerrymander. When combined with evidence that the state acted intentionally to give one party an advantage, they argue that courts should presume that a map that produces such a high efficiency gap is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

The genius of this “efficiency gap” is twofold. First off, it offers what Justice Kennedy described as a “workable standard”-- an objective test that can be used by judges across the country to sort suspect maps from permissible ones. A hundred different judges can examine the same maps and, provided that they are all skilled at arithmetic, all reach identical conclusions about which maps fall within an acceptable range and which ones should be presumed to be unconstitutional.

The second advantage of Stephanopoulos and McGhee’s method is somewhat counterintuitive, but may be necessary to swing Kennedy’s vote. “[T]here is no constitutional requirement of proportional representation,” the justice wrote in League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry, suggesting that he may reject a formula that seems to command states to draw maps that will guarantee that a party with 55 percent of the vote will win 55 percent of the legislative seats. In a phone conversation with ThinkProgress, Stephanopoulos also expressed concern that a legal standard that placed proportional representation on a platform would not fare well in court.

Indeed, when a party gains one percent of the vote share in a given state, they typically receive more than one percent more representation in the state legislature-- a phenomenon Stephanopoulos described as a “winner’s bonus.”

To understand why this winner’s bonus exists, imagine a hypothetical state with 1,000 voters all divided evenly into ten districts. Imagine as well that each district is evenly split between the two major parties-- thus they each contain 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. Now imagine that ten additional voters, all Republicans, move to this state. Each district where at least one of the new voters decides to make a home will become a Republican district, and if the ten voters evenly distribute themselves throughout the state, every district in the state will become a Republican district, even though the GOP’s overall advantage in the state’s total population is minuscule.

...The fact that two Republican appointees believe that Whitford deserves a full trial suggests that some conservative justices, like Kennedy, might be convinced that Stephanopoulos and McGhee have found the solution to the problem of partisan gerrymandering. Moreover, though the Supreme Court normally has discretion to turn away cases it does not want to hear, it has far less ability to ignore cases heard by three-judge district courts. So even if Kennedy (or, for that matter, a newly constituted Court that could soon include Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland) would prefer not to wade into the fraught waters of partisan gerrymandering, it is far from clear that he’ll be able to avoid doing so.

Should the Whitford plaintiffs prevail, moreover, they could completely upend the results of the next several elections. Currently, many states’ maps are so severely gerrymandered that the winners and losers in many districts are predetermined. Consider six swing states where Obama prevailed in 2012, but where Republicans captured commanding majorities in the state’s U.S. House delegation at least in part due to gerrymandering:

If these maps remain in place, it is not literally impossible for Democrats to win a majority in the House, but it sure won’t be easy. Whitford, in other words, could potentially restore a world where both parties have a fair shot to capture majorities in Congress and, with that, gain the power to actually pass legislation.
Anything that removes concentrated political power from the hands of self-serving party bosses like Wasserman Schultz and Paul Ryan has got to be seen as a step in the right direction for the country. But... just in case, please do consider making a contribution to Tim Canova's campaign to get rid of her at the polls this summer:
Goal Thermometer

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At 11:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While this is a different blog post, this really does matter to me so I'll say it again.

If you want to hate Hillary for being a war-hawk or a corporatist go right ahead. I'm fine with that, but Sanders' record on LGBT issues is not really better than the Clintons.

Aravosis has a list of the good things Bill did for LGBT people while president here:

Aravosis doesn't even talk about the pro-LGBT things Hillary did after the 1990s. She marched in gay prides every year in NY. As secretary of state she gave full benefits to gay employees of the state department. She also made way easier for trans people to change the gender on their passports to reflect their true gender as secretary of state (and these were things she chose to do--not something Obama ordered her to do):

Again, attack Hillary all you want for being hawkish & corporatist, but she & her husband did a lot for LGBT people.


And Bernie Sanders was not & never has been anti-LGBT. It's simply the case that he understood what was possible the the 1990s & early 2000s & was as much an advocate as possible.

At 8:13 PM, Blogger blanche deveraux said...

Jesus stfuuuuuuuu

At 8:13 PM, Blogger blanche deveraux said...

Jesus stfuuuuuuuu

At 8:57 PM, Anonymous mcarson said...

I was wondering if it would help to use zip codes as a basis for district maps. It seems like if the basic unit for districting was zip codes then you could allow 2 districts to share a zip code to even out on the edges, but you couldn't have the 15 mile long freeway district like they do in Florida. The other idea would be a version of how you have 2 kids cut a cake, one cuts and the other gets first pick of the pieces. What if the legislature picked people overseeing redistricting by letting the Republicans pick the Democratic panel members, and the Democrats pick the Republicans. Each party would have an incentive to pick rational members of the opposite party, you'd want moderates all around if you could get them.


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