Blog #104 – – An Incomplete but Useful Inconvenient Sequel


Blog #104 – An Incomplete but Useful Inconvenient Sequel

Al Gore’s continuation of his An Inconvenient Truth is an important contribution to the effort to combat global warming and pay attention to what is and what is not being done to the natural environment by largely unregulated economic development. It is a bit too long, a bit too much Al Gore, but on the whole a striking antidote to climate change denial.

But it has unfortunate weaknesses.

It stresses the human contribution to climate change, but leaves it simply at showing there is such a contribution, and lamenting it. Yet this is perhaps the strongest argument that the deniers raise: admitting there is climate change, but arguing that the human contribution is a minor factor in producing it. Yet at the end there is the admission that, even in the best realistically possible set of public policies, there will be climate change, it can be slowed down but not stopped. That cries out for some facts and figures on the proportional contribution possible from better public and private policies, and leaves open what can be done about the residue that is apparently admitted to be inevitable, regardless of human counter-measures. Even if exactitude is not within reach, at least some orders of magnitude, some reasonable estimates with their biases, would be very helpful.

Even more important, it is woefully inadequate on the political and economic forces that affect public action on that human input. The implicit if hidden analysis is that what is needed is greater understanding of cause and effect, more public education, evidence more convincingly presented of the evils of present policies, and then state actions, appropriate public policies, will follow as the day follows the night. It is, in this way strangely non-political, no doubt to avoid being accused of being “politically motivated.”

But there is a difference between partisan party politics and fundamental recognition of the political/public policy determinants of public decisions. Trump is barely mentioned at the very end, and then simply by showing his name and citing briefly his skepticism. There is little discussion of who benefits and who suffers from the reluctance to confront climate change: only passing reference to oil company profit and power, to the role of lobbying in making the relevant decisions, to the Koch brothers or Citizens United or official scare-mongering about government take-over of private personal choices. It’s not that Gore is ignorant of or unconcerned about all this; it’s that the overwhelming weight of his argument is on understanding, convincing, educating.

The implication is there, if not intended, but insidious: reason will prevail when it is clearly presented. And the clear presentation of reason is surely an important contribution to putting its results into effect. And even the mas protest that Gore properly sees as necessary for change need to be informed by reason in what they do, what they demand, what the protest, what they see as required for change. But, when all I said and done, there are major forces, both economic and political, that are threatened by climate control measures and that profit from activities resulting in climate -changing consequences, that oppose change for very concrete, profit-connected and power-connected reasons. They need to be called out more sharply.

Gore recognizes this, but touches on it only gingerly. We need to confront the realities of power in public decision-making, and the importance of ideologies in undergirding inequalities. If we have to wait till Al Gore convinces Donald Trump “to come to his senses,” we face a bleak future.

The Sequel is sub-titled “Truth to Power.” It needs a second Sequel: “The Truth OF Power.”

APPENDIX

Al Gore on paths to climate change.

“…the pathway to solving the climate crisis is through the building of a massive grassroots army of men and women who will go out there and win the conversation on climate, and persuade businesses, and universities, and towns to switch to renewable energy and to reduce emissions. We’re gonna win this regardless.”
LEE COWAN: When you met with the president-elect at Trump Tower — and I know you don’t want to go into the specifics of the meeting — did you find him receptive, Mr. Trump, to your argument?
AL GORE: I found him attentive, and you can misinterpret that for being receptive. And I think he’s probably pretty good at that as a businessman. But yes, I did think that there was a real chance that he would come to his senses on this.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/al-gore-on-environmentalism-trump-and-solving-the-climate-crisis-full-transcript/

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Blog #101 — Jackie Leavitt – An Ethical Peoples’ Planner


JACKIE LEAVITT: A PEOPLE’S PLANNER, ETHICAL AND PROGRRESSIVE

What was perhaps most unusual about Jackie Leavitt’s professional and political social justice work was the relationship between them and her personal life: how she informed her own work by her lived experience with people, and drew the lessons of that work for socially concerned planners and planning. One of those lessons was that work was only one aspect of life, and should not be used as the defining characteristics of people, characterizing them as individuals simply by what they did, what role they played in society. People were central for her: central in her life, an amazing set of friends and contacts that enriched her life and the lives of those who she touched, and central in her work, in which she never treated the people involved as numbers, as categories to be dealt with according to their position in one hierarchy or another, but as full and unique individuals, to be respected and treated in all their diversity and humanity. Her life illuminates both who planners are and what planners do. One of the outstanding threads in her life, which runs through both who planners are and what they do, is the focus on the humanity of the individuals involved. Both in her

For those on the activist social movement and professional planning end of her work, Jackie had much to offer. Rather than bow to the pressures for “objectivity” and “neutrality” often encountered in academia and professional research, she was clearly politically committed in the best sense of the phrase, to the ideals of social justice and how her work might advance at interest. Start with her conception who of who planners are – and what they are not. They are not simply professionals, servants of whoever employs them or contracts for their services; they are not simply technicians for hire. Their clients , for planners, in their own minds, should be those in need, those poorly served by existing societal arrangements, particularly in day to day urban life, those for whom a deeply felt and thought-through concept of social justices requires priority to be given.
Further, those priorities are the ones that those in need themselves set, to be ascertained by transparent processes in an effective democratic manner. The conception goes beyond the advocacy model suggested by Paul Davidoff, itself a giant step forward for planners hold though it was. It requires planners themselves to think through and espouse the values needed for the improvement of urban life for those ill served by it. Planners, true to the social function they are asked to perform, are ethical persons with ethically-grounded values which they must use in their work.
But planners are technicians as well. They need to know how the urban system works, for whom, how, what alternatives are possible, how they might be shaped. She recognized the dangers of an over-stress on the work of professional planners, the danger that they might become technocrats, seeking technical accomplishments as ends in themselves, efficiency as a goal per se, isolated from their social and particularly distributional consequences.
Jackie was a teacher all her life, and not by accident . She saw students as individuals studying to learn what planning was about, not only how to do it but why to do it, for whom, following what principles. In her consulting work, , she was a teacher as well, not of the techniques of planning as such but of how those techniques might be applied in a manner to promote social justice, to serve those that most needed help in their own pursuit of social justice.
As a feminist planner, Jackie had much to offer for those typically on the receiving end of what activists and planners do. A large part of it was dedicated to changing the relationship between the two: between the activists and professional planners on one side and the intended beneficiaries of their work on the other. She wanted to overcome the separation between the two, to make the targets of the work participants in it, in its direction, in its implementation. Her dissertation, Planning and Women, Women in Planning (1980), provided a critique of “the relationship between the planning profession’s impact on women planners and women planners’ impact on the profession and its products.”
Jackie’s foregrounding the interests of those suffering from social injustice was not one that saw the definition of justice as quantitative, defining it by the level of inequality or the number of the homeless or hungry or ill. How many there were of course relevant concerns, but Jackie saw the poor, the homeless, the sick also as individuals, as human being entitled not only to help but to dignity and respect – and indeed to the power to speak and act for themselves, to determine their own destinies. That led her, willy-nilly (more willy than nilly!) into political controversies, to speaking truth to power, and indeed often helping organize others to do the same effectively on their own behalf. Much of her own research was directly motivated by the desire to gather facts and understand processes that would be useful to those struggling for their rights.
It seems to me that Jackie’s view of planning and who planners are and what they do, requires a redefinition of planning, to see it not only as a professional activity but also as a political one, one serving an actively defined concept of the public interest, one rejecting the concept of professionalism as an entitlement to make decisions as experts for others. Professional planners indeed had a certain technical expertise, but it did not give them the right to set public priorities for others; rather, their skills had to be used within the political processes to make those priorities truly democratic and responsive to the wishes and needs of those most requiring the kinds of governmental actions with which planning today deals. The technical expertise of professional planners needs to be advisory, in a political process in which planners can also legitimately be involved as citizens, but not as themselves decision-makers. Their role is to enlighten the political process, not to dominate it.
All of this had consequences for Jackie’s concern with who planners are. To the extent that planners’ expertise gives them a particular voice in the politics of public decision-making, they should themselves already be a democratically constituted and effectively representative group. Jackie’s first major research project, her dissertation, cited above, had to do with the role of women in planning. Her involvements in various aspects of the civil rights movement since then, including the efforts to expand minority enrolment in planning schools and in the profession, are well known.
Those efforts were part of an over-all view of who planning students were that saw them, not simply as persons who happened for complex reasons to want a degree in some field that looked interesting and would give a decent living, but to see them rather as rounded human beings with hopes and fears searching for meaning in their lives and exploring a career in planning as one option. She understood that they had lives outside of planning, and came into the field with some generally held misconceptions of the role of planners in society, including in particular their power to “fix what’s wrong with cities,” as so many of them had indicated in the applications for admission. And she dealt with them as fully rounded individuals, not as fixed vessels to be filled with the accepted verities of a particular program in which they were enrolled. I recall faculty meetings at Columbia when we were both teaching there in which particular problems of individual students were discussed , in which we all looked to Jackie to tell us what the problem was. She would know whether there was a split up with a boy or girl friend, or a death in the family, or some other particular outside event in their lives that ought to be taken into account in efforts to help them with their academic work. She knew her students as people.
The Community Scholars program that Jackie founded and ran at UCLA seems to me to exemplify ideally what Jackie was about. It took individuals from the community, non-academics but engaged activists dealing with the problems bringing labor and community leaders together with urban planning graduate students to conduct applied research projects. “It embodied her deep commitment to participatory planning, and both brought the university into the community and brought the community into the university,” commented Chris Tilly, IRLE Director and Professor of Urban Planning. [add further description]
Jackie believed deeply that all men and all women were created equal, equal but not the same, equal in deserving the understanding, respect, and dignity of treatment by the society, include recognition and respect for their astounding diversity, wants, and needs. Her work is full of people: taxi drivers, graduate students, undergraduate students, social activists, the homeless, local community-based business people, architects, sociologists, community researchers, housing managers, public housing residents, grass-roots women in the third world, immigrants, home care workers – all not as objects, but as subjects. People to be interviewed, worked with, learned from and taught, individually as well as collectively – and people to be gotten to know as persons, with families, experiences, desires, limits and potentials and contributions to joint efforts and projects.
Looking back at Jackie Leavitt’s life and work, I think we can draw some important conclusions about the educational processes involved in the education of planners? They have to do with the value that hinges on the human relationship between teacher and student, in which the knowledge and experience of the teacher is put at the service of the student, and not made the maser of what is done.
And what conclusions as to the practice of the profession of planning could one draw? That professionalism involves a constant consciousness of the limitations of the knowledge and power of the professional, and requires a human relation between the professional and those affected by the professional’s work, a relationship of equality and mutual respect in which the ethical values of the profession and the democratic relationship manifest in the solidarity between the professionals and the object of their planning becomes one of solidarity and mutual learning, and their work is fully being jointly undertaken/
Jackie Leavitt’s life and work offers some shining examples of these conclusion in action. It deserves to be celebrated, memorialized, –and continued!
Peter Marcuse December 7, 2015

Blog #100 – Competition: What’s Socially Desirable and What Isn’t.


Blog #100 – Competition: What’s Socially Desirable and What Isn’t. ,

In the discussion here , the phrase “winners and losers,” as it is understood in day-to-day exchange by Donald Trump. There are other definitions that are not insidious. Not every competition that has winners and losers is bad.

Sports are the classic example of what can be desirable and healthy competition. It is of the essence of such competition that the competitors go by understood and fair rules, and that they start out as equals, and even as friends, recognizing the outcome as just, and it their earned achievement that is celebrated that is celebrated, not the loss of the losers. That achievement is the greater if the winner’s achievement is narrowly followed by the achievement of the loser – a 10 to 2 victory in a true sport is less noteworthy than a 10-9 victory. Above all, victory in a fair competition should not be used to justify a grossly unequal reward, certainly in the public sector, where winner take all is not a desirable result for a narrow victory. Both the rules of the competition and the reward for success should be democratically determined and agreed. The precise drawing of lines between desirable and undesirable competition and between fair and unfair treatment of winners and losers may be hard to spell out in advance and vary by context, but at the extremes social injustice is usually easily discernible. When, as in so many economic relationships, the winner wins through the exploitation and domination of the loser, winning is nothing to celebrate.

Perhaps one might define the undesirable social uses of “winners and losers” by four criteria:

1. Clearly if in the competition, the winner has started out from a position superior to that of the loser, if the win is the result of violation of the “all men are created equal” rule there is a problem. The examination must then investigate the circumstances that permitted the winner to win; was it by using some unjust advantage that the winner won. If a slight woman loses a weightlifting contest to a heavily-built man, or if the scion or a rich family is able to outbid an-up and-coming but poor architect to win an auction of piece of real estate, then the competition the contest and the winning is undesirable.
2. Has the achievement of the “winners” reduced the achievement of the “losers?” In a one-mile race, if the winner achieves his/her speed in one minute, and others require more than that ,the time the losers achieved is not reduced by the time the winner achieved they are not the slower for the winners speed. The one achievement is not at the expense of the other. In Donald Trump’s world, every real estate transaction in which he engages and “wins” means that someone else has lost, and the lost is the mirror consequence of the win.

3. Is the reward to the winner such that it will deprive the loser of a benefit that it is socially desirable that he or she have? Is the reward a socially desirable good that is in scarce supply, so the winner necessarily deprives the loser of something it is desirable the loser have? A medal for winning a race does not deprive the loser of anything the loser needs or ought to have. However, if the winner gains great wealth or necessary accessibility from winning and the loser is deprived of an adequate income or accessibility because of it, it is competition with an undesirable prize. If there is a housing shortage and inexpensive apartment on a desirable location is torn down and a luxury tower built by a developer that won the competition bidding for the lot on which they are built the competition is undesirable.
4. Has the winner won by unfairly capturing something to which the lower has equal or better claim? Is it the result of a taking by force, or by exploitation in which the winner makes a profit by the exploitation of the labor of the loser? The definition of “unfair” or “equal” claim may then be debated, but if it is a greed taking advantage of a housing shortage to charge a rent unaffordable to the tenant, then the landlord winning the contest for the value of lease is undesirable.

This blog is one of the set:
Blog 98 – The Political Implications of ‘Winning’ and ‘Losing’,
Blog 99 – Social Competition without ‘Winners’ and ‘Losers
Blog 100 – Competition: What’s Socially Desirable and What Isn’t.

Blog #99 – “Winning” – Is It Really Desirable?


**** Blog #99 – “Winning” – Is It Really Socially Desirable? [1]
A society that writes “WINNING” on its banner tramples on any goal of equality. “Winning” in most usages (in Neo-Lib language [2] by definition produces losers; that is its goal. Yet society exists, and governments are created, to implement, the belief that all men are created equal. A leader who revels in winning shows a limited concern for his fellows. Winners win, in real political life, not because of their greater achievements, their greater contribution to the welfare of humanity, their superior morality or service to the public interest, but because of their coincidental fortune in birth, location, timing, greater aggressiveness — yes, their lesser concern for the losers helps. It is the winners who create losers; the losers do not lose voluntarily.

Today’s winners already have excellent health care: health care for all is needed precisely for the losers. The winners already have adequate housing, food, closing, education, recreational opportunities. Social justice, the Declaration of Independence, and the interests of humanity all require that the losers be protected in their claim to the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The goal is not to have more winners, but to have less, indeed no, losers in the exercise of those rights.
In public policy terms, care for losers might be of at least as great, if not more, concern than care for winners.
****
Winning and losing have their place. Not every competition that has winners and losers is bad. Sports are the classic example of what can be desirable and healthy competition. It is of the essence of such competition that the competitors go by understood and fair rules, and that they start out as equals, and even as friends, recognizing the outcome as just, and it their earned achievement that is celebrated that is celebrated, not the loss of the losers. That achievement is the greater if the winner’s achievement is narrowly followed by the achievement of the loser – a 10 to 2 victory in a true sport is less noteworthy than a 10-9 victory. Above all, victory in a fair competition should not be used to justify a grossly unequal reward, certainly in the public sector, where winner take all is not a desirable result for a narrow victory. Both the rules of the competition and the reward for success should be democratically determined and agreed. The precise drawing of lines between desirable and undesirable competition and between fair and unfair treatment of winners and losers may be hard to spell out in advance and vary by context, but at the extremes social injustice is usually easily discernible. When, as in so many economic relationships, the winner wins through the exploitation and domination of the loser, winning is nothing to celebrate.

Perhaps one might define a socially undesirable system fostering “winners and losers” by four criteria:
Clearly if in the competition the winner has started out from a position superior to that of the loser, if the win is the result of violation of the “all men are created equal” rule there is a problem. The examination must then investigate the circumstances that permitted the winner to win; was it by using some unjust advantage that the winner won. If a slight woman loses a weightlifting contest to a heavily-built man, or if the scion or a rich family is able to outbid an-up and-coming but poor architect to win an auction of piece of real estate, then the competition the contest and the winning is undesirable.
Has the achievement of the “winners” reduced the achievement of the “losers?” In a one-mile race, if the winner achieves his/her speed in one minute, and others require more than that, the time the losers achieved is not reduced by the time the winner achieved; they are not the slower for the winner’s speed. The one achievement is not at the expense of the other. In Donald Trump’s world, every real estate transaction in which he engages and “wins” means that someone else has lost, actually or of a potential, and the loss is the mirror consequence of the win.

Is the reward to the winner such that it will deprive the loser of a benefit that it is socially desirable that he or she have? Is the reward a socially desirable good that is in scarce supply, so the winner necessarily deprives the loser of something it is desirable the loser have? A medal for winning a race does not deprive the loser of anything the loser needs or ought to have. However, if the winner gains great wealth or necessary accessibility from winning and the loser is deprived of an adequate income or accessibility because of it, it is competition with an undesirable prize. If there is a housing shortage and inexpensive apartment on a desirable location is torn down and a luxury tower built by a developer that won the competition bidding for the lot on which they are built the competition is undesirable.
Has the winner won by unfairly capturing something to which the lower has equal or better claim? Is it the result of a taking by force, or by exploitation in which the winner makes a profit by the exploitation of the labor of the loser? The definition of “unfair” or “equal” claim may then be debated, but if it is a greed taking advantage of a housing shortage to charge a rent unaffordable to the tenant, then the landlord winning the contest for the value of lease is undesirable.
—————–
[1] This blog was clearly inspired by Donald Trump ’ frequent divsion of people into winners and losers “ “There are two kinds […] of people. Winners aren’t losers. They’re winners … like me [Trump].” https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2015/12/17/kimmel-ghostwrites-book-trump-winners-arent-losers/77468060/
[2] See Blog #102, forthcoming, for Neo-Lib and Alternative meanings of the word.

[For related discussion, see, at : pmarcuse.wordpress.com:
Blog #98 – Winning and Losing as Political Language
Blog #100 – Competition and Socially Desirable Winners and Losers
And, forthcoming, Blog #102 – Neo-Lib Language — The Hidden Politics of Word Usage

Blog 98 – Winners and Losers in Trump’s World


Blog #98 – Winners and Losers in Trump’s World

There are winners and losers in life, says Donald Trump; that’s just the way it is. Everyone can’t be a winner; some people just inevitably have be losers. That’s certainly true of chess, or the javelin throw, in the Olympics, or budding young entrepreneurs in information technology. But is it true of the game of life? Indeed, is life a game? What is at the heart of his appeal to his following is: “You can be rich just like me, you shouldn’t be a loser, stick with me and someone else will be the loser. Is speaking of “winners” and “losers” in the game of life simply an unthinking application of a metaphor, or does it have a practical political meaning when those like Trump use it, a meaning that is heavily conservative and morally and ethically questionable?

I believe using the terms “winner” and “loser ” as Trump uses them is indeed direct and insidious propaganda to justify a particular economic, political and social system in which in the winners, defined as the successful wealthy and powerful, appropriately are entitled to that wealth and power, and the losers may be commiserated with, perhaps even helped out if they have lost too much or been left with too little in the inevitable struggle for survival, but the arrangements that produce winners and losers are simply accepted as inevitable by anyone who is willing to be a realist and not a starry-eyed-idealist. The language is even more insidious when it uses “born losers,” those who are born to lose, who do not lose because of any action of the winners, winners who have no responsibility for the losses of he losers. Winning and losing is a matter for having the right dna. It has nothing to do with justice or fairness.

Challenging a concept such a Trump’s of winning and losing in fact raises critical questions of public policy, of the just distribution of wealth and power, of how values are manipulated, of how the society functions and could function.

“Winners,” in Donald Trump’s sense (from here on that sense is in quotes) describes individuals who have gained at the expense of others, others who have correspondingly really lost –in reality as well as in Trump’s sense of losers “losers,” gamers who are the worse off for having been forced to play the game and surrender something of what they had to the winners .

Winners, in a social justice sense (no quotes) should be those who end up justly better off. If there were social justice which governed who won and who lost, everyone one would be a winner (no quotes) and none would be a loser (no quotes). there would be Losers. As even most honest conservatives today acknowledge, our society is rich enough to provide adequately for all of its members with no one having to suffer because of absolute shortages of goods or services.

“Winners” are socially unjust because their actions are taken at the expense of and with no regard for the consequences for the losers. Losers really lose, although in limited cases losers may gain some disproportionately small benefits accompanying their loss. Clément Théry, for instance, describes the relationship between winners and losers in the housing market as “adversarial bargaining bordering on predation.”
A classic example is the winning/losing relationship between landlords and tenants.

Concretely:

Relationships between landlords and lower-income tenants reflect] asymmetries accompanied by adversarial bargaining bordering on predation. Similar practices exist in other segments of the rental housing market. In low-income minority neighborhoods, they are not marginal, but one of the central forms of economic behavior. [1] Recognition of cliques’ predatory strategies reshapes our understanding of landlord–tenant conflicts, predator and prey, gentrification, and even subsidized housing.” “the incivility of tenant–landlord relationships. Landlords display their unbending forcefulness in pursuing their interests through verbal violence with tenants).” “Predators look for rich, fat objects of prey, not deprived and skinny ones. There are more resources to be seized by preying on a landlord or a bank than by targeting low-income minority tenants.”

A socially just society, as here understood, would be a society in which in reality – that is, under the existing dominant social economic, political and social arrangements of the prevalent society, no one was deprived of their fair share of the resources of society, in which some winning would not have to be to the detriment of others who lose. Such n ideal society of course postulates enough for all, but that is situation which is easily within range of achievement in advanced industrial societies such as Trump’s United States even now, even if spread over all countries on the globe.

This blog is one of the set:
Blog 98 – ‘Winning’ and ‘Losing” n Trump’s World
Blog 99 – “Winning” – Really Desirable?
Blog 100 – Competition and Socially desirable Winners and Losers

Blog #97 – After Exposing the Roots of Homelessness – What?,


Folks,

Perhaps Trummp understands the logic of this also, and that explains why he so staunchly opposes dealing seriously with and really funding any serious social programs in his budget – if you start helping one set of “losers,” you’re going to have to start helping all of them, and what woould that imply…

http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/kVFvD3ZhdmzC5FxaK54C/full

Peter

Blog #95a – Questioning “So-Called President” Donald Trump’s Mandate, Immediate Actions


#95a – Questioning “So-Called President” [1] Donald Trump’s Mandate:
Immediate actions, Long-Term Possibilities, Constitutional Questions.

This blog, and the blog before it, Blog #95 – “Given the Electoral College, who “won” the 2016 Election?” – summarize the findings of Blogs #92a to #95 on “so-called President” Donald Trump’s claim to have won the election as president of the United States, and suggests some Immediately practical reforms of the Election Process in the United States They raise some longer-term issues about the constitutionality of the Electoral College per se, issues whose results in the 2016 election deserve wide discussion. [1a]

IMMEDIATE ACTION POSSIBILITIES.

First and foremost, questions about the legitimacy of the 2016 election process and its results must become matters of wide-spread concern and debate. That means raising in the public debate the question of the legitimacy of Trump’s Electoral College “win,” challenging every boast that Trump or his positions represent a landslide, a majority, a popular consensus, a mandate, etc., every time such claims are made. It is in fact estimated at only 27.2% of all eligible voters at Blog #93.

Watching how the question is formulated is important.

It’s not “What did Trump do to win the Presidency, “ but “what aspect of the Electoral process enabled him to claim that office when he in fact only received a minority of the popular vote in the election for it?”

Nor is “what did Clinton do wrong that cost her the election?” the key question. She in fact got almost three million more votes than the nearest contender for the office. The question is rather, “Why, if Clinton got a significant plurality of all votes cast in the election, did she not get the Presidency?”

And it’s not, “How could Trump convince a majority of the voters of his ultra-conservative agenda,” but “How was it a relatively small proportion of the electorate (my estimate above was 27.2% of those eligible to vote} could impose such an agenda on the rest of the country?”

Perhaps even more important in the public discourse, a recurrent theme among those defending Trump and his policies, and many presumably “neutral” commentators” is that,” after all, he was elected the President of the country, and, whether you agree with him or not, you have to respect that he is the legally chosen representative of the people and must be recognized as speaking for them in what he says and does.” “He got elected; live with it,” goes the line.

But that’s precisely wrong, and runs against across the grain of the whole theory of democratic government Trump is not entitled, now that he has “won the election,” to impose his particular agenda on the country by executive mandate or administrative fiat. On the contrary; he was elected by the
votes of 62,980,160 voters out of a total population of eligible voters of 231,556,622, or 27.2 % of the electorate. He has an obligation to represent all of those 231,556,622, whether they voted for him or not, or didn’t vote at all. [1b]. His voters actually represent a minority of the American citizenry , and in fact not even a plurality of the actual voters.{See Blog #93} He not only has no over-riding mandate behind his policy positions, he in fact has a positive mandate to compromise, to consult, to listen, to bring people together. Supporters or interviewers who are content to stop at, “after all, he’s the President,” mistake how a real democracy functions.

LONGER TERM ACTIONS

Longer term but needing to be kept constantly on the table, is the National Popular Vote proposal (NPV}. It is simple. It would have every state have its Electors in the Electoral College allocate their votes in the same proportion as the national popular vote. If states with a majority of the electoral vote now adopted it, it would guarantee that the Electoral College result would be the same as the national popular vote.[2].

NPV has three big advantages: It is intuitively fairer, more democratic, and is simple and relatively easy to understand. And it does not necessarily favor either major political party today. It has already bi-partisan support in at least 11 states, with more considering it. And it solves the constitutional problem that Electoral College votes are weighted in favor of small states, because however many electoral votes a given state has, they will be cast to accord with the national popular vote result.

And it does not require a Constitutional Amendment to be effective, just agreement of the states having entitled to the majority of Electoral College votes.

It has two disadvantages: It does not solve the plurality/minor parties’ problem. But to do that would complicate the initial reform effort substantially. And it might still permit a plurality to win the Presidency. Only adding even more complicated (although fairer) Proportional voting methods would solve that problem (and be fairer to minor party voters as well), but seems too cumbersome for at least the first effort at reform.

Politically, the National Popular Vote Proposal is however a positive demand, for four reasons:

First, it is both intuitively and logically right. It improves democracy in government, and is likely (although not guaranteed) to advance social justice in its substantive results.

Second, it is a unifying demand, putting the leftish, Sanders wing of the Democratic Party into contact with the mainstream, and facilitating communication and persuasion in on-going political work.

Third, it highlights Trump’s minority support status, accentuating how far he is from a mandate for his policies, how strong the argument is that he must recognize the needs and demands of the majority of the voters in what he does while still in office. And,

Fourth, it is achievable –.it has already been enacted into law in 11 states with 165 electoral vote, and has further been passed by one chamber in 3 Republican and 1 Democratic-controlled legislatures. Only 270 are needed for it to become effective.

Then, a problem with both short and longer term approaches. The proportion of actual voters casting ballots among present and potential voters is strikingly less in the United States than in other developed democratic countries. Part of the reason no doubt lies in the skepticism about the difference it makes, with neither major party offering a break-through in meeting voters’ deepest concerns. But a part of the explanation for the fact that 40% of those eligible to vote did not do so lies also in the obstacles placed in the way of registration to vote in many states, which the courts are partially remedying. Strong national legislation would help.

As this is written, Trump is maintaining that that perhaps 3,000,000 votes, even among the limited numbers actually voting, were illegal. That’s been met with wide-spread incredulity. In fact, if the winner-take-all provision part of the Electoral College voting process, adopted at the discretion of each state, were dropped, the number of actually effective votes might be increased by a least an equal number.

Restoring the “preclearance” provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act,”, requiring with appropriate language, advance approval by a federal court or the Department of Justice for questionable state changes to voting regulations under the Voting Rights Act would surely increase the number of eligible voters significantly, removing inappropriate barriers to participation by many.

And there is a simple non-controversial measure that would undoubtedly be helpful in increasing the number of voters actually voting:

Make Election Day a national holiday

Perhaps even provide that it be a paid holiday in covered employment, as many state laws and some government contracts now provide for sick leave—perhaps by requiring Election Day as a paid holiday under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Like NPV, the call for Election Day as a holiday is simply a good government measure, one that advances democracy, and should not become a partisan political issues. It would surely have a healthy, and progressive, impact both on how many vote and who votes; no one should object to it. And the country is surely rich enough so that it can afford one day a year of less production in the cause of better and more responsive government. And, for that matter , wouldn’t one day less of being required to go to work to make a living advance the quality of life for all our people?

CONSTITUTIONAL QUESTIONS

The constitutional questions surrounding the Electoral College are fundamental questions.
Article I of the Constitution as first adopted, provided

Article I

“…in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote.” [2a]

It has been almost unanimously implemented through state action since then to provide that the votes of a state shall be that resulting from a winner-take-all count, i.e. a state’s one vote shall be for whoever gets a plurality of that state’s votes,. Thus the votes of all losers in the state’s votes are disregarded in determining who has won the final vote in the Electoral College.[3]

But the Twelfth Amendment, Article II, adopted in 1804, provides:

Article II
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
Under that provision all states have, a least since 1824, adopted a winner take all election procedure [4]. Its effect, of course, is to make the minority votes in any state irrelevant in the final count for Electors. While it might seem unfair to any party coming in second in any individual state’s race, any party winning a plurality will appreciate the rule, and thus, since winning parries make the rules it has apparently remained unchallenged over time.
But winner-take-all does seem to abridge the rights of a substantial number of voters in any Presidential election, and arguably to violates the intent of the 15th amendment.[3]
So the U.S. Constitution does not mandate that system, however. Instead, it is left up to the states to determine how they select their representatives in the Electoral College, and the states have followed the winner-take-all arrangement without serious challenged since its adoption in 1804. For the first 13 presidential elections, spanning the first four decades of the history of the United States, states experimented with many different electoral system. By 1836, all but one state, South Carolina, uses the winner-take-all method based on the statewide popular vote to choose its electors. South Carolina continues to have its legislature choose electors until after the Civil War. [4]

The Fifteenth Amendment, passed during Reconstruction, contradicts , in spirit if not in terms, this Electoral College provision. Adopted in 1870, it reads:
Amendment XV
Section 1.
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Section 2.
The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation

In adopting the 15th Amendment, the intent was to grant all citizens, including the recently liberated black slaves, a full “unabridged” right to vote, implicitly with a vote equal to that of all other voters. The Electoral College procedure favoring some voters over others {See Blog #94} distorted – abridged — that result. If 65,845,063 Clinton voters in the 2016 popular election had their vote discounted by 29% [See #blog 95} compared to the vote of the 62,980,160 Trump voters there is clearly something wrong. Such a discounting is an “abridgement” of their right to vote, in the terms of the 15th Amendment.

But it did not make any practical difference in the outcome then, and when it much later did, the 15th Amendment argument seems not to have been made to challenge it.

It might be argued that the language of the 15th Amendment created a class of particularly protected citizens: “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” and that category of voter is not affected by the current procedures in either the national popular vote nor the votes in the Electoral College. But it should not be hard to demonstrate factually that those whose votes have been abridged in 2016 by the Electoral College winner-take –all system were indeed disparately voters who individually or as a group were disparately of a particular race and had suffered then or earlier by conditions of servitude of members of the group.. The minority voters, many of the 65,845,063 Clinton voters, were in a minority in their states although in a majority in the national vote, should be entitled to the protection of this language of the 15th Amendment

The Fourteenth Amendment’s language, with its equal protection language, does not single out any particular group for special protection, but applies to all. Its reach protects “citizens of the United States” and extends to “any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.”
While not directly referencing voting rights it contains a broad edict:

Amendment XIV, Article I

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The Supreme Court ruled in Bush vs. Gore.

Having once granted the right to vote on equal terms, the State may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person’s vote over that of another. See, e.g., Harper v. Virginia Bd. of Elections, 383 U. S. 663, 665 (1966). “…once the franchise is granted to the electorate, lines may not be drawn which are inconsistent with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment”.”[5]

Ironically, Donald Trump himself left the door open to a challenge of the legitimacy of the results of the ‘Electoral College vote when, in the course of the election campaigning Ohio, he flatly refused to commit himself to respect the vote, whatever it would be. Trump told supporters that “the bottom line is we’re going to win.” He would “accept a clear election result,” but he would also “reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result.[6] Presumably, if he were to consider rejecting the vote of the Electoral College because it was rigged, he would object whether the rigging was in his favor or in Clinton’s. He simply wanted to reserve the right to challenge the results when the appropriate time came.

The public needs to engage with these questions, and the courts and the legislature should now be asked to address them directly. Until they are resolved, a dark cloud will hang over any claim of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States.

————————-

[1] I would never have thought it appropriate to use this phrase had not Trump himself spoken of the recent decision of Federal District judge Roberts of the Federal District Court in Washington state, with which he disagreed, as the decision of ”this so-called judge.” It may however not be inappropriate in this case; see our conclusion below.
[1a] The six most relevant recent blogs, all at pmarcuse.wordpress.com, are:
#91 – Explaining the Election in 10 Sentences – Preliminary
#92a – Electoral Reform: Outing the 1%
# 93 – Election Figures Show Trump with Only 27.2% of Eligible Voters-What Mandate?
#94 – In What Ways is the Electoral College Illegitimate Today? #95 – Given the Electoral College, who “won” the 2016 Election
#95a – Questioning “So-Called President Donald Trump’s Mandate+
[1b]https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1VAcF0eJ06y_8T4o2gvIL4YcyQy8pxb1zYkgXF76Uu1s/edit#gid=2030096602 https://twitter.com/totalogic
[2} http://www.nationalpopularvote.com.
[ 2a] Somewhat ambiguous language, but interpreted as meaning all the Electors from each state share one vote, that plurality in that state’s vote, and it shall be for both President and Vice President, so that those two offices will be filled by the same party..
[3] See “The Equal Protection Argument Against Winner Take All in the Electoral College: The Constitution doesn’t require the Electoral College to count votes the way it traditionally has”. By Lawrence Lessig | December 12, 2016,, available at http://billmoyers.com/story/equal-protection-argument-winner-take-electoral-college/ and Blog #94,“In What Ways is the Electoral College Illegitimate Today
[4] http://www.fairvote.org/how-the-electoral-college-became-winner-take-all.
[5] http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/531/98.html
[6] http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/10/20/donald-trump-election-results-debate-hillary-clinton/92450922/