Category Archives: Politics

Can Geometry Help Fix Our Political System? Mathematicians Invite Public To Fight Gerrymandering

Source: Carol Zall, WBUR, August 4, 2017

A group of Boston-based mathematicians calling themselves the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group are using their math superpowers to fight back against gerrymandering.

They’re holding a public event, the Geometry of Redistricting workshop, which begins on Monday. The workshop will feature lectures on legal and mathematical topics related to gerrymandering, as well as hands-on sessions on how to use open-source mapping software to redraw voting districts.

The connection between math and gerrymandering may not be obvious at first, but gerrymandering is (in part) about manipulating the shapes of voting districts — and who knows more about shapes than geometry experts? ….

The Congressional Map Is Historically Biased Against Democrats

Source: David Wasserman, FiveThirtyEight, August 7, 2017

When Democrats think about their party’s problems on the political map, they tend to think of President Trump’s ability to win the White House despite losing the popular vote and Republicans’ potent efforts to gerrymander congressional districts. But their problems extend beyond the Electoral College and the House: The Senate hasn’t had such a strong pro-GOP bias since the ratification of direct Senate elections in 1913.

Even if Democrats were to win every single 2018 House and Senate race for seats representing places that Hillary Clinton won or that Trump won by less than 3 percentage points — a pretty good midterm by historical standards — they could still fall short of the House majority and lose five Senate seats.

This is partly attributable to the nature of House districts: GOP gerrymandering and Democratic voters’ clustering in urban districts has moved the median House seat well to the right of the nation. Part of it is bad timing. Democrats have been cursed by a terrible Senate map in 2018: They must defend 25 of their 48 seats1 while Republicans must defend just eight of their 52. ….

For First Time, Millennials And Gen X Were A Majority Of Electorate In 2016

Source: Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR, July 31, 2017

Political strategists, take note: For the first time, millennials and Gen Xers outvoted their elders in 2016, according to data from the Pew Research Center. Fully 69.6 million millennials (defined as people who were 18 to 35 in 2016) and members of Generation X (ages 36 to 51) cast votes in 2016, according to a Pew analysis of data from the Census Bureau. By comparison, 67.9 million baby boomers and members of older generations voted. This is the culmination of a steady march of the young electorate slowly catching up to the middle-aged and elderly electorates in terms of size.

Related:
Millennials and Gen Xers outvoted Boomers and older generations in 2016 election
Source: Richard Fry, Pew Research Center, Fact Tank, July 31, 2017

How to Engage in Activism Over Congress’ August Recess

Source: Brittney McNamara, Teen Vogue, July 31, 2017

This is how to make the most of August and make your voice heard. …. Much has been happening on Capitol Hill in recent months, but come August, Congress and the Senate are to take a break. Legislators will be heading home, away from the Senate or House floor in Washington D.C., where they’ve been debating health care and the nation’s budget. But just because your legislators likely won’t be spending their break in D.C. doesn’t mean they’re breaking from politics all together — or that you have to. This August, the Indivisible Project and NextGen America have partnered up to make sure you’re equipped with the skills to make your voice heard during the recess. In a series of five videos, the two social justice organizations provide a toolkit for August. Whether you’re not sure where to start with activism while legislators are away from D.C. or you already have a game plan, these key accountability tactics will help make sure you’re getting your point across in a powerful way. …..

Labor’s Bill of Rights

Source: Shaun Richman, The Century Foundation, July 18, 2017

….What You Should Know
• Less than 10 percent of Americans currently hold union membership (compared to over one-third of the workforce in the 1950s).
• Lack of worker representation has resulted in today’s stunning income inequality, wage stagnation, continued wage discrimination against women, tens of millions of Americans working for sub-poverty-level wages, and widespread gaps in basic health, retirement, and family leave benefits.
• Pro-union labor law reform has been largely unachievable since the 1935 passage of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)—which Congress has instead twice amended to severely restrict workers’ rights, such as their ability to engage in solidarity activism.
• Currently, labor rights are technically rooted in Congress’ authority to regulate interstate commerce. In reality, labor law regulates fundamental constitutional rights. By considering impact on commerce before fundamental civil rights, labor law frequently violates workers’ constitutional rights.

Simply put, unions are hampered by rules that would never be applied to corporations, or to any other form of political activism…..

….This report will outline the below ten rights which, together, constitute Labor’s Bill of Rights:
• The Right to Free Speech
• The Right to Self Defense and Mutual Aid
• The Right to Strike
• The Right to Organize Free from Unreasonable Search and Seizure
• The Freedom From Taking Away Union Fees
• The Right to Not Be Locked Out for Exercising Labor Rights
• The Right to a Job
• Freedom from Cruel and Unusual Regulation
• The Right to Make Demands and Bargain Freely
• Powers Not Exercised by Unions Are Reserved to Workers Who Act in Concert….

Democrats Are Trying to Win the 2018 Midterms in All the Wrong Ways

Source: Steve Phillips, The Nation, July 18, 2017

If there are 7 million Obama-to-Trump voters, why didn’t Trump’s vote total increase by 7 million? …. It is quite possible that Democrats are going to spend nearly $1 billion trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. By buying into a myth about why they lost in 2016, they are ignoring the underlying math about what really happened—misspending huge amounts of money, while setting themselves up to lose again in the critical contests to come. ….

Related:
The Circular Firing Squad Isn’t Amusing Anymore
Source: Danny Goldberg, The Nation, July 19, 2017

The left is tearing itself apart. …. In order to have any chance of reversing the right-wing trends that began in the Reagan years, mainstream Democrats and progressives have to find ways to disagree without destroying the ability to accomplish their shared goals. Theories and tribalism must be subordinate to knowable or probable policy effects on the most vulnerable, on the 99%, and on the planet. …. False choices are a luxury that must be jettisoned. It is neither rational nor helpful to ignore misogyny as a factor in the demonization of Hillary Clinton (and for that matter Nancy Pelosi). Sexism is still a thing. On the other hand, Obama and Clinton partisans need to acknowledge that the vast majority of Bernie Sanders voters were not motivated by his gender but by his articulation of positions that they felt were an inspiring departure from the constricted political playing field of recent years. ….

The Real Voter Fraud

Source: Zachary Roth, New Republic, July 18, 2017

As Trump investigates “millions” of illegal votes, states are rushing to limit access to the ballot box. …. As president, Trump has refused to let go of his unhinged claim that “millions” of people voted illegally last November—and has used his unsubstantiated accusation of voter fraud to lay the groundwork at the federal level for a new round of voting restrictions. Republican legislators from New Hampshire to Texas are also moving swiftly to enact a wave of new laws that would make it harder to cast a ballot. Since January, according to a recent report by the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 99 bills to restrict voting rights have been introduced in 31 states. ….