Category Archives: Politics

Why the Right Hates Voting Rights: An Interview With Ari Berman

Source: Luke Savage, Jacobin, September 6, 2019

Conservatives in the United States know they can’t win on a level playing field — so they’ve started rigging the electoral rules in their favor, democracy be damned.

When the Republican Party recaptured the House in the 2010 midterm elections, it marked not only the end of a relatively brief period of Democratic control but also the beginning of a wider offensive against voting rights that has been underway ever since. By capturing key statehouses in 2010 and in the years that followed, Republicans have been increasingly able to tilt the electoral process in their favor — a strategy that has profoundly affected the results of recent elections and was one of the major backdrops to Donald Trump’s surprise Electoral College victory in 2016.

Jacobin’s Luke Savage sat down with Mother Jones senior reporter Ari Berman to discuss the history of gerrymandering and voter suppression — and the considerable impact both continue to have on the course of US politics.

Death by a Thousand Cuts: The Embattled ACA

Source: Diane M. Soubly, Benefits Law Journal, Vol. 32, No. 2, Summer 2019
(subscription required)

In its first seven years, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), now almost a decade old, decreased the number of uninsured persons who used highly expensive emergency care as primary care and curtailed double digit medical inflation. In the first two years of the Trump Administration, the President, the Executive Branch and Congress have devised ACA’s death by a thousand cuts. As former Solicitor General Donald Verrelli observes at page 2 of the Opening Brief submitted by Intervenor-Appellant The U.S. House of Representatives in the appeal from the Texas district court decision holding ACA unconstitutional, “Despite all that the Act has achieved, its political opponents have made repeated efforts to repeal it or to disable it through litigation.” This article updates employee benefits plan designers and litigators about those continuing efforts in the legal battle for the death of ACA…..

A Constitutional Standard to End Gerrymandering

Source: Alton Frye, PA Times, Vol. 5 no. 1, Spring 2019
(subscription required)

To cure the corruption of gerrymandering, take the profit out of it. The Constitution provides the standard for doing so by specifiying that representatives are to be chosen “by the People of the several States.” That provision followed debate in the convention of 1787 that, according to James Madison’s notes, explicitly rejected the option of empowering state legislatures to choose members of the federal house of representatives. In practice, by asserting authority to draw congressional district lines on a partisan basis, state legislatures have usurped the power vested by the Constitution in the people of the states.

Analysis demonstrates that allocating seats in the House according to the statewide vote of the people would produce a national legislature comparable in partisan balance to the current House, but with much greater equity among the parties at the state level. Applying that constitutional mechanism would rob parties of the advantage sought from gerrymandering and create incentives for the fair redistricting procedures that courts and citizens have long sought. This study illustrates the outcomes that would result, increasing competitiveness in 39 states…..

Spending at Trump Properties

Source: ProPublica, 2019

2020 cycle
Top three spenders (as of July 31, 2019):
Trump Victory – $449,715
Donald J. Trump For President, Inc. – $287,740
Republican National Committee – $154,873

2018 cycle
Top three spenders:
Donald J. Trump For President, Inc. – $3,442,383
Republican National Committee – $1,391,855
America First Action, Inc. – $415,578

2016 cycle
Top three spenders:
Donald J. Trump For President, Inc. – $9,812,319
Trump Victory – $650,715
Republican National Committee – $16,412

How Democrats can win back workers in 2020

Source: Thomas Kochan, The Conversation, August 16, 2019

Labor unions and the workers they represent were once the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.

The 2016 presidential election revealed just how much that has changed. Hillary Clinton lost in key battleground states like Michigan and Wisconsin in part because she took labor support for granted.

A survey my team of labor scholars at MIT conducted about five months after the election showed that most workers feel they lack a voice at their jobs. Many Americans apparently felt that Donald Trump did a much better job than Clinton showing he was on their side and had a plan to help them.

As I watch the 2020 presidential debates, I wonder: Will Democrats make the same mistake? Or will they return to their roots and put the full range of workers’ needs and aspirations front and center in their campaigns?

Some of the candidates vying to be the 2020 nominee have offered plans to support organized labor, but they mainly endorse bills already in Congress to shore up collective bargaining rights. None have offered a clear vision and strategy for assuring workers have a voice in the key decisions that will shape the future of work.

This won’t be enough to give workers the stronger and broader voice at work they are calling for today.

In our 2017 survey, we learned two key things about what workers actually want…..

Voter Purge Rates Remain High, Analysis Finds

Source: Kevin Morris, Brennan Center for Justice, August 1, 2019

Using data released by the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in June, a new Brennan Center analysis has found that between 2016 and 2018, counties with a history of voter discrimination have continued purging people from the rolls at much higher rates than other counties.

This phenomenon began after the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, a decision that severely weakened the protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Brennan Center first identified this troubling voter purge trend in a major report released in July 2018.

Before the Shelby County decision, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to submit proposed changes in voting procedures to the Department of Justice or a federal court for approval, a process known as “preclearance.”

After analyzing the 2019 EAC data, we found:
– At least 17 million voters were purged nationwide between 2016 and 2018, similar to the number we saw between 2014 and 2016, but considerably higher than we saw between 2006 and 2008;
– The median purge rate over the 2016–2018 period in jurisdictions previously subject to preclearance was 40 percent higher than the purge rate in jurisdictions that were not covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act;
– If purge rates in the counties that were covered by Section 5 were the same as the rates in non-Section 5 counties, as many as 1.1 million fewer individuals would have been removed from voter rolls between 2016 and 2018.

The Anti-Public Administration Presidency: The Damage Trump Has Wrought

Source: Charles T. Goodsell, The American Review of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, July 25, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
President Trump and his Administration have gravely damaged the institutions and values of American public administration. Harm has been done to the federal workforce, the policymaking process, the integrity of missions, agencies and programs, and the government’s relation to science.

The Courts Won’t End Gerrymandering. Eric Holder Has a Plan to Fix It Without Them.

Source: Ari Berman, Mother Jones, July/August 2019

While Democrats are fixated on 2020, Holder is fighting for fairer maps in 2021 and beyond. ….

….So Holder is pursuing a new strategy, trying to elect down-ballot candidates who can deliver fairer maps and voting laws. The NDRC invested $350,000 in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, hoping that a liberal majority on the seven-­member court might strike down any egregious gerrymanders in the next round of redistricting in 2021. “I don’t think that 10 years or so ago, you would have a former attorney general campaigning for a state Supreme Court justice,” Holder told me. “This is a recognition on the part of the Democratic Party, on the part of progressives, that we need to focus on state and local elections to a much greater degree than we have in the past.”

But if Democrats are belatedly recognizing this need, few besides Holder are acting on it. He is playing a long game in a party driven by instant gratification and consumed by the mess in the White House. While the party’s presidential contenders are attracting big crowds, donors, and volunteers determined to defeat President Donald Trump in 2020, Holder is focused on 2021…..

Autonomy matters: Insights from U.S. water utility managers on governance structure

Source: Jennifer C. Biddle, Karen J. Baehler, AWWA Water Science, Vol. 1 no. 3, May/June 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Organizational autonomy and insulation from political interference were cited as key attributes of governance influencing managers’ perceptions of utility performance according to 22 U.S. water utility managers. The further removed from direct management by local government, the more likely utilities were to experiment with true‐cost pricing and innovative management strategies that may lead to improved whole‐system performance. In addition, findings from this qualitative study support claims made by water sector professionals of the growing need for a shift in water utility governance systems to adapt to changing conditions and better respond to stressors and shocks. This research is part of a larger study that seeks to contribute to our understanding of which governance features are important for improving water utility sustainability. It also raises important questions for further research into the linkages between governance structure, larger sociopolitical factors, and water system performance.

Local Elections and Representation in the United States

Source: Christopher Warshaw, Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 22, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In recent years, there has been a surge in the study of representation and elections in local politics. Scholars have made progress on many of the empirical barriers that stymied earlier researchers. As a result, the study of representation and elections in local politics has moved squarely into the center of American politics. The findings of recent research show that local politics in the modern, polarized era is much more similar to other areas of American politics than previously believed. Scholars have shown that partisanship and ideology play important roles in local politics. Due to the growing ideological divergence between Democrats and Republicans, Democratic elected officials increasingly take more liberal positions, and enact more liberal policies, than Republican ones. As a result, despite the multitude of constraints on local governments, local policies in the modern era tend to largely reflect the partisan and ideological composition of their electorates.