Kunstler asks “where are America’s leaders?”

Summary: In this chapter of my podcast with James Howard Kunstler, we discuss America’s leadership. Dysfunctional leadership is the core of our national weakness. This is one of the most interesting discussions I have had in many years. It provides a great introduction to the FM website’s themes.

Monument to Simon Bolivar in Washington DC
ID 60033640 © Emkaplin | Dreamstime.

Are these the Crazy Years in America?
— Looking at America’s leadership.

Part 2 of a podcast interview by James Howard Kunstler.
KunstlerCast 322 is posted with his generous permission.

Kunstler is a skilled interviewer, and led our discussion into some fascinating areas. I will be using some of his insights in future posts. This is a cleaned-up transcript of the second quarter of the podcast, with links added for more information.

 

JHK – I had an interesting conversation a few hours ago with an old friend of mine. One of the things you’re talking about was the interesting and strange vacuum of leadership in America. That would seem to be a companion problem to the failure of institutions. People of real standing won’t come forward and take a role in the Republic. Look at the Democratic Party’s candidates for president now!

I prefer to look at this in terms of supply and demand. We want clowns, info-tainment. I have a post about one of the big insights – understanding how our politics relates to our class structure. The one percent own most of America. There is the Inner Party, the rich and the executives, who are our leaders. The Outer Party is the vast middle class, the professionals and small business owners that run America according to our leaders’ policies.

The Outer Party – the middle class, only wants entertainment – not political responsibility but the feeling of involvement (engagement) without doing anything. Then there are the proles (the “blue-collar” working class) and the underclass. They watch sports and do drugs and booze to get through each day. Once you see this is the schema, you can’t expect anything good from it.  {See this post for more about new social classes.}

We do not want a Lincoln. If John Kennedy returned and said “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” – we wouldn’t give him 12 votes.

JHK – One of the things that has impressed me from watching Congressman Schiff’s Intel Committee impeachment hearings is that we seem to have this weird wish to control the Ukraine absolutely. That the State Department has become kind of an alternative government for Ukraine without anybody really saying anything about it. There seems to be a great deal of resentment that we were not allowing the State Department to run Ukraine instead of Ukraine running itself.

The American empire is a wonderful example of how our system has gone completely bonkers. Empires have existed throughout history. They are wonderful – for the people running the empire. Look at Britain’s looting of India. What a party! In America, we have an empire. As you can see on its frontiers, like all empires it seeks to expand. Ukraine is a frontier. It obsesses us now much as during the English empire’s growth they were obsessed with Afghanistan. You can say who cares? The people running the empire care. The American empire is special because it is unprofitable to the nation. It costs us money. Every aspect of our society is becoming dysfunctional. We can’t even make a buck from our empire. {See this post about our mad Empire.}

JHK – Yeah that’s amazing because the British Empire did get a lot from its colonies. We’re not getting anything except a lot of mischief, trouble, and cost.

Yes. The imperial machinery is a method for extracting money. Not from the foreigners we rule, but from us. It extracts money from us to funnel to the 1% through the defense contractors and such. It is a parasite on us.

JHK – Speaking of that, you live out in the heart of fly-over land – in the Midwest, in one of the cities of Iowa. Tell us how that is manifesting in fly-over land, as you see it.

I came here from San Francisco and was astonished to find out how liberal Iowa’s cities are. Also, I am astonished at how homogeneous this country has become. In my career, working inside the giant financial institutions, I traveled to almost every large city in America. This was back in the 1980s. They were fairly diverse. I come to Iowa and find that it’s not much different than California. It is not as leftist, but it’s very liberal. When I drive through this town it looks similar to a town in the San Francisco Bay Area. The American  Mixmaster has created a fairly uniform culture – and it’s an increasingly leftist dominated. The centers for conservative power in this country are the towns and small cities that are dying. They are the old people that are dying in the congregation of the mainline Protestant churches, that are themselves dying.

JHK –  I think you’re saying that you’re seeing a certain amount of dynamism at there as well.

Oh yeah, absolutely. Iowa is having a little growth boom from the exodus of people like myself from California and Illinois. This is a major trend that I expect to shape America in the next decade or so: the collapse of many leftist dominated urban areas. I don’t mean collapse to “Road Warrior” “Mad Max” conditions, but urban bankruptcy and other forms of severe decay. Out-migration is a killer of local prosperity. This process is already starting. Iowa is a beneficiary.

JHK – The lodestar for that would be Chicago Illinois. It is in desperate financial condition, and there seems to be no prospect for them to avoid going into a black hole of insolvency.

There is a black hole coming: outmigration, tax income falls, bankruptcy, rising crime, services cut, more outmigration. They’re diving into it with engines blazing. Light all the engines and dive into the sun.

There is a great article by Bill Bonner (he writes about finance at The Daily Reckoning) that I often quote. He says that sometimes societies decide to die. I’m seeing that in the way the Left governs these urban areas. They’re just destroying them. They’re now at the point where they’re in effect running through streets starting fires. {For more about this, see Visions of America if the Left wins,}

JHK – It is a kind of a Freudian death wish.

Yes, I don’t know how else to explain it. It is over my pay grade to understand. But you can see this happening in California, in Chicago, Baltimore, and St Louis. When the problems accumulated over generations from these government have become obvious the Left’s reaction has been to double down on their policies in these urban areas.

JHK – That’s also happening on with RussiaGate and its Ukraine offspring. I’ve often said that I’m allergic to conspiracies and I maintain that I am but I don’t see how you can interpret RussiaGate and its offspring as anything other than a coup.

Yes, the conspiracy metaphor works. But political and economic is collective action, so kind of everything’s a conspiracy. If I’m starting a new company, it’s a conspiracy because I don’t stand out there and tell everybody about it. If I’m starting a political party – if we’re organizing against Trump or Obama – the first step is to do it quietly, and muster resources and supporters. So I never understood the concept. I’m sure you’re familiar with the origins of the whole conspiracy theory thing in the CIA’s propaganda.

JHK – Yes, I know.

So I get it as a metaphor. But I think it’s vital that we stick with useful metaphors that are enlightening and point us toward solutions. I don’t believe “conspiracies” is one of those. But I agree with you that there is an effort to overthrow Trump by “lawfare” – that’s another very powerful metaphor. We are using these legal mechanisms in ways that violate the spirit.

JHK – It seems to me to be an extremely bad faith effort.

There are only 3 kinds of institutions these days. Those that have gone dysfunctional, those that are falling, and those will go. Our political institutions are clearly falling right now. RussiaGate is a horrible symptom. One of my seminal posts was on July 4th, 2006: the death of the American constitution. It was very speculative then. I look back now and it’s “well, that was kind of obvious.” Our constitutional republic is dying. News of it appears every day left in the papers. They should have a separate corner for “next steps in the death of the Constitution.”  {See my most recent version of that forecast.}

For years I wrote a lot about ways to save the Republic. I now fear that it might not be possible to save it, and we have to begin thinking about what that means. This one has lasted for 250 years. We’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. Many of the features of the Constitution clearly don’t work well. We need to plan for a new Republic. Or perhaps we’re just going to lose it and go into a period of opposition until we can overthrow it and create a new Republic.

JHK – I could see a great deal of reluctance on the part of the people in charge of things to dissociate from this Republic and start a new one. I mean it’s a big task to do that in a coherent way. It also seems to be a little bit at odds with the way paradigms rise and fall. When a paradigm falls it produces a great deal of disorder as emergently something else begins to form. We’re in that period of disorder now, wouldn’t you say?

Yes, it’s not a smooth process. Look at Rome. The last several generations of the Republic were pretty awful. There was a lot of bloodshed. It wasn’t blood of the Roman people shed in defeat, it was blood shed by the various powerful elites fighting for control. We may not get that. Our powerful elites have learned much in the past 2000 years. They might act together to produce a new regime.

One thing you mentioned is how they we will react when is they see that happening. When Octavius created the empire he didn’t say “I just created the empire.” He was kept the forms of the Roman Republic. He called himself the “First Citizen” and kept the Senate. The emperors slowly phased in the imperial forms over 200 years. So we’ll probably still have elections even if we lose the Republic and we become subjects. We will keep all the Republic’s forms and comfort ourselves by the fact that we still have the constitution.

JHK – That’s very interesting. I can see a scenario in which the 2020 election ends up in litigation. This gets back to your comment a few minutes ago about the country being at the mercy of lawfare – a lawyers’ insurrection. I can see the 2020 election being litigated so heavily and deeply that the election ends up being completely inconclusive – and that we can’t have an orderly continuity of regimes. Do you think about that idea?

There are many scary scenarios out there!

JHK – Let’s spend a few minutes talking about your ideas, about a few of those scenarios.

The one you mention is very central. There are no clean hands in this process. The Republicans started this game by questioning Obama’s legitimacy with the whole BirthGate folly. Both parties have been taking turns knocking down the Regime’s supports. The Democrats are course now doubling down. The possibility of getting an inconclusive election is very high. At that point all bets are off.

JHK – That was the last election. It was not accepted.

In the important sense, it was accepted. Trump is in the White House. They’re fighting him, but there is no massive group of Senators telling Trump that “you’re illegitimate and we won’t pay attention to you.”

JHK – There is a massive group in the House of Representatives.

Well anyway, we could a situation where there is serious uncertainty about who should be in the White House – and the system glitches. We flirted with that in 1960, where the election was pretty clearly stolen by Kennedy. And there were people who urged Nixon to fight it out – and he just said “I don’t want to do it.”

JHK – …because it would be bad for the country.

Absolutely. So we’ve we flirted with this before. The Democrats push to do away with the Electoral College is almost suicidal because you can’t have an election with 300 million people – you can’t count the votes with a half percent accuracy. When you get a very tight election, you could count 50 times and come up with 50 results. We had an election in Iowa that was decided by 8 votes. They asked the loser if he wanted a recount. He said “no.” Being mayor of a city is nice gig, but he passed on it because he realized that we could count the votes again, and could just keep on recounting and never settle the result. That’s one of the reasons you need the electoral college: to give some legitimacy to the result.

————————- End of part two of the interview. ————————

Other chapters of this interview

  1. Kunstler asks “are these the Crazy Years in America?
  2. Kunstler asks “where are America’s leaders?”
  3. Kunstler asks “are Americans ready for tyranny?”
  4. Kunstler asks “what is America’s future?”

About Kunstler

James Howard Kunstler
Photo by Charlie Samuels.

James Howard Kunstler (Wikipedia) worked as a reporter and feature writer for several newspapers, before working as a staff writer for Rolling Stone Magazine. In 1975, he began writing books on a full-time basis. Kunstler is the author of 12 novels and has been a regular contributor to many major media, writing about environmental and economic issues. He is a leading supporter of the movement known as “New Urbanism.”

He has lectured at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, Dartmouth, Cornell, MIT, and many other colleges. He has written five non-fiction books.

For More Information

Ideas! For shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.  Also, see a story about our future: “Ultra Violence: Tales from Venus.

If you found this post of use, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Also see these posts about leadership, about ways to reform America’s politics, and especially these…

  1. We want heroes, not leaders. When that changes it will become possible to reform America.
  2. Max Weber explains Campaign 2016: we want a charismatic leader to restore America.
  3. Trump’s win revealed the hollowness of US politics. Stronger leaders will exploit this.
  4. A new, dark picture of America’s future – our institutions are falling like a line of dominoes.
  5. America isn’t falling like the Roman Empire. We’re falling like the Roman Republic.

Books about the weakness of the Republic.

The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy by Christopher Lasch.

Buying Time: The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism by Wolfgang Streeck.

Democracy and Populism: Fear and Hatred by John Lukacs.

Buying Time: The Delayed Crisis of Democratic Capitalism
Available at Amazon.
Democracy and Populism
Available at Amazon.

 

32 thoughts on “Kunstler asks “where are America’s leaders?””

  1. The Man Who Laughs

    “I prefer to look at this in terms of supply and demand. We want clowns, info-tainment. I have a post about one of the big insights – understanding how our politics relates to our class structure. The one percent own most of America. There is the Inner Party, the rich and the executives, who are our leaders. The Outer Party is the vast middle class, the professionals and small business owners that run America according to our leaders’ policies.”

    I might put it differently, although I don’t think we need to get the sharpened screwdrivers out over this. One of the interesting changes in our society is that you no longer get ahead by doing things, you mostly get ahead by saying things. You can get awfully far in this society by talking a good line of whatever without necessarily having to deliver actual results. This really even extends to the military now, Generals of the Roman Republic were expected to deliver victory, and the consequences if they didn’t could be pretty awful for them personally. Crassus came to a bad end. So there were Generals who could provide leadership when the Republic was in its death agonies. Likewise, Generals of the British Empire had to face the possibility of total battlefield defeat. It didn’t happen all that often, but it did in Afghanistan and South Africa. Running the British empire could be hard and dangerous, and it served to concentrate the mind.The people who do the hard and dangerous stuff in the American Empire mostly aren’t the people in charge.

    By the way, this isn’t limited to the military. You can get pretty far in business without delivering much in the way of results. Elizabeth Holmes eventually got caught, but she’s not an isolated case. One of the secrets of Trump’s tax returns is likely that he isn’t as rich as people think.

    It’s way too early in the morning here, and i have to be out the door,,I just think that our lack of leadership is the lack of people at the top who have really been tested.

    .

  2. Larry,

    A few things from an old prole stuck just south of the rust belt and coal country in Pa. On Nixon’s impeachment/resignation; His party had neither majority control of the House or Senate, plus, he was guilty as hell (smoking gun tape).

    Trump, on the other hand, will never be found guilty and impeached by the Republican majority Senate.
    And he will win again in 2020. Four more years in Trump ClownWorld is alright with this Deplorable, anything but a Democrat or a Rino.

  3. I must disagree with Ron Stabb (“he will win again in 2020”). Trump is finished, his biggest enemy is himself and the more he talks and acts the more people are forced to disagree with him (Trump even disagrees with himself frequently). Here are the latest poll numbers that support my statements. I, personally don’t trust the polls rated below B- (and even B- is suspect):

    https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/polls/

    But my primary reason for writing today is two-fold:
    1. To congratulate Larry for his insightful episode on Kunstler

    To mention that INTERPRETATION of the Constitution is the key to how the Federal government works or doesn’t. I will provide examples of how the interpretation has changed over the years.

    a) Election of Andrew Jackson – Jackson, a long-time, usually successful general from the Revolutionary War on, ran for President in 1824 and, along with all the other candidates, failed to win a majority of the vote (42%, which was better anybody else). The election went to the House of Representatives, and through a series of swirling votes and deals, Jackson emerged the winner. The same series of deals led to the Birth of the Democratic-Republican party, which is parent of today’s Democratic party.

    The reason this was so controversial was that President Washington had been STRONGLY against the formation of political parties and Jackson accidentally founded the first real political party less than 30 years later.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Jackson

    b) Lincoln settles the Slavery question the hard way – 1861 and on. The general agreement of the Founding Fathers was that the Federal government would take a back seat to the State governments.

    But the Founding Fathers had failed to imagine (less than 80 years previously) that the states would settle on two very antithetical ways of living regarding the question of Slavery and that the Federal government was going to have to either settle it for once and for all or accept being split into two separate countries that hated each other. This also led to the founding of today’s Republican party.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_the_United_States

    c) Theodore Roosevelt tackles the issues of the Gilded Age, 1902-10. The Founding Fathers would have hated the concept of the Federal government interfering with business or immigration. But, again, they failed to imagine the extremes to which those concepts would be taken. Roosevelt’s nearly complete ban on immigrants and his destruction of the business Trusts was extremely necessary but also incredibly controversial.

    Teddy Roosevelt was a Bull Moose in a china shop, reshaping or destroying everything he touched. He also favored creating an American Empire. His luck (and the country’s luck as well) ran out in 1912 with the election of Woodrow Wilson.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Roosevelt

    d) Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression, 1929-32 – The Great Depression was the logical fallout of Roosevelt’s conversion of the Gilded Age into the Jazz Age and WWI. Herbert Hoover was a Quaker and had been a very successful businessman and humanitarian, the depth of the fiscal catastrophe was beyond his ability to cope. Most of his proposed policies were based on classic responses to previous economic panics but were completely insufficient for the scale of this crisis and led to the rise of Franklin Roosevelt.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Hoover

    e) Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression 1932-1941 – Where Hoover had avoided getting the Federal government involved in trying to fix the Great Depression, Roosevelt tried everything he and anybody else in his administration could think of the fix the Great Depression using the Federal government. Many of these ideas were illegal and were shot down by the Supreme Court (which led Roosevelt to try to expand the number of Supreme Court justices until he had a majority, it also failed).

    Franklin Roosevelt was at least as revolutionary as his cousin Teddy, but much smoother and made far fewer enemies. This led the common people to trust him (probably too much, in hindsight) and his influence gave him great political power by 1940 but the US was still mired in the tail-end of the Great Depression. Fortunately, Roosevelt was also aware of the rise of Fascism and (mostly) chose wisely in his alliances.

    By the end of WWII, the US had been transformed from a very inward-looking sleeping giant to a super-power with the perceived ability to destroy the entire world in minutes, if the President viewed it as necessary and the Presidency had been given FAR more power than the Founding Fathers would ever have considered acceptable.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_D._Roosevelt

    f) Kennedy through Nixon, 1960-1974 – Although John Kennedy is currently well regarded by historians, I cannot see why. Nearly every one of his policies led to disaster: the Vietnam War, the Social Security Act (great idea but he should have figured out how to sustainably pay for it first), Civil Rights (something long overdue, but rammed down people’s throats in a way designed to create maximum resentment and backlash) are biggest problems he created. Admittedly, he made great speeches, but he also had lots of mistresses and possibly some mob connections.

    It was his good fortune to die before all this came out, it was Johnson’s bad luck to inherit those policies and to need to preserve them without being able to solve the problems they caused. Nixon solved the Vietnam and Soviet relationship problems (brilliantly at times) but caused so many domestic problems that he jumped out of office just before being thrown out.

    Frankly, none of these three men were wise choices and they all had a tendency to accumulate through the Presidency that we now deeply regret.

    g) Clinton to Trump, 1992-2019 – The rise of attack politics. Instead of attacking the policies of a person, it has become customary to demonize the person who disagrees with you. This has led to attempts to impeach Clinton (who might have deserved it), Obama (who might also have deserved it for completely different reasons), and Trump and crippled George W. Bush’s response to the 2008 financial crisis.

    Worse, it given rise to worshipful campaign supporters and has moved policy discussions from being about the value of the policy to being discussed to being about about destroying (or blindly supporting) the person who proposed it.

    h) ? 2020 and beyond – What comes next? I do not know but I suspect it will NOT be the death of the American Constitution but yet another reinterpretation of it. At this time I cannot tell in what direction we will go.

    1. Pluto,

      (1) “Where Hoover had avoided getting the Federal government involved in trying to fix the Great Depression”

      That’s quite false. Most of what FDR did, Hoover had begun. But on too small a scale to make a difference. The big step by FDR was to dropoff the gold standard – allowing massive (by their standards) fiscal deficits. This was the necessary step. Those that did it soon (eg, Germany) recovered soon. Those that did it late (eg, France), recovered late.

      (2) I don’t understand the point you are attempting to make. The single largest factor in US elections – by far – is the performance of the US economy in the roughly 18 months before the election. That looks to be a strong positive for Trump – although that picture can change (we can’t predict the economy reliably out past 3 months). Other factors – such as defeat in war and major scandals – can have a big impact but are impossible to reliably predict.

      1. Larry: “That’s quite false. Most of what FDR did, Hoover had begun. But on too small a scale to make a difference.”

        Thanks for doing a better job of saying what I wanted to say than I did.

        Larry: ” I don’t understand the point you are attempting to make.”

        You’re probably right. I had two major points to make and I blurred the line between them. They should have been separate posts.

        1) Historically, you’re right that the performance of the US economy in the last 18 months before the election is the single best way to predict if the president will be re-elected.

        But I’m not sure if that will be true for Trump because his single biggest opponent is himself and he could easily get re-elected if he’d only SHUT UP! Which ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.

        2) My second big reason for posting that overly-large treatise was to show that although the US government has undergone multiple crises that have rewritten our interpretation of the Constitution, The only changes to the document has been to add a few amendments. You should keep that in mind when discussing the future.

        Overthrow of the current understanding of how to interpret the document WILL happen. Removal or replacement of the Constitution is probably not necessary.

    1. se,

      “Of COURSE the Electoral College does NOT give legitimacy to candidates with fewer national popular votes.”

      Look up the administrations of the presidents elected in 1878, 1888, 2000, and 2016. All governed as legitimate presidents.

      You are a foe of the Constitution, the set of rules governing America. But it retains the allegiance of most Americans.

      1. Trump, November 13, 2016, on “60 Minutes”
        “ I would rather see it, where you went with simple votes. You know, you get 100 million votes, and somebody else gets 90 million votes, and you win. There’s a reason for doing this. Because it brings all the states into play.”

        In 2012, the night Romney lost, Trump tweeted.
        “The phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation. . . . The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.”

        In 1969, The U.S. House of Representatives voted for a national popular vote by a 338–70 margin.

        Presidential candidates who supported direct election of the President in the form of a constitutional amendment, before the National Popular Vote bill was introduced: George H.W. Bush (R-TX-1969), Bob Dole (R-KS-1969), Gerald Ford (R-MI-1969), Richard Nixon (R-CA-1969), Jimmy Carter (D-GA-1977), and Hillary Clinton (D-NY-2001).

      2. se,

        You totally missed the point, so I’ll spell it out. We have a mechanism for changing the rules under the Constitution. So it is legitimate to propose changes. Such as how we elect presidents.

        But that’s not what you said. You said that do not want to follow the mechanism for choosing presidents under the Constitution. That makes you our foe. But I’m confident that the majority of the American people give their allegiance to the Constitution, and people who oppose it – like you – will always be defeated.

      3. The Founders created the Electoral College, but 48 states eventually enacted state winner-take-all laws.

        Unable to agree on any particular method for selecting presidential electors, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method exclusively to the states in Article II, Section 1
        “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….”
        The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

        The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the majority of Electoral College votes and the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country. It does not abolish the Electoral College.

        The bill is states with 270 electors replacing state winner-take-all laws that award all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who get the most popular votes in each separate state (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), in the enacting states, to guarantee the majority of Electoral College votes for, and the Presidency to, the candidate getting the most popular votes in the entire United States.

        The bill retains the constitutionally mandated Electoral College and state control of elections, and uses the built-in method that the Constitution provides for states to make changes.

      4. The Founders created the Electoral College, but 48 states eventually enacted state winner-take-all laws.

        The U.S. Constitution says “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . .”
        The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

        The normal way of changing the method of electing the President is by state legislatures with governors making changes in state law.

        Historically, major changes in the method of electing the President have come about by state legislative action. For example, the people had no vote for President in most states in the nation’s first election in 1789. However, now, as a result of changes in the state laws governing the appointment of presidential electors, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states.

      5. SE,

        Please stop the grade school civics lessons. No more will be posted. This isn’t that kind of website.

        If you believe some readers need them, you may post a link or two to some basic references.

  4. Most Americans think it is wrong that the candidate with the most popular votes can lose. It undermines the legitimacy of the electoral system. We don’t allow this in any other election in our representative republic.

    1. “You are a foe of the Constitution, the set of rules governing America. But it retains the allegiance of most Americans.”
      LK.

      1. Article II, Section 1
        “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….”

        In the nation’s first presidential election in 1789 and second election in 1792, the states employed a wide variety of methods for choosing presidential electors, including
        ● appointment of the state’s presidential electors by the Governor and his Council,
        ● appointment by both houses of the state legislature,
        ● popular election using special single-member presidential-elector districts,
        ● popular election using counties as presidential-elector districts,
        ● popular election using congressional districts,
        ● popular election using multi-member regional districts,
        ● combinations of popular election and legislative choice,
        ● appointment of the state’s presidential electors by the Governor and his Council combined with the state legislature, and
        ● statewide popular election.

      2. The Constitution’s set of rules governing America leaves the method of how to award electors to state legislatures. The National Popular Vote is state legislatures changing how to award their electors.

  5. The average change in the margin of victory as a result of a statewide recount was a mere 296 votes in a 10-year study of 2,884 elections.

    No statewide recount, much less a nationwide recount, would have been warranted in any of the nation’s 58 presidential elections if the outcome had been based on the nationwide count.

  6. Speaking of that, you live out in the heart of fly-over land – in the Midwest, in one of the cities of Iowa. Tell us how that is manifesting in fly-over land, as you see it.

    In my small town the local parade had a transgendered float and the mother of a TG gave a lecture at the local high school. The midwest is more liberal than anyone thinks.

  7. Your view of the Electoral College makes absolutely no sense. The votes have to be counted whether we use the EC or a popular vote. The difference is that errors in vote tallying are amplified in the EC because they’re aggregated at the state level but would be less significant in a national popular vote because of the law of large numbers.

    1. Solaris,

      “The votes have to be counted whether we use the EC or a popular vote.”

      538 votes can be counted with perfect accuracy. Three hundred million votes could be counted a thousand times with different results each time (i.e., any likely accuracy could have error margins in the thousands). In a very close election, there would need to be a mechanism to select a winner when the vote was too close for counting to produce a clear answer.

      “The difference is that errors in vote tallying are amplified in the EC because they’re aggregated at the state level”

      You are thinking of the EC as just a way of tabulating the popular vote, with no intrinsic meaning by itself. That’s not how it has historically worked, or how it is described in the Constitution.

      1. Unable to agree on any particular method for selecting presidential electors, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method exclusively to the states in Article II, Section 1
        “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….”
        The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

        In the nation’s first presidential election in 1789 and second election in 1792, the states employed a wide variety of methods for choosing presidential electors, including
        ● appointment of the state’s presidential electors by the Governor and his Council,
        ● appointment by both houses of the state legislature,
        ● popular election using special single-member presidential-elector districts,
        ● popular election using counties as presidential-elector districts,
        ● popular election using congressional districts,
        ● popular election using multi-member regional districts,
        ● combinations of popular election and legislative choice,
        ● appointment of the state’s presidential electors by the Governor and his Council combined with the state legislature, and
        ● statewide popular election.

  8. Random Angeleno

    Pluto could use a correction in his historical treatise: the ultimate winner of the 1824 horse trades was not Andrew Jackson, but John Quincy Adams. Jackson came back four years later to win in 1828. Surprised no one caught that one. But I strongly recommend studying that election as it is the only one to end this way. To get there requires multiple viable parties having at least regional if not national dominance. Just having a 3rd party get electoral votes was not uncommon in the 19th century, but it has become quite rare since. 1912 was the last election in which a party other than the Democrats and the Republicans finished as high as 2nd; 1968 was the last election in which a 3rd party got any electoral votes at all; 1992 was the last election in which a 3rd party polled at least 10%. Gives one an idea of the dominance of the two party system then one understands the degree of lawfare being arrayed against Trump. This might have been what George Washington foresaw.

    On to the next point: Iowa. I think that Iowa remains as liberal as it is because they haven’t yet been subjected to the full consequences of that liberalism, the way California, New York and Illinois have. Granted they selected Trump in the last election, but that was a function of Hillary’s abysmal candidacy.

    California and New York emigrants escaping the consequences of what they voted for and mindlessly voting the same way in their new states is a real thing. Witness Oregon, Arizona and Colorado. Soon to be followed by Idaho and Texas. smdh

    A small history lesson for SE: true democracy generally devolves into two wolves and a sheep deciding what’s for dinner. The debate between the small states and the large states at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 is worth studying in depth. A decent book that touches on it is Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis. The gist of this debate was that the smaller states were afraid of getting run over by the larger states in a pure democratic voting system hence the composition of the Senate and the Electoral College were attempts to give the smaller states a greater say while the House was more population-centric.

    As an aside, the original intention for the Senate was that the Senators were to be selected by the state legislatures, thus giving the state governments a direct seat at the federal table. The 17th Amendment essentially kicked the state legislatures out of the Senate; this will be looked back on as one of the crucial milestones in the increase of federal power over the states because the state legislatures were now locked out of acting as a check on federal authority. How many of those federal mandates do you think would have been allowed to be enacted if the state legislatures were still there to object to them?

    Back to the history lesson: SE says that is anachronistic and urges a return to pure democracy: he has made himself out to be a wolf who desires very much to shear the sheep. Who desires very much that the flyover states have no say in what the progressives desire to be done to them. But I highly doubt SE will bother to think through the consequences of what he and his ilk propose.

  9. “So we’ll probably still have elections even if we lose the Republic and we become subjects. We will keep all the Republic’s forms and comfort ourselves with the fact that we still have the constitution.”

    A few examples of Institutions and social relationships among our elites actively involved in incrementally changing the Republic through a transfer of power from elected officials to:

    1) The Growing influence, especially since 1947, of the National Security apparatus (creation of Joint Chiefs of Staff, the CIA, the National Security Council and a little later the NSA along with what is today hundreds of top managers in front office positions across dozens of military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies(controlling a workforce in the millions and with budget/outlays near $1 trillion per year, working diligently to displace/co-opt and influence the authority of Congress in determining the direction of American foreign policy. Think most recently Ukraine with both State Department career diplomats and CIA case officers pushing Russia, Russia, Russia policy.

    2) The expansion of the role and influence of the Federal Reserve apparatus and its policy initiatives (private sector bailouts etc) incrementally converting its own independence from democratic control into a greater and greater dependency of the entire elected government on a domestic economy largely dependent on financial channels rather than productive channels for much its revenues. The result of this process being the creation of powerful State machinery increasingly involved in more and more direct political/bureaucratic management of the entire economy( especially credit creation, involving the Treasury Department the Fed and large private sector banks)

    3) The increasing realization by parts of the “progressive left as well as parts of the Trump administration that such centralized bureaucratic machinery, increasingly independent of democratic checks and balances) can be incrementally appropriated for guiding both domestic economic policy(think low interest rates of Powell and Trump) as well as American foreign policy( think CIA and State Department preferences and maybe even for determining who is ultimately President.

    From our elites’ perspective, why not continue to maintain the illusion that national security as well as national economic policy continue to be controlled by democratic institutions and our elected representatives–much less of a hassle for them and much misdirection for us..

  10. There “str” no clean hands: “are” JHK – Let’s spend a few minutes talking about your ideas about some of those.

  11. Yeah no – you still don’t understand. If three hundred million votes counted a thousand times gave a different result each time, the EC could have a different result each time too. You have to count three hundred million votes (that number is way off for the current US voting population but whatever) to determine the EC outcome so margins of error in the vote tallying affect the EC outcome. Just look at the 2000 election. Gore won the popular count by around a 0.5% margin but Bush won the critical state, Florida, by something like a 0.009% margin. A 0.5% margin of error is far more realistic than a 0.009%. The EC is simply a more inaccurate and error-prone system.

    And on top of that, the EC wasn’t even used to determine the election result in 2000, it was essentially decided by SCOTUS so it’s not even good as a mechanism for selecting a winner in a close election.

    The second argument you tacked on (because your first one makes no sense) about the ‘meaning’ of the EC is, as s e points out, historically illiterate. It was a political compromise because nothing else could be agreed to. It’s reversed the outcome of 40% of presidential elections in the past 20 years and it makes campaigns ignore certain states.

    Maybe you should explain why you disagree with the principle of “one person, one vote”…

    1. Solaris,

      “the EC could have a different result each time too. You have to count three hundred million votes”

      Not likely. That assumes that each of the 435 Congressional districts are close. That’s possible, but never remotely happened in US history.

      The EC compartmentalizes elections. The ones – a small fraction, likely – that are close can be recounted – more easily than a national recount due to their small size. If some of these remain uncertain, that only matters if their votes are sufficient to put the election in doubt.

      This is a system of layered defenses. The EC election becomes questionable only if multiple steps have problems. It avoids risk at the price of theoretical incoherence. Unlike a national election, in which the election is a single point of failure.

      The EC is a flawed system. But a century of work by political scientists has not found anything clearly superior. There are complex systems, which are mechanically sounder in some ways – but at the cost of increased complexity – and more risk. The EC is built, like much of Western society, on the principle of having a “low but solid” foundation.

      Also, political scientists usually design voting systems for multi-party systems – which they love. The poor history of these in practics doesn’t seem to bother them. As in the old joke – “I don’t care if it works in practice – does it work in theory?”

      The “National Popular Vote” proposal is the usual sloppy thinking, following the Constitutional provisions but avoiding few of the problems of a national popular vote. It vests massive power in the “chief election official of each member state”, and would likely generate a flood of court challenges in a close election.

      This is typical of it: “In event of a tie for the national popular vote winner” – a tie in an election of hundreds of millions! We’re in “getting hit by an asteroid” probability land.

      Still, this idea might – when refined with more thought – produced a reasonable successor to the EC.

      1. “Not likely. That assumes that each of the 435 Congressional districts are close. That’s possible, but never remotely happened in US history.”

        No, it just means that a few critical “swing” states have to be extremely close which has happened multiple times in recent history. Florida in 2000 was so close that SCOTUS just halted the recount, essentially declaring Bush the winner. The popular vote in 2000 had a 0.5% margin for Gore which is outside the margin of error for a modern voting system (i.e. multiple recounts would return the same winner).

        You seem to miss the point that the “compartmentalization” of the EC makes it more prone to counting errors, not less. Florida 2000 is the perfect example: counting 5 million votes within 0.009% is nearly impossible but counting the 150 million votes within 0.5% is completely feasible.

        Most non-parliamentary systems use direct popular vote to determine the executive, many with far more robust provisions like run-off elections and ranked-choice voting. And every US state uses a popular vote to determine the governorship. It’s bonkers to pretend that political scientists have been scratching their heads for a century just trying to come up with something more sensible than the EC. Those systems already exist and are used across the world.

        You are right that there are real challenges to moving away from the EC but those are entirely political. Mostly, it’s Republican opposition to a system that upholds “one person, one vote” which they know would disadvantage them.

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