The Hypocrisy of Many Nikkita Oliver Supporters

It’s the stock in trade of many Democrats to blame non-voters for their losses in midterm elections. This is not an accurate description of what’s happening or why, and it’s a terrible strategy for trying to win elections or just treat other people with basic respect. You can’t shame and blame people into voting the way you want–ask Hillary Clinton. Moreover, this strategy ignores the myriad of real problems that lead people to abstain from voting, in which Democrats are often complicit. Research shows that the #1 reason people don’t vote is lack of time. But no matter how thoroughly and patiently you explain this and the political science behind it, Democratic voters and many politicians and “pundits” insist on ignoring real problems, blocking reforms, and blaming people who don’t vote in midterm elections. Because it’s easy and absolves them of responsibility.
Now Seattle has an open mayor’s race. There are 21 candidates on the primary ballot. Many of these same liberal/progressive people who insist on blaming non-voters are now flocking to Nikkita Oliver–a young black woman with an uncommon name who has failed to vote in 75% of the elections for which she was eligible. Not only have these same blamers fabricated intellectually amazing excuses for this, but some even accuse you of sexism, racism, or classism for pointing it out or questioning it. I have never missed an election since I turned 18 in 1994. I am not black or female, but I am poor and disabled, and I have moved a lot. You don’t have to have a perfect voting record, but you can’t fail to vote 3/4 of the time and expect to run a major city with no political experience. 
For her supporters, who seem less concerned with substance or policy than anything else, you can’t have it both ways. If you’re going to blame people for not voting, you can’t support a candidate who votes 25% of the time. And if you’re going to support the candidate with the worst voting record, you have absolutely no business ever blaming anyone for failing to vote.


Election Predictions: Initiatives

I think it’s time to make some OFFICIAL ELECTION PREDICTIONS. Washington has 6 statewide initiatives on the ballot this year. Here’s my forecast on them (bonus at the end):
I-732 (carbon tax)
This is pretty certain to FAIL. The left being divided is a major hit to it, and I don’t see moderate or conservative support making up for that. Taxes do best in presidential election years, and WA should easily see 80% turnout next month. There’s some chance that people who don’t know much about it might read the voter guide and think it sounds good, putting it over the top, but that’s a decidedly unlikely possibility.
I-735 (resolution on Citizens United)
I think this will PASS, partly because there’s little real opposition, and partly because it just doesn’t do anything–it’s symbolic.
I-1433 ($13.50 minimum wage/paid sick leave)
This will PASS easily. It gets at least 55%, possibly 60% or more.
I-1464 (public campaign financing)
This is basically I-735, but with teeth and at the state level. There doesn’t seem to be much polling on it, I haven’t heard much about it other than from its own advocates, and I suspect many people will be unsure or confused about it. Given our record as a progressive and largely good government state, and the high presidential turnout, I’m inclined to say this is slightly more likely to pass than fail. But overall, I don’t feel like I have a good read on it yet, so I’m going to hold off on making an official prediction.
I-1491 (extreme risk protection orders/guns)
This will PASS easily. Two public polls show it with 64% and 79% support. In 2014 (a midterm year), I-594 on background checks passed 59%-41%. The underlying issue is the same, but this presidential year favors the yes side even more. A 2:1 victory here would not be surprising.
I-1501 (identity theft penalties)
This, too, will PASS easily. Who doesn’t want to protect seniors from identity theft? You can quibble about what the initiative really does, but that’s how the vast majority of people will see it.
I strongly believe in accountability for these predictions, because people need the ability to compare before and after the election, and because I find it improves my ability to make good predictions. Before the August primary, I predicted that Pramila Jayapal would win the 7th congressional district primary with at least 40% of the vote. She won with 42%. I also predicted that Seattle’s housing levy would pass with at least 65% if not 70% of the vote. It passed 72%-28%.
PASS. This horrible dumpster fire should not pass, but it will–easily. Separating what you want to happen from what appears likely to happen is important to making good predictions.
Stay tuned for further predictions in other races.

Primary Election Result Analysis

One metric people tend to overlook in election results is how many total ballots are cast in each race. Generally you expect more contested or controversial ones to get more votes, but the results in WA are often an instructive insight into what people care about more and less. In 2012, the marijuana and marriage ballot issues got more votes than the races for governor and senator. We had 11 statewide items on the primary ballot last week, and I’ve ranked them here in descending order of total votes cast:

Governor: 1,364,432
Senate: 1,355,229
Secretary of State: 1,318,695
Lieutenant Governor: 1,295,050
Insurance Commissioner: 1,294,131
Auditor: 1,284,437
Commissioner of Public Lands: 1,274,766
Treasurer: 1,257,099
Attorney General: 1,221,354
Supreme Court 5: 1,162,814
Superintendent of Public Instruction: 1,121,116

The All Comers Debate

Many supporters of Bernie Sanders have complained and expressed incredulity or even conspiracy theories about the lack of mainstream press coverage of Sanders’ campaign. To be fair, he does have more supporters than Donald Trump, who gets the bulk of media coverage on the presidential race so far. But I don’t think complaining is an effective tactic; on the contrary, it has real potential to make Sanders supporters look whiny or petulant. So this is one of a few ideas I’ve come up with as an alternative way to attract media attention.

Here’s another idea to get press coverage that isn’t complaining. Bernie should offer to debate presidential candidates from all parties or no party. The number of debaters would have to be limited (10?), but I don’t think it’s ever been done in the primary season. Americans increasingly hate political parties and don’t belong to them. Independents outnumber Democrats. And Republicans. If you’ve watched “minor party” debates in the past, you know that they often raise issues the major parties totally ignore, but which Americans care about. (Like Civil liberties in 2012) We could see candidates from different parties debate each other directly, instead of waiting for each party to nominate 1 person and not see them spar until September. Kind of like interleague play in baseball. The All Comers debate would allow any candidate who wants to come, be they Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian, The Rent Is Too Damn High… Limit the number of participants based on poll numbers, or for something different and arguably more democratic, by number of donors. Maybe Hillary is afraid of more debates, but Bernie isn’t! 

This would get lots of attention because it’s new and different. It would also get more viewers because it would include Democrats AND Republicans AND supporters of other parties at the same time. And if the idea comes from Bernie, he gets the credit for proposing it. 

Establishment people in both major parties will hate this. But times change, and rules and norms must adapt to the times. Fifty years ago, primaries and caucuses hardly mattered. Nominations were really decided by a few powerful people–party bosses (now “superdelegates”). By 1968, it was clear that system didn’t work anymore, so they changed it. Well, it’s been 48 years since then, and the country doesn’t look like Mad Men anymore. Let’s try something new designed for the 21st century.

Mayor Tory: Tear Down This Waterfront Highway!

Why Toronto Should Tear Down Its Urban Expressway (Citylab)

Tearing down the Gardiner Highway in Toronto is even more of a slam dunk decision than tearing down the Viaduct in Seattle. They don’t have a major port like we do, they have one citywide grid instead of two competing ones, their downtown isn’t tightly hemmed in by another highway on its exterior like I-5 did to us, and they only have water on one side instead of two so they lack our very constricted geographic “waist”. But in 1995 the Conservative Ontario government forced Toronto and its suburbs to “amalgamate” into one huge municipality, so city decisions are now dominated by what are really suburbs. Thus we lost this vote 24-21. Suburbs don’t make good urban policy. We see this with Sound Transit as well (good transit decisions require transit users to be making them. The silver lining is that these merged cities tend to get more urban and progressive over time. See Indianapolis, which has been building great bike infrastructure and whose Republican mayor spoke out recently for marriage equality.

In 1971, then-Mayor Richard Lugar (R) spearheaded Unigov, which merged the old City of Indianapolis with Marion County and most other municipalities in the county. For 30 years, it always had GOP mayors and council majorities, but now it’s more competitive and has had both a Democratic mayor, Bart Peterson, and Democratic majorities on the City-County Council on and off. Similarly, my other hometown of Columbus, Ohio has shifted from red to blue (at all levels, really), though both very sadly continue to be among the nation’s biggest metro areas (by 2020, Franklin County will be Ohio’s biggest–surpassing Cleveland and Cincinnati) without heavy rail, light rail, bus rapid transit (BRT), or even streetcars. Both redeveloped their old Union Station sites with no transit and in ways that make it very hard to return them to rail uses. Even worse for the environment, both rely heavily on coal for their electricity. (Former Democratic Governor Ted Strickland, now running for US Senate, always promoted coal; he represented the Appalachian coal region of Ohio in his 12 years as a congressman) Ironically, both cities grew up largely as major rail hubs. Statewide, Ohio ranks 7th in population but 4th in miles of railroad. Columbus, and probably Indy too, have a lot of unused or underused rail right of way that could pretty easily and cheaply be modernized for use as 21st century urban transit. Some mid-sized Midwest cities like St. Louis and Minneapolis-St. Paul have built decent light rail networks (even Detroit is finally building its first line, while Kansas City tries a dubious streetcar), but the political will just still doesn’t seem to exist in Indy or Cbus. It makes me sad. There are a few reasons why I couldn’t live in my hometown(s) anymore, but the first is that you really can’t do so without a car, and I refuse to own one.

WA Redistricting Protects Incumbents

Joel Connolly, as usual, doesn’t quite get all the political science. And makes more factual errors than usual (1994 was not a Democratic year, and Adam Smith’s district (PDF) doesn’t include Snohomish County).

But this is what I started writing about a few months back on Facebook. It’s the difference between bipartisan and nonpartisan. Overall, WA has a much better redistricting system than most states. But the fact that it’s bipartisan lends itself to incumbent protection which is bad for democracy. We should amend it to be a nonpartisan system, including people other than Democrats and Republicans, so it won’t be predisposed to protecting incumbents.

Post-Election Musings

Some general and random election thoughts–

Four of the last five federal elections (2006, 2008, 2010, and 2014) have been wave elections, when one party makes major gains at the other’s expense. This is unusual historically. Before 2006, the last wave election was 1994. Before that, it was 1982. 1980 and 1974 were also waves. But two of the recent four were Democratic, and two were Republican. The nation isn’t moving steadily in one direction, nor is it responding to single clear events like Watergate; it’s moving back and forth between two parties it doesn’t like. We’re sort of playing hot potato. This has to be understood as a broad and deep dissatisfaction with the status quo (which, let’s be honest, hasn’t really changed much through all these recent elections). It’s as if voters are finally throwing the bums out every cycle, and we’re seeing the predictable result of low seniority and high churn.

But separate from candidate elections, issue contests seem to be going in a progressive, libertarian, or populist direction. Even yesterday; voters raised minimum wages, legalized marijuana, imposed gun restrictions, mandated paid sick leave, and steered clear of abortion and marriage equality.

At the same time, voter turnout fell between the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, was very low in 2010, and I suspect may have been even lower in 2014 (41% in WA is shocking to me). Part of this could be the effects of strict “voter ID” laws. But it may also signal a different phenomenon. Like so many things, you can have too much voter turnout, or too little. When it exceeds 90% or 95%, it tends to signify major problems (e.g. fraud or authoritarian “elections”). Likewise, consider how in many other nations; candidates, parties, or other groups often boycott elections in protest because they find them rigged or unfair. Maybe this is what many Americans are doing. They’re fed up with having to choose between two bad options. They see the government is incapable of addressing our most pressing problems, like gun violence, climate change, or mass poverty. They know that if corporations are people and money is speech, their status as humans without money makes their voices irrelevant–the system has gone through the looking glass and is just too absurd to participate in anymore. Low turnout favors elitists and corporate power, who then make the system worse and more absurd, and it spirals out of control. Maybe people want some populist and democratic solutions they aren’t seeing.

I obviously can’t be sure I’m analyzing this correctly or considering all the necessary factors. I’m eager to mull it over with you. I do strongly recommend reading David Sirota and Chris Hedges.

*If 2016 brings a Republican president with a Republican Senate, will the people who supported filibuster reform come to regret it? Imagine replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg with another Alito.

*Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is up for election in 2016, when he’ll be 76. He was first elected to the Senate in 1986. He says he’ll run again, but politicians often change their minds about that. In addition, for all his faults, Mitch McConnell has proven he’s a talented legislator. He’s assembled several major compromises that passed Congress and became law. With Reid presiding over yesterday’s loss of the majority (in fairness, he also presided over the reverse in 2006), will he also be proven an inferior legislator to McConnell? Will the combination of the two lead Democrats to pressure him to retire? That would presumably lead Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer to compete to succeed him as Democratic Senate leader.

*In WA, there’s much attention on the state Senate. Hardly any on the House. Top notch state government reporter Austin Jenkins raised the prospect this morning that Dems may lose enough seats to bring back the 49-49 tied House (Co-Speaker Dan Kristiansen?). That’s unlikely, but their majority will definitely be smaller. That could give a few rogue progressives the leverage to force the House leftward. Or it could lead House Republicans to follow their Senate colleagues by persuading a few conservative Dems to join them and form a bicameral Majority Coalition Caucus.