Crash and Burn

Lots of truly awful legislation is making its way through the General Assembly, but at least two of the worst bills appear to be dead. No guarantees they won’t be back next year, but we can rest easy for now.

Electoral votes still mean something… A bill to award Virginia’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate winning the popular vote has failed to advance in the General Assembly. Under SB 399, Virginia would have joined the National Popular Vote Compact on the grounds that the electoral college is an archaic institution that thwarts the popular will. Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, withdrew the bill for unexplained reasons, reports the Associated Press. The purpose of the electoral college is protect smaller states from domination by the larger, or, as Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover, puts it in practical terms, “to ensure that certain large states like California and New York, now, don’t have all the control in making a decision for president.”

The United States is not a democracy, in which the majority will always prevails. It is a democratic republic with checks and balances designed to protect against the tyranny of the majority. In a vast, diverse state of nearly 330 million people, that’s more important than ever.

Labor union payoff bites the dust… A Senate bill that would have empowered some Northern Virginia localities to dictate labor standards to developers of large real estate projects died in committee Monday, reports the Washington Business Journal. Under the bill, also sponsored by Ebbin, localities could have made approval of special use permits in zoning cases contingent up private-sector to enter into “binding contractual commitments that provide protections for the skilled and unskilled workers hired to build the development project.” In other words, the bill was a payoff to the construction unions. Fortunately, the Senate didn’t go along.

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28 responses to “Crash and Burn”

  1. I see the current slew of ill-begotten legislation as a classic demonstration of the failure of the political center — that is, the failure of the parties to negotiate their differences and defuse tensions long ago on so many topics. By bottling up political frustrations so completely, so long, on so much, the over-reaction that has now been unleased is reckless abandon and terrible to behold. And that will engender a counter-reaction. Where is the moderation and common sense in the middle?

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      totally agree with Acbar. For years, the GOP has ruled without any interest in compromises.

      I’m not even hearing that now from the GOP.

      It looks like “compromise” these days is not acceptable, giving in on your principles or some such.

      But when one party or the other finds themselves on the wrong end of 70% of the voters, compromise is indicated.

      Perhaps the GOP actually wants to see the over-reach and use it at the next election as a political issue?

  2. “The United States is not a democracy, in which the majority will always prevails. It is a democratic republic with checks and balances designed to protect against the tyranny of the majority.”

    That is something that cannot be repeated enough. A republican form of government is enshrined in the Constitution, and those who wish to make us a direct democracy should offer constitutional amendments, not end-runs around the Constitution.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    Pretty sure the intent of the one-man-one vote was not that it would be normal for the winner of elections not be by majority vote.

    What if we ran Congress that way or the SCOTUS where we’d say that “direct vote” is an “end run” around the Constitution?

    I don’t buy it and it has a whiff of the type of thing you might see in Russia or 3rd world banana republics.

    The basic idea that the electoral college should not actually represent the majority is anethetical to Democracy.

    Imagine the Gov or GA of Virginia working that way.

    1. I’m pretty sure the intent of the Constitution is for the president to be chosen using the electoral college.

      And, we don’t run congress or scotus “that way” because the Constitution does not dictate that we run congress and or scotus “that way”. However, it does dictate that we choose presidents “that way”.

      And it makes no difference whatsoever whether you “buy it” or not.

      As I said, if you don’t like it, stop whining about it and work to change the Constitution.

      1. Boomer Thomas Avatar
        Boomer Thomas

        I sure am glad women and African Americans didn’t just throw up their hands and say “the Constitution doesn’t give us the right to vote. We’re beholden to the wishes of people long since dead who don’t have to live with the patently unfair consequences of the original system they constructed. Oh well!”

        1. You’re right. They didn’t “just throw up their hands”.

          They worked to amend the Constitution – EXACTLY as I recommend you do if you want to abolish the electoral college.

          By the way, thank you for making my argument for me.

        2. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

          Don’t forget that the poll tax and literacy test disenfranchised just as many white Virginians and black Virginians.

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        The point here is that everything else about our “Democracy” IS DIRECT ELECTION and so what exactly is the justification for this one thing not being that way?

        Was it REALLY the intent of the FOunding Fathers or did they screw it up like they did some other part of the Constitution and did they realize just how partisan and divided the country would be so that amendments would not be possible like they have been prior?

        Who would have thought, for instance, that we could not fix the Constitution to deal with ERA ?

        1. The justification is that the founders did not want a few of the most populous states (which included the Commonwealth of Virginia, at that time) to dictate to all the others how the federal government was to be run.

          It is the same reason they chose a bicameral legislature with one house made up of equal representation among the states (senate) and the other constructed based on population house of reps).

          Representation in the electoral college is based on a states combined number of those representatives.

          It was not some crazy idea they tossed together at the last minute. It was carefully thought out, and I suspect it is working exactly as they planned it.

          No matter what you say, the founders of this country did not want the United States of America to be a direct democracy. One of their specific goals in structuring our government, and the way our representatives in that government are chosen, was to avoid the tyranny of the majority.

          1. Boomer Thomas Avatar
            Boomer Thomas

            Electing the president the way we elect Senators, members of Congress, County Sheriffs, Soil and Water Conservation Board Members, and City Councilmen would not make America a direct democracy. If you think it would, you don’t understand what direct democracy is.

            And the Electoral College manifestly DOES NOT operate the way the Founding Fathers wanted it to. Hell, they amended the Constitution to reform the Electoral College almost immediately after the country started using the system (the 12th Amendment)! And there were no state popular votes to determine which slate of electors got to vote for president and vice president under the original system.

  4. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    One if the best legislative sessions EVER

    1. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

      17,064 hours until January 15th, 2022.

  5. Boomer Thomas Avatar
    Boomer Thomas

    I just have to say, for the record, the notion that republican government requires giving power to the person who wins fewer votes in any election is just ridiculous. Republican government means voters lend power to representatives who govern in their name. Republicanism has no implications for what type of electoral system a country chooses to adopt.

    France is a republic, and they give their presidency to the person who wins the most votes. Ireland is a republic. They give their presidency to the person who wins the most votes. America is a republic, and, with the sole exception of the president of the United States, we give political offices to the individuals who win the most votes. The Electoral College is an anachronism that should be abolished forthwith.

    1. Boomer Thomas, you are forgetting the nation’s origin as a union of sovereign states. That’s the essence of our federalist form of government. We are not a nation ruled top-down from Washington, D.C., in a system that treats the 50 states as mere administrative subdivisions. I do understand: If your objective is establishing an all-powerful unitary state, arrangements that respect the co-sovereignty of the states are quite troublesome. But then you have to be prepared to deal with consequences such as someone like Donald J. Trump taking control of that monolithic apparatus.

      1. Boomer Thomas Avatar
        Boomer Thomas

        There is nothing about federalism that requires the Electoral College. If we had a nationwide vote to elect the president we would still have state governments sovereign in the jurisdictions. There is no valid argument in favor of empowering certain voters in certain states more than voters in other states. That’s what the Electoral College does. In presidential elections every vote should have exactly the same weight.

        1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
          Dick Hall-Sizemore

          Boomer, first of all, welcome to the blog! I hope you continue to join our discussions.

          I agree with you, but also with some of the others. It was the intention of the founders to protect the minority from the majority. That was part of the genius of the Constitution.

          I agree with you that the Electoral College is an anachronism and should be eliminated. Conditions are much different than they were in 1789; national direct popular vote, for instance. But getting the Constitution amended to abolish it would be impossible. An amendment needs ratification by three fourths of the states and there are too many little states to hope that would ever happen.

          I agree with you that is nothing “unconstitutional” in states agreeing to cast their electoral votes for the candidate who gets the majority of the votes. The Constitution leaves it up to each state legislature how it “appoints” its electors; Maine divides its electors between its two Congressional districts.

          As for the need to protect the smaller states, there is the Senate in which state has an equal number of votes.

    2. If that is what you think then perhaps you should work to introduce an amendment to the Constitution to make it happen.

      1. Boomer Thomas Avatar
        Boomer Thomas

        I fully support any and all efforts to get rid of the Electoral College, either through the Interstate Popular Vote Compact or through a constitutional amendment to abolish the thing completely.

        1. Okay. That is fine. However, I think it is disingenuous to try to find a way to work around the words and the intent of our Constitution.

          I have utmost respect for people who try to use the amendment process to change the portions of the document they dislike. Those who seek other methods? Not so much.

          1. Boomer Thomas Avatar
            Boomer Thomas

            Who is trying to work around the words of the Constitution? There would be nothing constitutionally untoward about the Interstate Popular Vote Compact. The Constitution doesn’t say how states must select their Electoral College electors.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            I question whether that was the actual intent of the Founding Fathers to start with.

            I suspect what they did NOT intend for the Electoral College to do anything beyond aggregation of the votes.

            Nothing else in our govt works that way.

            The folks that say it is legitimate are the ones who actually want some decision-making process that essentially overrules the majority.

            That’s why today, we have the GOP in control that refuse to hew to what 70-80% of citizens actually support.

            The Foundation Fathers intended elected representatives to actually represent the will of the people and when 70-80% agree on something -that IS the WILL of the people unless the elected choose to ignore it.

            The solution to that problem actually does happen but it takes several elections because of the advantages of incumbancy.

            But you’re seeing this right now in Virginia and you’re seeing it in the GOP continuing to lose positions over their stance on health care.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” The Constitution doesn’t say how states must select their Electoral College electors.”

    correct and it’s possible that if they allocate electoral votes according to actual votes instead of winner-take-all that a different result would occur.

    I doubt seriously that the FOunding Fathers would have purposely set up a system where someone could win without a majority of popular votes if everything else they set up did not work that way but instead by majority vote.

    Imagine how elections would work for Congress of Govt or the General Assembly is they did an electoral type process and essentially disavowed votes in more populous areas that had lopsided margins to lose to lightly populated areas because of giving one vote to a geographic area regardless of how many actually voted.

    That’s how we can have one state win with lopsided margins and another state deeply divided but get all the electoral votes.

    The GOP actually a few years back – advocated allocating votes by congressional district – 2 states do this now.

  7. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

    The Electoral College keeps elections manageable. Is it possible to accurately count 200 million registered voter ballots? I don’t think so. They can’t even count with their fingers right now in Iowa.

    The Electoral College forces candidates to pay attention to all 50 states. If you don’t voters are going to make candidates pay for that on election day. I like how the Electoral College diffuses the power of the people across the map. Everybody has a real chip in the game.

    The Electoral College is a check and balance. 43 state populations combined barely equate to the population of Los Angeles County. James Madison once said that “The purpose of the Constitution is to restrict the majority’s ability to harm the minority.”

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Well – you’re making several arguments here, one of which is a technical one of managing votes which prior to Iowa yesterday, I would have said that computers were more and more capable of!

      I generally agree with the concept behind the Electoral College both as a way to manage the sheer numbers of ballot/votes but also to balance out the relative importance of the states.

      That aspect is different now with our almost instantaneous communication of events on real time versus back during the
      days of the Founding Fathers which such information might takes days, weeks to move across the country and the time it took to process through the Electoral College was much more compelling.

      Also – the country back then was not divided up into rural and urban with very different rural and urban voter values – it was basically largely rural with many fewer urban areas.

      The point here is the country has changed and the media and polls, poll results do influence our elections, like it or not – we cannot undo it.

      So I do not think the electoral college is functioning the way it was intended to originally – if instead of organizing and aggregating votes it actually can result in elections where the aggregate majority – across the country – does not prevail. One-off is just an oddity. When it gets to be a possible pattern, it’s a problem.

      And the ways it can be fixed are way more than just a Constitutional Amendment – the states also can make changes if the politics are too partisan at the Congressional level where we actually have some folks advocating continuing gerrymanders and voter suppression as legitimate political tactics for those in charge and will use the Constitutional amendment process as a way to block changes – like we have seen with ERA.

  8. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    At the end of President Trump’s State of the Union speech, the Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi stood up from her chair behind the President, and on national TV, she up ripped up her copy of the President’s speech.

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      That was after he refused to shake hands with her before the speech. But, how is this relevant to the discussion in this thread?

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        yup. Insult taken and returned.

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