Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Mob

If you've arrived here from a link, you may want to read the context post I did yesterday, as, it provides some background to what I'm about to discuss.

Over this coming weekend, supposedly, a pro-trump mob plans to storm the 165 governmental locations in all 50 states. The question some are asking is; will they succeed? 


Foremost of all, because even if they do storm and take over each and every one of those 165 buildings, that does not give them any power. 

Legislatures can meet wherever they damn well please. The only limit on this would be in a Constitution. Such a thing might limit the legislature to meeting in a particular city, for example. Federally, the US has no such limit, and the few state constitutions I've checked do not either. Even if one or two of them happen to, there are many places within a city a legislature could decide to meet. Occupying an empty building is simply a propaganda victory, and gives you little "real power". This is why the Jan 6th storming was of a a full congress. 

Legislators across the country know that this is a possibility, and that this is coming. They will not sit idle in the chamber as mobs storm it. Beyond that, many places have upped security. Congress has seen soldiers in fatigues sleeping on the floor, for example. 

Courts too can simply decide to end a session. While I'm not fully up-to-date on the technicalities of where a court may decide to meet, none of the state supreme courts are not going to sit idle and let themselves be stormed by a mob. 

That being said, some members of some legislatures might be quite willing to aid the mob. This is the first of the many things we could see over the coming days. A few (one, three, something like that) legislatures in states that are deep red, might decide that they mob is on their side. I can't see the mob on the floor of these legislatures, but allowing them to crowd into the gallery and chant, sure. I could even see the legislators making speeches to rile the mob up. 

That, however, depends on the mob forming in the first place. It's January, this means it is very cold in some places. Additionally, many legislatures are likely simply not in session. This means the chance of a mob storming any buildings, even willing ones, are quite low. 

In an ideal world, what we would see is video of arrests. Ringleaders in calling for violence in all 50 states being arrested and charged. I can't see much of that happening however. This will send the unintentional message that yes, yes the mob can use its weight to shove around the politicians. 

This is something that will remain a threat for the US for quite some time. Not just from Trump supporters, but from the left and the right. Any group with large numbers will start to think that they too could try to storm a legislature. We don't need a big show over the weekend to convince these people that 'mobocracy' can work; what happened on the 6th is enough. The 'better' the show the mob puts on this coming weekend, however, the worst things are going to be going forward. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Mob; And American Politics - context

 This coming weekend there are plans by some groups to protest outside of various government buildings, including all 50 state capitols. I want to address this and what "the mob" could mean for the United States and its democracy, but to properly do so, I need to provide some context; otherwise the post I plan for tomorrow would veer off into all sorts of tangents in various places.

Suggested reading: Federalist 10, by James Madison (audio, text) [Note that "Faction" can be understood to be "Political Party" in the modern context]

From 1776 to 1790, Pennsylvania had an extremely democratic constitution, one which saw a form of "mob rule" from time to time in that state. The state was ruled by a single house, with no real "governor", and with frequent elections and the ability of the chamber to govern itself (and thus remove minority/opposition members), this created an effectively chaotic time in that state. Sadly, there's little easy-to-find information on this period.

The idea of "Blue" and "Red" states is sometimes over-simplified. Most states are a mix. Governors, Legislatures, and the Courts can each have their own leaning. I want to start with the latter, in part because it is difficult to find partisan information for many of the state courts easily. 14 states use what is called the "Missouri Plan" for selecting supreme court judges, which is a fairly non-partisan method. An additional 15 use non-partisan statewide elections. However, one of those 15 is Wisconsin, which had an extremely partisan election in April. 6 see the governor appoint, and the senate confirm. 1 has the house confirm. 1 has both houses confirm. 3 have other bodies confirm. 2 have governor appointments require no confirmation. 2 have the legislatures do the appointing. The remaining 6 have partisan elections. As such, trying to classify all state supreme courts would be difficult at best. Regardless, I am going to ignore the partisan leanings of the courts for the rest of this post.

Currently, Alaska has a unique situation in the House. 15 Democrats, caucus with 5 Republicans and 2 Independents to form the majority. This is not unusual for Alaska, where the reverse situation (a few Democrats sitting with the Republicans) occurred the previous term. This seems to have started in 2007 with the Senate, and lasted to 2012. It began in the house in 2017 and is ongoing. Regardless, since Republicans control the house, this makes Alaska one of the two states with a split legislature. The governor of the state is a Republican. The other state with a split legislature is Minnesota, where the Republicans control the Senate by 1 seat, while the Democrats control the house. The state has a Democrat as governor. Note as well that Nebraska has only a single chamber; and that chamber is officially non-partisan. However, a majority of its members identify as Republican. 

The following states have Republican controlled legislatures but a Democratic governor: Montana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Kansas. The following states have Democrat majorities in the legislature, yet have elected a Republican as governor: Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maryland.

This means the 'fully' "Blue" states are as follows: Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, Illinois, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, California and Hawaii. The following are the 'fully' "Red" states: West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona. 

Of the 49 bicameral states, 48 house the House and Senate in the same building. Arizona houses them in separate buildings less than 170 feet apart. 

Most states have an official residence for the Governor, frequently called the "Governor's Mansion". Some states, however, have no such official residence. These states are Arizona, Idaho, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Some states have additional residences for their governor, or, have turned old residences into museums of some sort. There appear to be 7 of these that are of importance in the context of the coming post. 

Of the 50 Supreme courts, 43 normally meet in a single location; generally being the building that houses that state's supreme court. 3 are centred in cities outside the Capital; Delaware and Wilmington, Louisiana and New Orleans, and Maine and Portland. In all 3 cases, this puts the court in the largest city in the state; but also within 90 miles of the Capitol itself. 

The remaining 4 meet in 3 different locations. Alaska's court is centred in Anchorage, but also meets in Fairbanks and Juneau. California's is centred in San Francisco, but also meets in Sacramento and Los Angeles. Pennsylvania's court has no main centre, and has three coequal locations of Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, while Tennessee's 3 coequal locations are Nashville, Knoxville, and Jackson. 

Adding this up. We have 51 legislative buildings (49 states plus 2 buildings in Arizona), 53 residences (46 plus 7 additional), 58 court buildings (46 single-location states, 4 3-location states [12]) for a total of 162 state locations. Add to this the US Capitol, US Supreme Court, and Whitehouse for a grand total of 165 locations. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Next weekend (attempted american coup)

Originally this post looked very different; but I failed doing what I wanted as I was unable to figure out what Trump supporters would do if they "couped" the government. The plan was to write an alternate history "look back" at events, written sometime in the early 2040s. 

In the timeline where Trump supporters succeeded with their planned coup, the new government would eventually turn on the Trumpists, about 12-16 years in, and return to a more democratic form. The civic identity of America is too strongly associated with democracy to be so easily overturned; and eventually, they would run out of groups to persecute at home, and the standard fears over M.A.D. would restrain foreign adventures. This is why it would take 12-16 years; look at the Soviet Union. It turned Communist in 1917, and fell apart in 1991. Why? In large part because everyone sitting in the legislature, all members of the Communist Party, looked at one another and effectively said "I'm not really a communist, I just ran for office cause I wanted to run for office." The reason this will take less than 70 years in the US is due to the civic identity of the United States. 

The timeline where the coup is suppressed such that any protests were small looks an awful lot like returning to politics in 2014 and continuing on the path that the US had been on at that point. The TLDR is that the next president who desires to get rid of precedent, will do so in a much more slick and 'secret' way. 

The final timeline is what I expect to happen this coming weekend and in the years after. Starting with the latter, we'll see more people like Trump. The Republican Party itself may risk tearing itself apart. Trump, and his "truth over fact" agenda (with "truth" being in the 'scary' sense of the word) appeals to a great deal of people, and a candidate pushing that who has a more broad appeal among right-wingers could well split the GOP in half. Imagine a Trump with the ideology of Ted Cruz, but without Trump or Cruz's toxic personalities. Beyond this I also can see the US Democrats splitting as well, between folk like Bernie and AOC, and moderates; the latter are already without much power in the party. By 2040 what the US faces is a major change in the party system. "Revolutions" within the parties, similar to the ones we saw within the Democrats and Republicans 100 years ago (when they switched places on the left and right wing) 

Importantly however, would be the increased involvement of "the mob". This was to be the main thrust of the post, but, I've decided to spin it off into its own post to be made tomorrow or Thursday, in which I'll also address what I expect to happen next weekend.

The post preview is below:

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Some 'recent' US congressional history and Newt Gingrich

 In 1994, the Republican Party gained control over the House of Representatives for the first time since the 1950s. One key reason for the win was the planned reform of healthcare pushed by president Bill Clinton. After the election, the new Republican caucus would elect Newt Gingrich as it's leader, and he implemented one policy in particular that would have ramifications that continue to this day.

The majority will of the majority party, will determine the actions of the chamber. 

For folk like you and me who live in Parliamentary democracies, this seems only natural. This is, after all, a key aspect of how our democracies function. The US, however, had been using a different ruleset for the past 100 years, if not longer. Frequently, the speaker would side with a significant minority of his own party on issues where the majority of the house supported a particular issue. Imagine if you will a 435 member congress where one party has 250 seats, and the other 185. 150 members of the majority oppose a certain bill, while the other 100 support it. Those 100 are backed by the 185 members in the minority. Under the 'old' system, that bill would almost certainly see easy passage. Under the 'new' system developed by Gingrich, roadblocks would be set up to ensure difficulty in passing the legislation. Beyond that, members of the Majority party who voted with such bills would often see their career stall, while members who voted along with the bulk of the majority party would get promoted to committee chair and other such positions. 

The key result of this was two fold. 

One; it made the party much, much stronger. Now more centrally controlled and organized, the Republicans found winning elections much easier. From 1931 to 1994 the GOP won control over the house for only 4 years. Since 1994, they've been out of power for a short 6 years. 

Two; it rapidly increased the radicalization within the party by encouraging its members to stop talking to the other side. This resulted in a GOP that was far more right-wing, far more christian, far more white, far more male, and far more southern than the party had been to that point. 

This is where I seemly sharply veer into a poll by yougov about the mob storming of congress. Here is the link: I encourage everyone to not only check it out, but to click the "table" link near the bottom of the article. 

If you do click table, you'll notice that 73% of Republicans honestly think that Trump won the election. 

As I see it, there is a direct connection between Gingrich's decision to radicalize the GOP and the fact that 3/4ths of the party now thinks that the election was stolen. 

As I see it, the mob storming of congress started on that day in the mid 90s when Newt Gingrich was given control over the Republican Party.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Israel update - 19 parties running (so far)

 There are 19 "major" parties running for election in Israel; that being 19 parties the media is, to some degree, paying attention to. There are, of course, many more that do not garner much attention. The 19 are, in no particular order, as follows:

Binyamin Netanyahu (Bibi)'s Hard Conservative Likud. Ya'alon's Left-Centrist Telem. The new "Grey" party lead by Yatom. The economist lead NEP. The left wing Tnufa party lead by Shelah. The new progressive Israelis party lead by Huldai. Orly Levy's Gesher. Jewish Home, lead by retiring leader Rafi Peretz. The far-right Zionist National Union. Bennett's New Right. the Labor party. Sa'ar's new Hope. Yisrael Beiteinu. Lapid's liberal Yesh Atid. and Shas, the haredi party.

You may notice this is far less than 19. This is because each of the remainder could, in some way, split further. 

Gantz's Blue and White could see Gabi Ashkenazi fork off his own party. The Haredi UTJ is itself a merger of Agudat Yisrael and Degel HaTorah. The left wing Meretz, while a unified single party, contains many members that could still see further splits. And the Joint List is, itself a merger of 4 'arab' parties; some of which, are themselves mergers of 2 or more parties. 

Polls right now suggest the only party consistently over 15% popular vote is Likud. Sitting at about 28 of the 120 seats, this suggests the party is on 23% support. New Hope is around 15%, and both Yesh Atid, and New Right (Yamina) is on about 12%. This means the top three parties, combined, are at 50% support, and the top four, at 62%. This compares to a top-4-combined-total of 74% in Italy, and 80% in Germany (on current polling) and, based on last elections, 91% in New Zealand, 91% in Canada, and 92% in the UK. Israeli politics is quite divided at this time. Helped in no small part by the seeming dissolution of Yamina into New Right and the National Union. 

Monday, January 4, 2021

Israel updates - 04JAN2021

 First, I wanted to mention my internet was out all weekend. Normally I try to keep up with news daily, as, it is the change in how that news is reported that is important; but, I've not been able to do that this weekend. Regardless;

A lot is going on in Israel. Danny Yatom is launching a new 'grey' party, IE a party for the retired. Such parties have existed before in Israel and elsewhere, but, tend to either consistently miss the threshold, or, 'just' pass it narrowly. As I do not expect the party to pass the threshold, I will likely not report on it, but if/when I do, I will note it as the grey party. 

Ron Huldai, mayor of Tel Avid has launched his party. I'm not going to do a polling update in this post as these numbers need to settle. Preliminary, it seems he's taken potential seats from Lapid, Gantz, and Sa'ar. 

Moshe Ya'alon's Telem party is splitting from Lapid's Yesh Atid. The reason is the "left" with Telem as part of Yesh Atid is sitting on 55 seats, and Ya'alon seems to think that his leaving will somehow help? It could be a 'power move' to position himself as a potential future participant in a right-wing but anti-bibi government. 

Ofer Shelah's new party will be called Tnufa. As I expected, it is far below the threshold. 

Yaron Zelekha has launched the New Economic Party. I do not expect it to do well. 

Using a single poll, that by Panels Politics, for Maariv, current standings are as follows:

Bibi - 29
Sa'ar - 17
Haredim - 16
Bennett - 13

NON-RIGHT: (includes some slightly right parties)
Lapid - 14
Arabs - 11
Huldai - 8
Lieberman - 7
Left - 5
Gantz - 0

This is the only poll showing Gantz at 0, but, I wanted to post it, as, it is a real possibility. 

Monday, December 28, 2020

Update - 28DEC2020

 In Israel there has continued to be some movement. A Likud cabinet minister, an, an additional Likud MK, have now crossed to join Sa'ar and his New Hope party. This marks a total of 5 MKs that have joined the party. Additionally, Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah has quit and is forming his own party; he appears to be to the left of Lapid, and given polls currently show him far below the threshold, he may end up teaming up with Meretz, Labor, or, simply not winning any seats. No polling update, as, only a few polls have come out since the last one, but, in short; Gantz is nearing the threshold, Bibi is very slowly losing seats, Lapid is starting to slowly gain, and Sa'ar continues to gain. 

No updates elsewhere due to the normal 'break' from politics at this time in many places. There is, however, increasing suspicion of a 2021 federal election here in Canada.