The dark passageway

We flew in here blind and I don’t know if there is a pilot to get us out of this mess.

If we were inaugurating a normal right-wing Republican administration, our response would be obvious. We would congratulate the new President, cooperate on issues of agreement, push back where we disagreed, and build for a respectful and successful opposition in 4 or 8 years. This is what we do when the pendulum swings, as it always has, and Americans of different political positions put country above self.

This time is different

Donald Trump is a skillful liar who has shown no regard for the Constitution or the Office of President except as a means of ego gratification and personal enrichment. He has proposed violating the Constitution by revoking citizenship for flag burners, using torture, violating treaties, and enabling politicians to sue newspapers for writing hit pieces. Trump favors eminent domain to seize private property for private use. Trump is using the Presidential transition to strengthen his personal business relationship with foreign governments.

How we got here

Donald Trump skillfully gained votes by openly manipulating and lying on immigration, trade, jobs, and other subjects. Media calling out the torrent of unbelievable lies gave Trump more publicity, and some believed the lies. Trump voters may have seen Trump as the least bad candidate, others may have believed the hollow promise without a plan, to make America “Great Again,” and others may have believed Trump’s constant lies about his opponents and fake news by Macedonian youngsters and elsewhere. This is the reality of the election we just lost but is not the end of the story.

We cannot blame Trump for being Trump, we cannot blame Russian spies for doing what they did to expose Hillary’s secrets, and we cannot blame voters who did the best they could. Those were the circumstances of the election along with decades of stagnating wages, the decline of American civics, and addiction to “reality” TV and dancing with “stars” like Donald Trump. We Democrats failed to deal with those and other early warning signs.

By late 2015, Democrats were aware of the decline in the rust belt, Russian hacking in the election, and Trump’s stoking racist anger over a Black in the White House. A few Democrats sensed arrogance in the “inevitability” of Hillary’s election, but this did not figure in the thinking of those who get paid to win elections.

By August 12, 2016, the specific counties where job loss was connected to support for Trump were spelled out in detail in a 3-page spread starting on the front page of the Wall Street Journal (online the day before). The same day the Washington Post rushed to press with a more nuanced view of the geography of Trumpism and job loss and other variables. Either way, Hillary’s “firewall” was leaking like a sieve and this was public knowledge.

In the summer the end may already have come for Democrats by missing all the early warning signs, but October 7 was the day we fell off the cliff. That day we were emboldened by the Washington Post’s release of the video of Donald Trump’s 2005 lewd conversation about women. Party insiders were overconfident.  Ten days later, Democratic strategist James Carville said the Trump campaign had “died” and “Democrats have a chance to win the whole enchilada,” as part of an effort to shift funds to House and Senate candidates.

The same day Hillary’s campaign manager Robby Mook said, “Donald Trump is becoming more unhinged by the day, and that is increasing prospects for Democrats further down the ballot.” States to which campaign funds were redirected were ones with important Senate races, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada, North Carolina, Iowa, and New Hampshire, five of which Democrats lost. Clinton appeared on October 3 before a crowd of 2,600 in Akron, Ohio, a state she lost by 8.1%, and she appeared on November 2 before a crowd of 10,000+ in Phoenix, Arizona, a state she lost by 3.5%.

We screwed up then and we have an even bigger problem now. To see how we can fix something when we knew or should have known it was broken in the first place, and we did not fix it then, makes me skeptical of easy solutions.

Going forward

Donald Trump may do some good. In an effort to create jobs, he could foster the repair of crumbling infrastructure. In an effort to reduce spending he could insist on higher participation by allies and reduce military empire building. When the new administration discovers that the job losses in the rust belt were due about 85% to automation and 15% to trade with China, they could modify their response. When they realize that more people have been leaving the U.S. for Mexico than the other way around, they may advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. When Trump voters realize in two years that there has been no effective progress in expanding jobs, the new administration may feel the pressure to steer a different course.

Normally when Trump or anyone does something good, common courtesy and trueness to our goals will be to applaud him when he does. But do not be manipulated by someone who grossly disrespects other human beings, does not respect or understand the Constitution, and is a chronic liar. There is a huge disconnect between what Donald Trump says one day and the next. Trump has shown repeatedly that he can change his mind on things. But this does not mean a change in position. When he softens a harsh posture such as on punishing women who have abortions, it should be no comfort. It may be a bargaining position or an attempt to distract us.

Do not listen only to Trump’s total self-contradictions. Listen to the practical inconsistencies. He did not like the War in Iraq (after he did like it) and he did not like results in Libya. So you think he would reduce the threat of war?

No. Trump would undermine NATO, allow more countries to have nuclear weapons, tear up the Iran deal making it more likely that Iran would reach nuclear strike capability, and acquiesce to Russian territorial expansion. None of these are stabilizing actions in a world on edge. Donald Trump, a New Yorker with experience living in the modern age said he had no problem with transgendered people using whichever bathroom in Trump Tower. But he selected Mike Pence for Vice President and Jeff Sessions for Attorney General, neither of whom is a friend of equal rights. So it is right to be skeptical if there is anything good that will come from a Trump Presidency.

The best good to come from a Trump Presidency

The best thing to come from a Trump administration is that he could get locked into a stalemate with the extreme right in Congress. Don’t count on it. There will be some showdowns, but the game of politics for most politicians is survival. Conservatives who think they can tame Trump are in for a bad surprise. Mr. Trump has been inclined to reward cowards and punish those who question his policy, in a surgically effective way, to amass political strength. As President he will have enormous power to use all the levers of the Executive with very little balance of powers.

The worst bad to come from a Trump Presidency

It took 52 days for the Democratically elected government of Germany to pass the Enabling Act of March 23, 1933, after the appointment as Chancellor of Adolph Hitler. The Enabling Act gave total and complete power of government to the Cabinet, in effect the Führer. We must be watchful of any efforts to reduce the power of Congress, including Trump’s desire for term limits. Anything to weaken Congress or the Supreme Court is bad. There is also the troubling area of emergency Presidential power which is not defined in the Constitution but may be necessary for national security, whether or not it is ratified after-the-fact by Congress or the Supreme Court. It is not inconceivable that, if there was another 9/11 attack, the presumptive President-Elect would suspend Civil Liberties.

American Apartheid?

It may be a mistake to focus on Donald Trump. We may have an even bigger and longer term challenge. Due to the Electoral College system and gerrymandering, there has been a deep division in the nation which has given more voting rights, more welfare, and less tax responsibility to Red states.

The U.S. Constitution gives 3 Electoral College votes to 240,809 registered Wyoming voters and 55 votes to 19,411,771 California voters. Constitutional apportionment for President is thus based on the whole number of Wyoming persons and about one fifth of the number of California persons. A California voter gets 23% of the vote of a Wyoming voter.

To make it worse, as pointed out by the New York Times’ Steven Johnson (“Why blue states are the real ‘Tea Party,’” December 3, 2016, New York Times), most of the states that voted for Hillary, “are paying the highest proportion of the country’s bills while ranking lowest in terms of voting power in the Electoral College.”

For example, Blue state New Jersey generated $12,564 in Federal revenue for $9,279 benefits; Red state Alaska generated $6,697 in Federal revenue for $14,375 benefits. Who are the Welfare Queens? The Red states.

Donald Trump got 63 million votes, so barely 19% of America’s 325 million people voted for him and 81% did not vote for him.

How 19% of a Democracy can rule the other 81% needs mathematical explanation. Many people who could have voted did not try to vote, others had been stripped of their constitutional rights due to past crimes which they had repaid, or they were wrongfully denied the right to vote because of flawed purges and draconian voter identification laws. Still others were children and alien residents. But that still means that 19% of Americans are ruling the other 81%, which, when broken out by region, shows the rulers pay less in taxes and get more in welfare in Red states.

In the darkest days of Apartheid in South African, the ratio of those who ruled to those were ruled was 20:80. That was unsustainable. The White Apartheid rulers realized the instability of such a small minority of people ruling such a large majority. Reforms were implemented but too late to stop the rising tide of civil disobedience. Apartheid took over four decades of determined work to abolish. But there was light at the end of the tunnel. Get ready for a long, dark passageway.

Winning Florida more than numbers

You can make numbers prove anything you want to believe, so interpret with caution. Look at the graph with the blue line and the red line and decide what it means to you.

Florida Presidential vote margin
When the blue line is above the red line, Democrats win Florida.

This is a graph of Florida Presidential margins from 1996 to 2016, showing a blue line for the Democratic margin of Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties, or how many more votes there were for the Democrat for President than the Republican. This can be compared with the red line for the Republican margin of Florida’s 64 other counties, that is, how many more votes there were for the Republican in those counties.

Only one of these lines is zigging and zagging. If you understand why, you can elect the next President of the United States.

Among the latter 64 counties are some strong blue counties such as Orange and five others that went for Hillary, so I oversimplify.

Maintain Democratic margins in blue counties

Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties steadily supported all Democratic Presidential candidates for many years by wide margins, with steady growth that largely tracks population increase. Among the three large South Florida counties the vast majority of increased margin came from Miami-Dade County, especially since 2008.

Get-out-the-vote and other Democratic Party efforts such as voter registration drives are probably critical to maintain the margins in South Florida. Local elected officials and Democratic organizations may be reminding voters of what the Democratic Party stands for and ensuring voting loyalty. In Presidential elections, win or lose, South Florida is consistent. The one area of greatest excitement is increased margins in Miami-Dade County.

October 27, 2016, early voting at Davie-Cooper City Branch Library.
October 27, 2016, early voting at Davie-Cooper City Branch Library.

One of the specific things that I would recommend be done early is to locate missing voters long before GOTV, not during the election. Helping Hillary Clinton, many of the voters they had me visit had not lived in a place for a dozen years or were known by present residents to have moved to another state. We can know long in advance who the underperforming voters are, and identify those who are not there, so the campaign does not have to waste last-ditch efforts to find people who are not there.

Another concern I have is for fresh data. Most of the canvass lists that I was provided had been printed 3-5 days earlier and could not have accounted for many of the voters who already voted. Every day the Florida Division of Elections reports lists of completed early and vote-by-mail voters. The early vote report is absolutely current by 8:00 am in the morning covering the previous day’s voting. The vote-by-mail report lags 2-3 days from the time the voter dropped the return ballot in a mailbox. But either way, an additional 3-5 days delay using stale walklists is inefficient. With the enormous labor involved in canvassing and phonebanking, there is no excuse in the tight final days of a campaign for using obsolete data.

As a result, on my last day of walking for Hillary, 25 of the people in my packets who I talked to had already voted along with everyone else in their families. That count does not include additional new people at residences who also voted, but who were not in my packets. About one-half of the conversations that I had involved voters who already voted and those conversations were unnecessary. I could have used the time to go to other houses of people who had not voted. While I gained great respect for the campaign organizer with whom I worked, the “Coordinated Campaign” (which should have been the “Hillary Clinton Campaign”) was heavily structured with too many layers of authority and a slow grasp of geography.

Would these improvements have mattered? No, not enough, in my opinion, not in Broward. We could have easily squeezed out a few thousand more votes, but not 20,000 to make up a reasonable quota towards our 120,000 statewide shortfall.

Pick candidates who appeal statewide

Florida’s other 64 counties zig-zag wildly from election to election, without strong discernible trend. Population growth in red counties, which is undoubtedly a strong driver, is camouflaged by something else.

My hypothesis is that on average voters in these other 64 counties may be voting more for the candidate than the Party. The good news is that some of our candidates such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have enough appeal in these areas to reduce the Republican margins or even flip counties. Pinellas County which tends to vote Democratic, as in 2012 when voters gave Barack Obama a 5.6% margin over Mitt Romney, in 2016 flipped back to the Republican, Donald Trump, who had a 1.1% margin over Hillary Clinton.

While a Presidential election has its own complicated dynamics, at the Florida level, we fairly consistently nominate Democratic candidates for Governor and US Senator with serious flaws, not so much character flaws as just being uninteresting. Donald Trump as a candidate had big league flaws but boring he was not.

It is always possible to look back at an election and, depending on its outcome, manufacture different narratives of what went wrong and right, both what we did individually, and what we did as a Democratic Party, as a campaign, and the candidate herself. Were we delusional about Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and any of our past defeated candidates? Probably, to some degree, we ignored things we shouldn’t have. Not that we can fix a candidate or dwell on shortcomings while campaigning, but being realistic and honest with ourselves is a good step to communications with the voters. Sadly, some people such as Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, who I believe would have made great American Presidents, stumbled as candidates.

Did the campaign have overconfidence about the firewall in the rust belt as well as in places like Pinellas County? Yes, I think that is obvious. And did the campaign overreach in error to try to swing US Senate seats? Yes, or it may have been a reasonable bluff. Was there something that the voters saw or didn’t see that was different from what we volunteers saw or didn’t see? In a nasty, divisive election it is difficult to listen to our opponents, but we should always try harder. When we demean the voters by questioning their intelligence, we fail to listen properly. When I listen to honest Republicans—most of them—they tell me things I need to know to better convey my candidate’s message.

Campaign sign along country road in Lake County, Florida, where Donald Trump got 60% of the vote.
Campaign sign along country road in Lake County, Florida, where Donald Trump got 60% of the vote.

Understand Florida

Tuesday night I knew we were in trouble when I saw Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers wavering near Donald Trump’s. Florida has 9 counties in the Panhandle west of the Appalachicola River in the Central Time Zone, and Gulf County straddles both time zones.

The Panhandle including the Central Time zone counties tends to vote Republican although Dixiecrat is a better designation as many of the voters are of Democratic families left over from Reconstruction. The polls in the Republican western Panhandle close one hour later than the rest of the state.

I calculated that Hillary needed to be 3 percentage points above Donald in the Eastern Time Zone to survive an inevitable loss in the Panhandle. She didn’t make it. When a lot of my friends were still expecting a Hillary win was possible, her defeat was already assured by the late closing Central Time Zone polls, to be soon reported. It was even worse than that. Hillary had a positive margin in only 9 Florida counties compared with 13 for Barack Obama.

As an interesting history note, in 1968, Holmes County voted 87% for George Wallace over Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. In 2016, Holmes County voted 88% for Donald Trump.

If we are seriously interested in winning the next statewide election we should pay a visit to Holmes County, Florida. Bring along our candidate and we can visit the Westville Bar. Call it a road test.

Election numbers: Broken formula

Miami protestsThere is much we need to do now to prepare in solidarity for a Trump Presidency and oppose pledged extraconstitutional actions. If you are pessimistic, check out Masha Gessen’s “Autocracy: Rules for survival.” But if you are optimistic, I focus on one part of our future which is electoral politics.

Every 2 years, Broward Democrats do an 11th hour dance to turn out fellow Democrats to vote in statewide races. Then win or lose, we look at the numbers and spend two years patting ourselves and other Democrats on the back at Democratic Club meetings.

Acknowledging the misery you may be suffering right now, do not be distracted by fear but try to focus on future elections.

Tranquil roadside, State Road 19, Lake County, Florida, July 29, 2016.
Tranquil scene alongside State Road 19, Lake County, Florida, July 29, 2016.

Bottom line is, last minute Broward turnout and Broward margins will not make enough difference to win. We should be doing other things as:

  1. Listening to voters in red counties.
  2. Picking as candidates joyful warriors with credibility and character.
  3. Not waiting until the campaign comes to town.

The ethos of Broward politics is that Broward is the center of the Democratic universe. The Holy Grail is that when Democratically leaning Broward votes heavily, Florida tips Democratic. With 29 electoral votes, when Florida is tipped Democratic by Broward County, we elect a Democrat for President of the United States. Simple math.

Presidential election marginFor example, in 2008, the Broward margin for Barack Obama was 254,911 and Florida went for Obama by a margin of 236,450 votes. Based on the numbers, didn’t the Broward Democratic Party elect President Obama? Some thought so. In his reelection for Chair of the Broward Democratic Party, Mitch Ceasar’s “Real Dem” supporters said the math proved Mitch’s leadership in electing a Democratic President to the Whitehouse. Bravo! Mitch was reelected Chair.

Now when Democrats lost the Whitehouse, we get depressed. Some point fingers. We point out that Broward County voter turnout is often the worst in the state. A better Party Chair can “make” voter turnout high, not lose Florida like in 2000 by a measly 537 votes. I doubt it.

In 2016, the Broward Democratic margin was 288,435. That many more votes were cast for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump. But statewide the Democratic margin was -119,489. What does this prove? If someone could have increased Broward turnout proportionally, to make up this margin, at the same voting ratios, that would have required 101.1% turnout. Not likely even with the dead voting. I don’t even think that Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties could have done that together. Not without bringing up the numbers in red counties.

While Broward margin in 2016 was the best that it has ever been for a Democratic Presidential candidate, Miami-Dade County’s was even better, 289,340. The trend for Broward is linear as a reflection of County voter participation growth in both major parties. There is no relative increase, no matter what we do. (But if we stopped doing what we are doing in GOTV, it could get a lot worse.)

The trend for Palm Beach County is flat. The Democratic margin in 2016, 100,649, was the worst since 1996. Miami-Dade County has been the Rock Star of electoral politics, in 2008, 2012, and 2016. A lot of this improvement had to do with George W. Bush, who was appealing to many Miami-Dade voters, and once he was gone, it all changed. (But be wary of a future election bid for US Senate by brother John Ellis Bush.) Every Democratic Presidential candidate since has done much better in Miami-Dade County.

The Holy Grail in Broward Democratic politics is voter turnout and margin. If you want to believe this, you can make the numbers prove it, or prove anything else you want to believe. Margin is the difference in votes between the winning candidate and the nearest rival. Turnout is the number who voted divided by active registered voters.

But I don’t believe this is where to place emphasis.

My recommendation is don’t focus entirely on turnout because there is softness in voter registration numbers. Anyone like me canvassing door-to-door would have found many voters who moved out of the state, or hadn’t lived at an address for a dozen years. So with phantom voters, turnout is not a good measure. Even among registered votes, there is an even larger, softer underbelly of so-called “inactive” voters who most campaigns pay no attention to. These people cannot be discounted. In 2008, “inactive” voters were mobilized by the thousands in Barack Obama’s campaign.

Don’t even focus on how well we did from year to year. Because improvement in Democratic margin in Broward, or even Broward and Miami-Dade County, is not enough to carry the state.

Instead, we need to focus on the much harder job of developing a platform for the needs of all Florida residents, not just blue county turnout.

My mechanic voted Trump

Last night, after paying my mechanic, I asked, “Are you happy with the results of last night’s election, or not so happy?”

“Happy,” he said.  Ryan is a White Anglo male, about 35. He wears a beard and baseball cap.

“Hillary is a crook,” Ryan said, “. . . and Trump is a crook.  But I trust Trump more because he won’t have outside interests.”  I was all ears.

“We all want the same thing,” I said, “to make things work better.”

Ryan said that Hillary would have continued a program under Obama to make more and more people dependent on government.  “When 50% of the people depend on government,” Ryan said, “it can control them by threatening to take away their benefits.”  Ryan said he wants Obamacare abolished.  Instead, Ryan would like free health care for everyone like in Canada and Western Europe.  I said, “I don’t think either Trump or Hillary promised that.  Maybe Bernie Sanders would have . . .” Ryan tossed his hand to his side.

I told Ryan that I, too, would like free health care for everyone.  “A problem before and after Obamacare,” I said, “is rising health care costs. Unlike Western Europe, in the US we have a difficult marriage of government and corporations.  We have regulated monopolies, like it was with railroads and oil.  Now it’s pharmaceuticals and insurance driving up costs.”

Ryan said we need to spend much less on national defense. I reminded him about Russian and Chinese territorial expansion, for example, the South China Sea.

Ryan talked about the benefits of hemp for many useful purposes.  And how DuPont invented nylon and then quashed the use of hemp.

I told Ryan that I did not vote for Trump but that I hoped that Trump would keep his word on some of his promises. The one I was thinking of was a balanced budget.

Ryan said, “I hope he does, too, and . . .” he grinned, “. . . I want him to build that wall!”  I looked at him skeptically and said goodnight, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”  Ryan said, “Take care.  Goodnight.”

For the last eight weeks, knocking on doors for Hillary, I had been yelled at “Get out of here” by Trump supporters, heard Hillary called a “bitch,” that I was “fucking crazy for supporting her,” and “she should be in jail,” and I was chased out of a patio by a Trump supporter.

Amazingly, last night was the first time I had a real conversation with a Trump supporter.

Ryan’s hopes don’t make Trump’s promises believable.  Trump doesn’t care for Ryan, or for other people like Ryan who voted for him, or for anyone but Trump himself.  I don’t even know if Hillary cares for Ryan. But I do know that a Hillary Clinton administration would have responsibly delivered for Ryan, and others who voted for Trump.

Despite the conflicted logic on Obamacare and wanting—but not wanting—government dependency, Ryan showed honest support for Trump who he believed spoke for him. Emotionally. At the gut level.

Moving forward after emotional recovery, we Democrats need to go to places in Florida and find the 119,490 extra votes we needed on November 8th. We need to talk to people like Ryan and listen carefully. Broward and Miami-Dade Counties delivered very well for Hillary Clinton, our best election performance in absolute margin. Our two counties delivered a margin for Hillary Clinton of 577,775 votes, dwarfing by almost five times Donald Trump’s statewide margin of 119,489 votes over Hillary Clinton. But we could not have squeezed out enough more Democrats to vote in Broward and Miami-Dade. GOTV in Democratic areas can’t do enough.

Instead, we need to build our base in other Florida counties by listening carefully to people’s real concerns. Americans want to do what works, on health care, national defense, and infrastructure. We are divided but not too divided. You don’t have to agree with Ryan. But you need to respect him. And that starts by listening.

Vote by mail needs help

(Since this was written, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker extended the close of voter registration in Florida a second time, until Tuesday, October 18. The Broward County Supervisor of Elections will accept voter registrations until 5:00 pm, Tuesday, October 18, at 115 S. Andrews Avenue, Room 102, Fort Lauderdale and at 1501 NW 40th Avenue, Lauderhill.  There is a disappearing drop-down banner on the Supervisor’s web site http://browardsoe.org One way to adapt to this change is to continue helping voters request vote-by-mail ballots while being alert to prospective new voters who would like to get registered.)

On November 6, 2012, voter turnout in Broward was only 66.8%. More than 378,000 voters, including many Democrats, did not vote. The main campaign goal for Hillary Clinton and all of us is to earn Florida’s 29 electoral votes by ramping up Democratic voter turnout. Democrats vote generally for Democrats. And Broward County has more Democrats than any other Florida County. The one thing that will make the most positive impact for Hillary to get elected as President, and with a large mandate, is to encourage Democrats who skipped voting in 2012 to vote in 2016. It’s simple. And Broward is the key. We are the key.

For this reason, I pay close attention to vote-by-mail requests by Democrats. Some primary voting Democrats may even think that their past absentee requests carry over to different elections. That’s not necessarily true. It depends on the type of original vote-by-mail request that was made and how far back it was. They get termed out.

The quickest remedy is for everyone to check their vote-by-mail status at http://browardsoe.org by clicking “My Status” in the red bar at top. Voters can also quickly request their vote-by-mail ballot at that web site or call 954-357-7050 and there will be automatic message asking for the voter’s information. Remind people that postage is now free.

How are we doing?

For the August 30, 2016 primary, Democrats did very well. Now, I’m not so sure. Today’s accumulated vote-by-mail requests by Democrats in Broward County are only 111,961. This number needs to be much larger, both to reflect the background increase and to cover the small attrition of vote-by-mail ballots that do not not get turned in.

In the last 18 days, the increase was 13,286 compared with only 3,648 for Republicans. While that’s encouraging, it’s still not enough. With the close of voter registration, now extended by a Federal Judge to October 12, if there is one last thing that is most important, it’s to get every Democrat out to vote and vote-by-mail is our best tool. Transportation is not required. Postage is not required. Weather is never a problem. And there are no voter lines.

In the 2012 general election, President Obama received 105,966 vote-by-mail votes. Considering that not all vote-by-mail ballots are turned in, we have a great opportunity to do more. Find the voters who skipped November 2012, and who have not yet requested vote-by-mail for this election. Sign them up.

How to

My procedure is to only go to Democratic-friendly houses. If it’s a mixed house with Republicans and Independents, I’m very careful, and often avoid those houses, even if there may be a Democratic voter.

I wear something Democratic or something with Hillary’s name, and identify myself clearly as a Democrat. I typically introduce myself and say that I am looking for Hillary Clinton voters. If I get any push back, and I do sometimes, even from Democrats, I smile, thank them, and go to the next house. Little damage done.

However, if the person who comes to the door is friendly, and most are, I then ask for the targeted voter, the person who my list shows did not vote in 2012. At that point, every situation is different, depending on whether the person I am looking for is in the house. If it’s a child away in college, who has a stable mailing address, the parent can ask the child if they want to vote-by-mail.

 

Bumper Harvest in Democratic Primary

This updates my August 6, 2016, report of Republican underperformance, relative to Democrats, in absentee voting in the 8/30/2016 Broward primary election. I showed that, by controlling for earliness and geography, the relative underperformance was a partisan trend not explained by obvious artifacts. The cumulative trend continues but has reduced (see graph).

Primary absentee voting 2016 Broward CountyIn the most recent data, 8/15/2016, 15 days before this 8/30/2016 primary election, absentee votes as a ratio of all uncancelled absentee requests were Democrats, 29.9%; Republicans, 22.8%; and Independents (other parties and no party affiliation), 16.8%. In the 8/14/2012 primary, the ratios 15 days before the election were Dems, 21.3%; Reps, 18.9%; and Indies, 12.8%.

In the 2016 primary, the deficit in Republican voting performance, relative to Democrats, narrowed in the past 10 days from 41% to 24%. This shows a bounce back for Republicans, which will still likely not erase the cumulative underperformance by 8/30/2016.

The same data can be used to argue that there is not Republican underperformance but Democratic overperformance. Total Democratic votes to date were 23,546 compared with 11,235 on the 15th day before the election in 2012.  The absentee votes by Republicans 15 days before the 2016 and 2012 primaries were 10,077 and 6,081, respectively.

Uniformly extending the last 7 days of absentee voting through 8/30/2016 projects a total absentee vote for Dems, 42,877; Reps, 20,919; and Indies, 7,805 compared with 2012 which was Dems, 24,472; Reps, 13,580; and Indies 4,064.

This is no longer as flaming good news for Democrats as it was, but, without a doubt, Democrats have learned very well how to vote absentee, something that the Republicans used to clobber us with. Just as Republicans learned early voting in the 2010 primary, in 2014 and 2016 Democrats really learned absentee voting.

Disappearing Republican voters

An election puzzle is that absentee ballot return rate by Republican voters is so far only 9.0% compared with 15.2% for Democrats, a relative deficit of 41% for Republicans.

There is some causal effect now reducing Republican voting in the 2016 primary compared with past elections. This should be no comfort to Democrats. It may not be a momentum issue. Republican voting may bounce back. November 8 will be a whole new election.

Broward County absentee ballotsI speculated the 41% deficit in Republican performance might be due to inherent differences in absentee voting rates by party, or overperformance in districts with hot Democratic contests, or regional postal delivery speed affecting Republican areas. But not so. When I controlled for city, Republican underperformance was countywide. The effect of hot elections on absentee ballot return rate was noticeable in only two districts.

As proof of Republican underperformance in the 2016 primary, I controlled for voter earliness by averaging the day each voter voted early, whether by absentee ballot or at an early voting location, in four past elections. The only known bias was due to lack of earliness data for voters who were not registered in 2012 or 2014 elections. Absentee ballot return rate was plotted by party, Democratic, Republican, and Independent (other parties and no party affiliation), for average earliness day 29 to 0 in past elections, on a probability scale (see graph, above).

Absentee ballot returns in the 8/30/2016 primary election are strong, 19,447 votes cast out of 158,190 active requests, as of 8/5/2016. In the 2012 primary, 42,244 votes were cast, so 2016 is slated to dwarf 2012. Based on past elections, a little less than half of absentee ballot requests will be voted in the primary.

 

So you want to be a Committeeperson?

What is a Committeewoman / Committeeman?

Briefly, Democratic Committeeman and Committeewoman are representatives of the people in their area to the Democratic Party at the County, State, and National levels, and Committeepersons speak for the Democratic party to people in their area, specifically the Precinct.  You can jump to my 7 Committeeperson duties, or read first about the election . . .

The Election

If you want to be a full member of the Broward County Democratic Executive Committee (the DEC), to be able to fully vote and have full opportunity of holding office in the Party, you must run for election in your precinct on the August 30, 2016 ballot by completing form DS-DE 24C, Candidate Oath for Precinct Committeemen and Committeewomen http://dos.myflorida.com/elections/forms-publications/forms/committee-person-forms/ , have it properly notarized, and physically turn in the original notarized Oath to the Broward County Supervisor of Elections http://browardsoe.org on or after 12:00 noon on Monday, June 20, 2016 and before 12:00 noon on Friday, June 24, 2016, or ensure that someone you trust turns it in for you within the required 3 and 2-half days.

There is no filing fee and no other campaign reports are required. You can contribute money towards asking your neighbors in your precinct to vote for you on the August 30, 2016 ballot, where your name will appear. You don’t have to keep track of your expenses, if any, and you don’t have to report. You may or may not have an opponent. This election occurs once every four years. If you win with a plurality (there are no runoffs, and ties have been handled with a coin toss) then you will be a Committeewoman or Committeeman (as far as I know, a person’s gender is that which you say you are).  You will be a member of the Broward County Executive Committee which has bylaws and operates within the Florida Democratic Party bylaws.

In Broward County, there may be one Committeewoman and one Committeeman per precinct except for precincts with 1001 or more registered Democrats, which may have up to two men and two women. Between four year intervals, you can apply for appointment to a vacant position in a precinct or to an at-large position, which appointment is by the Democratic Executive Committee, with a screening process which is sometimes slow.

Deadwood Need Not Apply

Beyond this, you can be a volunteer at any time with the Party or with candidates. You can also contribute money to the Party or to candidates, which is also very appreciated.  (Click the red Donate link here; make it painless by setting up an automatic monthly donation: http://browarddemocrats.org) The most important thing is that the Broward Democratic Party (the DEC) needs volunteers not executives. If you like to let others do the work, you don’t have to apply.  If you are recruiting others to join the Party as Committeepeople, please make sure they are active and seriously committed to volunteer to get out the vote for Democrats by knocking on doors and making phone calls, registering voters, and doing other work to elect Democrats.

What are the 7 Duties of Committeepeople?

Neither Florida nor Broward Democratic bylaws define the duties, other than to be and remain a Democrat (there is also a loyalty oath required at swearing-in which is in December), and you must not support any non-Democratic opponents of Democrats (except, if you wish, in judicial races), and you must show up for regular meetings of the Party which in Broward are currently the third Tuesday of every month.

Lacking an official statement of duties, I have researched Committeepersons around the United States to describe better the duties, which are:

  1. be a good member of the community
  2. spread the word of the Democratic Party
  3. help register Democrats
  4. help shape the issues for the Democratic Party
  5. choose candidates to best represent the issues and the people
  6. help Democratic candidates get elected
  7. assist your neighbors of all political parties to reach their elected officials and participate fully in a healthy, conscientious, democratically representative process in accord with the Constitutions and other laws of the land

In understanding the role of Committeepersons, it is important to look at the Florida and U.S. national political systems in a larger context. In Florida the Precinct (as defined by the Broward County Supervisor of Elections and adopted by the Broward County Board of County Commissioners) is the basic unit of geopolitical organization and there is usually up to one Democratic Committeewoman and one Democratic Committeeman in each precinct. In many large cities of America they may be called Wards and there is sometimes also even in Florida a two-tiered level of local political organization.

Parallel Political Organizations, Some Good, Some Bad

For the most part, the Democratic Party has healthy, strong relationships with issues organizations involving organized labor, the environment, minority communities, and education. We also have billionaires who like our candidates and issues, we have small business people who knock on doors with us, and we have retired members of the military services who make phone calls, and we have inventors who register voters, and we also have volunteers who are anthropologists and agronomists, zoologists and (probably) Zamboni drivers.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of power, in times when a political party is very entrenched it can act as a shadow government (“political machine”), and the Ward Committeepeople, Precinct Captains, whatever they are called, may be part of a patronage system in which there is bartering of power and favors. In contrast to the historical patronage of Party-appointed jobs historically in some big cities, there can also be another kind of shadow government involving outsourcing of government contracts to the friends of elected officials and to clients of lobbyists who got the elected officials elected. In modern Florida the growth of the lobbyist industry and professional campaign managers has shaped the political landscape, so that political parties are less powerful or have shifted their roles, and Precinct Committeepersons have a less defined role than in the older urban centers of the US. Democrats nationally and historically had steered more goodies through patronage, especially when organized labor was strong, while Republicans have traditionally steered candy through outsourcing projects to millionaires and budget-breaking tax-cuts to billionaires.

Lobbyists and campaign consultants play an important and valuable role in the political process, but sometimes when these relationships are too close and too close to elected officials, the result is a toxic brew of bad government, insider dealing, and the only way of stopping it is for folks to go to prison.

We have laws on these things because corruption of politics is disgusting.  Do you remember President Richard Nixon famously saying for the tape, “it would be wrong” in planning a cover-up? Seemingly harmless political favors, if carried too far, can foster a system of exclusion and discrimination.  Fortunately corruption in politics is eventually self-correcting, and hopefully the Broward Democratic Party will remain above corruption and true to its purpose to helping the people. Ideally a healthy political party will find ways of engaging its main volunteers in social activities that are a legal, ethical, and intangible reward for volunteerism.

The Vaccine Against Corrupt Politics is Called “Grass Roots”

Like any organization, a church, a bowling club, or a political party must provide something for their members.  Food, music, humor, idealism, and fellowship are good kinds of glue to hold an organization together.  I find that frequently certain people love working with certain other people and make great teams both because they are all dedicated but also because they like being with each other and having fun on the campaign trail. For others, the excitement of getting honest people elected is reward enough for volunteering to the Broward Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party Organization

Committeemen and Committeewomen are voting members of their County Executive Committee. The Democratic Executive Committee is often dubbed the DEC. Republicans also have a County Executive Committee, the REC. The County Executive Committee is part of a larger state organization. Florida State Statutes set up a process for the election of Executive Committee people, by a direct vote of the people in their precinct. The Bylaws of the Florida Democratic Party go into more detail on the relationship of the County Executive Committee and the state, and more detail on the election of Committeepersons in their precincts and their appointment at-large.

The Bylaws of the Broward Democratic Party are largely based on the Florida Democratic bylaws, but also go into detail on the Area Leader organization which is how precincts are loosely organized within the Management Committee which includes the County Officers (Chair, Vice Chairs, Secretaries, Treasurer, and State Committeewoman and State Committeeman).

In Florida, the main difference in the organization of the Democratic Party Executive Committee from the Republican Party Executive Committees is that the Democratic State Committeepersons are elected by the Precinct Committeepersons, that is the members of the County Democratic Executive Committee, whereas Republicans elect their State Committeepersons by a direct vote of the registered Republican voters at the polls.  So if you think that direct elections are more Democratic, that distinction goes to the Republicans.

Back to the Party Elections

Every four years, in the partisan primary which by law will be held hereafter in August during the year of the national presidential election, there is an election of Committeemen and Committeewomen in their precincts. This year the vote will be on August 30, 2016, and candidates for Committeeperson who are opposed will be on the ballot both at their polling places and in the early and absentee ballots. As with partisan primaries in general, mostly diehard Democrats will be voting, therefore the tendency is for opponents to show what good they are for the Party (the “Real Dems”) and what bad Democrats their opponents are, but hopefully after the election the victors and the fallen will realize that was all fluff and will still be able to have a beer together.

In December 2016 on a date and location set by the Chair, there will be an organizing meeting in which a Chair and other officers are elected by nominations from the floor. Any Committeeman or Committeewoman who is elected on August 30, 2016 (or who was elected unopposed and was therefore not on the ballot) can vote as well as run for the County Officer positions. Except, the First Vice Chair must be of the opposite gender as the Chair.  Again, I’m assuming people pick their gender and I’m not sure what happens when a man is elected to be Committeewoman and vice versa, which occasionally occurs.

Typically in the quadrennial Party officer election, there will be partial or complete slates, there will be a certain amount of friction and disinformation by opposing camps, and hopefully no lawsuits.

Persons who were appointed including at-large appointments have no vote in the organizing meeting and might even pleasurably be unable run for Chair or other Officer position. Except Democratic members of the Florida House and Florida Senate whose districts include Broward County are automatic members at-large, and have one vote each.

If you were a visitor from Mars or even one of the signers of the U.S. Constitution (which does not mention political parties), you might think the whole process of Party organization as bizarre, even toxic, however it is usually an inevitable process of democracy.  And as bad as democracy is–what a mess it is–democracy is the best and only kind of government for a free people.

So do join the Democratic Party with smile and remember how good politics moves a nation forward to help all the people and bad politics starts horrible wars and destroys economies. Think positive!  You will make a good difference!

Vote YES on 4 in August – Vote NO on 1 in November

Let’s keep this as simple as possible. YES on 4 NO on 1.

You will see two different solar energy Constitutional Amendment proposals on two different ballots.

Vote YES on Amendment 4 on August 30.
Vote NO on Amendment 1 on November 8, 2016.

After that, the details are murky unless you follow the money as I have.

Amendment 1 was put on the ballot because the utility companies and right-wing political groups such as Ralph Reed’s Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition paid over $7 million to put it on the ballot. If Amendment 1 didn’t help profits for FPL (subsidiary of NextEra Energy, Inc.), Duke Energy, Tampa Electric, Gulf Power, and Ted Cruz’s supporters in Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition, they wouldn’t have fronted the loot to put it on the ballot.

The last sentence of Amendment 1 puts a poison pill in the Florida Constitution seeming to prevent involuntary subsidy of solar infrastructure by consumers who choose not to install solar. Problem is, while preventing solar subsidy may not be reasonable in a state going under water due to fossil fuel emissions, the language is so vague that it will invite legal challenges for expansion of solar energy in Florida, EVEN free enterprise expansion (yeah for capitalism when it doesn’t own the government) of solar energy.

In contrast, Amendment 4 which was put on the ballot by our beloved Florida Legislature, is probably benign. They may have deferred to their friends in fossil fuel by moving Amendment 4 to August 30 to avoid confusion with the right-wing, utility-paid-for Amendment 1.

Thanks for not confusing us!

http://dos.myflorida.com/elections/laws-rules/constitutional-amendments/

In summary, YES on 4 NO on 1

Phil

Cynthia Busch is perfect for Democratic Party Chair

Cynthia Busch is who we need as Chair of the Broward Democratic Party. I am supporting Cynthia and you should too.

The Broward Democratic Party (the Democratic Executive Committee or DEC) election is December 9, 2012.

Cynthia Busch, Democratic Area Leader of Plantation, leads highly effective Democratic voter registration, get-out-the-vote, phonebanking, petition gathering, and volunteer training, election work. Cynthia Busch embedded herself and worked day and night, elbow-to-elbow, with volunteers and Organizing for America (OFA) staff, to elect President Barack Obama in 2008, and reelect the President in 2012.

Cynthia Busch has been successful in electing Mayors and other local Democratic officials. Cynthia’s hands-on and steady guidance focuses on results. Any election day, if you want to know where Cynthia is, she’s at the polls or more likely canvassing. Any election, she has been working door-to-door with volunteers, and at phone banks for months beforehand.

Cynthia Busch surrounds herself with highly qualified, hard-working people such as Alan Ehrlich, Rick Hoye, and many others. She leads by example and by delegation. Today’s resurgent Democratic grassroots activism springs from Cynthia’s volunteer work as a DEC Committeewoman and Area Leader of Plantation, and has reached across much of Broward County. This grassroots activism should become the renewed Broward Democratic Party, to strengthen Broward’s Democratic vote turnout, to elect a Democratic governor in 2012, and to increase the Democratic ratio in the legislature.

Cynthia Busch’s plan for strengthening the Broward Democratic party includes bringing the Party into the 21st century in technology while making human contact and interaction the heart and soul, restoring committees, earning the trust to win the vote, raising funds to open an office that will be utilized to elect Democrats, empowering leaders who reflect our community, responding positively to new ideas and concerns, and never having conflicts, special interests, or goals other than to the Democratic Party and to the election of Democrats.

Cynthia is supported in her Democratic volunteer work by her husband Steve Busch who is an inventor, stock broker, and small businessman. They have two young daughters. Cynthia is not a lobbyist and does not do paid campaign work. She is a delight to work with and is perfect for Chair of the Broward Democratic Party.

Cynthia has my vote and I ask you to vote for her.

Phil, 954-579-3932
Broward Democratic Committeeman, precinct T027
837 SW 120th Way, Davie, FL 33325