Recommend “Yes” Vote on amendments 4, 9, and 13

(For backup, download explanations and references on all Amendments, and why I recommend a “Yes” vote on amendments 4, 9, and 13:  amendments_florida_2018 )

Ripe with confusion are 13 Florida Constitutional Amendments on the November 6, 2018 ballot. Amendment 8 is on the ballot but won’t even be tallied.  Other Amendments contain multiple, unrelated issues, and/or are misleading, and/or do not belong in a Constitution. According to Ballotpedia.org the average question on Florida’s ballot requires 20 years of U.S. formal education to read and understand.

My initial door canvassing plan, besides asking voters to show up and support all Democrats on the ballot, was to recommend “Vote yes on 4” but nothing more, consistent with the Tampa Bay Times. My plan has changed a little.

At one of the first doors I knocked on, the voter (an employee of the Seminole Tribe of Florida) asked me about Amendment 3, which I wasn’t planning to mention. Another voter felt strongly in favor of Amendment 6 (modeled after California’s Marsy’s Law) that would supposedly expand victims’ rights.

After careful review, besides a “Yes” vote on Amendment 4 (voting restoration), I decided to mention “Yes” on Amendment 9 (bans near off-shore drilling) and “Yes” on Amendment 13 (ends dog racing), if I have the voter’s attention.

I was not planning, and I will not, argue a “No” opinion to voters on goofy, unreadable, or deceptive Amendments. But I do want to show that I understood the issues and the voter’s concern, if I am asked about another Amendment.

For any other Amendment, I take the passive approach of damnation by not mentioning it. I think the rest, except for 4, 9, and 13, are all bad, but I want to make sure a voter votes and gets through the ballot, whether or not they vote the right way on the gobbledygook.  If voters are slightly suspicious, the 60% required vote for passage will prevent most of the bad Amendments from passing. The best warning I can give is to say, “take the time to carefully read your vote-by-mail ballot.” If a voter asks about another Amendment, I say briefly what it is about, and move on.

Based on my research in amendments_florida_2018, Amendments 4, 9, and 13 are easy “Yes” votes and should be easy to understand. Most voters, and all major groups, already support Amendment 4, and when they see 9 and 13, those will be obvious “Yes” votes.

Amendment 4 is very important and beneficial to society because it will automatically restore voting rights to felons (except not murderers or sex criminals) who have completed their sentences. With some 1.5 million citizens who have completed their sentences and cannot vote, Florida is last in the nation in voting restoration. Florida has a long history of suppression of Black voters, even for ridiculous and made-up reasons just to prevent voting. Anti-voting laws for Blacks were intentionally written into the state Constitution after the end of slavery. The League of Women Voters of Florida, which, along with all other major organizations supports Amendment 4, shows data that post-release recidivism rates are reduced by automatic rights restoration. Vote “Yes” on 4.

Most voters immediately understand and support Amendment 4, so you may not have to explain it, and Amendment 9 (bans near-offshore drilling) and Amendment 13 (ends dog racing) are clear. Voters will see that there is an anti-indoor-workplace-vaping part of Amendment 9, which is weird. But it is so necessary for us in Florida to put a ban on near-offshore drilling, to protect our beaches, that we should just hold our noses on indoor -workplace-vaping, and vote “Yes” on 9.  Amendment 13 is also an easy “Yes” vote, which will end wagering on dog racing because dog racing is cruel. Isn’t horse racing cruel? Yes, sometimes, but that’s no reason not to vote “Yes” on 13. Does this belong in the Constitution? No, but the legislature has not acted on it. How many more Greyhounds have to die before the legislature gets around to it?

Voters think that Amendment 3 gives them the right to vote on casinos, but it effectively does the opposite. Amendment 3 dis-empowers the local vote on gambling and/or the Legislature, because any new gambling would have to be approved by a statewide petition drive, and statewide vote, as a Constitutional Amendment. Not likely.

The Tallahassee Democrat explains, “Amendment 3 purports to put citizens in charge of any expansion of gambling, but it’s mainly a sop to Disney, which opposes all casino gambling, and the Seminole Tribe, which doesn’t want any competition for its gambling operations.” Amendment 3 is supported by the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, the Broward Democratic Party, and the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida. From the beginning of time, Democratic groups in South Florida have voted for anything that mentions gambling. The League of Women Voters supports Amendment 3 but for the opposite reason, because “the League has held a consistent position against gambling”!  Don’t drink the Kool-Aid on Amendment 3. Is it worth the time no explain to voters? No.

Feel-good Amendment 6 deceptively appears to  protect victims’ rights, but the League of Women Voters of Florida argues, “Victims’ rights are already protected in the Constitution, and this amendment would eliminate an existing provision that victims’ rights do not interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused.” This is a very comfortable “No” vote, and Amendment 6 is opposed by all major groups, but unfortunately some voters will drink the Kool-Aid.

Two other Amendments, 11 and 12, may look good to some progressive groups but, in my opinion, are bad. The Miami-Dade Democratic Party and the ACLU of Florida (but not the Broward Democratic Party and not the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida) support Amendment 11, which might allow some criminal justice reforms to apply retroactively which might shorten prison terms and might save taxpayers’ money by reducing prison populations. Which is why Florida Tax Watch also supports 11. (Amendment 11 also cleans up obsolete, unenforceable language in the Constitution, by preventing the Legislature from preventing non-citizen ownership of property and removing Bullet Train language, which was already repealed.)

But the true results of feel-good Amendment 11, specifically the retroactive sentencing changes, are unpredictable. Florida Today staff explain that, “Gun rights groups support [Amendment 11] in hopes that will make retroactive a change to the “stand your ground” law that put[s] the burden of proof on the prosecution instead of defendants in pre-trial hearings.”  A sentenced gun murderer might later claim a reduced sentence in future revisions to Stand Your Ground gun laws. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

The Miami-Dade Democratic Party supports Amendment 12, which would lengthen the ban on lobbying by elected officials to 6 years, from 2 years presently. That’s excessive and out-of-step nationally. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. We should slow down the political revolving door but we don’t have to slam it shut. Lobbyists are part of the political-ecological web and provide information to legislators. Amendment 12 is opposed by the Broward Democratic Party, the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, and Florida Tax Watch, and you should, too.

Voices of reason from agriculture

Laura Drotleff wrote in Greenhouse Grower, “This country’s politics are out of control when it comes to agricultural guestworkers and immigration reform . . . .” She cites U.S. Jobs Report data that the U.S. has more job openings than unemployed Americans.

The progressive left would do well to hear the reasoned voices of American farmers on trade and immigration. This is especially true in Florida, which contributes $4 billion to U.S. exports. Florida also has a farm candidate for Governor who was for immigration reform before he was against it.

How did we get to this point of national insanity?

President Bush tried to pass the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. The bill, which needed 14 more votes to pass the Senate, was opposed by 15 Democrats. Look where we are at now.

In the run-up to the 2016 elections, self-described progressives opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Should we be glad that we are now in trade war with the world?

Self-described progressives dealt our extremist President good hands on trade and immigration. I think it is time to find common ground on trade and immigration. Despite problems, trade and immigration are moderating forces in the world. A state such as Florida with strong agriculture is likely to provide reasoned voices in the middle and hopefully bring this country back to the middle.

War as Political Stagecraft

On October 26, 1973, naively, I was shocked to hear Marvin Kalb of CBS News tell President Nixon, “There has been some line of speculation this morning, that the American [military] alert might have been prompted as much perhaps by American domestic requirements as by the real requirements of diplomacy in the Middle East.”

Kalb was challenging the President whether he had staged a worldwide American military alert to quiet domestic political troubles. Six days earlier Nixon had fired Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox in the Saturday Night Massacre. I did not notice Nixon’s response to Kalb, but he clung to office under the heat of impeachment 9 more months.

Déjà vu?

If apparently truthsaying Presidents such as FDR can commit whoppers, e.g., Yalta was not a sell-out of Poland to Stalin, (see Eric Alterman’s “When Presidents lie: A history of official deception and its consequences“), is there any reason not to be cynical about war-making by President Trump, who lies about even silly things such as how big is his crowd size?

Prevaricator Donald J. Trump’s fibs have used mostly soft instruments such as twitter, not other people, and not instruments of hard power. U. S. Representative Devin Nunes’ caper on the White House grounds is an exception. Now it appears that the boy President has graduated to a bigger playground.

What is so politically well tuned in Trump’s missile attack on Al Shayrat airfield, in ostensible response to Syrian President Bassar Al-Assad’s poison gassing of babies and children (which didn’t bother stagecrafter Trump before he was in the hot seat), is that his two strongest critics in the GOP, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham are doing a 180. They are applauding Trump.

As a bonus, Trump’s missile attack may have sanitized his bromance problem with the former KGB guy. But real chessmasters do not get into a situation–such as a war in the Middle East–without a way out.

Trump’s bombing attack is the event we should all have been afraid of. History’s lessons are clear. Americans rallied around weak President George W. Bush after 9/11, and supported his deceiving the U.S. into War in Iraq, and his reelection. President Johnson lied the U.S. into the Vietnam War over the Tonkin Gulf, neutralizing Barry Goldwater snapping at his heels on Communism. And which assured Johnson’s 1964 election victory.  And, I speculate, may have strengthened Johnson’s hand in keeping Bobby Kennedy off the ticket in the Democratic Convention 22 days later.

Three weeks ago, Colbert King worried about fake war, “What if Trump, under intense pressure from all sides on Russia, decides to shift the focus to his commander-in-chief role and orders a shift in our military posture in response to a manufactured foreign crisis?”

We’ve been here for centuries. Shakespeare had Henry IV  say,

“Be it thy course to busy giddy minds
With foreign quarrels; that action, hence borne out,
May waste the memory of the former days.”
I am not cynical. Just realistic.

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.