The means by which the major state-sponsored parties pick their presidential nominees would be on the (very) short list of most absurd selection mechanisms in the world. This move, by placing the nation’s largest state in a more relevant position, would make the process somewhat less absurd.
However, consideration is being given to returning to a bad old tradition of winner-take-all allocation of delegates to the plurality winner. The mechanism should remain propotional, though a bonus to a winner who has either more than 50% or a wide margin is certainly defensible.
(Unlike when the primary was briefly moved to March, under this proposal the primary for other offices would remain in June.)
As the quote from Droop at the top of the left sidebar says, most voters in two-party systems are less interested in the “particular points at issue between the two parties” and much more in seeing their country or state “being honestly and wisely governed.”
Reelected in November to his second and final term as California governor, Arnold Schwarzeneger apparently “gets it.” Having run in 2003 above party (bypassing the regular nomination process because the special election concurrent with the recall did not have a primary) and elected by a cross-party electoral coalition, Arnold tried to use his popularity to push through key pieces of the Republican agenda in a special election in 2005. The gambit failed badly, so Arnold reinvented himself again as the “post-partisan” governor. Some of his second-term agenda seems almost Democrat, and some of it even Green, while he maintains broadly popular “conservative” Republican principles on other policies.
In an era when the percentage of independent voters in the state has risen from 9% in 1990 to 19% now, the percentage of independent or third-party members of our state and national legislative bodies has remained barely above zero.
California is not alone in the trend. As noted in the LA Times, a study by Rhodes Cook based on data from 27 US states shows only 75% of voters registered with one of the two mainstream parties (down from82% in 1994). That means a quarter of the electorate in this sample of states–not all states register voters by party–is now independent or other party. Most independents are moderate, non-ideological voters disgusted with the polarization of the main parties on many issues. Many “other” party registrants hold views that are from beyond the mainstream, or even of fringe ideologies, yet–as I noted in the previous two plantings on these topics–even these parties and their voters may have practical solutions for honestly and wisely governing their country or state that would be valuable contributions to the debate.
Now, continuing with the Droop quote:
if this moderate non-partisan section of the electors had their separate representatives in the assembly, they would be able to mediate between the opposing parties and prevent the one party from pushing their advantage too far, and the other from prolonging a factious opposition. With majority voting they can only intervene at general elections, and even then cannot punish one party for excessive partisanship, without giving a lease of uncontrolled power to their rivals.
Of course, this danger of uncontrolled power to the former “outs” under majority voting is precisely the risk faced nationally with a change of power in Congress: will Democrats exceed the mandate they obtained from moderate voters who swung their way? And it is also the risk faced by moderate California voters, as the successor to Arnold Schwarzenegger may be another “party hack” in the mold of Davis or Angelides.
Who speaks for the moderate, non-partisan (and multi-partisan) electorate? Hardly anyone, given the lack of representatives speaking for this section of the electorate, and only episodically does a “post-partisan” executive come along to articulate the frustrations of what elsewhere I have called “the radical middle” that is frustrated with the lack of practical solutions offered by the two big parties.
In a comment earlier in the week, Doug Young noted that at his location in El Cajon (roughly 25 miles southeast of here) there were no freeze/frost problems. He mentions the location is about 1100 feet above sea level. That is much higher than here, where the Ladera Frutal office is about 525 feet elevation, as are the bananas that have been so badly ravaged by our freezing conditions. (Day by day, they continue to look worse than in the photo I posted on 14 January).
Doug notes how he can “feel the cold air draining downhill on a calm night.” I know what he means. That is usually the case here, too. On many a clear, windless winter evening, as I walk down the hill from the office to the house (elevation 450 or so), I can feel the air getting significantly colder as I descend. But not so on the recent evenings when the cold air mass settling overhead.
Compare 6 January, a more typical dry clear winter night, to 14 January, the coldest night of the recent snap. On 6 January, the low temperature down at the lower level (below the house, at maybe 350 feet) was 30 degrees, while up here at the office it got to only 36. Six degrees difference over an elevation change of 175 feet. Yet on 14 January, when the temperature reached 24 at the lower level, it was 27 at the office level. The cold air just was not draining. Instead, it was parked firmly overhead and the differences from elevation to elevation just were not very significant.
The steep slope here normally makes for a near-perfect mix of micro-climates–above-freezing at the top but very chilly down below. But it looks a lot less perfect than it did as of 12 January. This week, it would have been good to have been at 1000 feet (as the highest nearby ridgelines are). As an aside, I wonder how high, under local conditions, one can be and still get the advantage of cold-air drainage. At some point, the “thin air” effect of higher elevation has to take over, and one would be too high for cold-sensitive crops. One can see this effect on some of the hills east and south of here in Valley Center and San Marcos: Avocado groves begin part way up the slope and stop before the top, taking advantage of the parts of the slope that are out of usual freeze range. Of course, there was nothing “usual” about the weather this past week–and the impact on the local ag industry will be devastating.
Every day, more damage appears as the plants’ diminished ability to take in moisture leads to more and more collapse of tender young tissues and browning/yellowing and curling of foliage, even on some trees that appeared unaffected as of two days ago (such as the sapodillas, lychee, and some of the citrus).
On the upside, the cold snap has left the chill-hour estimate down below at 370+ hours, or about 100 hours ahead of where it was at this point a year ago.
Continuing themes of relations between the president in prime minister in Romania’s hybrid system (which I have followed off and on for some time), tensions and scandal could prompt elections as early as May for parliament.
The full text of the news item from the Southeast European Times:
BUCHAREST, Romania — A bitter row between the president and prime minister has brought Romania to the brink of early elections. Late Wednesday (January 17th), President Traian Basescu showed journalists a note Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu wrote him in 2005, asking Basescu to intercede with prosecutors on behalf of a prominent businessman accused of tax evasion and fraud. “The prime minister suggested a partnership with the oligarchs to lean on the justice system, which was unacceptable to me,” Basescu said.
Tariceanu in turn accused the president of lying and of being “surrounded by interest groups that control the public works”. He also accused the president of attempting to destroy Tariceanu’s government and party. Basescu’s Democrats are coalition partners with Tariceanu’s National Liberal Party. Experts now expect that an election could be scheduled to coincide with the European Parliament vote in May.
The opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD) is demanding that both the president and prime minister resign. It has threatened to launch impeachment proceedings against Basescu and a no-confidence vote against Tariceanu if they refuse. (Ziua, Adevarul, Cotidianul. – 19/01/07; BBC, AFP, Rompres, Mediafax – 18/01/07)
The back-story is more or less as follows (according to some research I did some time ago for another purpose):
The combination of semi-presidentialism (with the parliamentary component dominant in government formation), concurrent elections, and a two-round system for electing the president (but PR for parliament) has helped generate some interesting patterns of pre- and post-election coalition building, and ongoing intra-alliance tensions.
The presidential and parliamentary elections of late 2004 were contested by two major pre-election alliances. The PSD, in alliance with the Humanist Party, won a strong first-round plurality for its presidential candidate, Adrian Nastase, 40.9%, to the 33.9% won by Traian Basescu of the Justice and Truth Alliance. However, Basescu won the runoff, 51.2-48.8%.
The Romanian constitution gives the president some significant leverage in the initial proposal of a prime minister, but after that, the process is essentially parliamentary. Crucially, the government must win and maintain the confidence of the parliamentary majority. Despite the stronger parliamentary result for the center-left alliance backing Nastase–132 seats to the 113 won by the center-right Justice and Truth–the victory by the candidate of the latter alliance in the presidential runoff resulted in a changed dynamic of coalition building.
In fact, a “changed dynamic of coalition building” is putting it mildly. The president used his majority “mandate” to propose a government led by his own party, despite its being much smaller in parliament than the PSD. The Humanist Party broke with its pre-election partner, the PSD, changed its name to the Conservative Party, and joined the right-wing Justice and Truth Alliance to form the ruling coalition, along with the Hungarian Democratic Alliance.
On the one hand, this was a break with pre-election commitments, as voters could not split their preferences between the Social Democrats and the Humanists (Romania uses closed lists, so a pre-election alliance requires voters to accept or reject the coalition as a whole). On the other hand, the ultimate government outcome arguably reflects what the majority voted for, given the right-wing candidate’s runoff victory. Given the high degree of proportionality of the legislative electoral system* and the fact that Romania’s cabinet must command a majority in parliament, neither the pre-election alliances nor their post-election reshuffling would have been likely without the concurrent elections. That is, parties align themselves into presidential-contesting blocs, and the presidential runoff creates a voter-driven opportunity for realignment of the blocs.
I will leave it to the reader to decide whether this alliance-shifting is a good example of democratic accountability or not. And I wish I knew more about how the parties themselves are organized, and the extent to which they follow a more “presidential” logic (given the evident importance of being on the side that can win a majority in a presidential election) or a more “parliamentary” logic (given the necessity of having a parliamentary majority to form a cabinet).
In any event, the new alliance negotiated after the election has been close to breakdown–with early elections expected–several times in the last two years. The alliance may yet survive.
UPDATE at The Head Heeb: With the corruption scandal deepening, the Democratic Party, which is a component of the President’s Justice and Truth Alliance, may bolt the coalition and join the opposition’s no-confidence motion. (I would have expected the Conservatives, nee Humanists, to be the first partner out, given that they turned to the now-governing alliance only after the last election, as discussed above.)
*Romania has a nationwide proportional adjustment system (i.e., smaller regional districts, but national calculation of overall results) and a 5% threshold. Parties that are registered as ethnic or religious minority parties are eligible for representation, even if they miss the 5% threshold, but not at full proportionality (i.e., these are more akin to communal set-aside seats). There are 18 seats (of 332 total) held by such parties in the current Chamber of Deputies. The only explicitly minority-based party that cleared the regular threshold in 2004 is the Hungarian Democratic Alliance. It barely cleared, with 6.2%. The Hungarian Alliance is a member of the current coalition, but fears not being able to pass 5% in a new election. The Senate, which is also an important chamber, though not as powerful as the Chamber of Deputies, is also elected by PR (though it is slightly less proportional mainly because it is only about a third the size of the lower chamber, yet elected from the same multimember districts).
Is it a contradiction that some ideas could be “beyond the mainstream” yet shared by a majority of the public? It may seem so, but political reality is a good deal more complex than that, for at least two reasons.
First, what is “mainstream” in terms of accepted political debate within and in the context of election campaigns for our “representative” institutions may be much narrower than the real range of ideas shared within the electorate. That was the essence of the point I was making yesterday about the narrowness of political debate offered by realistic candidates for the US presidency. And, as I noted, the range of options offered to voters in legislative elections is narrower still, even if most views are in fact represented by “the chance opinions of individual members” in districts where it is “safe” to articulate what the rest of the body politic considers beyond-the-mainstream views (quote from Droop).
The second reason that it may not be contradictory that some views might be from beyond the mainstream of regular discourse and yet held by a majority is that the public is generally not highly ideological. Some ideas that are not well represented by the established political parties may, in fact, be quite popular and practical. The key is getting them aired and then represented in the legislature, thereby broadening the debate and facilitating the adoption of practical solutions that might otherwise be easily dismissed as “fringe.”
The context of this planting is a comment given over at PoliBlog to a previous comment of mine. My comment was essentially a rough draft of yesterday’s planting on From Beyond the Mainstream. The follow-up comment claimed that I was wrong to characterize Tom Tancredo’s views on immigration as beyond the mainstream because, according to the commentator, “Tancredoâ€™s views on illegal immigration are … shared by 75% or so of the country.”
Now, I am no expert on public opinion on immigration, or on immigration policy. And my intention is not to debate with someone who runs a blog called The Lonewacko Blog whether his own or Tancredo’s views are beyond the mainstream. However, I would argue that on this issue, as on many others, our immigration policy would be something more sustainable than the mess it currently is if the legislature were elected with some form of proportional representation.
Under PR, the broader spectrum of views among the electorate on the issue would be represented, and the balance of that representation in congress would shift with shifting public opinion as to which issues are most important and what proposed solutions to them are most resonating with the electorate. Rather than festering because the narrow range of mainstream interests is deadlocked on the issue or prefers not even to open it up for long periods of time, the agenda would be more open and the proposals more diverse.
Personally, I abhor the views of someone like Tancredo. But I would welcome a political party articulating his views having a block of seats in congress that would shift in size depending on the size of the electorate that chose to endorse a hypothetical party led by Tancredo.
No, it is not a contradiction that views on a policy may come from beyond the fringe yet be consonant with a majority of the public: We can’t know where the median is on an issue if voters across the country do not have the opportunity to cast an effective vote for their preference among the widest feasible range of views, including those from beyond the mainstream. On that score, our current system of “representative” institutions fails us badly.
THE LOW THAT WOULD NOT GO…DRY LAYER FROM THE SURFACE TO 8000 FEET AND RED FLAG CONDITIONS CONTINUED THROUGH THE NIGHT YET PRECIPITATION STILL REACHED THE SURFACE FROM THE MID LEVEL MOISTURE THAT WRAPPED THE LOW. FORECASTING IS CERTAINLY A HUMBLING BUSINESS. [My emphasis]
Yes, we have the first clouds since I don’t remember when. And a sprinkle or two.
The number of contenders for the presidential nomination of the two major parties continues to grow in advance of what promises to be the most open presidential election in memory. This planting inaugurates a new orchard block on VOTES >> USA >> ’08, and also will grow in the AMERICAN POLITICAL REFORM >> PR-USA block.
One of the many unusual features of the American political system is the far greater diversity of views represented in contests for the presidency (both the big-party nominations and the occasional notable third-party or independent candidate in the general) than for the national or state legislative races.
Henry Droop, one of my “trinity” of great Anglo-American philosophers of political institutions, noted that the two-party system produces
an assembly in which the particular differences of opinion upon which the division into two parties is founded, are represented to an exaggerated degree, while subordinate divisions of parties and the various opinions existing upon other questions are only represented by the chance opinions of individual members, and not by members authorised to speak upon these points in the name of their constituents.
Ron Paul, another potential Republican candidate, likewise has no chance.
Nor does Dennnis Kucinich have any chance to win the Democratic nomination that he recently announced he was seeking, let alone the presidency.
Nonetheless, I welcome all of these men (and, why, so far, only one woman?) to the debate, and I hope more candidates with beyond-the-mainstream ideas will enter the fray.
It quite striking that two of these beyond-the-mainstream candidates are Republican–and we could add a third in Duncan Hunter (catering to a similar constituency as Tancredo) and a fourth in Sam Brownback (catering to a Christian “ultra” base), while only one of the national legislators likely to run for the Democratic nomination (see list below) is a politician who could meaningfully be characterized as beyond the (very narrow) mainstream of the US partisan duopoly.
Is the Republican congressional caucus really so much more diverse than the Democratic? That would be ironic and surprising, given the level of cohesion and ideological policy-making behavior maintained by the Republicans over the last six years.3
Yet, there it is in the announced field of presidential contenders from within Congress: Paul (Republican, but formerly a Libertarian), Tancredo (who should be in the American Independent or the misnamed Constitutionalist Party1), and Brownback (who could be in something like a Christian Heritage party2). Yet all of these men operate under the label of a major (and allegedly mainstream) “conservative” party. On the Democratic side, only Kucinich (perhaps really a Green) is out of place in the mainstream centrist party that candidates like Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Edwards, and Kerry all seek to lead.
It’s a shame of our system that the only way voters who share the beyond-the-mainstream ideas of Kucinich, Paul, Tancredo, and Brownback can vote for a like-minded candidate is in presidential primaries and not in legislative elections, where such voters could actually be represented.
And, even with regard to presidential nominating races, voters can cast a (semi-meaningful) vote for one of these candidates only if by quirk of geography and calendar they happen to live in a state that votes early, before the field is winnowed to the moneyed few who reflect “the particular differences of opinion upon which the division into two parties is founded.”
As for legislative races, voters with views represented by one of these politicians are themselves represented only if they happen to live in (safe) districts where “the chance opinions of individual members” are in line with their own.
If only there were a system that would mimic the presidential nomination contest in being about the voters’ preferred policy direction for the country, yet resulted in their ability to elect “members authorised to speak upon these points in the name of their constituents.”
Of course, there are such systems–they are called proportional representation!
_________ The list:
The LA Times published this list of likely presidential candidates who were members of congress in 2002 and how they voted on authorizing the invasion of Iraq.
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.)…YES
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.)…YES
Sen. Christopher J.. Dodd (Conn.)…YES
Former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.)…YES
Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.)…YES
Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio)…NO
Sen. Sam Brownback (Kan.)…YES
Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.)…YES
Rep. Duncan Hunter (El Cajon)…YES
Sen. John McCain (Ariz.)…YES
Rep. Ron Paul (Texas)…YES*
Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.)…YES
Given the importance of this issue as an indicator of the character and judgment of a potential president, there is only one on this list who is even in the running for the much coveted Ladera Frutal endorsement.
* In the comments below, a Ron Paul supporter says that the Times was wrong about Paul’s vote.
1. Tancredo co-authored a book, Minutemen: The Battle to Secure America’s Borders, with Jim Gilchrist.
2. The name of a similar small party in Canada and formerly in New Zealand (where an allied, but much more moderate, Christian party merged into the rather socially conservative United Future); notwithstanding that some of this ideological persuasion was incorporated over the last six or more years into the Republican orthodoxy; that does not make it “mainstream.”
Now that Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz is gone (at last) due to failures during the Lebanon war, how long can Olmert and Peretz cling to their jobs?
In an update to the previous post, I note the possibility (suggested by The Head Heeb) that the Israel-Syria peace initiative that was leaked earlier this week could be part of a move by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her supporters to move against Olmert. A new government without Olmert (and Peretz) could be in a stronger position to re-start talks that apparently have been stalled for six months.
The timing of Halutz’s departure–and the pressure it puts on Olmert and Peretz to assume political responsibility–and the leak on peace talks may not be coincidental. Stay tuned.
Somehow I missed this until now: Seymour Martin Lipset, one of the giants of contemporary sociology and political science, died on the last day of 2006.
I met him only once, when he visited UCI during my grad school days. Of course, I have read numerous of his works over the years, with the most memorable single writing of his being Political Man (1960), still a classic. His numerous works on “American exceptionalism” remain the standard.
From the JTA obituary, I like this comment from Larry Diamond:
I think we’ve lost one of the most important social scientists of the last 50 years… I think there was no one who worked to comparatively study different countries and societies around the world who understood American society better than he did.
The “People’s Movement” of last April that forced King Gyanendra to back down from his claimed absolute powers and that led to a cease-fire in the long-running internal war bears significant institutional fruit this week.
The Nepalese House of Representatives is being formally dissolved as the Maoist rebels lay down their arms. An interim constitution will come into effect, and members will take their seats in a 330-member Interim House. The Interim House will consist of 83 delegates appointed by the rebels, 83 by the leftist party CPN-UML and 85 by the Nepali Congress Party. (I wonder how that balance of representation was determined; it also is not clear to me how the remaining 79 seats were distributed, but Nepal has quite a stew of political parties.)
Under the interim constitution, all powers formerly vested in the monarchy will be transferred to the post of Prime Minister.
Elections to a constituent assembly to draft a permanent constitution are scheduled for June.
The United Nations has played a key part in brokering the peace process, which includes the rebels’ locking up their weapons at designated camps, while the army locks up a similar quantity of its weapons. The rebels are to remain in the camps through the elections.
Update: See Jonathan Edelstein’s post of 23 January, in which he notes that the Maoists’ success in recruiting civil-society and Dalit representatives for some of their seats in parliament lends “support to the theory that their organization and discipline will allow them to continue to drive the political process. Given that the Maoists’ long-term democratic credentials are still in considerable doubt, this raises questions about exactly where the transition might lead.”
Haaretz reports that Israeli and Syrian representatives, in a series of meetings between September, 2004, and July, 2006, formulated “understandings” for a comprehensive settlement leading to a peace treaty. (more…)
This is how the bananas look this morning, after two nights of freezing temperatures.
Click the image to open a larger photo in a new window.
Compare how they looked just over three weeks ago.
These mornings were the first in the four and a half years of my record-keeping that it froze this far up the slope. This morning the low up here was 27 (compare 23 downslope at the corralito). Even up higher where the subtropicals are, it reached 28, so the young trees up there (shown in the subtropicals domain planting immediately before this one) may not have survived.
This afternoon’s forecast update is an eye-opener:
BECAUSE FREEZING LEVEL IS EXPECTED TO VERY LOW…EVENTUALLY REACHING
THE SURFACE JUST ABOUT EVERYWHERE TONIGHT…ANY PRECIPITATION MAY BE
IN THE FORM OF SNOW GRAINS/FLURRIES
Photo taken around 10:00 a.m., 12 January
As promised, a cold storm has blown in. The recent forecasts suggest it will not bring much rain, and it won’t be as cold during the day today* as previously announced, but the nights could turn out to be even colder than expected as of a few days ago. Freeze warnings will be in effect. In fact, the forecast for San Diego valleys now says lows of 22 to 32 Saturday morning and 20 to 30 for early Sunday morning. I can’t recall when I last saw freezing temperatures at the upper end of the forecast range.
Very low (by local standards) temperatures are a mixed blessing for the fruit-grower. Temperatures below 33 are said by experts not to be useful for chill accumulation, but the cool days will still mean that the next several days result in significant net chilling. That is, a day with a low of 38 and high of 64 may actually be better for net chill than a day with a low of 25 and a high of 64, but something on the order of 25-55 should be really good for the deciduous trees. However, those lows could be harmful for the subtropicals, even if it is 7-8 degrees warmer during the coldest part of the night up the slope where most of them are.
These are the Capulin cherry trees near top ridge of the finca, above the small grove of young Hass avocado trees.
I did not expect “fall color” on these supposedly evergreen subtropical cherry relatives (Prunus salicifolia),* native to parts of Mexico and Guatemala and cultivated widely in the Andes. I did not plant these for their fruit, but rather for the fast growth and screening/windbreak potential. I have eaten fruit of various capulin cherry trees in the past, and have yet to taste one that is not more like a pea than a sweet cherry. Presumably, some day some seedling (and both of these are grown from seed) will be worth propagating for its fruit.
I was not aware of foliage color-turning on capulins. In the several days since I took the photo, most of the leaves have fallen. Close inspection (and it is quite a hike up there!) reveals that the trees remain healthy.
* The link says “semideciduous.” Apparently so, though previously I have always heard them described as evergreen. This has been a colder winter than usual.
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4