Sunday, November 16, 2014

Mission Accomplished!

Friday I swore that we would get the Jaguar into the garage to join the MGB before any more snow flew.

After a furious flurry of garage reorganization by Monique and me on Saturday, behold:

Victory, victory! Rah! Rah! Rah!
Victory, victory! Siss-Boom-Bah!

Friday, November 14, 2014

The horror. The horror.

I walked out to the driveway today, and what did I see?

Snow! Snow on my ridiculous Jaguar!!!

I really thought I had until Thanksgiving week to get enough room cleared out of our garage to fit both the Jag and the MGB. But this outrage can not stand without a swift and decisive response.

It's time for super-Tetris mode in that garage. I don't yet know how I'm going to do it, but I can not let this beautiful car sit under a blanket of snow this winter. I just can't.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Not Yet Depressed Enough, Michigan Democrats? Let's Look at the results of the US House Gerrymander!

One last look at the 2014 Michigan gerrymander results. It'll be a quick one, since it's after 5 pm on Friday evening and quite honestly I could use a stiff drink after looking at these depressing numbers for the last couple of days.

US House of Representatives cumulative vote results:

  • Democratic candidates, 1,506,455 votes (49.1%)
  • Republican candidates, 1,458,264 votes (47.6%)
  • Other candidates, 101,989 votes (3.3%)

Congratulations Michigan Democrats! More people voted for you! You have ...

Yeah, if you've read the earlier posts you know the drill by now. Here are the actual results that matter:

Michigan's 2015-16 delegation to the US House of Representatives:

  • Nine Republican candidates
  • Five Democratic candidates

Average margin of victory in these enormously safely drawn districts:

  • All candidates, 27.6%
  • Democratic candidates, 43.2%
  • Republican candidates, 18.9%

I reckon this is a good time to also mention the notion that is now supposedly popular in some Republican circles, that we should change Michigan law to award our electoral votes on the basis of this bizarre gerrymander instead of the current system of awarding the votes to the candidate who gets the most votes. In 2012 this would've given nine votes to Romney and seven to Obama, even though more Michiganders voted for Obama.

I'm sure that right around now some of my Republican amigos are congratulating themselves on the utter ruthless efficiency of their party's gerrymander. But the simple truth is that this is killing democracy in this country.

It's killing freedom.

If you support this gerrymander you are saying that you care more about imposing your values on others than you care about freedom. Remember that the next time you look in a mirror.

Oh, and Democrats who say, "We just need to win the 2020 election so that we control the next gerrymander" -- and you know who you are -- you are every bit as bad.

If a foreign invader came to America and imposed such a deeply warped system upon us we would all take up arms to oppose it. So why is it that nobody seems to care because it was imposed by a group of technocrats with big data?

Beats me.

But I do know this. I need a drink.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Michigan Gerrymander: the Oakland County Commission

Since a few people seemed surprised by the sheer impact of the GOP gerrymander on the 2014 election results in my post yesterday on the election results, I reckoned I'd share a few other numbers just to make it clear that the fix wasn't just in for our state legislature. The fix was in everywhere from my county commission to the Congressional delegation we're sending to Washington, DC.

Let's start locally with the Oakland County Commission, where the Republican incumbents at the state level rewrote county redistricting law in 2011 to ensure that the GOP had sole control over Oakland County Commission redistricting. The result was a gerrymander that is truly breathtaking in its audacity and success. What could be useful campaigns and elections to determine the future and direction of Oakland County have been reduced to hollow shams, nothing more than a bit of electoral kabuki to give the media something to fill space.

Before we proceed, a quick reminder: the gerrymander works by packing as many of the losing party's voters into as few districts as possible and by spreading the winning party's voters across districts to provide safe but comfortable margins of victory in as many districts as possible. Beyond the immediate impact on the voting electorate in each district, it also undermines our options as voters by severely discouraging good candidates from the minority party from running at all. Gerrymanders tend to make themselves visible by weirdly shaped districts on a map, but not every gerrymander is as visually evident as the bizarre-looking 11th Congressional District in Oakland County. The easiest way to spot a gerrymander is by looking at its results.

Oakland County Commission countywide vote count:

  • Democratic candidates, 191,842 (46.4%)
  • Republican candidates, 215,472 (52.1%)
  • Other, 6,580 (1.6%)

It wasn't a great day for Democrats in Oakland County, which has in recent years become a very close swing county with a lot of voters willing to split their ticket. In 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer lost Oakland County to Republican Rick Snyder by 56,522 votes, nearly half of the 129,547 statewide margin of victory. But Democratic US Senate candidate Gary Peters -- who comes from Oakland County -- won the county over Republican Terri Lynn-Land by 66,741 votes on Tuesday. So there were more than 100,000 ticket-splitting voters up for grabs.

The Democrats lost the total county commission vote by 23,630 votes (5.7%). In the abstract that might translate to an 11-10 Republican majority. In gerrymandered Oakland County that translates to a 14-7 Republican majority. That 14-7 count was essentially cemented in place by the gerrymander created by the Republican Party in 2011, which created 14 very safe Republican districts by packing as many Democratic votes as possible into just seven districts.

How safe are the Oakland County Commission seats? The average margin of victory in all races this year was 34.3%. The closest race was in the 5th district where John A. Scott (R - 11,142 votes, 57.9%) beat Markus Tincher (D - 8,026 votes, 41.8%) by 3,116 votes, a 16.2% margin of victory. The average Republican margin of victory in 2014 was 28.1%. The average Democratic margin of victory was an even more astonishing 46.7%. 

The county commission results for 2012 are a bit trickier to sort out because five candidates (four Republicans, one Democrat) ran unopposed. The 2012 election resulted in the exact same 14-7 margin in county commission seats. The top two Democratic candidates in 2012 (Obama and Stabenow) won Oakland County by an average of 83,763 votes while the top two Democratic candidates in 2014 (Schauer and Peters) only managed an average margin of 5,109 in Oakland County. It's safe to say that the overall electorate tended somewhere around 50,000 to 100,000 votes more Democratic. That overall Democratic surge narrowed the margins of Republican victories, but it obviously had zero impact on the final outcome. 

Kudos to both parties for at least giving folks somebody to vote for in every district this year, I guess. I have great respect for those candidates of both parties who fought an essentially hopeless uphill battle. Most of them did it without real hope of victory for their seat, but to support the principles and values they believe in. That's an admirable undertaking.

But as far as the Oakland County Commission goes, they're playing in a rigged game.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Few Thoughts on the 2014 General Election Results

First things first. Here are this year's results for Wolverine Lake Village Council.

The candidates with the top three vote totals get a four-year term. Fourth place gets a two-year term. We had five candidates for the four total slots this year:

  • John A. Magee, 882 votes, 24.6% (Four-year term)
  • Michael Stack, 778 votes, 21.7% (Four-year term)
  • Mark Duff, 695 votes, 19.4% (Four-year term)
  • Ed Sienkiewicz, 657 votes, 18.3% (Two-year term)
  • Ron Cumbo, 560 votes, 15.6%
  • WRITE-IN, 13 votes, 0.36%

Thank you to everybody who supported me -- most especially my dedicated campaign staff of Monique and Katie the Beagle who hand-delivered a ton of flyers around the village over the last few weeks. (Monique also did a lot of other stuff that was less fun than walking around the neighborhood: formatting and typesetting the flyers, keeping track of the campaign account, and putting up with a distracted husband for the last couple of months. Katie the Beagle's other contributions included a lot of naps.)

I shall of course immediately seize upon my first-place finish as a mandate for my program to replace our current police vehicles with low-mileage old Jaguar XJ8Ls.

What? That wasn't what you voted for?!

Keep that outrage in mind when all my fellow politicos who were elected yesterday seize upon the results as a mandate to do crazy-ass things they never mentioned during the campaign. (My Jaguar cop-car program makes perfect sense, though. The Jaguars have more legroom than our aging Dodge Chargers, but cost much less than a new Chevy Tahoe.)

Moving outside of Wolverine Lake, let's take a look at the Michigan results. How about we start by tallying up the results of the Michigan House of Representatives voting? (Numbers tallied from the Detroit Free Press Election Results site.)

  • Republican Party, 1,457,867 (48.6%)
  • Democratic Party, 1,526,453 (50.8%)
  • Other, 17,827 (0.6%)

Congratulations, Michigan Democratic Party! Despite losing the gubernatorial election you managed to win back the Michigan House of Represent ... oh, wait a minute ... sez here that the Republicans lead 60-47 in state house seats and have small leads in the three seats still undecided.

(If this was a Hanna-Barbara cartoon Scooby Doo would be doing an adorable double-take right about now. Alas, this is the cartoon that we call our legislative electoral system in this state.)

That's what a gerrymander looks like. You win the most votes, and you have double-digit deficit in the results that matter.

Well, how'd things go for the Democrats in the Michigan State Senate?

  • Republican Party, 1,518,102 (50.4%)
  • Democratic Party, 1,469,332 (48.9%)
  • Other, 22,626 (0.8%)

Gosh, sorry about your close defeat there Democrats. Still, that's going to give you a very narrowly divided chamber. That should really give a lot of clout to the moderates from each party who ... oh, darn. There's that pesky gerrymander again. The Republicans will have an enormous supermajority of 27 state senators to just 11 for the Democrats. There's one seat up for recount, but the Republican candidate has a sixty vote lead that'll probably hold up. Get ready for a lot of far-right bills coming out of our State Senate for the next four years.

I absolutely hate to say it as an elected official, but when people tell me that they don't bother to vote because the system is rigged -- in a lot of cases they're right.

This off-year election was the year that hammer of the post-2010 gerrymander really struck home in Michigan. It's going to be a loooooong decade for Michigan Democrats.

My other Michigan post-election observations seem fairly minor by comparison. I could do some Wednesday-morning quarterbacking of Mark Schauer's gubernatorial campaign, since I thought some of their messaging was off-target and a bit tone deaf. But overall I thought he was a good candidate who ran a decent campaign. This wasn't a drubbing at the polls, it was a close (51%-47%) loss. I had the chance to meet Schauer in a couple of smaller venues way back at the start of the campaign and he struck me as a decent guy who went into public service for all the right reasons. So I hope he finds a good venue for that.

I was genuinely pleased that Gary Peters won the US Senate seat. That outcome seemed pre-ordained given the polls and the dismal campaign run by his opponent, but you never know until the votes are counted. But I think he'll be a good Senator for all of us in Michigan. He's another guy I got to meet early on in the campaign ... I actually ate lunch next to him at a fundraising barbecue and we ended up discussing dog parks. (That's probably a sign I've been in municipal government too long ... there I am sitting with a future US Senator and what do I want to talk about? Dog parks.)

Nationally? Eh, if you're enough of a political junkie to read this far you've probably already read more punditry than anybody could want to about the national outcome. Overall, I thought it was a pretty typical sixth-year, mid-term election for the party with a sitting president, though the final results were a bit worse than I hoped. Losing the Senate hurts.

My guess is that Obama spends his last two years in office vetoing a lot of awful stuff. I hope I'm wrong, and something useful for all of us gets accomplished. (How about a roads-and-bridges bill, everybody?! Anybody? [Crickets]) But I don't see anything in the continuing disappearance of moderates from both parties that makes me think we'll see anything useful in DC in the next couple of years.

Final thought on the election? If there was one thing that I felt lacking in Democratic candidate campaigns across the ticket and across the country it was a real lack of a positive vision for America. That matters. Far too many Democrats this year defined themselves in opposition to whatever the farthest right wing of the GOP was doing or saying. There's plenty to oppose there, so I understand the urge. But that's an excellent way to lose on Election Day.

So here's my free advice to anybody, anywhere who wants to run for office.

Tell people what you want to do in that office. Don't be afraid to give them details. Tell them what you stand for and where you want to take us and make *that* the basis of your campaign. That's called leadership. You don't get it from consultants. And you don't get it from user-testing campaign slogans. You get it from your heart. 

If you're going to campaign, campaign from your heart.