Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Summation: Virginia Election 2013


Okay kids - we're nearly done.  Time to sum up insofar as we will be able to tonight.

First, the success of moderate Republicans versus Tea Party and/or social conservative Republicans tonight is not something that will go unnoticed - the possibility is very real that this will lead to a strengthening of the factional struggle in the party.  Of course it might not.

The success of the Libertarian gubernatorial contender in the Commonwealth at the apparent (based upon a simple comparison of the governor to lieutenant governor race) expense of the Democrats, not the Republicans, seems to indicate the dissatisfied, alienated, libertine, and/or moderate are leaning towards the Democratic party in general unless there is a third-party candidate capable of throwing a wrench in the works.

Further, as was predicted, the Republicans look to have their best opportunity to capitalize in the form of an office in the contest for the attorney general; whether they are ultimately victorious is an entirely different issue.

Finally, it looks like the Virginia of the present moment has the potential to be definitely trending, as the demographics would predict, towards the Democratic party.  It is far to early to make such a claim definitively but I can tell you what - the next Congressional and Presidential elections will be predicated on that narrative - how will the Democrats shore up their position versus how will the Republicans regain their prominence.  Practically, however, Republican control of the General Assembly still looks fairly assured - at least for the time being.

Update 3

McAuliffe takes the lead in the race for the first time.

Update 2

The Democrats have pulled ahead already in the Lt. Gov. race - really surprising.  I think this confirms what I was thinking - the conspiracy theorists aside, the Libertarian performance in the guv'n'r race is hurting the Dems at least as much, if not more, than the Republicans.

The Myth of Red Virginny

The myth of the solidly Red Commonwealth is well established - and also kinda not true, at least in a gubernatorial sense.  Consider.

1946 to 1970 - six Democratic governors
1970 to 1982 - three Republican governors
1982 to 1994 - three Democratic governors
1994 to 2002 - two Republican governors
2002 to 2010 - two Democratic governors
2010 to present - one Republican governor

Yeah.  That isn't a solidly Red state - it is a solidly complicated state.   

Update 1

So, just over 10% of precincts in - mostly in the rural counties.  So far Cuccinelli leads, but that is to be expected given the demography in play.  Most interesting thing so far to me - Sarvis has about 8% in reporting precincts.  Neat.

10 Minutes to Excitement


We're just about ten minutes from the polls closing - now things get interesting.

Also, a fish.

Where (else) to keep up with the elections

Eric Drummond Smith hard at work live-blogging the 2013 elecction
We've reached a lull in the questions, so I think this is a good time to introduce you-all to the best locations to keep up with the election online.  I've got a couple - first, and most importantly, is the Virginia State Board of Elections.  This website will give you the facts and nothing but the facts - not interpretation, just statistics about both turn-out and voting outcomes, as well as precinct breakdowns and reports.  Why do you want this/  This is the raw sugar kids, no corn syrup, flat out truth.   Remember the basic rule - the higher the turn-out the more legitimate the election and candidates are seen as being by the polity's population, the lower the turn-out, the higher the alienation, anomy, and apathy.

The Washington Post's Virginia Politics section is great for general coverage as well - after all, it is the the international-quality newspaper that is both geographically and economically most tied to the Commonwealth.  You also might want to check the Post's live-blog - I mean, when you're bored of mine. .

The Richmond Times-Dispatch has teamed up with PolitiFact to put together an intensive examination of the Virginia politics and the veracity and lack thereof of claims made by politicians and political actors - this of course includes this term's race.  Worth a look-see.

There is are al Jazeera's and Politico's 2013 election coverage of both the Glorious Commonwealth and the nearly as Glorious State of New Jersey.  Should be solid.

Other recommendations?

Is this a referendum on the Tea Party Faction?

Mr. Peters asks on Facebook:  Neither McAuliffe nor Cuccinelli have been particularly inspiring candidates, and most see Cuccinelli as representing only Tea Party interests and not mainstream Republican Party interests. Doesn't that make this election more of a referendum on the Tea Party than on the two major political parties?

I think to a degree it is - honestly, I have to say that had Bolling been chosen that he'd have a much better chance at a win for exactly that reason.  That said, I think it is clear that Tea Party faction is co-bolstering Cuccinelli along with the social conservative faction - there is a lot of overlap, but that overlap certainly isn't perfect by any means.

Regardless, for every manner in which the debates over the budget and ACA have hurt the Obama administration's they have done the same to the Tea Party faction - which means you have chaos entering the system without an as-of-yet emergent new order.

Tri-Cities Famous

Tarah Taylor and me at WCYB.  Neato.  

How did Cuccinelli manage to leap Bolling?

From Mr. Brannon asked on Twitter: Why didn't Bill Bolling run for governor? Gilmore (after Allen) and Kaine (after Warner) both rode predecessor's pop. to victory.

That is a great question - and tough to answer.  Part of it I assume has to do with Bolling's relationship, or lack thereof, with the kingmakers of the Virginia GOP, a party apparatus that keeps its cards close to its chest - Bolling is a more moderate Republican than either the Governor or Attorney General when it comes to most issues and clearly less of a party man - he is one of the founders of the so-called Virginia Mainstream Movement and when he was pressured to leave the race for Governor he publicly toyed with making a run as an independent and then, perhaps most tellingly, apparently encouraged at least one political action committee (PAC) to support to McAuliffe over Cuccinelli - maybe just sour grapes, maybe a sign of serious ideological splits, but either way a rational foundation for loss of Republican confidence at the elite level.

There are other possibilities as well - notably that he might not have been perceived as being able to pull the northern and eastern Virginian voters that would have been necessary for the ticket (Bolling is an Appalachian Virginian with roots in West Virginian and southwest Virginian coalfields).

Honestly, I think that Bolling is a man to watch - as the Republican party of Virginia continues to adjust to demographic shifts, especially if it comes out weaker from these elections, he has a chance to become a very influential man.

Is this race a referendum or bellwether? Yes - sorta'.

Mr. Treash asks: I actually have a serious question... If Terry McAuliffe is victorious tonight, it will be the first time since 1973 that Virginia voters elect a governor from the political party of the sitting president. How much of a statement of support is this for the President, or is this more a statement of Cuccinelli's inability to connect with independents, and more importantly, women?

That is a great question - and a tough one to answer easily.  A couple points might help us with this.

First, neither McAuliffe nor Cuccinelli are popular - sure, both have some strong supporters, but neither is beloved in the Commonwealth by the masses.  The upshot is this is a mini-max, versus a maxi-min election.  What, you say, is that?  Well, sometimes we try to maximize our benefits while minimizing our costs and risks, other times we try to minimize our costs and risks while maximizing our benefits.  The former reflects stronger feelings about the benefits, the latter stronger feelings about costs and risks.   Thus, in Virginia, most people who are voting seem to be voting against someone more than they are voting for someone (which probably helps explain the bump Sarvis and the Libertarians have received in polls, significant for a third party).

Secondly, state elections have far lower turn-outs than national elections.  The upshot is that these reflect the opinions of people who are generally more politicized, older, and wealthier - our ability to infer association with the national agenda then is a little more limited than might be the case in a traditional congressional or presidential election year - the lines are less blurred.  That is even despite the fact that one of the candidates in this race (Cuccinelli) has specifically tried to invoke the election as a referendum on the administration in a bid to get moderate-Obamacare-skeptics to back him (and I think it has worked, explaining in part the narrowing of the race to a bit).

That said, I think that we have a race in Virginia that on its own merits captures demographic shifts in that state more than it illustrates more transient opinions on particular issues - so its national importance is largely that it gives us a better sense of how those shifts might affect the Electoral College in Virginia and similar Sunbelt states (notably North Carolina) in a few years.  

Cuccinelli, Felonies, and Oral Sex

Question one from Mr. Barber:

Did Ken Cuccinelli ever say he wanted to make oral sex a felony?

Well, right to it then.

Yes and no is the answer.

In Virginia oral sex was long considered, under state law, to be sodomy which was, again, under that law, a felony.  The law hadn't been enforced in force for some time, it seems, because . . .

Okay no giggling, dang it.

It hadn't been enforced in part because it is virtually impossible to enforce and partly because bedroom funtime as it is should be called is generally considered a matter for private concern.

Regardless, in 2003 the US Supreme court heard a case, Lawrence v. Texas that asserted sodomy laws were unconstitutional.

Fair and proper, issue resolved.  But not really.  Because Mr. Cuccinelli petitioned the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision - his argument was that laws intended to protect children from sexualization would carry no weight absent sodomy laws that banned all kinds of sex except that type used for reproduction - vaginal penetration by the penis.

Nobody bought it.

The Supreme Court turned Cuccinelli's petition down.

Where things got interesting is when the Democratic party at Norfolk State distributed suggestive posters about the case.  


Yeah. Scandal.

So, does Cuccinelli want to make oral sex a felony?  Kinda, yeah.  Could he even if he became governor?  Nope.

So, that just happened.

Virginia Elections 2013 / Here we go. . .

Alright kids, I'm set up at WCYB and ready to live-blog engage in general punditry: shoot your questions to me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or e-mail and I'll get to them as I can!
Note the black sweater vest.  Seriousness abounds. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

The 2013 Virginia Election / Preview Part 2

Tomorrow is the big day.  Do you feel the excitement?  Like a creepy guy staring at you while you're in line at a carnival.

Wait, that is something other than excitement.  Nevermind.


Okay, here is an outline of this part of the preview.  First, the homework - that's right, before you vote for people in your government you should probably know how the electoral process works and what their responsibilities are.  Don't worry, I got out my old friend Highlighter Pete (copyright 2013).  Secondly, I have reviewed the state-level races, comparing in particular the candidates' platforms and their finances. That's it.  As usual here at AaPS I'm not trying to influence your vote selection - I'm trying to make you learn enough that you influence yourself.

So, let's dance shall we?

The Commonwealth's Legislature

First on the docket, Article IV of the Commonwealth's constitution.

Section 1. Legislative power.

The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a General Assembly, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Delegates.
Section 2. Senate.

The Senate shall consist of not more than forty and not less than thirty-three members, who shall be elected quadrennially by the voters of the several senatorial districts on the Tuesday succeeding the first Monday in November.
Section 3. House of Delegates.

The House of Delegates shall consist of not more than one hundred and not less than ninety members, who shall be elected biennially by the voters of the several house districts on the Tuesday succeeding the first Monday in November.
Section 4. Qualifications of senators and delegates.

Any person may be elected to the Senate who, at the time of the election, is twenty-one years of age, is a resident of the senatorial district which he is seeking to represent, and is qualified to vote for members of the General Assembly. Any person may be elected to the House of Delegates who, at the time of the election, is twenty-one years of age, is a resident of the house district which he is seeking to represent, and is qualified to vote for members of the General Assembly. A senator or delegate who moves his residence from the district for which he is elected shall thereby vacate his office.

No person holding a salaried office under the government of the Commonwealth, and no judge of any court, attorney for the Commonwealth, sheriff, treasurer, assessor of taxes, commissioner of the revenue, collector of taxes, or clerk of any court shall be a member of either house of the General Assembly during his continuance in office; and his qualification as a member shall vacate any such office held by him. No person holding any office or post of profit or emolument under the United States government, or who is in the employment of such government, shall be eligible to either house.
Section 5. Compensation; election to civil office of profit.

The members of the General Assembly shall receive such salary and allowances as may be prescribed by law, but no increase in salary shall take effect for a given member until after the end of the term for which he was elected. No member during the term for which he shall have been elected shall be elected by the General Assembly to any civil office of profit in the Commonwealth.
Section 6. Legislative sessions.

The General Assembly shall meet once each year on the second Wednesday in January. Except as herein provided for reconvened sessions, no regular session of the General Assembly convened in an even-numbered year shall continue longer than sixty days; no regular session of the General Assembly convened in an odd-numbered year shall continue longer than thirty days; but with the concurrence of two-thirds of the members elected to each house, any regular session may be extended for a period not exceeding thirty days. Neither house shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn to another place, nor for more than three days.

The Governor may convene a special session of the General Assembly when, in his opinion, the interest of the Commonwealth may require and shall convene a special session upon the application of two-thirds of the members elected to each house.

The General Assembly shall reconvene on the sixth Wednesday after adjournment of each regular or special session for the purpose of considering bills which may have been returned by the Governor with recommendations for their amendment and bills and items of appropriation bills which may have been returned by the Governor with his objections. No other business shall be considered at a reconvened session. Such reconvened session shall not continue longer than three days unless the session be extended, for a period not exceeding seven additional days, upon the vote of the majority of the members elected to each house. The General Assembly may provide, by a joint resolution approved during a regular or special session by the vote of the majority of the members elected to each house, that it shall reconvene on a date after the sixth Wednesday after adjournment of the regular or special session but no later than the seventh Wednesday after adjournment.

The amendment ratified November 4, 1980, and effective January 1, 1981—After the first sentence in the first paragraph, added "Except as herein provided for reconvened sessions," and added a third paragraph "The General Assembly shall reconvene on the sixth Wednesday . . .".

The amendment ratified November 6, 2012, and effective January 1, 2013—In paragraph three, after "...upon the vote of the majority of the members elected to each house.", added the remainder of the paragraph.
Section 7. Organization of General Assembly.

The House of Delegates shall choose its own Speaker; and, in the absence of the Lieutenant Governor, or when he shall exercise the office of Governor, the Senate shall choose from its own body a president pro tempore. Each house shall select its officers and settle its rules of procedure. The houses may jointly provide for legislative continuity between sessions occurring during the term for which members of the House of Delegates are elected. Each house may direct writs of election for supplying vacancies which may occur during a session of the General Assembly. If vacancies exist while the General Assembly is not in session, such writs may be issued by the Governor under such regulations as may be prescribed by law. Each house shall judge of the election, qualification, and returns of its members, may punish them for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds of its elected membership, may expel a member.
Section 8. Quorum.

A majority of the members elected to each house shall constitute a quorum to do business, but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day and shall have power to compel the attendance of members in such manner and under such penalty as each house may prescribe. A smaller number, not less than two-fifths of the elected membership of each house, may meet and may, notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution, enact legislation if the Governor by proclamation declares that a quorum of the General Assembly cannot be convened because of enemy attack upon the soil of Virginia. Such legislation shall remain effective only until thirty days after a quorum of the General Assembly can be convened.
Section 9. Immunity of legislators.

Members of the General Assembly shall, in all cases except treason, felony, or breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during the sessions of their respective houses; and for any speech or debate in either house shall not be questioned in any other place. They shall not be subject to arrest under any civil process during the sessions of the General Assembly, or during the fifteen days before the beginning or after the ending of any session.
Section 10. Journal of proceedings.

Each house shall keep a journal of its proceedings, which shall be published from time to time. The vote of each member voting in each house on any question shall, at the desire of one-fifth of those present, be recorded in the journal. On the final vote on any bill, and on the vote in any election or impeachment conducted in the General Assembly or on the expulsion of a member, the name of each member voting in each house and how he voted shall be recorded in the journal.
Section 11. Enactment of laws.

No law shall be enacted except by bill. A bill may originate in either house, may be approved or rejected by the other, or may be amended by either, with the concurrence of the other. No bill shall become a law unless, prior to its passage:
  • (a) it has been referred to a committee of each house, considered by such committee in session, and reported;
  • (b) it has been printed by the house in which it originated prior to its passage therein;
  • (c) it has been read by its title, or its title has been printed in a daily calendar, on three different calendar days in each house; and
  • (d) upon its final passage a vote has been taken thereon in each house, the name of each member voting for and against recorded in the journal, and a majority of those voting in each house, which majority shall include at least two-fifths of the members elected to that house, recorded in the affirmative.
Only in the manner required in subparagraph (d) of this section shall an amendment to a bill by one house be concurred in by the other, or a conference report be adopted by either house, or either house discharge a committee from the consideration of a bill and consider the same as if reported. The printing and reading, or either, required in subparagraphs (b) and (c) of this section, may be dispensed with in a bill to codify the laws of the Commonwealth, and in the case of an emergency by a vote of four-fifths of the members voting in each house, the name of each member voting and how he voted to be recorded in the journal.

No bill which creates or establishes a new office, or which creates, continues, or revives a debt or charge, or which makes, continues, or revives any appropriation of public or trust money or property, or which releases, discharges, or commutes any claim or demand of the Commonwealth, or which imposes, continues, or revives a tax, shall be passed except by the affirmative vote of a majority of all the members elected to each house, the name of each member voting and how he voted to be recorded in the journal.

Every law imposing, continuing, or reviving a tax shall specifically state such tax. However, any law by which taxes are imposed may define or specify the subject and provisions of such tax by reference to any provision of the laws of the United States as those laws may be or become effective at any time or from time to time, and may prescribe exceptions or modifications to any such provision.
The presiding officer of each house or upon his inability or failure to act a person designated by a majority of the members elected to each house shall, not later than three days after each bill is enrolled, sign each bill that has been passed by both houses and duly enrolled. The fact of signing shall be recorded in the journal.

The amendment ratified November 4, 1980 and effective January 1, 1981—In the last paragraph, substituted "or upon his inability or failure to act a person designated by a majority of the members elected to each house shall, not later than three days after each bill is enrolled, sign each" for "shall, not later than twenty days after adjournment, sign every".
Section 12. Form of laws.

No law shall embrace more than one object, which shall be expressed in its title. Nor shall any law be revived or amended with reference to its title, but the act revived or the section amended shall be reenacted and published at length.
Section 13. Effective date of laws.

All laws enacted at a regular session, including laws which are enacted by reason of actions taken during the reconvened session following a regular session, but excluding a general appropriation law, shall take effect on the first day of July following the adjournment of the session of the General Assembly at which it has been enacted; and all laws enacted at a special session, including laws which are enacted by reason of actions taken during the reconvened session following a special session but excluding a general appropriation law, shall take effect on the first day of the fourth month following the month of adjournment of the special session; unless in the case of an emergency (which emergency shall be expressed in the body of the bill) the General Assembly shall specify an earlier date by a vote of four-fifths of the members voting in each house, the name of each member voting and how he voted to be recorded in the journal, or unless a subsequent date is specified in the body of the bill or by general law.

The amendment ratified November 4, 1980 and effective January 1, 1981—Rewrote the section so that all laws enacted at regular sessions and reconvened sessions which follow will take effect on July 1 rather than on the first day of the fourth month following the month of adjournment, and all laws enacted at special sessions and reconvened sessions which follow will take effect on the fourth month following the month of adjournment, excluding the general appropriation laws.
Section 14. Powers of General Assembly; limitations.

The authority of the General Assembly shall extend to all subjects of legislation not herein forbidden or restricted; and a specific grant of authority in this Constitution upon a subject shall not work a restriction of its authority upon the same or any other subject. The omission in this Constitution of specific grants of authority heretofore conferred shall not be construed to deprive the General Assembly of such authority, or to indicate a change of policy in reference thereto, unless such purpose plainly appear.

The General Assembly shall confer on the courts power to grant divorces, change the names of persons, and direct the sales of estates belonging to infants and other persons under legal disabilities, and shall not, by special legislation, grant relief in these or other cases of which the courts or other tribunals may have jurisdiction.

The General Assembly may regulate the exercise by courts of the right to punish for contempt. The General Assembly's power to define the accrual date for a civil action based on an intentional tort committed by a natural person against a person who, at the time of the intentional tort, was a minor shall include the power to provide for the retroactive application of a change in the accrual date. No natural person shall have a constitutionally protected property right to bar a cause of action based on intentional torts as described herein on the ground that a change in the accrual date for the action has been applied retroactively or that a statute of limitations or statute of repose has expired.

The General Assembly shall not enact any local, special, or private law in the following cases:
  • (1) For the punishment of crime.
  • (2) Providing a change of venue in civil or criminal cases.
  • (3) Regulating the practice in, or the jurisdiction of, or changing the rules of evidence in any judicial proceedings or inquiry before the courts or other tribunals, or providing or changing the methods of collecting debts or enforcing judgments or prescribing the effect of judicial sales of real estate.
  • (4) Changing or locating county seats.
  • (5) For the assessment and collection of taxes, except as to animals which the General Assembly may deem dangerous to the farming interests.
  • (6) Extending the time for the assessment or collection of taxes.
  • (7) Exempting property from taxation.
  • (8) Remitting, releasing, postponing, or diminishing any obligation or liability of any person, corporation, or association to the Commonwealth or to any political subdivision thereof.
  • (9) Refunding money lawfully paid into the treasury of the Commonwealth or the treasury of any political subdivision thereof.
  • (10) Granting from the treasury of the Commonwealth, or granting or authorizing to be granted from the treasury of any political subdivision thereof, any extra compensation to any public officer, servant, agent, or contractor.
  • (11) For registering voters, conducting elections, or designating the places of voting.
  • (12) Regulating labor, trade, mining, or manufacturing, or the rate of interest on money.
  • (13) Granting any pension.
  • (14) Creating, increasing, or decreasing, or authorizing to be created, increased, or decreased, the salaries, fees, percentages, or allowances of public officers during the term for which they are elected or appointed.
  • (15) Declaring streams navigable, or authorizing the construction of booms or dams therein, or the removal of obstructions therefrom.
  • (16) Affecting or regulating fencing or the boundaries of land, or the running at large of stock.
  • (17) Creating private corporations, or amending, renewing, or extending the charters thereof.
  • (18) Granting to any private corporation, association, or individual any special or exclusive right, privilege, or immunity.
  • (19) Naming or changing the name of any private corporation or association.
  • (20) Remitting the forfeiture of the charter of any private corporation, except upon the condition that such corporation shall thereafter hold its charter subject to the provisions of this Constitution and the laws passed in pursuance thereof.
The amendment ratified November 8, 1994 and effective January 1, 1995—Added a new paragraph after paragraph three.

The amendment ratified November 7, 2006, and effective January 1, 2007—Deleted the last paragraph relating to charters of incorporation to churches.
Section 15. General laws.

In all cases enumerated in the preceding section, and in every other case which, in its judgment, may be provided for by general laws, the General Assembly shall enact general laws. Any general law shall be subject to amendment or repeal, but the amendment or partial repeal thereof shall not operate directly or indirectly to enact, and shall not have the effect of enactment of, a special, private, or local law.

No general or special law shall surrender or suspend the right and power of the Commonwealth, or any political subdivision thereof, to tax corporations and corporate property, except as authorized by Article X. No private corporation, association, or individual shall be specially exempted from the operation of any general law, nor shall a general law's operation be suspended for the benefit of any private corporation, association, or individual.
Section 16. Appropriations to religious or charitable bodies.

The General Assembly shall not make any appropriation of public funds, personal property, or real estate to any church or sectarian society, or any association or institution of any kind whatever which is entirely or partly, directly or indirectly, controlled by any church or sectarian society. Nor shall the General Assembly make any like appropriation to any charitable institution which is not owned or controlled by the Commonwealth; the General Assembly may, however, make appropriations to nonsectarian institutions for the reform of youthful criminals and may also authorize counties, cities, or towns to make such appropriations to any charitable institution or association.
Section 17. Impeachment.

The Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, judges, members of the State Corporation Commission, and all officers appointed by the Governor or elected by the General Assembly, offending against the Commonwealth by malfeasance in office, corruption, neglect of duty, or other high crime or misdemeanor may be impeached by the House of Delegates and prosecuted before the Senate, which shall have the sole power to try impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, the senators shall be on oath or affirmation, and no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the senators present. Judgment in case of impeachment shall not extend further than removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the Commonwealth; but the person convicted shall nevertheless be subject to indictment, trial, judgment, and punishment according to law. The Senate may sit during the recess of the General Assembly for the trial of impeachments.
Section 18. Auditor of Public Accounts.

An Auditor of Public Accounts shall be elected by the joint vote of the two houses of the General Assembly for the term of four years. His powers and duties shall be prescribed by law.

The Commonwealth's Executive

Now, let's see what the Commonwealth's constitution (Article V) says - highlights are mine.

Section 1. Executive power; Governor's term of office.

The chief executive power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Governor. He shall hold office for a term commencing upon his inauguration on the Saturday after the second Wednesday in January, next succeeding his election, and ending in the fourth year thereafter immediately upon the inauguration of his successor. He shall be ineligible to the same office for the term next succeeding that for which he was elected, and to any other office during his term of service.
Section 2. Election of Governor.

The Governor shall be elected by the qualified voters of the Commonwealth at the time and place of choosing members of the General Assembly. Returns of the election shall be transmitted, under seal, by the proper officers, to the State Board of Elections, or such other officer or agency as may be designated by law, which shall cause the returns to be opened and the votes to be counted in the manner prescribed by law. The person having the highest number of votes shall be declared elected; but if two or more shall have the highest and an equal number of votes, one of them shall be chosen Governor by a majority of the total membership of the General Assembly. Contested elections for Governor shall be decided by a like vote. The mode of proceeding in such cases shall be prescribed by law.
Section 3. Qualifications of Governor.

No person except a citizen of the United States shall be eligible to the office of Governor; nor shall any person be eligible to that office unless he shall have attained the age of thirty years and have been a resident of the Commonwealth and a registered voter in the Commonwealth for five years next preceding his election.
Section 4. Place of residence and compensation of Governor.

The Governor shall reside at the seat of government. He shall receive for his services a compensation to be prescribed by law, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the period for which he shall have been elected. While in office he shall receive no other emolument from this or any other government.
Section 5. Legislative responsibilities of Governor.

The Governor shall communicate to the General Assembly, at every regular session, the condition of the Commonwealth, recommend to its consideration such measures as he may deem expedient, and convene the General Assembly on application of two-thirds of the members elected to each house thereof, or when, in his opinion, the interest of the Commonwealth may require.
Section 6. Presentation of bills; powers of Governor; vetoes and amendments.
  • (a) Every bill which passes the Senate and House of Delegates, before it becomes law, shall be presented to the Governor.
  • (b) During a regular or special session, the Governor shall have seven days in which to act on the bill after it is presented to him and to exercise one of the three options set out below. If the Governor does not act on the bill, it shall become law without his signature.
  • (i) The Governor may sign the bill if he approves it, and the bill shall become law.
  • (ii) The Governor may veto the bill if he objects to it by returning the bill with his objections to the house in which the bill originated. The house shall enter the objections in its journal and reconsider the bill. The house may override the veto by a two-thirds vote of the members present, which two-thirds shall include a majority of the members elected to that house. If the house of origin overrides the Governor's veto, it shall send the bill and Governor's objections to the other house where the bill shall be reconsidered. The second house may override the Governor's veto by a two-thirds vote of the members present, which two-thirds shall include a majority of the members elected to that house. If both houses override the Governor's veto, the bill shall become law without his signature. If either house fails to override the Governor's veto, the veto shall stand and the bill shall not become law.
  • (iii) The Governor may recommend one or more specific and severable amendments to a bill by returning it with his recommendation to the house in which it originated. The house shall enter the Governor's recommendation in its journal and reconsider the bill. If both houses agree to the Governor's entire recommendation, the bill, as amended, shall become law. Each house may agree to the Governor's amendments by a majority vote of the members present. If both houses agree to the bill in the form originally sent to the Governor by a two-thirds vote of all members present in each house, which two-thirds shall include a majority of the members elected to that house, the original bill shall become law. If the Governor sends down specific and severable amendments then each house may determine, in accordance with its own procedures, whether to act on the Governor's amendments en bloc or individually, or any combination thereof. If the house of origin agrees to one or more of the Governor's amendments, it shall send the bill and the entire recommendation to the other house. The second house may also agree to one or more of the Governor's amendments. If either house fails to agree to the Governor's entire recommendation or fails to agree to at least one of the Governor's amendments agreed to by the other house, the bill, as originally presented to the Governor, shall be returned to the Governor. If both houses agree to one or more amendments but not to the entire recommendation of the Governor, the bill shall be reenrolled with the Governor's amendments agreed to by both houses and shall be returned to the Governor. If the Governor fails to send down specific and severable amendments as determined by the majority vote of the members present in either house, then the bill shall be before that house, in the form originally sent to the Governor and may be acted upon in accordance with Article IV, Section 11 of this Constitution and returned to the Governor. The Governor shall either sign or veto a bill returned as provided in this subsection or, if there are fewer than seven days remaining in the session, as provided in subsection (c).
  • (c) When there are fewer than seven days remaining in the regular or special session from the date a bill is presented to the Governor and the General Assembly adjourns to a reconvened session, the Governor shall have thirty days from the date of adjournment of the regular or special session in which to act on the bills presented to him and to exercise one of the three options set out below. If the Governor does not act on any bill, it shall become law without his signature.
  • (i) The Governor may sign the bill if he approves it, and the bill shall become law.
  • (ii) The Governor may veto the bill if he objects to it by returning the bill with his objections to the house in which the bill originated. The same procedures for overriding his veto are applicable as stated in subsection (b) for bills vetoed during the session.
  • (iii) The Governor may recommend one or more specific and severable amendments to a bill by returning it with his recommendation to the house in which it originated. The same procedures for considering his recommendation are applicable as stated in subsection (b) (iii) for bills returned with his recommendation. The Governor shall either sign or veto a bill returned to him from a reconvened session. If the Governor vetoes the bill, the veto shall stand and the bill shall not become law. If the Governor does not act on the bill within thirty days after the adjournment of the reconvened session, the bill shall become law without his signature.
  • (d) The Governor shall have the power to veto any particular item or items of an appropriation bill, but the veto shall not affect the item or items to which he does not object. The item or items objected to shall not take effect except in the manner provided in this section for a bill vetoed by the Governor.
  • (e) In all cases set forth above, the names of the members voting for and against the bill, the amendment or amendments to the bill, or the item or items of an appropriation bill shall be entered on the journal of each house.
The amendment ratified November 8, 1994 and effective January 1, 1995 - Rewrote the section to provide that the Governor may offer only one set of amendments to any bill, to require the Governor to take action to veto a bill, to allow the General Assembly to sever the Governor's amendments, acting on them individually or en bloc, and to allow the General Assembly to propose its own amendments if it determines the Governor's amendments are not severable. [The amendment to this section ratified November 4, 1980 and effective January 1, 1981 was superseded by the 1994 amendment.]
Section 7. Executive and administrative powers.

The Governor shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.

The Governor shall be commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the Commonwealth and shall have power to embody such forces to repel invasion, suppress insurrection, and enforce the execution of the laws.

The Governor shall conduct, either in person or in such manner as shall be prescribed by law, all intercourse with other and foreign states.

The Governor shall have power to fill vacancies in all offices of the Commonwealth for the filling of which the Constitution and laws make no other provision. If such office be one filled by the election of the people, the appointee shall hold office until the next general election, and thereafter until his successor qualifies, according to law. The General Assembly shall, if it is in session, fill vacancies in all offices which are filled by election by that body.

Gubernatorial appointments to fill vacancies in offices which are filled by election by the General Assembly or by appointment by the Governor which is subject to confirmation by the Senate or the General Assembly, made during the recess of the General Assembly, shall expire at the end of thirty days after the commencement of the next session of the General Assembly.
Section 8. Information from administrative officers.

The Governor may require information in writing, under oath, from any officer of any executive or administrative department, office, or agency, or any public institution upon any subject relating to their respective departments, offices, agencies, or public institutions; and he may inspect at any time their official books, accounts, and vouchers, and ascertain the conditions of the public funds in their charge, and in that connection may employ accountants. He may require the opinion in writing of the Attorney General upon any question of law affecting the official duties of the Governor.
Section 9. Administrative organization.

The functions, powers, and duties of the administrative departments and divisions and of the agencies of the Commonwealth within the legislative and executive branches may be prescribed by law.
Section 10. Appointment and removal of administrative officers.

Except as may be otherwise provided in this Constitution, the Governor shall appoint each officer serving as the head of an administrative department or division of the executive branch of the government, subject to such confirmation as the General Assembly may prescribe. Each officer appointed by the Governor pursuant to this section shall have such professional qualifications as may be prescribed by law and shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor.
Section 11. Effect of refusal of General Assembly to confirm an appointment by the Governor.

No person appointed to any office by the Governor, whose appointment is subject to confirmation by the General Assembly, under the provisions of this Constitution or any statute, shall enter upon, or continue in, office after the General Assembly shall have refused to confirm his appointment, nor shall such person be eligible for reappointment during the recess of the General Assembly to fill the vacancy caused by such refusal to confirm.
Section 12. Executive clemency.

The Governor shall have power to remit fines and penalties under such rules and regulations as may be prescribed by law; to grant reprieves and pardons after conviction except when the prosecution has been carried on by the House of Delegates; to remove political disabilities consequent upon conviction for offenses committed prior or subsequent to the adoption of this Constitution; and to commute capital punishment.

He shall communicate to the General Assembly, at each regular session, particulars of every case of fine or penalty remitted, of reprieve or pardon granted, and of punishment commuted, with his reasons for remitting, granting, or commuting the same.
Section 13. Lieutenant Governor; election and qualifications.

A Lieutenant Governor shall be elected at the same time and for the same term as the Governor, and his qualifications and the manner and ascertainment of his election, in all respects, shall be the same, except that there shall be no limit on the terms of the Lieutenant Governor.
Section 14. Duties and compensation of Lieutenant Governor.

The Lieutenant Governor shall be President of the Senate but shall have no vote except in case of an equal division. He shall receive for his services a compensation to be prescribed by law, which shall not be increased nor diminished during the period for which he shall have been elected.
Section 15. Attorney General.

An Attorney General shall be elected by the qualified voters of the Commonwealth at the same time and for the same term as the Governor; and the fact of his election shall be ascertained in the same manner. No person shall be eligible for election or appointment to the office of Attorney General unless he is a citizen of the United States, has attained the age of thirty years, and has the qualifications required for a judge of a court of record. He shall perform such duties and receive such compensation as may be prescribed by law, which compensation shall neither be increased nor diminished during the period for which he shall have been elected. There shall be no limit on the terms of the Attorney General.
Section 16. Succession to the office of Governor.

When the Governor-elect is disqualified, resigns, or dies following his election but prior to taking office, the Lieutenant Governor-elect shall succeed to the office of Governor for the full term. When the Governor-elect fails to assume office for any other reason, the Lieutenant Governor-elect shall serve as Acting Governor.

Whenever the Governor transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Delegates his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Lieutenant Governor as Acting Governor.

Whenever the Attorney General, the President pro tempore of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Delegates, or a majority of the total membership of the General Assembly, transmit to the Clerk of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Delegates their written declaration that the Governor is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Lieutenant Governor shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting Governor.

Thereafter, when the Governor transmits to the Clerk of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Delegates his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Attorney General, the President pro tempore of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Delegates, or a majority of the total membership of the General Assembly, transmit within four days to the Clerk of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Delegates their written declaration that the Governor is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon the General Assembly shall decide the issue, convening within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not already in session. If within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter declaration or, if the General Assembly is not in session, within twenty-one days after the General Assembly is required to convene, the General Assembly determines by three-fourths vote of the elected membership of each house of the General Assembly that the Governor is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Lieutenant Governor shall become Governor; otherwise, the Governor shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

In the case of the removal of the Governor from office or in the case of his disqualification, death, or resignation, the Lieutenant Governor shall become Governor.

If a vacancy exists in the office of Lieutenant Governor when the Lieutenant Governor is to succeed to the office of Governor or to serve as Acting Governor, the Attorney General, if he is eligible to serve as Governor, shall succeed to the office of Governor for the unexpired term or serve as Acting Governor. If the Attorney General is ineligible to serve as Governor, the Speaker of the House of Delegates, if he is eligible to serve as Governor, shall succeed to the office of Governor for the unexpired term or serve as Acting Governor. If a vacancy exists in the office of the Speaker of the House of Delegates or if the Speaker of the House of Delegates is ineligible to serve as Governor, the House of Delegates shall convene and fill the vacancy.

In the event of an emergency or enemy attack upon the soil of Virginia and a resulting inability of the House of Delegates to convene to fill the vacancy, the Speaker of the House, the person designated to act in his stead as prescribed in the Rules of the House of Delegates, the President pro tempore of the Senate, or the majority leader of the Senate, in that designated order, shall serve as Acting Governor until such time as the House of Delegates convenes to elect a Governor.

The General Assembly may provide by law for the waiver of the eligibility requirements for the Attorney General, Speaker of the House, or acting Speaker to serve as Governor or Acting Governor in the event of an emergency or enemy attack upon the soil of Virginia as evidenced by a proclamation of the Governor or alternative authority prescribed by law.
Section 17. Commissions and grants.
Commissions and grants shall run in the name of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and be attested by the Governor, with the seal of the Commonwealth annexed.

The House of Delegates

So, there they are - the constitutional responsibilities of the elected officials of the Virginian polity.  Fair enough as far as that goes, true, but still there remains the question of whom is running for what.  Clearly I can't go over ever part of the House of Delegates races - there are 100 districts holding elections tomorrow all over the state.  That said, I don't expect any radical changes to the landscape - the House of Delegates is currently dominated by the Republican party - 67 seats are Republican and only 31 are held by Democrats (an additional seat is currently occupied by an independent) .  That means well over twice as many seats are held by the Republican party, a huge advantage that would necessitate some fairly radical shifts to meaningfully erode - though it will likely erode a little (it is tough to hold on to such a supermajority).

Oh, and the Senate is elected every four years, not every two - the next time the House of Delegates stands for election the Senate will too.  So you know.  They've got that going for them.  Which is nice.

Well then, who else we got?  Let's start at the bottom, continue through the middle, and when we reach the top, quit.

The Attorney General

The Republicans have posted Mark D. Obershain for their Attourney General candidate; the Democrats on the other hand have given Mark R. Herring the nod.  So, what can we say about them, respectively?

Both are members of the Commonwealth's Senate.  Unsurprisingly, given the position, both are lawyers of some merit.  Both are from the northern part of the state, though Obershain is from the northern Shenandoah while Herring is just from the north. That is rather where the similarities end.

Well, Obsershain is a Harrisonburg Republican blue-blood - his connections are both famial and experiential and my guess is that he is hoping to use the office, if elected, as a stepping stone to greater things. As for the issues: (1) he comes down hard on drugs and sexual predation and has advocated mandatory minimums; (2) he advocates a sweeping and broad interpretation of the Second Amendment; and (3) he has framed his formal platform on eliminating abuse of the elderly and increasing state transparency to undermine corruption - a minimalist approach to say the least in terms of framing his stance.

On the other hand, Herring, a Leesburg Democrat, seems to be a first generation politico.  His one educational step up is a master of arts in foreign affairs.  His stump seems to be a little more extensive (okay, a lot more extensive and intensive) and clearly he is engaging in the classic strategy of portraying his opponent as someone to be avoided for his radicalism.  His docket emphaiszes women's reproductive rights, social and political egalitarianism (including gay rights), fighting designer drugs, increasing cyber safety protections, and protecting minority voting rights.  What is surprising is that he also emphasizes infrastructure development (not his department, I'd think?) and preventing transnational human trafficking (not really at the top of the Virginia court agenda, but second from the top of his platform list).

The Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) gives us a bit more to play with - money.  How much? A bit over three million bucks raised for Mr. Herring, but more than two million more for Mr. Obershain.  Whew.

The Lieutenant Governor

The Lt. Governor race is the only major race in the Commonwealth with candidates in the central and eastern part of the state (no Southsiders, Appalachians, or folk from the Eastern Shore, however) - that is important because it tells us a helluva' lot of truth - NoVa (northern Virginia, for those of you from RoVa - er - Rest of Virginia - or elsewhere); the shifting demographics of the Commonwealth will almost inevitably be playing a roll in every part of the electoral process as time goes on - even in the realm of candidate selection.

Regardless, in the race for the not-quite-a-governor of Virginia we have two major candidates - Mr. Ralph S. Northam of Richmond, running on the democratic ticket, and Mr. E.W. Jackson of Chesapeake running on the Republican ticket. 

The differences are stark but somehow asthetically interesting. Jackson is an African American veteran of the United States Marine Corps who is staunchly social conservative, a retired lawyer (Harvard law) and practising Baptist minister with roots in the Commonwealth but who spent much of his professional life in Massachusetts. Northam is a veteran of the Army and Virginia Military Institute graduate, who has spent most of his post-military career as a pediatric neurologist. 

Yeah.  I know.  Interesting.

On the issues they continue to diverge.  Consider this - these are the headings for Mr. Jackson's platform:

Promote Parental Choice in Education
Reassert the 9th and 10th Amendments
Protect our 2nd Amendment Rights
Defend Religious Liberty
Demand a Taxpayer Bill of Rights
End Unfunded State Mandates On Local Governments
Permanently Defund Planned Parenthood
Fairness For Small Businesses In Virginia
Take A Genuinely All-Of-The-Above Approach On Energy

And these are the headings for Mr. Northam's:

Standing Up for Women’s Rights
Promoting Health Care and Public Health
Promoting Equality for All
Improving Jobs and the Economy
Solutions to Fix Transportation
Energy, the Environment, and Natural Resources
Public Safety
Achieving Excellence in Education
Supporting our Veterans and Military Families

In other words - Mr. Jackson is pro-life, pro-private education, pro-states' rights (is that still an issue?), anti-ACA, anti-gay marriage, pro-devolution of state responsibilities, pro-broad interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, anti-tax, and coal-friendly while Mr. Northam is pro-choice, pro-public education, pro-ACA, pro-gay marriage, moderate on taxes, green-ish, and not really engaged with states' rights or locality rights issues.

Yeah.  Stark.  If you are undecided you are - interesting.

So, what does VPAP tell us about the candidates making it rain?  Well, Mr. Northam has pulled together around two and a half million bucks, while Mr. Jackson has raised a little less than half that - it seems that Republican campaign financiers are putting their money where they think they are most likely to win.

The Governor

Alright - almost done.  The governor's race in Virginny is interesting this year for a few reasons.  First, as already mentioned, all three of the candidates are northern Virginian - check that - Roman Catholics from northern Virginia (well, the Republican and Democrat are Roman Catholic - I'm not sure about Sarvis - still a big deal).  Secondly, there are three candidates - by which I mean candidates making the ballot - which is really kinda' amazing (more on that in a moment).  Third, this race is being watched very closely nationally - it is seen as a referendum on the Federal government as much, if not more, than a race for the management of the Commonwealth and its treasure; it is seen as a referendum on the ACA; and it is seen as a bellwether of demographic changes that are happening throughout the Sunbelt (the southern and southwestern states) and Midwest.

The thing that makes it all so darn amazing is how much most Virginians dislike the the candidates. 

The Republicans are backing Ken Cuccinelli, currently the attorney general who is probably best known for disliking the fact that liberty exposes her breasts on the seal of the Commonwealth (yuck city, I like to imagine him saying).  Cuccinelli is well liked and respected by those who know him, though moderates, progressives, and often classical conservatives find him to be - well - a bit old-fashioned in terms of social issues (e.g. supporting the re-banning of sodomy).  Oh, and he is being investigated for his possible role in a number of scandals that favored Big Energy over Joe Virginia. 

The Democrats are backing Terry McAuliffe - a business man with limited public office, but extensive fund-raising, experience, a man perceived as a carpetbagger and associated with the Clintons (a friendship which endears or alienates without a lot of middle-ground, it seems, even in these days where the shadows of the 1990s have grown thin). 

Now, I could go into a lot of detail on the gubernatorial candidates distinctions.  But I won't.  You can read them here and here.  Go ahead.  I'll wait. 

Yeah, you're right, it is like the Lt. Governor candidates platforms, except that Cuccinelli is more Jackson than Jackson (sorry Miss Jackson).  If you're a progressive, you're going to vote Democrat; a social conservative, Cuccinelli.  If you're a classical conservative or a moderate, you're probably cussing.

[Also, I hate both of your websites, Mr. Cuccinelli and Mr. McAuliffe.  Make simple, easy to read, low-bandwith sites please, or at least make that an option.  Sheesh.]

Cussing, indeed.  This is why Mr. Robert Sarvis has been able to nose his way into the discourse.  Mr. Sarvis is a Libertarian.  He has next to no money, most folks don't know his name, but his message is simple and generally well-liked: freedom for individuals, with regulation existing largely to offset the damages individuals and corporations generally try to socially disperse, a de-emphasis on victim-less crimes, and a libertarian perspective on reproduction (we aren't ever going to agree so let's leave it to the conscience of individuals).  Mr. Sarvis isn't going to win - there isn't a chance in hell, frankly - but he is influencing the discourse and, as a product, possibly reminding the major parties that there is ground between social conservative and social progressive.  And if his proportion of the vote is, against all odds, high enough, he might guarantee the Libertarians a more prominent place in future debates and on future ballots in the Commonwealth. 

Good on you, Mr. Sarvis.


Now comes the real money - VPAP asserts that Mr. Cuccinelli has raised nearly $20 million; McAuliffe $34 million; and the good Mr. Sarvis $175 thousand, give or take. Poor Mr. Sarvis (literally).

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The 2013 Virginia Election / Preview Part 1


Every four years we hold an election for the offices of president and vice-president, as well as for the entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate – we normally call this a presidential election and it typically has the highest turnout.  Every two years we hold an election for the entire House of Representatives and, again, one-third of the Senate – unsurprisingly we usually call these elections congressional elections.

Now, here is the interesting bit.  Most of the states, forty-eight, synchronize their elections with the Federal elections – there are a lot of reasons for doing this, not the least because it saves time and money and increases the turn-out rate.  But two states have what we usually call off-year elections – the State of New Jersey and the Commonwealth of Virginia – that are held in years that aren’t part of the Federal electoral cycle.  Why?  Well, in theory it helps people be better informed about electoral decisions being made for state and local elections.

Most political scientists are skeptical at best about this and generally argue that off-year elections receive less media attention in general, less voter focus, cost more, and have lower turn-out.  But I digress.

So, what elections are taking place this Tuesday?  Let’s take a look.

New Jersey is holding elections for the governor as well as both houses of its legislature (the Senate and General Assembly) – this one is important nationally principally because it another opportunity for Chris Christie to get some national coverage; important if he wants to eventually make a run for the presidency someday (which seems likely – he is clearly one of the darlings of the Republican center) – the race is generally considered a lock for Christie, despite some narrowing of his poll lead.

Virginia, on the other hand, is interesting for a few reasons. First, the Commonwealth is becoming a true battleground state – large areas of the state are dominated by one or the other major party, with significant transitional areas existing as well.  This is often ascribed to the fact that Virginia becomes more diverse, more formally educated, and more urbanized it is doing what states typically have done under those conditions in recent decades – it is becoming more and more the home of the Democratic party; areas where these trends are less significant have seen the Republicans remain more influential.  This complexity is unsurprising – in many ways we can regard Virginia as sharing the sort of cultural and economic complexity of other nearby states like Kentucky and Ohio – northern Virginia, Richmond, and the Tidewater are increasingly megalopolitian; western Virginia and southwest Virginia are still very much Appalachian, though the Shenandoah is increasingly influenced by its high density of institutions of higher learning.  Southside and large areas of central Virginia remain linked to agriculture, more so than even a few decades ago as much light industry has been outsourced to developing nations.  And the Eastern Shore is – well, the Eastern Shore, conservative, lightly populated, culturally distinct. Of course we could go into more detail, breaking down other specificities (Culpeper, Charlottesville, and the distinctions between southwest and deep southwest Virginia, for instance) but the sketch is quite adequate, I think.

As a result of these phenomena and the battlefield characteristics of Virginia (which have led to immense wealth and treasure being spent on propaganda advertising in recent years).  Is Virginia that important?  Sort of – particularly when you have the kind of close presidential elections that we’ve seen in the last few years.  But at least as significant is that Virginia is perceived as a bellwether state, an indicator of general trends in the United States political patterns (though honestly it isn’t as effective for this as Ohio, though its off-year characteristics increase its value).  

Tomorrow?  I run down the Virginia candidates.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Election Day, November 5th, Live-Blogging with Doc Smith

On Election Day, Tuesday the 5th of November, I will once more be live-blogging (right after I, myself, vote) the entire day and doing television commentary in the glorious Tri-Cities (Fox Tri-Cities and WCYB, naturally!) -  tune in for the Electoral frivolities all darn day, and particularly in the heat of the night. 

The Good Doctor on his way to the
"inter-netting computing device" for election day. 
And start thinking of discussions, questions, and comments you'd like to share with me and all the folk in Internetland - I'll be taking them here and at AaPS's Facebook and Twitter pages, and by e-mail at eds9g-at-uvawise.edu!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Brinksmanship in America – the 2013 Government Shutdown

I have gotten a lot of requests for something like this.  So, without further ado. . . 

The Author
[enrag'd]

So, the pundits, of which I suppose I am one, want to know the answer to the $24billion dollar question: who “won” the government shutdown. 

Fantastic. 

The people (read normal people – read non-politicians/political sciences/bureaucrats/lawyers/journalists/economists) want a boxing match.  They want a narrative.  They want this whole darn mess simplified so that they can exert some ownership and control over it. 

The problem is, of course, that trying to make it simple is talking about something that it was not. 

So, here goes. 

1. Who Where the Players and What Were They Playing At?

Well, let’s see. 

The President / You have President Obama and his staff – they got the Affordable Care Act  (ACA) passed by the last Congress and, frankly, they see it as one of their greatest accomplishments, if not the key accomplishment of their tenure.  So you know – they weren’t particularly likely to just roll over on attempts to get rid of it.

Congressional Tea Party Republicans / These are the new kids on the block (as opposed to the New Kids on the Block).  A recent movement that has, of course, taken the nation by storm – fractured, only moderately well organized, but passionate and a powerful combination of grassroots angry people (a combination of disaffected libertarians, social conservatives, nationalists, neo-isolationists, environmental-skeptics, and so forth – notably dominated by Baby Boomers) funded by powerful political action committees with deep pockets springing from anti-regulation corporate and private interests.  In the past two congresses they have become increasingly a force – especially in the always more volatile House of Representatives. And this is important – the freshman and sophomore congressmen and women of the tea party faction are politically motivated, feel morally justified, are passionate and are, frankly, often a bit politically naïve – the combination is a heady one – a sense that they have more power and influence then they really do – mistaking the ability to disrupt with the ability to reorganize.   Regardless, they had a simple goal – stop the ACA before it came into force.  Why?  Because of this equation:

Add democracy (a political system in which the majority of people, who are always poor or middle-class, have disproportionate influence if so moved) to a promise of a good being distributed universally.  Assume that within short order (two to six years) all of the poor and most of the middle-class will derived an understanding of the good and if not benefit from it at least come to include it as a fundamental part of the home economics.  Now, try to repeal it. 

If you said, um, you couldn’t – well, you’d be right.   The Tea Party folk knew that they had to stop ACA or else assume it is going to be around for a while – at least until you get a majority in both houses and the presidency in the hands of the Republicans.  And frankly, that is likely to be too late – like it or not, the generalities observed in the other nations with universal access make this clear.

Congressional Non-Tea Party Republicans / It isn’t that Republicans who are not in the Tea Party faction like the ACA – most of them don’t – they either think it is in general a bad idea or, at the least, needs serious renovation. But most of the non-Tea Party GOPers know that trying to win this fight under this distribution of power with this strategy is, well, unlikely to work.  Why?  Well, besides the simple fact that the democrats have the Presidency and one house of Congress – which to the strategic mind tells a lot of the tale, most of these folk were politically active during the last Republican attempt at a government shutdown. That didn’t work. And that undermined, rather than bolstered, Republican power.  So why did many of them go along with the Tea Party faction?  Well, because the Tea Party has those deep pockets and grass roots. And because the Tea Party faction is more than willing to go up against its factional competition within the GOP.  Indeed, one wonders how much the non-Tea Party folk are quietly pleased with this – they got to look good to their base, but they also have allowed the Tea Party to weaken their own power relative to the other factions. 

Congressional Democrats / The Congressional Democrats are in a pretty fair place – they support the ACA, by and large, and they probably saw exactly what the non-Tea Party GOP saw coming in terms of public backlash.  All they had to do was hold their ground and they had things pretty well clinched.  The question is, how inept will they be in spinning things properly in the build-up to the 2014 elections. 

2. So what happened?

Here’s the gist.  Congress has been playing kick the can. . . trying to use brinksmanship strategies to deal with, or rather not deal with, or perhaps kinda’ deal with the deficit. 

See, the US owes lots and lots of money.  And it has to pay out more money all the time.  This is a problem not only because we owe so damn much money, but also because are taxes are pretty low AND our income is low because of the Great Recession.  Which was caused, of course, by immoral, unregulated financial markets and the US simultaneously fighting two wars without raising – wait, pause and rewind – while actually lowering taxes.  Wonderful.  The thing is the debt is still growing because we refuse to do “math” and so we have to raise the debt ceiling, which imposed on ourselves ostensibly to force us to do the previously mentioned math, in order to keep borrowing money.  Cause we don’t do the math. 

Starting to be impressed at our own hubris?  Good. 

Well, here is the thing – not making payments on debt hurts your credit rating.  Which is bad.  Because people either (1) won’t loan you any more money or (2) will loan you more money, but will only do so with stupid-high interest (a technical term).  You know – like when you miss your credit card payment.  Except that it is for a balance of $17 billion.

So, the brinksmanship strategy of the 21st century is therefore a manufactured crisis taking advantage of an unhealthy economy, in theory to help the economy. 

Why?  Because the Tea Party folk couldn’t win using any other strategy within this Congress. It is an act of desperation, whether you agreed with it or not.  And it was largely preordained to fail. So, there is that.

3. Who won?

Nobody freaking won.  Are you kidding me? Consider:

Obama’s approval?  Down.

Approval of both parties, both Houses of Congress, and the Tea Party faction? Down.

America’s credit rating? In trouble – why?  Even if we did make the payment this time it is like, well, it is like someone who owes all that credit card debt called the company, talked for forty minutes about how they didn’t think they’d ever be able to make a payment because if they did then they’d have to get insurance which, of course, they had been told they’d have to get a couple years before, but then called back the next day and was like, oh, no problem, all is well, but I don’t want to refinance. 

Humanity? Lost.  Why? When the largest economy on earth becomes unstable, even psychologically it makes ALL OF THE OTHER ECONOMIES UNSTABLE.  ALL OF THEM.  Like Charlie Sheen, we may be winning and drinking tiger blood, but we’re also on house arrest. 

Oh, and then there is the taxpayer.  More nervous, more scared, injured because these reindeer games are playing with our property – and our debt, and, of course, they cost us our money.  How much?

Twenty-four billion dollars, US.  That is how much it cost. 

You know what?  No. No.  I’m going to write out the numbers.  Because that is worth seeing. . . regardé:

$24,000,000,000

I’m not pulling this out of my hindquarters.  Oh no.  This is the number no less than Standard & Poor’s assigned to the Shutdown.  That is a lot of dough.  Kind of.  I mean, the Federal debt of the United States is already nearly  $17 trillion, so it could just whistling in the dark.  But I want to say it could have been better used.  Consider:

We could have provided veterans their medical benefits for five months.

Or have provided the Women, Infants, and Children program all its funding for a year.

Or we could have run the Federal Aviation Administration for a year and a half.

Or run the Environmental Protection Agency for three years.  

Or the National Endowment for the arts for twelve years.

Or the entire National Parks System for twelve years.  

Or the Federal contribution all forms of public broadcasting for almost 50 years. 

These are general estimates.  Don’t get hung up on the details.  You see where I’m going.



So.  That is the government shutdown of 2013 in a nutshell.  Do I understand it?  Yes.  Do I even understand and empathize with all the players?  Yes.  Should it have happened?  Nope.  And the only way to stop it from happening again is to (1) fix the budget (which means increasing taxes and lowering military and social welfare spending), (2) repeal the debt ceiling, and (3) pray the Tea Party Republicans start listening to their peers who were young and naïve themselves once – during the mid-1990s shutdown.  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Slides for a Lecture: A Taxonomy of War

I thought I'd share the slides I developed for one part of my special topics course on the politics of war - a very interesting intellectual exercise, if I do say so myself.
 
 
 
More after the break...