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term limits

 
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Since we have a political expert in our midst, Stevens, I'd be very interested in hearing your opinion on term limits. Do you think we would better off to get rid of professional politicians?
 
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and if we're going to open up this discussion, let's add in judges/justices too. Should someone be allowed to sit on the Supreme Court for 40 years? Or would (say) 10-and-done be better?
 
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I think we should not limit terms, however. I believe it is right to allow people to occupy a post for as long as they like, provided they are re‑elected for that time.
 
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I have seen cases where term limits were a good thing, and cases where term limits were a bad thing. So, I don't have a strong opinion for either case. It is good for discarding dead weight and making it hard to do corruption. It is bad in that productive politicians also gets discarded (but they also tend to move up instead).

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I'm conflicted as well. I like that a politician can't settle in and just keep getting elected. (It's harder/difficult to unseat an incumbent.) But I don't like that they spend so much of their term running for office - whether it is the same office or the next one. I think I'd like to see longer terms and term limits. For example, two year terms could turn into four year terms but you could only win twice. Another possibility is to limit consecutive terms. So you could come back after someone else gets a turn.

I live in New York State. When Hillary Clinton ran for Senator I wasn't enthusiastic. Because seniority in the Senate is so important and it was obvious she was running as a launchpad to something else.

Fred: For the Supreme Court, I think it is important they not be elected. Ten years feels too short though. I'm thinking experience matters more there. SO maybe a 20 year term? Or an age limit?
 
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I think two years too short a term; they will spend all their time and effort on elections. But why should they be restricted to two terms? If there is somebody good (is that a contradiction in terms) why throw them out after two terms?
 
fred rosenberger
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:Fred: For the Supreme Court, I think it is important they not be elected. Ten years feels too short though. I'm thinking experience matters more there. SO maybe a 20 year term? Or an age limit?


I agree they shouldn't be elected. And ten was simply a number to start a discussion. I'm not wedded to it any more than I am to twenty or even five.
 
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J. Kevin Robbins wrote:Since we have a political expert in our midst, Stevens, I'd be very interested in hearing your opinion on term limits. Do you think we would better off to get rid of professional politicians?


That's flattering, but not altogether accurate. As a politically active person, analysts tend to call folks like me, "members of the political class," rather than experts. That means I have a few good war stories to tell, and some direct experience with the system. Doesn't make me an expert, by any means, however.

Term limits are one of the hottest topics in American politics, outside of the issues we think of as substantial policy matters (which, over the long term in the United States, are abortion, guns, taxes, abortion, Jesus, and abortion). To know how we got into the situation that we're in, and to understand the perspective of what those analysts call the political class, it helps to know how we got here. To know that, one must go back to the constitutional convention of 1787, when one of my personal heroes, James Madison, was midwifing the birth of the modern United States. (Much as I revere Madison, those who call him "the father of the constitution" are overlooking quite a bit, in my humble opinion.) What was the existing political context? Well, the existing legislature of the United States was chosen by the individual state legislatures, not by popular elections. There was a single house in the federal legislature, with each state having one vote. The members sent by a state would vote amongst themselves on how the state would vote as a whole. Those federal legislators actually did have limited terms, of the rotational sort: they could only serve three out of any six years, with elections held every year.

This system did not, as it turned out, work very well. The legislatures of the states tended to just re-elect the same people, over and over, rotating through a list of their political favorites. The job itself was not highly esteemed, so it didn't attract particularly impressive candidates. And, in those days, just getting from, say, South Carolina to Philadelphia and back every year was kind of a dreary haul. The whole exercise seemed vaguely pointless to many of those involved, because the federal government itself lacked any meaningful authority. After a while, it became clear that the United States, version 1.0, was a governmental failure. In 1787, the states agreed to send delegates to a convention (in Philadelphia, during the summer, with the windows shuttered to keep out the press, with everybody wearing wigs and woolen clothes, and don't you wish you got to be one of the Founding Fathers when it was 85 degrees in the convention hall every day?). What the delegates did, among other things, resulted in why we have no term limits on congress today. What they did was, in effect, to hold a little revolution, all their own.

The delegates were there to "revise" the Articles of Confederation (effectively the constitution of the United States 1.0). On the theory that if you replace the head of an axe, and then replace the handle of the same axe, you simply have a revised version of the same axe you started with, the delegates decided to "revise" the Articles in, essentially, two simple steps:

1. Delete the entire contents of the Articles of Confederation.
2. Write entirely new contents.

Going way beyond their charter, the delegates decided to replace the United States 1.0 with version 2.0, which is the version of the United States we have today. (By the way, the delegation from Rhode Island was so pissed off by this blatant power-grab that they all just quit and went home. Later, Rhode Island initially declined to ratify the constitution.) This meant the entire structure of government was up for grabs. That, among other things, meant that term limits were back in play.

Now, let's consider a bit more of the context: George Washington was the president of the convention. Pretty quickly, everyone agreed that the new government would need a chief executive. Not a king, but someone to be the operating boss of a government that ran its own affairs, rather than just passed laws. Washington was extremely well respected and admired. In short, everyone simply knew that the first president of the United States 2.0 would be General George Washington. And, trust me, you just don't put term limits on a guy like General George Washington. Washington's stature was so great that the expectation was his own conduct in office would set the standards for the presidents that would follow him. For a long time, it did. Washington served two terms, and voluntarily retired after that. For the next 150 years, that's what every president after him did. Franklin D. Roosevelt broke that tradition by letting himself get elected president four times. Shortly thereafter, we amended the constitution so that no one can serve more than two terms as president (well, three if you get there first by succession, and less than half a term remains for you to fill).

So, we do have term limits in United States 2.0, but that's because Roosevelt stuck his finger in historical George Washington's eye, and the people were on Washington's side. (That's not quite how the 22nd Amendment was passed, but you get the idea.)

Okay, Washington was supposed to save us from ourselves with respect to the presidency, but why no term limits in congress? There are two answers to that, as Madison had it: First, reasonably frequent elections gave us all the protection we needed from imbeciles running America forever, and: Second, it is crucially important to know that the Founding Fathers did not see power as something owned by the government, to be used upon us. They saw power as something owned by us, and merely lent to our elected officials for limited periods. If we liked what they did with it, we could renew the loan. If not, we took the power back from them and lent it to someone else. The idea that we would need term limits in order to stop elected officials from keeping power was almost inherently absurd to Madison and his colleagues, because those elected officials didn't own that power. It wasn't theirs to keep. It was ours, and we could take it from those electeds, changing who got to borrow it, as often as every election was held.

Madison was a genius and realized that the new government would fail, like version 1.0 had failed, if it lacked power over the states. That's why he supported a strong central government. He also knew that, if version 2.0 were to succeed, people (all white men, at the time, but we've improved on that) with talent at governing would have to want the job. Limited terms implicitly limit the prestige of the position, and prestige mattered a lot to those guys. At the time, people were turning down election to the federal congress, because they were already serving in state legislatures, and state legislatures were more prestigious. (To understand this, ask yourself, today, if you would rather be a United States senator, or a member of our delegation to the United Nations.) State legislatures typically did not have term limits. Imposing limits on federal legislators would have been asking some of the most qualified people to give up jobs they could potentially keep forever in favor of jobs they couldn't keep very long. Most of them would expect to return to state legislatures anyway, so why would they bother to move "up" when "up" was, at best, only sideways?

As it happened, Madison's concern quickly focused less on limits, and more on frequency. States tended to have annual elections. Madison liked that, because it meant anyone that sucked at the job could be tossed out before too much damage was done. But, he also reckoned that certain devious slimebags might be able swindle the public into electing them, serve in the distant capital for a year, and only have their reptilian underbellies exposed in time to expel them just before the next election, when they might pull the same stunt again. (His way of saying it was, that with elections every year, "a very pernicious encouragement is given to the use of unlawful means." Same thing as I said, more or less.) So, in the end, Madison and his crew opted for two-year terms. Remember that the senate (a new component in version 2.0) would still be appointed by the states, not elected by the people. This whole system was designed to distribute power in such a way that using it destructively would be difficult, if not impossible, before the people could prevent that from happening (by electing better choices).

Going back, again, to that basic notion of who it is that owned the power (us), Madison reasoned that, with term limits, everyone serving their last term would have nothing to lose, so they'd have no reason to refrain from being destructive. On the other hand, Madison said that, for congress, the open-ended possibility for re-election would be, "the principal motive to the faithful discharge of its duties."

So, that's kind of how we got where we are. We had tried (rotational) term limits, and found them to be problematic. It didn't attract very good candidates, and it didn't incorporate enough accountability to the people, from whom power is borrowed. In United States 1.0, it had lead to weakness and cronyism. Today, however, we see that a ridiculous conundrum has evolved out of Madison's dream: congress has an approval rating so close to zero that you need a double to avoid rounding it down, and yet we send the exact same people back every two years. We certainly don't have to do that. We can, as some people say, take the position that, indeed, we do have term limits. We just call them "elections." But that's not what happens. We all hate congress, but we reward those bums with another two years, every two years, almost like we want to punish ourselves.

The popularity of term-limits seems, to me, to arise from our frustration with our own foolishness. That is, it isn't really the politicians we want to impose those limits on: it's us. We don't want to prohibit anyone from serving more than two terms (or whatever), but we are, kind of like a junkie who can't kick a bad habit, looking for a way to stop ourselves from re-electing anyone for more than two terms (or whatever).

Now, to answer the original question: I think that's bullshit. Voting is not a bad habit and voting for someone I really like, over and over, isn't a sign that I need a law preventing me from doing so. At the same time, I cherish the thought that, if my representative wants me to agree with others and renew the loan of power we made by electing him or her, then that representative had better keep more than half of us happy with how he or she uses the power they've borrowed from us. Imagine what it would mean if, say, every sitting senator suddenly got told they could only serve two more terms. Within a few years, we'd have a senate with fully two-thirds of its members feeling like it didn't matter what the hell they did, as far as the people were concerned. If, suddenly, we limited the house, we could end up with a house literally composed entirely of members with no democratic accountability whatsoever.

Ick.

Now, I know that the likelihood of members with limited terms all synching up like that is low, but one must consider all possibilities, and the point remains strong, I think, that term limits cost you the value of accountability that is inherent in the desire nearly all incumbents have to be re-elected.

That's how James Madison saw it. That's how I see it.

(If anyone wants my thoughts on how Madison's great system has evolved into lifetime membership in a congress everyone hates, I'd be glad to write an essay on that separately. At this point, however, I see I have, again, run off at the mouth. So I'll stop here. For now .)
 
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Fascinating response, thanks for sharing that. It's actually made me reconsider my position. I've always been in favor of term limits because it seems like the only way to get rid of people like Nancy Pelosi. I also am puzzled why the approval rating of congress is so low, yet we always re-elect the same candidates. I guess we get the government that we deserve. The older I get, the more I feel like the problem is not those elected, but rather the "low-information" voters who put them there. Voters who cast their vote because of a 30 second tv sound bite, or because a candidate has more name recognition or has a name that sounds "more American", whatever that is. They vote for many reasons but if you ask them where their candidate stands on certain issues, or what their voting record is like, they have no idea.

I've sometimes said, only half-joking, that there should be a license required for voting. If you can't answer basic questions like naming the three branches of government or the names of your senators, then maybe you aren't well enough informed to cast a thoughtful, well reasoned vote.

Oh well. I really don't know what the solution is, but I'm convinced the current system is broken and I don't know if it can be repaired at the voting booth.
 
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J. Kevin Robbins wrote:I also am puzzled why the approval rating of congress is so low, yet we always re-elect the same candidates.



The short explanation is gerrymandering. Most congressional districts are now very partisan, one way or the other. Most folks will generally vote for the nominee of the party that aligns with their personal agenda, no matter what a bum that nominee may be, before they will vote for the nominee of the other party. (Studies confirm this, and it's another conundrum, because most Americans claim to be politically independent, while voting for one party and not the other, over 90% of the time.) To remain a party nominee, one must survive any primary challenges. Primaries have low participation, tending only to draw out the truly committed partisan voters. So, to survive a primary challenge (or just win one, if your party is the challenger in the general election later), a would-be nominee has to be pretty far to the end of the spectrum their party is on. That tends to produce two very polarized candidates for the general election. And that means the outcome is pretty easy to predict already.

If the districts were more competitive, moderate candidates would win more often. Moderate candidates are at greater liberty to compromise and vote with the other party, from time to time. That's what gets congress it's best ratings: compromise. But compromise is, at the moment, the surest way to lose your seat in a primary challenge, so compromise is off the table right now.

The older I get, the more I feel like the problem is not those elected, but rather the "low-information" voters who put them there.



Heh. Do you listen to Rush Limbaugh's radio show? I do, sometimes. He uses that phrase ("low-information voters") a lot. I think he's missing the point (probably knowingly; love him or hate him, Rush ain't stupid). It's not that we Americans are ignorant. Rather, it's that we know what matters to us, and that list is short.

Again, being programmers, let's build a data structure to model our candidates and their races. Suppose a voter has, say four issues they care about, call them A, B, C, and D. That voter cares about a lot of other things, but A, B, C, and D are the most important. To model our candidates, let's say that there are, essentially, only two positions one can take on each of those issues. Thus, they are booleans. With four, each candidate can take sixteen aggregate positions. Call their aggregate position their Agenda. Since an Agenda can have sixteen discreet values, two candidates can confront our voter with 256 possible comparisons. Of course, the two candidates will each only have one Agenda, so the voter will only have to care about one of those 256 match-ups, but the voter will have to be able to sort out how they feel those two candidate's Agendas compare, and that's going to call for some deep thought, depending on where each candidate stands on A, B, C, and D.

Except...

That's nothing like how it works in reality. In reality, most voters who set "A" to true, will also set "B" to true, "C" to true, and "D" to true. (Or all to false; or all to the same booleans that most other voters do.)

As an example, suppose that A, B, C, and D, are, respectively, abortion, guns, labor, and environment. Our political process has produced two parties that tend to set those four booleans the same way for their candidates, and each party sets them exactly the opposite of how the other party sets them. That happens, not at all by coincidence, to be pretty much the larger part of how the American electorate works. The four settings of one party or the other will typically match the four settings of most voters. And, after that, what else do you need to know?

To be explicit, we know that Republicans are consistently against abortion, in favor of personal gun rights, opposed to unions, and do not see climate-change as an urgently pressing matter.
Democrats, equally consistently, support abortion rights, prefer more gun-control, favor unions, and can get pretty worked about coping with climate-change.

Look at the American electorate and tell me if you don't think those four issues, and, in particular, those two Agendas, aren't enough to let most Americans make up their minds, with some certainly, just whom they want to vote for. Heck, I know lots of people, just here in my county, that only need to know where a candidate stands on any one of those issues, for them to know who they'll vote for. It's not that those voters are "low-information." It's that nothing means enough to them about any other issues to dominate the significance of the ones they care the most about. (Even for voters who only care about one thing, they will tend to correlate with voters who care about one different thing. That is, if a candidate makes a single-issue voter happy with a position on abortion, that same candidate will probably make another single-issue voter happy with the candidate's position on guns, while still adhering to either the typical Republican or Democratic Agenda across the board.)

I admit, I'm one of them. If you tell me that two candidates are running, that one has the canonical Republican Agenda I spec'ed out above, and that the other has the canonical Democratic Agenda that I spec'ed out, I (assuming you are giving me accurate data) know already who I am going to vote for. It's not that nothing else matters to me. It's just that nothing else matter's more, once I know the two candidates have those two Agendas.
 
fred rosenberger
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I also think when it comes to congress, everyone wants the OTHER guys who've been there forever voted out, but if my guy stays, he'll move up in seniority...

 
Stevens Miller
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fred rosenberger wrote:I also think when it comes to congress, everyone wants the OTHER guys who've been there forever voted out, but if my guy stays, he'll move up in seniority...


Even seniority can't save you when the extremists take over. Just ask Eric Cantor.
 
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Stevens Miller wrote:
The short explanation is gerrymandering. Most congressional districts are now very partisan, one way or the other.


I can agree with that. I'm tempted to ask "how do we fix it", but that's fodder for a whole different thread.

Heh. Do you listen to Rush Limbaugh's radio show? I do, sometimes. He uses that phrase ("low-information voters") a lot.


I used to, but I haven't listened in probably 20 years. I came to the conclusion that he's more about entertainment than information. He's all about getting people outraged and I have enough of that already; I don't need any help in that area.

Again, being programmers, let's build a data structure to model our candidates and their races.


Great example and good point. I can understand how people choose to vote based on one or two issues. I'm guilty of the same thing. That probably has a lot to do with why the country has become so politically polarized to the point that the government now seems to be deadlocked and unable to accomplish anything.

But we still come back to the big question. How do we fix it, and can it be fixed at the voting booth? Is it time for a constitutional convention to create version 3.0? Is there another option?
 
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J. Kevin Robbins wrote:...the country has become so politically polarized to the point that the government now seems to be deadlocked and unable to accomplish anything.


I know quite a few people who see that as a good thing.

But we still come back to the big question. How do we fix it, and can it be fixed at the voting booth?


That depends a lot, I think, on what a "fixed" government would look like. The Founders were interested in making sure that the will of the people was enacted by the people's government, while, at the same time, ensuring that no majority ever grew so powerful that it could rob a minority of its fundamental rights (those rights they had earlier denominated as "unalienable"). In what is probably his most respected writing, Federalist 10, Madison argued that a large republic would be a better safeguard of those rights than a small one, because the larger the state becomes, the more diverse it becomes, which makes it less likely that any one faction can obtain enough power to oppress everyone else. If you think of factions as components in a complex system, then you can perhaps see Madison's approach as one of built-in redundancy. That is, with a lot of factions, no one of which can dominate the others, any one faction can, in a sense, "go bad," and the overall system will still function.

Note, however, that this goal of the Founders, that the people's will be done, is completely distinct from what that will was. If the people's will turned out to be that, say, we should expand our nation to the west, then that's what the government should support. If, on the other hand, the people's will turned out to be that we should not incorporate Canada into the United States, well, then the government should be making sure that didn't happen. Or vice versa in each case. To those fellows, a "successful" government was one that made sure no one got to take away anyone else's basic rights, while allowing for the consensus of the people (if there was one) to command the actions of government.

One way to look at that, maybe, is that "success" meant that, in the absence of broad agreement, the government couldn't tell anyone what to do (or what not to do). Today, I wonder if very many people would see that as success. Consider abortion, which is one of our enduring issues of national disagreement. One side clearly defines "success" as, more or less, an overall prohibition. The other side clearly defines it as, more or less, universal access. History suggests there isn't going to be much compromise between those two factions. Madison's definition of success may not apply here. How do you apply a policy that protects basic rights without choosing one of those two sides over the other? When everyone agrees on what those unalienable rights are, Madison's system works fine. But setting abortion policy can't be done without choosing between two conflicting claims of basic rights. It's one or the other; you can't have both, and both are being asserted as unalienable by each of their proponents.

In short, we seem to have reached the point where too many people would say that a "successful" government is the one that lets each of us do what he wants, and prohibits everyone else from doing what each of us doesn't want, which is a logical contradiction when not everyone agrees. (And, as Madison observed, if we all agreed on everything, we wouldn't need government in the first place.)

Is it time for a constitutional convention to create version 3.0?


USA 3.0 has been kicked around for years. The CW seems to be that we can't get there from here. USA 2.0 was created because the structure of USA 1.0 didn't work. Today, if we held a convention to design the structure of USA 3.0, most commentators seem to think that the first question put on the agenda would be, "Shall the constitution of USA 3.0 permit abortion or not?" I would expect the conventioneers to need something on the order of a minute, maybe two minutes, to conclude that no agreement on an answer to that question would ever be reached. At that point, the convention would adjourn, USA 3.0 would be shelved, and we'd be right back here where we started.

Is there another option?


I think there is, but it requires that I defy my hero, and suggest that smaller is better. If you look at maps of the USA that graphically show attitudes about abortion, they all look rather like this:

Now, the amazing thing about that map is that it very, very closely resembles maps of attitudes about guns, gay marriage, taxes, going to war, environmental policy, using spanking as punishment (I kid you not about that one), and so on. And, on top of all that, it also closely resembles maps of how people vote for president. Thus, I think Madison was wrong on one point: factions may be a good way to define boundaries of people who, within any one boundary, agree on the list of unalienable rights, while disagreeing with the people within another boundary about that list.

Remember, Madison was only dealing with the right-hand margin of that map. He didn't really expect the entire North American continent between Canada and Mexico to join the United States, nor did he ever expect the US population to be as big as it is. (Can't find a link just now, but I recall either Madison or one of his contemporaries writing to the effect that the population of the United States might actually be twenty-million, someday.) Today, with a population of about one-third of a billion, I think we can see some natural boundaries in that map, not for one USA 3.0, but for three of them, each big enough to deliver the virtues of size described in Federalist 10, yet each united in its own, distinct, notions of what "unalienable" rights must be secured to each individual, no matter what. (Oh, and south-east Florida; make south-east Florida a protectorate of New England, and it works.)

Of course, we actually did try something like what I'm suggesting, a few years ago. In a spectacularly unsuccessful experiment at partitioning the United States, about 622,000 of our great-great-grandparents slaughtered each other in our Civil War (an accomplishment so amazing, we have only managed to surpass that number by sending our children off to fight wars in other places fairly recently). Thus, my idea has an inherent bug in it, if it means fighting with ourselves to make it happen. But, if, somehow, we could peacefully partition the United States into three new nations (plus south-east Florida), I think we could see each of those new nations return to governments operated for the sake of delivering the will of the people, rather than just fighting over what the will of the people really is.

Alas, fighting with ourselves is something we seem dearly fond of doing, so I'm not optimistic. But you asked if there was another option, and that's at least one that I can think of.
 
fred rosenberger
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Stevens Miller wrote:But, if, somehow, we could peacefully partition the United States into three new nations (plus south-east Florida)...


...I would have to move. I'm clearly in the "wrong" part of the country for my beliefs.
 
J. Kevin Robbins
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Stevens Miller wrote:I know quite a few people who see that as a good thing.


"No mans life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session". -- Gideon J. Tucker

I would usually agree, but the downside is we can't accomplish anything positive either (not that government is very good at that) such as getting the economy going again. But like the abortion issue, there's no consensus on the best way to do that; lower taxes, higher taxes, more regulation, less regulation, income redistribution, higher minimum wage, and so on.

But we still come back to the big question. How do we fix it, and can it be fixed at the voting booth?


Stevens Miller wrote:In what is probably his most respected writing, Federalist 10, Madison argued that a large republic would be a better safeguard of those rights than a small one, because the larger the state becomes, the more diverse it becomes, which makes it less likely that any one faction can obtain enough power to oppress everyone else.


As much as I respect Madison and Jefferson, on this point I must disagree. I think smaller is better. I'm a big believer in the 10th amendment; I want to see power back to the states and minimize the federal government. I think a more local government is more answerable to the people. The fed is too far removed from the real world. It also gives people the ability to vote with their feet without giving up their citizenship and moving to Canada.

One way to look at that, maybe, is that "success" meant that, in the absence of broad agreement, the government couldn't tell anyone what to do (or what not to do). Today, I wonder if very many people would see that as success. Consider abortion


I think that's because we're trying to find a solution that satisfies over 300 million people. It will never happen. Take it back to the state level and you're likely to find consensus. If California wants to allow abortion, and West Virginia doesn't, what's wrong with that?

Is there another option?


I think there is, but it requires that I defy my hero, and suggest that smaller is better. If you look at maps of the USA that graphically show attitudes about abortion, they all look rather like this:


I like this idea, I just hope we can achieve it without another civil war (or as it's known down here, "The War of Northern Aggression"). Are you familiar with the work of Igor Panarin?

It sounds like we're in agreement on the smaller is better solution. Incidentally, I've really enjoyed this conversation. It's like talking to a professor of history and political science. If you are ever in Danville, Virginia, I'd like to buy you a beer.
 
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fred rosenberger wrote:

Stevens Miller wrote:But, if, somehow, we could peacefully partition the United States into three new nations (plus south-east Florida)...


...I would have to move. I'm clearly in the "wrong" part of the country for my beliefs.



I as well. See that little blue blip in the middle of Texas? That's me.
 
Stevens Miller
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J. Kevin Robbins wrote:
"No mans life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session". -- Gideon J. Tucker


I have always wondered who said that. Thanks.

I would usually agree, but the downside is we can't accomplish anything positive either (not that government is very good at that) such as getting the economy going again. But like the abortion issue, there's no consensus on the best way to do that; lower taxes, higher taxes, more regulation, less regulation, income redistribution, higher minimum wage, and so on.


Brother, I would say you have hit the nail on the thumb (and, man, I feel your pain).

I think a more local government is more answerable to the people.


It sure is! When I was a county supervisor and it was budget-season (March, annually), people would simply call me up and offer their heartfelt good advice on what to cut and what to expand. Many of them were very thoughtful, speaking in resonant and definite tones that I was sure to be able to hear, even if I were to, say, drop my phone or be standing at a construction site.

That was, actually, one of the things I liked best about my little bottom-of-the-totem-pole level of government: I could just walk into any store, diner, or home and talk directly to the people I was supposed to serve. Once you move up, that gets harder and harder to do. Of course, theoretically, those various levels are supposed to provide a kind of integrated hierarchy. As a practical matter (at least here in Virginia), that's a complete lie. Our legislature virtually ignores the local governments, except to shove unfunded mandates down our throats. Doesn't help any, either, when you're not from the same party your legislative delegation mostly is.

Yeah, local government is more answerable. But it has its problems, too (we spent millions, for example, to maintain a backwards-compatible Fire/Police/Rescue system that made sure we could communicate with surrounding jurisdictions, while being compliant with new federal rules that--I kid you not--were designed to guarantee interoperability with federal agencies).

I think there is, but it requires that I defy my hero, and suggest that smaller is better. If you look at maps of the USA that graphically show attitudes about abortion, they all look rather like this:


I like this idea, I just hope we can achieve it without another civil war (or as it's known down here, "The War of Northern Aggression").



Heh. Friend of mine flew down in a small plane from New York, picked me up, then took us further to a small Virginia town's annual "oyster festival." This involved a parade which included a color guard. After the flags of the United States and the Commonwealth of Virginia, a separate guard carried the CSA flag. My friend said to me, "Hey, didn't we win that one?" I had to explain to him, "Y'all in the south now, son. 'Round here, a number of folks will tell you, 'Yes, we did.'"



Are you familiar with the work of Igor Panarin?


Didn't he write the Java Native Interface? (Sorry, haven't heard of him.)



I've really enjoyed this conversation. It's like talking to a professor of history and political science.


Same here! I was kind of an odd fellow in law school. Most of my classmates were there to be lawyers (since, you know, lawyers make a lot of money; guess the guy who delivers those barrels of cash hasn't found my house yet). I was there partly because I found it interesting. That's where I got my grounding in this stuff. A shame most people get programmed into believing it's boring at a young age. If we waited to teach them as adults, I bet most would realize how fascinating it really is.

If you are ever in Danville, Virginia, I'd like to buy you a beer.



Danville! My God, man, you're from The Deep South! (But, you're on. Likewise if you make it up here to Loudoun county.)
 
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Bear Bibeault wrote:

fred rosenberger wrote:

Stevens Miller wrote:But, if, somehow, we could peacefully partition the United States into three new nations (plus south-east Florida)...


...I would have to move. I'm clearly in the "wrong" part of the country for my beliefs.



I as well. See that little blue blip in the middle of Texas? That's me.



Heh. Actually, the political/philosophical slant(s) of the United States are not so much correlated to region, as they are to density. Here's another map:

Red marks a county that voted Republican in 2012. Blue marks the Democrats.

My Republican friends love this map, because it makes it look like almost no one voted Democratic. But, of course, the Democrats won that election, so how do we explain it? Simple: Democrats tend to live in higher density areas than Republicans do. You want the Democrats to win more elections? Build more cities and get people to live there! Want the Republicans to win? Start a back-to-the-land movement and draw more voters into the farm country. Of course, people of all persuasions can be found everywhere, but, in general, if you're living cheek-by-jowl with your neighbors, you're more likely to be a liberal, and, if you're able to stand in an open plain with nothing between you and the horizon, you're more likely to be a conservative. You live in Austin, right Bear? Man, I love Austin. Beautiful place, great night-life, friendly people, lazy meandering river right through town. And, if I recall correctly, compared to most of the rest of Texas, it is just crawling with lefties. As you can see from that first map, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas (where I once lived) also stand out against an otherwise largely homogenous state. That's density in America for you: people to the left live close together.
 
Bear Bibeault
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Stevens Miller wrote:You live in Austin, right Bear?


Yes, indeed!

if I recall correctly, compared to most of the rest of Texas, it is just crawling with lefties.


As accused. It's the reality behind my jest when people ask if I'm from Texas, I say "No, I'm from Austin".
 
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Stevens Miller wrote:Democrats tend to live in higher density areas than Republicans do. You want the Democrats to win more elections? Build more cities and get people to live there! Want the Republicans to win? Start a back-to-the-land movement and draw more voters into the farm country. Of course, people of all persuasions can be found everywhere, but, in general, if you're living cheek-by-jowl with your neighbors, you're more likely to be a liberal, and, if you're able to stand in an open plain with nothing between you and the horizon, you're more likely to be a conservative.


That's a very interesting observation. I'd love to hear someone try to explain that. I'd also like to see Libertarians included on such a map.

I'm a country boy and tend to vote Republican simply because 2nd amendment rights are a big issue to me (we talked about single issue voting earlier), but I'm indifferent about abortion and I support gay marriage and drug legalization. So I'm sort of a man without a party. The Libertarian platform comes close, but I strongly disagree with their policy on open borders; I believe in a secure border and national sovereignty. So what's a guy to do? There really isn't a party that represents me.
 
fred rosenberger
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I think smaller is better.


So why not remove power from the state, and give it to each individual county? And in St. Louis county, there are 91 municipalities (Municipalities_of_St._Louis_County,_Missouri) - maybe we should grant each of those cities all the power. But even within my municipality, there are very different neighborhoods who would prefer different rulings on issues.

My larger point is - why is giving power to a State the right answer? Why is that the right size? It isn't even a size. by either population, square mileage, or even population density, the 50 states are all so varied that choosing that as the correct solution seems rather arbitrary...
 
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But, like counties and regions here, the states were delimited mainly for historical reasons. We have counties here with a population less than anything we would call a city (except London Canterbury and St David's maybe. And also Ripon).
 
Stevens Miller
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J. Kevin Robbins wrote:I'm a country boy and tend to vote Republican simply because 2nd amendment rights are a big issue to me (we talked about single issue voting earlier), but I'm indifferent about abortion and I support gay marriage and drug legalization. So I'm sort of a man without a party. The Libertarian platform comes close, but I strongly disagree with their policy on open borders; I believe in a secure border and national sovereignty. So what's a guy to do? There really isn't a party that represents me.



Brother, I feel your pain. I'm pro-choice and pro-equality (leftie code for "favors gay marriage"), think the war on drugs has been a bad idea, and I have a concealed carry permit for my .380 pistol. Neither of us is an instant fit for either of the two main agendas driving modern American politics.

Best I can suggest is that you publish your views to your elected officials. Don't let them ignore you. They will if you do, so just don't.
 
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