Odds and ends number 80

For awhile I wasn’t sure I would ever make it to the 80th edition of this longtime monoblogue series but I have finally arrived with more tidbits that require only a few dozen words to deal with.

Since this category has the item I’ve been sitting on the longest, I’m going to talk energy first. Some of my readers in the northern part of the state may yet have a little bit of remaining snow from the recent blizzard, snow that may be supplemented by a new blast today. But the fine folks at Energy Tomorrow worry about a regulatory blizzard, and with good reason: Barack Obama has already killed the coal industry, states are suing for relief from the EPA,  and a proposed $10 a barrel oil tax may further hinder the domestic oil industry already straining under a price war with OPEC. So much for that $550 annual raise we received, as Rick Manning notes in the latter story I link – for the rest of us, that’s like a 25-cent per hour raise without the increased taxation that normally comes with a pay increase. Yet that quarter would be lost to taxation under the Obama scheme.

It’s interesting as well that the Iowa caucus results favored Ted Cruz over Donald Trump despite their competing stances on ethanol, as Marita Noon wrote, but Cruz’s Iowa win also emboldened others to speak more freely about rescinding the ban.

Speaking of Cruz and Iowa, over the last week we’ve heard more about third-place Iowa finisher Marco Rubio in New Hampshire, as Erick Erickson predicted we would. It’s obvious to me that the media is trying to pick a Republican candidate for us, so they have been pushing either Donald Trump (who is far from conservative on many issues) or Marco Rubio (who has been squishy on immigration and perhaps can be rolled more easily on the subject again.) Or, as Dan Bongino writes, it could be the left’s divide-and-conquer strategy at work once again.

It seems to me that today’s New Hampshire primary should bring the race down to about five participants on the GOP side. The herd will almost certainly be culled of Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Jim Gilmore based on results, polling, and financial situation, and that would cut it down to six. The loser between Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich should whittle the field to five in time for South Carolina and we will begin to see if Donald Trump’s ceiling is really about 25 percent.

Trump’s popularity has been defined by a hardline approach to border security, but once again I turn to Rick Manning who asks what Trump would do about Obamacare, He also shrewdly invokes Bobby Jindal’s name, since the policy wonk had a conservative approach:

Jindal understood that the Obamacare system has put down some roots, and tearing it out was not going to be an easy task that could be glibly done with the wave of a wand or a pronouncement from a podium. He understood that whatever health care system replaced Obamacare would set the tone for whether or not the federal government continued its expansion in scope and power. He understood that what we do about Obamacare is likely to be one of the most important domestic policy decisions that any president will make. So, he laid out his vision for what health care should look like in America. (Link added.)

Yet on another domestic issue New Hampshire’s neighbor Maine is making some serious steps in cleaning up their food stamp rolls. It’s a little scary to think that the Millennials and Generation X decided keeping the “free” stuff wasn’t worth actually getting a job (or taking alternate steps to improve themselves or their community.) Perhaps it is fortunate that these are childless adults.

Turning to our own state, Maryland Right to Life was kind enough to inform me that a rebadged “death with dignity” assisted suicide bill was introduced to the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate (HB404 and SB418, respectively.) The 2015 rendition never received a committee vote, but it also had a late hearing – this year the setup is a little bit more advantageous to committee passage and the number of sponsors (all Democrats) has increased. They thought they had enough votes to get it out of committee last year, and chances are they are correct.

I have postulated on previous occasions that this General Assembly session is the opportunity to plant the seeds of distrust Democrats desperately need to get back that which they consider theirs in 2018 – the Maryland governor’s chair. It will likely be a close, party-line vote but I suspect this bill will pass in order to make Governor Hogan either veto it (which, of course, will allow the press to make him look less than compassionate to cancer sufferers such as he was) or sign it into law – a course for which he will accrue absolutely zero credit from Democrats for reaching across the aisle but will alienate the pro-life community that is a vital part of the GOP.

Try as they might, the Democrats could not bait Hogan into addressing social issues during his 2014 campaign but that doesn’t mean they will stop trying.

On a much more somber note insofar as good government is concerned, the advocacy group Election Integrity Maryland announced they were winding up their affairs at the end of this month. As EIM president Cathy Kelleher stated:

The difficulty of maintaining a small non profit was a full time job and the responsibility fell on the same few individuals for far too long.

We can proudly say that in our 4+ years of operations, we made a difference in the way citizens view the record maintenance of the State Board of Elections and had an impact in the legislative process.

The problem EIM had was twofold: first, a lack of citizens interested enough to address the issues our state has with keeping voter rolls not just up to date, but insuring they are limited to citizens who are eligible to vote; and secondly just an overwhelming task considering there are over 3 million voters registered in Maryland. And for some of the counties that are more populous, the powers that be didn’t much mind having inaccurate voter rolls that may have had a few ineligible voters among them just in case they needed a few extra on election night.

And it’s that prospect of fraud which is among the reasons not to adopt National Popular Vote, as Natalie Johnson notes at the Daily Signal. It’s a good counter to an argument presented in the comments to one of Cathy Keim’s recent posts. After the angst of Bush vs. Gore in 2000, could you imagine the need for a national recount with states hanging in the balance?

I think the system can be improved, but there’s a time and place for that proposal and it’s not here yet. There’s also a time and a place to wrap up odds and ends, and we have arrived.

Catching up

I’m back from our honeymoon, and if you are plugged into social media as a friend of mine you’ve probably seen a few of our wedding photos. It didn’t exactly go as planned, but in the end I got what I wanted so now we can go boldly forward as a couple joined in the eyes of God (and the state.)

I want to again thank Cathy Keim for providing the content while I was away, but I should have let her know she was also free to moderate comments while I was gone. So last night I moderated a number of interesting responses to her post on Friday regarding the hidden perk Democrats are enjoying with regard to the Electoral College. Reader “kohler” wrote a series of posts that made several claims about the National Popular Vote movement, some of which I’ll address as you read on:

  • The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes does not enhance the influence of rural states, because the most rural states are not battleground states, and they are ignored.

This is true to a great extent; however, that in and of itself is no reason to change the system. The Electoral College itself was formed so that smaller, rural states had some influence in the Presidential selection process – even back in Colonial days it was true that the population of states like Delaware, Georgia, and Rhode Island were dwarfed by Virginia and Pennsylvania. There has never been a level playing field, but in the days of favorite son candidates it’s no wonder Virginia had many early Presidents and Delaware has had none.

  • One-sixth of the U.S. population lives in the top 100 cities, and they voted 63% Democratic in 2004. One-sixth lives outside the nation’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas, and rural America voted 60% Republican. The remaining four-sixths live in the suburbs, which divide almost exactly equally.

It’s worth pointing out that a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) extends well beyond the city limits, and MSAs comprise more than the top 100 cities as they include counties of over 100,000 people not included in a larger MSA. (For example, Salisbury is its own MSA which includes not just Wicomico County but Somerset and Worcester counties in Maryland and Sussex County, Delaware.)

So covering the one-sixth that doesn’t live in an MSA is much more difficult from a media standpoint, although having the internet makes it somewhat easier.

Yet being in our little Republican-leaning MSA doesn’t mean we aren’t swamped at the ballot box by those in the I-95 corridor whether inside the Beltway, in Baltimore, or in Wilmington. Moreover, by cherry-picking the 2004 election (where George W. Bush was re-elected with a slim outright majority) they conveniently ignore the much higher Democratic percentages in 2008 and 2012, which would defeat their argument that rural and urban are balanced.

  • Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of pre-determined outcomes. There would no longer be a handful of ‘battleground’ states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80%+ of the states, like Maryland, that have just been ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

Do you honestly believe this? As stated above, over 80 percent of the nation lives within a MSA. And using the top 100 cities as a population example is deceiving because in many cases those who live within the city limits are a minority within their county. Here in Maryland, Baltimore City is smaller than Baltimore County (not to mention the other surrounding counties) and the District of Columbia is dwarfed by just Montgomery and Prince George’s counties here in Maryland, not to mention Virginia’s contribution to the Capital region.

Instead of battleground states – which in truth tend to be those with fairly equal rural and urban populations, not dominated by one city – under NPV would-be Presidential candidates would focus strictly on the largest population centers. Those in “flyover country” would continue to be ignored.

  • The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

These are the states which have enacted NPV: California, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Notice anything in common among these states?

The NPV movement has advanced the furthest among states with the heaviest concentrations of Democrats, with many of these states featuring one or two dominant urban areas which reign at the expense of their rural denizens. These eleven are among 19 states which have gone Democratic in each of the last six Presidential elections, the others being Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

  • An election for President based on the nationwide popular vote would eliminate the Democrat’s advantage arising from the uneven distribution of non-citizens.

Instead it would just ramp up the total number of votes because it’s all but certain at least a few of these non-citizens have been placed on the voting rolls – I’m sure it was all an accident, of course. And why do I suspect the NPV compact would be ignored if we ever had a situation where the Democrat lost the national popular vote but was in a position to win the Electoral College vote based on how these individual states voted? There is NO WAY Maryland would allow a Republican President to win if the Democrat won the vote here, so if you thought the Bush vs. Gore controversy in 2000 was bad just wait for all the court cases that will come up in a situation like that.

It also should be noted that there is a bill in the General Assembly to repeal the state’s participation in the NPV compact (HB53) but don’t expect much from it: every year since 2009, Delegate Tony O’Donnell has introduced it only to see it lose on a strict party-line vote in the Ways and Means Committee. Shamefully, since 2011 he’s had no co-sponsors for the bill, either.

But I think there’s a better idea out there, and we have a young man locally who is making such a proposal. In the coming months I’ll go into the subject with more detail but suffice to say it’s an idea that may make all the states battleground states while maintaining the Electoral College and giving all citizens more of a voice in the Presidential election process. I’ll leave it at that for now but in the meantime I think it’s time to scrap the NPV movement because the last I checked we were still a republic as long as we could keep it.

And keep it we must.

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