Book review: Sheriff Mike Lewis – Constitutional. Uncanceled. by Haven Simmons

This book came out last month, and it’s an intriguing one.
Cover image via Amazon.

One would think I don’t read books anymore, and to be honest I had no idea it had been over a half-decade since I reviewed one here on monoblogue. However, I believed this would be an interesting tome with which to renew the tradition, given the local connection of both subject and author, a retired communication professor from Salisbury University.

Moreover, I thought I could shine a unique light on the book as both a published author myself – someone who knows what it’s like to put together a book requiring hours of research and attempting to make it palatable to a reader who wishes to know more about the subject – and as a former constituent and eventual supporter of the title subject. There were quite a few names familiar to me dropped within the book; as one would imagine that drove a lot of my interest in reading a volume that my wife actually purchased for her enjoyment. (It’s why I’m waiting a week or so to put out this review so as not to give her any spoilers.)

Mike Lewis, however, was not just my sheriff when I lived in Wicomico County before crossing over to Delaware two-plus years ago. Arguably the national platform for drug interdiction and Second Amendment support he’s created via his frequent media appearances make Lewis the third-most recognizable figure of his generation with a Salisbury-area background, trailing only Terminator series actress Linda Hamilton and longtime Weather Channel meteorologist Mike Seidel.

Furthermore, not only are Lewis and I almost perfect contemporaries in age and upbringing as we were both born in the same year and have at least some (in my case) amount of rural background, there’s always been that political aspect surrounding him – once he became a household word in Wicomico during his first campaign in 2006, swamping a four-person GOP primary field with 59.7% of the vote then winning handily that November, Mike got to a point where supporters would have jumped at the chance to help elect him to any higher office he wanted. One interesting tidbit I found in SMLCU is that he once promised his wife he would only serve two terms as Sheriff, but instead filed for a fifth last year. Should he be re-elected in 2022, though, he would match his immediate predecessor, the late Sheriff Hunter Nelms, with five electoral victories. Coming back for a sixth term in 2026 would give Lewis the opportunity to serve even longer than Nelms’s 22 years on the job. (An old-school conservative Democrat, Hunter was appointed in 1984 to finish an unexpired term and served through the 2006 election, where he opted not to seek another term.)

In an epilogue describing his book, Simmons recounts the three themes he was attempting to address: first, Lewis’s ambitions and accomplishments, second, those things that the policing profession entails, and lastly, “the big picture of government and the greater society that places law enforcement in a crucial, albeit vulnerable and often underappreciated position.” Out of the three, the book scores well on the first and last parts, but becomes a bit of a drag on the second portion, much of which comes out as a laundry list of offenses that takes up the book’s second, lengthy chapter – 66 pages out of a book that’s 177 pages, excluding epilogue, acknowledgements, end notes, and photos. (That extra material brings the book to 221 pages overall.)

The problem with that second chapter is that dozens of arrests are detailed, including one I really didn’t need a reminder of – the embarrassing Julie Brewington DUI incident from 2018. (I served with Brewington, a TEA Party leader in Wicomico, for my final two years on the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee.) This list could have been honed down to perhaps a couple dozen of the biggest ones, and the final part of the chapter that mainly deals with incidents in the local schools and at Salisbury University should have been a standalone chapter, particularly as the book then transitions into the seminal case that has occurred under Lewis’s watch: the Sarah Foxwell murder case from Christmas 2009. (One departure from the book: while Lewis talks about tying yellow ribbons to mailboxes to denote yards that had been searched by property owners, I distinctly recall they were asking for red shirts or rags because I remember tying one of my old red shirts to a wagon wheel we kept at the end of the driveway where we then lived in the Foxwell search area so they knew we had checked our property. Perhaps – surprisingly – Mike’s memory is less clear than mine on that one, or maybe it was an either/or situation since most houses don’t have yellow ribbon on hand.)

However, once that slog of a second chapter is complete, the book moves along at a nice pace through the time period and events that made Lewis a household name among county sheriffs nationwide, among them the Foxwell case, assisting at the Baltimore riots in 2015 and becoming an impromptu spokesman for the police gathered there, and Mike’s advocacy for the Second Amendment. We also get a glimpse of then-candidate Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign stop in nearby Berlin and the fact that Lewis initially backed Marco Rubio in the race thanks to a previous encounter with him on a drug interdiction fact-finding mission to South America.

SMLCU also gets its share of ink from a couple local politicians, most notably former Wicomico State’s Attorney turned Circuit Court Judge Matt Maciarello and State Senator Mary Beth Carozza, who gushed that, “Mike Lewis was and is the real deal when it comes to defining a top cop – a leader through and through, who day in and day out, leads by example.” While Wicomico County has strong leadership in that regard, it should be pointed out that there was a modest write-in campaign against him in 2018 that netted perhaps 7% of the vote – most likely from malcontents in the local “defund the police” crowd who don’t like Lewis’s aggressive stance toward crimefighting. I have news for them: it’s clear from this book that he doesn’t like them, either.

Unfortunately, all books have a cutoff date for production and printing, so one loose end that would have been worth following up and asking more about was the effort by Lewis to declare Wicomico County a Second Amendment preservation county last year. It ends with a vow to reintroduce the legislation this year, but the question is whether the county would take up something like that in an election year. There were a lot of disappointed people when Lewis backed away from the bill, which many believe is necessary as a counterweight to the overbearing government in Annapolis and Washington, D.C. The book quotes former Delegate Don Dwyer as claiming, “The role of the sheriff is to be an interposer between the law and the citizen.” Added Dwyer, “Sheriffs do have the power to nullify or ignore a law if it is unconstitutional.” Pointed out several times in the book is the fact the sheriff (as opposed to a police chief) is an elected official, thus the public trust is placed upon the officeholder with the accountability of election always in the background.

In sum, a tidier book may have gotten the point across with more brevity, but overall this is an interesting look at a law enforcement officer who has perhaps gone out of his way to have an outsized influence on people both inside and outside his chosen profession. I recall when Mike was first running that I worried about his outside interests:

Lewis is a wonderful teacher. I sat in last month’s WCRC meeting and was fascinated by Mike’s presentation. I’m not a cop but I learned a lot about traffic stops and drug interdiction from just 20 or 30 minutes listening to him speak. Had Hunter Nelms decided to run for another term, I’m certain Mike Lewis would be starting a second career traveling the country and even internationally as a teacher and expert on drug interdiction. It almost seems like a waste having him as a county sheriff when he could do a great job and touch many more people with a career path like he was contemplating.

For Wicomico County Sheriff,” August 20, 2006.

As it turns out, he was more of a multitasker than I gave him credit for – since I endorsed his chief Republican opponent for the primary before backing Lewis in the general – and the book overcomes its flaws to make most of those points.

Finally, in the interest of full disclosure, I am (indirectly) quoted in this book as “a blogger.” Simmons quoted a blog post I did in 2013 at the Second Amendment townhall meeting held by Lewis, which is also credited in the end notes. I guess, thanks to this review, Haven now gets unsolicited advice for a second edition of this book should one come about.

An unconventional call

I pointed this out back in October when the event occurred, but one of the groups represented at the Unify Delaware Festival was the Convention of States organization. As I said back then, “This group is seeking a Convention of States to address term limits, a balanced budget, and government overreach. Problem is getting 34 states in our (supposedly) federalist republic to agree that’s a bug and not a feature.”

The CoS has been an idea that’s been around since our founding – obviously, since it’s covered in Article V of our Constitution – but it’s become an advocacy group now led by one of the original founders of the TEA Party movement, Mark Meckler. His rendition, explained here in a lengthy “pocket guide,” calls for a convention to discuss three key issues: imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government, limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limiting the terms for office for its officials and members of Congress. More or less, these concepts were some of those things original members of the TEA Party fought for before the movement became a grift – in fact, Meckler resigned from the TEA Party Patriots (which he co-founded) in 2012. In Chapter 9 of Rise and Fall I wrote:

After a three-year run at the top of the Tea Party Patriots, co-founder Mark Meckler resigned in February, 2012, citing “discomfort with the way the financial affairs of TPP have been handled… I believe that TPP is fiscally irresponsible in the way that it spends and manages donor monies.” Meckler also complained that, as treasurer, “I have been excluded from the distribution of critical financial information, and critical discussions about the finances of the organization.”

from The Rise and Fall of the TEA Party.

This particular call has now been adopted by fifteen states of the required 34, but progress has been slowed to a crawl as no state has passed this resolution since 2019. However, there is CoS legislation ongoing in 17 states, which would bring it up to 32 out of 34 if they should somehow pass it. Currently, Nebraska is debating becoming the 16th state and, as CoS points out, there is an interesting group of big-government suspects lined up to oppose the bill. On the other hand, it has a pleasingly varied list of endorsers from all over the conservative spectrum, and over the next week or so they will concentrate a push in Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky.

They are trying to kickstart the movement in other ways as well, debuting a commercial on Newsmax TV Saturday in conjunction with President Trump’s Arizona rally that night. Unfortunately, CoS completely missed an opportunity for further distribution by not placing a video of it on their website. That is a grievous unforced error in my estimation, since I don’t spend my day watching Newsmax whether Trump is on there or not. You have a blog – use it!

In essence, the Convention of States operates on the principle that Congress has no interest in limiting its own power, and that would be the correct interpretation – how many times did a Congressional hopeful come to a TEA Party group promising to change the system yet, three terms later, become just another captive of the Swamp? But it’s not an easy road: if you assume that every state that voted for Donald Trump at least once is a candidate for adoption, that’s only 30 states. You would need four “liberal” states to join in as well, and really the only one that is much of a possibility is New Hampshire, which somehow never voted for Trump but is otherwise a GOP trifecta. A flip of two seats in Virginia’s Senate next year may allow the Commonwealth to be state number 32 in this projection, but it’s going to take a sea change in other states to get them over the hump – and that assumes no states rescind their various calls for convention, which occurred in Delaware a few years ago. (They had a balanced budget amendment call, which was one of the CoS goals. And yes, that was a vote that made my first Delaware edition of the monoblogue Accountability Project as HCR60, so we know who is still on the proper side.)

Unfortunately, too many people still work under two misguided beliefs: one being that the government is actually looking out for them – as opposed to using your labor and your vote to further their own personal fiefdoms – and the other that the federal government will reform itself. Well, if the last century or so isn’t proof enough that the feds like amassing more control over the people and won’t stop even if you say pretty please, I’m not sure I can convince you otherwise. There are a lot of good people in government who are there for the right reasons, but it doesn’t take too many bad apples to spoil the whole bunch.

But in my estimation this may be the proper way to go, since the TEA Party tried using the political route and really didn’t make much everlasting change. Now it may not matter, convention or not, because there is a group in power that’s been ignoring the Constitution anyway, but we can try this method first before other means become necessary. Just ask Thomas Jefferson.

The perils of redistricting

I noticed on the news the other day that my home state of Ohio had its proposed Congressional redistricting map tossed out by a 4-3 Ohio Supreme Court ruling, with the Republican chief justice joining the three Democrat justices in claiming the map was, “a plan that is infused with undue partisan bias and that is incomprehensibly more extremely biased than the 2011 plan that it replaced.”

I’m going to be the first to admit that the Ohio Republicans in 2010, after being infused with the energy of the TEA Party, made it their mission to wipe out Democrat representation. One memorable piece of gerrymandering was shoestringing the Toledo-based Ninth Congressional District (my former home district) along the south shore of Lake Erie to the edge of Cleveland in order to place two Democrat representatives, Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich, in the same district. When both sought the seat in 2012, Kaptur prevailed and all but ended Kucinich’s political career.

So the Republicans have to go back to the drawing board, and in an interesting twist of state law, maps that pass without bipartisan support may only be left in place for four years. And the Ohio ruling gave yet more ammunition to Democrats to claim we need a national standard – enter my old uber-regressive friend Rick Weiland, who e-mailed me to say:

Republicans are only months away from rigging a decade of elections.

(snip)

In 2016, the Democratic governor of North Carolina won re-election with 51% of the vote, the same year Donald Trump won the presidency with slightly less than 51%. Yet, even though Democrats are winning approximately 50% of the votes statewide, they’re still ending up in a permanent minority in the state legislature.

Thanks to all of our hard work, Georgia has become a quintessential battleground state. But thanks to Republican gerrymandering, Republicans are expected to win 9 or 10 of Georgia’s 14 congressional seats. In Gwinnett County, Georgia, which has seen its demographics shift from 90% white in 1990 to 30% white today, this is not at all recognized by the maps drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature.

And, in Ohio, where Republicans win about 53% of the vote, the GOP is favored to win 80% of congressional seats.

“Freedom to Vote Act would ban partisan gerrymandering,” e-mail from Rick Weiland, January 11, 2022.

You can throw out that last sentence for the moment. But let’s talk about how people vote, and I’m going to take a look at Maryland for the moment because, unlike Delaware, they actually have Congressional districts.

In the last three Congressional elections, this is the share of the aggregate Congressional vote each party has received in the state of Maryland.

  • 2020: Democrats 64.7%, Republicans 34.8%, others 0.4%
  • 2018: Democrats 65.3%, Republicans 32.3%, others 2.4%
  • 2016: Democrats 60.4%, Republicans 35.5%, others 4.0%

In that time period, Democrats have held consistent around 55% of registered voters, while the GOP slipped slightly but stayed around 25%. Given that ratio one can assume unaffiliated voters split roughly 50-50, although in 2016 it looks like they tilted somewhat toward the GOP and slightly favored Democrats in 2018. (Another factor: there were fewer third party aspirants on the 2020 ballot, as the Libertarians and Greens didn’t field candidates. That may have had something to do with ballot access issues for the minor parties in Maryland, which has a stricter criteria for access than Delaware does.)

To make a long story short, in a given election between two candidates statewide in Maryland the split should run 65-35 in favor of the Democrats – in fact, 2020 was a perfect example of this. However, when you split the state into districts you’ll find that there are pockets of heavier Republican registration, and in 2010 the Democrats (who control redistricting) chose to pack as many Republican stalwarts as possible into the First District by switching portions of GOP-dominated Carroll County into the First and burying the rest in a tide of MoCo Democrats by placing it in the Eighth. This was done in order to swamp the formerly-Republican Sixth District in a separate crush of MoCo Democrats by eliminating its Frederick and Carroll county portions and instead thrusting it further into MoCo. (And as I’ll note momentarily, it worked.)

In the 2010 district map, centrist Anne Arundel County was mercilessly jigsawed into four different districts, while the more populous Democrat enclaves of Baltimore City and Montgomery County were sliced into three and Prince George’s into a hacksawed two based on the party’s need for dominance, maintaining through the decade a 7-1 advantage gained when the Sixth District flipped from Republican to Democrat thanks to the additional leftist MoCo voters. Once the map was approved, all but one of the changes in Maryland’s Congressional delegation during the decade came from retirement or death, as the only incumbent to lose at the ballot box was Sixth District Republican Roscoe Bartlett in 2012 – the chosen victim of Democrat redistricting. The same occurred in 2002 after that round of Democrat-controlled redistricting, when the Second District seat previously held by Bob Ehrlich (who won his run for governor) and Eighth District seat held by Connie Morella (who lost a re-election bid) flipped, changing Maryland from a 4-4 state to a 6-2 Democrat state. Aside from the Democrats gaining the First District for a term with Frank Kratovil in 2008 before he lost to Andy Harris, that’s the way it stayed.

This time around it’s the aforementioned Republican Andy Harris who is the target of Democrats, as they opted to not pack Republicans into the First and instead brought it back close to the configuration that gave the First District Kratovil in 2008 as part of Anne Arundel was once again placed in the First. (Additionally, Harris no longer lives in the district, which is now completely outside his home in Baltimore County.) Anne Arundel gets a slight break this time, though, as they are only in three districts, as is Baltimore City. MoCo now has the distinction of being cut in jagged fourths by the map.

By comparison, the map presented by Governor Larry Hogan’s redistricting committee (made up of equal portions Republicans, Democrats, and independents) came up with a Congressional map that respected county boundaries as much as possible. No county was chopped into more than three districts: in Baltimore County, only the extreme southern tip was placed in the city-centric Seventh District while the rest went into a Second District exclusive to the county and the First District. Meanwhile, Montgomery County had its own district in the Eighth, with a little piece of the western end of the county staying in the Sixth District (as has been traditional) and the rest – a slice along its eastern border – joining the northern half of Prince George’s County in the Fourth District. But since that would likely be a 6-2 Democrat split, it wasn’t good enough for the rabidly partisan General Assembly – never mind that a truly representative state of Maryland would probably shake out as a 5-3 Democrat majority based on their voting pattern.

(As you’ll see in its 160-plus pages, this Hogan redistricting committee proposal also covered state legislative districts, with the key change the elimination of multiple-member Delegate districts. The Democrats hated that, too.)

In circling back to Weiland’s plea – which echoes that of the most rabid Congressional Democrats – one has to wonder where the energy for leading by example went to. What happened to criticism of states like Maryland, Illinois, or California, where Republicans are gerrymandered out of any semblance of power? This is particularly true when Marylanders were presented with an alternative that was more fair.

The problem with pretty much any district map done geographically is that keeping things compact and contiguous means that you get urban areas that vote 90% Democrat (and have enough population for a district of their own) surrounded by suburban and rural areas that swing 70-30 or more the other way. To take a state like Ohio, you could easily get a 10-5 Republican split by just keeping the large three-C (Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland) urban counties in their own districts, plus maybe one that combines the Akron/Canton/Youngstown area and one based in Toledo. Just divide the rest of the state 10 ways, and it could pass muster geographically. Move north into Michigan: give the city of Detroit its own district and split up the suburbs into thirds or fourths – those are your D districts in Michigan. Given the size of the other cities in the state, there’s not enough urban area for a Democrat-dominated district.

(Turns out they were pretty close, giving Detroit two districts and the suburbs three, including combining the downriver Detroit suburbs and Ann Arbor area for a third strong D district. But the state is being sued by the “Detroit Caucus” because the city lost a seat from the hack job previously in place.)

Perhaps the best example of this approach is in Nebraska, where one district is basically the city of Omaha and close-in suburbs, another is the Omaha exurbs and the college town of Lincoln, and the third is everything else. In theory, all three representatives could now live within about 25 miles of Omaha – but one would have a heckuva district to cover. (The change from before is that the “rest of the state” district now comes close to Omaha – prior to this year the Lincoln district completely surrounded the Omaha one.)

What I do know is that the solution doesn’t lie in Congress. When the hypocrisy of ignoring the beam in your eye to focus on the speck in your brother’s eye (as described in Matthew 7:3) is so rampant there, they aren’t the answer. If the regressives had their way, districts would pinwheel out of urban areas in just such a manner that centrist and Republican voters would be shut out by their urban counterparts – who would also be in charge of counting the votes, and since urban areas always seem to report last, they would know just the margin of “mail-in votes” they need to create.

This is why Congress should not be in charge of their own elections – it’s bad enough what we sometimes have to put up with at the state level.

The bite of inflation

Let’s begin 2022 by talking about an issue that has bullied its way into our national consciousness in the past year, inflation. All of us are paying more for various items, but in my case it’s measured with a quirky but useful yardstick.

I have a Friday lunch routine that began a couple years ago. In my “real” job I work four nine-hour days Monday to Thursday and have a four-hour Friday, meaning my weekend generally begins at lunchtime on Friday. So to start my weekend I go to Chick-Fil-A and order the same thing each week: a spicy deluxe meal with a side salad in lieu of the fries and a diet Dr. Pepper. (In and of itself, that’s a routine because it’s about the only time I drink Dr. Pepper. The one thing I don’t like about Chick-Fil-A is that they pour Coke products and I’m a Pepsi guy from way back.)

Because I always get the same thing, I know exactly how much it will cost before they ring it up. Thus, I was surprised a few weeks back when the number increased for the second time this year – sure enough, a look at my old bank statements confirmed this. Back in April that combo set me back $8.93, and over the summer it went up to $9.29, which was the number I was expecting. Instead, they told me it was $9.89!

Doing some hasty public school math with my phone’s calculator, the first increase was 4.03% while the second was 6.46%. Combined, in the space of about six or seven months, the price for my meal went up 10.75% – that’s pretty steep, because I don’t recall my income going up 10.75%. (I did get a raise in 2021, but not that much.)

Of course, there are costs involved, and the restaurant wants to stay profitable. So the increase has to be passed along to the consumer somehow, and since CFA hasn’t been cutting corners on the food they’re forced to charge more for it.

First and foremost, the smiling lady behind the Chick-Fil-A counter almost certainly has a higher wage now than she did when the year began, as do all her behind-the-scenes helpers. More importantly, the cost of the raw materials have gone up as chicken isn’t so cheap anymore, nor is produce or bread for the bun. It costs more to power all the food service equipment required to bring my sandwich and salad to my waiting hands.

But our nation got used to inflation that ran maybe 1-2%, meaning we might see just a modest increase every year. Now that we have so much funny money floating about, however, we got saddled with two significant hikes in six months. (And yes, I realize all this started with the last president. But he only did one stimmy, in reaction to the forced shutdown of “non-essential” businesses and complete revision of the service model for restaurants like CFA. In and of itself that was a gross overreaction, but I digress…)

Obviously I’m diving into the anecdotal here, but as a busy family we eat out a lot: usually three to four times a week for dinner. So we are attuned to the steady rise in prices that’s seemingly accelerated since the CCP virus began to take its toll on the restaurant industry and its players almost two years ago. It doesn’t matter if they’re chains like Chick-Fil-A or Texas Roadhouse or local restaurants such as Laurel Pizzeria, Pizza King, or La Tolteca in Salisbury – every time we go there it seems some of the prices have gone up a quarter here and 50 cents there. We get that costs are going up and food service is a brutal business model right now, but there has to be an end somewhere.

Perhaps if we stop with this artificial stimulation of the economy where valueless dollars are printed, we can eventually get back to that nice, predictable, and steady 1-2% annual increase (and bring back the period of not so long ago where wage increases were faster than inflation.) Otherwise, my over/under on my Friday lunchtime meal by the end of this new year is $11.50. Any takers?

We can make a partial course correction in 10 months. Hopefully some inspiring candidates for said change will step forth in the interim here in Delaware.

Digging out of the archives

This could have been saved for the next odds and ends post, but instead I decided it was a nice post for a slow time of year anyway. And, believe it or not, the information is actually useful for my blogging purposes.

This was the e-mail I received a few days ago. I couldn’t quote the whole thing because WordPress is funny about blockquoting lists, so judicious editing was applied:

Hello Michael,

I trust you and your loved ones are healthy and safe at this most unusual time.

I’m writing because you cited (a website, not the one he’s pitching for) here on Monoblogue.

(snip to excise list)

You can learn more (at a site, which I will get to.)

Do you think Monoblogue readers would find our guide helpful? If so, would you please insert a link for your readers? 

Either way, thank you for your consideration, Michael.

Best wishes,

Joel

Yes, another e-mail beseeching me to do something I may or probably don’t feel like doing. This guy was lucky.

Joel almost blew it when he laid it on oh-so-thick:

PS. (our site) was recently featured on Huffington Post & CNBC, and it’d make my day to see it on Monoblogue, too 😉

Yes, that’s his postscript.

Besides the fact that I’m being mentioned in the same breath as Huffington Post and CNBC, the reason I had to laugh was the post he cited. It’s a piece I wrote a decade ago during the 2012 presidential campaign as one of my endorsement selection posts. While this isn’t a #TBT, just for the fun of it here is what I wrote at the time about the eventual GOP nominee:

Mitt Romney shrewdly addresses energy independence in his “job creation” category. But terms like “government must be a partner,” “facilitate,” and “address market failures” don’t convince he wants a conservative, small-government solution. We see what kind of “partner” government has become, and it’s not government’s job to interfere with the market. And believing climate change is caused by mankind is a nonstarter. I’m deducting three points.

“For President 2012: Energy independence,” July 10, 2011.

At the time I was torn between endorsing Michele Bachmann and the late, great Herman Cain. Anyway, if Joel Foster is reading this, and despite the fact I appreciate his patronage of my site, I have to think he needs a hobby.

Yet in all this dross there was a little bit of gold. Joel wrote me on behalf of commodity.com, which is a little bit like another site I feature here called ammo.com – they sell a product or service, but also feature lots of reading material in their blog. And the story he pitched has an angle that concerns Delaware, thus succeeding in piquing my interest.

In it, I learned that certain states use more renewable energy than others. In fact, ultra-liberal Vermont should be proud of themselves because they receive 99.9% of their electricity from renewables. Now, before you imagine the charming fall landscape of Vermont littered with solar panels and wind turbines, it’s worth mentioning that hydroelectric generation is also counted as renewable and that’s where they receive most of that 99.9%. In fact, that’s the source for the top six states on the list, with seventh-place Iowa checking in with 59.4%, predominantly from wind. (I actually posted on situations that helped create this wind energy figure several winters ago.)

On the other hand, guess which state is at the very bottom of the list? Yep, that would be the First State, with a measly 2.5% of electricity created by renewables and the fifth-slowest growth rate in the last five years. Expressed in megawatt hours, Delaware produces the least by a factor of four behind the second-lowest generator (Rhode Island) and less than one-tenth that of the 48th ranked state in terms of production, Connecticut. Like a lot of states at the bottom, our leading contributor is biomass. (And the geniuses in Dover think they can get to some figure like 40 percent by 2035 or whenever? Dream on.)

A look at each leading source is interesting. Six states, including Delaware, have biomass as their leading renewable source, while 18 states are listed as hydroelectric, seven as solar thermal and photovoltaic, and the remaining 19 as wind. If you looked at it on a map, the Midwest is pronounced wind country, and hydroelectric rules the northwest, northeast, and Tennessee River valley. Meanwhile, solar rules the southwest and Florida but surprisingly picks off a few other states along the Atlantic coast, including New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Before I summarize the information at hand, I have a comment about the commodity.com blogsite. Unfortunately, while the blogging content on ammo.com comes primarily from a single, talented writer who works with a pro-liberty mindset like mine, a lot of what goes on commodity.com is writeups based on lists like the one I cite – a list of states and ranks in a particular area of interest, expanded to a paragraph or so on the top ten or fifteen states, including the list at the end. It’s the sort of work for which a content mill gives the article author a few dollars if he or she is lucky. (Or, even worse, they do it for “exposure.” That and five bucks will get you five bucks.) In looking at their author list, they seem to be a collection of small-time writers who may have other day jobs, or perhaps wish they did. It’s like paint-by-numbers for the written word.

As for Delaware, I guess it’s our lot to be at the bottom of the renewable list. We have too much cloudiness and haze during the year to be consistent solar producers and not enough steady wind onshore for wind energy. (Offshore wind has to be mindful of shipping lanes into Delaware Bay.) Unless we can make wattage out of chicken poop, we are basically stuck where we are – and that’s okay, because all those sources cited as renewable come in an arbitrary and capricious manner. (Hydroelectric is probably closest to reliable unless we have a severe drought.) I wouldn’t mind them doing the seismic exploration off the Delaware shore to site a couple test wells for oil or natural gas, but that’s not going to happen with our shortsighted state government insisting we depend more and more on unreliable sources of electricity. We can also see if there’s anything to having natural gas in the Delmarva Basin below us, but the anti-fracking zealots won’t allow that either.

Finally, one other interesting tidbit: at the end of the e-mail I found out this is a Delaware-based company – at least legally, since the address cited is that of Registered Agents Legal Services, LLC. It’s in an otherwise non-descript office building in the suburban area of Wilmington. Chances are their energy isn’t coming from a renewable source.

A PINO in our midst

This is just strikingly amusing to me.

I was perusing social media the other night when I saw this RedState article mentioned. Writer Mike Miller got his chuckle when he saw that the new derogatory term for progressives was to call those insufficiently down with the cause a PINO, for “progressive in name only.” Gee, I wonder where that came from?

But I had my own chortle when I saw who made the PINO list put together by the far-left advocates RootsAction: none other than the notorious LBR. (Yeah, it doesn’t flow but I don’t want to write out Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester another six times here.) This is what they indicted her for:

Lisa Blunt Rochester has served as Delaware’s lone congresswoman since 2017, after filling the seat vacated by Democratic Gov. John Carney; she made history as the first African-American and first woman elected to Congress from Delaware. While Delaware is a blue state (D+6, choosing Biden by 58 percent in 2020), Blunt Rochester has consistently been one of the most conservative members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Heralded as an “emerging player” in congressional healthcare policy, Blunt Rochester has not supported Jayapal’s Medicare for All legislation. Notably, Blue Cross/Blue Shield is among her top campaign contributors this cycle. In 2018, the insurance industry sector was Blunt Rochester’s top campaign funder, donating $105,226.

Blunt Rochester also failed to support either Green New Deal measure, and did not back the COVID-vaccine TRIPS waiver push. In 2020 and 2021, Blunt Rochester voted against 10 percent “defense” budget cuts, while voting for military spending hikes. She also voted last year to reauthorize government surveillance powers, and voted to expand those powers in 2018. According to the Open Secrets website, she receives substantial campaign donations from “defense/aerospace,” pharmaceuticals, “pro-Israel,” and oil and gas sectors.

Strikingly, Blunt Rochester was one of only two Progressive Caucus members who voted with Republicans in 2018 to weaken banking regulations in the Dodd-Frank Act, the Democrats’ fairly limited 2010 Wall Street reform law.

“Meet the PINOs: Progressives in Name Only,” Christopher D. Cook (edited by Jeff Cohen), Roots Action, undated.

Apparently membership in the Congressional Progressive Caucus is not enough – I guess these people actually expect her to vote with them to eliminate the military despite the fact she has a significant Air Force installation in her state and against the Green New Deal when her state is at the very bottom when it comes to producing “green” energy. And we won’t even talk about how Delaware is a banking state.

One thing I have learned that the radical Left knows is that all Congressmen have one thing on their minds: getting re-elected. They can pay lip service to having a higher calling all they want, but unless they’re really in it for a 2- to 4-year term it’s very likely they would like to either make the House a career or a stepping stone to even higher office. This easily explains why LBR is trying to play both sides against the middle: given her claim to fame and reason for being is that she’s the first black woman to represent Delaware, I don’t see a lot of conviction for anything except pandering for votes. It’s like you can tell she’s just waiting for Tom Carper to finally retire to take his seat; after all, that’s the Delaware Way.

It looks like the Roots Action folks did a lot of research, but they seemed to have missed something I didn’t: progressives on a statewide ballot in Delaware get smoked. Don’t take my word for it, though – you can ask Kerri Evelyn Harris and Jessica Scarane, wherever they are, because they were the last two challengers from the Left who received 35.42% and 27.15%, respectively, in taking on our two incumbent Senators who they deemed as not progressive enough. The trend is the wrong way there, brother – and you’re in even more hot water by being racist and sexist by taking on a woman of color.

So what does that mean for the GOP? Probably not a darn thing, since LBR’s membership in the Progressive Caucus has long since been baked into the cake. In fact, there are some circles in this state where the regressives being upset with her would be a campaign enhancement. Moreover, in perusing the state’s liberal blogs (particularly Blue Delaware and Delaware Liberal) I’ve noticed this study hasn’t come up as a topic of conversation – oh, Delaware Liberal has bellyached about LBR every so often but not obsessively – so I don’t think they’ll be calling her out on this because they’re trying to give her a glide path toward a date with the Senate in 2024.

I can think of a lot of better candidates for that post, and that’s even without a Laurel phone book in front of me.

Late edit: You may notice that I did a soft opening of the Campaign 2022 sidebar widget yesterday. Included is LBR, even though I haven’t seen an official announcement that she’s in.

Odds and ends number 108

It’s an end-of-year special on my e-mail box as I go out with the old and in with the new. You know the drill: I give you a paragraph or three on subjects that pique my interest enough to write on but not enough for a full post.

The two-tier Delaware system

I’m going to start out this one with part of an e-mail blast I received several weeks back from District 36 representative Bryan Shupe, the opening paragraphs of which read:

The debate over whether indicted State Auditor Kathleen McGuiness should resign or take a leave of absence from her post highlights a larger systematic failure on the issue of government accountability and transparency in Delaware.

Over the last 18 months, we have seen five Delaware elected officials accused of misconduct. While every citizen should find this disturbing, almost as troubling is that each case has been treated differently. As it stands, legislators pick and choose which colleagues will be held accountable and which ones will be subject to a lesser standard.

I do not believe justice is something that should be decided on an arbitrary sliding scale, based on the personal whims of legislators or the political affiliation of the accused. There should be clear protocols for handling all cases of official misconduct involving elected officials in an equitable fashion.

“Reform is needed to rebuild public trust,” State Rep. Bryan Shupe, October 28, 2021.

Indeed, the double- and even triple-standard is troubling, but all of the circumstances are different, too. In the case of McGuiness, the accusations are damning but she hasn’t had her day in court yet, either. (And to be honest, these charges aren’t really on a Cuomo level. Ask yourself just how many Democrats somehow finagle taxpayer-paid sinecures for their family and friends.) And the rumor has been floating around out there that this batch of dirt was dug up on her because her auditing is getting too close for comfort for those who have taken full advantage of the Delaware Way, if ya know what I mean – wink wink, nudge nudge.

You may also recall Shupe was the sponsor of a voting bill that got left on the cutting room floor after Republicans came to their senses and bounced the Democrats’ mail-in balloting bill last spring. Shupe’s common sense bill was intended to eliminate a practice where, in some municipalities (including Laurel) the voter registration for town elections is separate from those of state and federal elections – so people who think they are registered get shut out of the process. I had never heard of such a thing so this proposal made sense and deserved support, not a three-year-old’s tantrum.

Bad information

About the same time I got Shupe’s assessment of a two-tiered justice system, I got wind of a two-tiered media system.

A piece by Michael Watson of the Capital Research Center discussed the Good Information project, an attempt by far-left entities to open new media markets with websites that claim to be “non-partisan” but will provide a steady diet of pro-Democrat news. (Just like every other “mainstream” media outlet.) Here’s the money paragraph:

As part of the creation of Good Information, the group is acquiring McGowan’s former liberal agitprop network, Courier Newsroom. Courier Newsroom was a front for ACRONYM, operating what the left-leaning OpenSecrets called “a network of websites emulating progressive local news outlets. Courier has faced scrutiny for exploiting the collapse of local journalism to spread ‘hyperlocal partisan propaganda.’”

Michael Watson, “Onetime Disinformation Donors Back Left-Wing Propaganda Targeting Disinformation,” Capital Research Center, October 28, 2021.

I took a look at Courier Newsroom and it’s actually a professional-looking site that links to eight subsites – all in swing states: Arizona, Iowa, North Carolina, Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Their tagline is that they’re “Building a more informed, engaged, and representative America” but in order to do that they need to pull themselves off the left gutter and move over about 20 boards. (A little bowling lingo there. Sometimes straighter IS greater.)

Meanwhile, shouldn’t this be something someone on the right side of the spectrum would be doing? People actually believe these propaganda sites.

Another great piece by Watson appeared in The Daily Signal in November and should be required reading for my friends at Patriots for Delaware because it talks about how the unions elect school board members.

Hitting me where I live

This one comes ohsoclose to being promoted to its own post, but I think I can condense like Readers Digest. Here’s the key pull quote from a story I saw back in October.

On Sept. 16, 2021, Delaware lawmakers unveiled a plan to address a much-needed infrastructure improvement project – implementing high-speed broadband across the entire state. This $110 million investment was made possible with funding from the American Rescue Plan Act and if completed will make Delaware the first in the nation to make wired broadband available to every home and business in the state.

(snip)

With the proper guidelines in place, getting to 100 percent connectivity is a reasonable goal. The strategic plan estimates that the number of Delawareans without access to high-speed broadband could be brought down by approximately 87 percent if providers were to extend their existing networks just half a mile from their current cutoff points. This approach is called “edge-out.” This approach lends itself to utilizing multiple means of connecting through cable, fiber, fixed wireless, mobile, wireline DSL, and satellite broadband. The plan also suggests using the funding to replace old and failing equipment to ensure that the investment is something that will benefit all Delaware residents for years to come.

Kathleen Rutherford, “The Last Mile: Can Delaware Deliver?”, A Better Delaware, October 29, 2021.

We are a family who is in a broadband desert. Currently I oscillate between a cellular tower-based service provider and phone hotspot depending on time of day and conditions – in the evening the hotspot tends to be faster. We live too far from a Bloosurf tower for it to be viable and, to be honest, our friends who live near their tower say their service is about worthless anyway.

Prior to this move, we had wired service through a cable provider, paying for it as part of a bundle. But there is a wrinkle out here in that we have Delaware Electric Co-Op as our electricity provider and I found out that Choptank Electric Co-Op, which has a similar customer makeup two miles from me across the border in Maryland, offers “broadband over fiber optic connections directly to the home.” So I asked my state representative, Tim Dukes, about this and so far I have no answer.

As far as I’m concerned, for a home internet setup “fixed wireless, mobile, wireline DSL, and satellite broadband” is trash. If you want to spend the $110 million wisely, let DEC (which primarily serves a rural area) wire our homes like Choptank is doing.

The merger

Longtime readers of mine probably know more about iVoterGuide than the average person. The group, which rates federal and state candidates for office from a Biblical perspective, recently announced it was merging itself with American Family Association Action. Debbie Wuthnow, President of iVoterGuide, explained that, “The need for voters to know accurate information about candidates on their ballots has never been greater, and the merger will allow iVoterGuide to immediately expand our coverage to include federal, statewide, and state legislative races in 35 states for the 2022 Primary Elections.  And we’ll continue to grow our coverage of judicial and school board races in key districts.”

As I found out a few years ago in helping them out – a “neat experience” – iVoterGuide is very thorough in their assessment of candidates and they do a reasonably good job of pegging where they stand on the political spectrum. So I wish them the best of luck with their merger, and if they need someone to help assess their Delaware candidates I’m happy to be of assistance.

More advice

I’m sure I have told you about ammo.com since their content pops up on this site from time to time, usually as an odd or an end. So I guess I have an imitator, at least according to this e-mail I’ve now received twice.

Monoblogue,

I came across your blog while doing a little research on a couple of Maryland’s gun laws, and your blog popped in my newsfeed. I appreciate many of your political views. As a Trump supporter, I thought (redacted) would be a good resource for (my site). The recoil score it provides is pretty cool. Haven’t seen it before. Do you shoot? I appreciated your content. 

More fun e-mail.

Jordan, yes, I received your e-mail. Twice.

I’m glad you appreciate many of my political views, but I don’t think the resource is really something I can use. Now if we’re talking paid advertising or sponsorship from the overarching site, well, that’s a different conversation. (Since I’m probably not in line for that Soros money discussed by Michael Watson above.) And to answer your question, I do shoot off my mouth (rhetorically) all the time.

So since I have closed up the e-mail box now (it’s much more streamlined) I can tell you there is one other item in it, but that one is getting a coveted promotion to a full post because I think I can do it further justice. That may be one of my last items of the year before I figure out my annual Christmas message and compile the year in review – can you believe it’s that time?

With that, I bring this odd year of odds and ends to an end.

Redistricting in Delaware: a better idea

Last in a three-part series. Here’s parts one and two to catch you up.

Over the last few years, I’ve become aware of a group called the Institute on the Constitution. Its purpose is to “restore the constitutional republic through grassroots education,” but one wrinkle they’re adding in the near future is a course on Delaware’s Constitution that will be held around the state.

However, all I had to do was read the document to see what the intention of its writers has been regarding legislative districts, as both the initial layout and proposed expansions were spelled out – if rather archaically – in Articles 2 and 2A.

Interestingly enough, the original intent was for 35 House members representing various districts, usually Hundreds. (In the city of Wilmington, it was broken down further to Wards.) Despite the population disparity between New Castle County – then, according to the latest Census at the time in 1890, it had 57.7% of the state’s population – and the rest of the state, New Castle was assigned 15 Representatives, while the other two counties were given 10 apiece.

In Article 2A, it was further decreed that once a district reached a population of 15,000 plus a “major fraction” (which I would interpret as over half, or 7,501) it was entitled to another representative. Obviously over time, some areas have well exceeded their apportionment while others are way short. It’s probably enough to render a strict reading of this provision meaningless, particularly since the Delaware Constitution also states that, “After each official federal decennial census the new Representative Districts created pursuant to this Section (2A) shall be abolished and the Representative Districts set forth in Section 2 of this Article shall again be re-divided as set forth herein.” In theory, of course, these lines can be bent and shaped any way the majority party pleases, although to me that provides legitimate Constitutional questions as to why a district can be in two counties and how Kent and Sussex counties no longer have ten representatives apiece. (I’m betting it’s an effect of something I’m discussing later on.)

Oddly enough, the state Constitution also provided for seven Senators from each county and laid out Senate districts based on Representative districts. I’m going to come back to this in due course, but first let’s discuss an idea for the House.

In Article XVI of the Delaware Constitution, there is a provision to allow voters a say on whether there should be a constitutional convention. It would take a 2/3 vote of each chamber to put it on the ballot.

Now one would think that the majority party might jump at the chance to change the state Constitution, but it doesn’t appear they pay much attention to it anyway. Regardless, assuming such a motion were to pass, the next step would be to choose Delegates for the convention, and that’s where it would get interesting. Because there’s no precedent, the General Assembly would legally have to hew to the initial 35 representative lines for the convention’s membership (15 from New Castle, 10 apiece from Sussex and Kent) then add six other participants – two from New Castle County, two from Kent County, and two from Sussex County. All of these participants would have to be selected by the voters of the respective districts or by the counties at-large, which would give us the opportunity to place 25 or so right-thinking people on the convention committee.

The idea here would be to reset the House: not to the initial 15/10/10 arrangement, because that would be unfair to New Castle County, but to expand the House to about 75 members, which would place districts under the initial 15,000 population threshold with room to grow. In such an arrangement, New Castle would currently have 43 members, 14 for Kent, and 18 for Sussex, with each district averaging about 13,200 people. It could also be incorporated that the House would expand at each Census as necessary to keep the representative district population at 15,000, like the state Constitution initially intended.

The Senate is where things get intriguing. While we still have 21 state Senators, this provision was nullified by the incorrect judicial overreach in two separate cases dating from the 1960s, Baker v. Carr and, later, Reynolds v. Sims, which mandated all state legislative districts be of equal population, whether in the lower or upper chamber. While the subject states were incorrectly maintaining population disparities in their lower legislative chambers, the model of the U.S. Senate should have remained valid for states to follow. In his dissent on Reynolds v. Sims, Justice John Marshall Harlan correctly asserted that, “I think it demonstrable that the Fourteenth Amendment does not impose this political tenet on the States or authorize this Court to do so.” We take the Fourteenth Amendment way too far sometimes and pull our punches in others, but that’s a subject for another day. But it is sufficient to say that the SCOTUS ran roughshod over our Delaware state constitution in both House and Senate composition.

I can work with this on the House side, since the intent is for equal representation for the people. However, one aspect the Court did not appear to address was this: what if it was no longer an individual’s right to directly vote on their Senate representative?

Prior to the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, each state legislature chose its Senators. This insured states would have a voice in the federal government commensurate with that of the people, who directly elected House of Representative members that were apportioned by state population. (Thus, for most of its history Delaware has been represented at-large by just one House member.) There was nothing wrong with that model, which remains somewhat in effect since the number of Senators from each state hasn’t changed, just the method of selection. While it would be even better if the Seventeenth Amendment were somehow repealed (sigh), it’s still an important check on large states, whether they be California, Florida, or Texas, running rampant on federal government as a coalition of smaller states can keep legislature detrimental to them at bay.

To me, it would be worth the court fight certainly required to install this system in the Delaware Senate, where the legislative bodies of each county would select seven Senators apiece on staggered terms to serve in the Senate. It would make local elections vastly more important and allow for the counties to have their voice heard, because the individual concerns of Kent and Sussex are drowned out by the massive delegation New Castle brings to the table. News flash: we ain’t NCC down here.

I can guaran-damn-tee that people are going to read this final part and think I have lost my ever-lovin’ mind. But look at all the Left has foisted on us in the last 20-30 years and think about how crazy some of that would have sounded in 1970 – yet here we are, dealing with it. At some point, the pendulum has to swing, and with any luck and assistance from the Lord above I will be around to see our Constitution come back stronger than ever. It has to begin someplace.

Redistricting in Delaware: where we are going

This is the second of three parts.

As noted in my first part, Delaware Democrats had a problem in redistricting – according to population, they were going to have to move a House district (and potentially a Senate district) out of the Democrat stronghold of New Castle County to the more reddish climes of Sussex County because, of the trio of Delaware counties, Sussex grew fastest by far.

That was what they were supposed to do. Instead, they decided to cram just as many people as they legally could into Sussex’s five Senate districts, which all are larger than average to the point that Sussex has five of the state’s seven largest Senate districts by population. Their only concession was to move Senate District 18, which formerly was roughly split in half by the Sussex-Kent county line, southward to place most of its territory into Sussex County, with a small carveout in Kent County for the city of Milford. Even with this shift, it’s probable that, by the end of the decade, most of the Senate districts in Sussex will exceed the state average by 10 percent while Democrat stronghold districts in and around Wilmington will be hollowed out more. While districts in New Castle generally moved southward, they kept the same number they had before despite the smaller share of population.

As for the House: fortunately, they had a House member from New Castle County who wasn’t planning on running for re-election in 2022 (the politically incorrect Rep. Gerald Brady) so his was the district they selected to transfer to Sussex. By contrast, the Republican map only moved that district southward into a different area of New Castle County and removed District 18, where Rep. David Bentz had similarly announced (under much more acceptable circumstances) that he wouldn’t seek another term, to the fast-growing Long Neck area of Sussex. Regardless, the net result was that of terminating a district that Democrats won with an average of 70% of the vote and moving it to a district where Republicans have an advantage in voter registration.

I’m going to shift the goalposts a little bit now. Let’s use 2% as the new standard for district over- or underpopulation with the revised districts and see how the state is now arranged. I’m also going to concede House District 4 to the Republicans for the purpose of this exercise – hey, they’re now only down 25-16 in the House now!

If all Senators maintained their districts, Democrats in underpopulated Senate districts would be 8 of 14 (57%), while just 3 of 14 (21%) would be from overpopulated areas. On the other hand, 5 of 7 Republican Senators come from districts with more than 2% above-average population, with none from the converse underpopulated districts. All seven current GOP members have larger-than-average districts, although Senate District 15 is so by just six people.

Turning to the House, 10 of the remaining 25 Democrats (40%) represent underpopulated districts, again mostly in the Wilmington area. However, 9 of 25 (36%) come from the inverse overpopulated areas. As you’ll see in the next part, the shifting in New Castle County played a role in this; suffice to say the majority could have done a little better in fine-tuning things. Unlike the situation in Sussex County, several of these overstuffed districts lie in the Middletown and Newark areas, as well as one in Dover.

As for the Republicans it’s the opposite. 6 of 16 (38%) come from districts 2% or more over average. Two of them are in Sussex County districts left alone by the House District 4 shift, and two come from the southern end of New Castle County (or Kent County, as House District 11 continues to straddle the two counties.) Meanwhile, 5 of 16 (31%, including our presumed District 4 rep) hail from underpopulated districts. Three of them, however, were affected by the District 4 move.

The reduction of House District 4 is an interesting case. This is its lay of the land in the last go-round:

The former House District 4 is in red. Redistricting necessitated its relocation to Sussex County. (All images: screenshot from Davesredistricting.org.)

And this is the new map of the same area. Most of its former physical territory appears to have been absorbed into House District 12, but House Districts 1 and 3 on its former eastern flank added enough population to address two of the most serious population shortages.

Most of House District 4 appears to be absorbed into House District 12.

Here is where House District 4 ended up. As you can see by the top map (the existing condition), once you plop in House District 4 the Long Neck area of Sussex County won’t be sharing a district with Georgetown anymore. House District 37 trends to the west, taking a little bite out of House Districts 35 and 36; meanwhile, districts along the Maryland border really aren’t affected.

The state of play in Sussex County before last month.
Long Neck will have its own representative now. We lost the northeastern fringe of our district to District 37.

 Overall, then, I would have to say that the Democrats didn’t take a whole lot of advantage in the House, but their hand was somewhat forced by the obvious population shifts. In ten years, though, it’s likely the GOP strongholds will again be the ones that run well above average.

In the final part, I have some ideas on how to make our legislature more responsive to all interested parties.

Redistricting in Delaware: the current state of play

This is the first of a three-part series on our state’s recent legislative redistricting.

In 2010, the state of Delaware was politically much like it is today, with Democrats in control of both the executive and legislative branches. Jack Markell was early in his first term as governor, while the Delaware General Assembly had Democrat control in both chambers: 14-7 in the 21-seat Senate, and 26-15 in the 41-seat House – this despite an electorate that, at the time, was 47% Democrat, 29% Republican, and 22% unaffiliated, with the remainder scattered among minor parties. Given that control, the Democrats pushed through maps that attempted to continue favoring them.

Although the maps created districts that were reasonably compact and contiguous, and divided the state up pretty much properly between counties in terms of number of seats per county, they also maintained the Democrats’ stronghold on the state. As of this writing, the House and Senate numbers are unchanged from those in 2010, and while the fortunes of the Democrats have ebbed and flowed – a special election in 2017 put the Democrats in jeopardy of losing their Senate majority, although they prevailed thanks to lots of campaign money – the electorate has barely moved in terms of registration: it’s now 48% Democrat, 28% Republican, and 22% unaffiliated, with the rest still enrolled in minor parties. If you assume the unaffiliated and minor party voters line up with the proportion established by the duopoly, Democrats outperform their 63% portion in the Senate by a half-seat and fall right in line with the proportions in the House. However, based on recent state voting results, the non-affiliated electorate tends to skew somewhat more Republican, so in essence the Democrats have “stolen” a couple seats.

And there are reasons why. But let’s begin with the basics: for this discussion, it’s worthy to note that districts in Delaware are numbered in a generally north-to-south fashion, although there is shuffling to some degree in New Castle County, the northernmost county where most of Delaware’s population lives. Over the years, a population shift southward toward the beaches of Sussex County has necessitated the breaking of this pattern: Senate District 6 and House Districts 14, 19, and 20 have all been transplanted from New Castle to Sussex. Otherwise, Sussex has the Senate districts from 18-21 and the House districts from 35-41. (In the new adopted map, Sussex will have another “out-of-place” district as House District 4 moves from New Castle to Sussex. District 4 is currently represented by Democrat Gerald Brady, who has already announced he would not seek re-election thanks in part to cancel culture, so his district was available to move.)

The shifting of districts entirely, writes Captain Obvious, means the population trends in the state have rendered the old districts obsolete. In Delaware there is an allowed 10% deviation in population within districts, which can be 5% higher or lower than average. Knowing that, it’s no wonder that those in charge have an opportunity to heist a few seats by making their safe districts smaller than the average and the opposition’s districts larger. In this case, Delaware’s political makeup and population shifts (which planners were obviously aware of in 2010) have conspired to really give short shrift to the minority Republicans.

To figure out the current state of play, I found some of the measures relied on a website called Dave’s Redistricting. (I’ve used it before to draw a fairer Congressional map in Maryland, where there is such a thing as a Congressional map. It was much better than the brutal gerrymandering that eventually passed.) As of the 2020 census, there are 6 current Senate districts and 9 in the House which exceed the 5% threshold for overpopulation; conversely the underpopulated districts number 9 in the Senate and 12 in the House. In a growing state like Delaware you would expect the opposite, but it’s less surprising when you find out the overpopulated districts are the Republican ones: 4 of 6 in the Senate and 5 of 9 in the House. Put another way, 57% of Republican senators and 33% of Republican House members represent overcrowded districts; the same is true for just 14% of Senate Democrats and 15% in the House.

In contrast – and not unexpectedly – all nine Senate districts voters (and others) are fleeing are controlled by the Democrats. Moreover, 10 of the 12 significantly underpopulated House districts are Democrat-controlled – so they are catering to a shrinking population. Again, no Republican Senator represents an underpopulated district but a whopping 64% of Democrat Senators represent a Senate district more than 5% below average population. In the House, only 13% of Republicans hail from a district severely short on population, but 38% of House Democrats do.

Knowing all that, there was no question that districts had to move, and the Sussex County beaches were going to gain representatives. The question would be how begrudging the Democrats would be in giving Sussex – the most Republican of the three counties – its due.

In part two, I’ll look at where the state is going.

Maybe showing up is not enough.

As I promised the other night, this is the second part of my impromptu series that began when I quoted the Delaware state Libertarian Party chair at length. I want to go back and remind you of the portion that was the springboard for this part of my thinking:

The “Patriots of (sic) Delaware” and before them the 9-12 groups and Tea Party groups also showed up and volunteered and did all the things. The result has been an absolute tanking of DEGOP vote totals since Christine O’Donnell knocked out Mike Castle in a primary and now the Republicans do not hold a single statewide office and can’t even block bills requiring a 2/3rds vote in the Delaware Senate. They have been catering to the people who show up instead of the people who don’t and it’s destroying them.

Will McVay, Delaware Libertarian Party Chair, December 5, 2021.

Part of the problem I have with that assertion is finding out that the trend away from Republicans began long before Christine O’Donnell ever ran for anything.

If you look at Delaware now, you would see a state that is solidly blue politically. What Will McVay said made me go back and do some research, using voter registration and election data from the Delaware Department of Elections. With some exceptions, their online database goes back to 1972, so let’s begin there.

This, then, is a short and abridged history of the downfall of Delaware’s two-party system.

1972: At that point fifty years ago, Democrats only outregistered Republicans by just over six points (41.2% to 34.9%.) That was as close as the GOP has come to the Democrats over the period I’m covering, and in that year’s election the results were bipartisan: Richard Nixon carried Delaware in his re-election bid, bringing along House member Pierre duPont. Sherman Tribbitt was elected governor as a Democrat, and he had a mate in some young unknown to the U.S. Senate seat named Joe Biden.

1976: Perhaps the shift toward Democrats began with Watergate, as the Democrats picked up four points among the electorate in four years, expanding to a 43.3% to 32.9% registration lead. Jimmy Carter won Delaware as he did nationally, but the Delaware Republicans bucked an otherwise dismal trend by keeping GOP Senator William Roth in office and buttressing him with newly-elected House member Thomas Evans, Jr. The House seat opened up because fellow Republican Pierre duPont won the governorship, defeating incumbent Sherman Tribbett.

1982: While Republicans held at 32.9%, Democrats continued to increase by rising to a new high of 44.6%. (I’m using 1982 registration data because the 1980 set is missing.) In that 1980 election, Ronald Reagan carried Delaware for the GOP, bringing with him Thomas Evans Jr. and Pierre duPont for another term apiece. Two years later, Evans would be replaced by Democrat Tom Carper, which brings us to…

1984: As part of his 49-state stomping of Walter Mondale, Ronaldus Maximus carried Delaware. He also began a restoration of Republican fortunes in Delaware as their registration total rebounded to 33.6% while the Democrats held practically steady at 44.7%. The Reagan revolution also kept the governorship in GOP hands as Mike Castle won the job. Delaware, though, retained Democrat Joe Biden in office and kept his party-mate Tom Carper in the House. (You’ll notice a lot of these names begin to sound familiar.)

1989: Don’t ask me why, but the state has 1989 registration totals under their 1988 file. Regardless, the GOP continued to eat into the Democrats’ lead, trailing just 43.6% to 36.1%. The 1988 election, though, would be the last time the GOP won Delaware’s electoral votes as George H.W. Bush carried the state, along with William Roth maintaining his Senate seat for the GOP and Castle winning a second term as governor – the last GOP governor to be elected. Tom Carper was the one successful Democrat, keeping his House seat.

1992: This was the year of the big switch in more ways than one. The Republicans were at their peak, garnering 36.8% of registered voters compared to 43.4% for the Democrats. Bill Clinton won the Presidential election, but the controversy was in Mike Castle and Tom Carper trading jobs, with Castle relocating from Dover to Washington as Delaware’s newest member of Congress while Carper came home to become Governor. Neither Senator was on the ballot.

So in the first twenty years of this study, the Republicans lost ground for awhile in the post-Nixon Watergate era but steadily gained it back under Reagan/Bush to return pretty much to where they were when this began.

1996: Whether it was the Perot factor, or reaction to the Gingrich-era Contract with America, both parties lost ground in the mid-90s. Democrats fell to 42.4% – a low they have since continued to recover from – while the GOP slipped to 35.5%. And aside from Castle keeping his House seat for the Republicans, it was a disaster for them as Bill Clinton still won the state and Joe Biden and Tom Carper retained office.

2000: Republicans fell to just 34% of the voters in Delaware, while Democrats moved up to 42.6%. Al Gore carried the state, while Tom Carper returned to Washington to become Senator and his former LG, Ruth Ann Minner, advanced to become Governor. Mike Castle continued in the House for the GOP.

2004: Still slipping, the GOP fell to 32.9% of the voter share, while Democrats continued to increase as they recovered to 43.7%. John Kerry carried the state, while Castle and Minner stayed in their positions. (No Senate race.)

2008: The GOP registration decline accelerated in the mid-aughts, as they slipped close to the 30% mark for the first time (30.2%) while the Democrats established a modern high of 46.4%. Needless to say, they carried the state with Barack Obama as president, Joe Biden (winning a Senate seat he would have to resign weeks later to become vice-president), and Jack Markell as Governor. Mike Castle remained in the House for what would become his last term.

2010: The O’Donnell-Castle election. This was the first election for the TEA Party, and when they came on board the GOP was in its most dire straits yet. The GOP was now down to 29.3% of registered voters, while the Democrats finished a decade of domination by reaching another new high of 47.1%. In a decade, the margin between the parties had grown by nearly 10 points. Democrat Chris Coons won the special Senate election to finish the term Joe Biden began, while John Carney took the House seat Mike Castle abandoned in his unsuccessful Senate bid. The Republicans held on to just one statewide seat, losing in the AG and Treasurer race but retaining the Auditor’s seat.

In the decade since, the GOP has only one statewide election win (Ken Simpler for Treasurer in 2014) and has seen further erosion of their statewide share of voters from 29.3% to its current low of 27.5%; meanwhile, the Democrats have gone up from 47.1% to a new high of 47.7%. Compared to the 2000s blowout, the 2010s were a slow leak, even with the whole controversial Trump term.

So now that I’ve taken 1100 words to set this up, the question is what has caused this long decline? What was different about the two parties in 1972 (or even 1992) that voters were relatively evenly distributed and both parties could win a statewide election?

I think what McVay would argue that the Republican Party has become too conservative, catering to the populist bent of Donald Trump’s supporters and losing its tolerance of what used to make it a “big tent.” At the same time, Delaware Democrats have been more reserved in their march leftward, rebuffing challengers from the left of the incumbents in their two most recent primary elections for Governor and U.S. Senate. (Much of that, though, is probably name recognition or lack thereof for the upstarts.)

Yet the popularity of the party in the Reagan-Bush years belies that assertion. There’s no question Ronald Reagan was a conservative Republican, but he also had a certain amount of appeal to the working class and built a wildly successful coalition of Republicans, independents, and so-called “Reagan Democrats,” bridging the gap between white- and blue-collar workers to dominate electoral politics for a decade. (If he weren’t Reagan’s VP, do you really think George H.W. Bush would have won in 1988?)

In my estimation Donald Trump tried to rebuild the Reagan coalition, but despite his television experience Trump wasn’t really the “Great Communicator” Reagan was. But he also faced a Democrat Party establishment that was radically different than the one in Reagan’s day – while it happened a couple times under Reagan, the George H.W. Bush term was when we really saw that, when Republicans reached across the aisle, the Democrats would rip off their arm and beat them with it. Remember, “read my lips” was supposed to come with spending cuts, too. Guess which part of the bargain wasn’t held up?

So we have had a hardening of the sides and a coarsening of political discourse. More importantly, though, we have to ask the question: when was the last time you heard anything good about the Republican Party?

People tend to operate in an information silo, so when most of these outlets say nothing good about the GOP people tend to shy away from their party and, by extension, their ideas. To a small extent, Donald Trump had pulled back that curtain but he still lost the House at his midterm election, ruining the trifecta built up with takeovers of the House in 2010, Senate in 2014, and Trump himself in 2016. (Delaware had nothing to do with any of that, though. Those red waves bypassed the state.)

The message the Democrats have managed to sell to the state of Delaware is that they are business-friendly moderates – but they’re generally only a step or two behind California, Massachusetts, and Maryland in enacting liberal policies. We have to get enough people fed up with the way things are going to enact change, but you can bet your bottom dollar the Democrats and the press (but I repeat myself) will do their best to maintain the status quo by deriding Republicans as racist, radical, and uncaring – never mind they are none of the three.

Now you would think that the thousands who have arrived in Sussex County over the last decades would help turn the state toward the Republicans but it’s obvious enough of them have maintained the voting habits that made their former states uninhabitable to them that they’re fouling this nest.

Maybe what’s needed is a Contract with Delaware. Something is needed to shake up the lethargy in the Delaware Republican Party before it falls further into irrelevancy. There are good, conservative candidates out there who need to tell us what they are for, not what they’re against.

But to answer the contention: how can you cater to the people who show up when no one shows up? As I said in part one, at least having the 9/12 Delaware Patriots and Patriots for Delaware means we have a bit of a force to counter the waves the other side can bring from the union ranks. It’s a start, so once our side learns which hills are best to attack and which ones aren’t worth dying on, we can begin to make real progress in this state.

Is showing up only half the battle?

Because they’re my ideological cousins – and have occasionally received my vote – I keep track of what the Libertarian parties of Delaware and Maryland are up to through social media. Every once in awhile I think about changing my registration over to their party, but like a bad case of the stomach flu that feeling passes rather quickly once I remember where they stand on issues like abortion and marriage. If they were inverse on economic and social issues they would probably be Kennedy-Humphrey Democrats of a bygone era.

That being said, though, I want to point out a couple things the current Delaware LP chair, Will McVay, noted on social media. Let’s set this up with a very descriptive opening set of paragraphs:

There’s a man. He’s a registered Libertarian. He was born in 1948, making him 73 or very close to it. I only know his name because I just now read it off of the voter file, but for the sake of his privacy we’ll call him DB. He’s been a registered Libertarian in the State of Delaware since 1972. Wikipedia only acknowledges our affiliate being founded in 1975 so this man registered Libertarian before Libertarian was even really a thing here. I do not know him from meetings. I do not know him from conventions. He’s voted in every general election going back to at least 2004, but we have never met.

I could ask some of the few people who have been involved here longer than even I have, and maybe one of them might recognize DB, but there are others just like him who registered Libertarian in 1976, 1978, 1979, and 1980. These people have been registered Libertarian in Delaware since before I lived in Delaware. Since before I was even born. They don’t come to county meetings though. They don’t come to conventions. They don’t come to bogus “special meetings” commanded by the LNC in violation of their bylaws and ours to involve themselves in the petty drama that seems to be the focus of far too much of our time lately.

They registered Libertarian 40 years ago or more, they protect our ballot access, and I’ll bet you they are consistently voting for us in elections when one of us is on the ballot.

But they have better things to do than to take two hours out of their month and 6 hours out of their year to involve themselves in the governance of our party and it is frankly an insult to expect them to.

Will McVay, Delaware Libertarian Party Chair, December 5, 2021.

Most of you know my background: I was active for over a decade in the Maryland Republican Party, and I’m sure we’ve had hundreds, maybe thousands, of DB’s in the GOP all around Maryland and Delaware. Having been a minority party in these states for decades, the long-timers sort of knew what they were getting into when they signed up, and so did I.

However, I was one of those who did take a few hours out of my month and an overnight trip twice a year to involve myself in the governance of our party, and I assure you the sausage-making was as gruesome as advertised as we argued around and around about bylaw changes that may have threatened someone’s fiefdom. (In my case, that was the Rule 11 controversy when Heather Olsen and I decided the state party should ask the rank-and-file before advantaging one candidate over another in a contested primary.) All those business meetings did little or nothing to elect Republicans, but the parties of the previous evening may have had a little benefit in creating the conditions for further collaboration. That and they were fun.

Having never experienced a Libertarian convention, I can’t comment on their sausage-making but it appears they have more than their share of controversy, particularly based on their election results. Don’t worry, though – I have a few Democrat friends in high places, too, and they suffer from the same malady. Maybe that’s why it’s only the few who sign up for the grief.

Anyway, there was one other passage from Will that I really wanted to hone in on because, frankly, I think it needs something of a rebuttal.

If we are truly a political party and not a social club, then the metrics of our success are not how many people show up to our meetings or how much engagement we can get on a social media post by provoking people to argue with some edgy hot take that alienates more people than it converts or energizes. The metrics of our success are people joining our party. People voting for our candidates. Of course we want people to get involved, volunteer, contribute, run, and do all the other things, but those self selected passionate few are not our customers, in the marketing sense. They are our employees and our investors. The people who don’t show up and do all of those things but still register with us and stick around voting for us for 40+ years are our customers. DB is our customer.

The “Patriots of (sic) Delaware” and before them the 9-12 groups and Tea Party groups also showed up and volunteered and did all the things. The result has been an absolute tanking of DEGOP vote totals since Christine O’Donnell knocked out Mike Castle in a primary and now the Republicans do not hold a single statewide office and can’t even block bills requiring a 2/3rds vote in the Delaware Senate. They have been catering to the people who show up instead of the people who don’t and it’s destroying them.

Will McVay, Delaware Libertarian Party Chair, December 5, 2021.

By this assumption, I am now a customer of the Constitution Party since that’s how I’m registered at the moment. For practical purposes, though, we’ll say I’m a Republican since my ballot (in contested races) only included the duopoly, a Libertarian, and a member of IPoD and in all but one of the cases last time I pulled the trigger for the GOP.

There are two main points I would like to make here. In a lot of cases, the TEA Party and 9/12 groups brought people who were political agnostics into the fray and pulled back those who had wandered away, disillusioned with the direction the country was going. (I think I have a sort of “showed up” idea on this one.) In fact (and this may be of interest to Will) the TEA Party started out with a heavy libertarian influence until they exited because its Venn diagram collided with Christian conservatives who saw the TEA Party as an extension of the Founders’ Judeo-Christian beliefs – and there were far more of them. That was the point where the TEA Party may have jumped the shark but certainly it was much more mainstream by then.

But anyway, those people who were the TEA Party and the 9/12 also became the volunteers for the GOP side, but all that meant in Delaware (and almost everywhere else) was that the battle was joined because for years the Democrats and Big Labor had all those things, plus plenty of money. Trust me, I lived that one too because Toledo is a heavy union town and I’ve been a Republican working a polling place, spending time with the union thugs, for much of my voting life. That was way before the TEA Party.

As for the second part of Will’s assertion, I think it’s something of a chicken-and-egg analogy. Certainly Mike Castle was one Republican who could win consistently in Delaware, but you have to go back decades to find a time when the parties were truly competitive. Based on voter registration totals, it can be argued that the O’Donnell-Castle primary may have turned off GOP voters because their share of the registration totals have since declined. But I found this is part of a long-term trend, and it was such an interesting study to me that I decided to cut this part here and make this thought piece a loosely organized two-part series rather than spend another thousand words on a post rapidly veering toward tl:dr territory.

Trust me, you’ll be glad I did.