Competitive Elections Are Bad For Us?

Most of us give very little thought to the U.S. Census Bureau and the census that is taken once every ten years.  Ho hum, right?  We get a form, fill it out, send it back and at the end, we read in the news how many people live in the country … just another statistic to store away somewhere in the backs of our minds, for there are more important things to think about.  But you may want to start thinking a bit harder about the census that will be taken in 2020.

census logoThe census is about more than simply counting how many people are in the country.  It is also the source for the demographics that are used by the government to make policy decisions. And, it determines such things as how many electoral votes each state gets, how may representatives each state will have in Congress, and where district lines will be drawn.  Therefore, it is pretty important to have accuracy in the census.  Though it is impossible to ever have complete accuracy, the Census Bureau strives for the highest possible degree of accuracy … we hope.

Currently, the head of the U.S. Census Bureau is a temporary career civil servant, and as the agency is beginning to gear up for the 2020 census, Trump is looking to appoint a permanent head for the bureau. Now think back to some of Trump’s other appointments. Trump has made a habit of appointing individuals to serve in his administration who are either supremely unqualified or seemingly opposed to the very objectives of the agencies they are tapped to lead:  Betsy DeVos, who is against public schools, for Secretary of the Department of Education; Jeff Sessions, a known racist, for U.S. Attorney General; Scott Pruitt, who has sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) multiple times, for head of the EPA, the very agency he has threatened to abolish. So who, you might ask, is Trump reportedly planning to appoint to lead the Census Bureau?

brunell

Thomas Brunell

Thomas Brunell, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Texas at Dallas, and author of the book Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections are Bad for America (Controversies in Electoral Democracy and Representation).  Think on this one for just a minute, friends.  The man who will be in charge of the department that will determine how representation is apportioned believes that competitive elections are a bad thing.  Mind-boggling, don’t you think?

The leadership positions in the U.S. Census Bureau have typically been held by non-partisan civil servants with a background in statistics. Trump is planning to nominate Brunell to the number two position at the bureau, deputy director, which does not require Senate confirmation, as the position of director would. Brunell would become the highest-ranking permanent official at the agency. Though the deputy director technically reports to the census director, that slot is temporarily being filled by a career civil servant. There is currently no nominee for a permanent director.

brunell-bookTrump has already paved the way for curtailment of voter’s rights with his false, unsubstantiated claims of massive voter fraud in the 2016 elections.  He is also said to be considering an executive order to add a question to the census form about immigration/citizenship status, which would reduce the number of responses from minorities, fearing what the government might do with the information.  At the same time, his budget calls for an inadequate 7% increase for the Census Bureau at a time when they bureau must hire tens of thousands of people and open dozens of field offices nationwide.  And we cannot forget his ‘Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’ which has been the source of much controversy and is currently facing a number of lawsuits after attempting to collect the private information, including Social Security numbers and criminal conviction data of registered voters.

The appointment of Brunell is but another indication that Trump has little respect for our rights as voters, for the democratic process.  My hope is that Trump will be out of office by the end of 2018, but even so, many of the moves he is making today, such as the appointment of Brunell, may be difficult to undo, if his replacement is even willing to reverse his actions.  Coupled with the fact that there is no doubt in my mind Russia will continue to play a role in our elections, since there have been no repercussions to them, no sanctions, for their proven interference in the 2016 elections, I think it’s safe to say our right to have a voice in government is greatly diminished.

Terri Ann Lowenthal, former co-director of the Census Project, said, “It is imperative that the Census Bureau’s leadership be viewed by the public and by lawmakers as completely nonpartisan. If either the director or the deputy director bring partisan baggage to their position, public confidence in the integrity of the census could plummet. So could congressional confidence. And it is Congress that must accept the apportionment results. All this stuff worries me.”

28 thoughts on “Competitive Elections Are Bad For Us?

  1. “arguing that we need to “pack” districts with as many like-minded partisans as possible, maximizing the number of winning voters, not losers.”
    That’s a quote from the blurb.
    So this means the entire population of the USA must declare its political affiliation and then based on this will be allocated a place to reside in with like minded people. Either that or the USA will be sliced up into all sorts of funny shaped locations, so that every one’s winner! Which means in turn that Capitol Hill will be heaving with folk who have god-complexes ‘cas they won with large majorities, and satisfied their’s is the true and only way and it will stay like that because there will be no risk of voter dissatisfaction……..
    Great plot for a Mack Sennett or Coen Bros movie that (depending whether you like custard pie or body count endings)
    Does his family tree show an excess of cousins marrying?……Just asking, y’know.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree, Jill, with your definition of non-partisan. The head of Elections Canada which is the body that organizes and carries out elections + that body decides on any electoral map changes – that person must not be a member of any political party and may not openly promote the candidacy of any person during an election. The Governor General (our Head of State acting on behalf of the Queen) must follow the same non-partisan rule.

    I remember an interview of Gingrich by one of our Canadian media personalities, Ben Mulroney (son of PM Brian Mulroney) just before the Presidential Election last November. Mulroney asked him about changes Trump might bring to Washington if elected. Gingrich responded that Trump would do more than ‘clear the table’ in Washington, he would knock it over. This is Trump knocking over the table, Jill. Quite scary!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Laws are based on the understanding that human nature is flawed; people with
        power are especially prone to corruption.

        I think may be a profound misunderstanding of what we mean by living in a free country.

        A free country is a Nation with a legal system that protects citizens from the predatory
        behaviors of the ruling elite.

        We are not free to do as we please. We are bound to each other by a system of social contracts.

        In a free country, we decide what those contracts are and how they will benefit us.

        This is why election theft is an unacceptable travesty.

        It’s frustrating to see the shamelessness go unpunished. I can’t imagine that the people haven’t massed in outrage over the President’s public support for a pedophile.

        Liked by 1 person

        • You are absolutely correct, freedom is certain protected rights, human rights, and the way I see it, my rights end at the point that my rights infringe on the rights of others. And I, too, am appalled at the lack of outrage about Moore himself, and about those who support him, most notably Trump. I have a post going out in just a few minutes on this topic. Take care, my friend … try to stay positive, though I know it isn’t easy for any of us with both brains and consciences these days.

          Liked by 1 person

          • My dad told me that my rights end where another man’s nose begins. No group of people should ever be in a position to defame us under the guise of free speech or threaten us by abusing the second amendment. If we were perfect beings we wouldn’t need laws or government.

            Liked by 1 person

              • Perfection is defined by the goals one sets. How do a people agree on what it means to be civilized? The only way to reach an agreement is to set a standard and have a civil debate about ways to achieve it.

                When the people of a democracy establish a set of laws they begin a process of defining and re-defining those laws as their nation evolves socially and economically.

                In a World of Kings the guys who wrote the Constitution of The United States chose to establish a Republic.

                It was little better than a tyranny in the beginning but the Republic evolved into a thriving and diverse democracy of 323.1 million people from every nation in the World.

                You can’t have a complex living democracy on the cheap.

                It takes smarts to maintain a civil society of 323.1 million people.

                It’s takes commitment and money to make sure each citizen enjoys the benefit of self government. It takes a willingness to sacrifice and to guarantee class mobility to our children.

                It’s not unusual for most people to disagree about most things.

                It’s also not unusual for people to seek compromise.

                So have we achieved perfection? No.

                We can’t.

                But if we stop trying we will surely devolve into barbarism.

                For some people barbarism is perfection.

                ***

                It is lack of confidence, more than anything else, that kills a civilization. We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs.

                • Kenneth Clark, Ch. 13: Heroic Materialism, Civilisation (1969)

                Liked by 1 person

                • Personally I don’t hold with absolutes, certainly not as achievable goals, either by an individual, or by any collective, and history will back me up on that.
                  Quote: “It was little better than a tyranny in the beginning but the Republic evolved into a thriving and diverse democracy of 323.1 million people from every nation in the World. You can’t have a complex living democracy on the cheap. It takes smarts to maintain a civil society of 323.1 million people. It’s takes commitment and money to make sure each citizen enjoys the benefit of self government. It takes a willingness to sacrifice and to guarantee class mobility to our children.
                  Lots I could take issue with there, but this isn’t my blog. I’ll say this: when a system is hijacked by the 1 percentile of the greediest, most corrupt, mysoginist, psychopathic leadership imaginable, as is the case today in the US, talking about “democracy” is whistling in the wind. Commitment and money, well, with the tax bill anyone can see what “commitment” means, and where the money is going. Sacrifice will not achieve “class mobility” for a growing number of below poverty line working, unemployed and homeless poor – they’re sacrificed out. I could go back in US history and show how that vaunted “democracy” was nothing more than a front for a global military empire; that it committed genocide throughout the land; stole 2/3 of the country of Mexico and how it fought to keep slavery alive and well, officially terminated in 1863, and that only because it was no longer a profitable way to do business. But the blacks did not have it any easier after than before slavery: many were worse off and thousands of black men, women and children were lynched thereafterr Women did not get the vote until 1920, and still it’s called a “democracy”? Sorry, does not compute. Plutocracy and mob rule might do it.

                  Liked by 1 person

  3. I can just see Trump leaving the temp in charge up to the census proper then firing him so his man has to act as a stand in until a new head is appointed. No telling what changes could be wrought in that time.
    xxx Cwtch xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh yes, that is undoubtedly the plan. Earlier in the year, Trump had planned to nominate Brunell for top man, Director, but apparently was apprised that the Senate would not confirm him, so he did not nominate him. The temporary civil servant who is currently occupying the top slot is merely a placeholder, not meant to actually do anything. Brunell will be, in reality, the decision maker until after the census, if … IF … Trump stays in office.
      xxx Cwtch Mawr xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The term “non partisan” is a red herring. No one can truly be non partisan except a dyed in the wool anarchist. So you need to find a certifiable anarchist to head the bureau. The problem is, no anarchist could hold such a position and remain an anarchist, therefore s/he would revert back to partisanship, therefore, thanks but no thanks, I don’t want the job! Let me explain it better: a non partisan, by definition has to be someone who has never voted and never intends to vote, someone neutral on issues. To vote means to take sides; to hold a partisan position. My take on it.
    PS: They could, of course, hire someone from some neutral country no one’s ever heard of, someone who knows nothing about the US… that could prove a bit of a quest…

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are correct that nobody is completely non-partisan, but in this case, I think it refers to a person who is not affiliated with either party and is not, therefore, financially beholden to either party. Best we can do … ‘)

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