Our electoral process has been much improved since the days of Tammany Hall, when the 19th century Democratic machine in New York controlled election outcomes by physically dragging poll watchers out of the polls, and sending in rounds of supporters multiple times, after having shaved their beards. Over the centuries, the implementation of the secret ballot, the expansion of the suffrage and the elimination of property requirements, poll taxes, and literacy tests, and the professionalization of election administration have greatly reduced election irregularities of all types (SLO New Times Column).
On May 2, the San Luis Obispo City Council split 3-2 and rejected, for the last time, an opportunity for the public to consider one of the most important questions regarding the operation of democracy. They declined to take up discussion of a democracy voucher program, which would provide a tax rebate to voters that could be cashed in to support candidates in local elections, greatly expanding the donor base that candidates rely on. So for now, democracy vouchers, possibly the most important innovation in voting rights technology since the implementation of laws to prohibit racial voter discrimination in the 1960s, are dead in SLO. How could city leaders, especially those who previously claimed to support democracy vouchers, reject even the idea of having a public discussion about this technology? (New Times Opinion)
In previous columns, I have reflected on the emergence of a “new” political center and the resurgence of democratic engagement in public life that we see all around us as a result of our authoritarian 2016 electoral results. During a recent radio interview, however, a caller reasonably questioned whether, in the face of unprecedented partisan polarization and the previous failures of “centrist” independent candidates, “no labels” movements and the like, this is just wishful thinking.
While my observations are intended to shine a spotlight on the efforts of people like Matthew Dowd, whose Listen to Usorganization aims to put “Country before Party” and common interests above personal and partisan ambition, as well as Represent Us, whose members focus specifically on bipartisan electoral and campaign finance reform, what I’m really getting at is a movement centered within the partisan landscape, but not a creature of it (commentary at SLO New Times).
My students recognize it, as do my neighbors. I think we are seeing the outlines of a new center taking shape in this country, following the footsteps of those who sacrificed so much in Selma, steadily marching toward a more perfect union (opinion at SLO New Times.)
Over President’s Day weekend, New Mexico artist Paula Zima joined the SLO Monument Committee and local citizens in Mitchell Park to unveil a sculpture of our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, to serve as the draft for a larger monument to be built, commemorating a speech given here by T.R. in 1903 (opinion in SLO New Times).
There is a growing sense among the people in our community, on the left and the right, that something has gone horribly wrong with our democracy. People are disgusted, and they should be. Moral disgust is the appropriate response to President Trump’s “fine-tuned machine” of chaotic, naked assertions of power against our long established norms of truth and honesty in public discourse (commentary in SLO New Times).
Donald Trump was the clear Electoral College winner in the 2016 election, despite losing the popular vote by a wide margin to Hillary Clinton. Anthony J. McGann, Charles Anthony Smith, Michael Latner and Alex Keena write that, unless the Supreme Court stops congressional gerrymandering, President Trump can guarantee re-election in 2020 – even if he loses by 6 percent.