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News Can the U.S. Electorate Be Trusted?

  1. Oct 3, 2015 #1

    Bystander

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    WWGD asks some "interesting" questions in the "Foo on Fiorina" thread:
    When did elections turn into "We vs. They," winner-take-all grudge matches in which zero common goals and purposes are tolerated?
     
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  3. Oct 3, 2015 #2

    Astronuc

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    In which system. It seems political factions have always existed.

    In the US, at the time the US Constitution was ratified, it was the Federalists vs Republicans, and the first contested election for president, Adams vs Jefferson was apparently pretty nasty, which is sad because Adams and Jefferson had been friends.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/adams/sfeature/sf_qa.html [Broken]

    There were political factions/rivalries in the Greek and Roman governments.
    http://www.ancient.eu/article/483/
    http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/politics.html
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  4. Oct 4, 2015 #3
    In the beginning the idea was that there would be no factions. Britain was factional and the US wanted to get away from that. So George Washington was non-partisan and the cabinet represented all views.

    It worked pretty well as far as good decisions being made, but President Washington was under constant pressure. Quoth he, "I would rather be in my grave than in my current situation."

    The cabinet had only three members and was dominated by Hamilton and Jefferson. The only form of mass, long-distance communication was writing, and they both were extremely good writers. (Hamilton was George Washington's ghost writer.) Hamilton was (much) more practical, so Washington usually took his advice. Jefferson resigned his post in protest, but he didn't stop writing.

    It was attempted to continue this system with John Adams as president. In one cabinet meeting he snatched off his wig, dashed it to the floor, and stomped on it. That was the problem: the system put too much stress on the president, as he was the nexus of endless conflict. Two informal factions formed around Hamilton and Jefferson.

    The Adams/Jefferson was so nasty because there was concern that Hamilton would mount a military coup, while Jefferson might have set up a guillotine in Central Park.

    When Jefferson was elected president he set out to smash the Federalist party permanently, which he did. More and more ordinary men got the vote, and that was the end of rule by a small class of gentleman landowners.

    Thomas Jefferson introduced the spoils system. When the government changed hands the the winning party fired all the government workers and put their own people in there. Government employers kicked back a chunk of their income to the party. The system became pervasively corrupt. This persisted until the 20th century and the rise of the non-partisan Civil Service.
     
  5. Oct 4, 2015 #4
    I am of the opinion that there is a good deal of agreement between the two parties. They share more common goals than they do differences. The differences get all of the publicity.

    For example, both parties favor military spending. In 2000 I heard Ralph Nader say, "Listen to my opponents. [Bush and Gore.] Each says he will spend more on the military than the other." I listened, and it was true.
     
  6. Oct 4, 2015 #5

    Astronuc

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    I've seem some sources that indicate Washington was an independent and others indicate he was a Federalist, although I'm not sure how his affiliation was determined or if it was confirmed. Apparently he did have Federalist sympathies. Washington's cabinet consisted of four members: Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of War Henry Knox, and Attorney General Edmund Randolph. Both Jefferson and Hamilton were very strong personalities.

    http://www.mountvernon.org/research-collections/digital-encyclopedia/article/cabinet-members/
    http://millercenter.org/president/washington

    Apparently Washington supported Adams as his successor, and Martha apparently did what she could on Adams behalf after the death of her husband.

    It is unfortunate that ideology was so divisive.
     
  7. Oct 5, 2015 #6

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    Not the politicians --- The Electorate. Voters. The people who dumped Truman, Johnson, Nixon, and Carter for bungling, dishonesty, and other unforgivable conduct and character flaws.

    The people who have since accorded second terms to focal points of what appear to be personality cults. The people who seem to be reacting to those personality cults by establishing/supporting alternate cults.

    Party loyalty I can "understand" to a point. Not to the point of blind belief in various idiotic "visions" of the country's future. That seems to have been, and is currently what's being peddled to voters on behalf of the incumbent's presumed heirs, and on behalf of challengers to that "legacy."

    Little "light" reading on possible outcomes from adoptions by the masses of various "visions" and personality cults. We're all familiar with Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, The French Revolution and other "popular movements."

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reign_of_Terror
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_cleansings
     
  8. Oct 5, 2015 #7

    Ryan_m_b

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    I think you have to consider the mechanics of the voting system. What does a first past the post system with few regulations on campaign spending encourage?
     
  9. Oct 5, 2015 #8

    SteamKing

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    I'm not sure Truman was dumped, so much that people had their fill of him by 1952. Remember, HST served all but a few months of FDRs fourth term and one full term of his own. Sure, he tried to run in '52 and lost in the NH primaries, but Truman had already served almost two full terms as president.

    Nixon won a three-way race in '68 and a landslide in '72. He wasn't dumped, either, but decided to resign after much drama during 1973 and 1974. If he had stayed, the political animosity between him and the much increased Democrat majorities in both houses of Congress after the 1974 elections would have made working together to pass legislation much more difficult.

    Carter - 'nuff said. He wasn't a great president while in office. Even his own party, the Democrats, didn't trust him, especially those in Congress. Although he won a bruising primary in 1980 to capture the nomination for re-election in 1980, Carter lost the election in a landslide, and the Senate turned Republican for the first time since Eisenhower was elected president. Carter wasn't an especially gracious former president, either. There weren't many who pined for the glory days of the Carter administration after it was over.

    Johnson was a complex character and became president under tragic circumstances. Whatever goodwill he had with the electorate was gradually frittered away by the escalation of the war in Vietnam, which divided his own party against him. He was challenged by the late JFK's brother Robert for the nomination in 1968 and decided not to run for re-election, making a surprise announcement in March 1968 just as the primary season was heating up. What few knew at the time was that although Johnson appeared to be in robust health, it was only that, an appearance. He had suffered a heart attack in 1955 and had a famously publicized surgery to remove his gall bladder while president. Johnson died barely four years after leaving office and there is speculation that if he had been re-elected, LBJ might have succumbed during his second term.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1968
     
  10. Oct 5, 2015 #9

    Astronuc

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    I guess one has to ask, "Are the Electorate well informed? Are they capable of critical thinking, or do they vote by ideological perspective or emotion?"

    For example, how representative is this person?
    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/election-2016-donald-trump-takes-on-gun-control-mass-shootings/
    What kind of magical thinking is this?

    Back during the Bush vs Gore election, I had a brief conversation with someone about the election. The person indicated that they were planning to vote for Bush because Bush was better looking than Gore. When I asked about the positions on various issues, the person indicated they had no idea - it was too complicated. I thought the person was kidding me, but they turned out to be serious. We could trust this person to vote based on charisma or attractiveness, but not on any understanding of issues.


    Robert Reich recently made a point about populism
    This is an interesting perspective on the electorate and the system.
     
  11. Oct 5, 2015 #10

    Now we are in the realm of opinion. At the time of Washington's ascendancy (he was proclaimed: there was no election the first time) one may say that the majority was of no faction. The government had been set up to discourage factions. That's what the electoral college was about. A group of gentlemen would meet and choose one to govern. This leader was supposed to lack ambition and be reluctant to govern. It was Not the Done Thing to seek power.

    Washington was universally admired and rightly so. The "Washington was a Federalist" thing I don't get. Hamilton had been his chief-of-staff during the war and was an extremely smart and practical guy. Jefferson was an idealist and very impractical. Not surprisingly, Washington often sided with Hamilton. Or perhaps Washington's aristocratic style led to the Federalist label. Washington rode about Philadelphia in a coach with four white horses. He'd married into money. He was very dignified and somewhat aloof.

    On the other hand, Washington was a Virginia landowner, like Jefferson, while Hamilton 's home was on Wall Street. NYC and Virginia were the two big centers of power, with Virginia being the stronger. Washington declared "I would rather be on my farm than emperor of the world," hardly a Federalist sentiment. At that time citizens identified strongly with their states, which had quite different ways of doing things. Virginia was a lot like England, being run by landed gentry like Washington. In Virginia you had to own 50 acres of land to be allowed to vote. I think that was well under 1% of the population. It was such a small, select group that I suspect most of the voters knew one another personally. Jefferson made his reputation as a tax avoidance lawyer for the Virginia gentry, gaining the trust of the big shots.

    Adams is quite an interesting guy. He more or less started the Revolution by getting the Massachusetts legislature to rebel, no mean feat. He was the head of the committee that came up with the Declaration of Independence. He was possibly the biggest influence on the Constitution, though he was ambassador to Holland when it was written. He was trained as a minister. I think he gets an undeserved bad rap in history. He was seen as someone who could reach compromises and avert the forming of factions. No luck there.
     
  12. Oct 5, 2015 #11

    SteamKing

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    Not much different from all those Hillary voters out there. The person they're supporting has a personality which is not particularly charismatic nor attractive.

    But, you can't make a person run for President. The electorate must choose from the candidates who are running. We don't have electoral press gangs going around collecting candidates and putting them on ballots against their will.

    I seem to recall during one of the Bush-Gore debates, G.W. was somewhat unsteady under questioning, in his inarticulate way, and Gore was clearly better prepared. There was one tic which Gore inexplicably exhibited, which I think turned some voters off. In response to certain questions, Gore got the in the unusual habit of sighing very loudly, as if exasperated by the question, the questioner, his opponent, who knows? Was that a substantive reason to dismiss Gore, if not embrace Bush?

    Or going back to the first presidential debates, between JFK and Richard Nixon in 1960. JFK was youthful and attractive, Nixon was ill-at-ease and had a pronounced 5 o'clock shadow on TV. The subsequent election went narrowly to JFK.

    Did voters in 1960 make a bad choice? Any more than voters in 2000?
     
  13. Oct 5, 2015 #12
    The American Revolution was also a "popular movement." Teddy Roosevelt and the New Deal were also quite popular.
     
  14. Oct 5, 2015 #13
    Hillary Clinton was a lawyer she was never much concerned about clothes or makeup. When she went to Washington in 1993 she found out that hairstyles were very important. Few understand the tax system, but everyone has an opinion about hairstyles. As reported in Bob Woodward's "The Agenda."

    Bernie Sanders gets asked about his hair a lot.
    What can you do? He hasn't got a chance with the hairstyle vote. If you want that vote, you've got to field a candidate with nice hair.

    But hair voters aren't any worse than any other single-issue voters. If hair is that important to them...think of how grossed out and dissatisfied they would be by a Sanders presidency. Don't the feelings of hair voters count too?

    In the old days there were requirements to be met before being allowed to vote. Land ownership, literacy tests, poll taxes, etc. The disadvantage is the resentment of the excluded.

    Maybe you would like the British system, where the chief executive is chosen by the legislature. No popular vote at all. They usually have pretty good hair, too.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2015
  15. Oct 5, 2015 #14
    Who knows. The big issue was the "missile gap," the idea that the US had fewer ICBMs. The Democrats wanted to increase military spending to catch up, but not raise taxes. Eisenhower said that this would lead to inflation. He said that the extra spending would be wasteful and lead to the military becoming a political institution with great, possibly dominant, power.

    The "missile gap" was a lie. It wasn't true, and the Democrats knew it.

    It is not even clear that the voters chose Kennedy. See Seymour Hersh's "The Dark Side of Camelot." If you don't know him, Mr. Hersh is the premier investigative reporter in the US, having uncovered both the Mi Lai and Abu Ghraib scandals.

    At any rate we got Johnson, who was possibly the most corrupt President ever. Much of his power came from illegal kickbacks from Herman Brown, a Texas military contractor. See Robert Caro's multi-volume biography of Johnson. Particularly telling is Texas Governor John Connally's testimony of how he and Lyndon stole the Texas Senatorial election by bribing political bosses on an unprecedented scale with Browns's money. Lyndon's opponent went to court, but lost when Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black ruled that the federal government had no jurisdiction over the honesty of Texas elections.

    Herman Brown's firm was eventually purchased by Haliburton, then spun off as defense construction contractor KBR. (The B stands for Brown.) The CEO of KBR, Albert Stanley, got thirty months in prison for bribing officials in Nigeria. Some things never change.

    EDIT: Changed Root to Brown. (Herman Brown's firm was Brown & Root, and my brain short circuited.)
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2015
  16. Oct 5, 2015 #15

    OmCheeto

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    hmmm......
    I saw, and made a comment about a statistical meme I saw yesterday on Facebook, that looked like a universal common goal:

    anti.corruption.laws.is.this.true.jpg

    Why is it, that when we all agree, we still, disagree?
     
  17. Oct 5, 2015 #16

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    "One man's 'corruption' is another man's 'virtue.'"
     
  18. Oct 5, 2015 #17

    OmCheeto

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    hmmm....
    That looks very much like what I said yesterday.

     
  19. Oct 5, 2015 #18

    SteamKing

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    Well, they didn't call LBJ "Landslide Lyndon" for nothing. When LBJ first ran for the US Senate in 1948, he challenged a former Texas governor and another candidate for the Democratic nomination in a three-way race. Out of almost a million votes cast, LBJ won the senate nomination in a runoff election by 87 votes. For years afterwards, even after LBJ's death, there were allegations of fraudulent ballots being counted, which purportedly gave LBJ his "landslide" victory.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyndon_B._Johnson

    Similar allegations of vote fraud were made in the 1960 presidential election, with deceased voters in Cook Co. Illinois (Chicago) allegedly giving their support to the Kennedy-Johnson ticket over Nixon in what was a very close race. Out of almost 69 million votes cast, JFK won by fewer than 113,000 votes but did not garner a majority, falling just short of 50% of the popular vote:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_1960

    It was later said that a swing of only one or two votes in each precinct could have elected Nixon president instead of JFK in 1960.
     
  20. Oct 5, 2015 #19

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    I'm reading this as a suggestion that votes are bought and sold? If not, sorry. If so, far as presidency goes, of the 100M popular votes, ~ 60 % are immutable (party loyalties --- yellow-dog democrats and "red-dog" republicans --- a wash), of the remainder, most are coin tosses, another wash; there might be 10M votes for sale (live, or Chicago's graveyards --- most of those are already counted among the YDDs) to control/throw an outcome. Recent presidential campaigns are running/reporting gigabuck(s) spending. Subtract advertising and printing costs, travel, blah-blah, and you might be able to pick up assorted winos here and there for a gallon of Ripple. Worked for Boss Tweed --- today? Probably not.

    Entitlement Ponzis? Worked for FDR. "Bread and circuses" worked --- for a while. "Eat the rich?"

    Hence, the subject of this thread.
     
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