Sunday, November 27, 2016

More on My Electoral College Duties

As promised in my last entry here's the process of my becoming a Presidential Elector. It started in early September when the California Democratic Party contacted all Democratic congressional representatives and nominated candidates, advising them of their responsibility to nominate members to the Electoral College. Louie Campos, Democratic congressional nominee in the state's 22nd Congressional District, thought it over and decided to ask me. Here's his description as reported in my last blog. Louie phoned me in mid-September and asked if I would do it. I responded that I would consider it a tremendous honor and would gladly accept his nomination. Although I strongly feel the president should be elected by popular vote and the Electoral College should be abolished, this is the system delineated in the Constitution and the way presidents have and will continue to be elected until that system is changed.

Louie got me a form to fill out with my basic personal information that he would need to send to the state party office in Sacramento. He said he needed it back by the end of the month. I took care of that easily enough and got it back to Louie to turn in. He told me the party officials wanted to make sure I could be counted on to support the Clinton-Kaine ticket with my electoral vote if they won California as expected, and he told them they had nothing to worry about. Indeed, I have been a loyal supporter and was looking forward to being a part of history by helping to elect America's first woman president.

On October 13 I got an email from Kasey Walukones with the state party in Sacramento. It was to inform all Electoral College Board Members of the particulars. The meeting will be held Monday, December 19 in the State Assembly Chamber in the California State Capitol Building. Electors do not get paid, though the State will reimburse us ten cents a mile for round trip mileage. Google Maps says it's 212 miles one way, so I should get $42.40 reimbursement for the round trip. We are permitted to invite two guests who can watch from the galleries above the Assembly Chamber. I've invited my wife Joan and Louie Campos. The three of us have decided to stay at a hotel overnight the night before to make sure we avoid any last-minute problems. The Electors will check in between 10:00 a.m. and noon in the Governor's Council Room. There we will get our credentials and guest passes.  At 1:00 we will have a private meeting, no doubt to go over the protocols. Then we will proceed to the Assembly Chamber at 1:30. At 2:00 the Electoral College meeting itself will begin. 

I got a second email from Kasey on October 24 reminding everyone of the arrangements and asking for the names of our guests. A third email from Kasey came on November 14, expressing regret over the election result but reminding California Electors that the meeting would still be held to elect Clinton and Kaine, the winners of California, to receive its Electoral Votes, and asking everyone to reply and confirm they were still coming.

People have been asking me if it's possible the Electoral College might reverse the national election outcome. While it is theoretically possible that Electors could vote their conscience against the will of the voters of their state, in practical terms the chances of that are zero. Just as here in California, the people chosen to fill the role of Electors are chosen under the supervision of the parties themselves, and are selected on the basis of their being considered loyal supporters of their party's candidate. When the voters of each state make their choices, they are electing the slate of Electors chosen by that candidate's party in the state. Whoever wins the state's popular vote is pretty much guaranteed to win all the state's Electoral Votes, other than in the two states (Nebraska and Maine) where Electors are elected according congressional district. And in those states, you can strongly count on the Electors to back the winner of the congressional district they were selected to represent. An Elector who casts a vote against the winner of their state is called a "faithless Elector." There was one in 2004, when a Minnesota Elector cast a vote for running mate John Edwards for President, rather than the leader of the ticket, John Kerry. The same ballot had John Edwards named for Vice President, so the presidential vote is thought to have been a mistake rather than intentional. The last time there was more than one nationwide was back in 1912, when the losing Republican candidate for Vice President died before the Electors met. A majority of states (including California) have passed laws requiring their Electors to follow the vote of the state's citizens, so such a vote would invite a legal challenge and perhaps even a constitutional ruling. Needless to say, there will be no such drama from me!

I'll fill you in on the event itself after December 19.

Monday, November 21, 2016

I Am Appointed to the Electoral College

If you followed the presidential election you are aware that we don't elect our chief executive by nationwide popular vote. (If we did, Hillary Clinton, who leads by some 1.5 million votes at this writing, would be the 45th president.) Instead, Article II of the Constitution prescribes that each state has a number of Electoral Votes, equal to the number of members in its congressional delegation, which are intended to go to the presidential winner of that state. It may be news to a lot of citizens that those Electors are actual people who formally cast the state's votes for president. It is my honor to share with you that I have been accorded the privilege of being appointed to the Electoral College to fulfill this Constitutional duty. As such, I will be going to Sacramento on December 19 to cast one of California's 55 Electoral Votes for president.

In our state Electors are nominated, according to state law and the rules of the California Democratic Party, by the congressional members themselves. That means that the state's two senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, each nominate someone, and each member of the House Representatives also gets to nominate someone. Our congressional district, the 22nd, is represented by a Republican, so the Democratic nominee for Congress in the 22nd District is given the responsibility of making a nomination. Louie Campos was our nominee in the 22nd. Go here to see my May 2, 2016 blog endorsing Louie's candidacy. Here is how Louie described learning of the process and making his decision:

"I received a letter from Chris Meyers at the state party. The letter was to inform me that as a candidate for federal office and under the rules of the State of California and the state party it was my duty to pick a person to be my representative to the Electoral College. The candidate had to be willing to honor California statute and the will of the voters of California. They were explicit on this point; in fact post state convention this was the only time the state party contacted me personally. I gave this serious consideration and internal deliberation. As I saw it, there were many people in two counties who would be capable of the task and willing to perform the task. Ultimately I chose you, Steve Natoli, because of my respect for you as an educator. I felt you are uniquely qualified to understand the significance of your duty to the wishes of the electorate as well as your duty as a teacher to make this into an opportunity to benefit more than both our individual egos or pride. You will be able to use this experience to help educate and provide context to your subject. In closing, you are also my friend. You are one of the people who helped inspire me to return to school. I know that everyone who is dear to me appreciates that."

As a History teacher it is very moving for me to actually be asked to take a small part in this constitutional responsibility. I will keep you all appraised of the process. In my next blog I'll report on the process from my end of the developments. After the Electoral College meeting on December 19 I'll give a full recounting of that for you, too. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Seven Catastrophes of Trump

The election of Donald Trump as president is catastrophic on at least 7 levels. The saddest irony is that the people who supported him most strongly, those working class white males, are going to wind up being the ones most harmed by what is to follow. Their one night of sticking it to the establishment is going to lead to a further slide in their standard of living at home and an increase in instability and threat from abroad. Here are the 7 prospective catastrophes in the offing.

First Catastrophe: The American campaign process has been taken into the gutter, with the strong likelihood that it will remain there. Tabloid and "reality" posturing took center stage and set up camp there. Affirmative goals and serious issue discussion were almost nowhere to be found. Mr. Trump set the tone with a schtick of insult, blame mongering, bombast and self-aggrandizement, then the media provided the megaphone and like schoolyard spectators, egged on the combatants. Discourse descended to a level unseen in our lifetimes and won, setting up a blueprint for the further demagoguery to come. Jefferson foresaw that a people who "wished to remain free in a state of ignorance seek what never was and will never be." He's no doubt spinning in his grave. Hitler said, "I reserve reason for the few and use emotion for the many." He's no doubt nodding with approval. The American presidency has always been held to a putative standard of ethics, but that has been apparently abandoned by the electorate for moxie and attitude. An admitted sexual batterer and tax evader, a businessman who stiffs his contractors, a candidate who cast doubt on the legitimacy of the democratic process itself, has won. Alexis de Tocqueville famously wrote "America is great because America is good." Can that still be the case when an unprecedentedly venal and conscienceless man is embraced by a near-majority of the electorate?

Second Catastrophe: The demons of America's original sin have been unloosed anew to spew their noxious poison across society. Trump has given racism, misogyny, bigotry and discrimination a new lease on life. The candidate who said most Mexican immigrants are rapists and murderers and that a federal judge could not be trusted because "he's Mexican," that women are dogs and sluts, with "blood coming out everywhere," who can be "grabbed by the pussy" with impunity by celebrities like him, that Muslims can be given Jim Crow treatment and who urged followers at his rallies to "beat the crap out of" black protesters is now President of the United States. The day after the election young white men drove their pickup trucks, emblazoned with Confederate flags, past a local high school near where I live, whooping it up and honking their horns. A friend reported an incident to me in which his friend was asked whether he was Hispanic. When he responded "Latino" the fellow said, "What's the difference, you're all the same," then asked "What are you gonna do when the wall goes up and you're cut off from your people?" Yes, the KKK-endorsed candidate has won and such people have now been liberated from "political correctness." The fact that a candidate who crossed these lines was not overwhelmingly repudiated at the polls says something deeply sickening about our society, something that I had not believed still existed at this level.

Third Catastrophe: Another round of trickle-down economics is about to be foisted on the American economy. The working class will be the ones to suffer the most. Tax cuts for millionaires, billionaires and corporations, as the president-elect has promised and as congressional Republicans support with glee, accompanied by cuts in opportunity-promoting education and vocational training programs will produce their usual results: greater income inequality and reduced pay and opportunity for the working and middle class. The rich get richer and everyone else falls farther behind.

Fourth Catastrophe: Our last chance to save the world from climate disaster may have been forfeited. The Paris Accord committed 195 countries to concrete progress on greenhouse gasses. Now a man who says climate change is a Chinese hoax and that California suffers no drought is our leader. The party of denial is in full control of the congress as well. If the United States disregards this agreement and its limits it is simply a matter of time before India and China do as well. With CO2 concentrations on their way past 400 and on their way to 500 ppm the atmosphere will heat by 7 degrees by the end of this century. Sea level will rise several feet as the polar and Greenland ice caps melt, inundating the homes of 1 1/2 billion coastal residents. Mass extinctions and mass disruption of agriculture will follow. If you're talking global impact, this is actually catastrophe number one.

Fifth Catastrophe: The American social safety net will be shredded. Institutions set up to help and protect average people are now on the chopping block. The Republican deregulation extravaganza is about to begin. If congressional Democrats can't stop them, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Education will be disbanded. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Civil Rights enforcement will be defanged. Social Security will be rolled into the stock market and Medicare will be turned into a diminishing voucher system. Common citizens will have no protection from corporate cons and double dealing, and their old-age safeguards will be removed.

Sixth Catastrophe: Those manufacturing jobs are not coming back. Manufacturing in the U.S. accounts for $6.2 trillion this year, near a record high. We manufacture twice as much now as we did in 1984. We assemble more cars domestically than ever. The villain is not China or Mexico, it is automation. We do all this with 30% fewer workers in manufacturing than in 2000 and with 65% fewer workers than in 1974. Eighty percent of job losses are not due to foreign competition, but to robots, and nothing Mr. Trump proposes is going to change that. If he imposes what he promises, a trade war, foreign governments will retaliate. Those cheap Chinese goods at Wal-Mart will cost the strapped middle class a lot more. If no Chinese goods are allowed in, the inevitable outcome is either much higher prices for consumers or a reduction to Chinese-level wages for American workers. This is the cruelest and most ironic catastrophe of all. Liberal education and retraining policies and redistributive mandates are the solution, but these are missing from the Trump lexicon and the Republican political universe.

Seventh Catastrophe: The failure of American political and moral world leadership will usher in a new era of instability and aggression. Trump's pejoritization of all Muslims is a strong recruiting tool for Islamic extremists. They seek to portray their fight as Muslim defense against aggressive persecution by Christian governments. By confirming this line of propaganda he plays right into their hands. Trump's bromance with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and his undermining of the NATO alliance are invitations to further Russian aggression in Europe and instability in the region. The solidity of NATO has preserved the peace in Europe for 70 years. The Soviets knew that any hostile move against the West would be met by a united resistance. With today's Russia once again returning to a belligerent posture, Tump's stated inclination to reduce or eliminate sanctions and accept the Russian annexation of Crimea and their interference in Eastern Ukraine sets a shocking precedent. His calling into question America's treaty obligation to defend its NATO allies reeks of the 1930's appeasement policy that directly led to the Second World War.

In future blogs I'll be introducing some ways to try to prevent these catastrophes from happening.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Hillary Bows Out with Class

I want you to read this.Hillary Clinton's unexpected defeat stunned me deeply. Twenty-four hours later I feel the same kind of grief as though a friend had died. It's not quite the America I thought it was. There will be time for post-mortems later. For now I wanted to use this space to share with you the kind of graciousness and class this woman has. Below I have reproduced her letter to her supporters. It is heartfelt and constructive, designed to help heal our country, because that's the kind of person she is.

Steve --

Thank you.

Last night, I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans.

This is not the outcome we wanted or we worked so hard for, and I’m sorry we did not win this election for the values we share and the vision we hold for our country.

But I feel pride and gratitude for this wonderful campaign that we built together –- this vast, diverse, creative, unruly, energized campaign. You represent the best of America, and being your candidate has been one of the greatest honors of my life.

I know how disappointed you feel, because I feel it too. And so do tens of millions of Americans who invested their hopes and dreams in this effort. This is painful, and it will be for a long time. But I want you to remember this: Our campaign was never about one person or even one election. It was about the country we love -- and about building an America that’s hopeful, inclusive, and big-hearted.

We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought. But I still believe in America –- and I always will. And if you do, too, then we must accept this result -– and then look to the future.

Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.

Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power, and we don’t just respect that, we cherish it. It also enshrines other things –- the rule of law, the principle that we’re all equal in rights and dignity, and the freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these things too -- and we must defend them.

And let me add: Our constitutional democracy demands our participation, not just every four years, but all the time. So let’s do all we can to keep advancing the causes and values we all hold dear: making our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top; protecting our country and protecting our planet; and breaking down all the barriers that hold anyone back from achieving their dreams.

We’ve spent a year and a half bringing together millions of people from every corner of our country to say with one voice that we believe that the American Dream is big enough for everyone -- for people of all races and religions, for men and women, for immigrants, for LGBT people, and people with disabilities.

Our responsibility as citizens is to keep doing our part to build that better, stronger, fairer America we seek. And I know you will.

I am so grateful to stand with all of you.

I want to thank Tim Kaine and Anne Holton for being our partners on this journey. It gives me great hope and comfort to know that Tim will remain on the front-lines of our democracy, representing Virginia in the Senate.

To Barack and Michelle Obama: Our country owes you an enormous debt of gratitude for your graceful, determined leadership, and so do I.

To Bill, Chelsea, Marc, Charlotte, Aidan, our brothers, and our entire family, my love for you means more than I can ever express.

You crisscrossed this country on my behalf and lifted me up when I needed it most –- even four-month old Aidan traveling with his mom.

I will always be grateful to the creative, talented, dedicated men and women at our headquarters in Brooklyn and across our country who poured their hearts into this campaign. For you veterans, this was a campaign after a campaign -- for some of you, this was your first campaign ever. I want each of you to know that you were the best campaign anyone has had.

To all the volunteers, community leaders, activists, and union organizers who knocked on doors, talked to neighbors, posted on Facebook - even in secret or in private: Thank you.

To everyone who sent in contributions as small as $5 and kept us going, thank you.

And to all the young people in particular, I want you to hear this. I’ve spent my entire adult life fighting for what I believe in. I’ve had successes and I’ve had setbacks -– sometimes really painful ones. Many of you are at the beginning of your careers. You will have successes and setbacks, too.

This loss hurts. But please, please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It’s always worth it. And we need you keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives.

To all the women, and especially the young women, who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know that nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion.

I know that we still have not shattered that highest glass ceiling. But some day someone will -– hopefully sooner than we might think right now.

And to all the little girls watching right now, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world.

Finally, I am grateful to our country for all it has given me.

I count my blessings every day that I am an American. And I still believe, as deeply as I ever have, that if we stand together and work together, with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions, and love for this nation -– our best days are still ahead of us.

You know I believe we are stronger together and will go forward together. And you should never be sorry that you fought for that.

Scripture tells us: “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”

My friends, let us have faith in each other. Let us not grow weary. Let us not lose heart. For there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.

I am incredibly honored and grateful to have had this chance to represent all of you in this consequential election. May God bless you and god bless the United States of America.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Why We Need Hillary Clinton

Some of my progressive friends downplay or are unimpressed by the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency. Some may be unenthusiastic about voting for her, but I feel such sentiments are seriously misplaced. There are plenty of reasons to vote for Clinton based on what she will do and try to do, irrespective of the necessity of voting against the horror that would be a President Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton in the White House would move the ball forward on a number of crucial issues. Everything mentioned below would likely go the other way and be lost in the event she is not elected. So be sure to vote! Here are ten to ponder:

1. The Supreme and lower Federal Courts. She will nominate judges who will restore the Voting Rights Act, overturn the awful Citizens United and McCutcheon rulings, safeguard women's rights to make their own decisions on reproductive issues, defend the recent rulings on LGBT rights, and allow reasonable safety measures with regards to curtailing gun deaths without taking away the legitimate rights of law-abiding gun-owners.

2. We will finally get a comprehensive immigration plan that secures the border, protects American workers, and makes reasonable accommodation to US businesses to legally bring in foreign workers when necessary. This will be done while still keeping immigrant families together and providing a path to citizenship to the undocumented who have been here a long time, are self-supporting and have stayed out of legal trouble.

3. The wealthy and corporations will see their taxes go up, though not to the levels they were under Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s. The revenues generated will create tremendous opportunity, including free state university for the working and middle class, paid family leave for new mothers and fathers, make America the world leader in solar energy and create 10.5 million jobs in a massive renovation of our national infrastructure. If you've been overseas anytime recently you know how badly we need this.

4. We will uphold our climate agreements and make it at least possible to avoid the worst effects of human-generated climate change.

5. Twenty million people will not have health insurance taken away from them.

6. She will fight for a national minimum wage increase to $15 an hour.

7. The NATO alliance will be preserved. The only way Vladimir Putin's Russia dares to move on former Soviet-occupied states such as Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and others is if NATO breaks up or the U.S. gives indications it may not defend its allies in Europe, as Trump has done. She won't let that happen.

8. Iran won't get the bomb. Rather than "tear up" the Iran nuclear deal, which would remove all our inspectors, give Iran free rein to pursue nuclear weapons, and leave us with no other option but military attack, Clinton will keep the agreement in place and enforce it.

9. The U.S. will remain committed to nuclear non-proliferation. The policy under a Clinton presidency will be to prevent the spread of nukes to any new countries, as opposed to Trump's view that places like Saudi Arabia and Japan probably ought to have them.

10. Our daughters and granddaughters will finally see that the American dream can happen for them;  that smart, committed females can be the boss too!