Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Next Tuesday is Primary Day. Unless Sanders sweeps California the New Jersey’s Democrat Primary will not impact on their convention. The Republicans are already saddled with a rouge candidate. Locally the Democrat primary is tantamount to election.
Time to recall more Presidential elections of the past and ultimately we will find out that our present dependency on primary voting is a relatively new phenomena.
In 1836 the Whig Party without any national convention ran 3 candidates against the Democrat’s Van Buren who received more votes than the total of all three Whig candidates, The leading Whig was Harrison.
However like Hoover, shortly after Van Buren began his Presidency the country suffered the worst recession in its history. The Whigs at their first national convention for the 1840 election nominated Harrison who was replaced Van Buren after a very vitriolic campaign.
Harrison is noteworthy for being the first President to die in office within months of being sworn in. He was succeeded by the VP, Tyler who promptly angered the Whig Party leaders.
For1844 the Whigs snubbed Tyler and nominated the old warhorse Henry Clay who was notorious for his alcohol; consumption and chasing women. To balance the slate they chose a so called Christian gentleman from=m New Jersey, Theodore Frlinghuysen.
The Democrats after 8 ballots compromised on an unknown James K Polk aka James K. Who? Once again it was a dirty campaign but Polk won. Perhaps his victory was aided by the Democrats of New Orleans who loaded a boat with Democrats and sailed up the river where at three stops these Democrats cast their ballot (times 3)
The Whigs won in 1848 with Zachary Taylor who died from an intestinal disorder 16 months after being elected. His short Presidency was marked by territorial problems ending with the Clay Compromise of 1850 in which California was admitted a “free State” and New Mexico which then included Arizona and Utah be admitted “with no mention of slavery”. The compromise also included recommendations for a stricter Fugitive Slave Act.
No party was happy and for the 1852 election the Whig Party who planned to nominate Tyler was blocked by a splinter group that opposed the Clay Compromise and after some 50 ballots chose Winfield Scott who lost after a dirty campaign in which the e slavery issue was less prominent to personal attacks based on Pierces alcoholism and claims that Scott was Catholic and ineligible to be President because of an old New Hampshire Law that prohibited Catholics from voting or holding office.
On the way to his inauguration Pierce’s train was in an accident and his sole surviving son killed. Pierce who had been sober again took to heavy drinking.
Peirce’s Presidency was a disaster. His Vice President could not attend the March Inauguration and died soon after of TB. The Whig Party disintegrated because of too many factions and for the next election the Republicans-a new Party- became a factor.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
Obama’s visit to Hiroshima almost on this Memorial Day brought back memories of some 70 years ago when the Bomb almost had a major impact on my own life
At the end of the war with Germany the 17th having met the 1st Division to complete the encirclement of the Industrial Ruhr was now acting as occupation forces in that part of Germany.
We were in Duisburg adjacent to Essen and Dortmund on the Rhine. The one outstanding memory I have is of a four story air raid shelter with walls at least a foot thick which was filled with Polish indentured workers. As part of my responsibility for their well being I had to make sick call their daily. Our big worry was an outbreak of Typhus, which we luckily avoided, these poor souls wanted to be granted sanctuary in US held territory because they were afraid if repatriated to Poland the Russian would deport them to Siberia because they had been aiding the Germans. That is just what happened.
Our Division was being disbanded and we went to France for that to take place. Just after July 14th someone told me that my orders were on the Colonel’s desk so I went to get them. I was very happy that I was being assigned to the 82nd which was going to be the occupation forces in Berlin.
I took my orders and my jeep took me to the 82ndand where I formally signed in. Then I went back to get my stuff. When I got there an officer said my orders were changed and I was going by ship from Marseilles to the East to be part of the First Airborne Wing which was to make the initial assault on Japan.
I informed them I was now part of the 82nd` and they would have to get someone else.
They did! However his travel orders were changed and he was to go through the States to the Pacific coast and ship from there. He was en route when the Bomb was dropped, He stayed in the States and was discharged about 6 months before I was.
Although the two bombs resulted in hundreds of thousand lives lost, they brought about Japan’s surrender. Just imagine the American casualties if we had tried to land in Japan. Perhaps a million? But that would have been a brutal operation against a nation that was determined to defend itself to the last man and inch.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
My intention was to continue the history of Presidential elections but I ran into this Washington Post “Monkey Cage” column written by Richard H. Pildes the Sudler family professor of constitutional law at New York University School of Law and co-author of “The Law of Democracy which =(without permission) I found interesting enough that it should be shared with my readers. I resisted the urge to just post excerpts since the whole essay is important.
A few words before the long reprint. Senator Cruz has gained seats on the Republican Party’s Convention Committee with the avowed intention of not only moving the Party to the right and have a greater influence by the Evangelistic Christians but also to alter the process in which delegates are chosen. One target will be the (I believe 13) States that do not restrict voters to the Party in which they have become affiliated. No longer would members of another party and nonaffiliated voters be allowed to vote in a Party primary and perhaps affect the outcome.
“Two myths about the unruly American primary system
Many Americans will be surprised to learn that few democracies give primary elections a dominant role in selecting their parties’ nominees for the country’s highest office. In most systems, elected party members take a major role in choosing or filtering potential candidates.
But starting in the 1970s, the United States stumbled — and I do mean stumbled — into a system that eliminated any meaningful role for party figures. Instead, unmediated popular participation, through caucuses and primary elections, came to control the way we choose presidential nominees.
That uniquely populist system, which we now take for granted, has culminated in our current, stunning moment. Two essentially freelance, independent political figures — Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders — will either represent, or come surprisingly close to representing, the nation’s two major parties in the 2016 election.
Let’s consider two myths usually told about how we got to this point.
Myth 1: Once upon a time, party bosses alone decided on the nominee.
For most of the 20th century, from 1912 to 1972, we used one system for presidential nominations. The conventional story about this “old” system is that party bosses got together in smoke-filled back rooms and chose the parties’ candidates, without much popular input. But that old system was actually far more complex and would be more accurately described as a “mixed system.” Starting in 1912, when Teddy Roosevelt pressed for primary elections to enable him to challenge his own party’s incumbent president, this mixed system included some primary elections, but they didn’t dominate.
As late as 1968, only 16 to 17 states used primaries. Those primaries selected fewer than half the delegates. The other delegates were institutional party figures from the national, state and local level (some chosen because of their positions in government or the party organization, others chosen through party-selection processes).
In this mixed system, the popular primaries and the party leaders checked and balanced each other’s influence. No committee designed the system in a single moment to create the “perfect” mix of popular and party roles; as often happens with democratic institutions, the system emerged from competing pressures over time.
Nonetheless, primaries kept the system from being too closed. “Outsiders” could challenge existing party hierarchy and orthodoxy and force the parties to remain responsive, at least up to a point. Meanwhile, the institutional party figures had incentives to put their weight behind candidates likely to hold the party’s factions together, run a competitive election, govern effectively and reflect the party’s general ideology.
Primaries enabled candidates to show skeptical party leaders that they could win votes — as happened when John F. Kennedy won the West Virginia primary in May 1960 and proved that voters were ready to support a Catholic. Even an insurgent candidate, such as Barry Goldwater in 1964, could successfully work the mixed system.
But no candidate could succeed without also winning over enough institutional party figures throughout the country. In 1960, for example, Kennedy won only 10 primaries. To win the nomination, he therefore had to persuade enough party regulars to back him. When candidates ran in the primaries they were always constrained to keep party regulars on board, too. Although personal appeal mattered, so did the ability to put together coalitions within the party. And party figures could bring to bear more personal knowledge than voters of how candidates actually functioned in government, which potentially could weed out nominees temperamentally unsuited to governing.
Under this system, some candidates “ran” on the inside track. For instance, the Democrats nominated Adlai Stevenson in 1952, even though he had not run in any primary. Others, such as Kennedy, effectively took advantage of the outside track to demonstrate their popular appeal. Whichever path a candidate took, this system combined populist and party-centered features.
This mixed system collapsed after 1968
This old system was dismantled, of course, after the turbulent 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, at which the Democratic Party was ripped apart by the Vietnam War. Outside the convention hall, there were violent confrontations between Mayor Richard Daley’s police force and tens of thousands of anti-war demonstrators. Inside, many Democrats were outraged that the convention chose the establishment candidate, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who supported the war — despite the fact that he had not won any primaries, and the party caucuses he won were even more Byzantine than those we have today.
Remarkably, that dismantling was radical and immediate, and it took a path largely unintended.
Within two election cycles, the United States had a populist-dominated selection process virtually unlike anywhere else in the world. By 1976, the system had changed completely. More than 30 states were using presidential primaries, with a majority of delegates chosen, in effect, through these primaries (today, more than 40 states use primaries).
But strikingly, this change to one of our most important democratic institutions was not the intended aim of many reformers. Indeed, this change was exactly the opposite of their intent.
Myth 2: The post-1968 reforms were designed to create a populist, primary-dominated system.
This brings us to the second myth about the history of presidential nominations. The conventional story is that after the 1968 turmoil, the Democratic Party created the all-important McGovern-Fraser Commission, which aimed to open up the process and therefore created our modern primary system. The first half of that story is true, but the second is not.
The Democratic Party indeed had to respond to demands for change and a more open selection process. But the commission was not trying to create a purely populist, primary-controlled system that essentially eliminated the voice of the institutional party figures. In fact, the commission wanted to avoid that result through reforms that would preserve a critical role for the party itself.
One of the commissioners was Austin Ranney, a prominent political scientist who throughout his career had aimed to strengthen the parties, not to hollow them out. He described the mismatch between what the commission had meant to do and what actually happened when its recommendations were implemented:
I well remember that the first thing we members of the Democratic party’s McGovern-Fraser commission (1969-72) agreed on … was that we did not want a national presidential primary or any great increase in the number of state primaries. Indeed, we hoped to prevent any such development by reforming the delegate-selection rules so that the party’s non-primary process would be open and fair, participation in them would greatly increase, and consequently the demand for more primaries would fade away. … But we got a rude shock. … We accomplished the opposite of what we intended.
What had the commission actually intended to do? And how did we end up instead with our current primary-dominated system?
The recommended reforms aimed to make the caucus system more open, more transparent and more accessible to all Democrats. Until then, the caucuses were often open only to those who held party office. Some states chose delegates an entire year before the campaign began. Even when the caucuses were nominally open, anyone who wasn’t a party official had a hard time finding out where and when they were. In some cases, different parts of the state might caucus on different days.
The McGovern-Fraser Commission recommended ways to make the caucus process more open and representative. But it did not push for a greater role for primaries, nor for reducing the institutional party’s role. Indeed, the hope was that the recommended reforms would legitimize a continuing central role for the institutional party.
So why did states respond to these recommendations by shifting overwhelmingly to primary elections? That’s something of a mystery, as James Ceaser notes in his magisterial history of our presidential selection processes (from which I borrow heavily here). The new caucus rules were complex. Failing to follow them properly could lead a state delegation to be disqualified at the convention. Apparently, party leaders in many states thought primaries would be simpler and safer.
Republicans were pulled down the same path, partly because in many states in which Democrats controlled the legislature they passed laws creating a primary for both parties. And as more open and participatory Democratic processes attracted greater media attention, Republicans also felt the need to move in the same direction.
Despite its accidental birth, that’s the origin of the populist, primary-dominated system we have today — a system that has virtually eliminated any filtering or mediating role for the institutional party and made our current moment possible. As this “modern” system was taking shape, leading political scientists warned that it might lead to the appearance of extremist candidates and demagogues, who unrestrained by allegiance to any permanent party organization, would have little to lose by stirring up mass hatreds or making absurd promises.
After this fall’s election, there might be pressure to recapture more of a role for the institutional parties, as well as competing pressure to make the system even more populist and participatory. The election’s outcome will have much to say about the future of our nomination process.”