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Why Democracy?

FJAG said:
You've always been an strong advocate for democracy and the peoples' rights. Can you honestly disagree with Kagan's opening statement.

I trust that I continue in such advocacy.  As to Kagan's opening statement: No. I can't disagree with her observations.  But I can disagree with her prescription.

I do agree that mucking around with boundaries by parties is antithetical to democracy.  The scientist in me would sooner select polls by grid squares.  But I'm told that that would be anti-democratic as well.

Failing the grid square system my preference would be for an impartial third party to make the allotments.  Or perhaps some sort of lottery system like the draft registration number.  Or perhaps something else. 

The problem is trying to find a system with which everyone agrees, or finding that benevolent dictator who will impartially resolve all issues. I don't find the courts to be necessarily benevolent nor impartial.

I am no big fan of the party system.  Nor am I a big fan of adverserial politics.  But, as with democracy, I have difficulty finding anything better.  I would sooner the parties, those free associations of individuals (at least theoretically), fight it out among themselves, than have a third party given absolute authority over the decisions.

Perhaps one way to describe my view of democracy is that it promotes peace through allowing all parties to continue beating dead horses until they all become exhausted and move on to other horses.  Trying to impose order on energized opponents seems to me to be unlikely to resolve much of anything and is more likely to result in people resorting to direct action outside the confines of any constitutional or institutional norms.
The redistricting decision increases democracy rather than lessening it.  The authority is left with the elected legislative bodies (federal and state) rather than held by an appointed one.  Any branch (executive, legislative, judicial) can make mistakes, but only elected ones are responsive to voters.
Brad Sallows said:
The redistricting decision increases democracy rather than lessening it.  The authority is left with the elected legislative bodies (federal and state) rather than held by an appointed one.  Any branch (executive, legislative, judicial) can make mistakes, but only elected ones are responsive to voters.

That's the whole point. They are not responsive to the voters as a whole. They are rigging the system so that a minority of the voters get the majority of the seats in the legislatures. The majority of the votes lose their value in gerrymandering. These aren't mistakes. They are deliberate acts to frustrate/devalue the vote of the opposition.

There are some states that have created nonpartisan commissions that set districts but they are in the minority.


Where you lose the bubble in this is that you believe that democracy is fostered if the decision is left to the legislative assemblies rather than an appointee. The real issue is that the decision ought to be in the hands of the people as a whole in order to be democratic.

This shift is potentially an advantage for the Democratic nominee; however, due to geographical differences, this could still lead to President Trump (or a different Republican nominee) winning the Electoral College while still losing the popular vote, possibly by an even larger margin than in 2016.  Just an observation:  The author of this comment isn't concerned about fairness what so ever.  The concern is that a republican will be elected instead of the only logical choice: a democrat.  There was significant, although not conclusive evidence in the last election that a number of California congress seats were decided through ballot box stuffing by the democratic party.  Where is the hue and cry over this issue?
There is nothing that prevents appointees from being partisan.  A redistricting czar or commission appointed primarily by Democrats or Republicans is subject to all the same potential worries.

I'll stick with elected legislatures > appointees in the matter of what is democratic.  That is true irrespective of whether particular decisions of either are good or bad.

[Also: how exactly is redistricting to be placed in the hands of "the people as a whole" without the majority finding a way to squeeze out the minority?]
>There was significant, although not conclusive evidence in the last election that a number of California congress seats were decided through ballot box stuffing by the democratic party.

If you mean ballot harvesting, it's not a type of stuffing - it's basically a get-out-the-vote technique.  It introduces more potential for fraud, but is not inherently fraudulent. 
That is what I meant, thanks for the explanation.  Although not necessarily fraudulent,  the extent to which it affected the outcomes after the polls had already been tallied would indicate some degree of illegal activity.  Just saying.
YZT580 said:
There was significant, although not conclusive evidence in the last election that a number of California congress seats were decided through ballot box stuffing by the democratic party. 

YZT580 said:
Although not necessarily fraudulent,  the extent to which it affected the outcomes after the polls had already been tallied would indicate some degree of illegal activity. 

June 24th, 2019

Trump’s latest California voter fraud claim as baseless as past allegations
We found Trump's new voter fraud claim as baseless as his past allegations.

For those of you who have no quarrel with the Supreme Court on the Gerrymandering decision, here's an article from the Atlantic which I think articulates your viewpoint very well:

The Gerrymandering Ruling Was Bad, but the Alternatives Were Worse
Highly partisan redistricting is a scourge, but the solutions involve political judgments that no court should make.
Jonathan Rauch
Contributing editor at The Atlantic

The Supreme Court made a painfully flawed decision yesterday on partisan gerrymandering. In fact, the decision has only one point in its favor: It is better than the alternatives. There was no good answer, but the Court chose the least bad one.

If that sounds like a reluctant endorsement, it is. Like nearly every sentient American nowadays, I think partisan gerrymanders have gone too far. In the case before the Court, North Carolina Republicans gerrymandered their purple state so that in 2018 they won only half the statewide vote, but nine of 12 congressional districts. At least they were explicit about their motives. “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats,” David Lewis, a Republican member of the North Carolina general assembly, told a redistricting committee. “So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country.” In a second instance before the Court, Maryland’s Democrats did something comparable.

Extreme partisan gerrymanders are unfair, because they distort the result of elections to produce legislative bodies that do not accurately reflect the party leanings of the voters. Extreme partisan gerrymanders are also unhealthy for democracy, because they allow politicians to choose their voters, rather than the other way around. I won’t belabor those points.

The question is not whether there is a problem, but how to solve it. Yesterday, in Rucho v. Common Cause, the Supreme Court said: Don’t look at us. In a 2004 decision, the Court had declined to strike down a partisan gerrymander, but it dangled the possibility that it might overturn a more extreme gerrymander in the future. Encouraged, reformers had no trouble finding outrages to challenge. In Rucho, the Court slammed the door against such challenges and locked it. “Partisan gerrymandering claims are not justiciable,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts for the majority. Translation: Go away and don’t come back. The Court’s four liberals were scathing in dissent.

Why, then, was the Court’s ruling the least bad decision? Three reasons: political, constitutional, and prudential.

See rest of article here:


>the extent to which it affected the outcomes after the polls had already been tallied would indicate some degree of illegal activity.

It could be interpreted that way in the absence of other information, but that's not what happened.  The ballots are counted later, hence the "after the polls" (immediate counts when the polls close) impression.  The Democrat-favouring vote swing stems from the fact that Democratic campaign workers were diligent in seeking out and turning in Democratic votes, and Republican campaign workers were not ("get-out-the-vote").  I read an article which alleged that some Democratic campaign workers were asking voters how they voted, and then offered to turn in the ballot if the answer was "Democratic" but not if "Republican".  That's a bit slimy, but not illegal - it's not the job of Democratic partisans to get Republican votes into the boxes.
"Extreme partisan gerrymanders are unfair, because they distort the result of elections to produce legislative bodies that do not accurately reflect the party leanings of the voters. Extreme partisan gerrymanders are also unhealthy for democracy, because they allow politicians to choose their voters, rather than the other way around. I won’t belabor those points."

Yes.  And the author mentions a solution which involves "the whole of the voters" (is unaffected by the gerrymander borders themselves):

"There is a better way: make reforms through the political process. This is hard, but it is happening: “In 2018,” reports The Washington Post, “five states had independent redistricting commissions on the ballot, and it passed in all five states.” Independent redistricting commissions, which exist in eight states, aren’t perfect, but they are more disinterested than elected politicians and more accountable than the courts. And because they are empowered by voters, legislatures, or both, they are vested with the legitimacy needed to make controversial political judgments, something courts are specifically not supposed to do."
A notion as to why democracy, as understood by Brits, is not appreciated across the Channel.

Silence has befallen French pronouncements on Brexit. Le Monde’s vitriolic editorial (12 June 2019) on Boris Johnson apart, the scene is remarkably calm. But this isn’t good news. In fact, such silence is often a sign of French anxiety and a presage to trouble, particularly when Britain is concerned.

As rationalists, the French are frequently frustrated by the ‘wait and see’ of the empirical British. ‘What is not clear is not French’, said the 18th century French philosopher Antoine de Rivarol. At the height of the 1914 July Crisis, when France desperately sought a British government commitment to side with Paris in the event of war with Germany, the phlegmatic Sir Edward Grey politely reminded the French ambassador that cabinet divisions meant that Parliament would decide in good time on the facts. Eventually, long-term frustration got the better of diplomatic poise and the French ambassador enquired acidly of the editor of the Times whether the word ‘honour’ should be struck from the English dictionary.


Again I am reminded of this dichotomy as voiced by Pierre Trudeau.

Trudeau on Adam Smith per Max and Monique Nemni (William Johnson) - Young Trudeau.

"Smith initiates us in how to analyze the problems of society, he shows us how to grasp the interdependence of phenomena, he fashions a framework for sorting out the complexity of institutions and grasping the central issue ..... True, this is English-style thinking and perhaps not the compressed appearance of French thinking, where the principles are hard diamonds.  But I have learnt that there is not only the French way of being condensed.....(For Smith) The system came after the study of the facts, and did not drive it. Moreover, Smith himself never claims to have attained the Absolute,...."

The Nemnis' comment:

"Implicitly, and perhaps without fully realizing it, Trudeau was contrasting Smith's empiricism, which took as its starting point concrete facts to end with a theoretical system, with the scholastic method of the Jesuits (who had trained Trudeau - Edit), which took as its starting point a pre-established system postulated as True and Good because created by God, and with the facts made to fit accordingly. At the age of twenty-five, he was delighted to discover the scientific method."

This is at the heart of the inability of the EU and the Brits to understand each other.  The EU starts from the world as they would like it. The Brits start from the world as it is.

The EU is having similar problems with Switzerland just now.  Another democracy.

In a meeting of top negotiators on June 12, Brussels offered Switzerland clarifications on key issues raised by Bern on future relations.

But Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis said his nation needs more time to strike a deal with Brussels and said they would not be rushing into signing a new deal.

He said this is “because we have a different political structure and we cannot simply decide in government and that’s it”.


Apparently the Swiss version of "no-deal" has resulted in a slight up tick in Swiss stocks, to the chagrin of the EU.
And what is necessary to democracy?

Tom Harris  https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/12/20/labour-family-must-eat-humble-pie-christmas-finally-embrace/

It could have done that long before now, but instead it chose to withheld the losers’ consent that is absolutely necessary to allow democracy to function. It paid an entirely justified and appropriate price for that

For many people issues debated by their representatives are all-consuming imperatives.  No surrender is acceptable. They, like the poor, will always be with us.

But parliamentary democracy, or any other democracy is the alternative to blood in the streets.  It is a method whereby two opposing teams, representing two opposing views, can count the number of swords each team has and decide if it is worth going to the streets.  Sensible people, seeking Peace, Order and Good Governance, should seldom, if ever, in a functioning democracy find it necessary to take to the streets.

Better to accept the loss, for the time being, shake hands, head for the pub together, and wait for the next opportunity to influence the debate.  All decisions are always temporary.  No matter how many stones are carved.
Apparently the answer is to be found hard-wired in the amygdala.

Imagine you had a fixed sum of money to spend on a new house. Other things being equal, would you rather spend it on a small house within walking distance of schools, shops and restaurants, or a large one from which you had to drive everywhere? How you answer is a surprisingly accurate indicator of how you vote.

In 2014, a survey by the Pew Research Centre put the choice to Americans: would they prefer a smaller house where they could walk to restaurants and stores, or a larger one where amenities were miles away? By an extraordinary 77 to 21 per cent, those voters defined by Pew as “consistent liberals” preferred the urban apartments, while by an equally staggering 75 to 22 per cent, “consistent conservatives” plumped for the big houses.

That finding is just one of several ways in which people’s voting intentions reflect their personality traits. Psychologists are increasingly interested in the extent to which we can guess people’s political preferences from apparently unrelated characteristics: where they buy their coffee, what they name their children, how much they flinch when shown a shocking image.

Conservatives, for example, like bigger cars as well as bigger houses. They are likelier to keep pets than Leftists, likelier to have dogs than cats, and likelier to have big than small dogs.

These findings are a little disquieting. We all like to think that we have come to our conclusions rationally after carefully weighing the facts. But the evidence suggests that very few of us do this. Most people’s political convictions are a product of their intuitions, which are in turn a product of their neural wiring. To a surprising degree, you can predict people’s party preferences from the size of their amygdalas.

There is something especially worrying about the urban/rural divide. As communities self-segregate, people become less likely to fraternise with supporters of other parties. On the morning after the general election, the BBC asked a young Labour supporter in London why she thought her party had fared so badly. “I don’t know,” she replied, genuinely nonplussed. “Everyone I know voted Labour”.

And for reference - here is the wiki take on the amygdala

The amygdala (/əˈmɪɡdələ/; plural: amygdalae; also corpus amygdaloideum; Latin from Greek, ἀμυγδαλή, amygdalē, 'almond', 'tonsil'[1]) is one of two almond-shaped clusters of nuclei located deep and medially within the temporal lobes of the brain in complex vertebrates, including humans.[2] Shown in research to perform a primary role in the processing of memory, decision-making and emotional responses (including fear, anxiety, and aggression), the amygdalae are considered part of the limbic system.[3]

The amygdala is one of the best-understood brain regions with regard to differences between the sexes. The amygdala is larger in males than females in children ages 7–11,[14] in adult humans,[15] and in adult rats.[16]

In addition to size, other functional and structural differences between male and female amygdalae have been observed. Subjects' amygdala activation was observed when watching a horror film and subliminal stimuli. The results of the study showed a different lateralization of the amygdala in men and women. Enhanced memory for the film was related to enhanced activity of the left, but not the right, amygdala in women, whereas it was related to enhanced activity of the right, but not the left, amygdala in men.[17] One study found evidence that on average, women tend to retain stronger memories for emotional events than men.[18]

The right amygdala is also linked with taking action as well as being linked to negative emotions,[9] which may help explain why males tend to respond to emotionally stressful stimuli physically. The left amygdala allows for the recall of details, but it also results in more thought rather than action in response to emotionally stressful stimuli, which may explain the absence of physical response in women.[citation needed]

Realignment and being left behind. (Or why institutions change)

Institutions change when their memberships, or more precisely their memberships' interests, change.

The "System" wasn't working for large numbers of people so they sought to effect change.  They can effect that change by establishing their own institutions (effectively done by the Labour Party over a century ago but not recently seen as effective).  Or they can take over an existing institution and bend it to their will.  I give you the Tea Party, Momentum, Trump, Democratic Socialists of America, Johnson's new conservatives. Edit:  And I could also add Reform's take over of the PC's federally and Alison Redford's attempts provincially in Alberta.

On a related note - this is not the first time that I have had cause to note that people will not follow where you wish to lead unless they are so inclined. Grenades in bed-springs tend to be the result.

Gerard Baker sees the Conservatives, under Johnson, as veering away from their half-century support for what he called “neoliberal economics” and a generally liberal approach to high-voltage social issues such as same-sex marriage and lax immigration policies. He elaborated:

A party whose core supporters werein large part highly educated, economically successful achievers, open to high levels of immigration, free trade and global integration, is becoming a party whose base will include huge numbers of the less advantaged and less well-educated, who have lost ground in an age of rising inequality and who support protectionism, tight restrictions on immigration and the primacy of national sovereignty.

Baker suggested that what appeared to be a looming realignment election stemmed from the same forces driving conservative-populist movements elsewhere in the West, including in the United States, with its elevation of Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016, and in such other nations as Poland, Hungary, Italy, Germany, and France. In all of these places, politics is being catalyzed or disrupted by large numbers of voters “who feel ignored and even disdained by their traditional political leadership,” writes Baker. Many of them are working-class whites who feel left behind economically by globalization and alienated from urban cultural elites.

conservative populism is on the rise, that it is being driven by the working classes of the West, and that the parties of neoliberalism are in jeopardy of losing the same voters once considered their core constituencies.

The underlying phenomenon of all this is that the meritocratic elites of the West unleashed a political wildfire when they sought to move their nations in directions that large numbers of their citizens didn’t want to go—towards globalism, open borders, anti-nationalism, deindustrialization, anti-religion, and profound transformations in societal mores. There remain throughout the West large constituencies in favor of those sentiments. But the battle is joined, and it will define the politics of Western nations far into the future. That’s the meaning of Boris Johnson’s remarkable political triumph on December 12.


For the record - I find it difficult to conceive of anything more nationalistic, to the point of chauvinism, than a Canadian voter.

Final thought

Courtesy of Wiki - London does not equal Britain

According to the 2011 UK Census results, White British people make up the largest percentage of the population in rural areas, such as Allerdale (99.4%) and Copeland (99.3%) in Cumbria, Ryedale (99.4%) in North Yorkshire, North Norfolk (99.2%) and North Devon (99%). Cities across the UK regions with high White British populations include Swansea, Wales (91.5%), Plymouth (92.2%), Darlington, England (93.7%), Belfast (96.4% - NI classification "white"),[13] Norwich, England (84.7%), Chelmsford, England (90.0%) and Lichfield, England (94.6%). Within London, Havering has the highest White British percentage with 83.3%, followed by Bromley with 77.4%, Bexley with 77.3% and Richmond upon Thames with 71.4%.[1]

Since the 2011 UK Census was returned, London contains by far the lowest percentage of English and other White British people of all the UK regions, where they make up less than half of the population in 24 of the 32 boroughs, including: Newham (16.7%), Brent (18.0%), Ealing (30.4%), Harrow (30.9%), Tower Hamlets (31.2%), Westminster (35.2%) and Hackney (36.2%). The city with the lowest White British population as a percentage is Leicester (45.1%). The Unitary Authority with the lowest White British percentage is Slough (34.5%), followed by Luton (44.6%).[1]

UK Region ‡White British population Percentage of local population Year

Northern Ireland 1,738,604 96.0% 2011[3]
Scotland 4,863,000 91.9% 2011[2]
Wales 2,855,450 93.2% 2011[1]
North East England 2,431,423 93.6% 2011[1]
South West England 4,855,676 91.8% 2011[1]
North West England 6,141,069 87.1% 2011[1]
Yorkshire and The Humber 4,531,137 85.8% 2011[1]
East of England 4,986,170 85.3% 2011[1]
East Midlands 3,871,146 85.4% 2011[1]
South East England 7,358,998 85.2% 2011[1]
West Midlands 4,434,333 79.2% 2011[1]
Greater London 3,669,284 44.9% 2011[1]

This is not an issue of racism, or xenophobia.  This is, pure and simple, an issue of difference.  London, for all its attributes, is not Britain. Nor is Glasgow, Scotland or Paris, France.  I'll leave up for grabs whether or not Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are Canada.
Chris Pook said:
I'll leave up for grabs whether or not Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are Canada.

Canada's urban - rural divide is a perenial favorite,

City-state provinces in Canada? Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver 
7 pages.

In the poll, 84% agreed that "the country is run by an alliance of politicians, media pundits, lobbyists and other moneyed interest groups for their own gain at the expense of the American people."

The death of the centre in European politics
What happens when times change, but parties don’t?
Fredrik Erixon

This is not about a debate between woke left-liberals and authoritarian nationalists. That is a decoy, a caricature created (or promoted) by keyboard warriors on Twitter. Such labels don’t mean anything to ordinary voters because most voters don’t recognise these identities.

There is a new centre, and it’s occupied by those who observe that the nationalism on the rise is not about racism so much as social cohesion. The voters dismissed as knuckle-dragging nationalists are often most keen on integration. They don’t want to shun migrants; they want them to be assimilated.

Some conservatives are hardline on abortion rights, gender equality and sex education, but this isn’t the real point. Both Marine Le Pen and the Sweden Democrats have gradually embraced lifestyle liberalism. Then take Alice Weidel, who is the leader of the opposition in Germany’s parliament — for the AfD. She’s also a former Goldman Sachs economist who speaks Mandarin fluently and lives with her lesbian partner, a Sri Lanka–born film producer, and their two adopted boys in the outskirts of a Swiss city.

The new centre is anti-ideological, almost anti-political. A good number of voters are enthused neither by free-market economics nor by ideas of economic collectivism. There is strong support for a fairer distribution of economic rewards — between rich and poor, city and town — but this isn’t about writing a cheque. Voters are increasingly distrustful of politicians trying to fix problems by promising to throw more money at them. They have for decades been served half-truths about fixing education, healthcare, housing, the police, prisons with tax-and-spend measures. There have been improvements, for sure, but they are few and far between. Those who have switched their support from old centrist parties to nationalists haven’t done so because of the merits of their policies.

In America, only a fraction of Donald Trump’s supporters like the man or believe what he is saying. Many of his voters picked him precisely because he doesn’t play by the rules. They wanted someone who calls out the complacent and bureaucratic government culture that simply seeks to present a plausible face but never fixes problems. They want someone who breaks things.

And didn’t Boris win his handsome majority by tapping into the same sentiment in Britain? You have to look long and hard to find someone in Bassetlaw, Redcar or Workington who thinks Boris can improve poor healthcare services and make the buses to run on time — or that a decades-long trend of economic decline can be broken by providing access to high-speed rail. Rightly or wrongly, they voted for Boris because they think his gung-ho personality and unwavering support for Brexit mean he’s prepared to take dramatic measures.


It isn't about cults.  It is about the blob.