Contra Mozilla

Friday, November 18, 2016


"Can schadenfreude be virtuous?" is a question which I have often asked myself, especially given my method for teaching physics. In the wake of the great defeat of Hillary Clinton, there are others suddenly asking this question, including Dr. Edward Feser. He asks the question so as to provide an answer (in the affirmative). So, in that spirit, here is internet Hitler's reaction to Hillary Clinton's defeat to Donald Trump:

I'm still skeptical as to whether Trump's winning is anything like a good thing, but certainly Hillary Clinton's losing  is good. And the tears of the social justice brownshirts are sweet nectar.

That said, I pray that President-elect Donald Trump proves me wrong about him. I did not vote for him this time because I am not convinced (yet) that he is especially conservative. I believe that much of his cad-like demeanor is an act: most stories I have heard about private interactions with him paint a much different picture than his public persona--even sans media interference--leads us to conclude. But there it is, lacking moderation, without so much as a perfunctory semblance of modesty or decorum. To be fair, I am still working on this (moderation, temperance, decorum) myself, but then I am not the president.

Still, I hope that he will do well as a leader of our nation. He has already shown us all not to underestimate him, and I suppose if anyone can cut through the media's distortions, the president elect as shown that he is able to do so.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Electoral College

I read two interesting reactions to the election of Donald Trump this morning: the first is a reaction to the Left's non-violent reaction, the other is actually a less common reaction from the Left. Suffice it to say, I think that the former is basically correct as far as it goes, and that the latter basically draws the wrong conclusion to this election. I will look at the former now, and the latter in a future post.

First: a defense of the electoral college, by Mr. Jason Willick of the American Interest. He brings up four points in defense of the electoral college:

Presidential election 2016 results by county and vote share. Source.
  1. Changing the rules of an election also changes both the impetus for voting and the strategy pursued by the candidates. Thus, Mr. Trump would have spent more time and effort campaigning in rural and blue-collar California, Illinois, and even New York if only the popular vote mattered, whereas Clinton might have made more visits to Houston, Atlanta, etc. Indeed, I suspect that Trump would have actually done more to advertise earlier in this scenario (for example, Hillary Clinton's ads were frequently heard on the radio where I live about two months before the election; I don't think I ever heard a Trump ad).
  2. Attempting to scrap the electoral college is a waste of energy that could be used to reform it instead. I actually don't think this is a good argument for why the college shouldn't be eliminated, but it is a decent argument from a practical standpoint for why people shouldn't try to remove it. The gist is that there are too many states with too much to lose if the college goes away, with only a few large-population (and largely blue) states gaining anything, so it is difficult to imagine getting the requisite 38 states to sign off on this Constitutional amendment. Again, I think that this is not a very good argument because it is less a defense of the college than a plea against the difficulty in removing is, and it may not even really dissuade people from trying (which is the main point of the argument).
  3. The electoral college is what makes the presidential election an actual national election. At this point, the shift is from left vs right to nationalist vs cosmopolitan/internationalist (or so his argument goes). More importantly, the divide is largely between highly populated (but geographically concentrated) urban areas and large but sparsely populated rural areas. Thus, in a popular election, the impetus might be for the Democrat/urban candidate to focus exclusively in getting high turnout in their mega-cities. The rest of the country--including large swatch of "not-flyover" states, would be ignored. Having grown up in the rural part of a blue states whose policies were almost always dictated by the population of the one large city and maybe two or three medium-sized towns), this especially resonated with me. On a national scale, the problem is even worse, since a coalition of  very few large urban areas (New York, Philadelphia, Boston, DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Twin Cities, Detroit, Houston, Atlanta, Miami) could very rapidly supply a majority (or plurality) of the population. Indeed, this is a majority which is completely out of touch with smaller metro areas like Montgomery, Topeka, Boise, Amarillo, and even Kansas City or Pittsburgh, let alone the truly rural areas.
  4. The electoral college is one way of forcing coalition-building. This is a sort of continuation of the previous point, but it also gets into the fact that under a winner-take-all poplar election, some third-party candidates would actually maybe be stronger (they no longer have to win states). Indeed, one possible outcome is that we could regularly see people elected by winning 30-35% of the popular vote--a point which again feeds into the third point above. To quote from Mr. Willick's article,
    The winner-take-all Electoral College system creates major obstacles to third-party presidential candidacies. Scrapping it would lead to stronger third-parties vying for the presidency, as these parties wouldn’t need to win any states to register on the electoral scoreboard. As a result, it’s possible that no candidate would come close to getting a majority of the popular vote. America could then regularly end up with plurality presidents with support from thirty percent (or less) of the voting public. Parliamentary systems manage this problem by requiring coalitions to form a government. The party that wins the most votes in the first round doesn’t immediately win power; it must create a coalition with other parties so that together, they represent a majority. (In a number of European countries, far-right parties are kept out of power despite having a plurality of popular support because the governing coalition excludes them). In America, there is no such mechanism. Popular vote champions looking to avoid minor plurality presidencies (the legitimacy of which might also be challenged on democratic grounds) would need to also seek to implement a runoff election or else scrap the entire U.S. Constitutional structure.
     I actually think that strengthening the third parties and weakening the two major parties is not a bad thing. However, I also think that Mr. Willick's prediction may be the opposite of what actually happens. To whit, look at the vote totals for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein (and the "others") in "safe" states vs "swing" states. A voter who does not expect his vote to influence the election one way or another is more likely to vote for his favorite candidate (even if said candidate is in a third party) than the one whom he considers be the lesser of t two evils who is likely to actually win. I suspect that in a close election year, the third parties would actually win fewer popular votes, thus adding a false sense of popular mandate to the eventual winner.
Presidential election 2016 results by county and vote share. Source.

    Three of these four points argue that abolishing the electoral college could have either bad or at best unpredictable results. Certainly, the party establishment types living in the heart of a major metropolitan area will disagree with me there, at least if they favor gut reaction to prudence. Certainly, the New York or DC elite would be perfectly content to rule over the people in the hinterlands--right up until those people decide that they are no longer interesting in playing by the rules of a system which seems rigged against them by people who disdain them and who seem actively wish to destroy their ways of life. This is, by and large, the reason why enough electors have ultimately supported Trump rather than Clinton.

    Thursday, November 10, 2016

    Post-Election Musing

    As one friend noted, he went to bed on election night knowing that in the morning he would wake up as a part of the loyal opposition--he just didn't know yet what the details of that would be. I felt much the same way, and would likely have slept better had my kids not been up all night sick.


    I actually voted third party (write-in) this time around: I live in a very red state, so my vote one way or the other won't impact the election results, nor would the votes of all my friends and acquaintances, and theirs, within this state. And when faced with the choice between a corrupt criminal and a caricatured cad, I voted "no."

    If I lived in (say) Pennsylvania, or Florida, or another "likely swing" state, I am not sure that I would necessarily have voted differently. That said, I am very much relieved that Hillary Clinton did not win. This is not to say that I am happy with (or even satisfied with) a Donald Trump presidency: I have already expressed that a few times here during the primary season.


    That said, a few people have wondered what I have done to prevent a Donald Trump Presidency. Few ask what I did to prevent a Hillary Clinton Presidency, but since she lost the election, I suppose that particular point is moot.

    In any case, I voted against both major candidates--and I did not vote for any of the well-known minor ones--which satisfies the basic criterion of working to prevent a Trump Presidency to the extent that I, a single voter, can do so.

    In point of fact, my votes have been against Trump prior to that. For example, I voted in the Republican primaries of my state, voting not for my first pick candidate, but rather for the candidate whom the polls were showing was in second place after Trump (and I urged others to do the same in their states). We could all sort out whether Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or even John Kasich was the best nominee after making sure that one of those three would indeed be the nominee instead of Trump. This ploy failed.


    Actually, there is more to the answer of this question--what did you do to prevent a Trump Presidency--than my votes in 2016. If the nation had done the right thing in 2012 and elected Mitt Romney (and more importantly, kicked Barack Obama and his wife and his administration to the curb), we wouldn't be faced with Trump. We would in fact be looking at either Romney Term 2 or else Hillary Clinton. Given that Romney pulled more votes in the last election cycle than either Trump or Clinton in this cycle, my guess is that we would have Romney Term 2.

    Correction--There sure are a lot of late votes tallied. Now Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have surpassed Mitt Romney's vote total. Suffice it to say that I am against early voting.


    There are, of course, the expected round of riots and vandalism over this. Suffice it to say that it's not just white men who are angry. The Left just does a better job of covering up their frustration and rage--having the media run interference for your helps--until they lose.


    Here is a microcosm of why so many people did turn out for trump in the swing states:

    The people in deep blue states voted heavily for Hillary Clinton (perhaps more so than as usual, even)--this is why she will likely win the popular vote in the end. These are the people who are encouraging this kind of bullying, and they are by their actions (and cheering on those actions) as guilty of Trump as are the frustrated and angry people who voted him in.


    Moving forward, there is a relatively simple (though not easy) solution to all of this: a return to a sort of limited federalism, in which the laws and policies of the nation are decided on the sate and local level. Reduce the power of the federal government, not only of the Executive branch, but also of the Legislative and Judicial branches; and above all of the bureaucracy. Let the deep blue states of Illinois and the West Coast and the Northeast Coast run their own affairs, and let the deep red states in the South and the Mid- and Mountain- West run theirs. The federal elections are only such a big deal because they decide which half of America will chafe under the other half's rule (nevermind that Donald Trump is a New Yorker). Consider allowing larger states to split up--surely the people of San Francisco would prefer to run the bay Area without interference from LA and vice versa.

    In short, make politics more local. The Iowa farmer and the Michigan factory worker and the Wall Street and the Las Vegas casino-owner ought not run each others' businesses. Let the states be united in friendship and common defense and trade, but not uniform in regulation and rule.