Recount in Florida, US election administration awful

There have been a number of stories on the US election of awful administration on top of ongoing problems of gerrymandering, voter restrictions and difficulties in voting on election day.

The overall result is pretty much settled, with the Republicans assured of a 0-3 seat majority in the Senate (I think a 50-50 deadlock is broken by the Vice President), and the Democrats assured of control of the House with the only likely possibility that they may increase their election night majority.

Both delays and problems persist, and the courts are often involved (with elected officials and judges) in trying to sort out problems.

Reuters:  Voter advocates sue over delays at polling sites

Voting rights activists successfully sued Georgia and Texas asking them to extend voting hours in some counties after problems with voting machines led to delays and long lines thanks to a big turnout in U.S. elections on Tuesday.

This thread suggests a shambles in Indiana:

Florida is involved in tight contests and controversy again:

Of course trump is involved:

But:

Problems vary because each state does voting their own way, and parties are heavily involved in many aspects of the process.

And the biggest problems here are getting more people to vote (our turnouts are relatively high) and quibbling about vote advocating on election day when a a lot of votes are cast early when it promotion and advertising are allowed.

Our Electoral Commission may be a bit slack in dealing with (relatively minor) transgressions, but overall we have a very good electoral system.

Our candidates and politicians and lobby groups are all generally far less controversial than in the US too.

Points of note from US midterm elections

Now the dust has settled and most of the results have been confirmed it’s worth looking at what the US midterm elections mean 9for the US) in the short term and for the 2020 election.

RealClear Politics:  Six Takeaways From the Midterms

Democrats accomplished something that seemed impossible in early 2017: They took control of the House of Representatives; they picked up multiple governorships.

Overall, Republicans had a tough night Tuesday. When all is said and done, Democrats look to have gained around 35 seats in the House, seven governorships and over 330 state legislators. Yet as rough as it was, it could have been much worse for Republicans.

In the Senate, Republicans actually expanded their majority — as it appears they will pick up 3 seats.

Some factors to consider:

  1. The GOP got killed in the suburbs. This is a significant long-term problem for the party if it continues.
  2. This probably doesn’t count as a wave. Our preliminary results suggest that things have moved about 23 points toward Democrats.  That’s a substantial shift, but it falls short of even “semi-wave elections” such as 2014 (a shift of 26 points toward Republicans) and 2006 (a movement of 30 points toward Democrats).
  3. Money. Democrats had a massive fundraising advantage in the lower chamber. This allowed them to catch a number of incumbent Republicans napping, and to spread the playing field out such that the GOP just had too many brush fires to put out.
    To the extent we wish to deduce anything about 2020 from these midterms, we should bear in mind that the next election will probably be fought on a more even financial playing field.
  4. The maps moved out from under Republicans. Many of these districts that swung against the GOP were suburban districts that included urban areas…when there was a suburban swing, the Republicans were spread too thin to survive.
  5. The red state/blue state divide is getting deeper…generally speaking, Republicans won red states and Democrats won blue states, with proper allowance for incumbency.  This is yet another example of how polarized we are becoming.
  6. This all takes place against the backdrop of a booming economy. Finally, it is important to note that Republicans should not have found themselves in this position amid a vibrant economy.  It is quite unusual to have a result this bad in a time of peace and prosperity. Some of this is the suburban realignment, but some is driven by Donald Trump’s more extreme actions, which alienate suburban moderates.

It’s very difficult to predict two years ahead, especially with the division and upheaval going on in US politics, and the unpredictability of Trump.

…if Trump can smooth out the rougher edges that turn suburbanites off, he could prove to be a formidable candidate in 2020.  Most of his states from 2016 continued to support Republicans this cycle.  But, on the other hand, he hasn’t shown much interest in smoothing out those edges.  And if the economy slides into recession, all bets are off.

The Senate will be a tougher battle for the Republicans next time.The House could swing either way.

As for the presidency, it looks likely that Trump will stand again, and much will depend on how he handles the second half of his term as president. And the economy.

And a big unknown is who the Democrats will put up against Trump. They stuffed up last time with Hillary Clinton. If she gets another shot then I think Trump will be favoured, to have lost once to him was a remarkable defeat, and on top of that she has too many negatives.

Both the Senate and the House could easily go either way, depending on what happens over the next two years.

And I think it is impossible to predict Trump, and also impossible to predict whether he can hold sufficient support to win again. It looks like he has a substantial base of support that will keep ignoring his fallibilities. But he needs more than that. If he keeps attacking different groups and demographics he will make things difficult for himself.

 

US midterm election results

Largely as predicted by polls and pundits, the Republicans have held the Senate with an slightly increased majority, and the House has moved the other way with Democrats taking control there – with some results (about 20) yet to be confirmed it looks like about a twenty seat margin. This is a flip from the last result (Republicans 235, Democrats 193).

Current House result (412 of 435 seats decided):

  • Democratic Party 220 (50.6%)
  • Republican Party 193 (44.4%)
  • Other parties 0 (0%)

It is remarkable that in a country as large and diverse as the USA only two parties contested the House elections.

Current Senate results (96 or 100 seats declared):

  • Republican Party 51 (51%%)
  • Democratic Party 43 (43%)
  • Other parties 2 (2%)

That is just about an exact reversal of party support, although only 35 of the Senate seats were contested, and these generally favoured the Republicans.

There was an unusually high turnout for midterm elections, despite the usual claims of difficulties and deterrences in voting. For Kiwis who are used to just wandering into a polling booth and voting, it seems odd to see such long queues in the US.

What this election has accentuated is the increasing division in the US between pro and anti  Trump, urban and rural, highly educated versus less educated.

Trump has achieved some things, like a booming economy and increased employment, but he has also polarised the country, and has created greater risks with a huge deficit and disruption to trade.

FiveThirtyEight summarise the election result so far:

The big questions have been answered. Democrats have taken the House. Republicans will keep the Senate. Exactly how many seats will change hands, however, is still up in the air:

  • There are currently just over 30 House seats yet to be projected; if the current leader in all of them ends up winning, the House will be 227 Democrats, 208 Republicans.

Unsurprisingly Trump claimed a ‘very Big Win’:

A different slant from Reuters: Trump faces restraints after Democrats seize House

Democrats rode a wave of dissatisfaction with President Trump to win control of the House of Representatives, giving them the opportunity to block Trump’s agenda and open his administration to intense scrutiny.

Reuters: Seven takeaways from the U.S. congressional elections

  1. The urban-rural divide is as pervasive as ever.
  2. President Donald Trump remains an inescapable political force. Democrats credit Trump’s unpopularity among women, minorities, young people and suburban voters with college degrees for their House wins. Republicans said his late-stage campaign efforts helped them pick up seats in the Senate.
  3. Progressive stars had a tough night.
  4. Republicans held off a blue wave in governor’s races.
  5. The Republican Party is more Trumpian than ever.
  6. Wedge issues raised late in the campaign helped Republicans.
  7. Democrats had big success in the Great Lakes. The party held onto Senate seats in states in the industrial Midwest that Trump won in 2016.

 

US midterm elections – voting ends and counting begins today (NZ time)

Voting is currently under way in the US midterm elections, Tuesday US time.

NBC News: Stunning early-voting numbers ahead of Election Day

More than 35 million early votes have been counted nationwide as of Monday — well more than the total cast in the 2014 midterm elections.

That year, just more than 21 million early votes were tabulated.

The NBC News Data Analytics Lab, using voter file data from TargetSmart, found that 35,526,881 early votes were counted nationwide as of Monday. In states that have early voting, 42 percent of voters are Republican, 41 percent are Democrats, and 17 percent have either independent or have another party affiliation.

So similar turnouts between Republicans and Democrats. I think that the turnout of independents, and which way they vote, will be of more importance than committed voters.

NY Times: Two Vastly Different Election Outcomes That Hinge on a Few Dozen Close Contests

Democrats appear poised to win the House popular vote on Tuesday by a wide margin, with national polls showing sustained disapproval of President Trump — and yet the fate of the chamber is not a foregone conclusion.

On the day before the midterm elections, two vastly different outcomes remain easy to imagine. There could be a Democratic blowout that decisively ends Republicans’ control of the House and even endangers their Senate majority. Or there could be a district-by-district battle for House control that lasts late on election night and perhaps for weeks after.

All of this may be adding up to a late shift toward Democrats. The Times reported that both Democratic and Republican operatives see House polls as trending Democratic in the final days, and the last wave of Times/Siena polls are at least consistent with that possibility.

FiveThirtyEight poll of poll based forecasts have moved slightly in favour of the Democrats winning the House (a 87.9% chance), and slightly reduced the strong odds of the republicans holding the Senate (a 80.9% chance).

RealClear Politics has the Republicans with 49 likely wins in the Senate, the Democrats with 43, and 8 uncertain so that certainly favours the Republicans.

RealClear Politics has the Democrats with 203 likely wins in the House, the Republicans with 194, with 38 up for grabs.

President Donald Trump has been campaigning hard for the Republicans. He may encourage a higher turnout of Republicans who like or believe his divisive rhetoric and lies (many do), but he may also encourage a higher turnout of Democrats who dislike him, and also independents who could swing either for or against Republicans thanks to Trump.

Some claim that these elections are a test of Trump’s mandate, but I think it is much more complicated than that – as indicated by the likely opposing movements between the House (to the Democrats) and the Senate (to the Republicans).

While Trump and others are likely to claim some sort of victory, it looks most likely to be indecisive.

Polls close and vote counting begins NZ time from 12 noon through to 6:00 pm Wednesday.

We will get some results this afternoon and this evening, and we may get an idea of likely overall outcomes of the House and the Senate, but it could take days to get all the results, and possibly weeks.

The outcome is of obvious interest to political junkies in New Zealand, but it is unlikely to change much for us here.

Making America Grate Again

The US mid term elections are tonight/tomorrow NZ time (Tuesday in the US).

I’m glad I can largely switch off and avoid what has become a despicable democracy. It is two party dominated, and ‘a plague on both their houses’

Trump just said ‘we’ve ended the war on beautiful clean coal’ and that may be one of the less silly sounding statements he has made.  It’s hard to know whether he is helping or harming Republican chances.

Whenever I hear him (he was just on RNZ) he grates. Bigly.

But the Democrats have enable Trump with poor candidate choices (Clinton) and awful campaigning.

FiveThirtyEight odds have moved just slightly against the Republicans holding the Senate and improved slightly for the Democrats to win the House:

  • Senate – chance Republicans keep control (83.6%)
  • House – chance Democrats win control (87.3%)

On Eve of Trump’s First Midterm, We’re in Uncharted Waters – Chris Buskirk, NY Times

Midterms Will Show Voters’ Love or Hate of Trump – Allan Lichtman, The GuardianJudgment Day Is Nearly Here: A Midterm Overview -Sally Persons, RealClearPolitics

Image result for cartoon plague both houses

US 2018 (mid-term) elections

Polls suggest that the republicans should better their bare majority in the US Senate, but look likely to lose their majority in the House (Congress).

The current US Senate (33 seats are being contested):

  • Republicans 51
  • Democrats 47
  • Independent 2

The current US House of Representatives (all seats contested):

  • Republicans 235
  • Democrats 193
  • Vacant 7

President Donald Trump (like many others) is trying hard to influence the US midterm elections coming up next week. He is pushing immigration buttons hard – Trump Launches Final Campaign Blitz by Pounding Illegal Immigration – and also attacking the media again – Slams Media for Using Synagogue Shooting to ‘Sow Anger & Division’ – accusing them of doing what he himself keeps doing.

It’s hard to know if his influence will be positive or negative for republican candidates. After a recent recovery in support the gap has recently trended towards widening again – see FiveThirtyEight and RealClear Politics.

The Democrats are receiving celebrity endorsements (Kanye West seems to have backtracked on his enthusiasm for Trump) and Dems Double Down on Healthcare.

RCP Averages predict that the Republicans will pick up one seat in the Senate.

FiveThirtyEight is similar, with their current Senate odds:

  • Chance Democrats win control (14.9%)
  • Chance Republicans keep control (85.1%)

FiveThirtyEight favours the Democrats in Congress predicting a gain of 38 seats which would give them a clear majority:

  • Chance Democrats win control (84.9%)
  • Chance Republicans keep control (15.1%

RCP has the Democrats with an average seat pickup of 25.5

The chances of an upset on the above odds ins unlikely. Trump surprised many pollsters and pundits in 2016, but this election has a number of separate contests in different areas with different issues in play. The chances of many of them swinging significantly against the polls seems low.

Trump Claims He Can Overrule Constitution With Executive Order…

A report from the US:

Saying his latest executive order was legal due to an “underutilized but totally feasible workaround,” President Trump claimed Tuesday that he could overrule the U.S. Constitution by means of the relatively obscure “no one will stop me” loophole.

“My critics say a constitutional amendment or at least an act of Congress is necessary to end birthright citizenship, but what they don’t realize is that a seldom-evoked administrative guideline ensures I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, because zero people will stand in my way,” said Trump, adding that the largely unheard-of clause allows him to circumvent normal legal proceedings because it’s not like anyone in any branch of government remains effective enough to prevent him from doing so.

“Though few modern presidents have made use of it, this loophole has always given the nation’s chief executive unilateral power over the Constitution. Its provisions dictate that the president can sidestep any checks and balances on his power once he has abused his authority so many times that no one can keep track anymore.”

Trump added that while his opponents may try to challenge his executive order in court, the loophole also states that by then he will have achieved his immediate political aims.

Trump Claims He Can Overrule Constitution With Executive Order Because Of Little-Known ‘No One Will Stop Me’ Loophole is from Onion, but this isn’t:

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee the right to citizenship to everyone born in the country, an assertion that runs counter to the long-established legal interpretation of the document.

“So-called Birthright Citizenship, which costs our Country billions of dollars and is very unfair to our citizens, will be ended one way or the other. It is not covered by the 14th Amendment because of the words ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof.’ Many legal scholars agree…..” Trump wrote in a Twitter post six days before U.S. congressional elections.

The Constitution’s 14th Amendment, added after the Civil War, grants citizenship to anyone born on American soil and was intended to give constitutional protections to former slaves. But some Republicans, including Trump, say it creates an incentive for people to enter the country illegally to have children.

It can be hard to differentiate between satire and what Trump actually says.

Trump in hypocritical overdrive blaming others for anger and division

It’s hardly news that Donald Trump is being hypocritical in blaming the media and others for being divisive, but in his latest claim of the moral ground proves his own divisiveness.

Trump repeatedly encouraged anger against others at his political rallies in the 2016 presidential campaign, and until very recently he continued to do this. And in his rant against ‘Anger’ he does much the same.

Aaron Blake (Washington Post): Trump is unwittingly blaming himself for postal bombs

At a rally in Wisconsin on Wednesday, Trump made a show of supposedly being civil but also cast blame on others who employed harsh rhetoric. He criticized those who “carelessly compare political opponents to historical villains.” He added that people need to “stop treating their opponents as morally defective.”

Trump also pointed a finger at the media — a sentiment he expounded upon Thursday morning in a tweet.

So Trump has now cited three causes for what happened Wednesday: people who villainize their political opponents, people who cast their opponents as “morally defective” and resentment of the media. All three effectively implicate Trump himself.

Nobody in American politics in recent years has so villainized and attacked the morality of their political opponents like Trump. His attacks are routinely about people’s character, rather than allowing for honest disagreements. He has literally appended nicknames to his opponents attacking their morality: “Lyin’ Ted,” “Crooked Hillary” and “Cheatin’ Obama.” Trump at one point before he ran for president even assured us that his critics weren’t just mistaken, but were “born f—ed up.” He has called the media and his female sexual harassment accusers “liars,” repeatedly.

And just two weeks ago, while defending his Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, Trump said Kavanaugh’s opponents were not just wrong, but “evil” — repeatedly.

“You had forces saying things that were evil. They were bad people,” Trump said. When asked whether he was calling fellow Americans “evil,” Trump confirmed that he was: “I know many. I know fellow Americans that are evil. I know — are you saying we shouldn’t say that a fellow American is ‘evil?’ I’ve known some fellow Americans that are pretty evil.”

But perhaps the biggest self-incrimination here is in Trump’s decision to blame this on the media.

It bears noting that only one of the targets thus far was a media outlet; The others were Democratic and liberal figures whom Trump has verbally attacked. If this was truly about frustration with the media, sending a bomb to Joe Biden or Eric Holder doesn’t really make sense.

Setting that aside, Trump seems to be arguing that the media has created such resentment that people are liable to do things like mail bombs to people they don’t like. But here’s the thing: Trump has spent the better part of the past three years egging on suspicions of the media — and often unfairly. There are undoubtedly some fair criticisms in there — the media isn’t perfect and should never claim to be — but Trump has also gone so far as to label the media the “enemy of the American people.”

He has repeatedly denied reports that he and his administration later confirmed. He has attacked anonymous sources as nonexistent even though there was an official White House transcript to prove it. He has made repeated claims about how the media covered him that don’t comport with reality or what he said previously.

Which is what he’s doing now.

Trump accusing others of things he is guilty of is nothing new.

And his rhetoric about reducing anger and division is likely to be thrown out the window at his next rally.

‘Suspicious package’ threats in the US

Alarming claims and revelations in killing of Saudi journalist

Claims and revelations over the apparent killing of a Saudi dissident in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey are quite alarming.

New York Times: Turkish Officials Say Khashoggi Was Killed on Order of Saudi Leadership

Top Turkish security officials have concluded that the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was assassinated in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on orders from the highest levels of the royal court, a senior official said Tuesday.

The official described a quick and complex operation in which Mr. Khashoggi was killed within two hours of his arrival at the consulateby a team of Saudi agents, who dismembered his body with a bone saw they brought for the purpose.

Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have denied the allegations, insisting that Mr. Khashoggi left the consulate freely shortly after he arrived. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has demanded that the Saudis provide evidence proving their claim.

The security establishment concluded that Mr. Khashoggi’s killing was directed from the top because only the most senior Saudi leaders could order an operation of such scale and complexity, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to disclose confidential briefings.

Fifteen Saudi agents had arrived on two charter flights last Tuesday, the day Mr. Khashoggi disappeared, the official said.

All 15 left just a few hours later, and Turkey has now identified the roles that most or all of them held in the Saudi government or security services, the official said. One was an autopsy expert, presumably there to help dismember the body, the official said.

A publication with close ties to Mr. Erdogan’s government, the newspaper Sabah, reported Tuesday that unnamed officials had said the police were examining the possibility that Mr. Khashoggi had been abducted and not killed, possibly with the help of another country’s intelligence officers.

The official who spoke about Mr. Khashoggi’s killing said that report and other similar ones were incorrect and were probably the result of the limited information shared among different agencies within the Turkish government.

Another person briefed on the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity to disclose confidential details, told The Times on Saturday that Turkish intelligence had obtained a video of the killing, made by the Saudis to prove that it had occurred.

A commentator close to Mr. Erdogan’s government said so publicly on Tuesday.

“There is a video of the moment of him being killed,” Kemal Ozturk, a columnist in a pro-government newspaper and the former head of a semiofficial news agency, said in an interview on a pro-government television network, citing unnamed security officials.

So alarming multiple claims, some disputed.

Fox News: US intercepted Saudi plans to capture missing journalist, report says

U.S. intelligence agencies reportedly intercepted Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist who disappeared after visiting the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

The Washington Post is reporting that before the journalist disappeared on Oct. 2, Saudi officials discussed a plan to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia.

It remains unclear if the Saudi government intended to arrest or kill the journalist known for his writings criticizing the Saudi leadership, or whether the U.S. government informed Khashoggi that he was the target of the Saudi government, the report said.

Questions about what the US did, and if they knew whether they did anything to try to prevent what seemed about to happen.

The journalist’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, wrote an op-ed on Tuesday expressing hope her man is still alive. “Although my hope slowly fades away each passing day, I remain confident that Jamal is still alive,” she wrote. “Perhaps I’m simply trying to hide from the thought that I have lost a great man whose love I had earned.”

Cengiz urged President Trump and his wife Melania Trump to help shed a light on the journalist’s disappearance. “At this time, I implore President Trump and first lady Melania Trump to help shed light on Jamal’s disappearance,” she wrote.

Washington Post: Trump wants answers about missing Saudi writer

President Donald Trump says the U.S. is “demanding” answers from Saudi Arabia about missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and wants to bring his fiancée to the White House.

Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday that he has a call in to his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz.

Trump says nobody knows exactly what happened and expressed hope that Khashoggi is not dead.

He says he’s spoken with the Saudis about what he called a “bad situation,” but he did not disclose details of his conversations.

It certainly looks like a bad situation. And a tricky one for the US – they supply a lot of weaponry to Saudi Arabia: U.S. sells 6,700 missiles to Saudi Arabia as part of $1 billion deal:

“This proposed sale will support U.S. foreign policy and national security objectives by improving the security of a friendly country which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic growth in the Middle East,” the State Department said, adding that the deal “will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”

The murder (or abduction) of Khashoggi puts the US in a difficult position.

Haaretz: Trump’s Saudi Policy Lets MBS Think He Can Get Away With Murder, ex-U.S. Officials Say

As fears grow about fate of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, whom Turkish authorities believe was killed in Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week, experts warn that White House silence is part of the problem

 Former U.S. officials believe the Trump administration’s friendly policy toward Saudi Arabia has caused its leaders to believe they face no consequences for their actions. The fears were raised following the mysterious disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey last week, amid reports that he was murdered while visiting Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.

The Trump administration has made a noticeable effort to improve America’s relations with Saudi Arabia, which became tense during President Barack Obama’s time in office. Donald Trump chose Saudi Arabia as his first foreign visit as president, in May 2017, and the Saudi leadership vocally supported his decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

A close relationship has also developed between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

A former Middle East adviser to both Republican and Democratic administrations:

Miller’s “just about anything” statement refers to a series of steps previously taken by the crown prince to oppress opposition to his rule. Over the past year, he has had hundreds of Saudi businessmen and former officials arrested without due process. His government has also jailed women’s rights and anti-corruption activists, accusing them of a conspiracy to overthrow the government.

Crown Prince Mohammed has also intensified Saudi Arabia’s war against Iran and its proxies in Yemen – a war that has turned into a full-blown humanitarian disaster. The Saudis also detained Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri last November, reportedly holding him against his will and forcing him to resign as Lebanese premier (Hariri walked back that decision when back in Beirut).

As far as is known, the Trump administration didn’t criticize or warn Saudi Arabia about any of these policies. In fact, it actively supported and encouraged some of them. When the Saudi leadership rounded up hundreds of political rivals and held them at a Riyadh hotel-cum-interim prison, Trump tweeted:

That message was well received in Riyadh. “The Trump administration made it clear from early on that it had little interest in protecting human rights, except when it comes to the rights of Christian minorities,” Tamara Cofman Wittes, a former State Department official who is currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, told Haaretz.

Trump, she added, “said very explicitly that he is not interested in telling other countries how to run [their] government. Could this be seen as a green light for oppressive actions? Certainly when compared to the previous policies of every American president since the end of World War II.”

So the actions of Saudi Arabia in relation to Khashoggi are in the spotlight, but what Trump and his administration has done and does now is also very important.