My heart is weary

This guy. Nuclear codes. What could go wrong? (Photo: Michael Vadon. CC-BY-SA 2.0)

This guy. Nuclear codes. What could go wrong? (Photo: Michael Vadon. CC-BY-SA 2.0)

This is my post about the election. It’s a grab-bag, but I have too many thoughts bouncing around for a single coherent narrative right now. After this, I’m done with politics for a long time. It’s already taken enough of my life—of all our lives.

And So It Is

It appears we will have President Trump. In my mind, this is a disaster as he is uniquely unqualified to serve as our president. I’m worried about what this holds in store for the constitutional rule of law in this republic of ours. How did this happen?

Though I’m sure there’s much more to it, it seems this much is true: the political establishment has too long been deaf to those who are down and out in our economy. American trade policies have hurt blue collar workers, and with the Democrats asleep at the post these people have found a different way to make their voices heard: Trump.

Unfortunately, the person listening to their cries was also many other things—the kind of person who can’t be left unsupervised lest he sexually assault somebody or get into a tweet war with half the universe.

Primary Failure

But it’s not just that Trump is ill-suited for the highest office in the land. Actually, our entire electoral system has failed us. We need to change it.

How did it fail us? By giving us the most unacceptable set of options possibly ever. Both of whom are conceivably criminals deserving of impeachment immediately upon taking the oath of office. Neither of whom is respected by their own party let alone the entire nation. So how did we get here?

There are perhaps many explanations, I see two, one per party.

For the Republicans, the villain is traditional first-past-the-post voting, where everybody gets just one vote and voters can’t express the complexity of their preferences, leading to selection of unrepresentative candidates.

For example, suppose that Alice, Bob, and Carrie are all running for the Republican party’s nomination. Alice and Bob are very similar and one or the other of them would be the first choice of 60% of the electorate. Carrie, on the other hand, is more extreme and less appealing, and is the first choice of only 40% of the electorate.

The voting system we want is one that would select either Alice or Bob since they’re the kind of candidate most of the voters want. But the voting system we have is the one that would pick Carrie, at least so long as neither Alice nor Bob drops out of the race.

What if, instead of just one vote, you got to rank the candidates in order? (This method of voting is called Single Transferable Vote. It’s a thing.) So I could vote like this:

  1. Bob
  2. Alice
  3. Carrie

Bob is my first choice, but if he doesn’t win I want my vote to go to Alice. And if she doesn’t win then I guess I’ll vote for Carrie.

Everybody’s ranks the candidates like this, and then their first choices get tallied up. Suppose the results come out like this:

  • Alice: 33%
  • Bob: 27%
  • Carrie: 40%

But none of the candidates has a majority. Now the votes that went toward the lowest vote-getter (Bob) are reassigned to go toward their second choice. If all of the Bob voters put Alice as their second choice, then we get:

  • Alice: 60%
  • Carrie: 40%

And Alice is the winner. This is what we would want, since she better captures the preferences of the electorate than Carrie, and she’s preferred over Bob.

This is the sort of scenario the Republicans faced with Donald Trump. In an extremely crowded Republican field, the mainstream Republicans most acceptable to their party all stole votes from each other such that none of them won. And Trump, so different from everybody else, held on to his small but consistent set of voters until as the others dropped out he rose to the top.

I am convinced that had the Republican party adopted a more expressive voting method like Single Transferable Vote then Trump would never have come to power.

What about the Democrats? Well, whereas the Republicans suffered from an overabundance of candidates exacerbating the vote stealing problem, the Democrats had the weakest field of candidates in ages. Though Sanders put up a spirited and substantial resistance, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that—with the help of her buddy the DNC chair—Hillary Clinton was practically anointed prior to the primary season even beginning. Everybody knew the odds were stacked against them, so they didn’t run. And the DNC kept subverting Sanders’ campaign in important ways, such as by scheduling the debates at nonsensical times and shutting his campaign out of the voter lists. Not sure what the solution to this one is. Don’t have corrupt party chairs who are buddies with the leading candidate?

The ship of state has run aground. We're all the poor guy on the mast.

The ship of state has run aground. We’re all the poor guy on the mast.

The Hate

What concerns me more than the nominating process is the hate. Meaning, the hate between the two “sides” of America—as if we were all born with a big (D) or an (R) on our foreheads. Urban versus rural America. Us versus them America.

It seems we’ve forgotten how much we have in common. We’ve ceased to live near each other. We’ve sorted ourselves into safe little niches where we don’t have to be around people unlike ourselves—both in the physical world and online.

Those with opposing political views are seen not as fellow Americans with whom we disagree, but as enemies. In this view, people vote for Trump because they’re bigoted monsters. People vote for Clinton because they’re illegal immigrants mooching off the state. Nobody could ever have a legitimate reason to vote for the opposing team. They’re all evil. They hate America.

This terrifies me. This is dehumanization by which we prepare ourselves to treat each other as less than, as animals. Nothing good will come of this, but rather much evil.

And so I hope everybody knows that, though I’m deeply concerned about Donald Trump’s upcoming presidency, I recognize that there are legitimate reasons why he’s won. Too many people have struggled for too long. Something needed to change. But I’m very worried about the effect that this unprincipled, utterly selfish man will have upon the United States of America and we the people living therein.

What?

And so, with all these things wrong, what can I do? Other than just blogging and tweeting out at the universe hoping something will catch?

Frankly, I have no idea. Maybe I should have run for that uncontested Utah House seat? Or maybe it’s not up to me? Maybe I’m just one in 310 million people? I don’t know.

But I’m not satisfied. Our system isn’t working for too many people. Something must change.

Gratitude

With an eye toward Thanksgiving, here are the silver linings for me:

  • With a clear election result, our country is unlikely to immediately descend into chaos. (Always a possibility when candidates won’t promise to accept the outcome.)
  • The worst of the Utah constitutional amendments appears to have been rejected.
  • Marijuana legalization has made significant advances. (I’m in favor.)
  • My guy got elected to the state school board.
  • The judges I wanted retained got retained.

Pretty much everything else went against me. But I guess that’s what I get for quixotically voting against Republicans in Utah!

Anyway, life will go on. Our republic will likely endure a while longer. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll learn from this election. Maybe we’ll become better as a people. A “more perfect Union” and all that.

Good night.

2016 Ballot Preview!

Don't Sell Your Vote

Voting is srsly important, guys

This venerable blog has gone many places. We’ve dealt with many and diverse issues, from psychiatry to terrorism, grad school to dating, government surveillance, wild west storytelling, bailouts, fake relationships, a profile picture contest, Spain travelogues, trivialities about long-defunct software packages, and many other topics of intense importance and relevance to our very day and age.

And yes, we’ve talked about politics. Way too much.

But never—never, my friends!—has this blog in its 12 years of existence gone where we’re about to go: to my ballot!

I’m about to proclaim for all to hear how I’m voting (and why) on every issue on my Provo, Utah Precinct 2 ballot, taken straight from vote.utah.gov:

President

Vote for up to 1 candidate(s)
Name Profile Party
EVAN MCMULLIN, NATHAN JOHNSON Profile Unaffiliated
DARRELL L. CASTLE, SCOTT N. BRADLEY Profile Constitution
GARY JOHNSON, BILL WELD Profile Libertarian
JILL STEIN, AJAMU BARAKA Profile Unaffiliated
ALYSON KENNEDY, OSBORNE HART Profile Unaffiliated
ROCKY GIORDANI, FARLEY ANDERSON Profile Independent American
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, TIMOTHY MICHAEL KAINE Profile Democratic
“ROCKY” ROQUE DE LA FUENTE, MICHAEL STEINBERG Profile Unaffiliated
DONALD J. TRUMP, MICHAEL R. PENCE Profile Republican
MONICA MOOREHEAD, LAMONT LILLY Profile Unaffiliated

I’ve finally decided to vote for Evan McMullin for president. For those outside of Utah, Evan McMullin is basically running a traditional conservative campaign. Which isn’t really why I’m voting for him, since I’m not particularly conservative. In fact, he’s one of the candidates I agreed least with on good old I Side With. But he has one very important thing going for him: by my estimation, voting for Evan McMullin is the only thing I can do to further my primary objective of preventing Donald Trump from becoming president. McMullin is the non-Trump candidate currently polling the best in Utah. Therefore I will lend him my support in hopes that Utah’s six electoral votes don’t do anything to help Trump enter the White House.

Another very important thing going for McMullin: he is, from everything I can tell about him, a decent human being around whom no cloud of scandal, or hatred, or any of the other garbage of the 2016 campaign hovers. I actually think that’s worth a lot.

The rest of the races are much simpler: I will vote for some non-Republican candidate because I think it’s ridiculous for the Republican party to dominate Utah politics the way it does. I believe it would be good for Utah for state races to be more competitive so Utah’s priorities aren’t so neglected on the national stage, and so the ruling party doesn’t grow any more complacent and corrupt than it likely already is. Were I still living in Washington I imagine I’d take the same tack toward the dominant Democrats. This is just how I roll.

US Senate

Vote for up to 1 candidate(s)

Name Profile Party
MISTY K SNOW Profile Democratic
BILL BARRON Profile Unaffiliated
STONEY FONUA Profile Independent American
MIKE LEE Profile Republican

Let’s go with Bill Barron, the unaffiliated dude who just wants to fight climate change. Maybe by fighting climate change the terrible air quality in Utah County could be improved and I won’t find myself suffering a particulate-induced stroke down the road just for breathing.

US House 3

Vote for up to 1 candidate(s)
Name Profile Party
STEPHEN P. TRYON Profile Democratic
JASON CHAFFETZ Profile Republican

Stephen P. Tryon it is! I have no idea of anything he stands for, but as the only minority party option he gets my vote by default. Candidate Tryon, I hope you’re not a horrible person!

Governor

Vote for up to 1 candidate(s)
Name Profile Party
GARY R. HERBERT, SPENCER J. COX Profile Republican
BRIAN E KAMERATH, BARRY EVAN SHORT Profile Libertarian
MIKE WEINHOLTZ, KIM BOWMAN Profile Democratic
SUPERDELL SCHANZE, GREGORY C. DUERDEN Profile Independent American

Unfortunately, the libertarian candidate hasn’t submitted a profile for this race. (I tend to favor libertarians.) And it seems that “Superdell” (yes, that’s his name—he’s a thing here in Utah) is crazy and radical. So Mike Winholtz, you have my vote by virtue of being boring and normal.

Attorney General

Vote for up to 1 candidate(s)
Name Profile Party
MICHAEL W. ISBELL Profile Independent American
JON V. HARPER Profile Democratic
SEAN D. REYES Profile Republican
W. ANDREW MCCULLOUGH Profile Libertarian

Andrew McCullough mentions in his profile one of my pet issues, which is the drug war and police violence. Going with my libertarian proclivities on this one. My vote is yours, Mr. McCullough!

State Auditor

Vote for up to 1 candidate(s)
Name Profile Party
JOHN DOUGALL Profile Republican
JARED GREEN Profile Independent American
MIKE MITCHELL Profile Democratic

I like Jared Green’s pledge to serve without pay (though I guess that would make him more vulnerable to bribery) but Mike Mitchell seems more acquainted with issues related to the auditor position. I hope you block that $53 million scandal, Mike—you have my vote!

State Treasurer

Vote for up to 1 candidate(s)
Name Profile Party
RICHARD PROCTOR Profile Constitution
NEIL A. HANSEN Profile Democratic
DAVID DAMSCHEN Profile Republican

Richard Proctor is up there talking nullification (isn’t that the sort of attitude that got us into our one and thus far only civil war?) so he’s out. Neil Hansen looks reasonable, and besides, maybe he’s a long-lost cousin? Mr. Hansen, do us proud!

State Senate 16 (Multi County)

Vote for up to 1 candidate(s)
Name Profile Party
CURT BRAMBLE Profile Republican
JASON CHRISTENSEN Profile Independent American

On the margins of the neighborhood meeting where the old-timers held one last time onto the all-powerful neighborhood committee chair, I heard some pretty sketchy crap about Curt Bramble. Even were I not already planning on voting the majority party out, there’s no way I would vote for that guy.

Jason “the Patriot” Christensen, on the other hand, is singing my song—he’s talking balanced budgets and everything. Jason Christensen for State Senate District 16!

State House 64

Vote for up to 1 candidate(s)
Name Profile Party
NORM THURSTON Profile Republican

I can’t abide these uncontested races. They’re a symptom of Republican dominance, where only a Republican will win so nobody else bothers to compete. Therefore I’m announcing my candidacy for Utah State House District 64. Write me in, people!

Name Profile Party
JOSH HANSEN! Profile Unaffiliated

My platform:

  • Balanced budget amendment for the state
  • Automatically set income tax rates at such a level that they will recoup the average of expenditures over the previous five years
  • Change Utah’s state tree from the quaking aspen to the Joshua tree (obviously!)

Okay, enough of that.

County Commission C

Vote for up to 1 candidate(s)
Name Profile Party
NATHAN IVIE Profile Republican
JEANNE BOWEN Profile Democratic

Jeanne Bown, by default. Plus she seems reasonable. Good luck, Jeanne!

State School Board 13

Vote for up to 1 candidate(s)
Name Profile Party
SCOTT B. NEILSON Profile Unaffiliated
STAN LOCKHART Profile Unaffiliated

Well, he might technically be “unaffiliated” but by making opposition to President Obama a key plank in his profile, Stan Lockhart has declared himself the Republican in this race and therefore will not get my vote. Defend that Constitution for us, Scott! Oh, and educate our children!

Judges

Now for the easy part: the judges. Apparently I’m being asked to weigh in on whether to keep judges all over the county—Saratoga Springs, Payson, Goshen, Genola(!) Plus the Juvenile Court. And as tempting as it is to make a contrarian across-the-board vote of No (or Nay, or whatever it is) I’m imagining that finding good judges is actually a bit tricky and it would be wise to hold on to the good ones. So I looked at all the reviews that the state put together. And the judge that stands out to me as needing the boot is Darold J. McDade.

Judge McDade gets good marks for being a courteous and approachable judge, a good listener, and from all accounts an entirely decent human being. And that’s awesome. On the other hand, the review leads with this:

Appointed to the bench in 2007, Judge Darold McDade fails to meet the minimum performance standard for legal ability and scores below the average of his district court peers in all other survey categories. Survey respondents express doubt about the depth of Judge McDade’s legal knowledge and his ability to properly adjudicate complex matters. They question the clarity and reasoning of his oral and written rulings.

But it’s tempered with this:

Respondents, however, also acknowledge that Judge McDade is consistently respectful, kind, and polite. They characterize him as humble, calm, and a good listener. Courtroom observers similarly praise Judge McDade’s judicial demeanor, with all reporting they would feel comfortable appearing before him. Of survey respondents answering the retention question, 71% recommend that Judge McDade be retained. Based on the mixed nature of the data, the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission gave Judge McDade a 7-5 vote for retention.

If after nine years on the bench Judge McDade is still not measuring up as far as his ability to apply the law, I think it’s time to let him go. Let’s all thank Judge McDade for his good service over the decade, but vote No.

For everybody else, I vote Yes—retain them as they seem to be doing a reasonable job.

State Judicial

Select Yes or No
Name Profile Party
Shall Darold J. McDade be retained in the office of Judge of the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District? No Profile N/A
Shall F. Richards Smith III be retained in the office of Judge of the Juvenile Court of the Fourth Juvenile Court District? Yes Profile N/A
Shall Suchada P. Bazzelle be retained in the office of Judge of the Juvenile Court of the Fourth Juvenile Court District? Yes Profile N/A

Local Judicial

Select Yes or No
Name Profile Party
Shall Carolyn E. Howard be retained in the office of Justice Court Judge for the Saratoga Springs Court? Yes Profile N/A
Shall David C. Dahlquist be retained in the office of Justice Court Judge for the Payson Court? Yes Profile N/A
Shall Scott J. Cullimore be retained in the office of Justice Court Judge for the Utah County Justice Court? Yes Profile N/A
Shall Sharla T. Williams be retained in the office of Justice Court Judge for the Genola Court? Yes Profile N/A
Shall Sharla T. Williams be retained in the office of Justice Court Judge for the Goshen Court? Yes Profile N/A
Shall Sharla T. Williams be retained in the office of Justice Court Judge for the Santaquin Court? Yes Profile N/A
Shall Sherlynn W. Fenstermaker be retained in the office of Judge for the Mapleton City Municipal Justice Court? Yes Profile N/A
Shall Sherlynn W. Fenstermaker be retained in the office of Judge for the Springville Municipal Justice Court? Yes Profile N/A
Shall Stevan W. Ridge be retained in the office of Justice Court Judge for the Utah County Justice Court? Yes Profile N/A
Shall Vernon F. Romney be retained in the office of Justice Court Judge for the Provo Court? Yes Profile N/A
Shall W. Brent Bullock be retained in the office of Justice Court Judge for the Lindon Court? Yes Profile N/A

Constitutional Amendments

I’m just going to say up front that as the state constitution is the basic legal framework of the state (alongside the federal constitution), it should be treated with care. It’s worked more or less for 120 years and thus amendments are likely to be frivolous and unnecessary, and should be passed only rarely.

Constitutional Amendment A

This is the one where they change the oath of office to say “the Constitution of the State of Utah” instead of “the Constitution of this State”.

What a waste of time. The state has done just fine for 120 years saying “this State”. I am AGAINST Amendment A, particularly to discourage the legislature from cluttering up our ballots with trivialities in the future.

Name
FOR
AGAINST

Constitutional Amendment B

This one’s actually a bit tricky. Basically, Utah runs a State School Trust Fund that invests and uses the interest and dividends to fund public schools in the state. This amendment broadens the fund’s charter to allow it to distribute vaguely-defined “earnings” rather than just interest or dividends. This likely is intended to open the fund up to holding stocks which might make sense, but it’s not strictly limited to that. Shouldn’t the methods of earning remain narrowly defined, rather than the catchall of “earnings”?

The amendment also puts a 4% cap on what the fund pays out annually. But, as I understand it, that’s 4% of the total value of the fund. This limit would actually allow the fund to be depleted over time should its growth rate be less than 4% annually. Instead it seems the limit should be expressed in terms of the most recent growth rate, such as “90% of the earnings accrued in the prior year”. That way the principal always grows.

It also seems (if the opposition argument is to be trusted) that the State School Trust Fund already does quite well, standing currently at $2.1 billion. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

So I am AGAINST Amendment B.

Name
FOR
AGAINST

Constitutional Amendment C

This is the one where businesses leasing things to the state (property, equipment) won’t have to pay property taxes anymore. The argument in favor seems to completely mischaracterize who actually pays property taxes, which gives me little confidence that the amendment in question is well conceived.

I see this as basically a handout to people and businesses leasing to the state. Likely their lease income will remain the same, but they will no longer have to pay property tax. What a nice little windfall, causing only revenue loss for the state unless the leases get renegotiated, which this amendment makes no provision for.

AGAINST!

Conclusion

There you have it—my ballot, 2016. You’ve seen the sometimes substantial, sometimes trivial way I think about these issues, with a healthy dose of curmudgeon mixed in. I’m not sure what difference it really makes, given almost all of the outcomes in question are foreordained simply as a matter of party affiliation. But I like to think I exercise my voting franchise in some sort of a conscientious way.

Dark Vader

Photo: Kristina Alexanderson

Photo: Kristina Alexanderson

Note: I originally wrote this post in November but for some reason never published it. (Unpublished posts probably outnumber published ones on this blog!) I just read through it again and decided it needs to see the light of day. Enjoy!

Darth Vader. What a villain. At least that’s how we usually see him. After all he does murder countless innocents and aid a tyrant in his ascent to unchecked galactic power, not to mention killing his former master and friend and guiding the construction and deployment of not one but two planet-annihilating weapons.

On the other hand, you can also see Darth Vader as being quite a bit like the rest of us.

He comes from the middle of nowhere and takes an opportunity to improve his life. He thinks robots are cool and he loves his mom. He learns and grows, marries, has kids, advances in his career, and then goes through a (slightly early) mid-life crisis where the validity of everything he’s ever stood for is challenged. He’s shown a new worldview, one where good is evil and evil is good, and it’s frighteningly persuasive. And at some point, he has to make a choice. And he chooses darkness.

At its heart, Vader’s conflict seems to be a battle of ideologies—those of the Jedi and the Sith, built on opposite poles of the Force’s power. At some point, the dark voice—strengthened by the power of Anakin’s fears—becomes persuasive, and the Jedi wunderkind succumbs, transforming into the thing he swore to fight, something he never thought he could be.

If this fight over our own direction and identity isn’t universally human then I don’t know what is. Darth Vader—everyman.

Photo: Duane Romanell

Photo: Duane Romanell

Of course, (and I’m giving no spoiler alert here since this all came out 32 years ago) Anakin/Vader eventually finds the good in himself, repents, and turns back to the light. But to get there he goes through over three decades of profound darkness. He oppresses an entire galaxy. He’s horrible.

I certainly can’t recommend that approach to anyone. But I think there’s something to be said for the darkness. The forest must burn down in order to be renewed. Mourning precedes healing, winter comes before spring. Maybe it isn’t the only way of resolving our inner turmoil, but sometimes it is a way.

Sometimes, letting the night come is the only way to get to day.