Another Anti-War Poem

Some time ago, I blogged about the cinquain  and what I called the semicinquain.   This little verse, from 2003, is written in yet another variation of the cinquain, which might be called the hypercinquain, or cinquain on steroids.   The syllabic scheme is 2/2/4/6/8/2  as opposed to the cinquain, which is 2/4/6/8/2.   Dilemma is explained here.



Why, that’s
No choice
At All.  To choose
A war or Sadaam. Why,
Iraqis must be grateful for
Their choice.

Is at the bar,
On trial before the World.
Outside, a lynch mob menaces
Its folk.

They say:
We must destroy
Iraq in order that
A new Iraq be built, or so
They say.

I say:
No war
But for defense.
No blood without a cause.
Why can’t the cowboys hear us say:
No war!

Do Unto Others…

If we have a representative democracy in this country, that means, or should mean, that elected officials are the representatives of the people – they take our place, and represent our interests and well-being.

One of the most pernicious ideas to gain currency in my lifetime is the notion that there is something inherently corrupting about being an elected official.   Pete Schbarum’s Proposition 140 did immeasurable harm to this state, not only by making it more difficult for California to have a professional, experienced Legislature, but also by gratuitously enhancing the power of the Governor’s office.  ( With a few exceptions, California’s Governors have not been noted for their vision and leadership.)

Instead of running down elected officials and making “politician” a term of obloquy, we should be treating our elected officials with the same respect we ourselves would wish to be treated.  And we should expect them to be skilled professionals, and pay them accordingly.  (Careful academic studies have shown that the most professional legislatures are the most responsive legislatures, contrary to right-wing myth.)

Governance is hard; it is not a job for amateurs, as Arnold Schwartznegger amply demonstrated.

Undecided Voters

In an earlier post,  I made the following statement: “Undecided voters are usually much more important to look at than those voters who have made up their minds,…but not always.  It’s time to explain what I meant.

Undecided voters are usually important, because the assumption is ( and studies have shown this) that once a person has chosen a candidate to vote for, they don’t switch to another candidate very often – for any reason.   Therefore, the theory is, if you can determine the demographics of the undecided voters, and if you have limited funds, your voter communications should focus on the undecideds.

But suppose you have good reason to believe that the undecided voters will not support your candidate.   Imagine, for example, that your candidate is running in a large field for several at-large City Council seats.   Further suppose that the majority of the undecided voters are Republican, that there are several Republicans running for Council, and that your candidate is a Democrat.   ( Even in non-partisan races, party preference matters.)   In these circumstances, your campaign should focus on turning out marginal democratic voters, rather on persuading the undecided.   In either case, it is useful to know who the undecided voters are.

Two Polls are Better Than One

As I said in my first post on this subject, there  are times when an underfunded local campaign is better off doing two or more simple polls rather than one large, more complicated and more expensive poll.   Sometimes, this is because knowing how a particular message is doing with the electorate over time is extremely important; sometimes it’s just that polls can be used as fundraising tools.

In 2006,  I ran a campaign for Supervisor in northern Sonoma County.   The campaign had three major problems:

  • We were running against an entrenched incumbent.
  • My client was under treatment for a serious illness throughout the campaign.
  • The campaign did not get underway until mid-January, less than six months before the June primary election which would be decisive, since there were only two candidates.

[Now a small digression:  the margin of error on a sample size of 100 randomly-selected voters is roughly +or – 10%,   My experience working with volunteer poll takers is that 100 completed calls within a window of 3 to 4 days is about the practical limit (and even then I usually had to supplement the volunteers with a few paid callers.)  This is the kind of poll I am referring to when I talk about the 2006 campaign.]

When you have reports coming in from all parts of a district  every day ( and we did), you develop a pretty good rough sense of how you are doing.  With about six weeks remaining, we became pretty sure that we were rapidly closing the gap on the incumbent.   The problem was,  we were also rapidly running out of money, and if things didn’t improve, we might not be able to afford all the voter communication we had planned.

The solution: a 100 likely voters poll every week for four weeks, at a total cost of around a thousand dollars.   We didn’t poll to find out how well our message was working, or to find out how best to attack our opponent.   Instead, our goal was to develop proof that we were closing the gap and to use that information in a fundraising push.  The plan worked beautifully – the poll results were just as we expected, and our candidate was able to use the information in fundraising calls.  In the end, we lost by around 200 votes out of more than fifty thousand cast.


Redistricting the U. S. Senate

I read an interesting article in the 3/16/15 issue of the New Yorker today.   It said that of the eight democratic governments around the world that have both an upper and a lower legislative body, the United States has the most malapportioned and least representative upper house.

The U. S. Senate is a historical anachronism.  No sensible person, who was sitting down to devise a governmental structure in the modern world, would create one in which the population represented by each member varied from 600,000 to 37 million.  In fact, the way the Senate is apportioned would appear to grossly violate the Supreme Court’s “one-man; one-vote” decision from the early 1960’s.

One could talk a long time  about how we got this way, but , as someone with an engineering cast of mind, I started thinking about how to solve the problem.   Two questions arise:

  • What does it mean to say that Senate seats are fairly apportioned?
  • How would you go about such an apportionment?

The first question is fairly easily answered; the population represented by each of the 100 Senators should be equal to 1% of the total population of the country plus or minus a fudge factor to allow for accommodation of state boundaries.   If that fudge factor were 5%  ( at the outer limit of what various Supreme Court decisions have allowed), the population of each Senate District would range from roughly 2, 900,000 to 3,200,000  (using 2010 census figures).

The second question is also easy to address.   Modern software tools can create districts that fit populations of this size to existing state boundaries.  California would have 11+ Senators; small states like Wyoming would be thrown  into a sprawling district with contiguous states.

Is such a solution possible in the current political climate?  Of course not.   A Constitution Convention would be required to address this and many other issues.   Unfortunately, I am beginning to think that a Constitutional Convention is the only way out of our current disastrous governmental situation.


A Poll is a Snapshot of the Electorate

In an earlier post,  I talked about how  I got into polling for local elections, and gave a ;ist of key points about polls that local candidates should know.   This is the first of several posts in which I will elaborate on that list.  (Note: In all my posts on polling, I assume that the voters polled are random se;ections from the target universe.)

A poll is a snapshot of the electorate at a given point in time; it is not, by itself, a way to predict the outcome of an election.  An experie3nced political adviser, who understands the background of the poll and the local political situation may be able to use the information obtained from a poll to make an informed guess as to whom the winner or winners might be, but the poll itself merely tells you who might be ahead at the time of the poll.  Of course, if a candidate is twenty points ahead of his or her  opponent two weeks before election day, one can reasonably infer that that candidate will win, but the poll is not really doing the prediction; it is the context.

Polls have other uses for local candidates besides calling the horse race.   Polls can tell a candidate which campaign themes resonate with the voters; they can also tell which of your supporters are more attractive to the electorate.   The wise candidate for, say, City Council, will focus on these aspects of polling and not on the question of who is the frontrunner.