Concerning news out of Cleveland for those invested in the future of American democracy: city police have begun to stockpile riot gear in advance of hosting the Republican National Convention in July. The news bodes ill not only for those interested in maintaining a civil discourse both within, and between, political parties, but also for those distressed by the increasing militarization of municipal police forces across the country.
The morning after his humiliating debate performance*, Marco Rubio’s campaign was by greeted by this pair of wise guys:
So Winter Storm Juno turned out to be something of a dud around these parts, but seems to have done some real damage in isolated pockets of New England east of here. According to the New York Times, the storm “isolated the island of Nantucket, where hurricane-force winds of 78 miles an hour matched those on the top of Mount Washington, in New Hampshire, and forced the cancellation of ferries to the mainland. Almost all of Nantucket’s 12,000 year-round residents lost power, but they were making do.”
A little over two months ago last night, John Oliver* — in a segment on the phenomenon of police militarization, prompted by then-recent events in Ferguson — poked fun at the Keene Police Department for having cited the tiny town’s annual pumpkin festival as justification for its purchase of a Bearcat** (which looks like this):
So when this year’s festival erupted in riotous disarray, a whole mess of people gleefully and predictably gloated that those events somehow served to vindicate the Keene PD. Here’s a brief sample:
As you may have heard, Connecticut Thursday passed what has been billed as the nation’s strictest gun control bill. According to the AP, “the new legislation would add more than 100 firearms to the state’s assault weapons ban and create what officials have called the nation’s first dangerous weapon offender registry.” I haven’t taken the time to research whether this truly represents the strictest gun control bill in any state, but it’s certainly better than anything we have on a national level.
And while that’s great for Connecticut, what does it mean for the country as a whole? Anything?
One who thinks as I do might hope the legislation represents just a first step in the fight against gun violence. But given that national gun control legislation has run into some serious obstacles, it’s tempting for pessimists like me to dismiss Connecticut’s success — and the public support the bill received there — as purely a product of the horrific events at Sandy Hook late last year. It’s not crazy to suppose that the citizens of Connecticut are just more motivated to get something done than the rest of the country.
And that may be true to some extent. To be sure, it’s no accident that the country’s strongest legislation was passed in Connecticut. But in all fairness to the American public, I refuse to believe that the emotional impact of the shooting withered up and died as the broadcast signals crossed state lines: a shot-up school full of children is a shot-up school full of children, whether in Newtown, Des Moines, Oakland, or Tallahassee (chas v’shalom x 4), and most every American experienced the tragedy in an intense — if not deeply-personal, right-next-door — way. And so, the logical extension of that refusal is the conclusion that legislation in Connecticut has something to contribute to the debate currently raging across the rest of the country.
Indeed, chalking up the legislation solely to local tragedy does the people of Connecticut — and the country as a whole — a disservice, and more importantly, masks the very real and unique obstacles proponents of gun control faced there. Every state is different, with its own constellation of circumstances and considerations and constituencies that will all play a role the success of local gun control initiatives. And with that caveat, I would ask you to consider the bill that passed in Connecticut, momentarily set aside the tragic events that took place there in particular, and focus on one type of factor in particular: economic.
I currently live in Connecticut, a ten-twelve minute walk from law school, on a street called Winchester Avenue. I should have recognized that name when I read my address for the first time — or better, when I was welcomed to New Haven by the sound of about a dozen gun shots* — but it wasn’t until a few months ago that I realized the dilapidated old building at the end of my block (literally, right down the block) is the old Winchester Repeating Arms Company factory. I was familiar with the Winchester “brand” from its limited use in the Civil War and its adoption by Teddy Roosevelt — it just hadn’t occurred to me that the gun manufacturer bore (pun intended) any relationship to the street I currently call home.
Election day has come and gone, and while we — thankfully — already know the outcome, I can still write about it because votes continue to be counted over two weeks later. You may have heard that Barack Obama pulled out a victory in the Presidential race, earning just over 50% of the popular vote. And in a fun bit of irony, it’s looking increasingly likely that Mitt Romney will end up with roughly 47% of the popular vote.
But as you know, the popular vote doesn’t actually count for much. In case you have trouble hearkening back to 2000, a number of pre-election articles speculated that Romney might win the popular vote but lose the electoral college. A few even explored the dreaded electoral college tie (tl;dr – President Romney, Vice President Biden). And while neither of these nightmare scenarios came to fruition, that we could even conceive of such a thing underscores the extent to which our national offices need not reflect public opinion, as reflected — for the sake of argument — in the popular vote.
And the Presidency isn’t the only race in which the results need not align with the will of the collective people.
In the Senate, that much is obvious: every state, regardless of size, gets two Senators. But this year, when the Democrats expanded their slim majority to 53-47, the margin roughly mirrored the popular vote. The House of Representatives, on the other hand, was a clear outlier — Republicans comfortably held onto their majority.
What happened? Did that many people vote for Obama and for a Democratic Senator — and also for a GOP representative?
As you probably guessed: No.
Like in the Presidency and the Senate, House Democrats received more votes overall, but still managed to lose the chamber. If you prefer a graphical representation, here’s what that looks like, courtesy of Wikipedia: