Now What? (Electoral Afterthoughts)

I can’t say it was my favorite birthday ever, or even a particularly good one, but it was an interesting evening. And long.

If you prefer to skip my due diligence — my recap of the races on my ballot and my predictions for them — and scroll down to the heading “Now What?” below, I won’t be hurt. Actually, I won’t even know.

Presidential Race

As I write this, it’s unclear what the final electoral vote totals will be in the presidential race. They say a few races are still too close to call: New Hampshire (probably Clinton), Michigan (probably Trump), Minnesota (probably Clinton), and Arizona (probably Trump). The present totals without these states are 279 for Mr. Trump and 218 for Mrs. Clinton. A win is 270 or better, a majority. If the four states I named go as I indicated, he’ll finish with 306, and she with 232. It’s a resounding victory for Mr. Trump, even though the popular vote totals at the moment seem to have him up by only one-fifth of a percentage point. (See my notes on the Electoral College.)

David’s Handy Little Election Guide

Here’s my arguably handy, definitely idiosyncratic election guide for the 2016 general election. I considered posting it earlier for once, for the benefit (or at least bemusement) of early voters like myself, but Life Beyond the Blog (LBB) got in the way. Again.

I’ll tell you how I voted (or didn’t) in each race on my ballot, and I’ll tell you more or less briefly why. In some local or state matters, I’ll offer some detailed information along with my opinions. To the extent that the names and races on our respective ballots overlap, I hope my thoughts will at least be interesting. Or slightly and intermittently amusing. Or vexing. Or whatever works for you.

Guest Post: Heidi Rodeback – A Case for Public Arts Funding

 

Heidi Rodeback

[Editor’s Note: This post holds some interest for today’s vote in American Fork on a proposed 0.10% sales tax increment to support parks, arts, recreation, and culture, but its lasting value is a cogent explanation of why and how government funding of the arts makes sense. Heidi Rodeback is a local musician and served on the American Fork City Council for eight years.]

At American Fork’s October 28, 2014, city council meeting, I was present for Carlton Bowen’s statement in opposition to the PARC tax, which has been reported by Barbara Christiansen at the Provo Daily Herald. I agree more than disagree with Mr. Bowen on the following, but the disagreement is significant.

“Funding of the arts isn’t a proper or primary role of government and is better done without government funding,” he said. “At the federal level, government funding of the arts has led to obscene and disturbing art that taxpayers would never voluntarily fund. Citizens shouldn’t be forced to fund art that they find offensive, through taxation. At the local level, funding of the arts can lead to the same problems as at the federal level, where art offensive to the community is funded with tax dollars because the rules allow it and the city gets threatened with a lawsuit if they play favorites.”

Yes, the road to public arts funding is fraught with peril. Still, good government must navigate this road successfully, as arts are essential to civil society. As a professional musician, I have given this subject a lot of study, and I believe that arts funding, while not a primary role of government, is nevertheless a proper role. A community can navigate successfully by remembering the following:

One More School Boards Debate: This Time with My Candidates

Last night’s debate at Mt. Mahogany Elementary in Pleasant Grove was moderated by American Fork High School Students — who performed respectably — and attended by about 40 people who weren’t candidates and who behaved respectfully.

That is, the first half, with the the Alpine School Board candidates who will appear on my ballot, John Burton and Chris Jolley, was attended by 40 people. Half of those left before the second half of the debate, which featured state school board candidates.

First, briefly, the state candidates . . .

David’s Handy Little Election Guide (Updated)

[Note: I have updated this post since writing it, mostly with links to later posts about races and issues considered here — and three proposed state constitutional amendments I didn’t realize were on the ballot.]

In keeping with my long-established (but not perfectly consistent) tradition at LocalCommentary.com, my little election guide considers the races that are on my own ballot, and few if any others. So the interest is localized. As the man said, all politics is local.

This post includes notes, numerous links (mostly to candidate web sites), and my own commentary.

Early Voting

Early voting starts tomorrow in Utah. Fellow American Forkers may vote early at the American Fork library. Utah.gov lists early voting days, hours, and additional locations.

My Votes

Usually, I analyze candidates and issues, do some Q&A with candidates, and toss my opinions around for weeks or months. I generally report on meet-the-candidates events in considerable detail. Then, a day or two before Election Day, I list my votes, if I list them at all.

It’s an unusual year for me. I haven’t heard of a meet-the-candidates event in American Fork, which disappoints me. And I’m telling you my votes at the beginning of my (foreshortened) writing cycle this year. I’ll add more detailed treatment of some candidates and issues as time permits, between now and Election Day.

The Importance of Not Being Unified

Author's Note

Political Differences

Political differences are not sins or any other species of moral failure. Political differences are not treason. We don’t fight political differences with fire, literal or otherwise, even if they run to philosophy and first principles. We don’t address them by calling large groups of people racists, socialists, morons, or extremists. Political differences are highly heat-resistant, but only moderately light-resistant, so we address them with persuasion and reason — and with patience. To be sure, we learn very quickly to expect far less than complete success in doing so.

That’s probably okay. We need political differences. We respect them. We learn from them. We embrace them. But these days, I’m afraid, it would be an improvement if we would all just tolerate them with civility and equanimity.

Somehow, all that relates to the following.

What Is Socialism?

Author's Note

The Debate

I’ve held forth at some length recently on the meanings of the words republic and democracy, which are of interest to Americans generally, and which have also, here at home, been at the center of heated debate in recent years, over the Alpine School District’s official statements of its mission, goals, and values. The debate is confusing and off-putting for many, in part because it sometimes takes a combative tone, but also because one side has directed a great deal of energy toward artificially narrow definitions of democracy and republic. We are told that a republic is good and a democracy is bad — end of story. Neither concept is that simple, and the part about democracy being bad rings false to a lot of people who love both their country and their freedom.

If the activists were more careful with their terminology, they’d say that a certain kind of republic (our kind, the democratic, constitutional republic) is good, and we need to understand and preserve it; and a certain kind of democracy (our kind, the liberal, constitutional, representative democracy) is good, and we should understand and preserve that, too. They’d say that we should be careful not to be diverted to either direct or social democracy, both of which really are bad — and one of which is a major feature of the Alpine School District’s official goals and values.

The movement could put itself on a sound theoretical footing by adjusting its arguments in two ways: opposing social democracy specifically, instead of insisting that all democracy is evil; and explaining social democracy without calling it Marxism. Besides sounding too extreme and too alarmist for the circumstances, Marxism actually is a different road to socialism. The movement’s alarm over socialism is at least partially justified, but its influence is compromised by imprecise and incorrect terminology.

What Is a Democracy?

Author's Note

An American Thing?

In its simplest definition, democracy is rule by the people — in Greek, the demos. On the face of it, you’d think that this would be not only a very good thing, but also a very American thing. The famous first three words of the Preamble to the United States Constitution are a statement of the people’s authority to establish a government and its Constitution. “We the People” sounds very democratic.

Then there’s that short, most celebrated speech by President Abraham Lincoln. In the last sentence of the Gettysburg Address, delivered at the famous battlefield on November 19, 1863, he speaks of “a new birth of freedom,” and the desire “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” That sounds pretty democratic too, doesn’t it, especially the words “by the people”?

So democracy must be a good thing. Or maybe not . . .

Our Use of Words Matters

Author's Note

Words mean things, and many of the most important words mean a range of things. Consider, for example, that love can mean anything from a selfless, divine love to something only barely on the happy side of animal lust. A five year old who declares his love for his mother means something much different from what his mother means when she says she loves him.

A man and woman who discover that they love each other would do well to explore what they mean by love long before they order the wedding invitations. Likewise, we must be careful to define our terms anytime we engage in serious discussion, legislation, or decision-making which turns on the precise meaning of words.