Speaking of American Elections-10-20-16

Speaking of American Elections!

Richard J. Garfunkel


From 1900 through 2012 there have been 29 presidential elections. In those 29 elections, the average winning percentage was 52.86%. In the first 15 elections, from 1900 thru 1956 the average winning % was 54%. In those 29 elections, the 10 highest winning percentages were: 61.1%, 60.8%, 60.7%, 60.3%, 58.8%, 58.2%, 57.4%, 56.4%, and 55.2%. Of the top 10 winning races, the average was 58.6%.

In the first 15 elections from 1900 through 1956, seven of these “landslides” happened, with largest of them by FDR in 1936 and 1932, Harding in 1920, Hoover in 1928, and T. Roosevelt in 1904. From 1960 through 2012, in 14 elections, the average victory was 51.6%. Since 1960, three of the top 10% victories, were LBJ in 1964, Nixon in 1972 and Reagan in 1984.

Since 1988, the winning percentages, in the last seven elections, or approximately 25% of our elections since the beginning of the 20th Century, has been 49.74%. Therefore, on an average, there were more votes, collectively, against the seven winners.

As for incumbents since 1900, there have been 19 elections when there was an incumbent, either by winning the election, succeeding the incumbent because of the death of the president, or in the case of Gerald Ford, the resignation of Richard Nixon. In those 19 elections, the incumbents (including FDR’s three races as an incumbent) received 50.3% of the vote. This included the defeat of Taft in 1912 (23%), Hoover in 1932 (39.7%), Carter in 1980 (41%), and Bush #41 in 1992 (37.4%). Where there has not been an incumbent, there have been ten races. The average victory since 1900 in those races has been 52.46%. Barack Obama, in 2008, won with 52.9% of the vote.

Of course, there are issues of whether 3rd party races have affected the outcome of some races or whether there have been questionable results in a state, or states, which have affected the outcome of a specific election. In the case of two of the four elections, where an incumbent lost, the 3rd party challenge had a significant affect. In 1912, with Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Party, his vote certainly helped Woodrow Wilson (41.8%) defeat WH Taft with 23% of the total vote. In 1992, the 3rd Party challenge of Ross Perot (18.9%) helped Clinton, who defeated G HW Bush with 43% of vote. Perot also drew 8.4% in 1996, but that would not of affected Clinton’s victory.  In 1980, Jimmy Carter received only 41%, and 3rd party candidate, John Anderson’s 6.6% vote would not affected the outcome.  In other races, as 1968, where Nixon beat Humphrey by less than 1% of the popular vote and won the Electoral College vote 301 to 191, George Wallace polled 13.5%. Neither candidate was an incumbent, both were former Vice-Presidents, and the Wallace vote was a Southern, segregationist, anti-northern Democratic vote. One could assume, that if Wallace was not in the race, the majority of that vote probably would have stayed home or gone to Nixon. In 1960, John F. Kennedy won a very close race by less than .5%. Some people claim that his 8,858 vote victory in Illinois was questionable. Interestingly, the Social Labor candidate had 10,560 votes in that state, approximately 22% of his national total of 47,522 votes. Who is to say whether that the 8, 858 votes were fraudulent, or whether the 3rd party candidate took votes from Kennedy! He also won Texas by 46, 257, a much larger number. If he had lost the electoral votes (27) in Illinois or Texas (24), he still would have just over the 270 Electoral College vote, winning threshold.

In 2000, GW Bush lost the popular vote .5% against Al Gore and won the Electoral College vote with 271 votes. Most experts believe that the 500+ vote margin in Florida was affected by the infamous hanging “chads,” and the idea that these votes would have been cast for Pat Buchanan, in a heavily Democratic and Jewish precinct is quite questionable. By the way, the 3rd party candidacy of Ralph Nader only polled 465,000 vote or less than a 3rd of a percent, but in Florida he polled 32,971, or about 7% of his national total, and the most votes he received in any state of the Union. More concerns were expressed in 2004 when GW Bush won re-election by 2.5%, but, only edged Gore in Ohio by 14,676 votes. There were many questions about that vote, and if those 20 Electoral votes would have been shifted to John Kerry, he would have with the same 271 Electoral College votes.

The bottom line with most of these races are that they are usually pretty close. In fact, except for a few cases in the last 66 years, most races (11 out of 14) have been decided by a majority vote of less than 53.5%.

I am voting for Hillary!



An Open Letter on Healthcare 10-20-16

An Open Letter on Healthcare Coverage

Richard J. Garfunkel


Our healthcare coverage is the best in the world and it is the most expensive in the industrialized world. Until Medicare, healthcare was unaffordable to most seniors. People were healthy until they died. When they got sick they died. Until comprehensive healthcare plans, with groups, only people working for firms had health care coverage for hospitalization. Medicare and company-sponsored healthcare coverage made doctors wealthy.

1)      Medicare is a single payer system for seniors

2)      Every industrialized country in the world has a single payer system for all their citizens

3)      Healthcare insurance has always been expensive and it is expensive today

4)      There are 267 million non-elderly Americans

a)      56% are covered through their employers and that coverage could range from $16,000 to $30,000 per family. The majority of those covered pay a co-premium of 25% and many have high deductibles. This coverage is not inexpensive and premiums continue to increase

b)      18% are not insured

c)       21% receive coverage through Medicaid and other public programs

d)      6% have individual or family plans

5)      Obamacare has made coverage available to millions who cannot afford coverage

6)      Healthcare coverage is provided by private companies, and their CEOs are incredibly well compensated.

a)      The top 20 executives in for sectors made an average of the following:

1)      Insurance $15 million per year!

2)      Provider $21 million

3)      Services $20 million

4)      Supply chain $30 million

7)      Of the leading insurance companies here are the top CEO’s compensation:

a)      Centene Corp $19 million

b)      Aflac $15 million

c)       Aetna $15 million

d)      Cigna $14 million

e)      Anthem $13.5 Million

8)      Obamacare (ACA) is coverage from insurance companies not the government

9)      Obamacare (ACA) upgraded many policies which were not doing the job that was promised

10)   Healthcare coverage in the years after the passage of Obamacare (Affordable Care Act,) the pace of the cost of healthcare slowed to its lowest pace in 50 years

11)   Company provided healthcare plans have traditionally raised premiums at 2 to 3 times the rate of inflation.

12)   Healthcare is a right for all Americans

13)   The GOP has no answer to healthcare coverage for the 23 million covered by the ACA

14)    They have no answer for 10s of millions denied coverage by Red State governors

15)   No one is forced to take Obamacare (ACA).  All Americans have right to search the market.

16)   Obamacare (ACA) needs to be adjusted  as was Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

Therefore, no one can expect, under a privately-based system of healthcare, inexpensive plans which have coverage without caps, exclusions, and limitations. No one in our privately-based system

Why Should Anyone Vote Republican? 10-24-16

Why Should Anyone Vote Republicans?

Richard J. Garfunkel


We keep on being exposed to the media and Republican “spinmeisters” who are talking about “down ballot,” voting and splitting one’s ballot. I ask why? What has the Republican-controlled Congress done over the past six years? Can anyone really answer? Recent polls have indicated public sentiment. The Gallup Organization rates the Congress with a Job Favorability level at 20% with 76% disapproving. But, what does Real Clear Politics say about the same reality: their average of six major polling groups, including Fox News, says 14.7% approve what Congress is doing and 77% disapprove.  The Congress is a creature of the leadership and the leadership is Republican.

By voting for the average Republican incumbent or challenger you get the following: more inaction on jobs, infrastructure, education, civil rights and liberties and tax relief for America’s wealthiest. You also get a Congress that is against healthcare for all Americans, but has no alternative plan. You vote for a Congress that will repeal the Federal Inheritance Tax, which affects a tiny percentage of the wealthiest 1% of all Americans ($12 million plus in assets). You also vote for a Congress that is completely against women’s health, including: Choice, Birth Control, and Planned Parenthood. But, what about the minimum wage, the sanctity of Social Security and Medicare? What about their plans for de-regulation? Does that mean more fracking in watershed areas? Does that mean less clean air and more reliance on dirty coal? But what about education? Does that mean more undermining public education, lower salaries for teachers or support for Charter Schools?    

So, we keep on hearing from the Trump Talking Heads, that this election is about the dispossessed American, the terrible recovery, the decline of America, how weak or armed forces are, and that Washington is broken. But, who broke Washington? Along with those fables, how come the moderators have zero knowledge of our history? What happened from the beginning of the Progressive Era from Teddy Roosevelt to Woodrow Wilson? What were the working, social, and economic conditions of the era? Were they in need of change? Of course. But, who opposed that change? The same people who oppose progressive reform today!

These news readers, seem to have forgotten our advancement from the days to the Crash and the great progressive gains from FDR through Truman, to the Great Society and up and through President Obama. Did they conveniently forget who created twice as many jobs? Did they forget how well markets did under Democrats and how wages went up for most Americans. Did they forget how the GOP de-regulators and tax cutters gave us most of the recessions, since Truman and the Savings & Loan trillion dollar debacle, the quadrupling of the National Debt under Reagan and Bush 41? Maybe they have no clue.

How come it is ancient history that in 2008, we were in the midst of another economic meltdown caused by unregulated markets? Is there any connection to the recent Wells Fargo scandal? You can bet on it.  So here we are in the midst of a campaign, where the American public has to confront these myths. Is the average American suffering? No! Is this the worst recovery since the Great Depression? No! Are there job losses authored by Wall Street, which has nothing to do with NAFTA? Yes! Is our military 2nd rate? Of course not! Is Washington broken? Yes, and who is the cause? One doesn’t have to look much further than the GOP leadership, which has failed to schedule hearings for Federal Judges and numerous other presidential appointments. Almost a record have not been confirmed. So who is filibustering, not addressing problems of jobs, education and our infrastructure? Is it the Democrats, or the candidates the GOP supports? Splitting one’s ballot will bring more gridlock, obfuscation and regression. Don’t do it!



How to Save American Democracy and the Current Electoral System! 10-29-16

How to Save American Democracy and the Current Electoral System!

Richard J. Garfunkel


The Open or the Universal Primary System, which is now in use in California, should be adopted by all states and should be used in all elections from Governor to the local level. This system calls for a run-off system of the top two candidates if a candidate does not reach 50% of the vote in the first round. The Open Primary allows any registered voter, not matter how they are registered, to vote. This allows Independents and others to determine who will be elected. Even if it is a one-party state or state assembly district, anyone can run and it eliminates the current system where often 5% of the dominant party’s electorate chooses their “unopposed” candidate in the general election. This would basically eliminate or reduce the “out of proportion” influence of “splinter” factions in both parties. In an Open election, any number of candidates, of either or no party can participate.

The Presidential Election process should institute these reforms immediately. The Primary system should be moved to no earlier than May and the early caucus in Iowa and the first primary in New Hampshire should be eliminated by rotation. The primaries should be regional and completed in no more than two months. Preferably they should be completed in June and July and the political conventions should be held in August and the campaign should last no longer than 2.5 months. Campaigning should officially start after Labor Day. Strict limitations on when campaign monies can be spent should be instituted. No candidate can be allowed to lend money to their campaign. Every contribution should be a “gift.”  At the end of the campaign, no money can be kept by a candidate. It either has to be returned to contributors or contributed on a proportional level to state parties or to the running the running of the next federal election.

Each party should be allowed to appoint at least 25% of its delegates as Super Delegates. That total can reach as high as each party wishes. This should reduce the impact of expensive and meaningless primaries. In 1960 there were 16 primaries and only five were basically contested. In fact, only Wisconsin, West Virginia and Oregon had any discernible results. In state presidential primaries there should not be allowed any cross-over voters. In other words, only registered members of a party can vote in their own primary. This prevents the process of the non-party voters influencing the nomination of another party.

As for fund-raising, no person is allowed to form a committee until January of the election year and any money donated from PACs, assuming Citizen’s United is not reversed by the Supreme Court, can only raise the same amount of donation limit of which a candidate is currently allowed, which is $2700 per person. That amount can be raised to $5000 per person and be adjusted each election cycle. There should also be strict limits on what an individual can spend on their own campaign. No election should be dominated by billionaires who can spend unlimited amounts of their own money.  Every contribution to a PAC should be public information. The era where an individual can give an unlimited and secret amount to a PAC should be ended.

The campaign should last from after Labor Day to Election Day and there should be consideration of allowing proportional distribution of Electoral College votes to Congressional Districts or a percentage of the statewide vote. If a state is split evenly, the Electoral College votes could be split in half. Or if a candidate wins all of the Congressional Districts, they receive all of the Electoral College votes. The votes should automatically be attributed to the winning candidate, with the elector only allowed to change their vote if there is a vacancy caused by death or resignation before the official certification of the election.


The American Divide and the Return to “Normalcy” 11-19-16

The American Divide and the Return to “Normalcy!”

Richard J. Garfunkel


In the simplest terms, America is divided culturally, politically and racially. Throughout our history America has been divided, one way or another, between North and South, rich and poor, White and Black, urban and rural, and the educated and the uneducated. As one breaks down these divisions, one could easily understand that there were always divisions between the ruling, majority Protestants and others (Catholics, Jews, etc.). Up until this past election, often the majority of the wealthiest white Protestants (today, mostly Evangelicals, Baptists and even some allied upper-class Catholics and Jews) used wedge issues, which they hardly believed or even supported, to mobilize the poor white Protestants and others to vote for right-wing, anti-government (Tea Party) candidates. There is even a dramatic shift in religious affiliation in America.

The Pew Research Center has determined that in 2014, Protestants, of all denominations, made up only 46.5% of the population and of that figure 31% are non-white. As with Catholics, not only has their percentage declined to 20.3% of the population, but 41% of all Catholics are non-white. America’s population as a Christian nation has dropped from 78.4% in 2007 to just over 70% in 2014.   

The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men

With this in mind, we are still nominating white Protestants for the presidency and many of our federal offices, (Tim Kaine is Catholic), and the Republican Party and Donald Trump certainly exploited religious and racial themes in this past election.

These issues were often Choice, separation of church and state, race, guns, education, affirmative action, housing, women’s rights, stem cells and Gay rights. In electing these right-wing Members of Congress, Governors and legislators, they achieved what they really always wanted: the continuance of economic hegemony. These other issues hardly affected them in the first place. If they needed an abortion or stem cell therapy or even drugs of choice, they could easily pay for that need.   

In our history, the Chinese and Japanese Exclusion Acts of 1882 and 1907 reflected distinct divisions and legislative mistrust of Asians by Eurocentric, American Christians. Certainly that racial divide was seen in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the security frenzy in California and the West Coast. Justified, or not, the Japanese Internment was certainly a consequence of the age–old fear of the “Yellow Peril!”

There were always tensions in the Southwest between Mexican (Latinos) and Anglos (Whites), and when there was a large Puerto Rican immigration to the United States in the post WWII period, there was cultural and racial fear and resentment in NYC (“West Side Story”). There were problems over race regarding refugees from Cuba, Haiti and with re-settled boat people from Cambodia, along with large influxes of Filipinos, Koreans and Vietnamese in the wake of our Asian wars. Racial animosity wasn’t unique to the South, and there were race riots in the North, especially over a swimming incident on a Lake Michigan Beach in 1919 which led to a frenzy of violence that injured hundreds and killed 38. Even during WWII, in Detroit, huge White protests ensued over the promotion of Black workers in a defense plant. Earlier, problems between Blacks and Whites began on Belle Isle, a large Detroit recreation area, which caused a riot where hundreds were injured. Much of this tension began with the Sojourner Truth Federal Housing Project. Racial protests began over Black defense workers being moved into a housing project near a white, Polish-American area of Detroit. Later, evidence connected this incendiary situation to a Nazi plot to foment racial tensions in the United States during WWII. Nazi propagandists had a field day in Germany exploiting the tension and violence emanating from these race riots. Japanese propaganda also exploited racial animosities by telling non-white Americas to resist in enlisting or working for the defense effort. There were also riots in Los Angeles (the Zoot Suit violence), Mobile, Alabama and Beaumont, Texas.

Obviously race has evoked a sharp divide in America. There were 1,111 lynchings in America between 1890 and 1899, and there were 1,790 more between 1900 and 1949.  One can just imagine how many Blacks were murdered in the South from the earliest beginnings of slavery until 1890. Let us not forget the 1863, “Draft Riots” in NYC, which, according to Princeton historian, James McPherson, 120 people were killed, uncounted multiples of people were injured, and hundreds of Blacks were forced to flee the city. The total damage, in contemporary dollars was estimated to be over $95 million. Many of these people, killed and injured, were Blacks and eleven were even lynched. The book, “The Gangs of New York,” written in 1928 by Herbert Asbury (made into a movie in 2002) claimed over 2000 were killed and 8000 were injured. But, these figures are unverified.  

Aside from this ugly history, racial problems continued up into the 1960’s with riots in Watts, Los Angeles, Newark, NJ, Liberty City, Miami, Fl, and in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant in NYC. The amount of local incidents is almost unable to be calculated. Other cultural divides even involved popular music and Black-oriented Jazz. Even in 1939, the renowned Black soprano, Marian Anderson, was banned from singing, in front of an integrated audience, at Constitution Hall, by its owners, the Daughters of the American Revolution, a well-known, conservative group of “blue bloods,” who believed that they owned America, because their ancestors arrived either on the Mayflower or were descendants of American revolutionaries. Eventually, she did sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in front of 75,000 and heard on the radio by millions of Americans. This cultural divide spilled into the 1950’s when rock and roll music started to incorporate Southern Black-styled music, and there were protests over people like Elvis Presley and his clones. Even some radio disc jockeys decided to destroy rock and roll 45’s as a protest against this type of “Negro” music permeating into the culture of American youth. These divisions reached into the heart of American’s divide over sexual morality, which included sex education in the schools, birth control information, its dissemination and eventually the sale of condoms and the use of the Pill. This nonsense went on into the middle 1960’s when I witnessed the arrest of Bill Baird, in Boston University’s Hayden Hall, over his dissemination of condoms.

Today, there are deep divides over Gay Rights, Women’s Rights, Black domination of football and basketball (college and professional), Latino and Asian influence in professional baseball, and minorities in the arts, on television, in the theater, and for sure in music.

The mantra of “Taking America Back,” was a not so veiled reference to the return of America to the domination of White Protestants. Certainly the backing of the KKK and other White Supremacist groups, including White Nationalists and Nazis, reflected this xenophobic view on immigration, people of color, (Asians, Africans, Arabs), and religious bigotry towards others (Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, and the unaffiliated, or non-believers.)   

Below is a contemporary list of the “Take America Back” theory:

1.       Exercise fidelity to the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and founding ideals.

2.       Promote and achieve a return to American self-belief as a force of nature. As any leader knows: you can’t expect others to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself.

3.       Re-engage with cultural institutions. It is time to compete for control of the cultural institutions that for the past four decades have been the forums and seedbeds of the Left. From Hollywood to popular music to teaching to journalism. The days of the cultural elites playing unopposed … they’re numbered.

4.       Put an end to the culture of complaint and entitlement. We need to put the professional offense-takers out of business. They’re designed to intimidate us, to remove our confidence, to make us afraid to even look at someone the wrong way, to make all our visceral convictions suspect. The days of promoting grievance and envy … they’re over.

5.       Stand up to bullies. America cannot allow itself to continue to be bullied by the anti-bullying crusade. It’s time to punch the bully’s nose.

6.      Embrace rugged individualism. Rugged individualism is not an exercise in political nostalgia – it is a genuine solution for the myriad problems facing the United States in the 21st century. American national character must be understood in light of what it is: a self-made society. The world needs America to be a country of self-reliant warriors, not pussycats.

 Of course, what was not articulated in this “Take America Back” manifesto was the following: a roll back in Choice, birth control, Women’s Rights, Obamacare (the ACA) or affordable healthcare options for all, freedom of expression (note the comment on culture: Hollywood, music, journalism). Of course, this revisionist group seems to believe that the Constitution only speaks for them. In other words, let us rollback all the judicial decisions that they disagree with which supported Affirmative Action, integration of the schools, the military, the work force, housing, and America, worker’s rights, Social Security, Choice, Title 9, the rights of the disabled, and all the sexual harassment decisions.

 Sinclair Lewis wrote in 1935, his novel, “It Can’t Happen Here,” a satirical novel about the electoral takeover America. In summation- “In 1936 Senator Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, a charismatic and power-hungry politician, wins the election as President of the United States on a Democrat platform, promising to restore the country to prosperity and greatness, and promising each citizen $5,000 a year. Portraying himself as a champion of traditional American values, Windrip easily defeats his opponents, Senator Walt Trowbridge and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Though having previously foreshadowed some authoritarian measures in order to reorganize the United States government, Windrip rapidly outlaws dissent, incarcerates political enemies in concentration camps, and trains and arms a paramilitary force called the Minute Men, who terrorize citizens and enforce the policies of Windrip and his “corporatist” regime. One of his first acts as president is to eliminate the influence of the United States Congress, which draws the ire of many citizens as well as the legislators themselves. The Minute Men respond to protests against Windrip’s decisions harshly, attacking demonstrators with bayonets. In addition to these actions, Windrip’s administration, known as the “Corpo” government, curtails women’s and minority rights, and eliminates individual states by subdividing the country into administrative sectors. The government of these sectors is managed by “Corpo” authorities, usually prominent businessmen or Minute Men officers. Those accused of crimes against the government appear before kangaroo courts presided over by “military judges”. Despite these dictatorial (and “quasi-draconian”) measures, a majority of Americans approve of them, seeing them as necessary but painful steps to restore American power. Others, those less enthusiastic about the prospect of corporatism, reassure themselves that fascism cannot “happen here”, hence the novel’s title.

So, this is what we all face. Do we turn to “strong man” rule or a return to states ‘right’s bigotry? Do we go back in time when Jim Crow ruled? Do we go back to where women were expected to be barefoot and pregnant? Do we go back to when women were restricted to certain, specified, areas of employment? Do we go back to segregated schools and housing? Do we go back to all-white civil service unions or quotas on who and what races can play on college and professional teams? Do we want to roll back Title 9 which gives women the same rights to participate in sports as men? The choice is out there. This election wound up being about “Take Back America!” The history of the 20th Century reflects the disastrous consequences of super nationalism and institutional racism. We saw it all happen before with the failed political philosophy of “Divide and Conquer,” “Social Darwinism”-the survival of the fittest, and “The ends justify the means.” We fought and won World War II over these issues, and let us not surrender to them in the 21st Century.

 Therefore, any sign of weakness in our resolve, will be met with strength on their side. We must continue to organize and to educate. We must stand tall with regards to all our critical advances in social and economic justice since the New Deal. We must not allow the “Take Back America” cadres to dominate the American conversation or narrative. We must continual to tell our side of the story, which has been pro-worker, pro-education, pro-equal rights and opportunity, pro-women, and pro-social advancement. We lost the election because too few really understood the “real” issues. Therefore, it is incumbent on ourselves not to let this happen again.