Tag Archives: 2016 Elections

Why Connecticut Should Consider Ranked Choice Voting

This post was originally published in The CT Mirror on 12/22/16.

While voters and political pundits alike are still hashing out what exactly happened on November 8th, there is one conclusion about the election that most cannot deny: many voters felt they didn’t have adequate choices.

In fact, this conclusion could have been drawn early on, in the months leading up to the election—in July, before the major parties even declared their nominees, a solid majority (58%) of Americans said they were dissatisfied with the choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, according to a Washington Post/ABC News Poll.

Dissatisfaction with the names on the ballot persisted up until Election Day, when even among those who voted, only 41% strongly favored the candidate they voted for—32% had reservations about their candidate, and 25% said they voted that way because they disliked their chosen candidate’s opponents (CNN exit polls).

Connecticut voters were not immune to the national wave of ennui about their choices—a Quinnipiac poll conducted in June showed that 55% and 61% of voters felt unfavorable toward Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, respectively, mirroring national distaste toward both candidates.

As someone who collects public opinion from voters for a living, I have sat in countless focus groups over the years listening to voters lament their lack of good choices in elections. The resounding wish I’ve heard from voters around the country is to walk into the voting booth excited to cast a ballot for a candidate they believe in and that they feel confident will represent them in government—a wish that increasingly seems like a distant dream for many.

But rather than wait for “good choices” to pop out of the nether regions, there is something we can do now to make sure elections like 2016 do not happen again. A potential cure to the ailment of bad choices is in reforming the way in which we elect our leaders, through a system called Ranked Choice Voting (RCV).

The system works like this: instead of voting for a single candidate, the voter ranks the candidates by their preference—their first choice, second choice, third choice, etc., for a given office. If no candidate wins a majority after the first round of voting, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated from the contest. If that candidate was your first choice, then your second choice will be applied to the second round of counting and so on until a candidate wins a majority of votes.

The system offers many advantages: first, it ensures that only a candidate with majority support can win the election. This also changes how candidates campaign, since they must reach out beyond their core base in order to win. Secondly, RCV allows more candidates to compete, thus giving voters more choice. Voters also don’t have to worry about casting a “spoiler” vote for a third party candidate, and thus are free to express their support for the candidate they truly think is the best. This allows more diverse candidates with new, fresh viewpoints to emerge in addition to more traditional candidates.

The electorate in Maine just voted to approve a measure that would institute RCV into all elections across the state except for presidential contents. RCV is already used in 11 cities across America, and many other cities and states are considering this change.

Data on the effect of RCV is limited, but some research (Rutgers Eagleton Poll) conducted among voters in cities that have used the system in local elections found that voters were more satisfied with the conduct of candidate campaigns and perceived less campaign negativity (a natural consequence of candidates having to reach out to a broad swath of voters rather than rely on riling up their base).

Connecticut could be a pioneer state to adopt this type of reform to give voters more choice and make sure that the people who get elected to office truly represent the will of the voters. While not a panacea to the disease of apathy toward politics that our current system produces, it’s a move that may help assuage voters’ desire for more, and better, choice. As we move forward from November 8th with a list of priorities and to-do’s, I hope that structural reforms like RCV near the top.

**For more information on Ranked Choice Voting and other reforms, check out Fair Vote and Representation 2020**

Hillary Clinton’s Survival of Sexism

This blog was originally published in The Huffington Post. The full article with citations can be found here.

At the end of the last presidential debate, Donald Trump was asked to name something about his opponent that he respects. He answered that Hillary “doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up…She’s a fighter.” This was a rare moment of truth coming from a candidate who literally lies a majority of the time. To me, Hillary is a hero for the valiant fight she’s shown in this race, but for withstanding nearly 40 years of the sexism, misogyny, and discrimination that befall women who seek power and challenge traditional notions of gender. Our country may finally see a woman president not because we as a people have evolved in our thinking about gender roles or because of progressive policy measures that allow women to combine work with caregiving, but rather because of the sheer tenacity of Hillary Clinton herself.

Hillary’s ability and willingness to remain in spaces that are uncomfortable, even hostile toward women, is admirable, though rare to witness (and I mean this both literally—like when Trump loomed over her at the most recent debate—and symbolically, when talking about the space of politics in general). No women has made it to the space Hillary Clinton occupies today, and there are various reasons for women’s lack of ascendancy to the top—in both politics and in the workplace generally. The effects of child-rearing responsibilities have been well-documented as serious barriers to female advancement to the top ranks in companies and in politics. But there may also be more subtle, yet more insidious reasons for women’s under-representation in top positions that have to do with the everyday sexism we experience in the workplace.

Few of us have endured the level of misogyny Hillary Clinton has, but many of us have experienced the micro-aggressions, the small instances of bias, the tiny pinches, scratches, and sometimes cuts that can eventually lead to the deaths of so many promising careers.

This happens everyday at work—when you get cut off or interrupted in a meeting. When your junior male colleague takes credit for your idea. When you look in the conference room and realize every participant sitting at the table is a white man. When your boss expects you to get cupcakes for your co-worker’s birthday. When you find out the man who held the exact position before you made a higher salary. When a client, colleague, or co-worker makes lewd comments that make your skin crawl but you can’t do a damn thing about it—not because laws don’t exist on the books but because sometimes that’s all they are—words on paper that fail to take into account the enormous, oftentimes impossible risks women take in speaking up about sexual harassment.

When women (who are privileged enough to have the choice) leave their jobs—either to opt out of the workforce altogether or to take another position elsewhere—sexism is rarely cited as the reason for the switch. More commonly, women will leave a job to find a company that’s a “better fit,” and some will start their own businesses so they “don’t have to work for anyone.” Some will attempt to find a job that can better accommodate their lives and responsibilities of caregiving. Oftentimes, these career switches are out of male-dominated fields. And then there are some women who leave the workforce altogether to work full-time inside the home. When these career changes are made, the reasons publicly stated may vary, but I would bet a lot that privately, many women are simply exhausted from enduring those little pricks of sexism and misogyny on a daily basis. It may not be a primary reason for leaving (or even a conscious one), but it may certainly contribute to driving women out of certain fields and careers.

And so, the status quo remains: the glass ceiling remains in tact, and patriarchy stays alive and well (though maybe it has the sniffles as of late). And our country and our economy suffer as well, as companies, industries, and fields lose a huge pool of talent.

I have been heartened to see so many men challenge Donald Trump’s sexism in this campaign, especially his blatant defense of rape culture. But this challenging needs to happen more widely—in every office, laboratory, Assembly floor, and school. Trump’s repeated attempt to excuse his support of sexual assault as “locker room talk” speaks volumes about his—and many men’s—absolute refusal to admit their own sexism. To be clear—he is not an aberration but rather a manifestation of the white male privilege that infects our society and drives women away and out of male-dominated spaces.

One way to really make some men angry is to call out their sexism. I have seen many men go to great lengths to justify their actions, defend each other, and deny responsibility. Just a small example—I recently sat next to a man on a plane who “man-spreaded” his legs right into my seat, essentially taking over half my space. I discreetly captured a picture of the man-spreading which I posted on social media with the hashtag #everydaysexism. I couldn’t believe the vitriol I got in response—men I hadn’t spoken to or even thought about in years came out of the woodwork to tell me (or more accurately, mansplain to me) that the man sitting next to me simply had long legs (actually, he was pretty short) and that what he was doing was not sexism. Others questioned why I didn’t just ask him to move, an ask which is symbolic of a broader problem of placing the burden of stopping sexism on women rather than the people who perpetrate it.

There’s nothing ostensibly damaging inherent to the practice of man-spreading, but it is an example of one of those tiny pricks that have devastating cumulative effects on women. Calling out these instances of sexist behavior is exhausting, because the response is often one of defensive, even hostile posturing. Yet staying silent feels pretty bad too. And often times, when you do speak up, you’re the only one doing so, and that can get lonely.

I can only imagine just how lonely and exhausting being Hillary Clinton is. When she accepted the Democratic nomination back in July, I balled my eyes out when she took the stage. My husband asked me if my tears were tears of joy for the first woman presidential nominee. I told him no, that my tears were for Hillary Clinton herself, tears of solidarity, of relief that she was able to survive the years of tiny and not so tiny cuts to get to where she is today. She truly is extraordinary in her ability to persevere.

This campaign has exposed some of the worst social diseases that linger in our country. Sexism is one of those diseases, and while women have always known it’s existed because we live it everyday, seeing Hillary endure it is like pulling off a bandaid and being forced to actually look at the injury. To me, it feels like a very old wound that women have collectively borne is wide open and exposed, but the question is how we do we heal it properly? Hillary Clinton is our hero of survival, but we cannot rely on lone women to single-handedly dismantle the patriarchy. Healing this wound involves a collective effort from all Americans, as well as progressive policy measures that value women, their work, and the realities of their lives.

4 Ways Hillary Clinton Will Make Life Better For Moms

According to a recent survey of registered voters conducted by ABC News/Washington Post, Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump among women by 23 points—58% of women voters say they support Hillary, 35% say they would vote for Trump. While gender gaps in elections are nothing new, the Clinton/Trump contest represents a much wider margin than usual. Some would say these polling numbers are no surprise—after months of insulting, deriding, and offending women all over America, it makes sense that American women would punish Trump harshly at the ballot box.

But what also may be contributing to the gender gap is not only women’s distaste for Trump, but their affinity for Hillary. Hillary has talked a lot about women in this election, as well as issues that affect moms, like paid family leave. Rather than focus on why women should hate Trump, let’s talk about the ways Hillary will help women, and specifically, moms. After all, it feels much better to vote for a candidate than against one.
My book, 52 Reasons To Vote For Hillary, is full of plenty of positive reasons to support Hillary (and many of them I didn’t even know until I started the research for the book!). Some of my favorite reasons are the plans Hillary has to help make life better for moms in America—so here are four of them:

1. She Gets Work/Life Balance (Chapter 6)

According to the Make It Work campaign, nearly 90% of American workers do not have any paid family leave, and more than 43 million Americans don’t have a single paid sick day — over half of whom are working mothers.

Hillary wants to change that, and has a plan to guarantee up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member. Her plan would also provide up to 12 weeks of leave for employees to recover from their own medical conditions or serious injuries. Hillary’s plans are important not only for the huge financial benefits that women would accrue, but because they send the message that as Americans, we value parenthood, caregiving, and the people who do it.

2. She Will Make Childcare A Priority (Chapter 8)

The cost of childcare in America is outrageous. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average cost of care for one child exceeds the cost of university in-state tuition in half of U.S. states. In some states where the cost of living is high, families are spending more than $15,000 a year on childcare for just one child. These are financial hardships that many American families simply cannot afford, and as a result, moms drop out of the labor force or scale back more often than dads, leading to a losses in earnings that affects the entire family unit.

Hillary has a bold and ambitious plan to make childcare more affordable for American families. She would cap what families pay for childcare at 10% of their paycheck, a big deal considering half of all American families spend more than that currently. Hillary will also increase access to on-campus childcare for parent students, so that they can further their education while also meeting their parental responsibilities. Hillary’s childcare agenda will go a long way in easing the financial burden on American families and ensuring women can live up to their full economic potential.

3. She Will Fight For Equal Pay (Chapter 17)

On average, women in America get paid 79 cents to a man’s dollar. But the burden is even heavier for moms, who make 73 cents for every man’s dollar, costing women around half a million dollars in earnings over their lifetimes.

Hillary believes that equal pay is not only a woman’s issue, but a family issue and an American issue. She has outlined a plan that would give women the tools they need to fight workplace discrimination and promote pay transparency across our economy so that women have the information they need to negotiate fairly. The cornerstone of her plan, the Paycheck Fairness Act, holds employers accountable by requiring them to prove that wage discrepancies are tied to legitimate business qualifications and not gender, and by prohibiting companies from taking retaliatory action against employees who raise concerns about gender-based wage discrimination.

When Donald Trump and other Republicans accused Hillary of playing the “gender card” because of her focus on equal pay, Hillary had this to say to her detractors:

“If talking about equal pay and paid leave and more opportunities for women and girls is playing the gender card, then deal me in!”

4. She Will Protect Women’s Reproductive Health (Chapter 39)

As all moms know, giving life is among the greatest of life’s joys, but becoming a mother is also a major, life-changing responsibility. Families do better when they have the resources to plan and make their own decisions with the counsel of their doctors. That’s why Hillary has always been an ardent supporter of women’s reproductive rights, including access to contraceptives and safe abortions.

As President, Hillary will defend the Affordable Care Act’s provision that prevents insurance companies from discriminating against covering women because of their reproductive health care needs. She has also promised to nominate Supreme Court justices who will uphold Roe v. Wade and protect women’s access to reproductive healthcare.

To Hillary, when women are healthy, America will be healthy, and it is critical to ensure women have the opportunities and access they need to build healthy and productive futures for themselves and their families. As with other issues that affect women, Hillary has argued that reproductive rights are not only women’s issues, but affect the entire country in important ways:

For too long, issues like these have been dismissed by many as ‘women’s issues’ – as though that somehow makes them less worthy, secondary. Well, yes, these are women’s issues. They’re also family issues. They’re economic issues. They’re justice issues. They’re fundamental to our country and our future.

While Donald Trump and other Republicans continue to subscribe to dated notions of family structures and gender roles, Hillary understands that changing times call for updated policies that move our country forward. Gone are the days of dads bringing home the bacon while moms fry it up in the pan — the world has changed, and our rules need to sprint to catch up. Hillary’s plans will make life better for moms, and in turn, for American families.

Read more about Hillary’s plans to help American families get ahead in 52 Reasons To Vote For Hillary, on sale now.

The #1 Reason To Vote For Hillary? The Supreme Court

By Dave Rubino

If you are a Trump supporter, I’ll save you some time. This post is not for you. I’m thoroughly convinced that there is no common ground between Trump voters and Hillary supporters, so there’s no need to start an unnecessary flame war. You go your way, I’ll go mine. Who this post is REALLY for is the “Disillusioned Democrats” among us: the scorned Bernie supporters, the Jill-Stein-because-I’m-sick-of-the-two-party-system advocates, the progressives who think Hillary is too moderate, too “Wall Street,” or too untrustworthy to waste a vote on. Most of all, this post is for those of you who are so fed up that you are deciding to just sit this one out.

I’ll give it to you straight: your country needs you. We need you to bite the bullet. We need you to suck it up. We need you to vote. And we need you to vote for Hillary.

Here’s the naked truth: there is only one issue that matters in this election. Only one. The Supreme Court.

No matter what you think of Hillary – whether you think she stole the primary from Bernie, whether you think she’s a moderate in liberal’s clothing, whether you think she is completely untrustworthy and dishonest… none of it matters. You’re not voting for her. You’re voting for her appointees.

Even if you don’t trust her, do you really think that she is running on a Democratic ticket but would abandon her party completely and appoint right wing judges? Is your theory really that she’s in cahoots with the Republicans? If you don’t trust her, don’t rely on her to feed your goldfish. Don’t lend her your favorite sweater. Don’t tell her a lifelong secret dream. But appoint a Supreme Court justice? Yeah, let her do that. You’re not at risk.

To the Bernie lovers and the third party candidate advocates, I get you. I respect you. I know how hard it is. Your voice did not just go unheard – it must feel more and more like it was was actively silenced. That’s discouraging. It’s infuriating. It’s hard to forgive. And if you think it is hard for you, imagine how hard it is for Bernie. Yet he stood up and endorsed Hillary. He implored you to stand with her too. Because there is too much at stake.

Know this and make no mistake about it: a vote for Trump is a vote for regression. A vote for a third party is a vote for regression. A vote for nobody… is a vote for regression. Here’s the thing, so much of what we progressives love in this world was given to us by the Supreme Court. And the things we hate? Taken from us by the Supreme Court. Some of this you know: Brown v. Board of Education told us racial segregation is not okay. Roe v. Wade gave women the right to choose. Obergefell v. Hodges gave us gay marriage. NIFIB v. Sebelius upheld Obamacare.

But let’s not forget how dangerous a Supreme Court with the the wrong kind of justices can be. The Dred Scott decision said even a freed slave in a free state had no rights as a citizen. The Korematsu case said Japanese internment camps were a-okay. Citizens United (and Buckley v. Valeo before it) brought money into politics at unprecedented levels – holding that political expenditures by corporations were protected by Free Speech. The Voting Rights Act, prohibiting racial discrimination in voting, was decimated by the Supreme Court in 2013. And of course the Bush v. Gore case gave us a President who lost the popular vote to his rival by half a million votes.

And those are just the ones you know. What about granting women the right to vote? Sure, that was done by Amendment to the Constitution in 1920, but did you know that the Supreme Court had the opportunity to review the issue in the 1875 Minor v. Happersett case? The conservative Court concluded that the Constitution did not grant women the right to vote. Forty-five years could have been saved with the right judges on the bench. How about gun control? Our rivals on the right are always so vocal about their inalienable right to bear arms but did you know that until 2008 no such right existed at the Federal level? That’s when the conservative majority of the Supreme Court extended its interpretation of the Second Amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller to include an individual right to bear arms. Before that, the states got to decide what was appropriate and reasonable. Not anymore.

I could go on. But my point is simple. The Supreme Court matters. It matters a lot. It matters for decades. When you vote in this election, you are NOT simply voting for a President who may be in office for four to eight years. You are voting for something much more powerful. You are voting for the institution that has been the catalyst for social change – or social regression – for most of our country’s history. Justice Scalia is dead and his seat is vacant. Justice Ginsberg is 83 and will undoubtedly retire. Justice Kennedy is 80 and may or may not last another four years as a Supreme Court justice. Breyer is 78. This is a unique election. Whoever takes the Presidency will have as many as four Supreme Court appointments in a single term. This will, without a doubt, govern the trajectory of our nation for the next twenty to thirty years. Know this Bernie supporters: if you don’t vote, Trump wins. And even if Bernie ran again in four years and beat the pants off of Trump, it would be too late. The Supreme Court vacancies will be filled and you will not stand a chance of seeing Bernie’s vision manifest until a bunch of fairly young Trump-appointed judges retire or die. The best you can hope for is 2040 or 2050 – if you’re around that long. Stein supporters? A vote for Stein is, without question, a vote against renewable energy and for fracking for the next thirty years. Because a vote for Stein is a vote that puts Trump in the White House; and that means conservative Supreme Court justices who will systematically declaw environmental legislation. Bye, bye functioning EPA.

Listen, I love Bernie. I love Jill. I love the idea of a multi-party political system. I really do. And Hillary IS too moderate for me. But that’s okay. I’m voting for her anyway. Because I’m not just voting for Hillary. I am voting for what Hillary can, must, and will give me from now until I’m at least 75: a Supreme Court that moves our country forward no matter who is steering the ship. If you can’t stomach voting for Hillary, then tell yourself you’re voting for the three or four judges who will be appointed by her. The three or four judges who will protect your right to choose, uphold the legitimacy of your same sex marriage, take money out of politics once and for all, and move our country in the direction we all, as progressives, agree it should be headed.

Thank you, Bernie for your passion. Thank you Jill, for your conviction. But thank you, far more so, to the many Supreme Court justices that have moved our nation forward. Here’s hoping we can add to your ranks. ‪#‎Imwithher‬


The Media’s Coverage of Hillary Clinton Is Downright Irresponsible

Original article published by The Huffington Post on September 1, 2015. See it here.
HRC Wiki Commons
Casual observers of recent media coverage would reasonably conclude that the Hillary Clinton campaign is in serious trouble. Headlines across news sources allege her falling poll numbers and once secure spot of the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. But a closer inspection of the most recent poll by Quinnipiac University that has spawned the headlines “Hillary slips, Trump rises in national poll” and “Hillary Clinton Hits Lows on Favorability, Trustworthiness in new poll,” among hundreds of others, reveals a very different story–Hillary Clinton’s position is strong and her opponents are the ones who are in trouble.

Here is what the poll really shows about Clinton:

1. She wins the Democratic nomination handily: Clinton beats Sanders by a whopping 23 points (45 percent vs. 22 percent) and Biden by 27 points. For all the talk of Sanders’ surge and Biden’s popularity, Democratic voters overwhelmingly favor Clinton as their nominee.

2. She beats the Republicans: Clinton tops Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump in head-to-head match-ups. Curiously, this result didn’t even make it into Quinnipiac’s press release narrative.

3. She wins demographic groups that are key to success in 2016: Journalists have made much of Biden’s lead among Republican contenders, but a closer look at the data reveals that among key demographic groups that historically have decided elections, Clinton does better. This is especially true compared to Sanders, whose limited appeal to college-educated white men has been well-documented. For example, against Bush, Clinton claims 92 percent of the vote among African Americans, and 55 percent among Latinos. Biden only gets 84 percent of the African American vote, Sanders gets 79 percent. Less than half (49 percent) of Latinos prefer Sanders over Bush, a margin that would seriously hurt the Democrats’ chance of winning the White House. Clinton also outperforms among younger voters compared to Biden and Sanders.

4. Everyone’s favorability ratings are suffering: Clinton isn’t the only one with net negative favorability scores–voters also have negative impressions of both Bush and Trump. Clinton is also more liked among members of her Party (76 percent of Democrats give her a positive rating) than Bush and Trump among Republicans (59 percent favorable).

5. She is seen as a stronger leader than both Sanders and Biden: Lost in the buzz about her trustworthiness scores is an arguably even more important score–leadership qualities. A majority of voters (57 percent) say Clinton has strong leadership qualities compared to 35 percent who say the same about Sanders and 46 percent about Biden. The Clinton campaign still has time to improve Clinton’s image when it comes to perceptions of honesty, but leadership qualities and experience are different–either you have them or you don’t. Biden and Sanders aren’t going to be able to fake the impressive resume and qualifications that Clinton has. This may be why that although the media has emphasized the negative words voters associate with Clinton, words like “experience” and “strong” top the list too.

As political consultant Peter D. Rosenstein said of this poll and others: “Any candidate seeing numbers like Hillary has in those polls would be opening champagne and their opponents would be figuring out what they are doing wrong.” So why, then, does the media report otherwise?

I’m not the first to notice the media’s biased, even sometimes downright inaccurate coverage of Hillary Clinton. Journalists seem almost gleeful in their framing of Clinton’s “fall.” And I would be remiss not to mention how the idea of women like Hillary Clinton, who unabashedly seek power, make people uncomfortable, and sometimes angry.

The media’s power to set the agenda and frame issues is a powerful one, because it influences the public’s attitudes and political choices. Journalists have a choice in what they cover and how they cover it, and in this instance, many chose to focus on Clinton’s vulnerability. But as now should be clear, that’s not the whole story, and effectively this kind of journalism disservices the public. We rely on the news media for political information, and while in any process conducted by human beings, some level of bias is inevitable, the coverage of Clinton is more than just biased, it’s downright irresponsible.