Monday, October 19, 2020

Whither the Hispanic vote?

I love political posts, don't you?

The good news, for those who answered "NO!", is that I won't have a pressing excuse to do them much longer, as the US presidential election is just a titch over two weeks away. Plus I've already voted -- I put my completed ballot in the dropbox at the county clerk's office the same day I got it in the mail -- and as I mentioned last week, there aren't a whole lot of voters who are still undecided. So I'm becoming less interested in the horse-race aspects of this election and more interested in making sure everybody votes, and that everybody's vote counts.

Which leaves me a little room to think about what future elections in this country will look like.

tdoes1 | Deposit Photos

One of the things driving Republican voters, if the pundits can be believed, is a fear among rural whites that minorities will take over America. It's common knowledge that the minority population in this country is increasing while the white population is decreasing. Right now, the American population is 59.7% white, but the percentage has been dropping since the 1950s and it's projected to keep dropping until, by 2045, the population of whites will drop below 50%. To be sure, whites will still be the biggest demographic bloc in the United States, but we won't be a majority-white country anymore. (By the way, all the numbers I'm using are from the US Census Bureau.)

So who will be number two? With all the news coverage of Black Lives Matter this year, and depending on where you live, you could be forgiven for thinking Blacks will be the next largest demographic group. But you would be wrong. Hispanics* will be the second-biggest. In fact, they already are -- they make up 18.73% of the US population this year. In 2045, their percentage is projected to grow to 24.6%. That's right -- in 25 years, nearly a quarter of Americans are expected to be of Hispanic descent.

Blacks are and will continue to be the third largest group. And while their numbers will grow, their percentage of the population is projected to stay pretty stable -- 12.54% this year and 13.14% in 2045.

(What about Asians, you ask? I knew someone would. They're at 5.83% today and are projected to be at 7.85% in 2045. There's a nifty interactive chart here that projects population percentages for all these groups, and more, out to 2060.)

The thing that struck me about this is the emphasis placed by both of our political parties on the Black vote. If you've followed the "horse race" at all, you've seen the speculation from the punditry: Can Biden rely on the Black vote? Is Trump making inroads on the Black vote? 

Why all this emphasis on Black voters, when Hispanics are a larger percentage of the population? I kind of knew the answer, but an article I read in The Atlantic today underscored the particulars: Latinos don't all vote the same. Blacks, as a bloc, have voted reliably for Democrats for the past several decades. With Hispanics, though, it depends on where they're from. Cuban Americans in Florida have family members who fled Fidel Castro's regime; as a result, they have an antipathy toward anything that looks like socialism. They mostly vote Republican. On the other hand, Puerto Ricans who live in Florida tend to vote Democratic. And Mexican Americans, whose families settled in the Southwest (and elsewhere in the country), tend to vote Democratic -- which is one reason why states like Arizona and Texas are beginning to turn purple. But the author of the Atlantic article, Mike Madrid, says young Mexican American men without college educations appear to be emulating their white cohort by turning toward Trump. However, he says young Mexican American women appear to be supporting Biden.

Another interesting thing: Mexican Americans make up the majority of the Latino population in the US. But remember what I said last week, about how certain states -- like Florida -- are more important in presidential races because voters are split pretty evenly between the two parties. That gives Cuban Americans the biggest Latino influence on US presidential politics, even though Mexican Americans outnumber them. Politics is indeed a curious business.

As a recent transplant to the Southwest, I find myself invested in how it all plays out -- not just this year, but in political races to come. 

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*I'm using the terms Hispanic and Latino interchangeably in this post, although technically they are not. Hispanic refers to anyone of Spanish descent, including Spain and its former colonies; Latino covers those from Latin American countries, including in Central and South America and the Caribbean. And I decided against using the alleged generic term Latinx because a lot of Latinos don't like it. That's the hearth/myth style guide and I'm sticking to it.

By the way, if you ever have an hour or two to kill, looking up the nuances of the term Hispanic will lead you down quite the rabbit hole. (Are Filipinos Hispanic? Kind of! But also Asian and/or Pacific Islander...)

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These moments of demographic blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Mask up, social distance, and vote!

Sunday, October 11, 2020

The time has come for majority Presidential rule.

Here I go, talking about politics again. Well, kind of. 

Every four years, Americans go to the polls to elect a new President of the United States (or re-elect the current one). At least that's what most people believe. But we don't, in fact, elect the President directly. Instead, we elect Electors, or people to represent us at the Electoral College -- a once-every-four-years group that gets together solely to vote on who will be the next President.

The number of Electors a state gets is equal to the number of its members of Congress. Every state has two US senators, and every state gets at least one member of the US House of Representatives. So each state has at least three Electors. States with big populations get a lot more. California, for example, has 55; Texas has 38. (Land area has nothing to do with the number of electors a state gets; Alaska is our biggest state by area, and it has only 3 Electors.)

It's not a terrific system (nor was it when it was first devised), but it would be sorta kinda fair if each state apportioned its Electors by its popular vote result. But that's not how it works. Nor has it worked that way since about 1832, by which time most states had gone to the winner-take-all system that persists today. In the meantime, our biggest cities have grown huge, outstripping anything the Founding Fathers could have envisioned in their wildest dreams. The result has been that states with the smallest populations have an outsized influence in the Electoral College. Here's an example: Wyoming has 3 electoral votes while California, as I mentioned above, has 55. Wyoming has something over 565,000 people total; California's population is 66 times that. Each of Wyoming's Electors represents 188,000 residents. But each of California's Electors represents about 677,000 residents. Wyoming's influence in the Electoral College is therefore much bigger than California's.

You might think that would give Wyoming a big influence on the actual Presidential election, but that's not how it works. Instead, because most states give all of their electoral votes to the popular vote winner, candidates concentrate their campaigning on only a handful of battleground states, where voters are closely divided and the race could go either way. This year, right now, all the hoopla is concentrated in a baker's dozen states


from https://www.nationalpopularvote.com/map-general-election-campaign-events-2020-presidential-candidates

The numbers on the map represent major campaign events in each state since the end of the Republican National Convention in August. So if you live in California or Texas, or Wyoming -- or most of the rest of the country -- you're not seeing many ads for either Trump or Biden and you sure aren't seeing the candidates stopping by your hometown.

Because of this concentration on battleground states coupled with the outsized Electoral College influence of states with smaller populations, there have been five elections in our history in which the Electoral College has selected the candidate who didn't win the popular vote. It's happened twice in the past six elections -- in 2000 when George W. Bush won, and in 2016 when Donald Trump won.

The thing that annoys me most about this convoluted system is that for just about everything else, Americans are all about majority rule. It's a hallmark of our democracy, right? You bet it is -- but not for electing our President. We're told we need to protect small states' rights or the big states will run roughshod over them! But as we've seen, the current system protects rights of smaller states (if it actually does) by violating the rights of people who live in big cities, and who make up the majority of the population. How is that fair? Shouldn't the majority rule?

So how can we fix this goofy system? Getting rid of the Electoral College outright is a non-starter; it would require a constitutional amendment, and the political will just isn't there. But a bipartisan non-profit called the National Popular Vote has come up with a sort of end-run around it. It is collecting pledges from state legislatures to award their states' electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the popular vote nationally. 

Don't let anybody try to tell you it's illegal. The Constitution allows for states to apportion their electoral votes as they see fit.

The pledge will only kick in when states with a total of 270 electoral votes agree to participate. So far, 16 states and territories, with a total of 196 electoral votes, have signed on, so it won't be a factor during this year's election. But it's something to shoot for before the next presidential election in 2024.

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These moments of fairly representational blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Have you made your plan to vote yet? 

Monday, October 5, 2020

About time, warped.

Here's a weird thing I've discovered about being retired, now that I've been at it for a couple of months: A whole lot of my routines and habits were structured around my working life.

To be clear, I'm not talking about setting a morning alarm, commuting to and from work, and all that stuff. Those are the most obvious trappings of a working life and and we're all used to shedding them when we're on vacation. 

Well, assuming we actually go on vacation when we go on vacation, instead of simply scheduling fewer meetings and phone calls than we would during a regular workweek. You laugh, but I just got done working for twenty years for attorneys who would do just that. One guy always spends a week with his family every summer at a resort in the Adirondacks where there's no wi-fi, and no cellphone signal unless you get in a canoe and hike up to the other side of a mountain or something. A few years ago, I learned he's begun driving into the closest little town during this nominally unplugged week to get some work done. 

Come to think of it, that's about when I started keeping an eye on my work email when I would go on vacation.

Anyway, back to my original point: It's easy, and obvious, to turn off the alarm on the weekend. More insidious are the hidden compromises on your time. For instance, I got into the habit of doing laundry very late on Sunday nights. For several years I lived in an apartment building with shared laundry facilities; if I started my laundry late enough, I wouldn't have to wait for a dryer. I considered a 1:30am bedtime on Sunday nights a small price to pay for that luxury. Besides, I could sleep in on Saturday and Sunday in preparation (assuming the cats would let me).

Another example: My go-to time for grocery shopping gradually became 8:00pm on a Monday night. The produce section would be kind of picked over, but almost nobody was in the store then and the checkout lines were non-existent -- and shopping in an empty store became much more important once the virus hit and the mere thought of leaving the house could fill one with existential dread.

I don't need to make those compromises anymore. Moreover, if I don't get something done one day, it isn't a big deal if I let it slide to the next day. Or the day after that. Of course I have certain deadlines -- the rent is still due on the first of the month -- but it doesn't matter if I don't get up in time to go to the farmers' market. There's always next week.

Which is partly why it took me two months to figure out how to use my ginormous new loom. 

Alert hearth/myth readers will recall that I took a two-day weaving workshop a couple of years ago. I had to buy a rigid-heddle loom for the class, and I've used that loom for a couple of projects since then. But the cloth my little loom turns out is only 15 inches wide, max. I figured out pretty fast that there were only so many 15-inch-wide projects I was going to be interested in making; if I wanted to weave something more practical, like cloth for a garment, I would need a wider loom.

So when my attorneys asked me what I would like for a retirement gift, I suggested they get me an 8-shaft table loom. After several rounds of negotiations, plus consultations with the retailer when it was clear I didn't know as much about table looms as I thought I did, we settled on the medium-sized loom. However, that one was on backorder; the largest-sized loom was not. And that's how I ended up with a ginormous loom.

There are a number of differences between a rigid heddle loom and a table loom, but one of the biggest is the way you warp it. This has nothing to do with Star Trek. If you look at a piece of woven fabric -- say, a dress shirt -- you can see the threads that make up the fabric go in two directions. Let's call them up-down and right-left. To make fabric, the up-down threads have to be tied onto the loom; the right-left threads are then woven through the up-down threads. The up-down threads are the warp and the right-left threads are the weft. Tying on the warp threads is called warping the loom

With me so far? Okay. There are a few methods for warping a loom, but they basically fall into two camps. One is the direct method, which is what I've always used to warp my rigid heddle loom. The other is the indirect method, which requires the use of a thingum called a warping board. I asked for a warping board along with the loom, and the guys bought it for me. 

The order came in several shipments, some from the retailer and several directly from the manufacturer in New Zealand. Once I got everything, I put it all together -- loom, stand, and warping board -- and there it all sat, silently rebuking me, for about a month and a half. I was intimidated by the thought of warping that ginormous loom. It was easy to put it off for another day, and another day, and...

Finally, a few weeks ago, I set myself a deadline: Either get the loom warped by the end of September or fold it up and admit you're never going to do it. So last week, I sucked it up. I dug out a pattern for a small project I'd made on the rigid heddle loom, spent a bunch of quality time with YouTube videos, and figured everything out. Of course I screwed up a couple of times, but I made it work. The loom was warped! 

And now that I've done it once, I feel confident I can weave a full-width project. Maybe I'll even try something more complex than a plain weave. I'll keep y'all posted.

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Speaking of deadlines, the folks at NaNoWriMo have been sending me emails every few days, reminding me that I can announce my November project any time now. Yeah, thanks for nagging me, guys. 

Actually, I got an idea for the new novel today. I need to roll it around in my mind a little more, but I think it'll turn out to be a fun read -- and gods know we could all use a fun read right about now. Stay tuned...

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These moments of bloggy warp and weft have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay vigilant -- the virus is still out there. Social distance and wear a mask!