Premature Celebration

Or, Demographics Are Not Your Friend

The Emerging Democratic Majority
The optimism of youth …

Democrats have been predicting a demographic victory for seven election cycles now, since Judis and Teixeira’s “The Emerging Democratic Majority” came out in the wake of the 2002 midterms. We assumed a number of facts not in evidence: that these new citizens would vote, and that they would vote for Democratic candidates; that the traditional Democratic base would hold strong; and that we had the better ideas. We counted on voters’ support, but did little to earn it. Poor engagement, coupled with our abject failure to also engage with the concerns of White, working class voters, explains much of this loss. We also know that there was a significant enthusiasm gap between the two candidates. Finally, we know that a significant number of voters rejected Clinton but voted for Democrats down-ballot.1 The results show that every state with a US Senate seat up for election went to the same party that particular state picked for President.

The time may come when the Democratic party can rely on demography to carry the day. Too many of us thought we were there already.


Raising the Judicial Retirement Age

strawhatOn Tuesday, Pennsylvania voters will be asked to decide whether to amend the Constitution of the Commonwealth. The Pennsylvania Judicial Retirement Age Amendment (2016) ballot question will be worded thusly:

Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to require that justices of the Supreme Court, judges, and magisterial district judges be retired on the last day of the calendar year in which they attain the age of 75 years?

It is deceptively straightforward. If you don’t know any better, you might assume judges are never required to retire, as is the case in the Federal courts. You would be incorrect. The Pennsylvania Constitution, Article V, Section 16(b), currently requires judges to retire at age 70. This amendment would raise the age to 75.

I am sympathetic to the proposal. As a litigator and trial lawyer, I have known several judges who were still excellent jurists at age 70, and who could have served for years into their seventies. By rights, I should be in favor of this idea. I am not.

On the substantive question: there’s nothing special about any particular judge. They are just men and women in robes. Some are better than others. When one retires, we elect another. If we choose wisely, we choose another wise person. Thus it is as with all things.

On the procedural issue: the process of putting the question on the ballot has been an embarrassment. In a state that has recently seen its Attorney General jailed as a Felon and perjurer; where several senior legislators have been removed from office for corruption; and where two Supreme Court Justices were forced to step down for ethical lapses involving lewd and racist emails, you would think we would be more sensitive to issues of process and transparency.

You would think that.

Treachery and subterfuge should not be rewarded. For this and many other reasons, I will vote NO on the Ballot Question. It fixes a problem we do not have.

Infamous Pennsylvanians: Daryl Metcalfe

On Wednesday, Representative Brian Sims (D-Phila.) rose to speak during the unanimous consent portion of the PA House session. He began to speak in praise of the historic marriage equality rulings handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, but was cut off with a procedural tactic by fellow Representative and self-styled Tea Partier Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler).

It shouldn’t matter, but Rep. Sims is the first openly gay lawmaker in Pennsylvania history.

Rather than apologize for the slight, or just be satisfied at having silenced a political opponent, Rep. Metcalfe doubled down and let his bigotry all hang out:

I did not believe that as a member of that body that I should allow someone to make comments such as he was preparing to make that ultimately were just open rebellion against what the word of God has said, what God has said, and just open rebellion against God’s law.

Rep. Sims’s response was far more dignified: he introduced legislation to provide civil marriage equality for same-sex couples in Pennsylvania. In a prepared statement, Rep. Sims said:

After Wednesday’s decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, it is past time for Pennsylvania to join the 12 states – soon to be 13 because of California – and the District of Columbia that already provide this basic measure of equality and dignity to their residents.

Rep. Sims also requested the Legislature formally admonish his colleague for his remarks, but it declined to do so because its rules only apply to statements made on the floor of the House. One hopes the good people of Western Pennsylvania hold Mr. Metcalfe accountable since his fellow legislators can’t or won’t.

Daryl Metcalfe, another Infamous Pennsylvanian.