The Quadrennial Conundrum

Shawn Gude

Shawn Gude is a writer, graduate student, activist, and assistant contributor at Jacobin. His intellectual influences include Chantal Mouffe, Michael Harrington, and Ella Baker. Contact him at or on Twitter @shawngude.

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26 Responses

  1. bookdragon says:

    While I am at best a left-leaning moderate, I agree completely with your ending point.Report

  2. KatherineMW says:

    If I was an American and lived in Iowa, I’d probably have made the same decision, with the same conflicted feelings about it.Report

  3. North says:

    An excellent bit of writing. My kudos and my consolation.Report

  4. Morat20 says:

    Hey, I’m all for changing the system to some sort of instant-run off or preference voting. And changing Congress to a Parliament system.

    But that isn’t gonna happen anytime soon. Heck, electoral college stuff reform alone is having to be done through a tricky set of state amendments, rather than handled in a sane fashion.Report

  5. Tom Van Dyke says:

    Shawn, I congratulate you on not throwing away your vote. Although I’d have preferred you did.


  6. GordonHide says:

    I think the main candidates have to adopt views which make them attractive to those who can afford to make campaign contributions. Those like yourself who lean towards policies that might benefit the poor and downtrodden more directly at the expense of those who already have the wealth aren’t going to get a look in as long elections are bought and sold in this way.

    The poor are effectively disenfranchised. (Without getting into an argument about this possibly being a good thing when we see how socialists have screwed up economies in other parts of the world).

    For instance, you’d have thought that GOP primaries would be a no-brainer. Select a straight down the middle protestant whose made his money contributing to one of the great industries America has created in the last 30 years. But no, they choose a Mormon who made his money in the leveraged buy out, little better than a carpetbagger or an asset stripper. Nevertheless, because of money, he’s in with a real chance.Report

  7. James Hanley says:


    As a political scientist I’m delighted that your profs hammered institutionalism into you. I am a little bothered, though, that you seem to have been taught that you can cast a meaningful strategic vote in a large-n election. I’m confident that if you examine the vote totals in Iowa post-election you’ll see that you could have voted for Stein without affecting the outcome. I do find this bothersome because it shows a misapplication of the theory of strategic voting.Report

    • MFarmer in reply to James Hanley says:

      Shawn is right in that the Left can make enough noise to push Obama to follow through with his promises, not that it will take much pushing in his second term. If I were a dedicated Leftist, I’d decide on Obama, then do all in my power to push the full progressive agenda, especially since this is Obama’s second term and he doesn’t have to worry about re-election. Shawn made the right decision.Report

      • MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

        It’s too bad, though, that Romney will win by a large margin. Those who oppose progressivism and modern conservativism are in the same boat — we have to depend on keeping Romney’s feet to the free market fire, while also introducing a strong push for a peace and prosperity agenda.Report

      • chris9059 in reply to MFarmer says:

        “…especially since this is Obama’s second term and he doesn’t have to worry about re-election. ”

        No but he will worry about how he is going to become filthy rich after leaving office if he were to pursue anything approaching a progressive agenda in his second term.

        Clinton didn’t need to worry about being re-elected after 1996 but he still chose the Commodities Futures Modernization Act and a personal fortune of $100 million over doing the right thing.Report

  8. Ryan Noonan says:

    Did you at least have the wherewithal to go into the corner liquor store after you cast your vote?Report

  9. Dan Miller says:

    Great piece of writing–sums up my feelings better than I could, although I don’t live in a swing state and have more freedom to vote my conscience. And contra Prof. Hanley, I think there are plenty of reasons to vote as you did. Check out this article about whether it’s logical to delude yourself into thinking that your vote matters. It’s pretty fascinating.Report

  10. SteveB says:

    The next president will appoint as many as four supreme court justices. That alone should be enough to convince a reasonable person to vote for Obama.Report

    • Ryan Noonan in reply to SteveB says:

      This is a strong part of my reasoning as well. I don’t think he’ll get four (Kennedy and Scalia will probably hang on to prevent him from getting their seats), but the Supreme Court is far too close to let Republicans anywhere near it.Report

  11. M.A. says:

    “Obamacare was a giveaway to pharmaceutical companies and provided private insurance companies with millions of new customers. I’m convinced it also established a state-guaranteed right to health insurance, an enormous victory that lefty critics often overlook.”

    This is what cemented my vote for Obama. The repeal of Obamacare would mean that I, and other members of my family, remain beholden to the good graces of whatever employer for even a chance at health care insurance coverage due to preexisting conditions. The loss of a job for us is even more devastating than for someone without a PEC.

    Romney wanted to make it so PEC’s were a death sentence economically. I can’t let that happen.Report