Vote Your Conscience


Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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411 Responses

  1. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Natural Law Party it is!

    (Just kidding. Good post, E.)Report

  2. I’m not sure where I fall on this issue–I shall vote in about an hour. I can’t fault you for your reasoning, and I might very well adopt it and vote for Johnson. (I almost definitely won’t vote for Stein. I don’t identify as a libertarian, but Stein’s vision and the vision of her party strike me as too dangerously statist.)

    I do believe, however, that a President Johnson (or Stein) would think at least twice before fully abrogating the powers that have accrued to the executive. The Ring of Power is a hard thing to surrender. But of course, I realize that’s not the point, in part because they have no real hope of winning.Report

  3. Avatar Tom says:

    In terms of national government, I can forgive absolutely everything Obama did (or didn’t) accomplish because he had to deal with an incredibly obstinate congress that both refused to pass things he proposed and kept forcing things like, “Appeal Obamacare” out there. It’s the danger of having a divided Congress, especially when one party’s platform is basically, “If we make it so Obama can’t do anything, he’ll lose the election, and we’ll disillusion the young. This–and cheating–are our only two options to remain viable.”

    The other stuff is more understandable. I live in a State where Obama is 100% going to win, so my vote’s between him and Jill Stein, who I agree with more but who will probably get 1% of the vote. In a more important state, here’s the thing: the election’s close enough that Obama’s not going to win with a mandate. While I may not agree with Obama on every issue (in fact, I disagree with him more than you do), I disagree with Romney an incredibly large amount: a Romney victory would be affirming electoral fraud, obstinately refusing to compromise, and favoring the super rich as the ways to victory. A Romney loss might cause the party to not be so incredibly evil.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      These are all good points, and the calculus that will lead most (I pressume aplurality), of those who vote for the President to do so.

      I would take issue with this: “Obama’s not going to win with a mandate.”

      There is more than small chance Obama finishes the night with a booming victory (i.e. takes Ohio AND either Florida or Virginia).Report

    • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark says:

      On each issue that Ethan enumerated, an Obama loss would result in a win by a man–and a party–that is committed to immeasurably worse positions.

      So he is going to vote against a man that almost certainly shares most of his values, but that has to govern in the world that actually exists: with a rival party in control on one house of congress, and the other subject to monumental obstruction, and in which about 30 percent of the country considers him foreign, illegitimate, and hostile to their “American” values.

      I really don’t have the words to express the sputtering contempt for which I view this position. Especially after it made the difference in the 2000 election, and brought us George W. Bush.Report

      • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

        “a man that almost certainly shares most of his values,”

        This is false.

        Congress has nothing (read: extremely little) to do with the greater part of where I disagree with the President.

        “it made the difference in the 2000 election, and brought us George W. Bush.”

        This is false, or at the very least, lacks much (if any) evidence. An infinite number of things contributed to Bush winning, not least of which was the Supreme Court.

        You assume that all Nader voters would have voted for Gore, instead of splitting equally, or not voting at all. Other contributing factors include Gore not running a good campaign, and Bush running a better one.

        Careful, play with counterfactuals, and you might, well, claim something that has little (if any) basis.Report

        • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark says:

          Hey, if you can honestly say that Obama shares fewer of your values than Romney and the Republicans (and your enumerated list suggests that that is not the case), by all means vote for someone else than Obama.

          But I suggest that you’ll be contributing to an outcome that you’ll find much worse. Romney has specifically embraced “enhanced interrogation,” is hostile to not only gay marriage but gay civil rights, seems itching to escalate confrontations with Iran and China, and proffers economic policies that would increase our debt and economic instability into the future.

          I certainly don’t agree with Obama on everything. But, with whatever voting power I have within my purview, I can see that the of the two real world alternatives, one is better and one is worse.Report

          • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

            And war in Syria and an air war in Iran, and bringing torture back, and supporting the Avigdor Lieberman policies in Israel-Palestine.

            And Supreme Court justices like Alito and Scalia (probably 2 of them) who will do everything to keep the drug war legal and up and running. (Scalia’s hypocrisy on state’s rights and the drug war knows no bounds.) Who would do everything to stop gay marriage and rights for

            Anyone even vaguely liberal who votes in a way that makes a Romney win more likely is voting to make liberal and libertarin goals much, much, much less likely to be achieved in the next four years and in the decades while Romney’s justices sit on the bench,

            It is true that lots of liberLs didn’t vote for Gore, and we ended up with the Iraq war, torture, etc., etc.

            Don’t make a worse mistake by not voting against Romney.

            Please, I beg you.Report

            • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

              You know, people have been saying this for at least over a decade now, and you know what? Liberal and libertarian goals keep getting father out of reach (minus Democratic headway on gay rights, which is because of public opinion shifting and nothing else).Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                …which is because of public opinion shifting and nothing else).

                Are you serious? Shifting public opinion is the entire point. That’s the only victory that lasts. The gift that keeps on giving. And if Obamacare isn’t a liberal goal, in the current atmosphere, then nothing is.Report

              • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

                I thought Obamacare was a conservative goal? That’s why it was implemented by a conservative Governor and based on conservative think tank ideas?

                And public opinion IS the entire point, that’s why it’s more important to push for the change you want, through moblizing others and yourself, rather than being held hostage by lesser-evil-takes-all thinking.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Wobblies UNITE!
                Seriously, voting has to be the LAMEST fucking way to push for the change you want.
                Lame Lame Lame.

                I know a guy who helped start our local chapter of Vote Vets. Now that’s change that I can believe in.Report

              • Avatar Foster Boondoggle says:

                Voting is the ONLY way to push for the change you want. Unless you’ve got a plan for armed insurrection.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                A plan?

                All you need is a plan? Well, then, hell, I’m good to go.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Depends on what kind of change you want.
                And who says I don’t have a plan for armed insurrection?
                (note: unlike you, my plan revolves around stopping it. Because armed insurrection is pretty stupid).Report

              • Avatar Scott Fields says:

                Foster –

                No, you push for the change you want before the elections. Voting is the validation.Report

              • Avatar llama says:

                If you want to initiate real political change, you should not look at your vote for President once every 4 years as a way to do so. Real political change comes from supporting local and state politicians who share your values. Once a sufficient number of local and state political organizations are run by people with your values, change will reach the higher reaches of the political establishment. It’s what movement conservatives did.Report

            • Avatar KatherineMW says:

              and supporting the Avigdor Lieberman policies in Israel-Palestine.

              In all practical ways, Obama has done that. He’s said a couple mildly critical things in private. At the same time, he’s blocked any criticism or even recognition of Israel’s actions at the UNSC, and committed to blocking the Palestinian bid for statehood even though Israel’s made it blatantly obvious that meaningful negotiations aren’t an option.

              There’s a reasonable argument to be made that there’s very, very, very little space between Obama and Romney on any matter of Middle East-North Africa policy. Obama’s already gotten involved in one war there (with spillover effects in Mali that few people have recognized), and has committed to go to war with Iran if Israel thinks they’re too close to a nuclear weapon, despite the fundamental hypocrisy of two nuclear-armed states deciding that another country getting the same capabilities they have is a justifiable cause for aggression.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                even though Israel’s made it blatantly obvious that meaningful negotiations aren’t an option.

                The Palestinians refuse to even come to the table and it’s Israel’s fault???Report

              • Avatar KatherineMW says:

                The Palestinians have been willing to negotiate the whole time, provided Israel gives any indication that its previous agreements have any meaning. As long as Israel continues systemically pushing Palestinians out of East Jerusalem and out of Area C of the West Bank by destroying their homes, wells, and anything else of value they possess; as long as it continues expanding settlements with the object of dividing Palestine into small, non-contiguous, ungovernable areas, it can’t have any interest in negotiations except as a delaying tactic. You don’t pay your people large sums of money to move into a territory you expect to give up. The PA tried to talk for years, and got nowhere. They did everything Israel asked. Israel depleted their water far beyond the already unequal amount permitted in the Oslo Accords, expanded their settlements, terrorized their people, crushed their economy, and drove their people from their homes, and continues to do all these things. There’s no reason for them to pretend.

                Israel spend years trapping the PA in a catch-22 – we can’t negotiate with you because your government is divided, but if you united your government by coming to an accord with Hamas, we won’t talk to you because of Hamas. Now, if Israel would simply freeze settlements – not even begin removing them, despite the fact that every nation in the world except for Israel itself recognized their fundamental illegality, despite the fact that many of them are built on privately owned Palestinian land – there would be negotiations.

                Israel has no interest in showing good faith, because they have no good faith to show. Their every action, their every government policy since 1967 shows that they never intended to give up the West Bank. That’s why they howled so loudly when Obama even ventured to mention the Green Line. That’s why Rabin stated clearly that he was against a Palestinian state even while Oslo was being negotiated. That’s why settlements have been being built and government-funded ever since ’67.

                I’ve been in the West Bank, this summer. Almost the entire population of Zone 3 (60% of the West Bank) has been driven out; Israel’s on the edge of being able to annex it the way they have East Jerusalem. They want the land without the people. They’re on the edge of getting that. Outside of Jericho, Ramallah and a couple other places, the area is treated as Israeli territory already. As long as the settlements continue, the only possible purpose of proposing negotiations is delaying the day when the nations of the world recognize that until the day when they realize it’s become impossible to prevent.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                The Palestinians have been willing to negotiate the whole time

                Hamas, Hezbollah, and Fatah won’t even negotiate with each other, and that’s before you get to all the splitters.

                The problem is finding a valid partner to negotiate with among the Palestinians, followed by keeping them alive after all the assassination attempts. Arafat only survived as long as he did because the Palestinians knew he wasn’t negotiating in good faith, ever.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Hamas didn’t mean to win the Gaza. Really. They were as upset as everyone else!
                That said, Hamas doesn’t want Hamas’ electoral positions to be the public face of Palestine (if only because they lose all foreign aid then). Sucks to be them, truly.

                Arafat negotiated in good faith, even if he lied to everyone at all times. Quixiotic guy, that.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Though you’re correct in certain respects, that’s not entirely true. All three entities, Hamas, Hizb’allah and Fatah/PA are clients of the more-powerful entities who control them.

                Hamas is really nothing but a relabeled Muslim Brotherhood and they’re a proxy for Egypt.

                Hizb’allah is a proxy for Iran.

                These days, Fatah/PA is a proxy for the UN and to a very considerable extent, the USA.

                At one time, they all took money from anti-US entities: chiefly the USSR, Libya, Iran, fundamentalists in KSA and the like. These days, everything’s changed, what with the Arab Spring.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I mention arafat lied to EVERYONE? He’d say one thing in English, another in French, and a third in Arabic. It worked, somehow, for him.

                Thing is? Clinton Peres and Arafat saved all the hard work for after Oslo. What to do with Jerusalem among them… (the Jews MUST have a way to get to their wall, and the Arabs MUST be able to get to their mosque. we ought to just make it a UN controlled city, but that would be too easy)Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                No, Kim, it didn’t. Arafat was just a jumped up bank robber. That’s a fact. Arafat never had a constituency beyond the Israelis who would periodically prop him up like a Straw Man at some conference table so they could say to the Americans “Behold, we are negotiating with the Palestinians!”

                To understand the I/P conflict, follow the money. Holds true for most things in life, by the way. Want Israel to negotiate? Pay them. Peace with Egypt? Rent it from the Egyptians. Peace with the Palestinians? Rent it from Arafat or the PA. Why can’t we have peace with Hamas or Hizb’allah. Because others have already rented them. But that’s gonna change, very soon.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                You doin’ the changin?
                Or you just predicting that Iran is going to go the way of Egypt?
                (I think the fundamentals are quite different, as you well know).Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                In the South, they set fire to black churches and houses, with the goal to forcibly intimidate the folk within.

                How is Israel any different, now that they use the force of law to bulldoze people’s houses?

                *before you bring in the “but the terrorists!” angle, I remind you that black men down South had guns for self-defense*Report

        • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

          You assume that all Nader voters would have voted for Gore, instead of splitting equally, or not voting at all.

          I agree that it’s Gore’s fault that he lost the election, but this is pretty extreme. All? Gore lost by a 537 votes and Nader received nearly 97,488. One percent would have done the trick. I suppose it’s possible that 99.6% of Nader voters would have stayed home, but it doesn’t strike me as especially likely.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            ‘Twas the Palm Beach ballot, that resulted in some number of Gore voters casting votes for Pat Buchanan, that made the difference in Florida.

            Blaming it on people who cast sincere votes is, in my opinion, something of which to be morally contemptuous (directing that at Snarky, not at T-Frog).Report

            • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

              I think it’s pretty clear how Nader’s candidacy affected the outcome of the election, but from a moral standpoint, I absolutely agree with you.

              I thought that one of the most inspiring moments of the 2000 election was when Nader basically said, “Those aren’t ‘your’ votes. Nobody owes you votes. If you want those votes, go out and do something to earn them.” It was right up there with Reagan running for Governor of California and saying essentially, “Some of you say that I can’t do this because I’m just an actor. Well, that’s democracy. We’re all ‘just’ something, but we still get to be heard.”

              Sometimes we need somebody to remind us of what it’s really about.Report

              • Avatar George Turner says:

                Both are great sentiments. You have one life, and it assures you one vote. Don’t waste it, but don’t give it away, either, If someone wants it, make sure they deserve it, and make they earn it. And if they really piss you off, give it to their arch nemesis with a smile on your face.Report

  4. Avatar bstr says:

    There are a number of foolish issues in this, but by far to fear death takes the cake.Report

  5. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    The official record will not show that I find policies X, Y, and Z to be abhorrent, and that my vote for Obama is really a vote against Romney.

    The record will only show that a certain number of people support Obama, and therefore approve of the job he would do, rather than any of his rivals, and the jobs that they would do.

    It would not show the former, and it would not show the latter. The later doesn’t actually make sense – it is not known with any certainty what job even Obama would do over the next four years. But it also wouldn’t show approval for what he has done in office. All it would show is the minimum it implies: that the people who voted for Obama chose to use their vote to avoid another outcome (namely, a Mitt Romney presidency). To be sure, some of the people who vote for him do affirmatively approve of what he has done (some perhaps of every single peep and wiggle!). But we know with equal certainty that many others who will vote for him don’t hold that view, and don’t intend their vote to communicate that. It follows that the record will only show that a certain number of people chose to use their vote to try to increase (to whatever miniscule degree it might have that effect) the likelihood that Obama would be returned to office, doing so in the context of a two-outcome possibility tree in possession of 100% certainty of what the alternative branch at least initially looks like. What that record means is open to individual interpretation. Yours is only one possible such interpretation, and not a necessary one.Report

    • Avatar sonmi451 says:

      But believing those two things make people like Ethan feel better about themselves and superior than the rest of us. Voting as therapy. It’s all the rage apparently. Even Ethan’s brother fell on the wayside in the consideration. (Health care? Fuck that!)Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      I should have probably written, “they job (they think) he would do.”

      In terms of what is communicated by vote, I think we would have to look just as much at how the communicative act is interpreted, as how it was intended.

      When the press reports on what the aggregate of mine and other votes mean, what will matter are the numbers, which will be taken as support/disapproval, pending some unsually nuanced exit polling, which only academics will really pay attention to once the election has died back down anyway.

      I’m really very split on this issue though, which is why I haven’t written more thoroughly on it, or discussed it much prior to the election. Why should we interpret a vote as a deeply calculated act of gaming the sytem, i.e. trying to consider how everyone else will vote, and how everyone else will decide their vote, along a somewhat infinite regess directed by a prisoner’s dilema type void of actual information on how everyone else will vote?

      For instance, what if a majority of Americans who would vote actually know of either Johnson or Stein, and would vote for either Johnson or Stein, but ultimately decide not to, because in isolation, they don’t think that either of those candidates has enough support to save voting for them from being a wasteful act?

      If everyone voted so that the rule whereby they decide their vote could be rationally ruled to be a catagorical imperative, or some other such Kantian verbiage, everyone would just have to vote for who they agree with, or who they want to be President, without trying to game the outcome by predicting how their vote will impact the result given how they predict everyone else will vote.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        So if I’m reading you correctly the outcome you’d realistically desire would be an extremely narrow Obama victory with civil rights and libertarian third parties bringing in a significantly increased share of the tally? Obviously your ideal preference being a victory for a civil rights/libertarian third party challenger?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        We significantly control how it gets interpreted. At the very least we control what we say about what the vote necessarily means. In other words, you literally contribute to this vote meaning that more by saying so. but in this case, you didn’t even hedge, you said what it means in absolute terms – what the vote totals literally “show” (not just what they mean). I think you’re literally wrong about that, but moreover, if you choose to acknowledge the ambiguity in what this vote means, you increase its ambiguity, which you should want even as you argue about how people should vote. And there’s good reason to think this vote’s meaning on these issues is ambiguous compared to, say 2004. That year, Bush’s terrorism policies were a significant part of the substance of the election debate. It could reasonably be said that vote had some meaning as to voters’ views on those issues. (Though even then, other issues were also important to voters, so certainly your statement wouldn’t hold then, either – that 52% of voters siply approved of every Bush policy. There actually is polling data that is plenty specific to make better inferences than the ones you do here). This year, these issues simply have not been the focus of the campaign – and this is because the only plausible alternative oath-taker has not offered any contrasting option. It’ is excellent for those who are passionate on these issues to voice that opinion by refusing to vote for either competitive candidate and find one who will not take the oath who offers proper alternatives. But it simply is false the the vote totals “show” so many full endorsement of any candidate’s full agenda or record. No one thinks that is what a vote means. I actually think it’s absurd to suggest that that is how votes are broadly interpreted. But you’re increasing the danger that it will be by saying so.Report

        • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

          “No one thinks that is what a vote means.”

          Let us wait until tomorrow then to see what is said. I will repost links right here to anyone who does end up thinking that.

          Your entire analsysis presumes a game, the game being: how do I make my vote contribute to best outcome, ALL FACTORS CONSIDERED.

          Re: Kant, I’m unconvinced that democracy functions well this way. Re: my example about voters not going third party because other people tell them those third party candidates have no chance in hell, well, if everyone who thought that actually just voted for who they wanted to win, rather than who they thought could win, results would be very different–truer you might say.

          So I don’t subscribe to the framework in which your judging the act of voting. If you don’t want Johnson or Stein to be President, that’s one thing, but not voting for one of them even though you do is another.

          What if, per a thought experiment, there was a moderate between Romney and Obama, that had somehow beat the latter out of the Democratic nomination. Obama decides to run and independent insurgency campaign though, which, as President, would not be too difficult. Say Romney showed 38 %, the moderate showed 30 %, and Obama showed 25 % in the national polls.

          Who would you support in that instance, assuming that on every issue, Moderate challenger X is somewhere between the other two?Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            If we had a runoff system requiring a majority, your argument would have validity.

            In a runoff system, Johnson or Stein could get 5% on the initial vote to cross the threshold for future elections’ party recognizance and then everyone could come back to choose between the main two candidates.

            Like it or not, though, the electors are chosen by plurality (unless you’re in one of those weirdo states that allocates their electors in some attempt to make it a proportional match).

            We only get one shot at this vote. If you vote Johnson or Stein knowing that their candidacies are doomed – and you DO know that, right now; they are nonviable and stand no chance of election – then your vote is a throwaway in the system. You have just opted to take zero say in the outcome of the choice of electors, as much so as if you’d sat on your duff watching the election returns without going to the polls.

            A vote for Johnson or Stein is not a vote for a viable candidate. At best it is a protest vote or a “I want the Libertarians/Greens to hit the 5% threshold for recognition in the 2016 election cycle” vote. You can hem and haw about your ideal of what the election process ought to be, but today we’re dealing in the reality of how things are instead.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              f you vote Johnson or Stein knowing that their candidacies are doomed – and you DO know that, right now; they are nonviable and stand no chance of election – then your vote is a throwaway in the system.

              Mind-boggling. Dude, you made it through law school, so I know you have the ability to analyze things. Analyze, already!Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            Again, I’m not taking you up on the argument about whom we should be voting for or if I’m voting for the right person. I’m not judging the act of voting – you are.

            You’re right, that “No one thinks that” was hyperbole. Some people do and will. So link away. It remains the case that the vote totals don’t “show” anything like what you said they do. It’s through an interpretive act of force that you’re insisting they do, and you’re advancing that meaning by insisting on it in the presence of an overwhelmingly more reasonable account of the necessary meanings of vote results. That’s my point.Report

            • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

              Most of the news organizations will just say that liberals didn’t turn out for Obama, probably because they feel like he didn’t bring about hope and change.

              This message will help conervatives and will hurt the liberl cause.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        On whether we should always vote principles, that was not the issue I raised. I raised the issue of interpretation. The question of voting on balance or on principle I claim to have no answer for – it’s tough. My answer is aided by the facts that (1) I will always have disagreements with any candidate – it’s no less unprincipled to vote for someone who doesn’t hold my Important Principle #2 even though he does hold my Important Principle #1. All different stuff will matter all the time; and (2) I am pretty hazy on my own principles and skeptical of the concept generally. But that’s just my approach – I’m not saying people shouldn’t vote their consciences. But their consciences can be muddy, and they can be dependent on an outcome calculation that uses strategic thinking to forecast consequences.Report

      • Avatar NoPublic says:

        I’m not happy with Obama in many ways.
        In many ways there are candidates that I would rather see win.
        However, there is no world in which Romney is a better fit for my ideal candidate than Obama and those are the only two choices which will rationally be elected.
        Under these circumstances I am morally obligated to attempt to prevent a Romney presidency.
        I suspect that Romney will be no better and in fact may be worse on most of your issues as well, but you go on feeling good about yourself. I hope we both still feel good tomorrow.Report

      • Avatar MBunge says:

        “In terms of what is communicated by vote”

        Oh, for pity’s sake. Voting no more communicative than a stripper taking her clothes off.


      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Between people who always act in a highly principled manner and people who game the system to win, the people who game the system to win will win. To fail to notice this or its effects, you have to be very highly principled indeed.

        If you have no other reason to vote for Obama, be the voice of the guy who believed the robocall that sent him to the wring polling place.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          At least the Democrats vet their grassroots people. Akin shouldn’t have ever been allowed near national office.
          (now some might say that comedian from Minnesota is another, but he’s been well-behaved, and done an excellent job).Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            Akin isn’t so bad.
            I’m really surprised at the outrage that one statement could make.

            On the other hand, McCaskill was a former prosecutor in Kansas City.
            Her husband was busted smoking pot at one of the riverboat casinos.
            It got hushed up, and the charges went away.
            In the meantime, she’s out putting people in jail for the very same thing.
            Do you think she never saw a sack of buds laying around the house?
            Sure, send her to Washington where the hypocrisy can have greater effect.Report

            • Avatar M.A. says:

              Akin’s rap sheet differs with your analysis.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                So let’s hear what else he did wrong.
                If he would say something so easily disprovable regarding human fertility, surely there must be a multitude of similar instances which would prove him to be a raving lunatic beyond all doubt.
                So let’s hear it.Report

  6. Avatar Damon says:

    At Ethan

    Essentially the same comments can be attributed to Mitt’s positions, which is why I’m not voting for him either. The overlap between the two candidates essentially provides no significant difference. I will not vote for either.Report

  7. Avatar North says:

    I hate to have to be the first one in the thread to raise the warty old practical and so very predictable objection but how do you rationalize the fact that Obama’s opponent is worse than he is on every single one of the issues you have raised?

    On economics Romney could be expected to be as corporatist as Obama at the very least.
    On healthcare Romney has promised to repeal the reforms Obama has signed.
    On torture Romney has asserted he would return to the Bush II era policies.
    On the War on Drugs Romney doesn’t even pay lip service to revisiting the issue of drugs while Obama at least occasionally makes gestures in that direction.
    On foreign policy Romney has espoused a more belligerent and interventionist posture and has denounced the “lead from behind” and consensus building styles Obama has used to avoid things like direct attacks on Iran or Syria.
    On Libya this is indeed a tough issue but I find it surprising you are sanguine with the idea of Obama sitting back and letting Gaddafi kill hundreds of thousands of people in Bengazi. Considering how Libya is over all shaping up in a pretty productive way (with no Iraq style American presence) I’d say Obama comes out ahead on Libya, the consulate attack notwithstanding.
    On civil rights Romney has had nothing libertarian or solidly civil rights related to say in objection to Obama’s drone program or extrajudicial killing. I’d also add that on social issues in the US (which you leave out I presume because you approve of Obama’s position on them) Romney stands adamantly opposed to Obama’s policies.

    So based on this I’m confused by your position. Does voting against Obama really advance the principles you espouse? You would no doubt retort that you have no intent in voting for Romney but we both know how this first past the post electoral system works neither of us are naive. Obama has indeed been a muddled, hyper-cautious, contradictory and supremely imperfect vessel for the principles you address about in this post but Romney, in contrast, is an anathema to them. I don’t think highly enough of Obama to call this a case of letting the good be sacrificed in pursuit of the unachievable perfect but I am perplexed that you would advocate an outcome of abhorrent over unsatisfactory.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      I’ll refer you for the time being to my comment responding to Michael Drew. I think there is something necessarily undemocratic (i.e. against the concept’s underlying princiles) about voting as a game rather than an act of political expression.Report

      • Avatar M.A. says:

        Sometimes it’s not a matter of choosing to steer the car clear of the accident or run headlong into it.

        Sometimes all you can do is hit the brakes, steer, and turn a full rear-ender into a minor fender-bender.

        Romney’s policies would be the full-on, 3-ambulance collision; Obama’s policies aren’t perfect but at worst they’re the fender-bender. Which one do you want to go with?Report

        • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

          This is an inaccurate analogy. In my state (and most others) there will be a handful of other choices as well.Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            No, there aren’t.

            Gary Johnson will not win a single electoral vote. You know this.
            Stein will not win a single electoral vote. You know this.

            The rest of the 3rd-party candidates will also not win a single electoral vote.

            If you consolidated every single 3rd party and they all got together to nominate just one single 3rd-party protest candidate, that candidate would not win a single electoral vote. Ross Perot didn’t even manage it.

            I don’t know which state you’re voting in, but I’m just going to be blunt here; you’re misrepresenting the 3rd parties as viable choices (emphasis on the word “viable”). They are not. Categorically, unequivocally, not.

            If you’re in a state that you can reasonably expect to be a lock for either Romney or Obama, then sure, throw your vote where you want it. If you’re in a close state, elections have consequences and your choice is between the 3-ambulance collision or the fender-bender.Report

            • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

              “The rest of the 3rd-party candidates will also not win a single electoral vote.”

              How can you know this? Most of the country hasn’t voted yet? That’s the point of voting, to express what we think via pledging our support for one candidate or another.

              I’m all for having a discussion of what a vote “should” be about though (for instance: is the act of voting a moral one governed by utilitarian/consequentialist considerations? If so, what stops the subversion of the process of voting, by not voting for your prefered candidate and instead voting against another, from also being a moral consideration?)Report

              • Avatar Creon Critic says:

                How can you know this?

                Winner takes all constituencies (in nearly every state), Duverger’s law, and the United States’ considerable history with prior elections.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                This, plus the existing polling, which is done in ways that are scientifically valid and have been tested over a long period of time for reliability. They have a margin of error, but Johnson’s (or any other third party’s) low level of support has tracked over and over and may as well be considered fact.

                Again to Ethan: you could put down $5 in Vegas on Gary Johnson getting a minimum one electoral vote – just one is all it would take – and if you won that bet you’d be a multimillionaire.

                But even you have to admit that’s a sucker’s bet and all you are doing is wasting your five bucks. And I don’t need to wait for the election returns to be completely tallied down to every last absentee ballot in order to understand that.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Ross Perot didn’t manage it DELIBERATELY. He didn’t want to win, and kinda panicked when his polls said he was gonna.Report

            • Avatar Brian Houser says:

              The adage “voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil” is literally true in this case. Voting for either of the two main candidates means you’re choosing to support a candidate who plans to continue a foreign policy that has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people. The choice is just how much you’re willing to spend to do it.

              So, on this issue, a better analogy would be hiring a hitman. A vote for Obama is hiring a hitman to kill your neighbors for $10,000 while a vote for Romney is hiring him for $12,000.

              Regardless of the viability of a third party candidate, I can’t cast a vote for Obama or Romney without admitting that I’m evil in doing so.

              If all of us always followed the lesser of the evils voting method, not only would be all end up evil, but third party ideas would never have a chance to rise to the surface. If voters always voted their conscience rather than treating elections as a game, the ideas of liberty might actually be viable options today.Report

              • Avatar NoPublic says:

                So, on this issue, a better analogy would be hiring a hitman. A vote for Obama is hiring a hitman to kill your neighbors for $10,000 while a vote for Romney is hiring him for $12,000.

                It’s more like “Hire the guy who’s been doing my lawn for the last 4 years again, even though he sometimes mows down the iris and spits on the sidewalk” or “Hire the guy who does the lawncare for the vacant lot down the street where there used to be a factory and there’s now a bunch of chest high weeds and a “FOR LEASE” sign for twice as much money ’cause he swears this time he’s really gonna do the job right” but sure, that’s the same thing.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I guess I’m ok with targeted evil in short spurts.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        I read it and I understand your principles even if I don’t prioritize them as you do but from where I’m sitting it does really seem like you’re advocating making the perfect the enemy of the good*.

        *or at least less bad.Report

      • I think there is something necessarily undemocratic (i.e. against the concept’s underlying princiles) about voting as a game rather than an act of political expression.

        Perhaps, but:

        1) Democracy itself is a flawed system. Choosing it as the best of a collection of flawed alternatives is itself a “game.” It is quite “democratic,” for example, to subject Jason’s relationship and my relationship and all other same-sex relationships to the whims of the majority, but that hardly makes it just.

        2) Needs must. Here’s where I toot my pragmatism horn. There are only two even remotely plausible outcomes to the election — Romney wins or Obama does. One candidate is disappointing, and the other is much, much worse. The practical, predictable outcomes of a Romney presidency are even worse for your ideals than an Obama win. I applaud your loyalty to your ideals and your wish for a more purely democratic system, but politics always has and always will involve a great deal of gamesmanship, and to wish otherwise is to succumb to the nirvana fallacy.Report

      • Avatar MBunge says:

        “voting as a game rather than an act of political expression”

        Voting is not “an act of political expression”. It is the first and most fundamental step in the process of governing.


      • Avatar Heinrich says:

        I can’t resist throwing in a disagreement here, because I believe exactly the opposite. If one wants to accomplish something with ones vote, then it is necessarily a game because you need to coordinate with a large number of other people to reach a desirable outcome. Voting as political expression is fine, as long as all you want to accomplish is to make a statement and don’t care about actually changing anything policy wise.

        So voting is a game. Refusing to support a candidate who you disagree with is a strategy.Report

        • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

          “Voting as political expression is fine, as long as all you want to accomplish is to make a statement and don’t care about actually changing anything policy wise.”

          This is silly. Or at least misunderstands which game I’m talking about. There is playing the game of, we’re going to have an election, here’s how you vote, come here at this time, pull these levers, etc.

          Then there’s the game of trying to play electoral poker where hundreds of millions of people are sitting at a giant table (or a bunch of smaller ones if you want to stick hard and fast to the electoral calculus), trying to figure out what to do based on what they think everyone else will or might do.

          For just one more example of why this is ludicrous, imagine if enough people in a “safe” state decide to vote for a third party candidate because individually they think they can do so without changing the outcome of the election, but then end up swinging their state to the other guy or gal because enough of them thought this way?

          So even for those saying it’s alright to vote third party in a swing state, per your logic it’s not really alright, because if enough people thought that they might undermine the very premise upon which they based the the decision to do so.

          I’m I the only person that feels that’s an irresolvable paradox? What am I missing?Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            There is no spoon.Report

          • Avatar RTod says:

            Since you ask, I think you’re missing a few things:

            First, if you’re really picturing a giant poker game in your head then your metaphor is flawed. There are not millions of potential outcomes; there are realistically speaking only two.

            Secondly, although you don’t go the next step and say this, you seem to assume that there is (or could be) a candidate out there that advocates no policy that voters – even a large cross section – don’t find morally flawed. This is not the case, and could not be the case in a pluralistic culture like ours.

            Lastly, you’re making the same mistake that many that are biting your heels are making as well: That there is one method and set of criteria for a person to make a voting decision, and any that deviate from that are invalid and immoral. It is a particularly narrow way to view others.

            Your passion does you justice, and I’m not about to try to curtail it, but I think this is why you’re seeing the degree of pushback that you are.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              There are millions of potential outcomes if you assume that we’re looking at an iterated game instead of a standalone one. Even if you’re the one dude who casts the vote that wins the election, that would still be the case. I’m pretty sure that who wins the Presidential election is far less important to long term gay rights (for example) than whether or not 1 passes for the good Doctor.

              No comment on the second; I don’t think it’s quite that bipolar either way.

              That last one, I don’t think Ethan makes that mistake. He clearly believes that his method of choosing is right for him (which I hope we can agree is okay) and he clearly believes that his method of choosing curtails his giving of even a recommendation. But I don’t see him saying anywhere in his post, “And clearly, if you vote for Obama you’re a monster because you value (whatever) greater than these things that I point out are deal-breakers for me.”

              Although lots of people are inferring that, clearly.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

        In countries with more than 2 viable parties, you often have to weigh how much a party you like agrees with you and how likely they are to win this time around, amd how awful an opposition win will be.

        Voting your conscience and voting strategically are the same thing. You are voting to make a good moral outcome more likely.

        Do you think Romney and Obama are pretty much the same in the morality of their policies. Ithink you do. If so, don’t vote for them. But I ask you to remember that Bush was pretty bad. and Romney says he will be more Bush than Bush.Report

      • Avatar James K says:

        More to the point it’s a game you can’t win. Your vote won’t change the outcome of the election, so what game would you play?Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:


      Strategic voting is rational in small-n elections, but not in large-n elections.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Then I guess I’m missing the point. Perhaps Ethan thinks there’re a much larger number of people who prioritize his priorities the way he does than I do? In my view of the electorate if everyone who prioritizes as Ethan does voted a third party we’d have a Romney landslide. How is this outcome desirable to a person with his priorities? Or is somni’s rather cruel accusation of therapudic voting on target?Report

        • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

          The point of an Election is to find all this out, not try to game the result before hand. Whoever you want to be President, you vote for them, that’s how this works. If you consider the election as a game instead, and encourage other people to do so as well, we end up with choices nobody wanted, and results that don’t accurately “represent” the democratic populace.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            So then taking into consideration the consequence of my vote, the actual predictable outcome of it and of similar voting behavior by people like me is gaming the system?
            Heck I’d rather have you or Hanley as President over Obama. I could write you in. I’m a spiteful man, if I had the power I might just wave my magic wand and make Jaybird president.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Heck I’d rather have you or Hanley as President over Obama.

              Do you really hate us that much?Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Hate? How could it be hateful. All indications I’ve seen are that the Whitehouse is a pretty swank crib.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I like my half-renovated old Victorian in a working class neighborhood well enough. And I don’t get any death threats.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I was listening to someone talk about his very first death threat. It was kinda cute (it was over “imitation bacon”, and a scheme to sell such to Orthodox Jews)Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Do you think Orthodox Jews would buy imitation bacon? Assuming everything was strictly above-board: that the actual product didn’t violate any dietary bans, and that those buying it knew just what it was and were consciously aware they were buying “imitation bacon,” would it be likely to sell?

                I don’t have the foggiest clue, but I find that intriguing.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Well, some of the Israeli Jews considered it so offensive they sent death threats. I’d wager SOMEONE might buy it, but there are Orthodox synagogues where the rabbi’s gay life partner comes to the services.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                How about U.S. Orthodox Jews? Do you think there’d be much difference?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                The Ashkenasic diaperthrowers would have a total shitfit in Israel.
                I think the Sephardi might actually try it, might. Dunno, but I’d have to ask my relatives…
                In America there’s less “rule by community” and rule by absolute rabbi. So someone might buy it.

                In the end, I don’t think the business was worth the death threats (even though they really weren’t serious. When Sony starts threatening your life/liberty, that’s a bit more problematic, yes?)Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                I know people who keep kosher but put Bac-Os on their salads.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                yeah, I think teh conservative market would be pretty big. Ya hafta have people who have at least tried bacon, or had enough contact with the “bacon makes everything better” crowd.Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                But in fairness to the, it’s not like Bac-o-bits have any pork in them.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                I thought that was the point.Report

              • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

                Conservatives and Reforms would use “imitation bacon” (many Reform households don’t keep kosher anyway). I think some Orthodox might try it, but I doubt it would be a big seller in their communities.

                I’ll need to rewrite my Christmas tree joke as an imitation bacon joke now….Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            Whoever you want to be President, you vote for them, that’s how this works.

            That’s actually not the same thing at all as breaking it down by record, look for “deal-breakers,” or doing whatever other calculations of principle-accordance versus principle-discordance, and coming to some conclusion on that basis. Further, at some point, you want some degree of coordination between voters-as-principle-expressors. Otherwise you’d have a muddle of tons of self-voting, more tons of voting-for-nearest-trusted-acquaintance-willing-to-serve, very lesser candidates, etc. on up. Surely, at some point you actually do want strategery even on the part of the principled – ie.e. taking candidates with some notoriety over pure principle, otherwise it becomes functionally a low-n election where those who do elect strategy over principle can easily dominate. Well, we’re just on the other side of that tipping point, which is inevitable. You should be glad – it affords you the option to truly vote on principle without actually having to worry about the strategic trade-off. You should likewise let others react to prevailing conditions as they find them relatively in peace without too much sanctimonious. People should just not vote out of pure spite in order to bring harm to specific people with no legitimate positive counterjustification.Report

          • Avatar LWA (Lib With Attitude) says:

            “Whoever you want to be President, you vote for them, that’s how this works.”

            I disagree.
            Not necessarily about elections, but about how democracy works.
            Democracy, and governing in a pluralistic society, is NOT about asserting our moral values, and holding fast to them.

            Even in the most idealized state, governing is about cooperation with those who disagree, and finding ways to resolve and work together to reach a satisfactory result.

            If every single American took Ethan’s advice, we would have about 6,000 Presidential candidates splitting the Electoral College votes.
            And the winner would face what? A splintered Congress composed of 535 people each adamantly “voting their conscience”?

            There very DNA of our political system is hardwired to force cooperation, compromise, and sausage making.Report

            • Avatar MFarmer says:

              As everyone comments and votes today, keep those suffering in the northeast, like Staten Island, in mind. Many are hopeless at this point.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Yes. I shall. My vote and my money is for pushing Staten Island into the sea.
                Just like what happened with the other island Bloomberg refused to evacuate (has anyone got any news of that sandbar, Riker’s Island?).

                Rarely seen a buncha bigger assholes than Staten Island.

                (note: by my vote, I do not mean my presidential vote. Some of us libertarians vote other than during civic elections).Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                WTF??? A time and a place, Kim, a time and a place. Right after a natural disaster where people are struggling for basic needs is neither.Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                Well said, MFarmer.Report

              • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

                I saw taht at least a few of the Marathon runners were channelling their energy into helping Staten Island. I thought that was a nice thing to do.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

              If every single American took Ethan’s advice, we would have about 6,000 Presidential candidates splitting the Electoral College votes.
              And the winner would face what? A splintered Congress composed of 535 people each adamantly “voting their conscience”?

              The very DNA of our political system is hardwired to force cooperation, compromise, and sausage making.

              I’m with LWA here: we’ve evolved a system of the consensus [legislation] of a consensus [general election] of a consensus [the primaries]. Alternate voting schemes end up with the same thing, and are usually proffered by those whose ideas find no possibility of consensus anywhere along the existing lines. Greens, Buchananites, the Art Bell party, all the same to me.Report

  8. Avatar Michelle says:

    I will be voting my conscience when I vote for President Obama later this morning. Am I thrilled with everything he’s done while in office? No. I’m particularly distressed by his continuation of Bush’s expansions of executive power. I too had hoped for more transparency and less militarism.

    However, I think he struck the most reasonable bargain possible with the Republicans with regard to the stimulus, and managed to get an initial stab at health care reform through Congress (although much of the credit goes to Reid and Pelosi). He also worked with the military to repeal DADT, and finally came around on gay marriage. He’s faced an obstinate Republican Party, intent on making him a one-term president and voting down any legislation he supports, even if it sprang from Republican ideas. And then there’s the Supreme Court. I’m fine with the two women he nominated; the next president will likely get to nominate at least two more justices and I’ll be damned if I do anything that leaves the process to a Republican president.

    Am I as enthusiastic about voting for Obama as I was the first time around? No. But I wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic about voting for Clinton the second go-round either. Reality tends to wear off the romance.

    Finally, I refuse to award the Republican Party by voting for its presidential candidate. The party and it’s cheering section on Fox News, talk radio, and the conservative blog-o-sphere has embraced the anti-science, anti-intellectual bias of its base and run with it. There’s a reason why the higher your level of education, the less likely you are to vote Republican. The party has chased out its moderates in favor of the fundamentalists, too many of whom profess a certain no-nothingism that scares me.

    So yes, after weighing my conscience and contemplating a vote for Stein, I’m quite comfortable voting for Obama again.Report

  9. Avatar andy says:

    A couple questions: Do the substantive gains made by gays (DADT) and women (Lily Led better + women’s health in PPACA) qualify, to you, as important issues?

    I’m not trolling you here; there are real, important differences between the candidates on these issues, so how do you square that?

    Ultimately, are you saying that your principles trump actual outcomes? Put differently, if Romney wins and encourages the House to somehow or overturn nullify PPACA, this will affect millions of people. What would be your response?Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      are you saying that your principles trump actual outcomes?

      Since voting his principles doesn’t change the outcomes, I don’t think a valid question is posed.Report

      • Avatar andy says:

        Have I missed where he declared what state he is voting in?Report

        • Avatar M.A. says:

          I was wondering the same question which is my caveat about third party voting in my comment below being strongly dependent on whether or not he’s in a predictably close state or one of the runaway states like Texas or California.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          It doesn’t matter what state he’s in. They’re all large-n elections.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

        Ah, Downs paradox: voting is not rational.

        What a downer to bring that up on election day, Hanley. It’s like being a skeptic about life aftter death as your friends mom is dying of cancer.

        I think we went over this endlessly a few weeks ago.

        If each individual who votes strategically doesn’t impact the election, and a set of 100000 voters is just a set of those individual voters, then 100000 individuals voting strategically can’t impact the election. But 100000 strategic votes can impact the outcome. So, it can’t be the case that an individual’s vote has no impact., i.e because then no individual’s vote would have an impact, and that is clearly false.

        Also, if strategic voting for Obama doesn’t impact the election, then voting for Stein tos end a message doesn’t impact people’s gettingor not getting that message. Your one vote does no more adding to Stein’s toll than it does Obama’s.

        So Downs’ paradox might be (I don’t think so) a good reason not to vote at all, but it isn’t a good reason to vote one way as opposed to another.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Rich people don’t vote. They pay someone to vote for them (via advertising. am NOT suggesting actual vote buying, jesssus!)Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          If each individual who votes strategically doesn’t impact the election, and a set of 100000 voters is just a set of those individual voters, then 100000 individuals voting strategically can’t impact the election.

          That’s a factually incorrect statement. It’s very true that if 100000 people vote strategically in a state with a close election that it could change the outcome. But it’s equally likely (to quite a few places past the decimal point) that 99999 would have the same effect, so any one individual still isn’t affecting the outcome.

          It’s like paying off the national debt. If I gave $10,000, it would have a wholly insignificant impact on the size of the national debt. If 300 million American gave $10,000 we’d pay off $3 trillion, which is pretty significant. But if we deducted my $10,000 from that $3 trillion, it would be an insignificant change.

          When we’re dealing with large numbers, we just can’t say that because the large number matters, that a small number within that large number matters.

          As to whether Downs’ paradox is a good reason not to vote, it depends whether you’re voting strategically (in which case it is a good reason not to vote, in a large-n election) or whether you’re voting as consumption, in which case it’s not a good reason not to vote. It applies only to strategic voting. Period.Report

          • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

            “so any one individual still isn’t affecting the outcome.”

            So if no individual effects the outcome of a vote then the outcome of a vote is not determined by a set of voters, because a set of voters just is the individual voters.

            Downs paradox is as much an argument for “no one’s indidual vote doesn’t determine the election” as The Sorites Paradox is for the conclusion “there is no such thing as a heap of sand.”

            IMO. But we don’t need to have this battle all over again. There’s a big literature on Down’s paradox and that thread still exists. If you want to discuss it, maybe some other thread is better or we can email or something.

            How is consumption voting rational? Why not just be happy that I would’ve voted for X, instead of actually voting for X, if my vote has no effect? Or why not write a blog post, twlling others to vote (less time than actually voting.) I can get the good from voting without actually spending time voting, so why bother spending time to vote?

            I mean, imagine we really lived in a country where elections were rigged such that so and so would always win and this was common knowledge, such that it really was true that your vote had no impact on the election and strategic voting was truly irrtional. (No strategic vote will keep Stalin, say, from winning.) Would consumption voting be rational in that situation where strategic voting was ineffectual and irrational?

            If consumption voting wouldn’t be rational in that hypothetical case, how is our case different, in your eyes?Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              So if no individual effects the outcome of a vote then the outcome of a vote is not determined by a set of voters, because a set of voters just is the individual voters.

              Oh, my god, you’re killing me. It’s just repetition of the same old logical incoherence. Show me how any one single person’s vote actually has an effect on determining who’s the winner. Just fishing show me, already.

              The only examples that you are going to be able to find are in small n elections. In fact I’ll go so far as to predict that if you search diligently, you’ve got a pretty good chance of finding a news story about some small town where the vote for mayor was tied 42-42, or something like that. But show me any large n election–mayor of a large city, U.S. Representative, state governor, U.S. senator, or president, where changing any one vote will change the outcome. Do it and I’ll publicly admit my idiocy and praise you as the wisest person on earth. I’ll buy you a bottle of the finest bourbon. I’ll fly out to your home and wash your windows. Just show me the case.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                One vote? Maybe not. But there’s Tester, and Franken, and a judge or two in Wisconsin that say that 100 (ish) people make a difference.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                What I get from this is that it’s better to spend more on power hitters rather than blowing the roll on pitching.
                Even if one of those power hitters happens to strike out, it’s not really going to effect the outcome.

                Or something like that.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot3 says:

                ” Show me how any one single person’s vote actually has an effect on determining who’s the winner. Just fishing show me, already.

                The paradox is the result of logical incoherence.

                The incoherence is found in the expression “the vote that won the election” or “the vote that, if switched would change the outcome of the election.” This is an empty expression even in an election that was won by one vote. (Which vote is it?) It is an empty expression like “the highest integer”; it has a Fregean sense, but no reference. If you assume that “the highest integer” has a reference you get paradoxes, too. Those paradoxes dissolve when you accept that the expression has no reference.

                So too does Downs’ paradox resolve when you accept that “the winning vote” is always empty.

                “repetition of the same old logical incoherence.”

                Thanks. You are so charitable and fun to talk to. I will cease discussing this issue with you now.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      I didn’t mention the state because part of what I’m saying is an implicit rejection of the framework in which what state I’m voting in plays any role in deciding what politician I prefer to become the President of the United States.Report

      • Well, let’s get back to your objection to the game-like aspects of democracy. But let’s stipulate that it will always be a game to a great extent, no matter how much one might wish otherwise. Lament that all you want, but it cannot be denied.

        Let us further stipulate that the politician you prefer will never become President. Ever. I suspect (but am obviously just guessing as best I can) that no candidate who adheres to your ideals sufficiently to win your vote ever will.

        So what do you do with your vote? Reading Burt’s post over at NaPP about Johnson, I understand his decision to vote the way he did. Knowing that, in California, his vote will not make any difference in the allocation of electoral votes and thus who is POTUS, his vote makes sense in advancing a certain very clear practical goal — getting the libertarians a larger share of our political attention. I laud him in that goal.

        While I cannot speak for his thinking, were I in his shoes a HUGE part of my decision would be predicated upon where I lived. If you reject the notion that your state of residence should play any role in making your decision, it strikes me as similar to playing a game (which, again, politics will always be) without looking at the board.Report

        • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

          “If you reject the notion that your state of residence should play any role in making your decision, it strikes me as similar to playing a game (which, again, politics will always be) without looking at the board.”

          This is the crux.

          It’s very much a question of: is the board there because we say it is (i.e. because we play the game as if there is a specific one in front of us), or is it there regardless, in which case yes, my flouting it is condemnable.Report

          • I suspect it boils down to whether or not we accept each others’ premises. I resignedly believe the board is pretty much set where it is, and while one can do one’s best with the pieces one has, the game is the same.

            I suspect you don’t agree.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            The economy is still there even if you aren’t buying things (Roth says it’s just another game, and that’s true enough).

            That said, I would very much support “vote your conscience” and DONATE your conscience too. Find a few respectable folks who are close to winning, and donate to them. It’ll do you folks a bit of good to get “better thinkers” in, at any rate.

            Or, if you really want to be ballsy, Find another Bernie Sanders.Report

          • Avatar Scott Fields says:

            It’s very much a question of: is the board there because we say it is (i.e. because we play the game as if there is a specific one in front of us), or is it there regardless, in which case yes, my flouting it is condemnable.

            Yes, this is the heart of the whole question. As the risk of belaboring the analogy, you miss the entire point if you approach this as if the game is only the vote today rather that the entire election process in the US. You want to change the nature of the “game”? Then hopefully you were out there as an activist for third parties years ago. Like the social conservatives who have changed the game by running for school boards and other local offices, get some libertarians elected to state assembly or city council. What you are wanting to do now is come in at the end of a game of chess that has been being played for years and throw down a bunch of playing cards in the hope that people we see that bridge is the better game. Please.Report

        • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

          Re: if nobody’s there to play the game, is the board still there, etc.

          I think a lot of my frustration is not from people who disagree with the framework I’m using, but with the notion of “of the only two viable candidates.”

          The specific mix of that reality, whether it’s half self-fulfilling, or mostly, or not at all, is important I think. How many people here, if Johnson or Stein had as good a chance as any to win, would shift their vote to one of them? If most would, my instinct is to extend that question to the populace writ large, and wonder if there aren’t enough people who feel that way that, if they voted their concience, would have a much larger impact on American electoral politics than just one election between two candidates whose largest disagreements are over issues neither of them has a whole lot of power to do anything about.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            I wouldn’t. I like Obama’s coalition, and I haven’t seen anything from Stein to say that she won’t be as bribeable/blackmailable as he is.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            To clarify Ethan, do you truely believe that there is a majority or a solid plurality of voters who would prefer one of our current third party candidates but who vote for Romney or Obama due to their perceptions of those third party candidates viability? An actual majority or plurality? Maybe I’m missing something here but I do not think that is the case.Report

            • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

              I don’t know, probably not, maybe a sizable minority.

              In terms of gaming re: Pat’s iterative explanation, then I think a 15-20% turnout combined for Johnson and Stein would do a lot more good for the country in the long run than a Not-Romney presidency.

              And let’s be clear, that’s all most (not all) of the commenters here are urging: a Not-Romney vote.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                It’s certainly what I’d urge on you considering your opinion of Obama. My own vote would be about 51% for Obama and 49% against Romney but we weigh different issues differently. I’m a filthy neoliberal in many areas for instance.Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            “How many people here, if Johnson or Stein had as good a chance as any to win, would shift their vote to one of them?”

            See, the problem here is the amount of navel gazing involved. The reality is that neither Johnson nor Stein have “as good a chance as any to win”, or even a snowball’s chance in hell to win.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              So we can’t even consider a hypothetical!Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              At what point do you consider a candidate sufficiently unlikely to win that you no longer need to consider them a possibility?

              8% 10%? 2%?Report

              • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

                And to this point, similar to what Conor said months ago, at what point do the number of things with which you disagree witht he President disqualify him from getting your vote?

                What if Obama were very pro-life and a homophobe? What if he didn’t think global warming was actually happening or man made?Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                He never would’ve won a Democratic primary or if those things came out after he was elected, he would’ve been primaried and probably down by 10 right now anyway.

                It’s nice to think of hypotheticals to try to show the evil mean partisan liberals they’re just as bad as you are, but there are actual facts on the ground.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                That they’re not the nominee of one the two major political parties, as long as we’re in a FPTP system.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                That’s not an answer to my question, it’s a dodge.

                Wasn’t a vote for Mondale a throw-away vote? Dude lost by 512 electoral votes.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Certainly not 2%, that’s the percentage chance Romney wins at this point.Report

  10. Avatar M.A. says:

    “He has failed to bring “change” to the White House, or much of the executive government over which he presides. ”

    Hard to do when within hours of inauguration the other side declared their job was to “make sure Obama fails” and proceeded to do the legislative equivalent of human-chain-handcuffing themselves around the governmental system.

    “I do not think many of the President’s policies abroad make the country more secure.”

    Examples, please? I think we’re more secure with being out of Iraq and winding down in Afghanistan. And that’s just a start. Here’s more:

    “In dealing with the economic crisis,”

    I invite you to say what you think the President should have done. I invite you to review the recorded fact that EVERY jobs bill brought forth was either blocked by Republicans in the House, or filibustered by same in the Senate. Absent being able to get Congress to put a bill on his desk due to the “don’t give him anything to sign” policies of the GOP, what do you propose he should have done that he didn’t already do, or that he did that you believe he should not have?

    “The President and I do not see eye to eye, …

    A vote for President Obama would communicate that these differences between he and I don’t exist, or that they don’t matter. When all the votes are counted, the one with my name on it will not also read: “but I didn’t really want to.” The official record will not show that I find policies X, Y, and Z to be abhorrent, and that my vote for Obama is really a vote against Romney.”

    Apply this to Romney as well. How many policies of Romney (which Romney?) do you disagree with? How many of them are deal-breakers in one sense or another because the issue is too important to you?

    The vote does not record on individual policies, that much is true. But the vote is by a secret ballot anyways. The vote does not record anyone’s intentions or reservations, by design.

    What you’ve put forth is nothing but a false argument full of heat but no light, sound but no content. If you intend a Romney victory, please give your reasoning for. If you intend to vote third party, and you are in a state where it won’t matter, I invite you to do so. If you intend to vote third party in a close state… well, I think you are making a horrid mistake and you ARE making the perfect the enemy of the good whether you’re willing to admit it or not.Report

  11. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Ethan, you may not agree with all of the Libertarian policy planks but I would hope you’d see that they are at least principled and part of their constellation of policy preferences align with your own much more closely than do those of either the Democrats or the Republicans. Consider giving them your support — realistically, of course, they will not win high office now or in 2016 but with sufficient support they can at least have a place at the table and force the major parties to offer rational justifications for their platforms. Based on what you’ve written I see no principled way for you to vote other than for a third party. Maybe you woild consider voting Green instead but the Libertarians have a better shot of getting over the 5% threshold.Report

    • Avatar M.A. says:

      “realistically, of course, they will not win high office now or in 2016 but with sufficient support they can at least have a place at the table and force the major parties to offer rational justifications for their platforms. ”

      You seem to have the USA confused with a parliamentary system…Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      Burt, I feel like you’ve just asked me to rush for a frat.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      I strongly disagree with voting for the “beer and free women” party.
      I know someone who’s worked for them before, you see.

      If you must vote libertarian, Vote Coburn or Tester. (not in that state? Send money!)Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW says:

      Given Ethan’s principles, the Greens seem like a much better option. Libertarians are fine if you only care about executive power and drugs and don’t value things like Medicare, Social Security, public transport, public education, the environment, and all the parts of government that look out for the interests and well-being of the poor. But so long as a left-wing person is going to vote third party, they may as well vote for a party that agrees with all their principles rather than agrees with half and fundamentally opposes the other half.Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain says:

      I agree with a bunch of libertarian party planks — get rid of the drug war, stay out of foreign wars, limits on executive power, what consenting adults do in their own bedrooms is their business. Heck, I even agree with the minimal government plank, so long as it comes with the caveat “…consistent with stability in an urban high-tech society.” Which, IMO, means you have to be at least somewhat concerned with outcomes, not just opportunities. So there’s a certain level of subsidies, transfers, and the coercion that goes with them. As the level of tech goes up, the level of transfers will go up as well.Report

  12. Avatar Jaybird says:

    People gotta vote for what they gotta vote for. Some people will be compelled to vote for Obama because they fear what Romney will do. Some people will vote for Romney because they fear what Obama will do. Voting, for these people, is something that they are compelled to do. My arguments won’t have an impact on them.

    Some people will vote for Romney because they support what they they think he’s portrayed himself as supporting. Some people will vote for Obama because they support what they think he’s portrayed himself as supporting. It’s easier to make “you know, he doesn’t *REALLY* support that” arguments in that case… but, hey. I suppose it’s better that people project their hopes onto the person they’re voting for than projecting their fears on the person they’re voting against.

    I do find myself irritated when people tell me that I have to vote a certain way, lest we fall into the abyss whose edge we stand upon.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      I’ve long since learned that throwing oughts at you is a very bad idea Jaybird me lad.Report

    • Avatar Michelle says:

      People gotta vote for what they gotta vote for.

      This statement pretty much sums it up. We all have our reasons and rationalizations regarding for whom we chose to vote.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      I think there is are two layers here.

      In a way then, I’m advancing two oughts (though not making them the explicit subject of the post). The first is, if we subscribe to democratic elections, we must subscribe to the constituent principles upon which they are based. We can reasonably disagree on this, but my position is that using a vote not to express one’s political preference, but to most effectively mitigate harm, is not only an incredibly difficult calculation to make (what if a Romney presidency, while worse in the short run, ends up being better over the long run, for reasons X, Y, Z, etc.) but subverts the point of democratic elections, making this the wrong thing to do if one does not wishto subvert democratic electorial outcomes (though some of us, I’m sure, would).

      My second ought is that, within the framework of democratic elections as political preference, I’m perfectly fine arguing with someone about why their preferences are either incorrect (i.e. they are confused about what they actually want/believe/prefer), or wrong–that is, immoral, bad, not in keeping with the good life, etc.

      I think we can reasonably disagree about both of these oughts, but not about whether oughts are involved. But that’s another meta for another time.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I have a number of right-wing friends who consider me the crazy lefty they know. They give me speeches and rants in the lab about how a vote for Gary Johnson is really a vote for Obama, how all of the things I care about are worse for Obama (“do you really want Obama replacing Scalia? Do you really want Obama replacing Thomas???”) and give me speeches about how I am actively making the country worse by not voting for everyone’s best interest in this, the most important election of our lifetime.

        This changes my perception of how I read many of the comments in threads like this one.Report

    • Avatar Will H. says:

      That’s as grates on my nerves as much as seeing an abyss everywhere.Report

  13. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    Re: M.A.

    “Hard to do when within hours of inauguration…”

    The White House, the administration that is, and how it operates, he alone is responsible.

    “I think we’re more secure with being out of Iraq and winding down in Afghanistan.”

    We are not “out” of Iraq, the President actually doubled the troop presence in Afghanistan, so there has been no “winding down,” and he has escelated strikes in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, etc. as well as gone to war with a third country (Libya), while *promising* to go to war with Iran, if they don’t stop making a nuclear bomb.

    “I invite you to say what you think…”

    The Obama Admin, filled with Clintonian neo-liberals, focused on making banks solvent (i.e. give them trillions of dollars), and a stimulus, half of which I agreed with. The Admin has never pushed strongly for mortgage relief, and did not make job recovery programs a center piece until after health care reform. So while there are few fundamental disagreements between the President and I in this area, I do not find that he best represents me in it either.

    “If you intend a Romney victory, please give your reasoning for. If you intend to vote third party, and you are in a state where it won’t matter, I invite you to do so. If you intend to vote third party in a close state… well, I think you are making a horrid mistake and you ARE making the perfect the enemy of the good whether you’re willing to admit it or not.”

    I do not intend a Romney victory, anymore than hostage negotiators intend for hostages to die when they don’t give in to appeasement. If Obama best represents you, and you want him to be President, than you *should* vote for him (even if I would ask you to reflect on how your values relate to his actions and promises).

    He, however, does not represent most what I believe, especially, mostly, in the areas where he actually has the power to directly affect change.

    You assume an awful lot about how other people will vote, and then base your vote on that. I think that approach is spurious.Report

    • Avatar M.A. says:

      “You assume an awful lot about how other people will vote, and then base your vote on that. I think that approach is spurious.”

      Scientifically speaking, the polls are meaningful and have a tendency to be accurate to within a few percentage points.

      We know, going into this morning, that certain states are going to be pretty much locked in for either Obama or Romney. Good example: to assume that Texas flips to Obama is simply infeasible.

      We know that certain states are much, much closer but we also know via the same polling that none of the third party candidates are viable. None of them stands the slightest chance of winning an electoral vote. I could put $5 down in Vegas on Gary Johnson getting a single electoral vote and manage to walk away a millionaire if he somehow did, but I know and you know as well that all I’d be doing is throwing away my five bucks.

      So yes, I base my vote on the choices presented. 3-ambulance wreck, or minor fender-bender. Which would you choose? I can say “but I wanted a third choice” all day long but I’m simply not going to get it and you know that just as well as I do.Report

      • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

        “Scientifically speaking, the polls are meaningful and have a tendency to be accurate to within a few percentage points.”

        You do see that, if everyone takes this into consideration, it makes the polls questionable right? What if people are lying about their preferences to the pollsters in order to try and boost their preferred outcome, or most preferred realistic outcome?

        Hey, people will see these polls and cast their votes somewhat on the basis of them, in which case if I report my support in X way, I can effect the outcome by Y, and so should say Z. And then everyone thinks that, and then has to take that into consideration when they use the polling data to guide their own vote, which is itself not an honest appraisel but a calculated one.

        I think it is spurious because I don’t see you or anyone else being able to meaningfully sort through that level of meta-gamenship.Report

        • Avatar MBunge says:

          “What if people are lying about their preferences to the pollsters in order to try and boost their preferred outcome, or most preferred realistic outcome?”

          Uh…what? How exactly do you lie to a pollster to boost your preferred outcome? If you support “X”, what more can you do than tell the pollster “I support X”?

          The only way respondents can manipulate poll results would be if people with a particular opinion almost uniformly refuse to answer polls, resulting in their view being underrepresented. The only other thing I can come up with is, say, Republicans saying they’re going to vote for Obama or Democrats saying they’re going to vote for Romney in order to instill overconfidence in the other side. That would seem to take the concept of gaming the poll to ridiculous paranoia.


        • Avatar M.A. says:

          The problem with this conversation is that the further we go, the more strident you get, and the more you sound like someone trying to convince himself the nose on his face isn’t there.

          There’s reality, and there’s the way you seem to want things to be. The two do not seem to have a strong correlation.

          “You do see that, if everyone takes this into consideration, it makes the polls questionable right? ”

          Except that decades of testing, rigorous over the course of elections past, have shown that the vast majority of people are quite honest to the pollsters. 100% of the population are not liars trying to “game” the poll system, not even 1% are.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Mortgage relief is happening, courtesy of the Euro. Please don’t say that it isn’t, American consumer debt has taken a dramatic nosedive.Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW says:

      I think your argument is strong.

      Above all, because if Obama wins and we go to war with Iran in the next four year, all the people here who voted for him knowing that he’d said he was willing to go to war with Iran over the Iranian nuclear program will be complicit.

      If Romney wins and goes to war with Iran, you will not be complicit, not matter how often and loudly they try to tell you they are.

      My party, in Canada, has spent probably over 50 years being told, by all and sundry, that we empower the Conservatives merely by existing and espousing positions to the left of the Liberal Party. As of a year and a half ago, we are the Official Opposition and in a good position to actually make left-wing positions heard and taken seriously by the rest of the country, and the party that believed in power rather than principles is in its death throes. I never, before 2011, seriously imagined the NDP rising above third-party status – but we did, and got rid of a secessionist party in the process.

      Sometimes the impossible is possible. But it won’t happen unless people are willing to believe it can be.Report

      • Avatar Fnord says:

        Canada is not the United States; Westminster system parliamentary elections are not US presidential elections. It might have been hard to imagine that NDP rising to the position of Official Opposition, but that didn’t mean it had no representation in government. You may not like first past the post; I don’t. But it’s a fact in the US.

        And as far as I’m concerned, “complicit” versus “not complicit” is a distinction without a difference. Either you do what you can to prevent it, or you don’t. If you think a Johnson or Stein vote actually acts to minimize the risk of war, by all means make that case (perhaps there is a case to be made, especially in a safe state). Otherwise, what that says to me is that you’re more concerned with keeping your hands clean than actually preventing war.Report

        • Avatar KatherineMW says:

          Either you do what you can to prevent it, or you don’t.

          No. Either you support something, or you don’t. You’re responsible for the people you choose to elect. You’re not responsible for the actions of people you vote against. To say Ethan’s responsible for Romney’s actions when he voted against Romney is ridiculous.

          There’s no vote that can guarantee there won’t be a war. All you can do is ensure that you’re not stating, with your vote, that you’d be OK with war.Report

          • Avatar Fnord says:

            There’s no vote that can guarantee there won’t be a war, true enough. There’s no vote that can guarantee there will be a war either, but that doesn’t mean a pacifistic ought to vote for Romney. That doesn’t mean some candidates, and some votes, don’t make war more or less likely. So you figure out, as best you can, what would make it least likely, and then you vote that way.

            Actions have consequences. You are responsible for the consequences of your actions, certainly when those consequences are foreseeable.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

              And as far as I’m concerned, “complicit” versus “not complicit” is a distinction without a difference. Either you do what you can to prevent it, or you don’t.

              Actions have consequences. You are responsible for the consequences of your actions, certainly when those consequences are foreseeable.

              Solid reasoning, Mr. Fnord. The Pontius Pilate system of morality is indefensible to most western minds.

              [The proposition that a president who believes in a strong national defense might be better at keeping the peace than one who favors a more minimal American military is off the table here, but we take what we can get.]Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          If you thought that Romney winning would certainly lead to an immoral war with Iran, and you were a poll worker in a 95% democratic district, would you toss a box of ballots in the trash to reduce Obama’s chances?

          If not, aren’t you more concerned with keeping your hands clean than actually preventing war?

          Or can we agree that there are acceptable expressions of attempting to prevent war and unacceptable ones?Report

          • Avatar Fnord says:

            I think you’ve got the party wrong somewhere in there, but I take your point.

            I would say there that I’m more concerned with preventing election fraud than with preventing war (given the certainty of election fraud and relatively small chance of preventing war in the hypothetical, in any case). And yes, I’m comfortable saying that, and defending the fact that election fraud causes harm, and that the harm in this case outweighs the harm of the increased chance of a Romney victory (my answer might be different if it were a box of Hitler ballots).

            If you want to make an actual argument for the benefit of a third party vote, that such a vote doesn’t, on balance, cause harm, I’m all ears. Heck, I already believe that the benefit exists to the extent that I’d advise voting that way in a non-swing state. But acting in a way that increases the risk of war just so that you’re not “responsible” for that war is absurd.Report

        • Avatar Will H. says:

          Canada also has some fairly strong regional parties.
          Something we used to have here in the States.Report

  14. Avatar Creon Critic says:

    I’d encourage you to read nearly anything decided 5-4 by Justice Thomas or Justice Scalia. Here’s a snippet of a Scalia interview (emphasis mine),

    [California Lawyer:] What do you do when the original meaning of a constitutional provision is either in doubt or is unknown?

    [Justice Scalia:] I do not pretend that originalism is perfect. There are some questions you have no easy answer to, and you have to take your best shot. … We don’t have the answer to everything, but by God we have an answer to a lot of stuff … especially the most controversial: whether the death penalty is unconstitutional, whether there’s a constitutional right to abortion, to suicide, and I could go on. All the most controversial stuff. … I don’t even have to read the briefs, for Pete’s sake.


    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      Scalia is correct: Where the Constitution is silent, it’s silent. It permits allowing these things, it permits banning them. In those cases, the Supreme Court should remain silent under the separation of powers, and defer to the duly constituted power of the Congress to decide and determine such things.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        The failure of the Constitution to enumerate certain rights shouldn’t be used as grounds to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          “The people” = their duly constituted legislature.Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            Wow. You “conservatives” suck at this whole 10th amendment thing.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            The First mentions “the people”, the Second mentions “the people” and the Fourth mentions “the people”.

            They ain’t talking about duly constituted legislatures.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

              The 9th and 10th are twins. The 10th, if you prefer;

              The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

              The power to allow or ban certain things is reserved to the States, as I indictated, “the people” if and when power is further devolved.

              But even Scalia indicates that some level of gun control is permissible; the Second is not necessarily a guarantee of an inalienable right to firearms, else you could own machine guns, which you can’t.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Scalia is an unprincipled statist who, when given the opportunity to vote on whether he should have the power to tell others how to live, votes in the affirmative.

                A plain language reading of the Constitution takes you to some pretty interesting places, doubly so if you interpret the 14th to allow Incorporation.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                I don’t do ad hom, JB. Scalia’s judicial philosophy is powerful, regardless of his inconsistencies on cases.

                And once you gin up the 14th and “equal protection,” I agree anything is possible.

                And I’m familiar with Randy Barnett’s libertarianish “presumption of liberty,” but it rides on a redefinition of “liberty,” which is a sophistry–keeping the word but altering its meaning. “Liberty is not license” was the understanding of the Constitution when it was ratified.Report

            • Avatar Will H. says:

              I believe the term “the people” refers to the general populace-at-large, and not to any specific persons in themselves.
              As far as the US Code goes, “persons” is the term of inclusiveness.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Aye, WillH. Hence the ‘conservative’ must yield that the Second does not enumerate an absolute right. Them’s the constitutional breaks.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Any nation which would permit abortion, euthanasia, or the death penalty has no absolute right to life, the most basic form of property.
                Where police are permitted to use deadly force against the citizenry, whether purposefully or accidentally, there is no absolute right to life.
                “Fundamental” perhaps, but “absolute,” no.Report

        • Avatar Will H. says:

          Just so we don’t get too sloppy in our language . . .

          The correct phrase is “the United States Constitution and laws” or “the Constitution and its laws,” or something of the like.
          Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871.

          This has been found to mean that certain statutes of the United States create substantial enforceable rights in themselves.Report

  15. I could write a tirade, but I won’t.

    I couldn’t disagree with you more.

    Because of the Nader split, we ended up with Bush. I can actually say that I’m terrified of the alternative to Obama. And for you to gloss over the accomplishments of this administration as though they are minor, is myopic. Healthcare reform, repealing DADT, and bringing Bin Laden to justice is more than the previous administration did in all 8 years.

    What Michelle said above: However, I think he struck the most reasonable bargain possible with the Republicans with regard to the stimulus, and managed to get an initial stab at health care reform through Congress (although much of the credit goes to Reid and Pelosi). He also worked with the military to repeal DADT, and finally came around on gay marriage. He’s faced an obstinate Republican Party, intent on making him a one-term president and voting down any legislation he supports, even if it sprang from Republican ideas. And then there’s the Supreme Court. I’m fine with the two women he nominated; the next president will likely get to nominate at least two more justices and I’ll be damned if I do anything that leaves the process to a Republican president.

    Summarizes my feelings much more succinctly and without nearly as much vitriol as I would have used.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      Did not gloss over: Healthcare reform

      “Repealing DADT” is a good step toward equality, but not something I consider a major accomplishment, given that all it takes is an executive order, AND I’m happy for those who want to serve who can do so more openly now, but not that impressed re: allowing gay and lesbian men and women to enlist to go prepare to kill other men and women. The issue of rape in the military is a much more serious one, and which still needs to be addressed.

      “Bringing Bin Laden to justice.” I don’t think it was possible to bring Bin Laden “to justice,” and to the degree that it is, I’m far from sure that killing him is what true justice would mean, but very adamant that the money and personel used to track him down could have been much better spent on any number of serious causes, at home or abroad, which require resources to save lives, hundreds to thousands, rather than just killing a single one.

      As for Nader, per what I wrote in a comment above, any number of things led Gore to lose, including a poor campaign on his part vs. a good one by Bush, and not least of all the Supreme Court. Blaming Nader as the sole, or even a potentially determinant factore, pressumes that everyone who voted for him would not have split their vote between Gore and Bush instead, or simply not voted at all.

      But, before you break my kneck at the next family dinner, let me urge you to pick up this game from Steam, right now. I’ve played 20 hours over the last three days…simply can’t stop.

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Blaming Nader as the sole, or even a potentially determinant factor, pressumes that everyone who voted for him would not have split their vote between Gore and Bush instead, or simply not voted at all.

        Agree. Statements blaming Nader for Gore’s loss make me nuts for this very reason. People needed someone to blame, and ol’ Ralph was it (and should Johnson or Stein somehow make a good showing, prepare for a repeat performance). Nader’s basic thrust (that the major parties are more alike than different, and that both are far too beholden to corporate interests) is held by many Americans across the left-right Occupy-Tea Party spectrums – to assume that he only siphoned otherwise-Democratic votes makes no sense.Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

          I’ll happily blame a partisan Supreme Court, a screwed up Florida electoral system, a middling campaign by Gore, and Nader’s ego-driven candidacy for Bush winning Florida. Knock out one of those and Gore wins Florida. Since two were baked in the cake, I don’t feel too bad blaming Nader 50/50 with Gore.Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            You’ll have to define ‘ego-driven candidacy’ for me, I guess. Are the other guys selfless martyrs? ‘Ego-driven’ sounds like a safe description of any pol operating at that level.

            Nader had quite a record of accomplishments that the left loved, at one time. Certainly he had accomplished more in his life than had Obama pre-2008.

            And he’s the bad guy now.Report

            • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

              I have yet to see someone run for the presidency who wasn’t ego-driven.

              And yes, as soon as he stopped playing ball, he became the bad guy. God forbid people actually agreed more with his positions than vanilla # 2.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Yes, that fucking scab has forced many many more people to work for less than minimum wage, and actually broke unions that tried to form. And he won’t apologize for it.
              Yup, accomplished more thievery.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        FTR, Congress overturned DADT, in the lame duck 2010 session. Obama signed it.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Not this time. I’m not terrified of Romney.
      I won’t leave the country if he wins.

      McCain would have doomed the “Best bank of 2008” to bankruptcy, essentially punishing the people who took the least risks.Report

  16. Avatar MBunge says:

    The basic problem here is that Ethan sees voting from a completely selfish, or at least self-focused, perspective. He’s casting a ballot as an act of self-expression, rather than to achieve any particular purpose or even advance any agenda. At this moment, Ethan doesn’t give a flying fig for anything else except his desire to be able to walk around with an air of self-righteousness because “I didn’t vote for Obama.”


    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      Wow, you knew that without me even needing to say anything?!

      MBunge, you should go into psychology, or go become ship’s counselor, because it’s kinda like you can read minds.Report

    • Avatar Pyre says:

      Doesn’t everyone? Yes, people come up with lofty ideals as to why they’re voting from a self-focused perspective but, in the end, they’re still voting from a self-focused perspective.

      BTW, I’m still torn between Obama and Johnson and will probably make my mind up when I leave work to vote after checking the polling. (Ex: Johnson being close to 5% might swing me towards him.) I agree with Johnson on more issues but Obama did me a solid a few years ago.Report

      • Avatar MBunge says:

        “BTW, I’m still torn between Obama and Johnson and will probably make my mind up when I leave work to vote after checking the polling.”

        I really don’t have a problem with someone saying “I’m voting for X”. Vote for who you want, but don’t write a post telling me why “I’m not voting for Y”. You see, a post about voting for “X” is fundamentally all about why “X” is so great. A post about not voting for “Y” is fundamentally about why the writer is so wonderful for not supporting “Y”.


        • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

          The point of this post is to express a moral conflict, one I find myself in, and one I’m sure others do, and, having decided where I stand on it, to encourage anyone else that they are not alone in coming to that conclusion.

          If you don’t like personalized writing, you should probably stay clear of the whole Internet thing.Report

          • Avatar MBunge says:

            “The point of this post is to express a moral conflict”

            No, the point is self-aggrandizement. “Look at how moral and profound I am!”

            Tell me why I should vote for Stein or Johnson or some other person. But that would make them the star of the show and not you and your precious moral conflict, wouldn’t it?


            • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

              I make no claims to being profound in the above, nore do I actually make any strong moral claims.

              It peice is written as a personal declaration because, on election day, I thought its particular rhetorical effect would be the most appropriate.

              And look at the comments! We’re having such a grand discussion that it appears the original post, whatever its failings, certainly didn’t fail to prompt lively debate.

              In the spirit of self-aggrandizement then: I award myself an -A.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:


              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Ethan, you know I’m not always on your side on things, but in this case–whether or not I’d like who you voted for–I’m totally supportive of you and of your decision to write this post. MBunge’s claim that a post about not voting for X is really a post about yourself is weird; the post is clearly about why X ultimately isn’t good enough to get your vote. It all seems quite simple to me that I’m astounded at the pushback on your motivations. (Or I would be, if I wasn’t so aware that the intertoobz are full of that kind of nonsense.)

                Good work. Don’t let those ignorant folks ruin your day.Report

  17. Avatar Matty says:

    I find it amusing that every US presidential election seems to be ‘the most important ever’ and a noticeable number of people on both sides seem to take seriously the idea that their opponent is so bad he will bring in a dictatorship and they’ll never get to vote again.Report

  18. Avatar ThoughtExperimenter says:

    Here’s an experiment: you approach an intersection in your car, and you hate those who run lights. Behind you, a man in a truck is tailgating at high speed, but the light is turning yellow. Another man waits to cross the street and has started early, staring at his cell phone. You can honk and race through the intersection; he will be scared and probably jump back to the curb, and you will have contributed to the ongoing road rage affecting society. Or, you can stop short, obeying the law and your personal code of not running red lights, with a very good chance that the tailgating truck will swerve around you and potentially hit the pedestrian. Do you do the think you disdain (run the light) in order to contribute to a result, as best you can imperfectly predict, that is safer for the pedestrian?

    We make decisions every day that affect people around us. We base these on our code of what is right, but also our best estimate of the probabilities of certain results happening because of our decisions. We do not get to appeal to an ultimate arbiter of why our choice was good even though it led to bad consequences; we have to take responsibility for our own choices and for the predictive power we had when making them, whether we were right or wrong – this is the notion of “intent” under the law.

    If you vote your conscience, please do not act as though you either a) cannot predict that this functionally matters in terms of likelihood of either Obama or Rommey winning, with no other outcome, or b) are not responsible for outcomes because there are so many other factors, like how well they ran a race, that matter. Other factors are relevant (the trucker shouldn’t tailgate) but they are simply facts at the time of your decision, and do not diminish your own personal responsibility for making the best decision you can. Other outcomes are possible (the pedestrian might stop short on his own), but the future being unknown is also not a reason to treat a decision as only about the decision and not apply your best logic about what’s likely to happen.

    If you want to slam the brakes, that’s your choice – but don’t act as though it’s only about you and the car, and the truck and pedestrian are their own problems and not your responsibility to consider.Report

  19. Avatar LWA (Lib With Attitude) says:

    I finally had to break with my Occupy friends who thought like this. Their fierce moral stances resulted in every meeting turning into a Monty Python skit, where the decision over what toppings to put on the pizza always devolved into people shouting about an “Anarcho-syndicalist system of proportional representation” or the heteronormative hegemony of pepperoni blah de blah argle bargle.

    This is why third parties have never worked- because usually they are founded on this sort of absolutist stance, and very few Americans are interested in joining that church.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      “This is why third parties have never worked,” I pray every night and day for a parlimentary system. Well, not pray, because that would be silly, but I hope/fantasize/day dream.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Go Green Leaf!
        Israel has a great deal of silly parties.Report

      • Avatar Mopey Duns says:

        I don’t understand why people act as if, structurally, it is totally impossible to elect a congress-critter outside of the 2 party system. What barriers to entry exist that you don’t have in Canada or Britain at that level? They are both FPTP systems. So you won’t have the presidency; so what? You didn’t have it anyway. At least you would change the discourse a bit.

        What kind of crackpots think they should win the Presidency right off the bat? You need to build legitimacy first, and that is hard to do without grassroots, especially when your potential voters are conditioned to think of defectors from the 2 party system as some kind of race traitors. Start small; first aim to elect new blood in the states, then aim to elect a new breed of congress-critter nationally. That is how you get a new party going.

        It seems to me that the major barrier to this happening is not the system (since it happens in other, similar systems), but the fact that half of American seems convinced that the world will end if the other half wins. Every. Four. Years.Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW says:

      This is is why third parties have never worked

      Except for the Freedom Party, and later the Republican Party, which were formed when people decided that slavery was intolerable, and voting for a party on the basis that “they support slavery slightly less” was not morally justifiable. And so died the Whigs, because sometimes the lesser evil is still too evil to countenance.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      LWA & I keep agreeing on this area. I’d vote Dem before I’d vote a truly libertarian party. Both sides have affinity for libertarianism, the Dems socially and the Reps economically, but each has a communitarian component that is incompatible with a true “libertarianism.”

      This Rep would rather take his chances on reforming the Dems away from progressivism than the Libertarians away from their anti-communitarianism.

      And I think that’s why America’s “third” party often comes in fourth.Report

  20. Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

    “I hope/fantasize/day dream”

    Thank you for distillling the essence of what you are saying in this post.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      In fact, since we’ve gone off the reservation with you taking that out of context, let’s take it even further.

      Perhaps “I hope/I fantasize/I day dream” distills the very essence of the Obama slogan? It all starts with hope…fades to a fantasy when he gets into office, and is now an idle day dream best entertained during bouts of severe boredom.Report

      • Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

        “A vote for President Obama would communicate that these differences between he and I don’t exist, or that they don’t matter.”

        Since when has this ever been true about any candidate, ever? You don’t get to just make stuff up because of how you feel about things. That is why I make the comment about your statement “I hope/fantasize/day dream.” I carefully read your post, understood its sophomoric assumptions and conclusions, and thanked you for the summary.

        Whatever, dude. I gotta prediction for you. In something like ten or twenty years you are going to go back and read that sentence, and are going to cringe mightily.Report

        • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

          Which sentence are we talking about? You’ve now quoted two.

          If the latter, then in answer to, “Since when has this ever been true about any candidate, ever?” I don’t think I’m alone in submitting that voting for a candidate even if you don’t agree with them is the surest way to make yourself an impotent political player.

          And most of the political interests of which the Democratic party is formed are quite impotent, at least when it comes to Presidential politics. After all, the President doesn’t have to actually worry about civil libertarians, gays and lesbians, ethnic minorities, labor, or other constituencies going to the other side, he only has to do *just* enough to make sure enough of them still get out and vote, becuase Dems are the only party for all of those groups by default.

          By continuing to vote for a candidate who does so little of what you want, and shares so few of your values, I don’t think it’s ridiculous to claim that the big message being communicated there is, “You can do whatever you want without political consequence because that other guy will always suck more than you.”

          And I write the post with a certain tone and in a certain style, because until there are political consequences for erroding civil liberties, going to war with other countries of one man’s accord, and threatening to invade others, and discriminatly bombing men, women, and children half way across the world, those things will continue to happen, whoever is elected.Report

          • Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

            I am calling bullshit. Your failure to even try to subject a Romney presidency to the type of analysis that you do to Obama’s entirely undermines your argument.

            Despite the number of candidates on the ballot, I assert that there are exactly two possible electoral outcomes. I would respect a positive argument made for Romney, because it at least engages reality. But what you are doing here is intellectually embarrassing.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              This is why I don’t read BallonJuice.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Say what you will about Mitt Romney, but at least he has a chance of winning.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Say what you will about the tenets of modern Republicanism, Dude, but at least it’s an ethos.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Say what you will about vomit, but at least it has substance and mass.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                8%. 🙂

                I admit, it’d be pretty interesting if he won since there would have been a heavy, systemic bias in the polls against Romney and finding out what (or rather who) got missed would be quite enlightening.

                I’ve seen a few discussions over possible missed/undersampled demographics and the only one that even hit my “eh, i could sorta maybe see that” bar was hispanics, especially in some of the more anti-immigration states. (OTOH, if Hispanics were undersampled by a point or so, that wouldn’t be helpful to Romney).Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                2% by my numbers (and they’re run by a quant, who specializes in modeling)Report

              • Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

                Aaah Jeez, now I dunnit.

                Look guys, I prefer to just leave Mr. Gach to his own choices. But his initial post includes the words “I urge everyone else not to vote for him as well. I will do my best to explain why.” This is an invitation to take his words seriously. I dunno what they do where you come from, but that includes calling out woefully inadequate thought.

                I could prepare a complementary word salad that gently implored the estimable Mr. Gach to consider things that maybe he hadn’t thought of yet. Or I could, as pithily as I can, distill my objections to fit in as small a comment box as possible.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                See, the problem here, Mr. Nevada, is that Ethan clearly dislikes Romney as well. Underlying his whole post is the assumption that he needs to explain his choice not to vote for Obama, because an Obama vote is within the realm of plausibility for him, whereas he doesn’t even need to bother to explain his choice not to vote for Romney, because his not voting for Romney is so obvious it’s just taken for granted.

                So when he encourages us to not vote for Obama, he’s not implying we should vote for Romney. He’s really encouraging us to vote for neither.

                But you’re focused on the “a vote for third-party instead of Obama is a vote for Romney” concept. But it’s a false concept, and Ethan recognizes that. You can shout all you want about how he’s aiding a Romney win, but it’s not going to get you anywhere because you’re relying on an assumption he’s already rejected.Report

              • Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

                You misunderstand me. I am definitely not saying that “a vote for third-party instead of Obama is a vote for Romney.” I have not shouted anything about aiding a Romney win.

                I am actually trying to tell him that there are better ways to improve civil liberties, and help drone strike victims.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                By voting for Obama?

                Please explain how that works, without assuming that his non-Obama vote makes a Romney win more likely.Report

              • Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

                NO! He can vote for anybody he wants! I don’t object to his reasons for doing so. I object to the nonsense he asserts after he says “I urge everyone else not to vote for him as well.”

                His choice is his choice, and I am very cool with that. But “I urge everyone else not to vote for him as well,” is a political statement. His assumptions about a vote implying assent to all policies, is political nonsense.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Sierra (and if you are not male, please forgive me for previously making that assumption), you still are not explaining yourself well. What relevance does the “better ways” comment have if you are cool with his non-Obama vote?

                And as to his making a political statement, for pete’s sake everybody and their cousin has spent the last few months making political statements, and telling us who they think we should or should not vote for. You haven’t really expressed a good reason for getting so upset with Ethan.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              “Your failure to even try to subject a Romney presidency to the type of analysis that you do to Obama’s entirely undermines your argument.”

              I think this is the reality of any election involving an incumbent. Obama has a record of what he has done as President. With Romney, we can only project.Report

              • Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

                Yes, we can only project. Fortunately, there is a lot of information, in words, deeds, party platforms, running mate choices, etc. that allow just that.

                All I am saying is that, in a world of constrained choices, analysis of one choice without even trying to engage the other is sophomoric.Report

            • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

              Yes, yes, Romney is sooooo much worse. I’ll grant, and I thought already had, that on issues like the economy, welfare, and gay rights, there certainly seems to be a lot of difference between the two, Romney being the worse, but even then these differences fade as Romney pragmatically takes up whatever position is consensually popular enough to get him elected.

              Now you assert that there are only two outcomes, and that’s because you assume that everyone (most other people) think the same, and/or will only vote for one of those two, but this becomes a self-fulfilling assertion because if enough people buy it, then of course it’s true.

              But by telling everyone that there are only two options, we’re effectively quieting dissent and will never actually get to see how many people feel what way because the results will always be skewed due to people not wanting to “waste” their vote.

              The Irony here is that Johnson and Stein are such polar opposites on most issues that either one is probably likely to leech just as much from their respective sides that it wouldn’t even matter. In which case per the pragmatic school of reasoning, we should all vote for as many fringe candidates as we want becasue the net effect will be near zero.Report

              • Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

                “we’re effectively quieting dissent ”

                Another unsupported assertion. I am not quieted when I vote for someone with whom I disagree on some issues. Politics isn’t magic. Being heard, and being effective, takes work. You want Obama or Romney to “hear” to you after this election is over? There exist ways of doing that. Not voting for either of them is probably the least effective way of being heard imaginable.Report

              • Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

                And another thing: I am not “telling everyone that there are only two options” I am saying that now, today, in the real world, there are only two outcomes. Outcomes differ significantly from options.

                A year ago there were more, but the political process is a thing, and it does stuff in the real world. I encourage your effective involvement at ALL of the most meaningful points of that process, for the sake of civil liberties, and for victims of drone strikes.Report

              • Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

                To further my options/outcomes distinction, consider the border region of Afganistan and Pakistan.

                The outcomes there are constrained. Pakistan has an politically explosive population in a heavily armed border region of an unstable neighbor. The outcomes there all look pretty bad in the short run.

                Obama has a lot of options there. He can disengage and let the bloodbath commence. He can put boots on the ground, in defiance of Pakistan, and let the bloodbath commence. He can strike at some regional antagonistic actors with drones, which is you guessed it, another bloodbath.

                People of good faith get to disagree about options, but sometimes our outcomes are constrained by reality. It is a bummer.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:


                A year ago, you could have voted for Gary Johnson in the GOP primaries. If he’d stood up for himself, showed up at the debates – think of the press he’d have gotten if he was a registered candidate who they made stand outside the door! – then he might have even gotten a significant showing or even upstaged Mitt.

                Now, though, as a candidate who the Libertarians only picked up after the GOP tossed him off like an old sock? You really think anyone with a clear head should vote for that?Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                RE: “…Gary Johnson…as a candidate who the Libertarians only picked up after the GOP tossed him off like an old sock? You really think anyone with a clear head should vote for that?”

                Sure, once you realize the GOP and Democrats are really just varieties of the same platform: the “Big Government is Good” platform. Choosing either of their candidates means continuing the same flawed ideology of “let’s keep centralizing power in hopes of making everyone better.” It clearly doesn’t work and will never work.

                So anyone who understands that has to vote third party.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                a candidate who the Libertarians only picked up after the GOP tossed him off like an old sock?

                You’re out of the loop, M.A. Libertarians have been very favorable toward Johnson for quite a few years now. Your need for partisan snark leads to snappy writing, but that’s just a thin cover for not actually knowing what libertarians have been thinking and saying for quite some time.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                And that explains why Johnson was campaigning for the GOP nomination how, exactly?

                The GOP didn’t want him. It was only then that the Libertarians nominated him, and their being “favorable” to him means little at that point.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Jesus, M.A.. That A) libertarians like Johnson doesn’t automatically mean that B) Johnson preferred the Libertarian nomination to the Republican nomination. There’s no logical connection between A and B. And a guy who alleges to teach logic ought to be able to figure that out.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                A) libertarians like Johnson doesn’t automatically mean that B) Johnson preferred the Libertarian nomination to the Republican nomination.

                That the Libertarians nominated Johnson means, however, that the Libertarian Party is in such a sad state at being the little cabbage patch dolly the Republicans cart around for so long that their only reaction was to nominate the washout from the GOP primaries who didn’t win a single representative vote and who couldn’t even be bothered to show up for more than two of the debates.

                I mean what the hell is wrong with the Libertarians? If you want people to take you seriously, the first order of business is to stop nominating the GOP’s table scraps and develop your own candidates for a change, both at this level and on the lower congressional and state-house levels.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                But wasn’t Johnson the governor of a state?
                Doesn’t that count for something?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Dude climbed Everest. He’s apparently quite nice, according to his guide.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I don’t see anybody rushing to get Blagojovich to head their ticket.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Not voting for either of them is probably the least effective way of being heard imaginable.

                Another unsupported assertion.Report

              • Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

                I thought that I had supported that statement within the argument, but I’ll make it explicit:

                Either Romney or Obama is going to win today. The cause will be positive votes cast. There exist no other causes. As an individual, the per vote share of that cause is exceedingly small.

                In two years, there will be an election to determine makeup of congress, in another four, for the presidency and the congress again. All kinds of causes, most of them dependent smaller numbers of very motivated and smart people, will affect the options presentented in that election in very large ways. Those people have a lot of leverage relative to that of an individual voter today. I encourage Mr. Gach to be one of those people.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Isn’t identifying with a third party… a group of very motivated and… wait… smart… er, judging from political discourse let’s just stick with “motivated” people increasing your leverage over being an individual?

                If you’re convinced that a two-party system is – in the long run – not a preferable alternative to the long laundry list of other alternatives – how is it irrational to choose to support a third party? Even if your short term goals are not met, isn’t playing a long game a perfectly reasonable position?Report

              • Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

                Not at this point in the process no. I repeat, the election itself is the point of minimal leverage, from an individual standpoint. Outcomes too constrained. A third party vote right now is just noise.

                But, if sometime during the next year, a large third party constituency (liberal or libertarian) started making serious demographic claims to legitimacy, those individuals who organized that party would find themselves in possession of a great deal of leverage indeed.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                If your argument is that an individual vote for a third party is just noise, then your argument generalizes to an individual vote for any party is just noise and you’ve collapsed the waveform.Report

              • Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

                Dude, enough with the dancing woo li master stuff.

                The winner of this election is going to have some winning votes. Everybody else will have losing votes. There is a real difference between the two.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I’m not convinced that you’ve given sufficient thought to some of the things you’re asserting.Report

  21. Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

    Ethan: I like your post.

    But I think you’re missing the point, you’re still playing “voting as a game”. You’re just changing your realization of what sort of game it is.

    Essentially what Ethan is doing here is refusing to play the Prisoner’s Dilemma as a one-off game, and recognizing that the only way to get off of this continual historical repeat of the least-worst solution every four years (least worst by his own internal calculation) is to play it as an iterated game.

    This is itself a perfectly reasonable and rational strategy. “If everyone continues to play ‘voting for the least worst candidate’, we will continue to get least worst outcomes.”

    What this means is that his play, this iteration, may actually result in this iteration of the game not going his way: but that’s still rational and reasonable if your intention is to play an iterated game.

    Now, the detractors here may say, “But you’re NOT playing an iterated game!”

    This is arguable, but as Jaybird points out upthread, every election is presented as the last election that matters.

    Maybe voting isn’t an iterated game. Maybe it is a one-off game. Or, maybe, it’s both… and the more people who choose to play it one way vs. the other, the more like that thing it becomes.

    If you honestly believe that neither Romney nor Obama is going to take the steps you want to take, then voting for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, even as only a protest vote, is in fact the only way you can possibly begin the process of making the game more like an iterated game than a one-off game.

    Well, that or run for office yourself.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      This may be the case. It started to dawn on me as we hashed this out in the comments. I’ll have to think more on it through lunch.

      This is a good (charitable, humane, insightful) comment (along with Russell’s and some others)…everyone take notice please.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Hell to the no! You could show up and help vet local congresscritters, you could lobby folks ($1000 for a favor). You could also start building a big ass coalition (OWS is a great example).

      Build up a crowd of people (kos has a ton on his site, mydd has some, redstate has some), and start a movement.

      The Grange wasn’t started from the top, ya know?Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Patrick’s comment is much more intelligent and articulate than this one, but I was thinking along similar lines, using ‘short-term’ and ‘long-term’ in place of ‘one-off’ and ‘iterated’.

      Mike Schilling said something the other day in David Ryan’s post in re: markets, that they are very good at micro-optimization but not always the macro (there was an analogy of a large wave hitting a boat, and all passengers making the individually-rational immediate decision to run away from the wave to the other side of the boat, thereby capsizing it).

      In a single election (market) event, it is possible to make a decision that is completely rational in the short-term (“escape the wave!”), but not optimal in the long-term (“crud, we’ve still capsized the boat!”).

      This is sort of how I view North’s supremely rational comment above (and Mike has also made similar comments in the past) – it’s not that I disagree with their views, they are logical, Romney’s worse than Obama on all or nearly all fronts – but I also see taking this position as inadvertently continuing to support the longer-term trend (at best we’re still going to hell, just possibly slightly more slowly than we would otherwise).Report

      • Avatar North says:

        That’s fair Glyph I guess I just feel like Ethan’s position is kindof implausible. I mean we have Obama “lets try and plug some of the holes in the boat” and Romney “Lets just tip it over, or lets make more holes, or lets plug some holes, whatdaya want? I’m for it!” and then I see Ethan and he’s like “Screw these unprincipled boat hustlers, let’s all levitate, then we don’t need to sweat getting soaked at all.”Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          Or maybe it’s just an acceptance that the boat is going to sink, and talking about what he wants to replace it with, now, is getting going on the inevitable replacement project.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            Maybe, but the score so far is The Boat: 216, the Naysayers of the Boat: Zippo. Admissably the naysayers only have to be right once.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              Well, one might look at that other boat, over there, that operates using something other than FPTP two-party politics and say, “Jesus, that boat doesn’t take on nearly as much water as this one, and they don’t waste all their goddamn time bailing out the boat.”

              The really hilarious thing about this thread is that nearly everyone is talking about voting as if it’s an iterative individual act, instead of a collective action problem. That includes Ethan, really, which is why the pushback is so strong. James (K & Hanley) and I are all talking about something else, albeit different something elses.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Well sure, thus the push back. And sign me up for parlimentary democracy, I remain quite convinced it works better than the US system but that’s neither here nor there. Right now, today, we go to the election with the system and the candidates we have.Report

  22. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    For the record, despite those (Balloon Juicers?) determined to read this as a self-righteous pontification, I do not take not voting for Obama lightly.

    I just want change I can still believe in.Report

    • Avatar MBunge says:

      “I just want change I can still believe in.”

      Elections ain’t about you and what you want to believe in. They aren’t therapy sessions or group encounters or dorm room gab fests. Get over yourself.


    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      I suppose the question is: Is there a difference between trying and failing — and not trying at all?

      Politicians make many promises, run on many things — to me, it is a question of “Did they try to do these things? How hard did they try?”

      Failure is, shall we say, baked into the cake of democracy. We don’t elect kings or dictators.

      So when I look at any politicians promises and then their record — it’s not so much “did they do all of what they said” but more “How much did they do? How much did they try to do? On what they failed on, do I think they tried half-heartedly or did they go all out?”Report

    • Avatar M.A. says:

      I just want change I can still believe in.

      And your response is going to be to vote in the guys who chained themselves to the doors of congress yelling about “sluts” and “queers” and demanding the removal of “the kenyan”?Report

  23. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I wonder if it’s possible to not-vote your conscience. I go back and forth on not voting. I don’t vote in the US because it’s an absentee ballot and there’s something that feels wrong about voting in an election for a President who I won’t be living under. I’m not yet able to vote in Canada. Sometimes Americans tell me I should vote absentee, but it just doesn’t seem right. And, like a lot of other people, I’m registered in a state that it is 100% guaranteed will go one way every time, so the vote seems hollow regardless.Report

  24. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    Re: Mike Drew

    If should probably continue the showing/communicating discussion down here. On my thinking regarding mandates, see this

    When prior supports don’t break with you over a handful of issues, you have no reason to address those issues upon re-election. And the convincing conventional wisdom does seem to be that an Obama relection at this point will be interpreted as, “Stay the course.”

    At least that’s how he’s been campaigning.Report

  25. Avatar Shazbot5 says:


    I mean these questions seriously. (Though they might sound sarcastic. They are not.)

    1. Why don’t you vote for yourself as a write in instead of Stein? I assume you agree with even more of your positions and ideas than Stein. And you have a roughly equal chance of winning as Stein.

    2. Surely you recognize that were Stein to actually win, she would have to compromise on many things in order to pass legislation through a divided, messy Congres, such that the Stein you actually would get, would be tainted and compromised like the Obama we actually got.

    Sure Obama didn’t, say, close Guantanamo after promising to do so. But do you really think Stein would have or could have done all of the moral things that you want? Suppose Stein had ended the drone program and withdrawn all troops immediately from Iraq and Afghanistan. Suppose the generals, Petraeus et. al. went public against her doing interviews on live TV that she was endangering the troops and the US by her actions. Do you imagine she would be impeached? Or is Stein a politician after all? Would she aim at reelection and once in office would she avoid conflict with the military by not enacting all of her policies? Maybe she would even allow some drones and a slow withdrawal from Afghanistan. Maybe she would be more effective in winding down Bush’s militarism than Obama would be, but I suspect the average centrist voter and the average military leader would be so afraid of her that they would undermine her at every step, and she would lose the political battle.

    Suppose Stein tried to stop all federal government support for the war on drugs. How long would that last before Congress used the power of the purse to force her to go back to not “goving junkies and dealers a free hand.” And the public would support Congress in any showdown against Stein over the drug war. Again, she’d be forced to compromise and prosecute the drug war to the degree that the drug war is popular, just like Obama has.

    In short, president Stein would be either a.) the morally pure candidate that you want and she would be drummed out of office, defeated by Congress, hated by the people, and likely impeached; or b.) a liberal president with liberal goals who compromised with the military and with popular centrist policies in order to stay in office and achieve modest versions of liberal goals, i.e. she would be President Obama.

    It seems to me that your mad at Obama for not being a.) But do you think Stein would be or could be a.)? Seriously.

    You are voting for Stein, assuming that she would be less compromised as Obama and successful at bringing about her goals. But there is every reason to believe that she literally could not be both things in office.

    I think a lot of Americans, even very educated informed people, act as if they are unaware that Presidents are weak political agents. Presidents can veto legislation but not pass it. The U.S. has three voting bodies, one of which requires a supermajority. Presidents now have a freer hand in foreign policy, but military leaders have the respect of the public and any president has to be careful not to start a political battle with their own leaders, because it’s an unwinable battle. Moreover, Congress can force the president’s hand even on foreign policy if the president’s policies become unpopular enough.

    In the simplest terms, you are voting for a dream, not for Stein.

    3. Why did you vote for Obama in 2008? Which of the things that he promised did he fail to acheive that is causing you not to vote for him now? Guantanamo? (He tried.) ahe never promised to end all drones and attacks on AQ. Rather, he explicitly promised to step up attacks on AQ. Did you believe that he wouldn’t do that? Or did you not care then, but you do care now?Report

  26. These are my thoughts exactly. Nicely done.Report

  27. Avatar ktward says:

    Mr. Gach,

    Fwiw, I always appreciate your posts, and I genuinely appreciate your convictions and the well-intentioned passion that drives them.

    My 24yo son and I just had a conversation the other day that strikes me as particularly relevant to your post. Please bear with me, if you will.

    My son and I were discussing a topic quite personally important to us but having zero to do with politics. During the course of our convo he said to me, (I’m paraphrasing), “Ma, I think it’s a flaw in my generation. We’re ridiculously coddled and expect immediate results. We feel we’ve worked hard for a particular result, and we feel enormous stress and pressure when we don’t see the results we expect, when we expect them.” He never used any variance of the term Entitlement. Frankly, I’m not even sure that term–a hot potato among my generation, to be sure–is part of his lexicon. (I wonder if the same can be said for most 20-somethings? Do y’all really and truly understand the remarkably painful genesis of this concept? I mean, outside of the ubiquitous, pejorative spin that was, even before your generation came long, a staple of campaign politics.)

    The take: my son is a professional classical musician. He just finished up his MA in performance. He’d be the first to tell anyone that he was anything but coddled in his upbringing, but way more relevant to your post is the fact that, as a musician, every level of expertise he’s ever achieved was through years of practice and work. From the age of about 10. He’s never known “immediate” results, and his passion for playing music ever demanded of him a level of patience that is entirely too taxing for most of us.

    And so, even though he’s a youngster like yourself, my son is possessed of a level of patience that you, and a lot of your fellow youngsters, do not possess. (I’d include my daughter in your crowd.)

    Make no mistake, I don’t fault you for any impatience, seemingly shortsighted: not unjustifiably, you want every aspect of what you perceived was promised, and you want it now. In terms of political issues, you and I likely agree on 90% of them. We simply hold differing perspectives on the timetable and, more to my point, the realization that there never has existed one sole person who would bring about the foundational change we might envision.

    I’ve long been convinced that Mr. Obama is only one of many prominently placed individuals who share our ideals. No, he hasn’t taken us to the place we want to go, but he has inarguably taken us a number of steps closer to that place. And he’s done so against considerable odds. To my mind, for good or ill he spent nearly every last cent of his political capital on the ACA. Was it worth the cost? I suppose that depends on how high Healthcare Reform rated on one’s To Do List.

    Do you suppose Romney will take us any steps closer to where we want to be? Or is he likely to bow to the pressure of the Hill’s GOP hard-liners and drag us backwards?

    It’s ever seemed to me that being a single/narrow-issue voter conveniently provides a comforting cocoon of self-justification. Lord knows the GOP has successfully exploited this reality. Dems have yet to master it, which to my mind is a tic in their Pro column.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      Thank you for this thoughtful comment ktward.

      “but he has inarguably taken us a number of steps closer to that place. ”

      This is perhaps where that 10% of political disagreement (or more) comes in. I think that on a number of issues Obama has taken us even farther away from where I want to be. Some of these are domestic, but many of them have to do primarily with the role of the executive branch to do as it pleases without justification, transpareny, or (adaquate) judicial review.

      I do not think that Romney will be any worse on foreign policy than Obama will be by this point. Unless we are to assume that Romney is lying, and Obama is not, then per their foreign policy debate both men are in close agreement in that area.

      “It’s ever seemed to me that being a single/narrow-issue voter conveniently provides a comforting cocoon of self-justification. Lord knows the GOP has successfully exploited this reality.”

      When you look at the Republican party, or perhaps just conservative voters more generally, you see a group that is much more principled, and less willing to compromise on those principles. When it comes to budgets and other technocratic leviathans, this does not serve the country well. But when it comes to determining the values that underly national discourse, surrounding for instance war, abortion, and welfare, they have done a superb job at encouraging ideological courage in their represenatives.

      I don’t like to admit this, because it fits an all too cliche narrative all too well, but I was originally for Obama 4 years ago as the compromising “find the third way” candidate. Clinton was a fighter, and to the right of him on several issues. Obama turned out to be plenty right on several issues however, even while maintaining his acquisecent disposition.

      This is why Republican health care reform is considered a socialist take over, why no national Democratic candidate can be in favor of abortion, even while they maintain everyone should be allowed to, or why the President must advocate cutting welfare for the poorest by selling out to the delusion that SS and Medicare will go bankrupt because they are just too cushy, rather than because they are under-funded.

      Cap’n Trade, a conservative approach to curbing carbon emissions has become fringe position for environmentally concious liberals, and a supposedly liberal President not only doubled occupational forces in Afghanistan, led the way on creating a covert army of drones and CIA paramilitary operatives to wage war anywhere and everywhere at anytime and for all time.

      So I am more than a little jealous of the GOP and its methods, and do want to support candidates who will fight tirelessly for the positions I believe in, rather than trying to forge consensus that continually swerves to the right.

      On being part of a generation that ones things now, immediately: certainly. But looking over the rightward shift the country has undergone over the past 30 years, I just don’t see the long-game having achieved a whole lot.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        All interesting points.
        I personally feel that my vote is a rather stupid way to get judicial review or transparency back. Truly, you’d be better off donating to 4chan.Report

      • Avatar ktward says:

        Back atcha on the thoughtful comment thing. It’s my loss that I don’t have time at present to respond in kind– you make some very legit points, and I’m still largely of the mind that our widest gulf of disagreement revolves not around specific issues necessarily, but in our differing perspectives/expectations and, to some extent, different priorities.

        But I will quickly say this: the crux of your argument seems to remain, “what I don’t like about Obama” rather than “what I like about Mitt Romney”.

        I mean, even though I find myself disagreeing with some of Burt’s conclusions, I completely get why he voted for Gary Johnson; even though I think Mitt Romney would make a terrible president, I do indeed get it when someone explains why they’re voting for him; I even get it when someone explains that their vote for Romney is more a vote against Obama and vice versa– sometimes we’re faced with hard, ugly choices.

        But contrary to your heading, “Vote your conscience”, what you’re really advocating is not voting at all. After nearly 35 years of voting, I have a much harder time understanding that– even when it’s eloquently dressed up as principle.Report

  28. Avatar Shannon's Mouse says:

    Okay, yes… walking around without a nose isn’t ideal. But the face needs to understand there are consequences for not living up to my principles!Report

  29. Avatar James K says:

    Well said Ethan. At the end of the day your vote won’t change the outcome of the election, even in a swing state. If you live in a swing state then divide 1 by the number of likely voters in swing states and that’s your probability of changing the outcome of the election if you live in a swing state. Given that Florida and Ohio have 30 million people between them, even if only 25% of them actually cast a vote then your odds of affecting the election in one of those states is millions to 1.

    Strategic voting is stupid because you don’t have enough control over the outcome to make a difference. In the words of Eliezer Yudkowsky stop voting for nincompoops.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      My biggest take away from this post is that what I’m taking issue with has a name, it’s called Strategic Voting, and there’s probably a tone of literature out there that makes the case against it far more in-depth and cogently than I.

      I’ll do my best to get that reading done before 4 years from now.Report

      • Avatar James K says:

        The thing that bothers me about strategic voting is that elections are a non-strategic environment.

        Strategic environments are ones where your actions can have a material effect of the right course of action for others and vice versa. In a strategic environment you have to consider (or predict) what other people are doing before you can figure out what you should do.

        But since no one voter has any material effect on the outcome of an election of this size, your actions don’t materially affect the right course of action for others. As such, there is no strategy here. It makes no sense to vote because you want to change the outcome of the election, because you can’t. Instead you should be voting (if at all) for expressive or affiliation reasons. What candidates, parties or ideas do you want to associate with? Because that’s really the only reason to vote.Report

  30. Avatar MFarmer says:

    No honest liberal should vote for Obama. Not a real liberal. Progressives/hardcore statists who support the primacy of the political realm should vote for him.Report

  31. Avatar MFarmer says:

    Chris Matthews, earlier today, said only NPR/PBS fashionable idiots vote for third party candidates.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      If Chris Matthews and Sean Hannity touched and the universe didn’t explode but they vanished in a puff of smoke, I’d call that a win.Report

      • Avatar MFarmer says:

        You would, but to many on the Left, Matthews is a hero. His shows are populare with Leftists.Report

        • Avatar Michelle says:

          I confess a certain fondness for Matthews, even though I find him a bit strident and silly at times. Hannity is a humorless pig. I’d probably pay to see him vanish in a puff of smoke if he was touching, say, Keith Olbermann.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            Throw in Rush and that’s four. I’m pretty sure we can keep going pairwise for a while before we’re really feeling bad about who is in the “vanish into a singularity” bag.Report

  32. Avatar MFarmer says:

    As Matthews was saying this he changed his voice and his hand movements to mock effeminate types — I think it was an anti-gay thing he was doing. The Left is coming unhinged, at least Matthews is coming unhinged. Silver has it at 90.1% — he’s sacrificing himself for the team. It’s crazy out there.Report

  33. Crap, Ethan. You probably just made his list. Watch out for drones flying over head.

    (On a more serious note, solid post, man.)Report

  34. Avatar M.A. says:

    A vote for President Obama would communicate that these differences between he and I don’t exist, or that they don’t matter. When all the votes are counted, the one with my name on it will not also read: “but I didn’t really want to.” The official record will not show that I find policies X, Y, and Z to be abhorrent, and that my vote for Obama is really a vote against Romney.

    The worst part of this exercise in narcissistic navel-gazing is this paragraph, your piece de resistance, which asserts that one must agree with a candidate in 100% of all things or else your vote is a signal that you do not differ with the candidate on anything.

    And I remember what my dad told me 25 years ago, which I’ll try to relay as best I can remember it. The memory’s pretty clear.

    “Son, when you vote, don’t waste your time looking for a candidate you agree with totally. Your mom and I don’t even agree on everything all the time. Look for someone you agree with 60% of the time, you’ll get 70% if you’re lucky, and make sure that the things you agree on are the really important things to you.”

    You said above, ““Repealing DADT” is a good step toward equality, but not something I consider a major accomplishment, given that all it takes is an executive order” – and what else do you propose he had done else? A congress full of homophobic right wing neanderthals busy pandering to the Bryan Fischers of the USA is not going to repeal DOMA, but Obama ordered the Executive branch (US AG’s office) to stop defending it in court after appeals courts declared it unconstitutional. He’s also the first POTUS to come out in favor of equal marriage rights, even though the fight is still being conducted at the state rather than federal level due to state constitutions and laws being in play across the US.

    From where I stand he has done a hell of a lot for equal rights on that front. And he’s done a hell of a lot on women’s rights as well, including signing the Lily Ledbetter Act.

    You’re doing a lot of work to convince yourself that Obama’s a “bad guy” here.

    And I note this as well: ” Nor does he view the precisely targeted use of lethal force…” – personally I’m glad we’re down to using precisely targeted lethal force, when we believe there is a valid target, as opposed to firebombing entire cities like we used to do (Dresden anyone?) or tossing off a few nukes towards Iran or Mecca like some of the GOP crazies would like to do.Report

  35. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    “The worst part of this exercise in narcissistic navel-gazing is this paragraph, your piece de resistance, which asserts that one must agree with a candidate in 100% of all things or else your vote is a signal that you do not differ with the candidate on anything.”

    It’s a signal that the things you disagree with them aren’t as important as the things you agree with them on, or better put: the things they did that you hated aren’t as important as the things they did that you praise.

    A vote *for* is saying that it’s okay that President has X, Y, and Z policies, because he has enough others to make up for them…if it weren’t okay, you wouldn’t support his overall candidacy.

    And you just said it yourself, you are not just fine with, but in fact “glad we’re down to using precisely targeted lethal force,” aka blowing up people including but not limited to unconfirmed “militants,” combatants, civilians.

    Saying that the use of lethal force in several other countries with out judicial review isn’t important to you isn’t the same as saying you don’t care, certainly. But that’s the message that comes across all the same when you vote for someone who champions those policies.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

      I hate to break this to you, but we’re going to be killing people in foreign countries for the next few decades whoever is President. Why? Because the American people want that and they’d much prefer we do it with drones driven by a guy sitting in a cubicle in Nevada than having to send their neighbor’s kid to do it.

      So, yeah, I’m voting for murder and bloodshed. Because every single American President, at least since Lincoln at the very least, has done some fucked up and evil shit. But, as I said in another thread a while back, I firmly believe a Romney Presidency will end with more dead Muslim’s, more dead American’s, and the World in an even worse condition.

      If you want to vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson, that’s your right. But, if that’s all you’re going to do, if you’re not going to try to grow the third party in your local area/state/nation, then yeah, I don’t have to respect it much.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        That last paragraph is a cogent counterargument.Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

          Again, I have respect for Hanley, Jaybird, and actual leftists/libertarians who have continually expressed their support for a third party for the past x years. I disagree that getting their issues light via a third party is the best way to do it, but at least I can understand it.

          I don’t get people who are voting for Stein/Johnson/Anderson to basically shove it in Obama/Romney’s face. Because as other people have said, if Romney loses, the Republican Party will believe it because they were too moderate and the Democratic Party will believe they were too liberal if they lose.Report

          • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

            “I don’t get people who are voting for Stein/Johnson/Anderson to basically shove it in Obama/Romney’s face.”

            How did I end up coming off like that? As I said above, “I do not take not voting for Obama lightly.” It is not a protest vote; an attempted middle-finger to the President and his liberal backers.

            And this,

            “If you want to vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson, that’s your right. But, if that’s all you’re going to do, if you’re not going to try to grow the third party in your local area/state/nation, then yeah, I don’t have to respect it much.”

            Why are accusations like this coming up? You’re not the first in this thread to say something along the lines, “Well if you really mean what you say you’d be out there working the phones for Stein/Johnson instead of writing a blog post and playing in the comments during your lunch break.”Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              How dare you feel any moral superiority for voting for your candidate? Don’t you understand that voting for my candidate is the moral choice? I can’t even imagine why you’d not understand that my candidate is the moral one… is it moral ignorance? Moral malice? Childish masturbatory fantasies about being somehow special because you’re voting for the moral choice instead of other people?

              We stand at the abyss, Ethan.

              You’re either with us or you’re with Obama.Report

              • Avatar Mopey Duns says:

                Stop highlighting the fundamental absurdity of a binary partisan worldview through incisive parody while maintaining a second-order facade of studied indifference!

                Stop it, I say!Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      But if Romney is President, you’ll regain the right to want to protest those killings, a right absent under Obama. Under Bush, you had to make the hard decision about which anti-war protest to go to that day. Under Obama the killings continued unabated, even accelerated in some regions, but if you wanted to go to an anti-war protest you had to fly to Pakistan.

      Under Bush, you got to see American caskets returning every day on the news. Under Obama you’ve only been allowed to see four, and that was so they could stage a piece of theater and lie about what happened. Under Romney, we’ll at least get to know how many soldiers are dying, how many drones strikes are striking, and how many Americans oppose such things. For the past four years the scene on the streets said that nobody does.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Under Obama … if you wanted to go to an anti-war protest you had to fly to Pakistan.

        Yawn. It’s a bit boring, but I’ll go ahead and call bullshit.Report

        • Avatar George Turner says:

          See below for a case in point. Afghanistan casualties have been running about 5,500 fatalities a year, with no sign of letting up. If Romney was President those would be inflated at least to 12,000+ and reported breathlessly, instead of forcing people to Google up raw reports that have gone largely unremarked in the press for four years.

          I’m sure liberals sometimes imagined what Bush’s wars would’ve been like if Fox News and Rush Limbaugh had been the only information outlets. Well, now they know.Report

    • Avatar M.A. says:

      And you just said it yourself, you are not just fine with, but in fact “glad we’re down to using precisely targeted lethal force,” aka blowing up people including but not limited to unconfirmed “militants,” combatants, civilians.

      While in an idea world, I would like there to be no military conflict at all, I recognize that we do not live in an ideal world.

      Therefore, yes, I am VERY GLAD that the number of casualties from any conflict the USA is involved in today is measured in mere thousands, and pretty low numbers of thousands at that, and that the current policy takes it a step further to target leaders and persons of importance for the other side rather than indiscriminately firebombing entire cities.

      If you can’t see the distinction, and understand that the perfect need not be the enemy of the good – e.g. that I can be glad there is less death today in the conflicts while simultaneously wishing and hoping that in the future there will be even less still – then we really don’t have much at all to discuss.

      A vote *for* is saying that it’s okay that President has X, Y, and Z policies, because he has enough others to make up for them…if it weren’t okay, you wouldn’t support his overall candidacy.

      Or it’s saying that the other guy has horrible policies P, D, Q as well as political in-bed relationships with some of the worst people out there, and that maybe stopping him from taking office is important enough that you deal with that reality and then go back to advocating the change in policies X, Y and Z through your congressional representative.Report

  36. Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

    “when you vote for someone who champions those policies.”

    Here we go again. Dude, you are seriously lost morally. There is a difference between someone making a choice that they think is the best one they have under the circumstances and “championing” that choice. The job of the president includes the being the C in C of the military. That means, as a reality, deciding how to kill people.

    His courses of action are constrained, and don’t include a “do not kill anybody” option, because he is the damned president.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      “His courses of action are constrained,” by what in this sphere?

      “and don’t include a ‘do not kill anybody.'” This sounds like you’re saying an argument against the President’s militarism is an argument for not killing anyone. But that’s probably not what you’re saying. Please tell me what you’re really saying.Report

      • Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

        Now you ask a good question. What could possibly be constraining Obama’s choices? Why don’t you look into that one yourself. I, as an Obama supporter, and avowed blowhard, am an unreliable witness for you.

        As far as your second question, you nail it inadvertently with the words “the President’s militarism.” The presidency is a role, Obama is a person in that role. All the evidence available to me points to the presidency, as a role, requiring a great deal of unsavory militancy. Also, all the evidence available to me points to Obama, the person, being a moral, thoughtful, peaceful, intelligent dude, moreso than the alternatives, including those on third party ballots. So he’s my choice, and I advocate others making that choice.Report

    • Avatar Brian Houser says:

      I’m confused why you think Ethan is “lost morally.” It seems he’s putting a lot more moral consideration into his argument than most commenters here.

      There’s some merit to the argument that a vote for Obama probably may mean less killing of innocents than one for Romney. But it’s still an implicit support for some such killings nonetheless. If you can sleep OK with that on your conscience, well, lucky you.

      The current (and presumably continuing) foreign policy has gone so far outside the bounds of what can be considered justified, wise, and even moral, and endorsing the Presidents’ continued abuse of power is unthinkable to me. Your last sentence is ironic because that’s been proven to be untrue by the current administration: Obama has not been constrained in his military directives and does have a “kill anybody” option (i.e., kill list).

      How can I in good conscience not vote for Gary Johnson, knowing he wouldn’t order military action without first having a declaration of war by the legislative branch, as intended in this country’s charter?Report

  37. Avatar wardsmith says:

    Ethan, this was an excellent and brave post by someone who is deservedly gaining more of my respect with every piece you write. Continue to be an iconoclast and continue to ignore the peanut gallery, you’ll be the better man for it.

    At the national level an individual’s vote is certainly meaningless /except/ as a statistical outlier, a protest vote if you will. Jason knows this, I know it and you know it. The others are just flapping their (virtual) gums.

    Reread 1984, especially the discussion with O’Brien. Governments have no interest in the plight of the poor, they only USE the poor as a means to the end of acquiring power. Power is the goal, always was and always will be. A protest vote is the only meaningful vote, otherwise you are a spit in the ocean and safely ignored. Be the (statistical) tail that wags the dog.Report

  38. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    There’s another route to influencing political outcomes: communicating with politicians, even ones you might not like. Consider this: I’ve been working behind the scenes with an outfit which is working on a hydrogen-powered truck. I tried to work with the senators from Wisconsin on it, but they didn’t have any time for us.

    But Lindsey Graham of South Carolina did. Really bright guy, important player in energy policy. Me, big old Liberal, dealing with a seriously right-wing Republican. He was once a bigger player in climate change debate but he’s sick of dealing with the Democrats.

    Politics is more than elections. Politics is participation. For all the money spent on elections, it’s safe to say at least as much is spent on lobbying. But anyone can lobby if they know how to write a concise letter. You might be surprised at the responses you’ll get if you’re smart about it.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      … but our gondolas! *frowns* seriously! They won’t use ’em!
      otoh, my husbands pneumatic tube idea is actually being implemented (by a private firm).Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        What on earth are you talking about? We’re not seeking federal funding for any of this. We’re talking about how we can get all this through the regulatory and safety maze.Report

  39. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    Let’s get this out of the way upfront (except it’s kinda late now):

    This post deals with the particular civic act of casting a ballot for President. I think we would, most of us, agree that the important civic work takes place, 1) at the local level, 2) all year round, and 3) in ways that have little or nothing to do with casting votes.

    The political effectiveness of an individual varies inversely with the visibility of the office involved. I would love for someone to write a post about the best ways to effect political change on a daily basis, but this is not that post, and as such I think arguments to the effect of, “but can you actually walk the walk,” don’t address the central issue raised here, which has to do with strategic voting and the degree to which we do or don’t, are or aren’t, imposing false choices on ourselves and others.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      Look, the stats and probability of voting for president revolve around the number 538. While winner-takes-all is the rule, state by state, putting aside the Faithless Elector, the individual voter is irrelevant to the discussion. We don’t elect our president directly. We never have.

      Political parties are merely vehicles to get candidates elected. That’s it. The parties nominate them and if you want to influence that decision, get involved in a significant political party. We the voters are given a bill of fare with two meaningful choices. Complain about it all you like, the strategy is down at the state party level. By the time Election Day rolls around, there’s no strategy. It’s always a matter of Least-Worst Option.Report

    • Avatar Scott Fields says:

      Honestly, Ethan, I understand what you want this post to be about, but I just don’t see how it’s possible to factor out the civic work that comes before the vote to look at just the act of voting itself. As in just about everything, the strategy to be taken in any moment is informed by what came before. The choices available today, along with the realistic, respective viability of those choices, were determined well before now. Considering one’s vote in isolation of the circumstances seems futile.Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      my best answer would be trolling.
      But i know some very good trolls.Report

  40. Avatar joey jo jo says:

    With your “recommendation”, isn’t this Vote Ethan’s conscience?Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      It’s a subtle point I tried to make upstream.

      I can try to convince someone to vote for X, or against Y, but me recommending they do so doesn’t mean I urge them to do that against their better judgement.

      They *should* vote based on their conscience, even if meanwhile I try to present and admittedly pathos-oriented case for why I think they should (and why I think if they thought long and hard about it would agree), vote for X or against Y.Report

      • Avatar joey jo jo says:

        I understand your further clarification, but the plain meaning and posture of what you wrote was to persuade. You could have couched it as, “This is how I’m voting and why, you may disagree or agree”. Or just get rid of the last sentence. It’s kind of a throw away line anyways.Report

  41. Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

    Ethan, it is time for me to leave you the hell alone. I’ll leave you with this: you simply can’t divorce strategy today from what you do rest of the year. Trying to argue that a third party vote today is in any way “strategic” if you didn’t do all that you could within your power during the rest of the year to make such a vote effective is very very foolish.

    Now, if you did so and work for such a third party the rest of the year, then you have misrepresented yourself in your post. And if you haven’t, then your argument is foolish and sophomoric. Sorry for the bluntness, and sorry X2 that I have been such a blowhard on your thread.

    Good luck to you.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      Guess you’re gone, but:

      “Trying to argue that a third party vote today is in any way ‘strategic'”

      Not doing that.Report

      • Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

        Don’t pull me back in, man. I got’s work to do!

        A few comments above you say: “I would love for someone to write a post about the best ways to effect political change on a daily basis, but this is not that post, and as such I think arguments to the effect of, “but can you actually walk the walk,” don’t address the central issue raised here, which has to do with strategic voting and the degree to which we do or don’t, are or aren’t, imposing false choices on ourselves and others.”

        You out and out say that the central issue is strategic voting. Make up your mind already.Report

        • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

          This is my fault for not being clear. My vote is not a “strategic” one in the sense that I’m voting based on who I think has a chance of winning based on how It think other people will vote based on how they think I and others will vote, etcetera, etcetera.

          My declaration was an implicit rejection of that kind of framework, which the comments have gone on to discuss in some detail. So I grant you that mine is not a strategic vote in that sense (though it may be in the sense Patrick gets at above with the long game and conceiving of elections as an interative process).

          Also, to be a strategic vote would not mean it was strategically sound, even if strategery was the intent behind it.Report

          • Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

            Wow, that clears things up.

            Seriously, man, I apologize for the nth time for bluntness, but as a math nerd myself, I must say your game theoretic bloviation about iterative process and the long game would be hilarious if it weren’t so damned sad. Not that such effects don’t exist, but I suggest you try to explain them to poor people with preexisting conditions, black folks who have seen effigies of Obama hung in their own communities, someone being waterboarded, or a woman who needs an abortion about 10 years from now.

            Again, good luck to you.Report

            • Avatar Mopey Duns says:

              If Bush did not overturn abortion in 8 YEARS with a Republican House and Senate, why do you imagine that Romney will? Seriously.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                It’s not Romney’s plan to overturn abortion, but to retroactively reinstate the terminated pregnancies.
                That’s what makes a Romney win so horrible.Report

              • Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

                The Supremes. The practical effect of which takes time. Which is why I said ten years.

                As Zaphod once said, “Geez, you guys are so unhip it’s amazing that your bums don’t fall off.”Report

  42. Presidents do not enter office with their own foreign policy. They assume the helm of a fully formed foreign policy (and domestic for that matter) ship. Enemies, alliances and commitments made by administrations past are instantly owned by a new administration. If you want to change the nation convince your fellow Americans of the immorality of drone strikes and rendition. What I’m afraid you’ll find is indifference at best and out right hostility at worst. The truth is policy rarely strays from what is politically popular. Change is a slow slog. We’re making small steps in the right direction one day you’ll understand that its as much as you can expect. I was a black national 20 years ago. The political order didn’t even meet me half way, I grew older and learned to accept and in some aspects respect the existing order. My advice to you vote your conscience today, live long enough to get some gray hairs and then tell me how you feel.Report

  43. Avatar zic says:

    Elder child and I had a long discussion on voting your conscience before going to the polls this a.m.

    Living in Maine, third party candidates actually matter; we’ll likely elect an Independent Senator today. Our Republican governor won office with 37% of the vote because an independent and Democratic candidate split the rest of the vote.

    Make the wrong choice here, and you may end up with your least-desired candidate grabbing the reward.

    So we chewed over how elections could be held to allow you to vote your conscience; and have one suggestion: Ranked ballots. Had my son that option, he’d have voted for Jill Stein (1), Barack Obama (2), Gary Johnson (3), and Mitt Romney (4), knowing his vote for Stein wouldn’t throw the election to Romney.

    This matters in our Senate race. After our last Governor’s race, I think a lot of voters paid careful attention to the polls before voting. The Republican candidate is Secretary of State Charlie Summers, and he isn’t well liked. He made a buffoon of himself searching for voter fraud to justify repealing same-day voter registration. It’s almost an anybody-but-him election, even though Angus King is dearly beloved. If the Democratic candidate, Cynthia Dill, strips enough party-line votes away, it would potentially put Sommers in the Senate.

    So I’d like ranked-ballots here; a way to vote my conscience andavoid buffoons. Once this election settles down, I’ll be seeking out other Mainers with similar interests, and work and starting a petition to put this before the voters.Report

  44. Avatar Sierra Nevada says:

    Well Ethan, it is over for now. My “side” won, mostly. Yipee for us.

    So now, on Nov 7 2012, you have a better chance to change the world for the better than you had on Nov 6. Because on the 6th, you were down to two real choices. Today you can get started on electing a candidate who represents hope, and you have a wide array of people to choose from, and many avenues of influence open to you. Get with it. And good luck.Report