Monday, November 5, 2012

Vote for the D or the R

Tomorrow is Election Day. I have three last minute messages for you.

First, vote. If you haven't voted already, go vote. It's probably not rational, but how many of the things that you do really are?

Second, vote for a major party candidate. Vote for the Democrat or vote for the Republican. Don't vote for any third party candidate, or an independent. 

We try to be nonpartisan at Mischiefs, but I have to take a stand here. The policies of the Green Party or the Libertarian Party might be great, but you're not helping realize them by voting Jill Stein or Gary Johnson.

Why not? For one, even if they were elected, a third party candidate would have to deal with a Congress filled with Democrats and Republicans. The president doesn't get to just repeal Obamacare or implement single-payer health care. That's the job of the legislature. By definition, anyone running for president as a third-party candidate has decided that coordinating with members of the two major parties is too hard. If it's too hard in the nomination stage, why would it suddenly become easy at the legislating stage?

And of course, no third party candidate is going to win. So your vote doesn't help. Meanwhile, there are real differences between Obama and Romney. Very big ones, in fact. Voting for anyone else means you give up your chance to voice your opinion on the divisions that are actually at stake in this election. 

Third, vote for your major party candidate. Don't vote for the guy you like better, or for whom you would want to have a beer with. If you look deep down, you are probably closer to one of the two parties. Even if you are independent, research suggests you have your leanings. And the parties are clearly not hard to distinguish. One is probably better for people like you.

You are not just selecting a president. You are also selecting which party that president will draw his cabinet from, and which party he will find most amenable to his agenda. You are selecting the leader of a team. The rest of the team will matter a great deal over the next four years.

Fortunately, most voters don't need these warnings. Most voters do vote for their party's candidate. Maybe most voters are on to something.


  1. I totally disagree. They don't have to win in order for third party votes to be influential.

  2. The trouble with that argument is that there is little evidence that the major parties will "respond" to that kind of third party pressure in more than superficial ways. In 2000, Ralph Nader's third party campaign almost certainly cost Gore the election, but the Democrats did not move to the left in response. In 1992, Ross Perot won 20% of the vote, and at best this moved balancing the budget a little higher on the agenda, but it did not radically change Bill Clinton's governing approach.

    Meanwhile, major changes in the directions of the two parties have occurred in the last several decades -- largely through internal politics, within the parties, especially at the nomination stage.

  3. Whoever is elected today (and I sure do hope it's today, or tomorrow morning at the latest!) will disappoint his supporters and infuriate his opponents. This is as predictable as the sunrise. The next president will dither, cave, betray, waffle, dictate, stumble, prevaricate and fail, over and over again.

    Which is why you should vote for Stein or Johnson. They will not disappoint you, and they will never, ever compromise their principles. We know exactly what they'll do because they've told us. If a baby gets shot in a drug raid, well, that couldn't possibly happen in a Johnson administration because he thinks that's wrong. If a sick person has to fight with an insurance company to get her medical bills paid, she'll be sorry she didn't vote for Stein, because Stein would never allow that to happen. The next president will undoubtedly screw up on foreign policy because Democrats and Republicans always screw up; it's in their DNA. Stein and Johnson do not believe in screwing up foreign policy.

    I studied poli sci a long time ago (back when people called it "poli sci"), but as far as I know, there is no research showing how a presidential candidate so principled that he or she can only attract 3-5% of the national vote will perform in office. Thus, there is a possibility, maybe even a non-negligible one, that sitting in the Oval Office may itself drain all the good qualities out of the person who works there, turning him or her into a typical politician. (Is it the furniture? The shape of the office? Someone needs to do some research.) In view of this, the best way to vote for the right person may be not to vote at all. Then your hands are clean; anything bad that happens could not possibly be your fault.

    1. "I studied poli sci a long time ago (back when people called it "poli sci"), but as far as I know, there is no research showing how a presidential candidate so principled that he or she can only attract 3-5% of the national vote will perform in office."

      You could study unpopular dictatorships. That could act as a good simulation of what you're looking for.