Making Room for a Third Party

One of the more unusual stories to come out of the second presidential debate was the arrest of Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, the presidential and vice presidential candidate of the Green Party.

Who?

Exactly — that’s the problem.

Both were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct by Nassau County Police when they tried to enter the campaign venue grounds. After being denied entry, they simply sat down in the middle of the road blocking traffic, the crime for which they were subsequently arrested. Now, clearly they are in breach of the law here and I’m not disputing those charges; I’m sure they would have expected the same outcome and no doubt welcome the publicity it brings.

Jill Stein & Cheri Honkala (via Politico)

What’s interesting, though, is why they felt so aggrieved to be there in the first place. In their eyes they are a legitimate party with legitimate political standing and should be allowed to go toe to toe with Mitt Romney and President Obama. However, The Commission on Presidential Debates has other ideas. There are certain criteria that need to be met in order to be invited to a presidential debate and the Green Party doesn’t meet them. Frank Fahrenkopf, co-chairman of the commission, revealed that in order to be invited candidates must average at least 15% in the five largest national polls. As of Tuesday the Green Party had polled between 2% and 3% in four consecutive national surveys.

Fahrenkopf outlined this stance by saying:

Our attitude has always been since we started the debate commission that we don’t invite people to participate in the debates so that they can show that they’re competitive candidates. We only invite people to debate who’ve already shown that they’re competitive candidates.

This seems to me to be a never-ending cycle the Greens will find difficult — if not impossible — to break without some changes in election laws. Any kind of showing in a serious debate, even just an appearance, could do wonders for their credibility and the future electability of the party. An appearance on a televised debate at a national or even state level would provide a platform on which they could build. Without that, they may never achieve the 15% threshold required. Limits on fundraising could perhaps give them a fighting chance when it comes to things like advertising but, again, that isn’t going to change any time soon.

Now, leaving aside the obvious problems of not being able to vote in a U.S. election, I would still not vote for the Green Party, despite its admirable aims and the fact that it’s probably closer to my ethical and political views than either the Democrats or Republicans. However, they’re worth keeping an eye on because they’re trailblazing a route through which other groups could follow.

Suppose some of the Atheism and Humanist groups got together to form a true political movement and created a new party — any potential successes and failures would be as a result of what the Green Party are attempting to do now. The Green Party even has a ten point agenda that has several points in common with Atheism+. From my European vantage point, the U.S. badly needs a third way, another choice in the election booth. European countries are awash with coalition governments, forcing parties to work together. Given the polarised nature of US politics over the last few years, who ever wins the election is unlikely to change that.

About Mark Turner

Mark Turner was born and raised as a Catholic in the North East of England, UK. He attended two Catholic schools between the ages of five and sixteen. A product of a moderate Catholic upbringing and an early passion for science first resulted in religious apathy and by mid-teens outright disbelief.

@markdturner

  • Nunya Bidness

    “I would still not vote for the Green Party, despite its admirable aims and the fact that it’s probably closer to my ethical and political views than either the Democrats or Republicans.”

    Why not?  Why would you not vote for the candidate who best supports your views?

    • Darwin’s Dagger

      A lot of us tried that in 2000 and the result was President W. Sure it seems like there is little difference between mainstream party candidates, until the wrong one is elected president.

      • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

        False. We had “President W” because:

        1. A substantial number of Democrats voted for Bush. (Seriously, in exit polls there were more registered Democrats in Florida who reported that they voted for Bush than there were those who voted for Nader by a factor of, IIRC, 20. Blaming the Nader voters is sheer stupidity.)

        2. Gore decided to concede instead of demanding a full recount in Florida. (The legal excuse for canceling the existing recount, flimsy as it was, was centered on the fact that it was not a demand for a full recount everywhere. And, in fact, although the post-election evidence suggests that Gore would have won Florida in a full recount, it also suggests that he might not have won Florida in the limited recount he was asking for.)

        and most importantly:

        3. The Democrats have long since ceased trying to be an appealing party to people, and so turnout is falling off. Even in 2000, the Democratic message was “we’re the lesser of two evils”. There were about as many registered voters who did not vote at all in 2000 as there were voters for either party. (If you lower the bar to “citizens of voting age” instead of “registered voters”, then there were significantly more people who did not vote, but could have done so, than voted for either party.)

        If the Democrats actually tried to behave as they like to pretend they do — using sane and fact-driven policy to to actually make the country a better place and taking principled stands against serious problems — then they would be able to increase turnout. They don’t — the Democrats voted happily for war with Iraq, war with Afghanistan, acceleration to the War on Drugs, torture, the PATRIOT Act, and the repeat of Glass-Steagall. Obama is killing people with unmanned drones dropping bombs, spying on — and possibly even assassinating, because he’s a big fan of secrecy and persecutes whistleblowers — U.S. citizens, and wants to cut Social Security and Medicare (although he’s withholding the details of his plan until after the election “to prevent it from being politicized”); it was Clinton who gave us DADT and NAFTA, etc. ad infinitum. If the Democrats would stop with the right-wing crap, chasing reactionary voters they’re never going to actually capture, and actually start behaving like decent human beings, then people who otherwise consider any vote to be a wasted vote might reconsider.

        That would also basically demolish the Green Party at the same time. There would be no reason to vote Green if the Democrats were who they claim to be. Two problems solved at once!

        But, obviously, it’s easier to find a scapegoat and blame the Democrats’ problems on something exterior than to admit that the Democrats are a bunch of corrupt weasels and try to fix the problem.

        • Aaron Scoggin

          Also, Republicans.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ed.selby Ed Selby

      It’s the “lesser of two evils” argument. The contention is that the alternate party candidate has no chance of winning; therefore, you are wasting your vote that could, hypothetically, mean the Bigger Evil wins.

      I think that’s crap. I think we should vote for the candidate that best represents our views – period. Until the Greens, Libertarians, and other parties get real ballot box support, we will always be stuck with the lesser of two evils.

      • Hayden

        The “lesser of two evils” strategy is a necessity of our voting system. The Green party can only pull votes away from the Democrats. The effect of a relatively popular Green candidate only makes it more likely for the Republican candidate to win. The same holds true for the Republicans and, say, the Constitution party.

        One way to fix this is with instant run-off voting where you rank candidates in order of preference.

        • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

          Actually, no. Instant run-off voting does not solve this problem, which is referred to as “second-guessing”.

          (Example: suppose that we suddenly jumped to a parallel world in which everything was the same as it is here, with the single exception that the U.S. had decided to use IRV in the 2012 elections. In that case, rather than arguing “if you vote for the Greens instead of the Democrats, the Republicans might win”, people like you would argue “if you give your first-preference vote to the Greens, then the Republicans might win by eliminating the Libertarians before your vote counted towards the Democrats”. Heck, if IRV were allowed, it’s even possible that one of the current two “big” parties would actually become split directly in half, which would then lend credence to the idea that “you must vote for the party which has the best chance of winning to prevent the runoff from letting the ‘wrong’ party into power”.)

          The whole second-guessing thing is just a canard; one which undermines actual democracy by changing your vote from a sincere expression of your preferences into a fear-based approval of the status quo.

          Mathematically IRV is actually a pretty terrible system; it solves only a few trivial problems with plurality voting, none of which are commonly encountered in real elections. There are no perfect voting systems — it seems like democracy has a few basic difficulties, the solutions to which get in each other’s way — but “approval voting” (vote for all the candidates of whom you would approve, with no ordering, and the one which receives the largest number of votes wins) does a much, much better job of ameliorating the real problems which exist in a democracy than IRV does.

          • ortcutt

            I’ve voted in IRV elections and it was easy and made the electoral discourse less divisive and more substantive.  There are problems with Approval Voting with one-man-one-vote, that IRV/STV doesn’t have. 

            Beyond that, you misunderstand what voting is.  Voting isn’t an expression of a preference.  It’s an action within a voting system.  In a plurality system, it makes no sense to vote for a non-competitive candidate when you have a preference between the competitive ones.

            • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

              Then why do people who live in regions with IRV report that (a) second-guessing is still a problem and (b) second guessing actually becomes a worse problem, under IRV, when there are more candidates running.

              Also, incidentally, don’t try to talk down to me about voting. I have a degree in mathematics and spent some time both on game theory and on voting systems. The purpose of voting is to try to form the best match between the voters’ preferences and the available candidates. Any system which automatically compromises this by hiding voters’ preferences is a bad system by definition.

              • 3lemenope

                Approval voting has its own not-so-cute quirks, not least it actually fails what most laypeople consider the most important intuitive criterion for successful voting systems: the majority criterion. 

                For those who have never had the excruciating pain of studying this stuff, the majority criterion is simply whether the system holds this statement to be true: it is impossible, given non-strategic voting, that the candidate most preferred by the majority of voters will lose. 

                Approval voting fails this criterion because the ballot fails to transmit information about the most preferred candidate; rather it only transmits information about the total set of acceptable candidates. Thus, you can run easily into a situation where, say, one candidate is strongly preferred by 55% of voters, but another candidate is tepidly preferred by 65% of voters. The second candidate wins in an approval voting system unless each voter limits their total votes cast per ballot to one, a behavior which would make the system behave identically in all respects to first-past-the-post.

                • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

                  If you allow people to second-guess their votes, then IRV also fails the majority criterion, and IRV has no barrier to second-guessing, and even tends to encourage it. So your objection is pointless.

                • 3lemenope

                  That flatly contradicts most available study on the subject, which is that IRV is fairly resistant to tactical voting under real-world conditions. It’s pretty difficult to tactically vote in IRV at all unless truly absurd information conditions pertain (e.g. each tactical voter would have to have complete knowledge of all other voters’ preference order). This is not realistically possible not least because secondary and tertiary preferences in practice are less stable than primary preferences, but probably more importantly because political alliances in the aggregate (e.g. the greens and the dems are both “left” parties) do not reliably track individual determinations of preference.

                  For example, my personal preference ranking for this election would be

                  1. Johnson/Gray
                  2. Obama/Biden
                  3. Stein/Honkala
                  4. Romney/Ryan

                  I would also note that my assignment of the tertiary and quaternary positions is not stable.

                  Now, most people assume, contrary to my preference list, that greens naturally delist towards democrats and libertarians naturally do the same towards republicans, and so the average tactical voter’s assumed rubric would fail to properly predict my preferences, because it makes too many unwarranted assumptions about what aspects of each party or candidate cause me to make my preference determinations.

                  It’s really not hard to see how this happens. In the broadest level of analysis, it might be convenient to group candidates and/or parties on a single ideological axis, but often individual preferences turn on interests orthogonal to that axis. For example, a person who cares most about localism and subsidiarity as a governing principle might vote:

                  1. Johnson/Gray
                  2. Stein/Honkala
                  3. Romney/Ryan
                  4. Obama/Biden

                  A person who likes the notion of muscular American intervention and aggressive warmongering might vote:

                  1. Romney/Ryan
                  2. Obama/Biden
                  3. Stein/Honkala
                  4. Johnson/Gray

                  A person who likes the tallest candidate might vote:

                  1. Obama/Biden
                  2. Romney/Ryan
                  3. Johnson/Gray
                  4. Stein/Honkala

                  When the criteria that each severed vote is made upon differs fundamentally from the assumed tactical result, tactical voting will fail in IRV. Since people vote for a whole host of reasons, information conditions will never obtain that allow a person to cast a “second-guess” ballot that they would have any confidence in doing what is intended by the act; IRV thus incentivizes true preference rankings.

                • ClayShentrup

                  Your post contains many of the common misconceptions about tactical voting. E.g. you are apparently unaware that Approval Voting behaves as well with 100% tactical voting as IRV does with 100% honest voting.

                  http://www.electology.org/tactical-voting

                  Also the “fails majority” criticism is extremely misleading upon deeper inspection.
                  http://www.electology.org/majority

                  Instant Runoff Voting can elect X even though Y was preferred to X by a majority AND got more first-place votes.

                  Clay Shentrup
                  Co-founder, The Center for Election Science

              • ClayShentrup

                More specifically: the purpose of making decisions (the reason you evolved to have a decision-making machine called a “brain”) is to maximize your expected utility. The point of an election is to maximize the expected utility of the group. Hence Bayesian Regret.

                ScoreVoting.net/BayRegsFig.html

              • ClayShentrup

                The Vicar,

                Please check in with the Google Group for The Center for Election Science. We’re working to promote Score Voting and Approval Voting, and would love to have you in our network.

            • ClayShentrup

              Approval Voting DOES NOT violate “one person, one vote”.
              http://www.electology.org/approval-voting#TOC-Doesn-t-Approval-Voting-violate-one-person-one-vote-

              > in a plurality system, it makes no sense to vote for a non-competitive candidate when you have a preference between the competitive ones.

              The same is true in IRV and basically all ranked systems, because they fail the Favorite Betrayal Criterion, unlike Score Voting and Approval Voting.
              http://www.electology.org/irv-plurality

              Clay Shentrup
              Co-founder, The Center for Election Science

        • 3lemenope

          Major parties do die in a FPTP two party system. All that Duverger’s Law guarantees is that two major parties will be the most stable metastable political end-state, not that the identity and essence of the major parties is fixed (and it doesn’t even guarantee that the political environment will reach that particular state, only that if it does it takes more energy to move away from it to another state; England managed to have a stable two-and-a-half party system for quite a while without voting reforms). The Whigs died and the GOP took their place. The Populists were absorbed by the Democrats and the Progressives by the Republicans at the turn of the last century, and brought with them drastic shifts in policy prescriptions and approaches. 

          I agree that a Condorcet or IRV system is preferable in some ways to FPTP, though the coalition governments that inevitably result from such systems are, it should be noted, inherently more unstable, and that volatility may not be as suitable for a country as large and diverse as the US as it might be for a smaller and more homogeneous nation. I fully support ranked-preference methods for local and state elections for precisely that reason.

      • Pseudonym

        If you live in a “safe” district, where your vote really doesn’t matter, then this argument doesn’t apply. If you live in a “swing” district, then it does.

    • ortcutt

      Because voting is an action, and we make decisions about our actions based on their outcomes.  Voting for a non-competitive candidate doesn’t affect the outcome either in the Electoral College (the thing that counts), or in the popular vote totals of the 1st and 2nd candidate (the only other thing anyone pays attention to after the election as a measure of popular support).  It’s equivalent to staying at home, and if you bothered to go and vote, why would you do something that’s equivalent to staying at home.

      • treedweller

         so we should always look at the polls and vote for the winner?
        I am as cynical as you about the voting public, and believe nobody much cares beyond the popularity contest, but some people will always look to see who came in third. And how much the third guy got matters when, say, only candidates polling 15% get in the debate.

      • treedweller

         Or, why would I bother to get up and go vote for someone I don’t really like much anyway?

    • jose

       Because many people voted for Nader and that resulted in 4 more years of Bush.

      • jose

         Sorry, I just mean 4 years, not 4 more years.

      • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

        No, Democrats in Florida who voted for Bush (who vastly outnumbered those who voted for Nader) was the problem. You’re being dishonest.

        • IndyFitz

          Based on the many posts of yours here that I’ve read, you’re being all “My POV is right and all of you are wrong so shut up and listen to me.”  How can you claim Jose is being dishonest?  Do you know Jose?  Do you feel Gore did not lose votes to Nader?  Do you feel only Dems voting for Bush is to blame?  Are you incapable of having a civilized discussion when people have views differing from yours?

          • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

            In order:

            1. jose is assigning blame for Gore’s non-election to the third-smallest possible non-empty set of people who did not vote for Gore. (The two smallest were Democrats voting for Browne and Buchanan. Exit polling says there were some.) There are two notable groups (non-voters and Democrats who voted for Bush) who must be considered more plausible. And this argument has been rehashed so often that there is no excuse for not knowing it by now.

            Now, either jose is unaware of this, and is still arguing, which means he is dishonestly presenting himself as having an informed opinion, or he knows this and continues to place the blame wrongly, which means he is simply using a dishonest argument. (Unless, of course, you want to say he’s insane and can’t tell the difference between a valid argument and an invalid one. I won’t go there.) So yes, jose is dishonest.

            2. No, I don’t know jose. I suspect you don’t, either.

            3. There is no evidence to show that the number of votes lost by Gore to Nader is sufficient to make up the difference in Florida. (That is to say: some portion of the Greens would never have voted for Gore under any circumstances, and you have not proved that this group is small enough that the remainder would make up the difference.)

            4. No. The blame lies primarily with the DLC who have controlled the Democratic Party’s policy positions since around 1990, and have consistently pushed it to the right, where it alienates some possible-Democratic voters into not voting, some into voting for Greens, and some into deciding that, hey, Bush sounds a lot like Gore in his speeches, so why not vote for the brother of our state’s governor, anyway, and show some loyalty? But a certain amount lies with the Democratic rank and file — presumably like you — who are willing to swallow any sort of lame excuse, and continue to this day to put tribal loyalty over ethics. The guilt of the Green party is much smaller; on a curve, they’re the only ones who pass, because at least they were trying to do the right thing instead of the convenient one.

            5. Well, I don’t know. There are several of us talking here. The only one I’ve seen so far who is relying on invective without logical backup is you.

            • IndyFitz

              1.Jose’s observation and opinion is still valid. Do you feel his observationand opinion are invalid?

              2. I did not claim Jose was dishonest and thus indicate I had some kind of view into his mind. You did. Do you have knowledge that Jose is dishonest?

              3. I’m not trying to prove anything. I’m merely saying those who voted for the Greens instead of the Dems were a factor. Do you claim they were not?

              4. Your political insight is astounding. I apologize for ever standing up for Jose being called dishonest, because clearly his observation and opinion are invalid when lit by the blazing illumination of your political insight. I beg a thousand apologies.

              5. Do you feel that my standingagainst you calling Jose dishonest is somehow invective? Do you feel standing up for someone you are being rude and inconsiderate to requires logical backup? Do you feel that if you demand logical backup from someone opposing your rude and inconsiderate behavior, then it MUST be given, or else that standing up is invalid, thus enabling your rude and inconsiderate behavior to stand unquestioned?

              • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

                1. Yes. I also hold that “evolution doesn’t happen” and “the universe is six thousand years old” are invalid opinions. Opinions cease to be valid when they imply a contradiction of the available facts.

                2. Logically, he must be either presenting himself dishonestly, offering a dishonest opinion, or be insane (or otherwise self-contradictory), as my previous answer #1 showed and you have failed to condtradict. Unless you can come up with a flaw in my logic — and the fact that you avoided even mentioning it, and started to talk about “feelings” and “valid opinions” suggests that you can’t — then the conclusion must be accepted as valid. I’m loath to call jose insane, and therefore I claim he is dishonest.

                3. They were certainly not the largest factor, and you have not proved that they were a sufficient factor to receive all the blame, which is jose’s claim. Therefore your point is invalid.

                4. You should, although I recognize the sarcasm. Your argument boils down to “we should never really try to fix things for fear of harming a system which is admittedly already broken”. So far you have offered no reason to go along with that reasoning, just sarcasm and the usual “oh, but it’s just an opinion, and all opinions are valid” rhetoric.

                5. Asking, rhetorically, if someone is incapable of having a civilized discussion is invective, and that’s what you did. It is not rude or uncivilized to call someone who is being dishonest “dishonest”, particularly in a discussion forum which, nominally at least, is composed of people who look for proof and truth rather than taking things on faith. If you would like, I could demonstrate few phrases which would be both rude and uncivilized, although it is possible that you already know them, even if you apparently can’t tell the difference.

                • IndyFitz

                  1. You’re confusing “opinion” with “fact.” Evolution does happen,and the Earth is more than 6,000 years old; those are facts. I think Jose espoused an opinion. There seems little doubt that plenty of usually-Dem voters went Green, so it doesn’t seem dishonest to me. Do you feel that if you disagree with any opinion thenit must be dishonest?
                  2. Fascinating self-supporting pseudo-logic. You list the only apparent possibilities, and make no room for other obvious possibilities — such as that Jose might have offered an honest opinion that you feel doesn’t tell the whole story, or that his opinion falls short, etc. So there is a blatant flaw in your “logic” — which I enclose in quotes because your arguments have very little logical merit and are clearly built upon the scaffolding of logic that makes sense only to you. However, since it seems likelyyou will never accept anypossible interpretation of your flawed logic that doesn’t agree with your perception of it being infallible, it’s evident we should end this line of debate. (It is, however, fascinating that you so quickly engage in what appears to be a perceived contest (perceived on your part), one that you seem hell-bent on emerging as the victor. Actual logic will always fail with such a mindset; refer to my point that debate on this is pointless, as you aren’t likely to see — or consider — any other points of view which contrast with your “logic.”)

                  3. I’m not sure who cares about what factor is the largest. Well, you clearly do. This seems like an obsession on your part.

                  4. Your response to my sarcasm is laughable. I especially like how you climbed into my mind and revealed to the world all those deep thoughts that I was trying to keep secret. So your “logic” is not only infallible, but you have special powers to read others’ minds? Curiouser and curiouser. (You can psychoanalyze and logically debate this all you want, but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar: All this boils down to was you being a dick in a public forum and me calling you out on being a dick. If working feverishly to prove your “logical” superiority makes you feel big, more power to you. I’m just going to pop some more popcorn and enjoy reading. Especially the parts where you use the word “logic” to make your points. I’m beginning to think you wore latex pointed ears a lot in high school and say “Live long and prosper a lot,” trying to be a Vulcan but not truly appreciating what “logic” really means.
                  5. Already covered this one. You aren’t apt to see anything but your own way, so debating it is pointless. But I think calling Jose dishonest was invective. If you weren’t being invective, you’d have simply said, “That was part of it, Jose, but the bigger part is such and such.” But instead you said, “I’m a dick.” Well, you didn’t SAY that, but you might as well have. You went to calling him a liar. Dishonesty and an uninformed opinion are two different things. I’m actually kind of surprised that your self-perceived moral and intellectual superiority didn’t have you posting a lengthy response explaining why his opinion was invalid instead of just being a dick. But I have to admit it’s more fun to watch that superiority complex at work as you diligently and repeatedly convince yourself that you’re Mr. Spock and I’m a kindergartener. But please, I have just gotten the new bag of microwave popcorn,and look forward to your “logical” entertainment.

              • Milton

                Indy- while Vicar seems to know what he’s talking about, for what it’s worth, I thought he was being rude too.

                • IndyFitz

                  He does know what he’s talking about. But yeah, that was my point: really rude. As I just argued in response to him elsewhere, I thought he could have done better by responding by offering facts that were contrary to Jose’s statement, instead of resorting to stomping on him. I didn’t feel Jose was being dishonest, justopining. But that’s TheVicar’s charm. Sometimes they know their stuff and aren’t willing to listen to anything that opposes their world view. But he has a lot to say, if you can wade through his tirades. :-)

    • http://twitter.com/markdturner Mark Turner

      In this case its because even though they have closely matching ethical and political views, I rank each policy area by importance. So even though we match on lets say 75% of things – the stuff that’s in that remaining 25% is important to me. I’m talking about my personal voting habits here, not suggesting everyone thinks this way. 

      The US under Green Party leadership would change the entire global dynamic because they do not really consider or really have any foreign policy. This is understandable as they need to win the battle at home first, but as a non-US citizen, the US on the global stage is what is most important to me.

      • MDSD

        “they do not really consider or really have any foreign policy”. This is patently untrue – first of all the Green Party is (unlike the dems or republicans) an international party that has made great strides on social justice, democracy and environmental issues in multiple countries. Secondly, many people join the party because of its position on ending the wars. Thirdly, they are the only party with a chance at winning (on enough ballots) that will talk about climate change which is the biggest foreign and domestic issue of our time…

        • http://twitter.com/markdturner Mark Turner

          They may have similar goals to other green parties in other countries but they are not and never have been an international party. Of course I want an to end wars, and end to poverty and to improve global health & education and all of that stuff – but it just isn’t the world we live in. Until they have a better plan than to ask Iran nicely to stop making nuclear weapons they don’t have a foreign policy I would vote for. They cannot end war by themselves, it just isn’t possible. If in 100 years time all these global issues of radical Islam, ultra nationalist states and African tribal and ethnic spats have fallen by the way side then yes, I would vote for them – but at the moment that just isn’t going to happen.

  • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

    The problem, for a third party, is the US system of checks and balances.  Winning the presidency does not do much, unless you also win support in Congress.

    The greens need to do a lot more grass-roots work, and less candidate grandstanding.

  • Gus Snarp

    The Commission on Presidential Debates is a creation of the Democratic and Republican parties. It was expressly created to allow the two major party candidates to have a debate with very strict rules they had both agreed to that would limit spontaneity of any kind, especially tough questions. It was created because the League of Women Voters, which used to sponsor debates, refused to do so with the rules presented by the major party candidates in 2008 calling it a “fraud” and the “hoodwinking of the American People”. To expect the Commission on Presidential Debates to accept a third party candidate without being forced to is absurd. They won’t do it, regardless of protests. The whole debate system is a farce. The Green Party have my respect for pointing this out. Too bad Gary Johnson didn’t have the guts to go and sit with them.

    • Andrew

      It goes back farther than 2008 (back to 1987), but it’s still recent history.  The 15% rule only started during the 2000 election cycle.  

      Gary Johnson did bring suit against the CPD.  His VP candidate (a California judge) will be arguing the case.

      • Gus Snarp

        Oh, that’s a typo. Should have said 1988 election.

        Wonder what grounds they’re suing on. Seems to me the CPD is a private organization and under no obligation to admit anyone.

        • 3lemenope

          If the suit is a replay of the Green and Libertarian candidates’ suits in 2008, they are essentially arguing that holding the debates so that only some plausible candidates are featured is tantamount to an in-kind political donation to the Democrats and Republicans, which would be a violation of campaign finance laws on the part of the CPD, the host, and the networks that broadcast it. 

          And when you think about it, the coverage that the debates give the candidates for free is worth, if they had to buy its equivalent, several millions of dollars of advertisements, so it’s not a crazy argument.

    • MDSD

       Not only do they exclude valid candidates, by they allow the 2 candidates to choose what they will allow in terms of questions. Did you see the contract they made Candy C sign (which she fortunately ignored) that explicitly said she could not pose follow up questions? Ridiculous. That’s how they can get away without talking about the 70,000 troops still in Afghanistan or about climate change.

  • Prezombie

    People unwilling to vote for the Green party out of fear of “taking away” votes from the democrats are the exact reason things will only get worse without instant runoff voting.

    • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

      See my reply re:IRV elsewhere on this thread. IRV would not solve this problem.

      • IndyFitz

        If you say so, it must be true.  But I think that having the chance to say “This is my first choice and this is my second choice” is sensible.  Heck, ordering ALL candidates by order of preference makes sense.  But since too many people are apparently incapable of simply filling in one box, I doubt it would be all that easy.

        • 3lemenope

          What is sensible-seeming is not necessarily the case; the universe is deeply counterintuitive, and political science is no exception to this rule. It turns out that Arrow’s Paradox and Condorcet’s Paradox guarantee that it is impossible for *any* preference-voting system to meet all the criteria for an ideal voting system, due to fundamental mathematical snarls. The reasons why are not immediately or intuitively obvious, but it turns out that whenever you aggregate preferences, you introduce the possibility of paradoxical preference orders. Every known way to prevent such paradoxical orders themselves introduce significant flaws to the system that prevent it from adequately reflecting the severed preferences of each individual when aggregated.

          The Vicar, there, may be coming on a bit strong, but most of his claims so far are pretty fundamentally sound. I differ from him on the preferability of approval voting, but I would concede readily that even approval voting is better at aggregating preferences than some ranking-style systems. Sneering at an argument because it is counterintuitive is not, in my experience, a good approach to understanding something; that’s the kind of stuff that scientists have to put up with all the time, because, to belabor the point a bit, the universe is not intuitive and so lay intuitions readily lead people astray. 

        • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

          How about “these are my choices” without having to worry about whether your more popular choice — which you don’t really like as much — will mask the less-popular choice you really like? That’s how approval voting works. In the simple, obvious cases, where there’s an intuitive obvious winner (or an obvious second-round winner) approval voting nearly always ends up with the same answer as IRV. But there are lots of corner cases where IRV does stupid things, but approval voting produces a better answer.

          As far as “ordering ALL candidates”: good heavens, you don’t mean you were advocating IRV without requiring that all voters rank all the candidates, were you? If you don’t require that, then IRV guarantees nothing at all! Any IRV system in which people can cast a partial vote is potentially even worse than simple plurality voting — it means you can end up discarding votes entirely, instead of just passing them from candidate to candidate.

          • IndyFitz

            Whoops — heheh, funny story: I was following you until you said, “Good heavens,” which offended my atheist sensibilities and threw me completely off track. Sorry about that–what was it you were saying?

            • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

              Sorry, back in high school I took a liking to the extremely wordy late Victorian writing style, attempted to emulate it, and now find it impossible to completely avoid. Among the affectations which became permanently attached is a tendency towards Victorian exclamations; I usually catch “good heavens”, being an atheist now, but it slipped through this time.

              (It’s really true. Around the same time, I started reading Terry Pratchett, and suddenly my compositions for English class broke out in chronic footnotes. I was clearly highly suggestible for a while; a pity the good influences didn’t stick, but the ones people don’t like certainly did.) (It could be worse; I could have gotten hooked on James Joyce.)Anyway, to recap:

              The only guarantees provided by IRV evaporate if all voters are not required to fill in a full set of preferences. Any vote which is only a partial set of preferences can be discarded during the runoff process, and you can end up with horrible degenerate (in the mathematical sense) cases where the least-popular candidate pulls out a win, or a candidate wins with a tiny fraction of the votes, or other horror stories. IRV is actually potentially worse than plain plurality voting when full preferences aren’t required. If you have been advocating IRV but not telling people they have to rank all the choices every time they vote, then you have actually been shooting yourself in the foot.

              • IndyFitz

                I’m not sure how this suddenly became about me advocating an IRV system. I did nothing of the sort. I merely mentioned that many people seemed too stupid to simply fill in one dot, and having to number their preferences would be impossible for many. Maybe I should have put a big smiley face after that post, because I was just making a snarky observation about stupid people. :-)

                Smiley face there. Just having fun with this one. :-)
                :-) :-)

                :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

      • MDSD

         IRV will certainly help.

        • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

          Not with the specific problem being discussed here. It just changes the terms from “I’m going to vote for B instead of A because I think A can’t win” to “I’m going to rank B higher than A because I think A can’t win”.

          And then B beats A, but it turns out that a majority of the votes counted for B prefer A to B than otherwise, but the voters were manipulated into the perception that they should vote for B. IRV has no mechanism to avoid this.

          Seriously, if people were voting entirely on their positions and histories, how many people would seriously choose Obama over Stein, or Romney over Johnson? Obama has a terrible history now — the drone bombings alone are a deal-killer for many people, and that’s just one item in the list. Second-guessing is the bane of the voting system.

  • Hayden

    Here’s the problem with third parties. The spoiler effect. A third party will pull votes away from the major party that they most closely align with. This weakens their closely aligned party, and makes it more likely for the opposing major party to win.

    CGP Grey has a couple good videos on how voting systems affect how party systems evolve.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7tWHJfhiyo
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Y3jE3B8HsE

    • 3lemenope

      The obvious rejoinder is that perhaps those major parties being “spoiled” should instead have worked harder to address the people who feel they can no longer vote for them. No party, shortly, is entitled to anyone’s vote. The only way the logic of a spoiler effect makes sense is if one concedes ex ante that one of the two major parties deserves to win. The very act of voting for someone else indicates that that person doesn’t buy that claim of desert. 

    • treedweller

      So be it. As long as I vote for what I don’t want, I can be sure I will get it.

  • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

     Frank Fahrenkopf, co-chairman of the commission, revealed that in order to be invited candidates must average at least 15% in the five largest national polls. As of Tuesday the Green Party had polled between 2% and 3% in four consecutive national surveys.

    Which is precisely because the commission is intended to bar third parties from participating. If the Green Party polled at 16%, the bar would be raised, or abandoned in favor of some other criteria, such as “has this party ever held office before”.

    Look at it another way: the Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, which famously said that the “unaffiliated” group is rising to nearly 1 in 5, shows atheists specifically with even less support than the Green Party: less than 2%. Would you consider it reasonable to exclude atheists from discussion of policy about religion on that basis? (In fact, if you support the arbitrary 15% bar, you are effectively saying that religious policy should only be determined by mainstream Christian churches, possibly only by Catholics since none of the Protestant denominations have even 11% by themselves.)

    • ortcutt

       Third-parties aren’t excluded from the policy discussion.  They’re excluded from one group of privately-organized events.  They’re free to promote their policy positions on the internet, in-person, and on as much media as they can afford. 

      • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

        Nonsense. The debates are a policy discussion. To exclude people from them is to exclude viewpoints from the discussion.

        The debates also represent a huge amount of publicity which is free to the candidates, sponsored by large corporations. Many of us are already uncomfortable with the way in which corporate money controls the elections; this extra subsidization of the battle of Tweedledum and Tweedledee is just adding insult to injury on that front.

        • ortcutt

          Debates are a policy discussion.  They aren’t the only policy discussion.  Third-party candidates are free to have policy discussions in other places and in other media.

          • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

            So if the police come and disrupt a peaceful protest, that’s okay because there is free speech elsewhere? If black kids are forbidden to join the school basketball team, that’s okay because they can always pay to build their own courts?

            The debates are (a) the biggest single events in the race at which multiple parties can appear, (b) presented as though they were intended to present the full spectrum of positions, and (c) presented as nonpartisan. Excluding some of the candidates — who are on the ballot in sufficient states to win, remember — deprives the excluded candidates of their largest possible appearance and makes a mockery of the whole process.

          • treedweller

             they are the only one giving candidates free access to all the major networks and several cable channels simultaneously. By omitting all but two candidates from the discussion, we ensure that we will only hear the ideas of two candidates.

            A debate gives a candidate credence (which they might immediately reinforce or might destroy instantly), which is exactly why the major parties refuse to allow them in the debates.

            Regular folks (those who don’t spend much time arguing politics on the internet, say) barely know some of these people exist. If more people knew they had an option, they might actually exercise it, and the major parties would have to get real. As others have said, the middle of both parties pays no attention to its fringes, because those people won’t vote for the other guy regardless. We’ve all seen what that gets us.

      • Elerena

        Do we really need to get into a Poly Sci 101 discussion here?

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, Blonde

    why does it surprise anyone that the controlling duopoly that writes all the rules writes those rules such that there will never be any sort of outside, significant competition? people should listen more closely to independent candidates of all sorts. you’ll find many of them have had experiences trying to do all the things doubters say they “should be doing” in order to be successful- only to find those efforts blocked by unfair laws and election requirements, written by, you guessed it, one or both of the two parties who are so very afraid of real competition. 

    most people don’t understand, but the vast majority of politicians in either of the two major parties are chummy friends with each other, off camera. they don’t really care about “the party’s platform” or whatever issue of the day is being touted in the media. they don’t actually write most legislation (lobbyists do), and they don’t take most of what they’re told to rail and rant about on camera seriously when they are among their own kind, friends and family. and so many of them these days are only “serving” in office because that is a stop on the way to a much higher paying job in a lobbying or consulting firm or the like, once they are out of office. labels like “democrat” or “republican” only have meaning to the rubes. 

    that’s the difference between the duopoly candidates and many of the third party choices, and it saddens me that so few people see it. mock them all you want. continue to believe that nothing can or will ever change, and that america “must always” be a two party system; you’ll get what you deserve as a result. but understand, and if you don’t believe me go talk to some, and work for them, as i have: most third party candidates are very, very serious about helping real people, and not just the wealthy. which, right now, are the only concern of both democrats and republicans. 

    meh, i don’t know why i bother. something like ~50% of americans honestly believe that obama is a “socialist” and that romney is a “successful businessman.” this hasn’t been a people’s democracy for a long time, and Citizens United was just the final nail in that coffin. but people still watch TV and like to believe their vote matters. it would, if people could see they have more than the choices than what the TV people tell them they have. but most people will never do that. and to those who claim that 3rd party voting costs democrats more than republicans, i say, prove it. the stats i’ve seen seem to pretty consistently draw votes from both parties. perot didn’t exactly help bush, and i don’t remember anyone accusing anderson of costing carter the election. and gore has no one to blame but himself, if he can’t even win his own home state, for crying out loud.

  • ortcutt

    I have a very low opinion of the Green Party, if for no other reason than that it is a group of people who don’t understand the distinction between voting in the system you have, and voting in the system you want.  There is no way that the Greens can be anything other than spoilers in a plurality system.  If they want to be electoral system reformers, that’s great, but running candidates in the current system is counter-productive. 

    • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

      How, precisely, do you propose that those unsatisfied with the current situation should cope with it? The Republicans actually stand against anything that anyone wants who might vote for the Greens, so there’s no chance there. The Libertarians theoretically support civil liberties but are batshit insane on economics and policy (and, when the chips are down, are more concerned with economics than civil liberties). And as for the Democrats, well, Obama and the DNC have made it clear that they will ignore anyone to the left of their chasing-the-right policies. (In fact, several members of Obama’s administration have basically said “if you’re a leftist we don’t care what you have to say, because you’ll vote for us anyway out of fear of the alternatives”.) In short, there is no feasible means of changing anything which does not involve potentially spoiling the Democrats. I’d rather have a little hope that things might get better than resign myself to being a part of the problem for eternity, wouldn’t you?

      • ortcutt

        I’ve always heard a lot of magical thinking on the part of Greens about how spoiling the Democrats is going to cause positive change.  It’s Underpants Gnome-level planning. 

        Step 1: Spoil the Democrats and get Republicans elected.
        Step 2: ?
        Step 3: Utopia

        That’s not a plan and I’ve never heard a plan from any Green that wasn’t batshit-crazy. 

        • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

          In other words: you don’t claim that “sit down and shut up” would actually work, because then you would have refuted my comment by telling me how would-be-Greens can make the Democrats alter their policy positions.

          What you want is for the Greens to say “oh, hey, the Democrats are actively engaged in making things worse, but we’re not going to challenge them in any way because challenges are unlikely to work.” Explain to me how “no chance of change” is superior to “only an extraordinarily slim chance of change”, please.

          Only a madman does the same thing time after time and expects a different result; since the Clinton era, people have been trying to make the Democrats move left from within. It doesn’t work; the modern Democrats ignore their base as much as the Republicans pander to it, and use absolutely any outcome as an excuse to move rightward. So far, though, there has been no Green candidate which won national office — if one can be elected, then it will actually be “trying something new”, and therefore not mad.

          • ortcutt

            OK.  I get it.  Democrats are evil, etc., etc….  I’ve been a liberal person long enough to know enough loony, perpetually dissatisfied self-described “leftists” in my life .  I’m not trying to convince you.  I’m trying to convince smart, practical people who haven’t yet lost the use of their faculties.

            • IndyFitz

              Give it up, Ortcutt.  TheVicar knows his stuff.  Although I find it amusing that he cites the example of only a madman tries the same thing over and over expecting different results, yet I’ve read piles of his posts here today that seem to indicate he’s arguing the same standpoints and not getting anywhere.  I think that means he’s a madman, by his definition.  Because there’s certainly no value in working hard at a goal and trying again and again, even when the goal is just and good.

              • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

                If I’m a madman, I’m one of the harmless kinds. (Although in my defense I have not yet decided I’m a soft-boiled egg or started to see psychodelic unmanned bombers emerge through the walls. Perhaps it comes on gradually, and soon the yolk shall be on me, and I’ll stop droning on.) (Joke, officers, for the use of.)

                Actually, though, I am succeeding in one goal: I am not allowing statements which I know to be false to stand unchallenged. (I may not have the energy and time to defend all my posts all the time, but I made the effort, and that is what is important to me.) That people who I regard as being dishonest disagree with me and will not be convinced, no matter what rebuttal I use, does not bother me greatly, any more than it bothers me greatly that the Pope condemns my atheism and will not cease being Catholic.

                • IndyFitz

                  Fair enough on the harmless-madman comment, but don’t all madmen insist they’re harmless? :-)

                  I respect your convictions, and especially your willingness to defend them… however roughly.

        • 3lemenope

          I’ve always heard a lot of magical thinking on the part of Greens about how spoiling the Democrats is going to cause positive change.  It’s Underpants Gnome-level planning.

          No, quite the contrary it actually closely tracks the history of how parties have changed in the US. Major parties bleed adherents to third parties when they fail to be responsive to those voters’ concerns, at which point one of two things happen; one (or both) major party will adopt the policy position of the third party to recapture those voters, or one major party will bleed to death. Both have happened numerous times in US history. 

          So long as Democrats act like they are entitled to Green-leaning votes without being responsive to their issues, they will suffer proportionately at the ballot box. Ditto the GOP and the Libertarians. To the extent that the Dems have pivoted towards Green issues, they have recaptured some of that loss. The GOP likewise has pivoted strongly towards economic elements of the Libertarian platform to fend off defection. Both parties were staggered in 1992 by the introduction of the Reform Party, and both parties had to dance fast to keep up with the issue pressure from the Reformists, leading to an election that concentrated on issues like NAFTA, which neither major party had been addressing very well prior to the third party threat.

          • Ryan

            ^This, look at the case where the Republican progressives split and basically handed an election to Woodrow Wilson, who mysteriously went on and championed the progressive cause…

    • treedweller

      I will happily be a spoiler for a while if that’s what it takes. Why should it bother me to “spoil” what is already completely rotten? There are differences in the two major parties, but they share one glaring negative: they play within the system of corporate-dominated elections rather than making even the slightest effort to change it. If four years of Romney are what it takes to wake people up, I am willing to risk it.

      Yes, I know that’s not how it worked after bush. I don’t care. I know it’s not likely my green vote will change anything, but I am quite certain a “lesser of two evils” vote won’t.

      • Baby_Raptor

        That’s a real great attitude to take. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you’re a straight male, IE someone not really threatened by Mittens and his plans. 

        Thanks for throwing those of us that are under the bus.

        • treedweller

          You guess correctly, but if I were a woman, I’m not sure I would think it was in my best interest to vote for someone who is part of the corporate political system. I may not be directly affected, but I do fear the result of a Romney win. I also relish the the thought of a big, fat comeuppance down the road, should it come to that. But both of the current major parties are counting on that fear of the extreme to keep everyone nice and cozy in the status quo. Rs threaten 90% taxes and welfare crackwhore moms if you vote D. Ds threaten govt-issued chastity belts with keys held by fathers and/or husbands. Both quietly exclude ideas that threaten their position of privilege and dominance. Which inadvertently answers the question some may have asked: how is this relevant on an atheist blog?

          But, for sure, if I were a woman in TX, I would know my third-party vote against money-is-people is more important to me than a token vote for a pro-choice candidate who will certainly lose. I will proclaim my pro-choice position loudly and often, but this is a time where that statement seems futile, while supporting a third party is not. Well, maybe it is, but this is a rare opportunity to make it, whereas opportunities abound to express my views on women’s rights.

  • 3lemenope

    I’d just like to take this moment to point out that once upon a time, the GOP was a third party. And not just a third party, but a single issue third party. The Populist Party and the Socialist Party (both at the turn of the 20th century), while not particularly successful at electing candidates, did have profound impact on the policy prescriptions of the major parties of the day, yielding programs and policies that not only still exist today but are considered fundamental (e.g. social security). 

  • http://goddoesnt.blogspot.com/ James A. Lindsay

    Duverger’s law, Mark. Look it up.

    • 3lemenope

      It’s not as decisive a rejoinder as you think. Even Duverger himself thought that FPTP-plurality systems only slowed the cycle of party creation and party demise, rather than halting it. Also, the rule does not well handle local parties of any significant strength, since Duverger’s Law only holds when assuming party preferences as distributed evenly over the electorate.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pwguitarded Perry Winters

    “I would still not vote for the Green Party, despite its admirable aims and the fact that it’s probably closer to my ethical and political views than either the Democrats or Republicans.”

    “Suppose some of the Atheism and Humanist groups got together to form a
    true political movement and created a new party — any potential
    successes and failures would be as a result of what the Green Party are
    attempting to do now..”

    The first statement, by definition, is ethically inconsistent if there is a party that better parallels your ethical views. In fact, I would argue that the top statement completely undermines the atheist/humanist movement that has often been considered “fringe.” On might say that we shouldn’t care about either movement because they do not get enough attention. Would we agree with such a statement? I would assume not.

    Not to mention, we do not need an atheist party. If there is any political group that should be backed by my fellow secularists, it would be either the Green Party or the Justice Party.

    • http://twitter.com/markdturner Mark Turner

      Not so, they may match me better ethically but pragmatism takes over. I like the way the Greens talk about stuff like the environment, personal freedoms and social justice, but would I give them the launch codes to US missile defences? No. My view of them is entirely shaped by the fact I live outside the US. I would of course strongly consider them if that changed and I became a US citizen, but for now my primary concern in US politics is how national politics affects the international dynamic. Of course I still care about the social justice stuff like education and health care, but only out of basic human solidarity not because it directly affects me in any way.

      • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

        So… your “pragmatism” leads you to take the one course of action which has been tried and is definitely known not to work (allowing the Democrats to have your vote by default)?

        • http://twitter.com/markdturner Mark Turner

          No what I’m saying is that I consider things that directly affect me before the ‘nice to have if possible’ stuff. I am not a US citizen, so all the stuff the Green Party would do if they somehow won would not really affect me. Things like overhaul of healthcare and education. What does affect me is US foreign policy – and I just think the Democrats have a better idea of how to manage global affairs better than either the Greens or Republicans. Of course all of this is dealing in hypotheticals because I can’t vote! I guess in summary if we imagined all Brits could vote, I would vote Democrat. If we imagine I was a US citizen I would probably vote green, but that depends on a whole range of other stuff.

  • Nope

    Voting for a party you know won’t win is exactly as useless as praying for a certain electoral outcome.  Also, it is a bit more harmful in its practical consequences.  It’s really nice to be idealistic and think “WOW WE SHOULD VOTE FOR WHO WE LIKE THE BEST”, but that point of view comes from living in a bubble where you ignore the outside world and basic statistics / political science knowledge.

    A vote for the green party instead of democrat is a prayer for the republican party.

    • 3lemenope

      You should vote for what you don’t want, otherwise you’ll get what you don’t want? Even if I hadn’t studied political science for a while (and because I have, and thus am familiar with the history of American political parties, I know that it’s historically unsound), I’d still think this is a self-defeating sentiment.

    • MDSD

       People thinking like you is why third parties are still that in this country. We need more people who are willing to take a risk to build a movement.

    • RobMcCune

       What kind of stare are you in red, blue, or swing? Unless your in the latter, do you vote for the candidate that is going to win your state regardless of whether or not you agree with them?

    • Ryan

      You suppose that if I vote for the green party, that it is INSTEAD of the democratic party…

  • SpiritualRationalist

    If we want to change our nation, we need to take the long view, rather than demanding instant gratification.  It’s sad to see so many otherwise rational people completely misinformed about how our system of elections works.  “It’s no different than staying home”, “It’s a vote for the Republicans/Democrats”, “It’s a spoiler effect”. All of these statements are hopelessly naive, and are the result of PR spun by the Republocrats to maintain their grip on power.  The fact is that in most cases, a third party won’t win the current election if you cast your vote for them, but that *does not* mean that a vote for them is wasted. 

    Every vote for a third party candidate edges their party closer to numbers that will allow them to stay on ballots in the next election cycle.  This means that instead of mobilizing thousands of volunteers and millions in donations just to petition for ballot access, they can use those resources to actually get a candidate elected. 

    Also, every vote for a third party candidate increases his/her visibility for the next go-round.  Increased visibility means a better chance to be known and included in those polls they need 15% of in order to participate in debates.  Numerous polls included in this test did not even include any of the third party candidates, so how could they be favored?  Several polls conducted independently, for example, showed Gary Johnson at over 15% approval in some states, but those polls weren’t considered by the commission.

    “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” the old saying goes. Voting your conscience is *never* a waste.

    • IndyFitz

      While I basically agree with most of what you said, I disagree with the last paragraph.  Let’s say we have Candidates A, B, and C.

      “A” believes in killing puppies for sport.  You love puppies and abhor this idea, and would NEVER vote for “A.”

      “B” shares your abhorrence, but “B” also believes we should invest money in widget production to create jobs and bolster the economy, and you absolutely don’t agree with widget production as an economic policy.

      “C” is anti-sport-puppy-killing AND anti-widget-production, so “C” is exactly who you want.

      But the fact is, nearly half the voters will vote for “A” and nearly half for “B.”  Your conscience tells you that, even though it will take votes away from “B,” you must vote for C so you don’t waste your vote.

      So you vote for “C,” along with a handful of Americans, all of whom, given the choice between widget production and sport puppy killing, would probably have grudgingly voted for “B” otherwise.  “B” loses those votes, “C” makes no dent, and “A” takes office and signs the Puppy Killing As A Sport Act of 2013 the first day in office.  You knew it would happen, you abhorred that it would, but were so stuck on your conscience refusing to give in to those evil widget ideas that you voted for “C” and are now one of the many who helped make puppy killing a national sport.

      It’s easy to say “I feel GOOD about myself, because I voted how I TRULY believed.”  But it’s harder to make an educated choice that requires you making compromises with your own belief system for the overall betterment of society.  Puppy killing is just bad.  Widgets are not ideal, but not the end of the world.  Instead of doing a good thing and making concessions to ensure that MOSTLY good comes of the election, you voted with that celebrated conscience and stood up for your ideals, and now puppies are being killed and they’re charging admission fees and ESPN is carrying Puppy Killing of the Week and society continues to devolve.  Not a very good use of one’s vote or conscience, if you ask me.

      For me, my conscience sometimes demands I make such concessi0ns — not get everything I personally want because I feel that another candidate, while good but not perfect, will give society a better shake than the puppy-killing bastard.  Analogically speaking, of course.

      • treedweller

         so you live in a swing state? because this is irrelevant to my vote in TX.

        But I am not voting Green because of some idealized analogy. Puppies will die under both Romney and Obama, and we all know it. Some of us rationalize that probably fewer will die under obama so we vote for him. But we are also inadvertently voting for a system that denies us the choices we truly want and deserve.

        I am voting for the candidate that represents my views–the masses’ insistence that “second-worst is best” be damned. Temperance galvanized drunks and we got repeal of prohibition. Sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better. But I know I won’t get what I want if I don’t vote for it.

        • 3lemenope

          Heighten the Contradictions!!!
          ;-)

        • IndyFitz

          I don’t argue that. I’m only positing another perspective — being that voting with your conscience doesn’t necessarily produce positive results simply because it’s right. You took my analogy and added that puppies will die under Romney and Obama, but the reason I used puppies and Candidates A, B, and C was so that I wasn’t using real-world examples. In the analogy, “A” absolutely kills puppies and “B” absolutely kills no puppies. That is, of course, the point of the analogy. Obviously, nobody is killing puppies. Well, I hope not. :-)

      • Spiritualrationalist

        Unfortunately, that’s exactly the kind of short-sighted rationalization that’s left us with this unrepresentative travesty of a democracy.  Everyone ‘strategically’ votes to protect their pet issue, and ignores the greater problem.  By your logic, you’ll spend the rest of your life desperately fighting the “puppy killers”, because you’ll maintain the status quo, which is a perpetual pendulum swing between the two bad choices.

        Every four years, you’ll be faced with exactly the same choice, and you’ll do the same thing, and you’ll get the same results.  And *nothing* will ever get better.  We need to start looking at the bigger picture if we’re ever going to break the cycle.

        And as treedweller points out, unless you live in a swing state, your vote doesn’t count anyhow, if you waste it on one of the big party candidates.  Why not use it to actually achieve something instead?  However gradual, you’ll be making progress, rather than buying into the problem.

        • IndyFitz

          I disagree that it’s “buying into the problem.” Participation in a democracy isn’t just about voting. It’s about talking with elected officials, whether you voted for them or not, to voice your concerns. I have done this all my adult life. If puppy killing is my chief goal, I might be apt to vote for the guy who will banit, and maybe we can call that voting against the other guy, but either way I’m voting for what I believe is right: the guy I vote for will get into office and solve my puppy-killing problem. But if you believe the only reason I’d vote for him was that, you’ve made an assumption. I used an analogy, not a real example of puppy killers and widget producers! But to use real-world examples, I wouldn’t vote for Greens because I don’t feel the party has grown up yet, they don’t market themselves effectively, and I haven’t seen a candidate I can take seriously. When the Greens straighten up, I’ll give them due consideration. But if there’s some kind of believe that I have no conscience because I voted for Candidate B to save puppies and don’t care about any other issues, or that I didn’t vote for C because I only wanted B to win… then THAT is the kind of short-sighted rationalization that’s left us with this unrepresentative travesty of a democracy. You don’t like it? Get the National Popular Vote passed in your state, if it hasn’t already, so everyone’s vote DOES count, and there are no more swingstates. I’m willing to wager that with NPV in place, weak parties like the Greens will suddenly have a lot more relevance — that is, assuming weak parties like the Greens do something — ANYTHING — to make themselves look attractive and EARN myvote — as opposed to EXPECTING it because I’m supposed to have a conscience. And I have to say, sitting down in the street doesn’t make me want to vote for them. Not one little bit. It makes me remember they’re half-assed, uncoordinated, and unmarketable — and unwilling to move beyond the limited boundaries they’ve created for themselves.

          • SpiritualRationalist

             Yes, I was aware that you were using an analogy.  I used it with you, to demonstrate that the logic was flawed, making no assumptions about what you really believe. 

            The point is that you are advocating “lesser evil” strategic voting, which is what’s gotten us into this mess in the first place.  If Americans continue to use that logic, we will always get an “evil”, because no one outside the current power-structure will  ever get a voice.

            This is about taking the long view.  I don’t even like the Green Party.  I think many of their positions are laughably naive or extreme.  However, if they, or the Libertarians, or the Constitution Party folks can break into the national conversation even once, it will make the next time easier for all of them.  More importantly, even if none of them ever win, any strong showing of support will pressure the duopoly to modify their positions in order to “win back” those votes.

            Effectively, your strategy *does* “buy into the problem”, because if you practice it, you are ensuring the the problem will always remain.

            • IndyFitz

              Yet your stance seems to indicate that if we vote our consciences and never the lesser of two evils, Americawill be better off. That doesn’t make sense on a logical level to me.

              First, it assumes that as long as you vote your conscience and not for the Democrat or Republican, then all will be fine and well with the country, because those weak third parties are somehow less evil, more good, or whatever. I dispute thatsimply because a third party is there and weak that voting for it will somehow solve all our evils.

              Second, it assumes that I must find great evil in boththe major parties, although lesser in one of them. Since human beings seem to generally be bastards at the core no matter who it is, I look at it from the standpoint of who tends to be the bigger bastards. I generally feel that Republicans are, and Democrats much less so. (We can debate that at another time; that’s my opinion and not really part of this discussion.) Since you have clearlystated that I am buying into the problem, you have assumed I am voting for the lesser of the two big evils as opposed to the clear choice between the two candidates who matter BECAUSE that candidate is very much the lesser of the two evils, and BECAUSE I find the third parties absurd, unmarketable, and not worthy. In fact, I find them in many respects more evil than Candidate “B” although not as bad as Candidate “A.” So your logic that I am choosing the lesser of two evils is not accurate; I am choosing the lesser of ALL evils, including the weak parties which have done nothing to earn my interest, respect, or vote.

              Third, it ignores the mathematical logistics of the third party. Unless the third party markets itself to a point where its presidential candidate is electable, the fact that my vote will not change that — unless suddenly tens of millions of Americans abruptly see the light and realize they must vote with their consciences and elect that person in NOW! — stands. Just like Maine voted for Ross Perot in 1992 but changed nothing. Or just like Mondale winning D.C. and Minnesota, losing in an incredible landslide — despite winning 40.6% of the popular vote… leading me to myfinal point.

              Fourth, the electoral system is a disaster. I keep saying: http://www.NationalPopularVote.org and change this. With that in place, third-party candidates will matter. They’ll be heard more. And the two big candidates will have to adjust their campaigns and politics accordingly, as they can’t simply ignore them. With the NPV in place, then I suspect third parties will get more exposure and perhaps, in the process, learn to not look silly and find ways to actually market their ideas.

              If your line of reasoning, such as it is, labels me part of the problem, then my line of reasoning says the same about you. You claim if there are Super-Evil A, Evil B, and Saintly-But-Weak C, me voting for B is somehow idiotic. Iclaimthat C is evil in its own ways, and I have no interest in C to begin with; ergo, my “lesser of two evils” is between A and B. If you were to choose to vote for C because it was saintly, then you are ALSO choosing the lesser evil — the lesser of THREE evils.

              It doesn’t matter WHAT your political opinion is an who you vote for. Who votes deliberately for perceived evil? We vote for our perceived BEST candidate, and that is presumably going to be the one we consider less evil. Any claim to the contrary is ridiculous. Would I vote for a Republican candidate who I view as far more evil than a Democratic candidate? Of course not.

              Finally, continuing your claims that I am making the problem worse by voting how I do, or claims that I somehow do not vote my conscience, is absurd. I realize it’s fashionable in these types of forums to read people’s minds, but you’re wrong. I think people always vote their consciences, and if their consciences tell them to vote for B when they’re prefer C but would rather A not win, that’s their consciences and you just can’t argue that.

              What you can do is continue to claim your *opinion* that this is all part of the problem and somehow such voters are just destroying America in the process. I feel that that is arrogant presumption and smacking of moral and intellectual superiority (and perhaps bordering on telepathic superpowers by knowing the minds of others), but you’re certainly welcome to your opinion.

              I presume from your arguments here that you are prepared to vote for the Libertarian or Green or Constitution candidate this election?

              • Spiritualrationalist

                 It seems like you are intentionally missing the point.  My stance doesn’t *seem* to be anything, I’ve specifically stated it, and it does not include calling anyone idiotic.

                Minor parties aren’t magically “less evil” because they are third parties. If your most favored candidate is in a major party, you *should* vote for them.  If he/she isn’t, then you should vote for them anyway, because by definition, they *are* the least “evil” of all choices.

                Everything else you’ve said is just a rehash of your strategic theory, but it just ignores all the reasons I’ve given why supporting your best candidate regardless of your *estimate* of their chances, still makes things better.  To recap:
                * More votes for your preferred choice in a minor party means a better chance of keeping their party on the ballot, which is a huge advantage next time.
                * It also means a greater chance of getting media attention for your preferred choice’s party the next time around, which means a greater chance of making it into the relevant polls for the debates, which means a greater chance of getting your party’s future candidate elected.
                * A good showing for your minor party candidate means that the major parties may move toward your position to “win back” votes from a growing threat, which is progress toward accomplishing your goals regardless of who wins.
                * Unless you live in one of the 10 or so swing-states, you already know who will win your state’s electoral votes, so voting for a major party candidate achieves nothing for either of them, while voting for your preferred minor party choice *still* accomplished all the improvements listed above.
                * Voting strategically for a major party candidate that you don’t really
                want simply reinforces the status quo that is preventing your choice
                from having a real chance.

                And yes, I will be voting libertarian this time, as Gary Johnson best represents my opinions.  Not perfectly, but much better than anyone else in the field.

                • IndyFitz

                  Once again, you’re using your mind-reading super powers to decree that I am intentionally missing the point. Obviously, we need to agree ti disagree on this one. I was going to read the rest of your post, but after that arrogant opening, there’s no point. I did skim it, though.
                  I did read your last bitabout you voting Libertarian because the candidate best represents your views, albeit not perfectly. It sure sounds to me like you’re voting what you feel is the lesser of all the evils. I don’t know how that will sit with your conscience!

                  And — voting Libertarian… yes, that explains your fierce attempts to constantly tell me what I’m thinking and feeling, and to attempt to demonize everything I said in terms of how anyone voting for Dems and Repubs are DESTROYING AMERICA and so on and all that fist-pouning rhetoric. Good luck with thatvote. I heard Gary Johnson stands a pretty good chance of getting elected.

  • scinquiry

    For more on the story. 

     http://www.democracynow.org/2012/10/17/green_partys_jill_stein_cheri_honkala

  • jose

    It is a vicious cycle. You can’t become popular because you aren’t popular so nobody thinks you deserve screen time. Not even Maddow, who is happy to bring in Buddy Roemer again and again, thinks Jill Stein is worth a couple of minutes on the air.

    Just imagine if democrats could work with greens instead of working with republicans in order to govern. America would have a public option by now instead of Bob Dole’s plan.

    • IndyFitz

      But will Greens work with Dems?  Fringe parties usually tend to be extremely strict and uncompromising on what they want, IMHO, so tend to not give an inch.  If there’s no compromise, nothing gets done.  Look at Congress now with just two parties.

      • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

        Well, you’re right there. I can’t picture the Greens working with the Democrats to extend drone bombings, or approve more oil drilling, or approve of spying. I daresay they might even have stood against the passage of the PATRIOT Act or the AUMF in Iraq. Obviously, the Greens need to learn to work with the Democrats, or else they are unsuited to govern.

        Perhaps the Democrats should learn how to extend towards the Greens, who after all are occupying a position the Democrats once held and have abandoned, hmmmm?

        • IndyFitz

          Let me take a wild guess… you’re a Green??!!

          I think we got it: Democrats are all evil and nothing they do is worth compromising with. And since the Greens haveall the right answers, clearly they should be the standard bearers on EVERYTHING. Fear not — I’m taking notes so I know next time.

          • treedweller

             sarcasm aside, The Vicar probably figured it went without saying that dems and greens would be able to work together on lots of social issues, but I think it’s a fair point that many actions of the Democrat party are out of line with Greens, and they certainly should not feel obligated to compromise their (our) values. How could Greens be any more uncooperative than the current major parties?

            • IndyFitz

              Good points — especially the last line! Hard to argue that.

          • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

            Actually, I’m a registered Democrat, in the Chicago area which is a Democratic stronghold, and have never voted for any presidential candidate who was not a Democrat before. But I am a Democrat who is increasingly annoyed that the Democrats have abandoned me, taken me for granted, and spit on my opinions. (For that matter, I wish Rahm had stayed in D.C.. He basically bought the mayoral contest, does a lousy job, and there are already all kinds of suggestions of brand new corruption — like the recent water price hikes, far above the costs to be recovered but not providing any surplus to the projected budgets — swirling around. And that’s after the Daleys, who were fairly infamous themselves!)

            I’m also increasingly annoyed that most Democrats meet criticism of the party with a tribal, substance-free “any criticism of the party is betrayal” response.

            • IndyFitz

              TheVicar, you and I have traded barbs about things here today, and it has been both entertaining and educational. But I can’t argue with this post at all. I agree 100% — except about being abandoned by the Dems; I have never been a member of a political party by my own principles, but am very liberal and have generally voted Democratic, so I get the idea. Had the Republicans not gotten even more progressively insane over the years, they might have made sensethese days.

      • jose

        - Green isn’t fringe. Look at their policies. The “embriology is a lie from the pit of hell” and “what’s wrong with women carrying dead fetuses anyway, the mares in my ranch do that all the time” and “corporations are people” and “taxes are like slavery” republican party is the fringe.

        - Green parties work in many countries, it can work in America.

        • IndyFitz

          Some of their policies may be great. The party is still a fringe party. Until it becomes more widely recognized by the mainstream populace, it will remain such. That’s kind of what being fringe is all about. It has nothing to do with the value of their policies. I’m not saying that the party being on the fringe is sensible; it just is. If there is any blame for the Greens’ monumental failures since 1991, it’s that they haven’t marketed themselves very well — or they’d be less fringe and more accepted and understood. Maybe they need better PR. Maybe their ideology doesn’t resonate with enough Americans. Maybe their candidates on local levels are laughable and don’t instill any sense of serious consideration by most voters (that’s sure been the case where I live). Regardless ofWHY they’ve failed, they’ve failed, and they can blame the Democrats and Republicans for not allowing them to debate, but that’s a cop out. Make yourselves more viable and attractive at all levels, and people will probably give you more serious consideration.

          And I do agree with your last statement. But MANY great ideas work in other countries but don’t in the U.S. Look at geothermal energy. Entire European countries embrace this logical ideal. Cities are designed with geothermal systems. But here, we keep paying piles of money for oil, a major sore spot for most, and complaining about it, because installing a geothermal system for a home is just too darn expensiveUP FRONT, even thoughwe’llsave lots of money very soon. It’s the backward mentality we have here. (See, now that’s a Green ideal I can get behind — geothermal wells for every home and building!Probably will never happen, sadly.)

          • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

            If you mean geothermal heat pumps, then in most urban areas in the U.S. you run into really severe engineering problems because they would have to be retrofitted onto existing buildings and end up requiring either a really deep pit (which is hard to dig with buildings in the way) or a really large pit (which not all properties could accommodate). Most inner-ring suburbs and outer-ring urban residential areas, for example, would basically have to be completely torn down and rebuilt. Which could be a good thing in some cases — there are many ways in which the buildings could be improved in the process — but the scale of the projects would be so massive that nobody is willing to spend that kind of money.

            (And yes, I wanted one. And still do. Unless I get a winning lottery ticket, though, I’m going to have to go on wanting.)

            • IndyFitz

              This is a subject I’ve had the pleasure of writing about quite abit, and it isn’t as tough as many think. A new school here just went up and they put in the largest geothermal system in the state, with 156 bore holes each 500 feet deep. But an average house? One or two bore holes, depending on how deep; the deeper you go, the moreBTUs. That being said, yes, obviously urban centers pose greater challenges. But that doesn’t mean it can’t — or shouldn’t — be done. Houses? Easy. The bore holes are just six inches wide. A skyscraper? Tougher. Sure, you could bore down through the sidewalk outside, but if this school I mentioned needed 156 500-foot-deep bores, imagine what all of Chicago would need. So yeah, tough to envision and pull off, no doubt about that. It would be good, though. There is a federal buildingwhere I live that installed a geothermal system and had limited space, so they drilled I think three bores, but they went down 2,500 feet each and pulled enough BTUs out to heat the building (but not a skyscraper). As for retrofitting, depends on the existing building. Hot water heating the place? Easy enough; hook the existing system up to the heat exchangers. Using forced hot air or electricity? Big expense to retrofit, indeed.

  • IndyFitz

    A third party might work if our system weren’t so closed.  First, sidestep the Electoral College by getting the National Popular Vote certified in more states (http://www.nationalpopularvote.com) which has participating states agreeing to award all their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote nationally.  (States are free to award their electoral votes any way they wish, and always have been, thanks to the Constitution.)  With that in place, other parties might have a chance, and even then it might take some work.  Then the rules of procedure in Congress probably need to be rejiggered to accommodate more than two parties (sure, Independents, but they generally caucus with either of the other two parties, and there are so few who don’t that they don’t affect anything).  Then, in order to get anything done in Congress, there would HAVE to be more serious work and compromises — because if three or four or five parties can’t agree, nothing gets done.  Therein lies the risk — not that three-plus parties is a bad idea, but that our political system is so used to two parties that it will be tough to change (like ANY change).

  • MDSD

     It’s because there are 2 parties that you end up in this mess. When you have more smaller parties people must make deals to hold control of the government. When it’s just two it’s always either or, black or white.

  • MDSD

     The problem is that that’s a very short term view. If everyone thinks that way there will never be a third party in this country and we desperately need one…

  • treedweller

    I love it when people tell me I waste my vote unless I choose between two people I do not want to win. All the people in this thread who are arguing that there’s no way for a third party to win are the problem. The argument seems to be, “The system is going to screw us all, so just bend over and take it.”

    I agree with the comment below saying greens should do more grassroots work. Having a green president with some version of the existing legislature would not be likely to yield results. But, if minor parties got the kind of publicity the Rs and Ds get from debates would be a huge step toward turning it around. Not hearing a reflexive defense of the lesser of two evils every time a minor party is mentioned would be another. It’s true, greens will not win this election. But if they had a fair chance, they might get enough support to gain traction in future races.

    There will always be SCOTUS nominees hanging in the balance. The “other side” will always be waiting to change policies back to what they prefer. But for those of us who want to be governed by someone not beholden to corporate interests, the long term view has to be that we vote for the candidate we want to win, not the one who might beat the worst.

    It is possible, despite the endless litany of naysayers. There were no democrats or republicans for many decades of USA politics. The old parties aren’t working for my best interests. I am compelled to vote Green.

    Of course, it’s a lot easier for those of us who don’t live in swing states. I could vote for obama twice and Romney would still win my state. But I would vote green no matter where I lived.

  • treedweller

    Also, the author may be unaware of the ramifications of our Electoral College. Citizens of a handful of states have to wrestle this “worse or worser” question, but the vast majority of us know who will win our states’ electoral votes. The whole “lesser of two evils” thing is total crap if you live in Texas. What possible difference could it make if Romney wins Texas by ten points instead of five? Compare and contrast to if greens or libertarians won those ten points. Vote your conscience!

  • Lefty

    i don’t understand why we are capable of having brackets/runoffs for Fantasy Football and not for American political parties. No, the primaries are not the same thing.

  • Chakolate

    I used to think we needed a third (or even fourth) party, until I saw what Israel’s setup looked like.  A minority, the extreme orthodox, extort tremendous advantages for their members in exchange for forming a coalition so one of the other parties can have a majority. 

     

    • sijd

      How is that any different from what the christian right is doing with the republic an party ?


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