Friday, June 24, 2016


If Hillary wins the vote at the Democratic National Convention, I have been planning to vote for her.  As of today I am not making this a personal guarantee.  I will not make my final decision...and no one ever does...until in the privacy of the voting booth.  I could radically change my mind a few minutes before on the basis of some very good reason.

I think some people take these things too seriously.  Voting is marginally worth doing, as economist John Quiggen has calculated, on the basis of a very tiny but non-zero chance of changing election outcomes in one's favor, but it is not worth agonizing over for a year or so--as I have done, despite being critical of the same.

There are many other aspects to political life, talking to people, organizing groups, running for office, serving as a poll worker, serving as a precinct chair.  Uninvolved people take these things for granted too much.  If it isn't for active participation, the vote is not correctly inspired or counted.  I consider all the possible extra voting activities to be far more important than voting itself, as personal activity. If you affect the vote of tens or thousands, that is more far imporant than one.

In some sense, to a limited degree, I also consider the party more important than the candidates.  Like many, I fear a low turnout for the corporatocracy friendly Hillary will also mean a low turnout for other Democratic candidates, most of whom are far better than Hillary and far far better candidates and people than their opponents.  (Pretty much, Hillary is the sad legacy--annointed Candiate--on the Party's right, which is the way things go in a corrupt political system because it is the most powerful job.)  But most people are inspired to vote by the Presidential race, and a low Democratic Party turnout would mean a continuation of the disasterous Republican congress.  Right now, I consider that the most important, the presidential choice between Hillary and Trump less important than the congressional and other races.

I am continually surprised that many people who are more intelligent and knowledgeable than me are planning to write in Bernie or vote Green, at least for President, and this anti-Democratic-Party stance may have ill effects on other races everywhere, to huge if not huger downside.

Generally the rationale for not voting with the Party is weak: personal purity.  I feel that's a fetish which should play no part in political actions.  What leads to the best actual outcomes for people is most important.  And as dangerous as the Clinton Presidency seems to me, Trump seems more dangerous, so for utilitarian reasons I should take the most effective action against that (and the only effective action, actually, short of additional campaign help--which I have no plans to do) by voting for Hillary.  It costs little except to my purity, which I don't care about anyway, and could stop the probably catastrophic Presidency of Trump.  I give myself a gold star for increasing the overall good of humanity, by one tiny increment, by a act taking seconds if any (if I just select "Democratic", it takes less effort than not voting for Hillary but still voting for the other Democrats).  However what if Clinton's Presidency goes bad?  It depends on how bad.  If it's only as bad as Obama's, I get a pass, Trump's would certainly be worse.  If it's unimaginably bad (as a Trump presidency might be) leading to the breakup of the Union or something, then perhaps I rue the day.   My best forecast of the distribution of probable outcomes on election day will determine the better choice based on information available to me up to then, which is generally considered the best I can do.

Where it gets even more tricky is considering the longer term.  If voters never disciple a party by varying their loyalty to it, the party is likely to become taken over by corporate shills, as it has, like Obama and Clinton.

Given the duopoly which I'd argue that Madisonian democracy makes inevitable (the only possibility is replacing an old party with a new one, which last happened 160 years ago with the Republicans) essentially the only way to keep a party in keeping with the desires of the electorate is through discipline.

Even if Hillary wins, the turnout registers how happy with the choice, and this will factor into the calculations of future candidates considering the electability of corporate vs non-corporate politicians like Bernie.

The limitations of the strategy were personally illustrated to me by the selection of the disasterous President George W Bush.  That has driven my yellowdogism since then, I feel like I have something to pay back.  But others may not.

So there's point in letting people vote as they will, as they see fit, in applying pressure one way or another on the political system, to shape future candidates, and quite possibly the actions of current political actors and media as well.  So I shouldn't try to change everyone's mind to match mine, even if I could, or knew mine.

The numbers matter I might add, even if they are not decisive.  Third party numbers matter too, but less than they should because often hard to find.  What matters almost nothing to the counts, though it may matter to one's personal narrative, or momentarily to a poll worker, are write ins and non-votes, though I have done both.

The numbers mattering means that it is important to vote for President even in a state where the candidate is almost certainly going to lose.  The vote will nevertheless show up in all the vote counts.  The same is true for a state in which a candidate is almost certainly going to win.  But beware that polls are often wrong.

But it is not going to matter as much as non-votes elsewhere, in "decisive" states.  So some people who are weak on corporate candidates can use this lack-of-election-result argument to justify their 3rd party or non votes.

Anyway, just remember there are uncertainties all around.  None of us really knows what may happen or how our actions may change things.*  The most important thing to know, always, is the limits to our knowledge, which basically means how incredibly limited it is.

I think the best tack is to try to lobby Hillary, and I plan to give her a few coins and my vote in the process.  If your plan is different, good luck, diversity itself is a good thing.

I'd like to be reassured by Hillary that I should vote for her, for positive reasons..  I'm going to ask questions, of both candidates...  It is said that Bernie supporters no longer have leverage, but I think they do, officially through the end of the convention, and after that as an activist force and voting block in local elections.  Even the weak have leverage, the trick is knowing how to use it.  As politely as possible for starters, but not as sheep.

*And likewise nobody can absolutely know about how actions in past elections, such as the candidacy of Ralph Nader, changed things.  I have long felt guilty for supporting  Nader (I sent him $25), I don't think my Texas vote for him was of substantive effect, since Gore was virtually certain not to win Texas anyway.  But others vehemently deny that "they" elected GWB by voting or supporting Nader.  Once again, if there was any effect either way, I'd consider substantive "supporting" like campaign donations or work to have a larger effect, particularly on an insurgent campaign such as Nader's.  Your vote has a limited effect, but some action such as an ad, rally, phone call, or mailing could have a much larger effect.  Plus, only you know for sure you might never have voted for Gore.  As for me, I might have.  The only way this can be settled would be in a complete counterfactual world where you do something different and see what the different results are.  And even that world may not only have one reliable outcome but a distribution of possible outcomes.  So you see this can't be settled because we lack infinite knowledge.  Well, wrt the Nader candidacy counterfactual.  There are many other counterfactuals.  If only the State of Florida hadn't instituted a voter recall list which erronously listed 91,000 people erroneously identified as ex-felons by corrupt government officials (who didn't check the list returned by a crony contractor), or applied some comparably dirty trick, Gore would have won in a landslide.  Or if only the uniform standard of vote counting for paper card ballots finally adopted by the Florida State Government were applied instead of being summarily suspended by the US Supreme Court.  And on and on.  "Success" has many parents.  That's another issue, btw, there are always infinite other possibly decisive counterfactuals, and infinitely more indecisive ones.  But that doesn't necessarily make any one undefinitive...though if dirty tricks were being applied, in the case there were a few more Gore voters, could they just deploy a few more dirty tricks to compensate?  There are probably limits to this, most likely all vote stealing schemes would be implemented, especially in this case.  Even if 2000 wasn't an example of this, 3rd party spoiler candidacies are a genuine possibility, however the big things of our times are primarily vote suppression and economic corruption of elected officials through campaign financing and opportunism and monopolization of media.  So if you feel good about your useless 3rd party effort that will win fewer than 5% of the vote, if you believe that this time will be different, or there's hope for building a future party, or just don't want to get your hands dirty in real electoral politics, or whatever your reasons are, it probably isn't going to make a difference for the worse, though it might.  It could, even, make things better somehow, including through the mechanism of party discipline I described above, though my estimation of that probability is lower than the other one.  Nevertheless, in the face of  uncertainty, and allowance for freedom of self expression, etc., I give you my best wishes, not my castigations.  None of us knows, you could be right, diversity is good.  As for me and myself I mainly think that kind of work is misplaced and would be better directed to something not merely making a statement in the electoral arena.  It's a wasted effort mostly.   My recommendation is to spend a few moments to vote following utilitarian principles as I do, then get on to more important stuff.  Asking questions and other forms of lobbying are in that more important stuff category.

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