From the same channel that brought you Big Bird
October 25, 2012 11:34 PM   Subscribe

The Choice 2012 is a Frontline documentary about the background of the current candidates for President of the United States.
posted by twoleftfeet (118 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously: The Choice 2008
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:37 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


*some current candidates, No Jill Stein.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 12:28 AM on October 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


Good stuff from Frontline, as usual. Interesting that Romney didn't give any specifics back when he ran against Kennedy, either.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:30 AM on October 26, 2012


No Jill Stein

Shit, I'm just trying to keep PBS alive and you want me to think about the Green Party candidate?
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:33 AM on October 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


I started to watch this, and then about 15 minutes in I said "I can't take any more about this election, even if it is from Frontline" and changed the channel.

I'm sure there's an audience out there which will appreciate it. But I'm definitely not it. Still, good post. I hope others get a lot out of it.
posted by hippybear at 1:43 AM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


"I can't take any more about this election, even if it is from Frontline" and changed the channel.

That's a pretty understandable reaction. We get so much media about the election that it's hard to take any more.

This Frontline documentary is particularly well done though. I don't think it's especially partisan. But it's two more hours of viewing time.

But I understand. I can barely sit still for a two hour Harry Potter movie, and he isn't even running for President.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:08 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


the current candidates for President of the United States.

My Washington State ballot lists as candidate for the President and Vice-President of the United States more than two parties and more than two candidates:

Barack Obama and Joe Biden, Democratic Party Nominees
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, Republican Party Nominees
Gary Johnson and James P. Gray, Libertarian Party Nominees
Virgial Goode and James N Clymer, Constitution Party Nominees
Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, Green Party Nominees
Peta Lindsay and Yari Osorio, Socialism & Liberation Party Nominees
James Harris and ALyson Kennedy, Socialist Worker Party Nominees
Ross C. (Rocky) Anderson and Luis J. Rodriguez, Justice Party Nominees

I skipped around the video and it was all Romney this and Obama that. As if the American public needs further introduction to these two stooges. I guess I would have preferred to learn something about the candidates who are not receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions, and who did not already have three debates excluding all the other candidates, but I guess Frontline knows that two weeks before the election, it's time to step and fetch for the two party system.
posted by three blind mice at 2:23 AM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I guess I would have preferred to learn something about the candidates who have no possible chance of winning, even in a thousand years of iterated election simulations on the most powerful computer cluster in existence.

F, obnoxious as it is, TFY.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:28 AM on October 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


One reason the other parties have no chance of winning is the lack of media attention.
posted by orme at 2:37 AM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


My Washington State ballot lists as candidate for the President and Vice-President of the United States more than two parties

And initiatives to legalize marijuana and gay marriage, which alone is two parties. Amirite?
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:38 AM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


One reason the other parties have no chance of winning is the lack of media attention.
posted by orme at 11:37 PM on October 25 [+] [!]


Bolded the relevant bit.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:46 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Good review, even without third-party candidates. Ms. Bushman's somewhat creepy reference to a Romney presidency helping bring about a "kingdom on earth" brought to mind the apocalyptic language in the White Horse Prophecy. Not saying that Romney believes in it, but it seems others do, some of whom have run for high office. For lack of specifics, what does Romney actually believe, when it counts? How does that line of thinking affect the quality and characteristics of the advice he would choose to receive in legitimate crisis situations and how would that affect his decision-making?

While the debates suggested someone who might get flustered easily with regards to the unpredictability and uncontrollability of the world, this doc seems to raise some questions to think about. What exactly does it mean, for example, for the Constitution to "hang by a thread" and what would be done in response? Are we talking the latest faux outrage from FOX News being turned into a Constitutional-level crisis that demands President Romney's immediate action, which might involve taking away more civil liberties or pitting the country even further against sexual, ethnic or other minorities, etc.?

We've seen him turn in a very short period of time from a pro-choice (if pro-business) candidate in Massachusetts to a staunch opponent to choice, selecting an evangelical VP candidate who has publicly stated opposition to abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and, further, stating his own newly-found opposition repeatedly on the campaign trail.

His father had convictions, but what are his? (I can't believe I'm agreeing with David Brooks on something.)
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:55 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Look people, Duverger's law is in full effect in the United States. There really doesn't need to be this same discussion about how no-hoper X would definitely win except for the media conspiracy. TR couldn't do it, probably no one can do it.

Start at the local level or change your voting laws to make it possible. Until then, better to discuss the actual subject of the post.
posted by Winnemac at 3:03 AM on October 26, 2012 [18 favorites]


but I guess Frontline knows that two weeks before the election, it's time to step and fetch for the two party system.

I get your point and I think it's pertinent and relevant and worthwhile but man, using 'step and fetch(it)' to describe what they're doing - that's strong language. I don't even know that I'd say I don't agree with what you seem to suggest with that wording, that Frontline is at the behest/ under the thumb of/ has no choice but to listen to/ "The two party system" and the power it wields.

It would be nice if all news about the election included all the candidates. Maybe not practical maybe but boy would I like to hear about something other than just these two parties. I always think this (a strictly two party system) was not what the writers of the Constitution had in mind.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:07 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey, you know what would be a really good time to discuss whether or not America should have a two party system? That's right, just before the election! That's the absolute best time to do it, because most people, as we get closer to Election Day, have completely forgotten about the two major candidates, and are instead having deep philosophical introspections about the overall electoral infrastructure.

People are that smart.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:24 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I early voted Jill Stein. I know she won't win, but if enough people vote for a third party, maybe the big two will be forced to shift their ideals a bit?
posted by Renoroc at 3:47 AM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


step and fetch

Are you really not aware of the racist implications of this phrase?
posted by Wolof at 4:06 AM on October 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


I know she won't win, but if enough people vote for a third party, maybe the big two will be forced to shift their ideals a bit?

I don't see Stein taking votes from Romney, and if Obama was forced to shift more towards the Greens to win potential Stein votes, Obama probably would lose as many or more votes on the right end of the Democratic spectrum to Romney. It's a difficult balancing act. You have to win before you can even try to get things done, and you have to keep winning (as a party) over more than two terms to make gradual long-term changes.
posted by pracowity at 4:15 AM on October 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


we need to look at the complicity of the media, in the two party system we currently have. Why don't the media talk about it? I suspect they found it too complicated to cover multiple candidates/ideas/parties for the mouth-breathing masses to pay attention to. Better off with the two-person, horserace, "battle royale" model, that concentrates ALL that big campaign $$$ right in their very own advertising income lines. When Reagan's FCC gutted our political system by eliminating the Fairness Doctrine, this is what we have to show for it.
posted by GreyFoxVT at 4:15 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry (Stepin Fetchit)
posted by pracowity at 4:16 AM on October 26, 2012


Whatever the role of the media in maintaining the two-party system, it seems... unlikely that a program on PBS is omitting third party alternatives in exchange for ad dollars.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:21 AM on October 26, 2012


step and fetch

Are you really not aware of the racist implications of this phrase?


This is the first time I've ever had Stepin Fetchit and Sarah Palin occupying adjacent neurons.

Adjacent neocons?
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:24 AM on October 26, 2012


An interesting set of personal narratives that tell us a bit about the making of each man (hint, dads figure large), done tastefully and with perspective. And useless for voting.

I'm starting to think that our human need for narrative is going to be the end of us. Titling this show "The Choice" led me to think this might be an investigation into what we get if we vote for each of these candidates. I don't want to know about how these men became interesting grown ups, I want to know 1) likely policy outcomes 2) who else we get with the candidate, since we are effectively voting in the entire 3rd branch of government 3) what values will dominate their governing style 4) how their past careers might inform future actions in office

We can safely assume everyone running for President has daddy or mommy issues, but if we vote for Romney what part of the foreign policy machine do we get? Tommy F'in Franks and John Bolton. That tells us more about the choice than this Two Life Stories drama.

Because its PBS, its more in-depth than the drive-bys cable news delivers, but its still built around the values of feature films i.e. Robert McKee's Story. Frontline, GIVE US THE WONK
posted by C.A.S. at 4:33 AM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I know she won't win, but if enough people vote for a third party, maybe the big two will be forced to shift their ideals a bit?

Nader got a lot of votes in 2004. The Bush administration was the Bush administration. Upon reflection, do you believe that:
  1. Ralph Nader was actually Nyarlathotep and President Bush would have been a really good President had he not shifted his ideals to be more in line with those of the creeping chaos.
  2. Bush was actually Shub-Niggurath but The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young was a lot more sensitive to the needs of the people because he shifted his ideals to be more in line with Nader.
  3. Cause and effect do not working the way your model suggests and, if anything, votes to a third party drive the position of the two major parties further away from the third party candidate receiving significant numbers of votes as they perceive those voters as a lost cause.
See also John Anderson and the hard to the right swing of the Democrats and Republicans.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:39 AM on October 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


A vote for Romney is a vote for a Thomas Kincade painting. A vote for Obama is a vote for the failure of hope. Neither sound particularly convincing.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:44 AM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


My Washington State ballot lists as candidate for the President and Vice-President of the United States more than two parties and more than two candidates:

As systems go, it's more of a bug than a feature. If anyone thinks it's a good idea to have only one vote and many candidates on a final ballot, they should do a simple experiment at home. Ask all of the neighbor children to select one among three brands of chocolate mint ice cream on a ballot, with only one brand of cookies and cream flavor. Then bring only the chocolate mint and tell them you thought it would win, because there were so many of them on the ballot. Then have them explain it to you.
posted by Brian B. at 4:57 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of them is going to win. If I were voting in a swing state and I had some grand idea about changing the system one vote at a time, I think I'd put my grand idea away for as long as it took me to step into a voting booth and select Obama.
posted by pracowity at 5:03 AM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


" The uploader has not made this video available in your country. Sorry about that. "

Which is a bit strange in a way. Does it really matter if someone overseas watches something like this?
posted by mary8nne at 5:08 AM on October 26, 2012


There's a presidential election coming up? Man, I'm glad Frontline's around to tell me this shit.
posted by indubitable at 5:13 AM on October 26, 2012


Both FRONTLINE and Metafilter have been part of my life for a long time now, but it still gives me a thrill when the two meet. I have GOT to get out the door right now (and get to FRONTLINE), but please check back in with this thread later-- I have some insights to share about the episode and the show in general.

Lots of people at the show have enjoyed previous discussions here about specific episodes-- David Fanning, the creator and Executive Producer of the show walked by my desk a few years ago and called out "Are you 'Mayor Curley?" (I don't remember which episode discussion he was pointed to and of course, I freaked out and disabled my account for a bit.)

Anyway, it would be fun to give a general look about how the show and the website come together. I'll work on it later this morning.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:16 AM on October 26, 2012 [15 favorites]


I watched the first hour or so when this aired. I thought it was well done. I'm anticipating reading more about how it came together.
posted by cashman at 5:53 AM on October 26, 2012


I always think this (a strictly two party system) was not what the writers of the Constitution had in mind.

Neither were women voting or black people walking around free.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:56 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was a bit disappointed that Frontline chose to tackle the candidates biographies rather than their positions on the issues, perhaps with some basic fact checking thrown in.

And I agree about not covering third party candidates. Hey FRONTLINE, how about a show on the (broken) state of the two party system and seeming impossibility of getting an alternative parties/candidates on the ballot?
posted by nowhere man at 5:58 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I early voted Jill Stein. I know she won't win, but if enough people vote for a third party, maybe the big two will be forced to shift their ideals a bit?

Nope. They know they can ignore you, and they do.

You want change? As long as we have first past the post, you need to get *into* one of the two actual ruling parties, build a majority there, and change the party. You need to accept or reject candidates *in the primary*, not in the general. Don't like the current candidates? Where were you in the years before when they were selecting them.

How do you think the GOP became what it was? Third parties? Hell, no. The neoconservative and tea party factions worked inside and took the party over.

BTW, "thanks" for helping Romney win.
posted by eriko at 6:04 AM on October 26, 2012 [14 favorites]


Eriko, I hear you, but the connection between third party voters being the predictable cause of a given candidates' rise or fall in a state is not proven. Even in Florida it was hard to suss out how the voting would have swung if everyone who voted for Nader had instead voted for either Bush or Gore - some would actually have voted for Bush anyway.

Although I completely agree on the need for getting involved in the primaries. I think the voter turnout for the Democratic Primary in NYC was about 11% this year, which is appalling. (full disclosure - I was not one of those voting either. but in my case I was legitimately and unexpecteldy ill - like, "two exits no waiting" ill.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:15 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


If we're talking White Horses, this is the only White Horse I care about....
posted by symbioid at 6:19 AM on October 26, 2012



One of them is going to win. If I were voting in a swing state and I had some grand idea about changing the system one vote at a time, I think I'd put my grand idea away for as long as it took me to step into a voting booth and select Obama.


Seriously. Does Florida in 2000 mean anything to anyone?
posted by murfed13 at 6:20 AM on October 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


who did not already have three debates excluding all the other candidates

The threshold to get in is only polling 15% of the vote. 20% in the last eight elections, a third party candidate got on the stage. None of them ever came close to winning. In the end, your general platform as a whole has to appeal to a very, very large section of the populace to win the office. And in the end, appealing to those people is your responsibility. All of these parties, from the right and left, have not done that.

Its like the Lib Dem fantasy in the UK. They had a referemdum to make it easier for third parties. The voters rejected it.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:21 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]



Eriko, I hear you, but the connection between third party voters being the predictable cause of a given candidates' rise or fall in a state is not proven. Even in Florida it was hard to suss out how the voting would have swung if everyone who voted for Nader had instead voted for either Bush or Gore - some would actually have voted for Bush anyway.

Give me a break. Bush won by 537. Nader had close to 100,000 votes. How many people do you think would really have broken for Bush from that?
posted by murfed13 at 6:22 AM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Give me a break. Bush won by 537. Nader had close to 100,000 votes. How many people do you think would really have broken for Bush from that?

You're absolutely right. Bush would have had to win over 49,000 of those 100,000 votes.

Your votes have consequence, not just to the final result, but to the ability of the winner to execute an agenda closer to yours. The more votes, the less he or she has to worry about defectors from his or her party and the other side in general.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:26 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Give me a break. Bush won by 537. Nader had close to 100,000 votes. How many people do you think would really have broken for Bush from that?

Are you SURE Bush won by 537? Or is that just as far as people got when the Supreme Court came in and said "stop everything and let's just give up here before you've finished"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:27 AM on October 26, 2012


I had a long drawn-out response that I never got to use the last time a discussion turned to third-party voting in a two-party system, but suffice it to say that most people's minds are pretty made up at this point.

Some people truly see voting for either the Republican or Democrat as equally bad, and it's like you're blaming them for sticking with their personal beliefs. I'm personally of the opinion that the real political change has to occur between the elections because, yes, one of them will always win as it stands. In the current US political system, the government practically says "see ya later" to the general public every few years. Something like the Justice Party should have been established before December 2011 if they wanted a chance in this election, but as people already mentioned, getting attention and generating discussion is more important (and realistic) than winning is for these parties.

With regard to the Frontline video, I agree that information about the candidate's policies is what really matters, but there does need to be an insight gained into the personality and possible "presidential" character of each candidate at some point. No offense to her, but have you seen the Green Party's vice presidential candidate try to answer difficult political questions on the fly? I don't remember who posted it, but I like the idea of giving every team of candidates a series of realistic scenarios of things that occur in office, and the public gets to watch their decisions and how they would vote on certain policies. Kind of like war games, except actually useful for humanity.
But if you still want distracting excitement, we could call them the Hunger Games.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 6:37 AM on October 26, 2012


Bush didn't win by votes. Let me explain by analogy. The Florida outcome was like a fumble that was recovered by someone beneath a pile of football players. So, who had the hands on the ball?

In this case, as one of those special little jokes of history, it just happened to be in the state where George W.'s freaking brother was governor. The person responsible for making sure the votes were counted? Katherine Harris, the Florida co-chair of George W. for President campaign. Was there any chance that it could have been called any other way?

I don't believe Gore is particularly dishonest, but if it was his brother and his presidential campaign chair, they would have found a way to skew the votes. (And there are a lot of little ways (e.g. chads) to skew a few votes without outright fraud.)

On the other hand, I do believe Katherine Harris is particularly dishonest, to throw that into the mix.

And since I'm on the subject, one person probably changed the 2000 Florida election more than any other: Elian Gonzalez.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:40 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]



Are you SURE Bush won by 537? Or is that just as far as people got when the Supreme Court came in and said "stop everything and let's just give up here before you've finished"?


It really doesn't matter. There were about 62k disputed votes, and like I said, 100k Nader votes. Shit was tight. Votes have consequence.

In this case, as one of those special little jokes of history, it just happened to be in the state where George W.'s freaking brother was governor. The person responsible for making sure the votes were counted? Katherine Harris, the Florida co-chair of George W. for President campaign. Was there any chance that it could have been called any other way?

See above. The reason they pulled this off is because it was close enough to do so.

Some people truly see voting for either the Republican or Democrat as equally bad, and it's like you're blaming them for sticking with their personal beliefs.

Yes, perhaps Jill Stein is more aligned with my political beliefs than Obama. But I don't live in la la land.
posted by murfed13 at 6:46 AM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


There were about 62k disputed votes, and like I said, 100k Nader votes. Shit was tight. Votes have consequence.

I know two people who voted Nader in 2000 -- and if Nader hadn't been in the picture, one would have gone Bush and the other Gore. A third person I know who voted Nader wouldn't have voted at all if Nader wasn't running.

It just plain isn't as simple as "everyone who voted Nader would have voted for Gore otherwise, ergo Nader votes = lost votes to Gore".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:54 AM on October 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


And for the record, my objection wasn't coming from a place of "vote your conscience because that's always the way to go", but more "hey, ease up on someone's choice because deciding who to vote for can be highly personal and people will think differently than you about the right thing to do so harranging them for 'helping Romney win' is kinda sucky."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:56 AM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


>Yes, perhaps Jill Stein is more aligned with my political beliefs than Obama. But I don't live in la la land.

Voting for a third party doesn't mean you're unaware of the circumstances. I've heard of people making a calculated decision to vote third-party if they think their district or state is safely in the hands of their two-party alternative. Regardless, for some people, you are making an absolute affront to their dignity by asking them to do something they don't want to. I don't know how else to explain this, but as strongly as you believe they should make a rational decision with their vote, they believe their vote is sacred.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 7:04 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


orme: "One reason the other parties have no chance of winning is the lack of media attention."

George Wallace, John Anderson, Perot and Nader all got a ton of press. Did any of them ever actually have a chance of winning?
posted by octothorpe at 7:04 AM on October 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


And for the record, my objection wasn't coming from a place of "vote your conscience because that's always the way to go"

On that score, I think that voting is far too important to have one's brainwashed conscience interfere with it. People should vote their wallet and make the decision cold and casual.
posted by Brian B. at 7:06 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I like Jill Stein and I would like it if we moved away from a two party system, but I kind of get fed up with all my third-party-voting friends acting like that by not being ideologically pure in my vote means I'm either somehow complicit with some of the things in the Obama administration that I disagree with or I am so blinded by my party allegiance that I haven't given thoughtful consideration to other parties.

Like, do they not realize that the reason the third party candidates can say things that people like to hear is because (like it or not) they know there is no chance in hell that they will be elected? If a third party candidate wanted to get elected to a national office today, they would have to stop talking about bringing back the gold standard or legalizing all drugs or whatever because that stuff is just never going to happen in today's climate.

Not to mention that even if a outside candidate were to get elected they still have to work with Congress. The Congress can't even work right now with just Dems and the GOP, imagine if the president were Green Party. The government would probably stop functioning.

I think third party candidates play a good role in the polictical process by bringing ideas into public conciousness that the mainstream can't really do. But I also think we have to work with what we have, as imperfect as it is, and what we have is a two party system. There will never be enough people voting for any one third party candidate to reach the critical mass needed to propel that person to the presidency.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:07 AM on October 26, 2012 [8 favorites]



It just plain isn't as simple as "everyone who voted Nader would have voted for Gore otherwise, ergo Nader votes = lost votes to Gore".

Look, I agree. My point is, it was really damn close and a lot of those people would have voted Gore. Not all, obviously.

I won't ease up on criticizing this choice, but this is the last I'll say of it here.
posted by murfed13 at 7:10 AM on October 26, 2012


I like Jill Stein and I would like it if we moved away from a two party system, but I kind of get fed up with all my third-party-voting friends acting like that by not being ideologically pure in my vote means I'm either somehow complicit with some of the things in the Obama administration that I disagree with or I am so blinded by my party allegiance that I haven't given thoughtful consideration to other parties.

Yeah, I also get bugged by this too. I am sympathetic to the Greens as I know someone who's a big supporter, and have even voted Green in a couple local elections, but my Green buddy gets like this during election season and we've both discovered that it's best if we just agree to never talk politics while that's going on because we just piss each other off.

At the end of the day I only think it'd be keen if everyone from either perspective dialed back the "your vote is killing a puppy" tone just a teeny bit, is all.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:24 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would be surprised if after 8 years of Bush (and much of the insanity since) as many Green voters would swing Republican as may have over a decade ago if their party just disappeared.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:27 AM on October 26, 2012


Voting for a third party is a luxury reserved for when the following conditions apply:

1. One of the major party candidates isn't a wing nut whose sole reason for running is to consolidate and expand the power of wealth and business as the only force that matters in government, for eternity.

and

2. You don't live in a swing state.

There's a lot that can be done to further the cause of democracy and third party viability without absolutely flushing the country. You're a socialist in Ohio, who absolutely can't resist Harris/Kennedy? Why don't you move to Washington? I promise you'll be happier here. We'll let you walk naked smoking a joint to the polling station, where you can cast your Socialist Workers Party on a paper ballot.

I'm being a little facetious here. Your vote is yours alone to do what you want with it. It's just that votes mean different things in different states and much of a liberal pinko as I am, I would hate see Romney win, and I particularly would hate to see Romney "win" in an extremely tight contested race in a swing state known for election shenanigans.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:29 AM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Some people truly see voting for either the Republican or Democrat as equally bad, and it's like you're blaming them for sticking with their personal beliefs.

But that belief is factually wrong, so sticking with it really is worthy of blame.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:35 AM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I hope the following is not somehow more deraily than the other comments on the subject:

I don't understand some of the arguments being made, here. If I go and vote for Vermin Supreme, for example, I'm not "taking a vote from Obama", because I wouldn't vote for him were the Rt. Hon. Rev. Prof. Supreme nonexistent; I probably wouldn't vote, because there are overwhelmingly compelling reasons why I'd rather Obama not win. Similarly, there are overwhelmingly compelling reasons why I'd rather Romney not win. Neither corporate-party candidate "loses" my vote if I vote for a third-party candidate, because neither "had" it in the first place.

An implication of a lot of the "hold your nose and vote Democrat" rhetoric is that those on the receiving end of such rhetoric have some, even tiny, reason to prefer the Democratic candidate. I'm not positing complete equivalence between the two corporate parties, but each of their candidates has numerous dealbreakers, for me. In Obama's case, they are concrete: extrajudicial killing and a really shitty record on civil liberties, for example, are negatives of essentially infinite magnitude for me. I have little hope that Romney would refrain from accumulating such infinite negatives if elected.

Moreover, I spend some of my time and resources on doing things that (to a tiny extent) combat specific problems that I think are of great concern, and on which neither corporate party has a demonstrated record of progress. For example, I regularly distribute food to local hungry folks and sometimes send bug reports to organizations that write software that helps activists avoid repression. Either party's policies have a history of exacerbating poverty and repression of dissent, so voting for them constitutes endorsement of policies that dilute the already-tiny positive effect of things that I do. So, votingwise, what exactly am I supposed to do?
posted by kengraham at 7:50 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


By the way, they keep saying that Mitt Romney's father was in charge of an automobile company. Wrong! He was in charge off American Motors, the cruelest set of wind-up toys ever to be unleashed on the highway.
My mother, I kid you not, had an addiction to American Motor cars on the odd belief that by buying from them she was screwing with the capitalist system. (I've lived the life of a Jules Feiffer play.)
I've had childhood traumas related to her compulsion to buy one long flesh-colored Rambler station wagon after another. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:00 AM on October 26, 2012


The two party system dominates primarily due to winner-take-all elections (you get nothing if you come in third OR second, no proportional seats, you don't have a prime minister of a coalition government, etc.), state party rules and state laws, and the Electoral College. Third parties, as it stands, have little chance of winning the presidency. The media is beside the point here.
posted by raysmj at 8:01 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


orme: "One reason the other parties have no chance of winning is the lack of media attention."

George Wallace, John Anderson, Perot and Nader all got a ton of press. Did any of them ever actually have a chance of winning?
posted by octothorpe at 10:04 AM on October 26 [2 favorites +] [!]

posted by orme at 8:48 AM on October 26, 2012


So, votingwise, what exactly am I supposed to do?

Recognize that the things you say you care about are likely to be far better or worse under one of the candidates than the other, and that picking one over the other probably will make a difference.

Recognize that many people say "hold your nose and vote Democrat" in the same way they'd say "hold your nose and stick your arm down that sewer pipe to pull out that drowning baby", and that refusing to help prevent a worse outcome because it might tarnish your pristine self-image sounds to those people like an act of preening narcissism rather than moral backbone.

Then hold your nose and vote Democrat.
posted by bjrubble at 8:55 AM on October 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


It just plain isn't as simple as 'everyone who voted Nader would have voted for Gore otherwise, ergo Nader votes = lost votes to Gore'

Sure, but who's saying that? If 1 out of 100 people who voted for Nader had voted for Gore, Gore would've won.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:58 AM on October 26, 2012


Under the current system, a third party strong enough to run slates of candidates in diverse regions of the country could eventually just displace one of the two existing parties. Then you wouldn't have a third party anymore, you'd be back to a two-party system, just with two different parties than we have now. I hadn't heard of Duverger's law before, I'd wonder if this is one of the things he was getting at.

There's no such thing as a real 'third party' with enough reach to run *and support* serious candidates across the USA, including at the state and local level, right now. Not out of the questions that Greens and Libertarians could do that at some point, honestly, I don't think we've seen it yet. The Perot movement broke apart within a few years, the Minnesota Independence party is one of its remnants.

Under the current U.S. constitution, if you want to run a 3rd person for President, you should be prepared for no candidate to get 270 or more electoral votes, which means you need members or at least supporters in the House of Representatives to push you over the top. Or it means you have a one-off celebrity candidate with no actual substantial party backing (Bloomberg! Oprah! Perot! Snooki!), and you need to be prepared for your potentially winning candidate to have no automatic allies in either the House or Senate.

Note that that last scenario actually happened at the state level in 1998 with Mr. Ventura. We survived.
posted by gimonca at 9:09 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


it's time to step and fetch for the two party system.

Wow, every time I think you might finally have given up on your tiresome racebaiting schtick, you prove me wrong.
posted by elizardbits at 9:22 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


" The uploader has not made this video available in your country. Sorry about that. "

Which is a bit strange in a way. Does it really matter if someone overseas watches something like this?


It's for rights reasons-- there's a satellite channel in the UK that airs PBS content (appropriately called "PBS UK") and we've had to restrict UK viewing for a year or so because they have the right to display. There are some other markets that are going to air this particular show as well, so a lot of people outside the US can't see it. If we didn't have contractual obligations to fulfill, every show would be available to everyone, everywhere. I'm sorry about that.

I'm starting to think that our human need for narrative is going to be the end of us. Titling this show "The Choice" led me to think this might be an investigation into what we get if we vote for each of these candidates. I don't want to know about how these men became interesting grown ups, I want to know 1) likely policy outcomes 2) who else we get with the candidate, since we are effectively voting in the entire 3rd branch of government 3) what values will dominate their governing style 4) how their past careers might inform future actions in office

FRONTLINE has been airing "The Choice" with every presidential election since 1996. It's always been biographies of the two major candidates. I think it covers points three and four of your concerns decently. As for likely policy outcomes, I don't think anyone knows that seeing as how a major strategy of presidential campaigns has been to reveal as little policy position as possible. Certainly, a meaningful discussion of policy, its feasibility and its impact doesn't lend itself to a television documentary-- it's probably best left for a series of articles with a single voice instead of the FL format of interviews and narration.

As for why a show called "The Choice" only covers the two major party candidates, my feeling is that it's like much of the coverage that neglects the smaller candidates: there's a finite amount of time and resources and many smaller parties. I don't have any involvement in the content of the shows, but I can't imagine that it's an intentional dismissal of the system beyond two parties. Personally, I'd like to see an examination of the alternatives, but I can't imagine how that could happen in a satisfying manner-- there are a lot more shows to do.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:29 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Perot movement broke apart within a few years, the Minnesota Independence party is one of its remnants.

...With the side effect, after Ventura left office, of a couple of gubernatorial elections where an Independence Party candidate siphoned off votes from the Democratic candidate and allowed noted shitweasel Tim Pawlenty to crab-walk into two terms.

T. Paw pretty much single-handedly cured me of 3rd-party puritanism.
posted by COBRA! at 9:29 AM on October 26, 2012


So, while I admit to having not watched this Frontline episode, I did read this rather lengthy piece in The New Yorker which is a very illuminating biographic profile of Romney that got into things that I didn't know about the candidate, including reflections on his motivation for running for office, his views of himself as a candidate, how his business experience has affected his world view, and so on. Even if you have seen the Frontline piece, this may cover some ground and give some perspective it did not.
posted by hippybear at 9:37 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


If we're talking White Horses, this is the only White Horse I care about....


Are you really not aware of the racist implications of this phrase?!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by Liquidwolf at 9:43 AM on October 26, 2012


you know what would be a really good time to discuss whether or not America should have a two party system? That's right, just before the election!

When do you suggest might be a better time? Election season seems like a great time to direct people's attention toward the fact that the two-party system is an inevitable consequence of our electoral structure. "Why are these two schmucks the only choices?" "Because our voting system means everyone else is a spoiler. Here, have you heard about instant runoff voting?..."


Recognize that the things you say you care about are likely to be far better or worse under one of the candidates than the other, and that picking one over the other probably will make a difference.

Neither candidate will do anything about the massive, intrusive, unjust post-9/11 "security" apparatus.

Neither candidate will take any steps toward eliminating the TSA.

Neither candidate will make any serious attempt at reforming the US health-care system.

Neither candidate will order the appropriate agencies to investigate, prosecute, and punish the greedy bastards who wrecked our economy.

Neither candidate will do anything about the war on general-purpose computing being waged by the global copyright mafia, or undo the grievous mistake that is the software-patenting system.

These are things I care about a great deal.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:48 AM on October 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Election season seems like a great time to direct people's attention toward the fact that the two-party system is an inevitable consequence of our electoral structure. "Why are these two schmucks the only choices?" "Because our voting system means everyone else is a spoiler. Here, have you heard about instant runoff voting?..."

This sounds like an excellent idea. Why don't you write up a non-GRAR non-soapbox FPP with source links and get it the wide audience it deserves?
posted by hippybear at 9:55 AM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I favorited the "Duverger's Law" and "mint-chocolate chip ice cream" comments above, because I really do think they get to the heart of the matter -- our two party system is a mathematical consequence of our first-past-the-post voting scheme, no media conspiracy or political bullying required. For evidence, you can take the fact that the US developed a two party system long before the modern media existed, that every other contry which has first past the post voting also has a two party system, that when a "third party" has become popular, it has always displaced one of the existing parties or else died out within one or two election cycles. More than two parties is just not a stable equilibrium of our system.

But I actually like the inevitable two-partiness to our system, since I am a fan of checks and balances, and nothing serves as a better check on politicians than a strong opposition. The same forces which make it almost inevitable that we will have only two serious parties at any given time, also enforce a rough balance in the numbers and political power of those parties. If the country as a whole starts to become more liberal, such that the Democrats become stronger than the Republicans and dominate for a few election cycles (I wish), the result would be that the Republican positions would move leftward until the balance was approximately 50-50 again. I think this is a healthy safeguard against the threat of any particular party or politician ever becoming too dominant. There will always be a strong opposition. Though I acknowledge that you can (and many nations have) set up other systems with other safeguards.

Also, I would remind people who appreciate third parties that in multi-party democracies, you end up with coalition governments, and your idealogically pure candidates are forced to compromise, anyway, in order to get a seat at the table. This is really the same process that currently happens in American government, but the compromise is within parties rather than between parties. One way of looking at it would be to say that our parties are coalitions, really. The rich capitalists are in an uneasy coalition with the anti-modern religious folks. "Buy America first" union members are in an uneasy coalition with people who would like to eliminate national borders all together. There is plenty of room for Jill Stein at the Democratic table, if she wanted a seat... (Though maybe not at the head of it -- not yet.) And if we really did have a multiparty system, she'd likely have to negotiate and compromise with those same people in order to win any power, because that is what happens between parties in multiparty systems.
posted by OnceUponATime at 10:04 AM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Voting, for me, is always a choice of the lesser of two evils. In this year's election, I will be voting for Obama because I do believe he will support gay marriage and make no attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade or defund Planned Parenthood.

That being said, if John McCain had picked Hillary Clinton as his running mate 4 years ago, heads would have exploded and that would have been my choice in the voting booth.
posted by Kokopuff at 10:10 AM on October 26, 2012


That being said, if John McCain had picked Hillary Clinton as his running mate 4 years ago, heads would have exploded and that would have been my choice in the voting booth.

There's no chance in hell this would have happened. Why is this your scenario?
posted by sweetkid at 10:17 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Neither candidate will do anything about the massive, intrusive, unjust post-9/11 "security" apparatus.

Neither candidate will take any steps toward eliminating the TSA.


One candidate is from the party that designed and put in place those systems, and seems ideologically inclined to multiply, extend, and strengthen them. The other candidate seems unaccountably comfortable with those systems, but it clearly contradicts both his ideology and the manifest wishes of his political base, giving hope that he will recognize it at some point.

Neither candidate will make any serious attempt at reforming the US health-care system.

One spent considerable political capital to put in place a baby step toward reform, however bizarrely poor the execution. The other has sworn to dismantle that baby step and retrench the existing, failed structure.

Neither candidate will order the appropriate agencies to investigate, prosecute, and punish the greedy bastards who wrecked our economy.

One candidate has failed to adequately punish the greedy bastards. The other candidate has savaged the first one, claiming that even this is too much punishment, and sworn to not only not punish the greedy bastards further, but to bend every rule in his power to give them more power and less accountability.

Neither candidate will do anything about the war on general-purpose computing being waged by the global copyright mafia, or undo the grievous mistake that is the software-patenting system.

Okay, I'll concede this one. The fact is that this is pocket change for either candidate, and either one might throw it in or out of a platform, just to sweeten their negotiating position. So if this is really the hill you are going to die on, I'll honestly wish you luck and be on my way.

Otherwise, I seriously don't get how you could care about these issues and choose to allow them to worsen just because you don't have the option of immediately fixing them.
posted by bjrubble at 10:23 AM on October 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I would remind people who appreciate third parties that in multi-party democracies, you end up with coalition governments, and your idealogically pure candidates are forced to compromise, anyway, in order to get a seat at the table.

Not to continue this derail for any length of time...

But honestly, I think that's a feature of proportional representation, not a bug. Idealogical purity isn't a useful thing. It's when groups of people and their representatives realize that they cannot have it all their way all the time and find others with whom they can form a coalition of shared values tempered with compromises on both sides where we start to find the heart of the human experience. That being, that life must be lived with others who are not like us, and as such requires seeking a middle ground which benefits all parties while not allowing the most extreme impulses of anyone to find expression.
posted by hippybear at 10:26 AM on October 26, 2012


I don't think you should be able to berate me about voting for a third party unless you can name your state reps off the top of your head. One of the reasons the President has amassed so much power in the last 30 years is that none of us give a shit about any other part of government.

I'm not a hundred percent sure that the system is changable from the inside. And even though I recommend it as a salutary experience once or twice, sitting around your local government sessions is a good way to make yourself nuts.

Personally, if I had a bunch of cash to throw at a super-pac, I'd start one to abolish the electoral college. As someone who has lived in populated areas most of my adult life, I'm more than a little annoyed that my vote for president counts for less than someone who lives in a rural area. Every four years we suddenly have to give a crap what New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania think. Why? Are they more important than the rest of the country?
posted by lumpenprole at 10:35 AM on October 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


bjrubble, I guess I'm less inclined than you are to give partial credit for seemingly good intentions. Obama talks a better game than Romney on all of these issues, but he hasn't actually done anything about any of them except health care, which burned so much opportunity for so little benefit that we'd probably all be better off if he'd never even tried. As is, we're stuck with this mess for another generation, since there's no energy left to work on it.

Regarding the intellectual property stuff, it's true that this is not a Big Issue in political terms, but it should be, and that's part of the reason I'm pissed off about it. Every politician ever goes touring steel mills and toilet-plunger factories and makes the usual obeisances to the dying auto industry and their all-powerful unions, but the industry which has powered something like 25% of all American productivity growth over the last half century is busy tearing open its own belly in search of golden eggs, and nobody outside the industry seems to have realized that this is a problem.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:59 AM on October 26, 2012


I don't think you should be able to berate me about voting for a third party unless you can name your state reps off the top of your head. One of the reasons the President has amassed so much power in the last 30 years is that none of us give a shit about any other part of government.

Except for Republican robot people who write in to their reps at any sign of a problem. That's our problem. We don't spend a minute contacting our reps.

I would contact my Congressman, but unlike almost every other American, I don't get one.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:59 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania are the states that get screwed by the electoral college. The states that win big are the ones who have three electoral votes, because they only have enough population to be due one representative but get an extra two just because they are a state.

My district is represented Claire McCaskill currently running against Todd, "legitimate rape" Akin.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:06 AM on October 26, 2012


Undecided voter piece: Julia Wrapp did find one resource informative: a PBS "Frontline" piece called "The Choice 2012," which delved into the backgrounds of both candidates.
posted by cashman at 11:13 AM on October 26, 2012


a couple of gubernatorial elections where an Independence Party candidate siphoned off votes from the Democratic candidate

Yes, that's important to bring out, too. Ventura won with 37% of the vote and did....more or less okay. In 2002 and 2006, the follow-up Independence candidates basically acted as spoilers for the DFL candidate, and we ended up with Pawlenty as a Republican governor beholden to the right wing.
posted by gimonca at 11:50 AM on October 26, 2012


Note that there's a chance this year that Obama could win the Electoral College but lose the popular vote.

We might be waking up on Nov. 7 thanking the Electoral College system for saving us from the zillions of people who turned out in red states just to vote against the black guy.
posted by gimonca at 11:53 AM on October 26, 2012


GOOGLE JILL STEIN?
posted by Justinian at 12:00 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not to take away from the ongoing recurring MetaFilter argument about whether people should vote for third party candidates who cannot win despite the likelihood that will help very right wing candidates to be elected (which always reminds me of the argument about whether boycotting elections and thereby assuring the triumph of dictators is a good idea) --

This was a very good Frontline piece. I appreciate the way PBS brings clarity and information on heated and significant topics, including the histories of the two candidates who are actually going to be in a position to lead the executive branch of this country from January 2013 to January 2017.
posted by bearwife at 12:16 PM on October 26, 2012


"i'm wasting my vote if i don't vote for a major party" is a fallacy, but not because voting for a fringe party matters.

your vote doesn't matter, period. unless of course the election is decided by < 2 votes. if you get hit by a bus walking to the voting booth, will the outcome of the presidential election change?

so vote for jill stein, or ralph nader, or me. GOOGLE JEFF BEUKEBOOM.

what you should be working for is a system where minority interests have some sort of representation ... FPTP inevitably leads to the current dualistic result.
posted by beukeboom at 12:39 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Recognize that many people say "hold your nose and vote Democrat" in the same way they'd say "hold your nose and stick your arm down that sewer pipe to pull out that drowning baby", and that refusing to help prevent a worse outcome because it might tarnish your pristine self-image

It's not actually the case that voting for the Democratic candidate does anything for the drowning babies at issue, is (one of) the problem(s) with this comment.

I'm not totally sure where you got the part after "because", either, since my self-image isn't part of this discussion; everyone's rights, as compromised by the Obama administration, are. Why do you want to berate people into supporting someone who disrespects their rights, with negative consequences for those people? Is this tactic supposed to mirror how Republicans get people to vote for their candidates against their own economic interests?
posted by kengraham at 1:19 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Neither candidate will do anything about the massive, intrusive, unjust post-9/11 "security" apparatus.

Neither candidate will take any steps toward eliminating the TSA.

Neither candidate will make any serious attempt at reforming the US health-care system.

Neither candidate will order the appropriate agencies to investigate, prosecute, and punish the greedy bastards who wrecked our economy.

Neither candidate will do anything about the war on general-purpose computing being waged by the global copyright mafia, or undo the grievous mistake that is the software-patenting system.

These are things I care about a great deal.


I would like to know more about this future-reading machine of yours. Because I am moving forward as though these things are possible. In fact, I have staked my career on one of these things happening; I can't overstate that the Affordable Care Act fixes some *huge* inequities in the system and it's completely disingenous to carry around your level of cynicism while not arming yourself for revolution.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:19 PM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


To play devil's advocate, voting Green in Vermont, New York, New Jersey, or California would be extremely safe (fivethirtyeight, for ex, has them at a 100% chance of going for Obama), but might still be useful because popular vote percentage is used to apportion some federal funds.

Of course, it would be no more likely to cause the desired result of e.g. Jill Stein becoming president, and to be really pessimistic, this would probably just make the Green Party an even more effective spoiler in the next election.

Re: Instant Runoff Voting, there are no perfect voting systems, of course - something like Majority Judgment would probably be even better than IRV in my view.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:23 PM on October 26, 2012



I don't think you should be able to berate me about voting for a third party unless you can name your state reps off the top of your head. One of the reasons the President has amassed so much power in the last 30 years is that none of us give a shit about any other part of government.


Oh, is this the issue, that you know much more about my government than me? Oh, do please continue to educate me. You won't mind if I sit here and work quietly to get shit while you're enlightening us?


I'm not a hundred percent sure that the system is changable from the inside. And even though I recommend it as a salutary experience once or twice, sitting around your local government sessions is a good way to make yourself nuts.


Actually, it sounds like you're a hundred percent sure it's not. Hint: it takes more work than sitting around your "local government session" once or twice.

Like I said above, one's vote is entirely their own to do with what they think is best. Hell, I was a Nader voter in 2000. But please remember, lest you make yourself out to be an ass in other people's eyes, that ideological purity and depth of concern for your government does not necessarily correlate with casting a third party vote.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:25 PM on October 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I can't overstate that the Affordable Care Act fixes some *huge* inequities in the system

Sure, of course it does: but the private, employer-funded health insurance system itself is the problem. What we need is not further polishing of a fundamentally bad idea, but a different way of doing health care, and the ACA completely failed to provide that.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:34 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


What we need is not further polishing of a fundamentally bad idea, but a different way of doing health care, and the ACA completely failed to provide that.

Yes, but what it did provide is much better than what was there before it.

On the 6th, one of two men will be elected president. One of them intends to keep the ACA, and continue to move it forward (most of it hasn't even gone into effect yet). The other intends to roll it back to where we were before, and make sure that healthcare in the US is even more favorable to the insurance companies. This will bring back the huge inequalities that the ACA, flawed as it is, has fixed.

We're all going to get one of those options. A vote for anyone other than Obama is effectively a vote to repeal the ACA. Don't kid yourself that it's a vote to replace it with a different way of doing health care, because that's not on the table.
posted by toxic at 2:00 PM on October 26, 2012


Noam Chomsky on How Progressives Should Approach Election 2012

Chomsky stated “I think they should spend five or ten minutes on it. Seeing if there’s a point in taking part in the carefully orchestrated electoral extravaganza. And my own judgment, for what it’s worth, is, yes, there’s a point to taking a part.”

Professor Chomsky said he will probably vote for Jill Stein for president in effort to push a genuine electoral alternative, but that if he lived in a swing state he would vote “against Romney-Ryan, which means voting for Obama.”


Daniel Ellsberg: Progressives: In Swing States, Vote for Obama

"I don't 'support Obama.' I oppose the current Republican Party. This is not a contest between Barack Obama and a progressive candidate. The voters in a handful or a dozen close-fought swing states are going to determine whether Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are going to wield great political power for four, maybe eight years, or not."

Cornel West Plans to Vote for Obama in November and Protest His Policies in February


"It’s a matter of telling that truth, strategically. I think we have to ensure that we don’t have a takeover by conservative right-wing or we’re in a world of trouble."
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:21 PM on October 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yes, but what it did provide is much better than what was there before it.

"Much better" depends on how close you set your zoom lens. When I step back and compare the post-ACA system with the rest of the industrialized world, it looks pretty much the same as the pre-ACA system: we are still at the mercy of the private insurance corporations. Sure, there are a bunch of ways they are no longer allowed to rip us off, but why are they in a position to rip us off at all?

Don't kid yourself that it's a vote to replace it with a different way of doing health care, because that's not on the table.

Yes. That was my point, I believe. The change I want is not on the table.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:32 PM on October 26, 2012


But the dollars are...
posted by wheelieman at 2:35 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes. That was my point, I believe. The change I want is not on the table.

And as long as you're unwilling to work within the system, it never will be.

10 years ago, the idea that we'd be talking about banning abortion without exception was unthinkable. Now, it's the Republican party platform. You can thank the Tea Party for this. They put right-wing crazies in Republican primaries all over the place. Some of them won, and went on to shape the national conversation, which allowed some of the more mainstream Republicans to come out and say that they too, believe that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.

Would a Tea Party supporter refuse to vote for a Republican who believes that abortion should be allowed in cases of rape, incest, or fetal deformity? Of course not. If that candidate is running against a Democrat, they're going to get the Tea Party vote... because the Tea Partiers know that they're trying to change things from inside the Republican party, and to do that effectively means keeping Republicans in office, even if those Republicans don't agree with the Tea Party.

On the liberal side of the aisle, the "progressives" don't seem to have the energy to play. Meaningful primary challenges on the Democratic side are rare at best, and when we end up with a moderate milquetoast Democrat running against a right-wing Republican, you can count on some portion of progressives to sit out (or effectively sit out by voting third party), because the Democrat isn't far enough to the left.

Then, they shut up for the next four years, instead of working to get progressives into local and state politics... and complain about the lack of progressive voices again.

How it is that the right-wing crazies ended up being more pragmatic than the party with facts on its side is baffling, but it's where we are, and it's why America is shifting to the right with every single election. The ultra-right-wing moves towards the center when presented with only two choices. The ultra-left-wing disenfranchises itself when presented with the same predicament.

Your vote is yours to do with as you please, of course, but voting for the candidate you wish could win but can't, instead of the plausible outcome that you think is better for the country, doesn't further your own goals or leave the country in a better place.
posted by toxic at 3:13 PM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


The change I want is not on the table.

Right, exactly. toxic could just as well have added: "...and a vote for Obama is, to the extent that one's vote affects anything, a vote to keep more serious alternatives off the table."

"It’s a matter of telling that truth, strategically. I think we have to ensure that we don’t have a takeover by conservative right-wing or we’re in a world of trouble."

We're in a world of trouble either way; the flavour of trouble differs slightly depending on the election's outcomes. Maybe even the degree differs. However, even assuming the latter, the smaller-trouble option still involves an enormous amount of trouble, and by endorsing it, one can reasonably consider oneself to be endorsing its trouble-increasing features. Since some of the types of trouble are increased (under either option) for no tangible benefit -- refer to the Wars on Abstract Nouns and Exaggerated Threats Ostensibly in the Public Interest Although Opposed by Much of the Public, enthusiastically continued and expanded by the low-trouble option -- it's not accurate to suggest that failure to endorse the low-trouble option constitutes endorsement of the high-trouble option.

Some people consider voting to be an expression of endorsement rather than preference (whoever designs ballots with places to write in candidates at least acknowledges this viewpoint), and see a distinction between democracy and fast-food menus with numbers. Under this interpretation of voting, deciding not to vote, or to vote only for something/one one actively endorses, regardless of its viability in the electoral fry-vat, are valid options. This viewpoint hasn't been seriously criticized, here, that I can see. The arguments against its implications are, as far as I can tell, predicated on the assumption that the other interpretation of voting -- the "preference" model -- is the correct one.

The preference-interpretation arguments in this thread seem to be sound if one is a single-set-of-issues voter. Now, we're all single-set-of-issues voters, since we all have limited information, but those arguments only work for some sets of issues, and are irrelevant for others, and essentially amount to telling people that they should share (general) your priorities. I gave examples of issues on which there really is no difference between the two major parties, or on which the Democrats are bad and the Republicans presumably bad, and there are more. Someone who thinks that serious disarmament in favour of increased social spending, or who thinks that electoral reform, or serious campaign finance reform, are absolutely pressing issues, or someone whose livelihood depends on the First-Sale doctrine, cannot be called upon to endorse people who oppose them on those issues, and therefore can't be called upon to vote for such people if they (the someone) believe that voting constitutes endorsement and that those issues are maximally important. Who can tell them that other issues (on which, maybe, the folks on the ballot have done some good) are actually the maximally pressing ones?

I don't think anyone can. At best, one can offer a real argument that voting must be done strategically, rather than according to specific beliefs, and I don't see that anyone has done that (without basing such an argument on the superiority of the preference-interpretation).

(It could also make sense for progressive types to abstain from voting for Obama from the preference viewpoint. The whackjob right didn't achieve a high degree of power by tolerating a large amount of behaviour to which it was opposed. I don't see how failing to punish, electorally, the Democratic party -- progressives' only national-electoral hope, as has been pointed out -- for its trouble-increasing behaviour and counterproductive compromises is going to do anything but make folks have to pinch their noses increasingly hard each election cycle as the Democrats (either through compromise or for some other reason) drift ever rightward.)
posted by kengraham at 3:36 PM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Would a Tea Party supporter refuse to vote for a Republican who believes that abortion should be allowed in cases of rape, incest, or fetal deformity? Of course not. If that candidate is running against a Democrat, they're going to get the Tea Party vote... because the Tea Partiers know that they're trying to change things from inside the Republican party, and to do that effectively means keeping Republicans in office, even if those Republicans don't agree with the Tea Party.

I'm....not so sure that's always so. There is just as much variance of allegiance on the right as on the left. I bet that for every Tea Partier who holds their nose and votes for Romney because "he's not Obama"....there's a Tea Partier who's still all GOOGLE RON PAUL and going the write-in candidate route or going with Gary Johnson or something.

It's been observed, instead, that the way that the right has gotten more control was indeed by more civic involvement - but it was a long game, and they were starting out running for civic dog catcher or something, those tiny cheeseball positions that you still vote for but you don't know who the fuck they are and you have to pick two people but there are only two people on the ballot so you say "whatever" and vote them both. And they get in.

But that gives them a visibility, and so after a couple of terms of "oh, okay, still only two people on the ballot may as well elect that guy" then they move up to another position, and they use "elected three times as dog catcher" as a selling point. And maybe they have some actual competition for a change, but they've got an "in" and they've made connections and maybe a couple voters think "oh, wait yeah, I've seen that guy's face, can't remember where but yeah" and they vote them in again. And after a couple more terms they move up to something less cheeseball and get even more recognition. And so on and so on, until finally they're running for congress and have a whole bunch of supporters behind them based on having made those connections all that time and you're wondering "how the hell did THAT happen?"

It isn't the Tea Partiers who are voting now that changed things. It's the Tea Partiers who ran for city dog catcher back in the 80's that did. (Okay, true, they weren't called the Tea Party then, but they share the same common ancestor.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:56 PM on October 26, 2012


Professor Chomsky said he will probably vote for Jill Stein for president in effort to push a genuine electoral alternative, but that if he lived in a swing state he would vote “against Romney-Ryan, which means voting for Obama.”

I think I'm going to vote for Obama. Not because my feelings about his policies have changed, nor my feelings that we desperately need electoral alternatives, but because I'm coming to the sharp realization, however late, that as I find out more about Romney's childhood bullying of gays, and his being okay with bringing a lesbian mom to tears when governor of Massachusetts, and siding with Republican candidates who push the idea that rape can be legitimate, that he is simply not the moderate that he portrays himself as.

Not even close.

Rather, he is a sociopath whose bullying is informed by his religious upbringing, and who is siding with evangelical Christian bullies in the Republican Party in order to get the vote of other evangelical Christian bullies.

At this point, I wouldn't be voting for Obama to support him, but to try to do a small part (however small in a non-swing state) to help the right wing lose and lose as badly as possible, hopefully helping to send a strong message that the two candidates they are pushing are uniquely dangerous, whose religious, extremist views will destroy this country, if left unchecked and unquestioned.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:13 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


the Tea Partiers know that they're trying to change things from inside the Republican party, and to do that effectively means keeping Republicans in office, even if those Republicans don't agree with the Tea Party.

The Tea Party was a bunch of grumpy old white libertarians who felt threatened by the bad economy and felt like nobody in Congress cared about them. Their initial protests all had to do with taxation and the TARP bailout and were aimed at Congress in its entirety, Democrats and Republicans alike. The initial teabag protest itself was a replication of a Libertarian party stunt from the '70s. The tea party never intended to "change things from inside", they intended to apply pressure from without, and when they succeeded the Republicans co-opted them. It's hard to imagine how they could have attracted that much attention and influence if they'd started out as just another wing of the Republican Party. It is precisely the fact that they did not proclaim allegiance to the Republicans that allowed them to pose a threat and thereby gain power.

Your vote is yours to do with as you please, of course, but voting for the candidate you wish could win but can't, instead of the plausible outcome that you think is better for the country, doesn't further your own goals or leave the country in a better place.

My vote is irrelevant. I live in Washington, whose electors will vote for Obama no matter what I do. Most Americans are in a similar situation. Even in a swing state, it's not your choice that matters, but your demographics: it's not who you're voting for, but that you feel strongly enough about the election to go vote at all. The numbers are too big for any individual action to matter.

I actually decided to vote for Jill Stein, not because I have any idea whether she'd make a good president, but because it might help the Greens get some money, which they will hopefully use to scare the Democrats next time around. Having a threat on the left might do the Democrats some good.
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:49 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


This was very good, as Frontline always is, but I still think Mitt Romney: A Human Who Built That is the definitive piece on Mitt's presidential self-reconstruction.
posted by homunculus at 4:59 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


We're in a world of trouble either way; the flavour of trouble differs slightly depending on the election's outcomes.

This really depends on who you are. For relatively well-off straight men with good jobs and healthcare, it doesn't matter much. For people on medicaid and food stamps, it matters a hell of a lot. If you saw anything from Ryan's last speech, it is clear Romney/Ryan plan to cut the heck out of these programs. For people who will depend on medicare and social security later on in life, women who want the freedom to have an abortion, women who want equal pay for equal work, or people who want to be able to marry their same-sex partner, this election makes a difference.

The GOP has been taking control of local government and judiciaries throughout the country. They could make it extremely difficult for progressives to make any real, lasting change. Look what has happened to the Iowa Supreme Court after they supported same-sex marriage.

I gave examples of issues on which there really is no difference between the two major parties, or on which the Democrats are bad and the Republicans presumably bad, and there are more.

The Democratic Party was the party of segregation and Jim Crow in the South, until 1960's when they signed the Civil Rights Act into law. It seems possible to me that the Dems could be pushed much further towards other progressive positions in the future. There has been a lot of progress made on gay rights in the last few years. Most likely what is stopping them from making progress on other issues is not their desire to do so, but lack of support from the general population and other vested interests. IMO, the best thing to do is advocate for the issues one cares about most, and vote for candidates that are most likely to come to the right positions in the long run.

Not voting for Obama in a swing state is basically a silent endorsement of Romney. A Romney win would cede more power to Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, John Bolton, and others who could do incredible damage to the country. It's hard for me to see how that is a good thing for progressive causes.
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:02 PM on October 26, 2012


What we need is not further polishing of a fundamentally bad idea, but a different way of doing health care, and the ACA completely failed to provide that.

Mars Saxman, I just want to point out that you are making it clear you have no idea what you are talking about in this one tiny area that I know a lot about and it raises questions about the validity of your other arguments, and as others have pointed out here, your dissatisfication with Obama is more about "Mars Saxman wants Mars Saxman's way right now damnit and Mars Saxman is going to hold his breath until a candidate conforms to Mars Saxman's point of view."

The ACA provides huge block grants to expand Medicaid directly to everyone with 125% of poverty. In Washington State, this is something like a 500% increase in the number of people who will have Big Government, single payer insurance. Further, in Washington state at least, ordinary citizens will be able to buy into the same government administered insurance pool. This would not be possible if not for Obama. There were huge direct grants to improve public health infrastructure, expand preventive services that are not attached to insurance compensated medical care, public health research, and direct funding to build and improve the nation's community health clinics which serve, you guessed it, primarily government insured patients such those covered by Medicaid, Medicare, IHS, and self pay. Did the insurance companies want to see this? Hell no. Did many congressional representatives feel pressure to vote against this? Hell yes. Did the Obama administration have to make compromises to make this happen? Yes, politically and economically, he had to preserve the for-profit private insurance industry, but he ended some of the most flagrant abuses by these companies and strengthened the government's ability to oversee these companies. There's plenty of Big Government heavy handedness in the ACA and there is large chink in the armor of employer sponsored health care, and furthermore, a pathway to doing away with it altogether.

This is a huge derail when we are talking about third party candidates, but your argument about both guys being from the same old corrupt system is really distorted. The ACA is *exactly* what reform looks like and nothing is ever accomplished by the stroke of one person's pen, even Jill Stein's. You keep pushing, you keep taking small steps, and things get slowly better.

Vote for the candidate you think would be best at the job, but don't do it to out of spite because Obama turned out to be a closet Republican. Obama accomplished as much as I reasonably expected in four years given the set of preconditions and I think it's weird people expected more. Hoped for, yeah I guess I hoped for more too, I always do. But I for one am thrilled I am not currently sending my kids to go fight President McCain's war in Iran and I think it's pretty important we make sure those 30 million people who are expecting health care in 2014 receive it.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 5:24 PM on October 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


For people on medicaid and food stamps, it matters a hell of a lot.

That's unquestionably true. Whether or not those programs are cut (actually, expanded) matters an enormous amount. It's an excellent argument in favour of not voting for Romney, or any Republican candidate for anything else, basically.

In fact, it's a good reason not to vote for anyone who is friendly to the entities who had a huge part in creating the inequities that have large numbers of people in all kinds of different shitty and precarious situations that are not due to an overall lack of resources. It's therefore an argument against voting for Obama.

(A related problem is that, although (some) people who have the shitty end of the inequality stick have the technical right to vote, one's ability, in the US, to participate meaningfully in political decisions that can affect one's survival tends to be tied to one's economic security, in ways that range from being able to make political donations to knowing people in 'high places' to having the time, emotional energy, and equipment needed for political internet-rants. The only meaningful massive attempt in recent history to redistribute a tiny bit of self-determination was repressed, with, apparently, the executive branch's complicity. So, while I support basically any governmental (or other) effort to redistribute resources, I don't trust "Wall St.'s guy" to be reliable on economic-inequality issues should certain corporations feel threatened.)

I totally concede that I'm a straight, white guy with a stable job (for the explicitly determined moment) and low expenses and no serious medical issues and a manageable student loan. This all undoubtedly colours how I look at this type of question, to a large extent. I have my own first-world-problem reasons why I'd prefer Obama win (I'd like funding for basic research to not get fucked with in the next couple years, for example, for rent reasons, and think that's slightly more likely with a Democratic administration), and have personal concerns that are diluted versions of the problems caused by more pressing issues (about the financial and debt and health-insurance and immigration issues of various loved ones, safety of loved ones of friends from places threatened by US foreign policy, etc.). Regardless, I just don't think I can make a gesture of what I see as active support for something that I do not actively support (although I am still considering it), and I think it's unfair to frame this point of view as being unintentionally Republican or something.
posted by kengraham at 6:34 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I actually watched all two hours, and I'm disappointed that no one has pointed out that the interviews in this Frontline documentary unequivocally establish that Obama was a hard-core stoner while living in Honolulu. The "Choom Gang", which Obama helped start, was a group of teenagers that got together after school to smoke weed and hang out. This happened during Obama's most politically formative years (because teenage experiences are politically formative, you know.)

Meanwhile Romney abstained, going off to college to complain about anti-war protesters. (It's in the documentary. Watch it!)

This is what the election is all about. What kind of future do you want? Who has the best vision of the future, a future that will make us happy? The guy who hung out on the beaches in Hawaii getting stoned, or Romney?
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:53 PM on October 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


If only it made sense to vote for a third party: The Green Party candidate's arrest last week reveals how broken our system is -- and how powerless we are to fix it
posted by homunculus at 11:48 PM on October 26, 2012


Slarty Bartfast, I don't think I think what you think I think. Reviewing this thread, it looks like I've been talking about a couple of different things at once, and that has created confusion.

I started with bjrubble's assertion that "the things you say you care about are likely to be far better or worse under one of the candidates than the other, and that picking one over the other probably will make a difference." I took issue with this idea because the political issues I care about most are not even on the table, and I listed a few of them. I don't claim that the candidates are equivalent: I claim that neither candidate is proposing to do anything about the problems I care about most. The assertion that "picking one over the other probably will make a difference" is unconvincing when neither candidate has announced any intention of making a difference.

This does not mean that I think Obama and Romney are equivalent. I find little to like about Obama this time around, but there's plenty to dislike about Romney. If my vote actually mattered I would vote against Romney by selecting Obama, but my vote is in fact nothing more than a personal endorsement. Obama's lack of attention to the issues I care about means that he has failed to earn my stamp of approval, so I used my vote to help give his party a little competition from the left.



The other issue is the ACA. You're right: I don't know much about the details of that law. I stopped caring when they dropped the public option, because the part I care about is the part where we get a public, universal health care system like every other industrialized nation has had for decades. That was the whole point, that was why I cared, that was a big part of the reason I happily endorsed Obama in 2008. I'm glad there are people like you who care about the other details and are willing to work on them, but it's not my issue. I don't have enough energy to care about everything, and thinking about the private health insurance system just depresses me.

The strong feelings I've been expressing about the ACA today are a direct result of a presentation I attended on Monday, describing the health care plan for my new job. I generally ignore health insurance as much as possible, but this time I paid attention, and I regret it. I was appalled to discover just how bad a "really pretty good" private health insurance plan is, and just what an astonishing price my employer has to pay for even that level of service. I was even more disturbed by the litany of abuses the speaker mentioned as formerly standard practices now prohibited by the ACA. It's good that the insurance companies have been reined in somewhat, but we are still stuck dealing with the same gang of assholes who will undoubtedly continue to invent ingenious new ways of screwing us over as long as we have to give them our money.

You talk about small steps, and you see the ACA as incremental progress toward a worthy goal, but the pattern I see is that Congress takes a serious look at universal health care roughly once every twenty years. Roosevelt dropped the universal coverage provisions from Social Security in '35, the health component of Truman's Fair Deal act got axed in '49, Nixon's Comprehensive Health Insurance Act in '74 was the closest we've ever come but still failed, Clinton's less ambitious Health Security Act failed in '93, and while Obama's Affordable Care Act passed in '10, it did so by by not actually being a universal health care plan.

This suggests that we'll get another chance at universal health care some time in the '30s, after the current generation of politicians have rotated out and there's new blood ready for their turn at the battle, and that nothing much will happen in the meantime. I'd love to be proven wrong on this, but I'm not going to base any major life decisions on the hope that it'll come out better this time.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:49 PM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm disappointed that no one has pointed out that the interviews in this Frontline documentary unequivocally establish that Obama was a hard-core stoner while living in Honolulu.

Key & Peele are way ahead of you on this one.
posted by hippybear at 6:09 AM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


If only it made sense to vote for a third party: The Green Party candidate's arrest last week reveals how broken our system is -- and how powerless we are to fix it

I would argue a few things here. The first is that a "centrist" party is a viable way to take down the establishment, by encroaching on both parties, and they don't have to be centrist at all because there's no way to measure it. Politically, they just need to be blend the issues and argue against extremes. Second, third parties aren't campaigning the issue of election reform to allow them to represent at all. In the past they advocated instant runoff, but that is a huge reform method for them to win big, not to share in power like in Europe, and the vast majority no doubt thinks they should not expect to win handily in one election. Big problem there.

Finally, there is a solution to this entire mess and we don't need to change the constitution for it. We simply allow people to vote for two candidates if they are undecided and allow the election to break their tie. The point of voting for up to two candidates is allow someone to vote for their favorite, and also their most favored to win in a practical sense. It collects a lot more information too, and that's what polling is for. It would be illogical to vote three times for many reasons, one of them being that the voter isn't personally deciding enough information to a majority threshold (50%).
posted by Brian B. at 8:11 AM on October 27, 2012


The strong feelings I've been expressing about the ACA today are a direct result of a presentation I attended on Monday...

This. This right here.

The level of discourse and information available about healthcare costs and insurance practices is exactly what we need to shift the public towards Medicare for All or a single payer option. Passing ACA was the most important step towards universal healthcare in America because it was the first success after many failed attempts to expand healthcare coverage.

Voting for Obama is voting for active progress towards universal healthcare. ACA is driving resistance against for-profit insurance companies, provides concrete examples of huge gains due to direct intervention by the federal government in healthcare, and has already benefited millions of Americans while only being partially enacted. ACA has also become a national discussion. Americans are more aware than ever about the profit-driven abuses perpetrated by insurance companies, the the real cost of their employer-subsidized health insurance and the individual healthcare costs that taxpayers are already subsidizing. These are all huge social gains for the future of enacting comprehensive healthcare.

You seem to only want it now instead of active progress. ACA is the amazing accomplishment of a man who understands that Americans need something NOW because what we have is not working. He supported a plan that managed survive staggering opposition from the same industries/special interest groups/elites that have successfully blocked expanded coverage for the last 70 years. ACA survived Congress, proved immediately beneficial to millions, and has been found to be Constitutional by SCOTUS. Vermont And Montana are now in the process of implementing a state single-payer system under the provisions of ACA and the whole country is paying attention. While ACA is far from the system we want to implement, ACA expanded coverage, added required preventative care, ended gender-based discrimination, limited insurance company profits and will provide subsidized coverage to low income Americans in the mean time.

ACA can be the foundation from which other healthcare gains will be made. However, it is not Obama's job to do it. It's yours, mine and the other supporters of Universal Healthcare. Real social change is the US has always been from the bottom up and this is no different. Whether you believe universal healthcare is a matter of Civil Rights, Women's Rights, Patients' Rights, the General Welfare, Moral Rights or something else, YOU are what will drive the change. There are organizations dedicated to furthering the cause of Universal Healthcare/single-payer/Medicare For All that need your support. A Public Option is definitely possible, but not without active support from us.


/the public option was killed in reconciliation by Lieberman. The President signs the bills, he doesn't create them or vote on them.
posted by Vysharra at 9:47 AM on October 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


When do you expect that "active progress" will become "actually implementing public health care already"? Or is this some variant of Zeno's paradox where we're supposed to be happy about baby steps toward the goal whether or not we ever actually arrive at the goal in time for it to make any difference in our lives?

ACA can be the foundation from which other healthcare gains will be made

Great. I'll look out for that when the next generation makes their attempt at universal health care, which should happen some time in the early 2030s.

In the meantime, I have a life to live, and my choices are to put up with the horror that is American private health insurance, or to emigrate. Pardon me for being less than thrilled.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:00 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


The progressive case against Obama. Bottom line: The president is complicit in creating an increasingly unequal -- and unjust -- society
posted by homunculus at 2:19 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Quote from the link directly above: But can a third-party candidate win? No. So what is the point of voting at all, or voting for a third-party candidate? My answer is that this election is, first and foremost, practice for crisis moments. Elections are just one small part of how social justice change can happen.

This is not just misguided, but implicitly accepts the current election method we endure, while arguing against its predictable fruits. It's putting the cart before the horse again. Vote third party after we change the rules* so that we don't vote against our practical interests out of some brainwashed sense of moral duty. Furthermore, I question the intelligence of those who assume that feel good campaigns cannot actually be secretly funded to trap our votes under the current voting method. If someone had endless funding, they would make sure there was an alternative cliff for the other side to fall off, especially for those who think voting is suddenly curing a problem rather than preventing more of them.

*Since we only function under a two-party election system by result of established design, states could most easily change the rules by a simple proposition vote to disband their primaries and operate a two-tier ballot in a single election. By voting for one candidate among many, within either party, essentially selects that party to win, with their winning candidate the victor. No runoff necessary. A third party would compete as a major party faction instead. This would allow sudden changes and evolution to occur in party leadership within parties and would be open to all voters, without any strategic voting ever taking place. And it's very cheap and reduces corruption and spending all around.
posted by Brian B. at 3:18 PM on October 27, 2012


states could most easily change the rules by a simple proposition vote to disband their primaries and operate a two-tier ballot in a single election.

I like the idea of a two-tier ballot, but is the above even much more realistic that a viable third party in the current system?

Also, is "Elections are just one small part of how social justice change can happen." part of what you're calling "misguided"?
posted by kengraham at 3:36 PM on October 27, 2012


I like the idea of a two-tier ballot, but is the above even much more realistic that a viable third party in the current system?

There's no spoiler candidate. No voter regret because their chosen candidate is identifying with a major party and so they can accept it if it wins with another candidate. I note that a second-place candidate within a major party would rise in stature from the election, rather than just be the losers they are today.

Also, is "Elections are just one small part of how social justice change can happen." part of what you're calling "misguided"?

Downplaying elections is misguided, in the sense that there will always be some people who will be safe after any election, because they just are, and/or they might feel inclined to preach how we should spend our votes as moral currency when it represents long-term survival for most people. I am always very suspicious of the cognitive dissonance in these cases, because these pundits are trying to convince others of something in order to settle an internal conflict.
posted by Brian B. at 3:50 PM on October 27, 2012


There's no spoiler candidate.

That's not what I mean. What I mean is: are state-level changes to the electoral system (via, say, a proposition vote to disband primaries) particularly likely, or is hoping for such a thing approximately as utopian as hoping for an (essentially impossible) viable third-party candidate under the present system?

when it represents long-term survival for most people.

The point of much of the Salon article is that voting for either major-party candidate entails voting against one's long-term survival interests for many people. Is is misguided to rate the importance of making a (likely numerically inconsequential) choice between two options that threaten one's interests as fairly low, compared to the importance of other activities via which one could have a tangible (if still small) positive effect?

I am always very suspicious of the cognitive dissonance in these cases, because these pundits are trying to convince others of somethingin order to settle an internal conflict.

Why is this worthy of suspicion, if good-faith arguments are really being made in an effort to settle an internal conflict (this is not always the case, of course, so certain types of suspicion seem warranted)?
posted by kengraham at 4:06 PM on October 27, 2012


What I mean is: are state-level changes to the electoral system (via, say, a proposition vote to disband primaries) particularly likely,...

The changes are being made in several places. Most states are waiting for the final legal challenges to California's proposition 14 to disband party primaries (and Washington). California is proceeding with it's first election under the new rules this fall. I should probably do an FPP on it, but I don't recommend the approach, but maybe I'll post it anyway. Third parties hate it, despite getting nowhere under the current approach (unless they are serving another purpose we don't know of).

Why is this worthy of suspicion,

Because people engage in cognitive dissonance all the time, essentially advocating something on emotional grounds because two competing thoughts disturb them. It's basically an attempt to change reality in their minds by convincing others.
posted by Brian B. at 4:20 PM on October 27, 2012


Because people engage in cognitive dissonance all the time, essentially advocating something on emotional grounds because two competing thoughts disturb them. It's basically an attempt to change reality in their minds by convincing others.

Cognitive dissonance can arise when there are genuinely compelling reasons to believe each of two contradictory things; in this case, it serves as a signal that either the arguments need to be strengthened until one is obviously stronger, or that, given the available information, the impasse is in fact irresolvable. I get the sense that the Salon piece is not an instance of the exploitation/creation of cognitive dissonance as a propaganda technique or an exploitation of an audience to satisfy personal needs (a restructuring of reality in someone else's mind, and one's own, respectively), because what's actually present there is an instance of resolved cognitive dissonance: Stoller apparently was, previously, conflicted because of the existence of compelling arguments in favour of voting for Obama and the existence of compelling arguments in favour of not voting for Obama. He seems to have come to the conclusion that one set of reasons outweighs the others. The latter part of the article -- which concerns the question of how to use one's vote, if not for Obama -- is, I think, considerably weaker than the part devoted to the arguments against voting for Obama. I don't see any use of cognitive dissonance as a manipulative technique, though, unless one thinks it's always manipulative to expose one's readers to claims that are not consistent with their pre-article beliefs.

In general, if Alice writes something that Bob finds convincing, but entails conclusions that are antithetical to Bob's beliefs -- for which Bob also has convincing arguments -- and Bob experiences cognitive dissonance as a result, has Alice attempted to disingenuously "change reality" in her own mind by her attempt to convince Bob? What if Alice and Bob are now the same person -- so that Alice herself experiences the cognitive dissonance -- and then Alice makes her argument to Camille, who has the same initial beliefs as Bob/Alice? I think additional conditions need to be met before this type of thing becomes the kind of propaganda I think you're talking about. (I also have the feeling I'm not understanding your point, though.)

Thanks for the links; I wasn't aware of those things.
posted by kengraham at 5:03 PM on October 27, 2012


because what's actually present there is an instance of resolved cognitive dissonance:

"Resolved" cognitive dissonance to me is just pure denial. In this case, he casually admitted that there was no reason at all to vote for a third party, but to do it anyway because it was practice for a crisis moment, and added that it was "one small part" in a bigger social justice. His comments not only sound stupid to me, but almost taunting the lack of intelligence in some people. The only reason to vote third party, mentioned many times above, is if you live in a safe state or just want the other party to win. I recall many times that people just felt really dumb the day after following such poor advice.
posted by Brian B. at 7:27 PM on October 27, 2012


Next time on Frontline: Big Sky, Big Money - How has the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision changed campaigns in America?
posted by homunculus at 1:00 AM on October 30, 2012


« Older The oldest known recording of American voice has b...  |  Dorothy Dandridge - A Zoot Sui... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments