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The progressive case against Obama
October 27, 2012 5:56 PM   Subscribe

"A few days ago, I participated in a debate with the legendary Daniel Ellsberg on the merits of the Obama administration, and what progressives should do on Election Day. Ellsberg had written a blog post arguing that, though Obama deserves tremendous criticism, voters in swing states ought to vote for him, lest they operate as dupes for a far more malevolent Republican Party. This attitude is relatively pervasive among Democrats, and it deserves a genuine response."
Matt Stoller lays out a progressive case for why one should not vote for Barack Obama for reelection, even if you are in a swing state.
posted by ennui.bz (447 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's mind-bending, the whole voting for someone to keep someone else out / not voting for someone will let someone else in. Yet another factor in this close race that's tricky, possibly foolish, to predict (disc. own witterings).
posted by Wordshore at 6:05 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's the core:
And under Obama, because there is now no one making the anti-torture argument, Americans have become more tolerant of torture, drones, war and authoritarianism in general. The case against Obama is that the people themselves will be better citizens under a Romney administration, distrusting him and placing constraints on his behavior the way they won’t on Obama.
This only makes sense because, as he argues:
the people themselves, what they believe and what they don’t, can constrain political leaders.
I do not remember that being the case in 2000-2008.

For a more detailed argument, David Cole discusses who Romney's advisers will be.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:08 PM on October 27, 2012 [19 favorites]


He's been a terrible President, but not as terrible as that grinning turd Romney would be.
posted by Optamystic at 6:09 PM on October 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


I believe Obama will make for a materially better president over the next four years than Romney would. As such, I'm voting for Obama. If you genuinely believe that Romney will make a better president over the next four years, then vote for Romney.

Do not listen to people who try to persuade you to do otherwise, or to act for a different reason. Especially when their argument consists of the blithering nonsense that this guy claims makes his case.
posted by kafziel at 6:10 PM on October 27, 2012 [109 favorites]


Was this guy in a coma during the 2000 election?
posted by edheil at 6:13 PM on October 27, 2012 [63 favorites]


If you don't vote for Obama, you are by implication voting for Romney, no matter what tortured argument you gin up for yourself to imagine that this isn't the case. Wring your hands all you want, pine for a saner electoral system (and believe me, I pine with you), but to pretend that the choice before you is other than it is, is delusional.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:15 PM on October 27, 2012 [90 favorites]


I don't really follow his reasoning. Progressives should vote 3rd party because when the revolution magically comes (following a "crisis moment" like 9/11 or the 2008 crash, and don't we all know how much progressive change those led to) they will then be ready to step into the shoes of magically disappeared mainstream opposition? I don't get it.
posted by Wretch729 at 6:15 PM on October 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


I really, really, really cannot believe someone is making this argument 12 years after Bush-Gore. It's just mind-boggling. You want change? It starts at the bottom up.

The idea that we needed to punish democrats in 2000 for being "Me too!" gave Bush three supreme court justices, which have led to multiple 5-4 cases in favor of long-term republican goals. Giving Romney another 2 will be a hell of a hole to climb out of...
posted by slapshot57 at 6:16 PM on October 27, 2012 [48 favorites]


You can't use a vote to send a message. There's no notes of intention attached. Nobody gives a shit why anyone votes and even if they do all they can do is speculate and as likely as not be completely wrong. You vote to pick a President not to send a message. The real world choice is between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The other options are theoretical, and Platonic, and interesting to talk about, but they will not amount to anything at this stage in the game. Romney or Obama. That's the choice.
posted by wabbittwax at 6:19 PM on October 27, 2012 [42 favorites]


How about: I really, really don't like when anyone tries to tell me who to vote for. No one will change my decision and trying to do so will make me give you the finger in my mind.
posted by Aquifer at 6:20 PM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Here's the money quote:
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. The best moment for change is actually a crisis, where there is actually policy leverage. We should look at 9/11, Katrina and the financial crisis as the flip side of FDR’s 100 days or the days immediately after LBJ took office. We already know that a crisis brings great pressure to conform to what the political establishment wants. So does this election. We all know that elites in a crisis will tell you to hand them enormous amounts of power, lest the world blow up. This is essentially the argument from the political establishment in 2012. Saying no to evil in 2012 will help us understand who is willing to say no to evil when it really matters. And when you have power during a crisis, there’s no end to the amount of good you can do.

How do we drive large-scale change during moments of crisis? How do we use this election to do so? Well, voting third party or even just honestly portraying Obama’s policy architecture is a good way to identify to ourselves and each other who actually has the integrity to not cave to bullying. Then the task starting after the election is to build this network of organized people with intellectual and political integrity into a group who understands how to move the levers of power across industry, government, media and politics. We need to put ourselves into the position to be able to run the government.
This election is a meet and greet networking opportunity for the future.

If one really needs a reason to vote for Obama, just think of the Supreme Court. Think of who he's appointed and the fact that, if elected, he'll probably be appointing two more. Do you want Romney or Obama to do it?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:21 PM on October 27, 2012 [18 favorites]


I wouldn't go quite as far as the author of this piece goes, but I will certainly agree that Obama has a decent gap from how he said he would govern and how he actually has governed, but I'm also willing to cut him some slack. Every challenger overestimates how much they can accomplish and underestimates the difficulty of leadership, and Obama has been no exception. He hasn't been the President he said he would be as candidate exactly, but he's certainly done a pretty decent job.

Unfortunately, in a (mostly) two-party representative democracy, voting choice is usually more of an exclusive than an inclusive activity. The choice that most voters are presented is not "who best represents my interests and personal beliefs" but "who least represents my interests and personal beliefs, and then I'll vote for the other guy". This is, obviously, far from ideal, but it's the system we have at the moment.

Elections, particularly at the national level, are a zero-sum game in the United States - if you don't vote for the candidate that's close-but-not-quite representative of your interests, it's a vote for the other. Penalizing a candidate when he wasn't like you hoped or thought he would be - or even like he said he would try to be - only makes sense if the candidate from the other party is closer to your interests right now. It's a cliche, but if you vote for anyone other than a third party candidate in a national election, you are throwing your vote away. Whether or not you like it, whether or not that's fair, that is the fact of the matter.
posted by Punkey at 6:21 PM on October 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


it is the shape of the society Obama is crafting that I oppose, and I intend to hold him responsible, such as I can, for his actions in creating it.

It is not Obama, chiefly, who would suffer for this punishment. So-called "progressives" pursue the purity of their ideals at the expense of our commonwealth. Matt Stoller is obviously free to vote for whomever he'd like. Or not to vote at all. But to claim that withholding one's vote from this President is a valid act of protest against the substance of his governance is either naive or sinister, given that the alternative would be disastrously worse.

You care about torture and drone strikes? Then make your case as forcefully as you can to the man and party who have expressed reservations with these policies in the past. Or fight to field a better alternative in the next election. But you don't respond by electing these policies' enthusiastic advocates.

Nader voters gave us the Iraq War. They didn't know it at the time (though it wasn't hard to guess), but they did. In 2012, nobody can pretend not to know. You vote for Romney or withhold your vote from Obama and you're voting for war with Iran. It's as simple as that. And all your high minded moralizing won't wipe that blood from your hands.
posted by R. Schlock at 6:23 PM on October 27, 2012 [57 favorites]


Nader voters gave us the Iraq War. They didn't know it at the time (though it wasn't hard to guess), but they did. In 2012, nobody can pretend not to know. You vote for Romney, you're voting for war with Iran. It's as simple as that. And all your high minded moralizing won't wipe that blood from your hands.

The counterpoint is of course:

It is a fact that Obama and Romney both claim the President possesses absolute power, the power over life itself -- and this with regard to every human being alive. It is a fact that a vote for Obama or Romney means that you support their claim. Demand that anyone who says he or she will vote for Obama or Romney declare: "I vote for Obama/Romney proudly. I am proud to be a knowing accomplice to their murders, including the murders of innocent human beings."

Make them say it. I still have hope for the future, but whatever hope I have rests on our understanding, identifying and accepting the meaning of what we are doing. To vote for Obama or Romney is to be a knowing accomplice to their murders. If that is what you are, say it. Say it -- and be damned.
(source)

also related
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:26 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


As a resident of Washington State, I'm lucky enough to be in a blue enough state to vote my conscious, which will likely be Jill Stein.

I don't know what I'd do in a battleground state. I've argued on here more than once against the many horrible policies the Obama administration carried over from the Bush administration, along with their new focus on whistle-blowers and drone warfare.

The frustrating thing is I know Obama probably really shares our values. His comments in Rolling Stone on Ayn Rand could only come from somebody who truly believed in progressive values:

Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we're only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we're considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity – that that's a pretty narrow vision.

At this point, I think the system, primarily the military and intelligence agencies, just have too strong an influence for change to come from the top. It's going to have to be the citizens.
posted by formless at 6:28 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


To vote for Obama or Romney is to be a knowing accomplice to their murders.

Okay, fine. I'll say it. Drone strikes and torture are atrocities. But I, as a responsible citizen, will own my small part in those atrocities to do my equally small part to prevent a greater abomination. And I will atone for that by never missing an opportunity to remind my candidate and my party of my heartfelt opposition to those atrocious policies.

Is that so hard to do?
posted by R. Schlock at 6:29 PM on October 27, 2012 [25 favorites]


The election between Obama and Romney is between Obama and Romney.

It's not between "Am I a knowing accomplice to their murders" and "I am a pure saint whose hands are clean."
posted by leopard at 6:29 PM on October 27, 2012 [32 favorites]


At this point, I think the system, primarily the military and intelligence agencies, just have too strong an influence for change to come from the top. It's going to have to be the citizens.

I agree, and this change has already begun. The citizens are relaxing their convictions to suit the needs of the military and intelligence agencies.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:31 PM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


R. Schlock: “Nader voters gave us the Iraq War.”

I've heard this before, but it seems to me that this is really not how moral culpability works.
posted by koeselitz at 6:32 PM on October 27, 2012 [13 favorites]


This attitude is relatively pervasive among Democrats, and it deserves a genuine response.

I wonder if the response will ever be "we better try to attract votes on the Left, who might actually vote for us, rather than the Right, which won't."
posted by DU at 6:33 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


this is really not how moral culpability works.

I'm not talking about culpability. I'm talking about complicity.
posted by R. Schlock at 6:33 PM on October 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Well, voting third party or even just honestly portraying Obama’s policy architecture is a good way to identify to ourselves and each other who actually has the integrity to not cave to bullying.

jesus can't they just start a mailing list or something
posted by en forme de poire at 6:35 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


You vote for Romney or withhold your vote from Obama and you're voting for war with Iran.

This is terrorism. No exaggeration. You are attempting to use fearmongering to sway a political outcome.

Terrorism.

Let candidates earn votes. If they can't convince people to vote for them, they not only don't deserve to win but literally won't be able to do anything if they win anyway. If you can't convince voters, you sure as hell can't convince Congress to pass your laws.
posted by DU at 6:35 PM on October 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


He's been a terrible President, but not as terrible as that grinning turd Romney would be.

Agreed, and I'll be holding my nose, too, but the aversion to making a serious, facts-base case against the points made in this article is disconcerting.

§ The writer is correct that Wall Street has made off like bandits during the Obama years, while the rest of the country's economy has withered on the vine. In the meantime, Obama has positioned himself someone who will take on Wall Street, while having brought in people who were responsible for the mess happening in the first place.

This contradiction — and the consequences, for example:

"Under Bush, economic inequality was bad, as 65 cents of every dollar of income growth went to the top 1 percent. Under Obama, however, that number is 93 cents out of every dollar."

— should bear some kind of serious discussion. Is this the new normal under a supposed liberal administration that claims to help the 47%?

§ The writer is correct that Obama's support for women's reproductive rights has been middling at best, until the election season got into full swing. Kathleen Sebelius did limit over-the-counter contraception, Catholic organizations were able to limit women's access to contraception, and — speaking of the Supreme Court — Obama's own Supreme Court appointment has sided with limiting access to abortion.

This is a matter with major consequences for millions of American women and should bear some kind of serious discussion. We talk about Supreme Court appointments being an issue, but what does that mean with respect to what has happened so far?

Romney may be an asshole and the worst President this country might ever see. But that doesn't have to mean we choose to ignore what's going on with who is in charge right now.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:35 PM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Jebus, people. It ain't like you have much of a choice.

Is there really room for debate here? You can vote for the scary classic right-wing, fiscal-conservative, exceptional-circumstances-means-the-US-can-do-anything guy.

Or you can vote for Romney, the crazy shit-house rat.

I mean, of course some weirdo libertarian wants you to consider the third way. It's just that US style libertarianism is a third way only if you consider being ground up into cat food by your local militia-council a third way.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:35 PM on October 27, 2012 [16 favorites]


As a resident of Washington State, I'm lucky enough to be in a blue enough state to vote my conscious, which will likely be Jill Stein.

Everyone should vote their conscience! You only have one vote! Your vote doesn't matter statistically! If you decide to stay home on election day, do you really think that it will affect the result?
posted by beukeboom at 6:37 PM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't understand this belief that angry leftists have about voting third party. Burning the village down isn't going to save it.

Has there ever been an example of a third party challenge from the left resulting in more liberal policies? Isn't that what you want? History is riddled with examples of the opposite occurring.

You had your chances in the primaries at every level--primaries for Illinois state legislature, primaries for Senate, primaries for President--if you wanted to replace Barack Obama with your chosen alternative. And he won those nominations, and was duly elected. We are now in the general election. You must make your choice between Obama and Romney, or face the peril of your own side's destruction.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 6:37 PM on October 27, 2012 [16 favorites]


I'm lucky enough to be in a blue enough state to vote my conscious

I'm generally opposed to voter ID laws, but I do think it's reasonable to insist that voters be conscious.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:37 PM on October 27, 2012 [20 favorites]


Sorry, this election (or any other) is not practice, it's reality.

If you want to start a revolution, either start stockpiling Molotov cocktails, or if you want to do it by ballot box, vote for the most evil and malignant leaders you can, and hope that someone else will start your revolution for you.

Wanting to change the country by voting for a third party presidential candidate is like wanting to enter the job market as a CEO. It's not going to happen. Change is only possible at the local level. The European Green parties gained a foothold by entering at the local level, they're effecting real change, even though there's never been a Green party prime minister or president.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:38 PM on October 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


I'm not saying that it is illegitimate to be angry about drone strikes or war. It is, however, irresponsible if you hold those beliefs to hand a general election, after the nominating process is complete, to the candidate that will produce more war and more drone strikes than anyone else
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 6:38 PM on October 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is terrorism. No exaggeration. You are attempting to use fearmongering to sway a political outcome.

Terrorism.


Oh for fuck's sake. Climb down off that ledge, Clarence.

Romney has signaled his readiness to go to war with Iran as vocally as one could want. If you withhold a vote from Obama for the sake of your principles, you're endorsing his plans de facto.

Reminding people of this is hardly the equivalent of a terrorist act.
posted by R. Schlock at 6:38 PM on October 27, 2012 [55 favorites]


It's just that US style libertarianism is a third way only if...

The Libertarian candidate is, like, the 10th way. There's the Green candidate (who 90% of MeFi actually agrees with on the issues, see recent post on her) and there are various other candidates as well.
posted by DU at 6:39 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Has there ever been an example of a third party challenge from the left resulting in more liberal policies?

Did you notice that after Al Gore (not to mention Kerry) ran a much more rightwing (than their actual beliefs) campaign, Obama made a bunch of leftist promises? He didn't remotely stick to them, but he did in fact try to garner votes on the Left.

If he isn't punished for failing to keep them, we just get more of the same. Anything else is short-term thinking.
posted by DU at 6:40 PM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you withhold a vote from Obama for the sake of your principles, you're endorsing his plans de facto.

Bullshit.
posted by DU at 6:41 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


a greater abomination

What greater abomination is there than one man claiming the power of life and death over the entire world population? I mean in reality that was kind of the dominant paradigm of the cold war, but now its become much more personal and sinister. To wield this power the president no longer has to push the big red button and murder everyone. You can see how wielding this power will become easier and easier over time...what with the lack of immediate consequences and all.

Also last time I checked Obama hasn't taken war with Iran "off the table."
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:41 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I suggest listening to the debate with Ellsberg (and Hauser and Manski). It's decent on the issues and, if nothing else, illustrates what whiny assholes the US Green Party is made up of (Manski, representing the Greens, hangs up on the debate in a hissy fit.)

I think you can make progressive arguments for or against re-electing Obama, but the underlying point is that "progressive" politics in the US requires people actually willing to organize effectively for an agenda. The Democratic party isn't going to represent progressive interests and you are fooling yourself, after 4 years, if you still think Obama is secretly on your side.

The biggest (from the left) difference between Romney and Obama is that Obama could be vulnerable to pressure from the left (see gay rights) whereas Romney isn't. Unfortunately the Green Party sucks, has sucked, and gives every indication of continuing to suck.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:44 PM on October 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


R. Schlock: “I'm not talking about culpability. I'm talking about complicity.”

Well, that's not how complicity works, either. I don't believe in torture of political prisoners; and yet not only do I live in a country where that has happened, I pretty much knew it was happening during the Bush era, and I didn't expatriate. Instead, I spoke out against torture. I knew what I said wouldn't necessarily convince the government actors responsible, but I stayed and spoke out. Does speaking my mind, with as much voice as I could, even though I knew the powerful wouldn't listen, make me complicit in the torture of political prisoners?
posted by koeselitz at 6:45 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


The fact of the matter is that Democrats need votes from the Left. They can get them either through fear and intimidation ("Romney will get your kids killed by Iranian nukes!!!11") or they can earn them.

Which is the liberal path?
posted by DU at 6:45 PM on October 27, 2012


Demand that anyone who says he or she will vote for Obama or Romney declare: "I vote for Obama/Romney proudly. I am proud to be a knowing accomplice to their murders, including the murders of innocent human beings.

What's that, you have something to say, something important? Oh yes, it's thoughtful and I see what you're saying, that's a good point.

What's that, I'm an accomplice to murder? Really, you're calling someone you want to agree with you names and assigning motives to them that you find morally repugnant? Oh. Well, fuck that idiotically hypocritical line of thought you're spewing then.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:45 PM on October 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


There's the Green candidate (who 90% of MeFi actually agrees with on the issues, see recent post on her)

Heh, y'all would loath her about two months after she was elected.
posted by BeeDo at 6:46 PM on October 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


To clarify: in a few weeks, I'm going to vote for Barack Obama for a second time. But I really do not believe in hectoring those who aren't, and I believe that voting one's conscience is the chief safeguard of public institutions in this country. People who vote green or independent or socialist don't win this election necessarily, but they change the way this country works in the future. And the minute Americans simply decide never to vote their conscience again is the minute this nation falls into a tyranny run by two parties who don't give two shits about liberty and justice.
posted by koeselitz at 6:47 PM on October 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


We need to build a different model of politics, one in which people who want a different society are willing to actually bargain and back up their threats, rather than just aesthetically argue for shifts around the margin. The good news is that the changes we need to make are entirely doable. It will cost about $100 trillion over 20 years to move our world to an entirely sustainable energy system, and the net worth of the global top 1 percent is $103 trillion. We can do this. And the moments to let us make the changes we need are coming. There is endless good we can do, if enough of us are willing to show the courage that exists within every human being instead of the malevolence and desire for conformity that also exists within every heart.

Wowee! this is so obvious, so simple, and so straightforward! I like how the math for completely sorting out once and for all the global energy system worked out to be a nice round number. That really puts the whipped cream on top of the argument cake. The only thing holding us back from achieving this world utopia must be some massive elite conspiracy. They will still have $3 trillion left over for nice brunches so it's not like we're asking for everything.

Anyhoos, I'm sold. Sign me up for WWIII: The Revolutioning
posted by Bwithh at 6:49 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you decide to stay home on election day, do you really think that it will affect the result?

Yes, it will, if you live in a swing state, and even if you don't. Hell, I'm a Canadian (who loves the NDP but votes for Liberals to keep the Conservatives out all the time, because *meh* is better than vile). It looks to me, from up here, like you guys are getting a retread of the 2000 election: an electable, centrist-ish Democrat vz a 'compassionate conservative' who's arguing that he'd really be a centrist but who is funded and surrounded by neo-con hawks, in a very tight race that will come down to one or two swing states and that may be decided by a couple of hundred votes.

And the BS about 'they're morally equivalent!' is just that, BS. If you care about the lives of those in other countries, I'd put good money on Romney starting a war with Iran within a minimum of 18 months of the election: these guys make money selling weapons, they energize their base, they get to wrap themselves in the flag and wear codpieces. If you care about the lives of your fellow countrymen and women, then Obamacare will repealed and Medicare dismantled in the same time frame. If Obama gets a second term, then it will be solid policy that the Repubs won't *dare* repeal, as bulletproof as Medicare -- which will also, I'm pretty sure, survive. And the president will make crucial Supreme Court appointments.

Is he perfect? Hell no. Is he better than Romney? HELL YES.

Please, progressives, on behalf of all those of us who CANNOT vote but will still be effected by it, vote for Obama.
posted by jrochest at 6:51 PM on October 27, 2012 [45 favorites]


You can be practically certain that your single vote is not going to change the outcome of the election, even if you live in a swing state. No national election will come down to a single vote.

So, if you are going to vote, your reason for voting should not be that you will be able to change the outcome of the election. Don't vote for a candidate you dislike because you think you will keep a worse guy out of office. You won't. Your vote will not change the outcome.

This isn't to say that it's not worth voting. There are reasons to vote. They're just not ones that support picking a candidate you think is suboptimal.

I think a lot of people believe that if you live in Texas or New York, your vote is so obviously ineffectual that it's fine to vote third party. It really is not different in a swing state. Your lone vote is not going to decide the election, whether you're in California or in Ohio.
posted by painquale at 6:52 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


To paraphrase my favorite political bumpersticker of all time:

"Vote for the Communist Muslim. It's important."

Having said that, I have had a hard time deciding who to vote for this year - that is, who other than Romney to vote for. In the end, I decided it was more important to shore up Obama's popular vote than to make a statement by voting for a third party candidate.
posted by Leezie at 6:53 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Looks like Stoller's fishing for undecided voters and thinks he can catch some hipsters with irony bait.
posted by perspicio at 6:54 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Libertarian candidate is, like, the 10th way. There's the Green candidate (who 90% of MeFi actually agrees with on the issues, see recent post on her) and there are various other candidates as well.

Sadly, she fails on a particularly significant issue for me. Call me a one-issue voter if you like, but for me, "Is this candidate one of the two candidates that our two-party system, regrettable though it may be, allows to actually be in the running for President?" kind of makes or breaks the candidacy.
posted by kafziel at 6:55 PM on October 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


Does speaking my mind, with as much voice as I could, even though I knew the powerful wouldn't listen, make me complicit in the torture of political prisoners?

Yes, but voting or withholding one's vote is not simply a speech act. It's an active commitment to the shape of our our democracy's course over the next 4 years. Like it or not, if I vote for Obama, I'm de facto rejecting Romney's tax plan. And if I vote for Jill Stein, I'm de facto endorsing Romney's war with Iran, since I had the opportunity to oppose it by voting for Obama.

Vote your conscience, by all means. But don't pretend that this exempts you from complicity in the result you and your conscience-driven act helped to create. There is no moral high ground in a democratic republic. You do your part in the voting booth to influence its course, you advocate as a citizen for particular policies afterward, and ultimately, you live with the results.
posted by R. Schlock at 6:55 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I took one of those online polls and it told me I should vote for Jill Stein. I live in NYC, so my vote doesn't matter, but I'm still voting for Obama, because I'm voting based on optimum outcomes and not my personal wish list. Because you know what? My life will be fine no matter what. I am lucky and privileged enough that Romney's policies won't hurt me. But there are millions of people who will be far worse off, and if you want to decide that drone strikes are more important than that, that's fine, but do not tell me that yours is the more moral position.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:56 PM on October 27, 2012 [16 favorites]


The data bears this out: Under Bush, economic inequality was bad, as 65 cents of every dollar of income growth went to the top 1 percent. Under Obama, however, that number is 93 cents out of every dollar. That’s right, under Barack Obama there is more economic inequality than under George W. Bush.

No, that's not right. That is not how economic inequality is measured and it's not how it should be measured. If this guy wants people to pay attention he should say things that are true instead of things that are false.
posted by escabeche at 6:56 PM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


You can be practically certain that your single vote is not going to change the outcome of the election, even if you live in a swing state. No national election will come down to a single vote.

exactly. everyone wants to believe that they matter, that their individual actions will make a difference. statistically, this is not the case in a presidential election. rather than get worked up over a meaningless decision, perhaps it would make more sense to work for changes to a system in which an individual is so marginalized as to be rendered powerless?
posted by beukeboom at 6:57 PM on October 27, 2012


You do your part in the voting booth to influence its course, you advocate as a citizen for particular policies afterward...

Not even remotely how democracy works or even COULD work.

Why is any candidate going to listen to you AFTER the election? You have to hold their feet to the fire and that means votes.
posted by DU at 6:59 PM on October 27, 2012


statistically, this is not the case in a presidential election

Say it with me: 537
posted by R. Schlock at 6:59 PM on October 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


The desperation in the voices of the Obama-apologists is palpable. If fixing a candidate after the election is possible, why not direct that energy towards that goal, rather than demonizing potential voters?
posted by DU at 7:00 PM on October 27, 2012


Stoller does say: "Now, and this is subtle, I don’t think the case against voting for Obama is airtight."

Another Canadian here.

Besides foreign policy, a truly huge difference between the Democratic and Republican parties is that the Republicans are unrelentingly hostile to government programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid -- their aim is to dismantle them. The Obama administration, in contrast, passed the Affordable Care Act (just barely, against vehement Republican opposition, and with the surprise 5-4 Supreme Court decision). It may not be as good as single-payer, but it'll provide health insurance for 33 million people who were previously uninsured. Unless, of course, the Republicans are successful in taking power and repealing it.

Jonathan Chait discusses How the GOP Destroyed Its Moderates:
Fifty years ago, the conservative movement, far from holding a monopoly on acceptable thought within the GOP, was merely one tribe vying for power within it, and not even the largest one. Geoffrey Kabaservice’s fine book ["Rule and Ruin"] tells the story of the slow extinction of the party’s moderate and liberal wings. The conservative movement, he shows in often gruesome detail, took control of the party in large part due to an imbalance of passion. The rightists had strong and clearly defined principles and a willingness to fight for them, while the moderates lacked both. Meeting by meeting, caucus by caucus, the conservative minority wrested control of the party apparatus. Sometimes this happened through physical force or the threat thereof. (Anybody who recalls the “Brooks Brothers riot” during the 2000 election imbroglio in Florida, when a Republican mob shut down a vote recount in Dade County, will find many of Kabaservice’s scenes familiar.) More often, the conservatives won out by packing meetings, staying until everybody else was exhausted, and other classic methods of organized fanatics. The moderates lacked the ideological self-confidence to wage these fights with equal gusto, and battle by battle they lost ground until finally there was nowhere left to stand within the party.
Or as Barney Frank succinctly put it: "We may not be perfect, but they're nuts."

To me, the big problem isn't the presidential candidates. It's the fact that there's such a large segment of public opinion that's vehemently and angrily opposed to government programs. See this New Yorker profile of a Florida Tea Party activist, for example.

I'm curious why Stoller describes his perspective as "progressive" rather than "left". I thought the US political spectrum looked like this:
left --- liberal --- centrist -------------------------- conservative
I'm not sure what to call the gap between "centrist" and "conservative" where Republican moderates used to be. (Conservatives call them "RINOs", but what do they call themselves?)

As Paul Krugman points out, Obama is very much a centrist -- but these days, that's a very long way from being a conservative.

koeselitz: To clarify: in a few weeks, I'm going to vote for Barack Obama for a second time. But I really do not believe in hectoring those who aren't--

Well said. An alternate view of the progressive end of the spectrum (where nearly all MeFites are) looks like this:
idealist --- realist
These threads always turn into pitched battles between idealists and realists -- but you need both. You need idealism as well as realism in politics, or you would never try to change things for the better. (I do hope that people on the left who live in swing states are also realistic enough to think about the differences between the Democrats and the Republicans.)

I do have one correction, though. The election isn't a few weeks away -- it's only 10 days away.
posted by russilwvong at 7:00 PM on October 27, 2012 [13 favorites]


painquale: “I think a lot of people believe that if you live in Texas or New York, your vote is so obviously ineffectual that it's fine to vote third party. It really is not different in a swing state. Your lone vote is not going to decide the election, whether you're in California or in Ohio.”

Indeed. And given that the Electoral College will probably all but disappear in our lifetime – the National Popular Vote already have a bill passed in half the states they need to nullify it – this will be even more true than before. No matter where you are, in Texas or Colorado or Florida or wherever, your single vote will not change the entire election. You should vote your conscience.

R. Schlock: “Yes, but voting or withholding one's vote is not simply a speech act. It's an active commitment to the shape of our our democracy's course over the next 4 years. Like it or not, if I vote for Obama, I'm de facto rejecting Romney's tax plan. And if I vote for Jill Stein, I'm de facto endorsing Romney's war with Iran, since I had the opportunity to oppose it by voting for Obama. Vote your conscience, by all means. But don't pretend that this exempts you from complicity in the result you and your conscience-driven act helped to create. There is no moral high ground in a democratic republic. You do your part in the voting booth to influence its course, you advocate as a citizen for particular policies afterward, and ultimately, you live with the results.”

If you really believe that speaking as loudly as you can against a crime is the same thing as complicity in that crime, then you've carried the word "complicity" to the point where it has no meaning whatsoever.
posted by koeselitz at 7:02 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Say it with me: 537

you control 537 votes? are you a ward boss? a union boss? a reactionary CEO? oh you're not? then your 1 vote doesn't matter until the election is decided by less than 2 votes.
posted by beukeboom at 7:02 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


The electoral system used is first-past-the-post. Accordingly, as per Duverger's law, you have two options. That ought to be the end of the discussion.

The Green Party are, inevitably, made up of so-called progressives who are either too dumb to understand the facts, too stubborn and proud to be humble before the facts, or both. Holders of ideals that the Green Party profess to hold, would be better off forming a faction within the Democrats. Failure to do so, is proof of stupidity and/or pride.

Even the fucking Tea Partiers are smart enough and humble enough to work within the GOP. When you compare unfavorably to those ass-clowns, it's time to re-evaluate.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:04 PM on October 27, 2012 [17 favorites]


Noam Chomsky (previously) agrees with Ellsberg: How Progressives Should Approach Election 2012
posted by homunculus at 7:04 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Really, you're calling someone you want to agree with you names and assigning motives to them that you find morally repugnant?

I could care less whether anyone agrees with me or not. Truth is truth whether you admit it or not. Obama claims the power to murder anyone he wants and indefinitely imprison anyone he wants. These are irrefutable facts. Some of us have drawn moral conclusions from these facts. You are free to draw your own. I don't hate anyone who chooses to be complicit in murder as the line between me and them is a thin red one. Nor do I gain any sense of superiority from what is really a superficial distinction. I am just as evil as you. I am just as guilty as you. The difference between me and you is that I can admit what I am a part of.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:05 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Koeselitz: quite right, the appropriate word would be "accessory".
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:06 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Besides foreign policy, a truly huge difference between the Democratic and Republican parties is that the Republicans are unrelentingly hostile to government programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid -- their aim is to dismantle them.

The problem with this is that Obama has all but promised "reform" of Social Security in his second term. Where "reform" means benefits cuts masked in the most political palatable way possible. Note that under the Bush administration Democrats united to oppose any such "reform" of S.S: will they do the same against their own president?

If Republicans are the wolf that wants to eat grandma, conservative Democrats, like Obama, are responding to the wolf by feeding her to him piece by piece.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:10 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


His comments in Rolling Stone on Ayn Rand could only come from somebody who truly believed in progressive values

Speaking of the Rolling Stone interview, here's Matt Taibbi:

Obama Defends His Finance Reform Record to Rolling Stone: A Brief Response
posted by homunculus at 7:11 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Living in a red state whose nine electoral votes are winner-take-all and already in Mittens pocket, I'm voting for Jill Stein. My vote still won't matter, but it'll be closer to mattering.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:11 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


you control 537 votes? are you a ward boss? a union boss? a reactionary CEO? oh you're not? then your 1 vote doesn't matter until the election is decided by less than 2 votes.


This is a silly, dangerous attitude that encourages people to stay home.

Every single one of you has housemates, friends, neighbors, family. Whether you turn out to vote has been proven to have a demonstrable impact on whether your housemates vote. Network effects are real:
During a face-to-face canvassing experiment targeting households with two registered voters, residents who answered the door were exposed to either a Get Out the Vote message (treatment) or a recycling pitch (placebo). The turnout of the person in the household not answering the door allows for contagion to be measured. Both experiments find that 60% of the propensity to vote is passed onto the other member of the household.

Even social networking can have a positive effect on voter turnout, with that turnout improved by your friends:
Furthermore, the messages not only influenced the users who received them but also
the users’ friends, and friends of friends. The effect of social transmission on real-world voting was greater than the direct effect of the messages themselves, and nearly all the transmission occurred between ‘close friends’ who were more likely to have a face-to-face relationship.


If you vote, and your housemates see you voting, and your friends know that you voted, that is affecting more than one vote. It is the height of irresponsibility to assume that simply not voting is a non-contagious disease that affects only yourself. It is not a victimless crime.

You have only one vote. But unless you are a total shut-in, believing that you influence only that vote is wrong.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 7:12 PM on October 27, 2012 [26 favorites]


If you really believe that speaking as loudly as you can against a crime is the same thing as complicity in that crime, then you've carried the word "complicity" to the point where it has no meaning whatsoever.

You missed my point:

You're acting as if voting and regular speech are the same and they're not. Voting is a unique class of speech act. It has a particularly ambivalent status, since it represents a citizen's small influence on her nation's particular course. By voting, you endorse a particular platform and you reject an alternative one. It's fraught, but blessedly small when compared to the sort of agency the executive has. So if you vote third party from the depths of your conviction that that course is the best one for your nation, then you're acting in good faith. But if you cast a third party vote in protest against a candidate who might otherwise have enjoyed your support, then you are, in fact if not in principle, endorsing the platform of his opponent. That's how voting works. It's rule-bound, marginally more powerful speech than the normal kind.

You can speak out all you want and shout to the mountaintops the purity of your purpose. But the fact remains that when you could have put your small finger on the wheel and pushed it in the other direction, you chose instead to shove it up your nose.
posted by R. Schlock at 7:12 PM on October 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


aeschenkarnos: “The Green Party are, inevitably, made up of so-called progressives who are either too dumb to understand the facts, too stubborn and proud to be humble before the facts, or both. Holders of ideals that the Green Party profess to hold, would be better off forming a faction within the Democrats. Failure to do so, is proof of stupidity and/or pride.”

If you really believe that the Green Party has had no effect on American electoral politics, I would suggest that you don't understand the enormous impact third parties can have. Third parties play a crucial role, even in our flawed system, by driving parties toward essential issues. Next time around, the Democrats are going to have to work harder to earn the votes of people who don't like the drug war and the killing of American citizens without due process. I happen to think that's a good thing.
posted by koeselitz at 7:12 PM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hmm. It is interesting that both camps here seem to be making similar arguments about collective culpability. Is it possible that we are all culpable? Is it possible that we are all guilty? Republicans, Democrats, Greens, Libertarians, ect...?

So I am complicit in the rape of Iraq because I voted for Nader, but somehow a vote for Obama and Romney doesn't make someone complicit in their murders. I guess its complicated...
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:12 PM on October 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Obama claims the power to murder anyone he wants and indefinitely imprison anyone he wants.

That bell has been rung, and not by Obama. I wish he could unring it, but it's not going to happen. Governments don't give up power voluntarily.

So the question, in my mind, is who would wield this power more judiciously? Who would consider the ramifications and struggle with the decision each and every time? Whose election will lead to more deaths?
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:12 PM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I hate living in a swing state (Wisconsin). I'm going to hold my nose and vote Obama - I'd feel absolutely, horribly complicit if there was a repeat of the 2000 election - but don't expect me to like it.
posted by desjardins at 7:16 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


That bell has been rung, and not by Obama. I wish he could unring it, but it's not going to happen. Governments don't give up power voluntarily.

So the question, in my mind, is who would wield this power more judiciously? Who would consider the ramifications and struggle with the decision each and every time? Whose election will lead to more deaths?


Incorrect. Most executive powers assumed by the bush II regime were set to expire in 2014. Obama codified these powers into the U.S. code by signing the NDAA fy2012. The answer to tyranny is not to debate who is a better tyrant.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:16 PM on October 27, 2012


My answer is that this election is, first and foremost, practice for crisis moments.

and i would counter that the small number of people who actually opt out of the two party system and vote for a third party is more of a discouragement towards crisis practice and solidarity than an encouragement - if that's what he's going to base his optimism towards the future of progressive politics on, it's pretty thin

a couple of notes to comments in this thread - nader couldn't have caused the iraq war as the iraq war had been ongoing for years - bush escalated it - and by and large the democrats supported him - it's a lazy and hypocritical argument to suggest otherwise

and it's the height of arrogance to claim what people are de facto voting for - more of an expression of the false consciousness that the two party system imposes on us than any real political insight - i vote for who i vote for for the reasons i feel i should vote for them and you can stop telling me what i really mean to be voting for right now if you want me to take your viewpoint seriously

i don't tell you what you "really" are doing, don't tell me

i'm voting democratic and obama because the republicans scare me and i don't know what else to do, in spite of my displeasure towards what passes for the left in this country

right now, it doesn't feel to me that a vote for the democrats entails complicity in the bad things they are doing, or the good things they are failing to do

but if obama were to bomb iran tomorrow, not that i think he would, that would probably push me over the line in feeling complicit and i'd have to vote for someone like jill stein

there comes a point where the choices become so toxic and corrupt that one has to opt out of them as a matter of conscience

we're not there yet - but i have to wonder if by 2016, we will be
posted by pyramid termite at 7:18 PM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is a silly, dangerous attitude that encourages people to stay home.

No, I'm just stating a fact. Care to rebut it? What are the chances that your vote, or even your influence in your circle of friends will make a difference?

Allow me to posit that your attitude entrenches the status quo of a corrupt duopoly of power.
posted by beukeboom at 7:18 PM on October 27, 2012


my tweets to Matt:
the problem with your analysis is that you are caught in the lie that electorally speaking Romney & Obama are the same

inre "liberals" the real problem isn't votes; it's fucking activism. US LIBERALS/PROGRESSIVES ARENT AN ACTIVIST LEFT

since the US has no true left, the voting strategy proposed by @DanielEllsberg & Noam Chomsky makes sense esp inre SCOTUS

simply put, LIBERALS & PROGRESSIVES CANNOT WASH THEIR HANDS AT THE VOTING BOX. opposition demands boots on the ground
i kept on ranting more about this, making the point that we have only two alternatives for POTUS right now: a socipathic plutocrat & a conservative. the conservative though, happens to NEED votes from the liberals/progressives & the left and does respond to pressure from these groups.

that said, we need to stop pretending there's a "left" represented in Capitol Hill. so whereas liberals & progressives get bones thrown by the Democrats, for a true left to flourish we can't count on little 3rd-parties scrapping by every 4 years. the motley crew of leftist 3rd parties need to either create an actual game-chaging coalition of GTFO.

so where does that leave us people NOT represented by Democrats? on the ground. on the street. every day, every week.

for the left it is boots on the ground for the next 4 years, organizing & strategizing --even if it means doing so without a party structure. because, at the end of the day, MONEY is what's deciding elections. so learning to play the game --differently, more efficient and harder-- is the way to effect change on that front.

but are elections really the end game?

voting is just strategic because, as i said on a rant later on: there is a difference in life during Ford, Carter, Regan, Bush, Clinton and life after Bush2. HUUUUUGE and monumentally different. and if you are a too young and/or your only point of reference are the 2000 elections, then HISTORICALLY you have only as reference politics after "the coup". because, make no mistake, 2000 was a coup.

Stoller is part of that 2000 generation of politicians. he doesn't have 40 years of presidents to understand what a Romney would do the Supreme Court. it would be 10 times WORSE than Reagan/Bush.

too many Stollers are too young to remember the shock, horror and rage of seeing Thurgood Marshall succeeded by that PoS Clarence Thomas. that was the GOP's worst "death by a hundred wounds" to what my parents & other civil rights activists had worked so hard for all their lives. huge betrayal and really THE drawing of the line on the sand. that the Democrats dropped the ball tells you all what we need to know about where their priorities lie.

but at the end of the day, i expect Romney to be worse than Reagan & Bush combined.

so, let me re-state what i have been telling people via Twitter: if you are on a swing state, vote Obama & Biden and go third party with your locals & state. you're not on a swing state? go wild and the day after the elections, hit the ground and protest the shit against Obama. and support Occupy Wall Street, and your local unions and prepare to spend protest after protest for the next 4 years ---while helping to organize & fund a true left opposition party capable of cleaving the duopoly.

but this election? fuck throwing your vote away. we can't risk having Romney, President of the United States. so we're stuck with Obama four more years.
posted by liza at 7:18 PM on October 27, 2012 [14 favorites]


Hi US leftists. UK leftist calling. I feel your pain. Believe me I do.

Two years ago, we had a general election - I know the systems are quite different and the context not remotely the same and all - but we still had a choice between holding our nose and voting Labour (again) or voting with our consciences and letting Cameron in.

Me? I couldn't hold my nose again. I didn't. I voted with my conscience.

Cameron got in.

I'm not saying it's my own personal fault that we ended up with another Tory government, but that's what's happened. And - for all I really couldn't stand Brown's Labour Party by the end of it and swore at the time never to vote for them again (my membership card got torn up long ago) - now I have a government that just happily privatised the NHS and has almost completely removed any notion of 'welfare' in 'welfare state', among other long-term structural damage that it has caused.

So, unless you are actively suggesting the deliberate election of insanely unpleasant right-wing governments in order to properly foment the conditions for armed revolution - I don't think most of you are, though some of you may be, which is increasingly fine by me, by the way, but this is addressed to those of you who aren't - I am here to remind you that people who claim to be progressive but turn out to be lying centre-rightist bastards are not as bad as people who claim to be merely relatively right-wing but turn out to be unremittingly amoral evil excrescences for whom Hell has a special circle reserved for when they have finished creating widespread despair and disaster in their time on earth.

I'm not even saying 'hold your nose and vote Obama'. I'm saying that you WILL BE FORGIVEN if you do hold your nose and vote Obama. By me at least. For what that's worth.
posted by motty at 7:21 PM on October 27, 2012 [62 favorites]


Romney has already said he won’t change abortion laws, and that all women should have access to contraception. He may be lying, but more likely is that he does not care and is being subjected to political pressure.

So when it comes to Romney voters should examine his intentions, not his actions. The first part of the piece castigates Obama for his actions despite his intentions, but Romney who's been flip flopping like he's trying to carry HI may not be lying, so no big deal if he gets to appoint two Supreme Court justices?

No matter where you are, in Texas or Colorado or Florida or wherever, your single vote will not change the entire election. You should vote your conscience.

The total vote is the aggregate of individual votes, so enough single votes do change the election.
posted by ersatz at 7:23 PM on October 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


They don't give out merit badges for 12-dimensional, "you do 4d6 of electoral reform by casting 3rd Party on the Democrat Incumbent."

The choice is this: the imperfect dude doing this job now who's never going to have a magic fairy wand to give every liberal in the world endless Hallelujah Joy....

OR.....

A lying, equivocating, cynical Empty Suit who hates women, gays, the poor, his own family and the family dog.

There's two parties, and the Democrats have the guy who's smart and empathetic. End of story.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:26 PM on October 27, 2012 [25 favorites]


Voting Green Party, but honestly I've given up on this country. The bad guys won. And I live in South Carolina. No point in voting, really. ;-(
posted by LordSludge at 7:27 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't hate anyone who chooses to be complicit in murder as the line between me and them is a thin red one. Nor do I gain any sense of superiority from what is really a superficial distinction. I am just as evil as you. I am just as guilty as you. The difference between me and you is that I can admit what I am a part of.

The difference between those who are going to vote for Obama and those ask "What greater abomination is there than one man claiming the power of life and death over the entire world population" is that the former have a practical view of the world, while the latter insist of feeling morally responsible for things they have no control over or culpability for.

Pretty much every person one votes for will do something you don't like or don't agree with. You withhold your vote for them when there's a greater evil smacks of a willful obstinance that does nothing but more an individual feel better at the expense of he larger world
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:28 PM on October 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


No, I'm just stating a fact. Care to rebut it? What are the chances that your vote, or even your influence in your circle of friends will make a difference?

Allow me to posit that your attitude entrenches the status quo of a corrupt duopoly of power.

Let's say there's an armed revolution to overthrow this "corrupt duopoly". Would you also stay home because, well, what are the odds that one gun will make a difference?

Really, what could possibly work in your world for one person to have enough power to bother acting?
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 7:29 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


12 years ago I voted my conscience - I voted for Nader. So did a couple million others as well. I'm not making that same mistake again. I have grave reservations about a lot of what the Democrats say and then actually do but compared to the Republicans (who should just get over it and change their name to the American Fascist Party {imho}) I didn't have much nose holding to do when I went to vote today.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 7:31 PM on October 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Hollywood Upstairs Medical College: “This is a silly, dangerous attitude that encourages people to stay home.”

Look, I understand that voting has power, yes, but the fact is that Americans have to be encouraged to vote their consciences. That's a tragedy, but it's true. Anything that can be done to encourage people to vote for the candidate they believe is best, rather than vote out of fear, is a good thing.

Voting out of fear is what gave us the Nixon era. I am not going to succumb to a different kind of voting out of fear just because my fears are more intelligent than the fears of Nixon voters.
posted by koeselitz at 7:35 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Besides, there are thousands of downticket offices that are also on the ballot this November, and leftists ignore them at their peril. There is plenty of precedent for those races coming down to 1 or 5 votes, enough that you dragging your family out could have flipped the outcome.

In 1984, Rep. Frank McCloskey won Indiana's 8th District by 4 votes. The first round of the 1974 Senate election in New Hampshire was decided by 2 votes before being tossed out by the U.S. Senate and a revote was done. Plenty of state legislative races have come down to a handful of votes or tied.

If you really want a truly liberal party, you have to get true liberals elected downticket also. Barack Obama didn't magically fall from the sky, he started in the Illinois State Legislature. You might not be dealing with your rage at him at all if he'd been knocked out in a primary for State Senate.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 7:36 PM on October 27, 2012 [15 favorites]


Hollywood Upstairs Medical College: “If you really want a truly liberal party, you have to get true liberals elected downticket also.”

This is true. If you want a truly liberal Democratic party, you have to vote to preserve and extend a truly liberal Democratic party.

And if you want a well-governed democracy in the United States, you have to vote for whomever you believe is the best candidate in a given election.

Please note that these two goals will frequently come in conflict. Which is more important?
posted by koeselitz at 7:43 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


What are the chances that your vote, or even your influence in your circle of friends will make a difference?

It is a certainty that your vote makes a difference. It increases the probability that the candidate you vote for will win. It doesn't increase it by very much, but so what? Picking up a piece of trash you see on the street doesn't increase the cleanliness of your city very much, but you just do it, because it's the right thing to do, and you hope everybody else just does it too instead of leaving the trash on the street because one more piece of trash in an already trashy city doesn't matter.
posted by escabeche at 7:44 PM on October 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


I like how it's the individual voters fault that our system is so fucked up, and the onus is on the individual voter to somehow fix it. That kind of thinking sounds a lot like the Tea Party's bullshit "bootstrap" notion of social responsibility.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:44 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


If Romney wins, mark my words : we'll be at war with Iran within 2 years time.

So if you like war, listen to this feculent swine and vote for someone other than Obama.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:45 PM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Why is any candidate going to listen to you AFTER the election?"

Because I care about the people who elected me, take my responsibility seriously, believe in democracy, and want to do what's right?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:49 PM on October 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


I grew up in the rural South and still live down here, but have friends from all over, and friends from academic life, etc., so my FB feed is bizarrely diverse. And I've reading this link shared on FB by people living in liberal-leaning metro areas, alongside one by FB contacts in rural or heavily red suburban ones, including one from my high school years who had all manner of links about how Obama is a closeted gay man and on cocaine (I'm not exaggerating--old high school chum from 20 years ago was unfriended immediately upon this discovery), or the now-unfriended contact who compared his pronunciation of "security" to that of Bon Qui Qui fast food character from MAD TV (and put "enuf said OMG" after making that remark).

Meanwhile, I also love reading this sort of thing after listening to snippets of the paranoid, Christian right-wing-friendly American Family Radio. There, hosts and callers go on about how Obama people are intimidating GOP voters in early voting in the Midwest, and about how they are engaged in "spiritual warfare" against Democrats who are "demonic," with an example being how Nancy Pelosi was said to have seen an apparition of Susan B. Anthony at the White House (The radio host goes on to talk about how you can get some insight into this by watching "The Devil's Advocate" with Al Pacino. Seriously.).

Are those folks going to vote for anyone but Romney, because he's not hardcore conservative enough for them, or Mormon or whatever? No.
posted by raysmj at 7:51 PM on October 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


a greater evil

Again, what greater evil is there than one man claiming the power of life and death over the entire population of the world?

while the latter insist of feeling morally responsible for things they have no control over or culpability for.

Also I'm curious how my moral responsibility for the actual murder of a Somali child is any less than the hypothetical murder of an Iranian child in some hypothetical invasion. I am also curious as to how you are able to segregate moral responsibility by cherry picking issues such as gay rights, women's equality, tax code, ect. while ignoring others like the drone program and indefinite detention. This seems to be similar to a christian cherry picking bible verses to suit his or her theological need. Now i am more than willing to debate morality with anyone who wants to, but it seem to me that if we are going to make morality a part of the equation at all we must do so in an environment of morality for all and not for an arbitrary set of persons or issues.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:59 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Voting out of fear is what gave us the Nixon era.

Voting my conscience gave me Citizens United, 12 years of war with the Middle East, The Great Bank Monopolies, years and years of unemployment and the all but collapse of the American economic system. All in all I'd honestly have preferred Nixon.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 7:59 PM on October 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


I am also curious as to how you are able to segregate moral responsibility by cherry picking issues such as gay rights, women's equality, tax code, ect. while ignoring others like the drone program and indefinite detention.

See, on one set of issues, there is a practical effect of one party's candidate being in power instead of the other's.

On the other set of issues, there is no such effect.

Of course it seems like that that's a feature, not a bug, for some people.
posted by leopard at 8:04 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Obama's to blame for teachers being fired because Congress wouldn't permit the stimulus to be any bigger than it was? Brilliant! Obama's insufficiently pro-woman because we don't know yet how Sotomayor will decide on choice issues? Trenchant! Obama's in Wall Street's pocket because he can't force credit card companies to set interest rates at zero, or force the Fed to set their rates at 15%? Insightful!

This entire rant needs to be followed by [citation needed] in forty foot tall flaming letters. Citing to your own articles doesn't count, my man!
posted by schoolgirl report at 8:05 PM on October 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Though I don't agree with his conclusions, Stoller's argument is not lunacy. Obama is well aware that he is getting fewer votes from the left and the young than he got in 2008. He knows that he could get many more of those votes if he moved farther left, but he also knows (believes) he would lose centrist votes if he did that. So non-votes -- even the intention of non-votes before the election -- have a definite effects, pulling Obama farther left than he would be if he knew he never had to worry about the left. So while, if you were somehow the decisive vote, I think you would be mistaken to not vote or to vote for Romney, in the meantime, a publicly known dissatisfaction among the far left and the young has clear, definite policy effects on Obama now and (to a lesser degree) on the policies he will enact after being re-elected. The "pragmatic" left, who will never not vote for Obama, should welcome the Stollers of the world, as long as they don't actually cost Obama the election. Which they won't.
posted by chortly at 8:05 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


> one from my high school years who had all manner of links about ...

I have an old high school chum who seemed sure, a few months ago, that his 2-owner 1-employee business was subject to Obamacare, and while they _do_ provide health insurance for their one employee, he worried about all the other little mom-and-pop businesses ....

I couldn't believe he thought that, looked it up and pointed at the 50-employee cutoff.

Dunno where people get this stuff.
posted by hank at 8:08 PM on October 27, 2012


Voting endorses the farce of American politics, the false choices, and the endless trolley problems.

No thanks.
posted by downing street memo at 8:08 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Voting for a third party candidate is statistically unlikely to help that candidate win election because they lack the name recognition and broad political coalition to win the election. If one of the major party candidates is your prefered alternative, then you should vote for that person because that way your vote will be likely to influence events in that direction.
Obama is worth supporting if you are a progressive because he will appoint more liberal judges to the supreme court which will serve to check executive and legislative power. He has worked to advanced civil liberties for gays and minorities. He has made an effort to close gitmo and just last week raised the issue again. He has protected union jobs in Aircraft and Automotive manufacturing. He has made real and meaningful attempts to engage in diplomacy with our enemies such as Iran and the taliban in order to bring an end to our major conflict with the Islamic world. Finally he has protected social welfare programs against a very conservative congress that has sought to do away with them. We all know of Jill Stein's rhetoric, but what has she done? With a narrow political coalition it is easy to make promises, but difficult to keep them. You can choose to vote to make the world better, or you can choose to throw your vote away on some third party candidate who isn't going to matter. Don't expect some critis to lead to the path of liberal utopia for every critical moment where an FDR emerges with a new deal, history has a thousand where some strong man of the hour rises and implements dictatorship.
posted by humanfont at 8:09 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


> "This is terrorism. No exaggeration."

... No. It isn't.

Terrorism: If you don't vote for Obama, I will throw a bomb at your house.

Coercion: If you don't vote for Obama, I will fire you.

Fear-Mongering: If Romney is elected, he will send thugs to your house to confiscate your birth-control.

Hyperbole: If Romney is elected, he is 100% guaranteed to start a war with Iran.

Political Discussion: Romney's constant saber-rattling regarding Iran, coupled with the Republican party's track record, have led me to conclude that if he is elected, there is a very significant chance that he will start a war with Iran.

Please let's try not to accuse each other of terrorism unless that's actually what's going on, OK?
posted by kyrademon at 8:11 PM on October 27, 2012 [42 favorites]


If Obama wins, he will continue to be terrible from a progressive, limited-executive and basic-sanity perspective.

If Romney wins, he will likely be even worse (although in fairness it's hard to be sure, since all we have to go on is his promises and we know what those are worth).

The problem with that equation is that if Obama wins, the price we pay for a marginally better presidency is the guarantee that both major parties will continue to support unbridled warmaking, execution by presidential fiat, the slow (if we're lucky) death of anything like economic equality.

Which is worse? The damage Romney would do over the short term - weighed not against a theoretical good administration but the damage Obama would cause - or the long-term damage of migrating the "center" so far to the right? I don't know, myself. I just wish people would acknowledge that it's not an easy question.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:12 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


No, I'm just stating a fact. Care to rebut it? What are the chances that your vote, or even your influence in your circle of friends will make a difference?

I hate this argument. It's simplistic and we would reject it outright in any other context. Consider:

In some dystopian future people are strapped to a chair with a gun to their heads. The internet or equivalent is connected to the trigger and anyone can click a button on a website one time. Only one click is registered per person. A one hour time limit is imposed. At the end of one hour if there have been one million clicks registered the trigger is automatically pulled. If there have not been one million clicks the prisoner's restraints are automatically opened. After one hour, the number of clicks is revealed to be one million and ten, and the trigger is pulled.

By your logic nobody who pressed the button is in any way responsible for this person's death. It didn't matter if you voted or not since the margin was 10 votes and you only control one vote. You have no moral or practical culpability.

See how ridiculous that is? Just as in voting, every vote matters in reaching the total even if the final tally has a margin of greater than one vote. Every vote bears both moral and practical complicity in the result.
posted by Justinian at 8:16 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Please let's try not to accuse each other of terrorism unless that's actually what's going on, OK?

Upthread people are blaming a tiny number of Nader voters for every evil of the Bush Administration. Iraq, Abu Grahib, the Katrina response, etc. And you're collapsing on the fainting couch at someone's objection to yet more of this kind of rhetoric ("Vote for Obama, or the blood of Iranians is on your hands, leftists!")
posted by downing street memo at 8:19 PM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am also curious as to how you are able to segregate moral responsibility by cherry picking issues such as gay rights, women's equality, tax code, ect. while ignoring others like the drone program and indefinite detention.

I do not understand why any adult would find this difficult or mysterious. Every situation isn't exactly the same moral wise.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:21 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Foreign Policy had a recent write up on not voting. I think it cited non-voters as 40% (a plurality).

From FPP article:
Right now, the liberal establishment is teaching its people that letting malevolent political elites do what they want is not only the right path, it is the only path
I sincerely believe American politics is broken and small marginal changes (and I even believed electing Barak was going to be more than a marginal change) are inadequate. Both parties are beholden to those who can fund their campaigns, and, generally, the major players fund both parties.

While I am generally pro government (especially Democratic governance), there has been a huge regulatory capture of the US government, resulting in a tremendous amount of wealth flowing from public coffers into private hands. It would be great if we could fix this but given the current reality of lobbying and law creation etc, I really do not see that happening.

Thought experiment: If, after the election wherein Barak won, the world then turned upside and the homeland was taken over by tribal Pushtins from Pakistan and they began prosecuting Americans for civilian deaths, a "but at least I voted for Obama, and not Romney" would not be an adequate defense. "following orders" has been, quite rightly, a non-excuse.

We can argue until we're blue in the face about how much culpability America has for the civilian deaths throughout the Middle East and Africa since 9/11 (We can also argue over the number of these deaths, but even conservative estimates range in the low 6 figures), at some point (and it truly is just a numbers game) each, individual American who did little more than cast a mere vote is morally culpable for our actions as a nation, as the world's premier military. A chilling thought, but we've been so use to winning every (major) war that we've forgotten the horror of losing one, especially an (increasing) unjustified one.
posted by Shit Parade at 8:22 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


To put it more succinctly: if the entirety of American government can be thrown off the wheels and set to all manner of evil by a few people simply exercising their right to vote for someone other than the two major party candidates, what kind of government is that, and does it merit the participation of those invested in truth, equality, and justice?

I'm not blind to the reality. I'm aware that in the short term an Obama victory reduces harm relative to the alternative. If you're a leftist in a swing state you should vote for him. But if you're not? Why would you? What has he done to deserve an affirmative, popular vote-padding tally?
posted by downing street memo at 8:25 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


In 2008, Barack Obama urged me to vote for the presidential candidate that best represented my values and my hopes. I did, and in 2012 I will again.
posted by mwhybark at 8:26 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, voting third party ... is a good way to identify to ourselves and each other who actually has the integrity to not cave to bullying

is lacking in even the most basic logic. How are you going to find those other people? Just ask the local sec. of state for their voting records?
posted by lab.beetle at 8:27 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Upthread people are blaming a tiny number of Nader voters for every evil of the Bush Administration. Iraq, Abu Grahib, the Katrina response, etc. And you're collapsing on the fainting couch at someone's objection to yet more of this kind of rhetoric ("Vote for Obama, or the blood of Iranians is on your hands, leftists!")

That was me. I was saying that the 97,488 Nader voters in Florida in 2000 were unknowingly complicit in causing the Iraq War, and that protest third-party voters in 2012 would be actively complicit in Romney's war on Iran, given his vocal support for this course of action over this campaign. Nary a word about Abu Ghraib, Katrina, etc.

It's a reasoned argument. One which I've tried to develop as dispassionately as I can. It's hardly an act of intimidatory, political violence. And saying that it is only makes the speaker look ridiculous. Also, it lowers the tone of the conversation, hence making it harder for everyone else to talk about what's really at stake in this issue.
posted by R. Schlock at 8:28 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


And if you want a well-governed democracy in the United States, you have to vote for whomever you believe is the best candidate in a given election.

Like it or not, parties are an essential component of our political system. The fact that various incarnations of a two-party system have governed American politics since the Federalists and the anti-Federalists is no accident. First past the post systems are well known to gravitate towards two party systems for mathematical reasons. There will always be two parties unless proportional representation appears, or the country breaks up into regional factionalism. Through every realignment of the American party system, two parties have always emerged.

So for the American left, there are two choices.

Option A: install liberals office by office through Democratic primaries, and electing those officeholders to higher offices, and take over the Democratic Party's county and state committees.

Option B: hope for the total destruction of the Democratic Party and replace it with an entirely new leftist party.

There is no Option X which allows for a leftist party and a Democratic Party to coexist because of the FPTP system.

Now, I know that many leftists are hoping for Option B, but guess what? The precedent for such an act would be the dissolution of the Whigs because of a split between the North and South over slavery. In order to break a party up in a first past the post system, you need to have strong regionalism that concentrates your support in a way that you can win seats, instead of distributed nationally ensuring you will never win a plurality. Geography matters because we elect officials by geographic districts, not proportional lists.

American liberalism is not geographically concentrated in the manner that anti-slavery and pro-slavery factions of the Whig Party were. The angry left that places drone strikes over every other issue is not concentrated heavily in a region in a way that would threaten the Democratic Party. Geographic concentration is absolutely important: in an FPTP system, 300,000 Blue People making a majority in a Congressional district matter more than 300,000 Green People spread nationally.

Until liberals like Stoller suddenly find themselves concentrated in one region of the United States, enough that Civil War II is imminent, Option B is not workable. The concentration of conservatives in the South is not enough. The concentrations of liberals in San Francisco are not enough. You need a disgruntled leftist faction in the Democratic Party that can win strong majorities that appeal to a certain region of geography, and we simply do not have an issue that is regionally divided like that since slavery was abolished.

The Democratic Party's New Deal coalition, a well-known tradition of liberalism, was broken up by the Civil Rights movement, a movement that broke the party up along regional lines like slavery did. However, in the resulting realignment, the loss of the Southern states was compensated for by gaining formerly Republican states. The presence of conservative Democrats in the party that opposed the Civil Rights movement did not result in the party breaking up and a newer liberal party rising in its place.

Barring a regional civil war within the Democratic Party, attempting to destroy it won't work. You need to win seats to have power, and you can't win seats without geographically concentrated pluralities. The scattered liberals around the nation won't be enough. If they all banded together and voted straight-ticket Green, no Greens would get elected anywhere. Maybe if they all moved to a single region and took a majority, they would win seats and governorships and threaten the Democratic Party.

It will be much easier to convince other Democrats in a given geographic constituency to vote for a more progressive candidate in a primary than it will be to leave the Democratic Party because there really isn't an issue comparable to slavery that has such geographically divisive overtones. Option A gives progressives who win primaries the resources available to a major party candidate that no minor party will ever have. Option A gives progressives the Democratic straight-ticket voters they need as a base. Option A is a doable, and winnable plan, unlike Option B.

This year, Beto O'Rourke, a progressive who supports pot legalization (a popular stance here on MeFi) knocked out incumbent Democrat Rep. Silvestre Reyes, who opposed pot legalization in an El Paso-based Democratic primary. Rep. Tim Holden, a Blue Dog from Pennsylvania who voted against health care reform, was trounced by Matt Cartwright.

None of those would have been accomplished by people taking their ball and voting third party. We'd still be stuck with those entrenched incumbents. Is it enough? No. But look at what the right wing did with their party--we can do the same with the left.

Tea Partiers dragged their party to the right through fear of a primary, not through fear of an impossible third party fight. For every Christine O'Donnell disaster, there are several Tea Partiers that won primaries and got elected to seats instead of moderate Republicans. This year, Tea Party darling Ted Cruz is about to win a Senate seat in Texas after winning an underdog primary contest. Tea Party unknown Ted Yoho in Florida knocked out an incumbent in a Florida surprise. Conservatives know that Option B works.

Option B is for idealists fueled by unicorn sweat and pixie dust. For the rest of us who have real elections to deal with, real consequences, real Supreme Court appointments and health care reform and student loan reform and real things at stake, Option A wins. What I'm offering you is a real chance at a liberal Democratic Party like conservatives have a real Republican Party. What Matt Stoller and many of you are offering me is a chance to feel smug and self-righteous as the One True Liberal in a corporatist duopoly while I lose everything that I believe in to these incredibly destructive right-wingers.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 8:33 PM on October 27, 2012 [71 favorites]


In 1984, Rep. Frank McCloskey won Indiana's 8th District by 4 votes.

Ha, I voted in that election, knew Frank, and his kid. This does not at all translate into a buy-in on electoral participation and voting Democratic instead of Crazy Nutball Party. If any thing I would regard it as an argument in favor of voting Crazy Nutball, because if more elections were at risk, there should be both greater partisan responsiveness and higher citizen participation.

NB: I originally wrote "high citizen participation." I was 18. What can I say?
posted by mwhybark at 8:35 PM on October 27, 2012


I'm a Canadian. Please don't let Romney get elected by voting for a third party just to make a statement. Pretty please?
posted by jokeefe at 8:36 PM on October 27, 2012 [17 favorites]


Will you guys invade?
posted by mwhybark at 8:37 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


That was me. I was saying that the 97,488 Nader voters in Florida in 2000 were unknowingly complicit in causing the Iraq War,

No, they weren't. George W. Bush and the Republican Party caused the Iraq War, along with lots of Democrats in the House and Senate. Neither Ralph Nader nor any members of the Green Party were elected Federal government officials at that time.

and that protest third-party voters in 2012 would be actively complicit in Romney's war on Iran,

Assuming it happens, no, they wouldn't, either. Mitt Romney and the Republican Party would be responsible for this hypothetical war with Iran, along with, almost certainly, many Democrats in the House and Senate. Presumably, neither Jill Stein nor any members of the Green Party (or, for that matter, the leaders or members of any other party) will be elected Federal government officials at that hypothetical time.

Nary a word about Abu Ghraib, Katrina, etc.

You cannot blame people for the Iraq War and not blame them for Abu Ghraib. And while I think it's awfully tenuous to blame people for one evil Bush Administration act and not another, I apologize for accusing you of something you did not directly say.

Here's the point. If the Democrats wanted to win, they could have attempted to attract those 97,488 voters. They could have tried to understand their issues and assure them that they'd be taken seriously. Instead we got a candidate who cared more about projecting an "Alpha Male", manly image than taking seriously the concerns of leftist voters.
posted by downing street memo at 8:37 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Obama claims the power to murder anyone he wants and indefinitely imprison anyone he wants.
That bell has been rung, and not by Obama. I wish he could unring it, but it's not going to happen. Governments don't give up power voluntarily.

This is my essential argument for disagreeing with Stoller's conclusions as well. It applies to things beyond just the detainment without cause, but basically it boils down to this: either Obama cannot roll back the powers Bush gave the office of the presidency because he'd never be able to pass a reduction of powers past a hostile Congress, or Obama has simply chosen not to exercise his political will on such an issue because it's not worth the time or because he actually wants those powers for himself.

If the latter is true (and honestly I think it is), then we can ask a few questions. Is Romney less likely to abuse those powers than Obama? Is Romney more likely to roll back those powers than Obama? If the answer to either question is "Yes," then you have a case for not voting for Obama. But my suspicion is most progressives would say "No" to both. At best, you can expect those powers to remain until the next election at least—if protesting against Bush didn't make those powers disappear, will protesting against Romney suddenly accomplish it? That's what Stoller hopes will happen. I'm more pessimistic.

If, instead, the former is true, it still leads to the conclusion that Stoller is wrong. After all, Obama was the candidate progressives wanted, and he still couldn't eliminate those overreaching powers. Stoller's alternative says we use Romney's four (or eight) years to form an underground movement that thoroughly opposes everything Romney does, such that when the One True Progressive emerges to take the Presidency in 2020, they will finally have the political capital to roll back the excesses of the Bush presidency, the Obama presidency, AND the Romney presidency, all in one fell swoop. That didn't work the last time we tried it, however unintentionally; why would it work this time? And in the meantime, how often are we willing to try this, assuming successive regimes like the Bush administration or worse?

Stoller makes some good points about Obama's economic policy. But it assumes that there can be no dialogue between progressives and Obama once he's been re-elected, and that he will simply continue along the path he's set out for the country. The thing is, if there really is a groundswell of fired-up progressives that would fight every move of a Romney administration, and is also unhappy with Obama's performance to date, then those same people should be able to fight the Obama administration on the important issues, and potentially have more success as a result. Otherwise, you're subscribing to the notion that the country needs to hit rock bottom before it gets better. In which case, why aren't you stocking up on guns and gold?
posted by chrominance at 8:40 PM on October 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


It lowers the tone of the conversation, hence making it harder for everyone else to talk about what's really at stake in this issue.

You know what lowers the tone of the conversation? Accusing persons of voting for a hypothetical future war when the vote is actually for the President of the United States.
posted by mwhybark at 8:40 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


All it takes is a little editing: Look me in the eye and tell me that Sending A Message here is worth more than my ACTUAL civil rights. That you would really rather Obama was Sent A Message about drone strikes, regardless of whether or not anything actually changes about them, than preserve my ability to not get fired for being a lesbian. My ability to have a family. A thirteen-year-old girl's ability to get an abortion if she's raped.

There are two people who might be president, and both of them support this policy. You don't get a third choice. The value of third parties is not that they influence presidents by running those candidates. The value of third parties is at the state and local level, where they can actually compete. I love third parties. I hope that we can eventually make it so that those third parties do actually compete at the national level, including in the presidency. Right now? That isn't the world we live in. And I'm holding a job and listening to my bosses talking shit about gay people every. Single. Goddamn. Day. And knowing that I won't have a job if they find out. Knowing that if I don't keep this job, I'm not going to get a decent job on graduation. Knowing that if I can't get a decent job on graduation, my girlfriend isn't going to be able to afford to finish college. Knowing that I need to be able to afford health insurance, one way or another, and I have preexisting conditions.

These are the issues that the more liberal of our two viable presidential parties, whether or not you think they're truly liberal or progressive, has been willing to start to take on. Given a choice between them and the guys who don't want me to be able to earn a living, JFC YES I AM VOTING FOR OBAMA. This is not symbolic. The margin of victory is made up of individual votes. This is how causation works: If, but for X, Y wouldn't have happened? Then X caused Y. You don't get to opt out of that because you just meant your vote symbolically.
posted by gracedissolved at 8:40 PM on October 27, 2012 [51 favorites]


So for the American left, there are two choices.

Option A: install liberals office by office through Democratic primaries, and electing those officeholders to higher offices, and take over the Democratic Party's county and state committees.

Option B: hope for the total destruction of the Democratic Party and replace it with an entirely new leftist party.


Option C: Fuck it dude, let's go bowling
posted by downing street memo at 8:42 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


you're subscribing to the notion that the country needs to hit rock bottom before it gets better. In which case, why aren't you stocking up on guns and gold?

Because that is the action of a paranoid libertarian. I have no gun; I have no gold. The country needs to hit rock bottom before it gets better.
posted by mwhybark at 8:43 PM on October 27, 2012


And I will atone for that by never missing an opportunity to remind my candidate and my party of my heartfelt opposition to those atrocious policies.

"This is a reminder that, although you've been murderously naughty, you still have my support. Apparently there is nothing you can do to lose the part of my support -- my vote -- about which you give a damn."

Also, all of the "zero-sum game" talk assumes some weird shit. Nobody is an Innate Obama Voter who is "taking a vote" from Obama by abstaining or voting for a third party candidate. Before voting, that person has contributed zero votes to each candidate, and after, they've contributed at most one vote to at most one candidate. If that candidate was Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or Vermin Supreme or fucking Spongebob, they didn't "take a vote from Obama" any more than they took a vote from Romney, because they did neither. Not contributing a positive number of votes (i.e. 1) is different from subtracting votes. Similarly, not voting for Obama does not add any votes to Romney's total, unless one votes for Romney. If one votes for Romney, Romney gets one vote than he would have otherwise, and Obama gets 0 more votes than he would have otherwise, and not -1, unless it's assumed that that the voter in question is otherwise an Obama voter -- i.e. that it's a zero-sum game -- but that's absurd, since people who do not vote are not counted as Innate Obama Voters and added, post-election, to any vote-counts.

Abstaining from beans is a valid option, and a responsible one if done in good faith, when no candidate has succeeded in securing the potential voter's active support. The default is a blank ballot. It's the responsibility of each candidate to try to give a voter a compelling reason to vote for them. My civic responsibility is to go to the polls and give the most accurate information that the constraints of the format allow about whom I'd authorize, if I could choose, to represent me in government. Voting for someone whom one does not endorse is, by this criterion, irresponsible.

I guess I'm a feculent swine, (albeit one who thinks Romney has a heavy aroma of apocalyptic horse- (and bayonet-) man about him) but if I vote for, say, Stein, I'm not an "Obama voter who got poached by a third-party candidate". I'd be a Stein voter, and that's it.

posted by kengraham at 8:44 PM on October 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Option A: install liberals office by office through Democratic primaries, and electing those officeholders to higher offices, and take over the Democratic Party's county and state committees.

Option A happened already, it was called the McGovern candidacy. What happened was that the "liberals" and the unions decided they would rather have Nixon than an anti-war (vietnam) president backed by upstart leftists within the party.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:44 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


If the Democrats wanted to win, they could have attempted to attract those 97,488 voters.

Or they could have, as the GOP did, hired guys with baseball bats to hover over the recount. The Democratic party let the GOP steal that election due to insufficient combativeness.
posted by mwhybark at 8:45 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ruth Bader Ginsburg will almost certainly step down from the bench in the next four years for health reasons. A Romney presidency means that at least one liberal justice will be replaced with a fucking Scalia clone. Worst case scenario that Romney gets to replace Scalia, Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Breyer and we are stuck with a 7-2 court that will complete dick over anything remotely liberal for the next 20+ years.

That means no fucking progress on a whole host of issues and most likely the courts looking back at a whole host of stuff like Obamacare and going "You know what we changed our minds, that shit has to go".

I might not like how conservative Obama's governance strategy has been but there has been a good amount of forward incremental progress under his presidency which would almost certainly be negated under Romney's aegis if he came to office. Another boondoggle of a war in the middle east? Yes please. A large increase in military spending at the cost of domestic spending? Yes sir can I have another.

The idea that you can punish Obama by voting third party and actually effect positive change isn't going to work. If Obama loses then 2016 will have an even more centrist Democrat selected as the nominee and any pretense of listening to an unreliable progressive wing will be abandoned. The republicans seem to always move towards shoring up their base after a failed stab at the presidency but Democrats? They are almost always going to move further towards the center.

You want to effect change in the Democratic party? Vote for the most liberal primary candidate possible. Support them with every ounce of effort and financial support you can spare. Get out and educate your fellow voter by showing up to every pointless stupid event you can and be vocal as hell. Look at the shitheads running the Republican party and realize that if you want to effect meaningful change you have to do it from inside the system. Then come the general election you hold your nose and support your candidate no matter how you think he's a shithead who would do anything for a voter because he is a shithead that will do anything for a vote. Our political system is actively hostile to idealists because idealists don't get shit done.

I understand not feeling like you can support Obama but when it comes down to it a vote for "Not Obama" is just a vote for Romney and no matter how centrist Romney is pretending to be right now his administration would be a nightmare in comparison to a second Obama administration.
posted by vuron at 8:46 PM on October 27, 2012 [15 favorites]


punish Obama by voting third party

Who's punishing anybody? I'm voting for a presidential candidate who represents my viewpoint.
posted by mwhybark at 8:48 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Because that is the action of a paranoid libertarian. I have no gun; I have no gold. The country needs to hit rock bottom before it gets better.

Then what, exactly, is your idea for rock bottom, and what is your plan for surviving it? I'm genuinely curious. I mean, sometimes I think the country needs to hit rock bottom too, but my conception of rock bottom involves violent revolt, drastic limitations on basic civil rights, and extreme xenophobia. Maybe yours is different.
posted by chrominance at 8:52 PM on October 27, 2012


Voting endorses the farce of American politics, the false choices, and the endless trolley problems.


Whatever you say, downing street memo. I'm sure the countries where officials aren't democratically elected are are far more progressive than ours. Go ahead, find a small island and be dictator of it!
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 8:53 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm voting for a presidential candidate who represents my viewpoint.

Then you're irrelevant to this conversation, which is about Matt Stoller, who is vocally threatening to withhold his vote from Obama in protest against the policies of his first administration. Nobody in this thread has suggested that good-faith third party voters are anything other citizens exercising their fundamental right to make their voice heard in an election.
posted by R. Schlock at 8:55 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


It lowers the tone of the conversation, hence making it harder for everyone else to talk about what's really at stake in this issue.

You know what lowers the tone of the conversation? Accusing persons of voting for a hypothetical future war when the vote is actually for the President of the United States.


Well, actually, you're voting in an election where the candidates do have differing positions on war, so you ARE voting on what attitude this country will have in case of future conflicts. I fail to see how you think these two things aren't related now (or weren't related in 2000).
posted by lab.beetle at 8:56 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Whatever you say, downing street memo. I'm sure the countries where officials aren't democratically elected are are far more progressive than ours. Go ahead, find a small island and be dictator of it!

What are you even talking about?
posted by downing street memo at 8:57 PM on October 27, 2012


The Supreme court, given their rulings during Obama's presidency (including after his 2 nominees) hasn't been especially impressive (and sometimes very depressing) from a "leftist" point of view, or you know, the point of view of someone who cares about civil liberties.

People may think life is tolerable under Obama, but I don't, maybe it would be less tolerable under Romney, but really, once you decide you live under an corrupt regime controlled by moneyed interest at the expense of everyone else, why go along with the charade? It is a slave mentality, the sort where you kindly ask for another beating.

Curious, how many people does the American military need to slaughter before people in this thread stop making apologies Obama?
posted by Shit Parade at 8:58 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


So your viewpoint is that it's worth losing a battle over a whole host of issues on the off chance that a new liberal democratic coalition will emerge from the ashes and actually be able to compete for the presidency? The truth of the matter is that the Democrats will just bring another centrist, triangulating politician in the mold of Obama and Clinton for 2016 and 2020 and 2024 and every presidential election until liberals can effectively win elections on their own. The truth is that liberals just don't hit that threshold outside of places like Vermont and individual house districts. If liberals want to effect positive change they have to do it by working inside of the big tent and that means compromising on issues when there just isn't enough support for the other groups forming that coalition.

I'd love to have a nation where Greens are viable on a state or even national level but we are literally decades from that being a possibility and frankly the idea of 4-8 more years of Republican assault on the progress made in the 60s and 20s-30s just seems too depressing.
posted by vuron at 9:01 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


What are you even talking about?

I'm talking about your comment, downing street memo, you seem to think that voting is entirely pointless because it is a series of endless "trolley problems". What on earth is your alternative form of government if democratically elected officials selected by voting aren't your cup of tea?
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 9:02 PM on October 27, 2012


What's the point of sending Obama a message if he's not going to be president?

And what's the point of punishing Obama and the Democrats if you're actually punishing school children, women, gay people, people of color, folks with existing medical conditions, senior citizens, minimum wage workers and many others?

And if Romney wins, do you think will fewer people be killed in drone strikes?

And this is all about your conscience?
posted by tommyD at 9:03 PM on October 27, 2012 [17 favorites]


Curious, how many people does the American military need to slaughter before people in this thread stop making apologies Obama?

As many as might have died in the wars John McCain would have continued and/or started.

Dig deep. Find some perspective. I'm sure it's in there, layered under all that positive self-regard and moral purity. Once you've got it, you can look back on this comment and consider the advisability of the term "slaughtered" for the actions of American soldiers serving in combat zones. Watch Restrepo. It might help you get there.
posted by R. Schlock at 9:03 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]



All it takes is a little editing: Look me in the eye and tell me that Sending A Message here is worth more than my ACTUAL civil rights. That you would really rather Obama was Sent A Message about drone strikes, regardless of whether or not anything actually changes about them, than preserve my ability to not get fired for being a lesbian. My ability to have a family. A thirteen-year-old girl's ability to get an abortion if she's raped.


I am not keen on this rhetoric. You're basically trying to paint anyone with a sufficiently strong principled objection to extrajudicial killing as not supportive of your civil rights or those of others. This is actually pretty dishonest, I think, since plenty of people who are committed to the rights you're talking about also deplore plenty of the administration's behaviour, perhaps to the extent that they can't in good conscience do something that would help that behaviour to continue.

Would you have a committed pacifist vote for Obama? If a committed pacifist fails to vote for Obama, is the committed pacifist necessarily not committed to your civil rights?

I don't mean the following, but it seems uncomfortably analogous to what you posted:

"If your cavalier attitude toward "drone strikes" is cavalier because they only involve brown people (was going to say non-US people, but that's not true) in other countries, what about the human rights and civil liberties offences committed on Obama's watch here at home? Look Bradley Manning or Kteeo Olejnik in the eye and tell them to re-elect the present administration."

See how shitty this kind of stuff gets?
posted by kengraham at 9:11 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Find some perspective yourself.

Is it Anti-American to value the lives of non-citizens? I don't find it especially patriotic to support murders lists or the more Orwellian "disposition matrix", but perhaps when you reflect on it you would just say "fuck it, Romney would probably kill twice the number Obama has."

So how many lives?- Or does American exceptionalism rise about such silly notions?
posted by Shit Parade at 9:12 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Shit Parade, the current composition of the court is 4 somewhat liberal justices, 4 ultra-conservative justices (although Roberts at least is moderately pragmatic), and a somewhat less conservative justice with a libertarian streak. It was never going to be particularly friendly to liberal issues.

I hardly think that a court that is 6-3 or 7-2 in favor of the conservatives would somehow be better and could be significantly worse on a huge number of contentious issues.

And we are miles and miles away from any sort of revolution taking to the streets and throwing the whole corrupt structure down. Things would have to get way way worse before that would ever happen and there is absolutely no guarantee that liberal progressive interests would somehow win. No thanks.
posted by vuron at 9:12 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm talking about your comment, downing street memo, you seem to think that voting is entirely pointless because it is a series of endless "trolley problems". What on earth is your alternative form of government if democratically elected officials selected by voting aren't your cup of tea?

My comment said "American" politics. Do you know what a trolley problem is?

Large parts of the argument in favor of Obama is a trolley problem. Sacrifice the Pakistani drone targets so that American women can keep the right to relatively unfettered abortion and so that American gays and lesbians can keep the small steps toward equality of the last four years. That is the outline of the "privilege" argument alluded to throughout this thread.

I reject it. I'll vote my values and I'd suggest other people with the ability do the same.
posted by downing street memo at 9:15 PM on October 27, 2012


perhaps when you reflect on it you would just say "fuck it, Romney would probably kill twice the number Obama has."

This is what I actually said about it up thread. I'm going to stand by that. No straw-man necessary.
posted by R. Schlock at 9:17 PM on October 27, 2012


The SCOTUS gave Bush that election, not Nader. People always forget that.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:17 PM on October 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


You vote values, I'll vote my and my family's best interest.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:19 PM on October 27, 2012


downing street memo, thank you for the trolley problem link. That is exactly what's going on all over the place in this and similar discussions. It's okay for people to make different ethical calculations and arrive at different conclusions, but a lot of the comments in this thread assume, with no further reflection, that the only correct answer is to sacrifice the fat guy.
posted by kengraham at 9:23 PM on October 27, 2012


But our central value in a democracy is that it's all about compromising. You advance your ideas, you find coalitions, you compromise and you effect small incremental change if you can reach a certain threshold of support within the electorate. Yes Republicans have found that taking a no compromise, no surrender strategy has worked for them them to a degree (although it cost them control of the Senate in 2010 and will probably do so in 2012 and might even result in a loss of the House) but they can afford to play defense. They don't want meaningful progress on a whole host of economic and social issues. They can obstruct and still get what they want which is to undermine the idea that government can affect meaningful positive change in people's lives.

Liberals and progressives can't afford to play defense, a) there aren't enough of them and b) they actually want and need positive change on a whole host of issues so stasis is bad. That means that you have to actually be willing to compromise on occasion in order to get the sausage made.
posted by vuron at 9:24 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is how causation works: If, but for X, Y wouldn't have happened? Then X caused Y. You don't get to opt out of that because you just meant your vote symbolically.

If that is really how causation works, then in no U.S. presidential election has the vote of any single voter caused the outcome.

(Sine qua non theories of causation do not do well with over-determination.)
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 9:26 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


ersatz: The total vote is the aggregate of individual votes, so enough single votes do change the election.

This is true, but when you vote, you are responsible for only one single vote. The likelihood of your one vote causing a change in the election outcome is negligible.

Hollywood Upstairs Medical College: Really, what could possibly work in your world for one person to have enough power to bother acting?

National elections are unique; the argument against voting for Obama doesn't generalize. Most actions are not efficacious only if a threshold is reached. Most of the time, if you put a little effort in, you get a little bit of utility back. Sometimes people say that it's useless to donate money to charity because there are too many problems in the world to solve. A single donation would just be a drop in the bucket. That reasoning is fallacious because you don't need to solve the world's problems: a twenty dollar donation can do twenty dollars worth of good for the impoverished. Every drop in the bucket does good even if the bucket never gets filled. National elections are strange in that a vote really does do no good unless a threshold is reached.

And in non-election-based cases where action is efficacious only if a threshold is reached, the likelihood of crossing the threshold is not normally so infinitesimally small.

Hollywood Upstairs Medical College: Every single one of you has housemates, friends, neighbors, family. Whether you turn out to vote has been proven to have a demonstrable impact on whether your housemates vote. Network effects are real

That's true: my vote is worth more than just a single vote because of network effects. But it is still not worth very much. I still have an incredibly low credence that my voting will decide the election. Even if I could cause 25 Romney voters to vote Obama simply in virtue of my voting, I do not think I would change the election, and I think the influence of my voting is much, much smaller than that.

I think there's a hint of a stronger counterargument in your suggestion though. I don't think I can cause a sufficient "demonstrable impact" simply in virtue of my voting. I just don't interact with enough people. However, if we look at what my vote correlates with rather than what it has an impact on, then there might be a way around my argument that your vote doesn't matter. This would mean switching from causal decision theory to evidential decision theory though.

Causal decision theory is committed to the claim that you should do whatever will bring about the greatest gain in expected utility. Evidential decision theory replaces this with the claim that you should do whatever action gives you the best expectations for the outcome. The first tells you to do what causes good stuff to happen, and the second just tells you to try to go after good stuff... it doesn't matter whether your action caused the good stuff or not. If I vote for Obama, then I gain evidence that people like me, who think like I do, are also voting for Obama. Even though my action is casually independent of their actions, my choice to vote gives me information that others are also choosing to vote. If I don't vote, this gives me information that people like me also aren't voting. On evidential decision theory, but not causal decision theory, this makes my vote "worth" the votes of everyone else in America who is like me.

Unfortunately, most decision theorists think that causal decision theory, and not evidential decision theory, should govern our actions. I should do things in order to make the world a better place, not in order to receive news that the world is a better place. I don't have control over people across the country who are causally isolated from me, so I shouldn't let them influence my actions. This is why most decision theorists tend to be one-boxers with respect to Newcomb's Problem, and tend to think it's rational to rat on one's partner in the prisoner's dilemma.

I consider myself an evidential decision theorist though. I think it gives good answers to collective action problems such as the voting paradox. However, I am still not convinced that my voting in a national election gives me evidence that the outcome will be any different. I just don't think there are that many people who have reasoned in the way that I've reasoned in this comment: certainly not enough to change the outcome of an election. Still, I admit it gives me pause, and I think it'd be enough to get me to vote Obama if I could (I'm Canadian).
posted by painquale at 9:27 PM on October 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


My comment said "American" politics. Do you know what a trolley problem is?

I'm familiar with the concept, but it is hardly an American invention. Voting is always a trolley problem. Even in proportional systems, there might be a tiny party that matches your view exactly, but has no chance of meeting the seats quota. Do you vote for them, or give your vote to a more viable party to gain another seat?

Random foreign example: 2000 Taiwanese presidential election. Taiwan uses a FPTP system. James Soong, a KMT member, bolted the party and ran as an independent, handing the pan-Green DPP candidate Chen Shui-bian victory. When he ran again in 2012, Taiwanese voters friendly to the KMT remembered the 2000 election and punished him. KMT president Ma Ying-jeou was re-elected. Doesn't this sound familiar?

Saying voting is a trolley problem doesn't mean don't vote. How would you fix it?
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 9:29 PM on October 27, 2012


Or let me rephrase more clearly: what is an example of an election that is not a trolley problem?
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 9:32 PM on October 27, 2012


Hollywood Upstairs Medical College: “Like it or not, parties are an essential component of our political system.. So for the American left, there are two choices. Option A: install liberals office by office through Democratic primaries, and electing those officeholders to higher offices, and take over the Democratic Party's county and state committees. Option B: hope for the total destruction of the Democratic Party and replace it with an entirely new leftist party. There is no Option X which allows for a leftist party and a Democratic Party to coexist because of the FPTP system.”

I disagree. I explained this above, but again: there is an Option X. It doesn't involve some third party gaining power in an election, and all third parties are well aware of that. FPTP is unfortunate, but third parties still have a large (and sometimes even massive) effect in a FPTP system. Third parties push the two mainstream parties in the direction of outliers by necessity; in order to avoid the spoiler effect, the mainstream parties are forced to court those outliers. I didn't learn a whole lot when I was studying political science in graduate school, but this is one of the few things I've picked up. All the available data from the past century points to a strong and steady power exerted by third parties on elections. The parties are not stupid. They aim at constituencies and try to win their votes. That's how the system works.

Even in this election, it's pretty clearly true, I think. Barack Obama could very easily have painted himself as a staunch economic conservative, considering how much spending he cut in his first term. He actually pissed off a lot of Democrats with that stuff. But he's not running on that legacy, because he knows that there are third-party voters all over the base; so he's tacking that way, making sure he doesn't even really badmouth socialism. And that's the system working. That will translate into policies at some point.

I'm kind of surprised you're denying this, since you seem to know how elections work. This is the standard overview of third parties. Do you really feel as though it's flawed or incorrect?
posted by koeselitz at 9:38 PM on October 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's amazing to me but I find merit in almost everyone's argument here. Voting Democratic is only a short term solution at best. It will help things for the next few years but the Democrats are showing themselves to be sliding over to the right just as the Republicans did and I believe in the next few election cycles they will show themselves to be just as corruptible to corporate money as the Republicans have been and they will begin enacting the same sorts of repressive policies.

Nothing gets done in this country by discussing trolly theories or arguing the politics of expediency. Forgive me but that all sounds like so much dilettantism than anything else. We have a real and growing problem of massive class inequality and forced immobility of classes in our society and it's as worse now as it has ever been in my lifetime and I see it getting far more worse in the near future. The only time that anything got done to swing back that tide was when workers took to the streets and died in the streets in the 30's , when Blacks marched in the streets in the 60's and when people took to the streets in the 60's and 70's to stop the senseless wars. When people sat down on the floors and refused to move, when they walked out of their places of work and shut them down, when they were willing to risk and endure jail time to make a point - that's when things changed.

Nothing is going to change in this country by arguing political theory on the internets. Nothing is going to change while we all fight about who not to vote for. Until enough people are willing to risk a lot more than some time on the internet then things will not change. And history has shown that it usually takes things getting somewhat worse before people go about doing that.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 9:45 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know why everyone is fixated on one's vote only as a cause (or not) of an electoral outcome. The likelihood that your vote will determine the outcome is negligible, most of us seem to agree on that. However, it is not entirely the case that "National elections are strange in that a vote really does do no good unless a threshold is reached," as painquale argues (great post, btw).

Not only is an election a repeated game, but a lot happens before the actual election -- eg, polling. The percentage of people favoring Obama, what the demographics of those people are, and even what the reasons for those preferences are, are all being assessed by the media, the nation, and most carefully, by the campaigns themselves. In that regard, your intended vote, your actual vote, and even your post-election views, have an incremental, not threshold-based, effect. The more people on Obama's far left who are disaffected and tempted to vote Green or not vote, the greater incentive Obama has to move leftward.

True, the effect of your vote or non-vote may be tiny, and perhaps even zero if no one ever polls you and you abstain rather than voting Green, but it's not a threshold thing. It's a tiny effect that has zero chance of swaying the election, but a tiny but non-zero effect as a communicative gesture.

The nice thing is that, should it come to look like your vote might actually affect the outcome (ie, you live in Ohio and the polls are within 2%), you can just forgo that expressive opportunity this one time and vote for outcome. I think people have forgotten how much more sophisticated we all are about polls than we were in 2000; there is no way the Florida mistake would be made again.
posted by chortly at 9:49 PM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hollywood Upstairs Medical College: “Like it or not, parties are an essential component of our political system...”

I think I even disagree with this bit – I'll try to say why. Hopefully this will be a bit more revealing as far as why I'm disagreeing with what you're saying here.

I happen to believe that, for all its flaws, it's kind of simplistic to think of our system as merely "first past the post." The fact of the matter is that there simply is no alternative form of government that remotely resembles ours that doesn't include some variation on first past the post elections. Most of the Western democracies can have proportional elections because they're parliamentary democracies – and parliamentary democracy is most assuredly not what we have.

There are very few benefits of first past the post elections, but here's one of them: proportionally-elected systems are necessarily partisan systems led by parties and coalitions; but first-past-the-post-elected systems can (theoretically, at least) rise above partisan politics and focus on the person and character of candidates. In fact, I think that's an essential thing for our government to function properly.

So I hope you can understand why I take the tack I'm taking in this conversation. You talk about the need to vote liberal, to vote Democrat, in order to mold a party that we like that can govern. But I'm skeptical of party systems, and I think the skepticism of party systems is a natural American thing – as should it be. We're governed by people, not parties. I think it's much better to act like that, and to vote for people on the basis of their character and their ability to govern well rather than their affiliation. If nothing else, in our system it's guaranteed that they won't be allowed to share their power with a party; every elected official is her or his own person, answerable only to herself or himself at the end of the day. And that, I believe, can be a very good thing.
posted by koeselitz at 9:50 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


But Koeselitz, has the conventional wisdom about third parties really been borne out since the Ross Perot impact on the 92 election or even the 96 election? Republicans since then seem to be clinging to a base election strategy which barely even tries to appeal to any third party voters outside of a half-assed attempt to garner some limited libertarian votes. It's all about tacking way to the right in the primaries to garner base support then trying to not seem completely insane during the general election so that hopefully your reliable base voters might convince some of the more conservative democrats to vote along with them.

The Democrats kinda pay attention to the left but are really leery of adopting progressive or liberal positions that don't poll well with the general electorate. Ever since Clinton it's been about triangulating the center which Obama has brought to new heights with his microtargeting strategies and datamining.

I mean I think Democrats would love to have an additional 1%-2% of the electorate inside of their coalition but they aren't willing to risk losing those Reagan Democrats who still heavily influence elections on a national, state and local level in order to bring third party voters reliably into the tent.

Fortunately demographic shifts will probably force the Republicans to readjust their electoral strategies at least at the national level in the not so distant future in order to get those Reagan democrats more reliably so there might be some more room for liberal and progressive issues in the Democratic platform as the Republicans shift back towards the center.
posted by vuron at 9:56 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: this is way off topic, but I'm curious what you would think of Anthony King's arguments in Running Scared.
posted by russilwvong at 9:56 PM on October 27, 2012


The only time that anything got done to swing back that tide was when workers took to the streets and died in the streets in the 30's , when Blacks marched in the streets in the 60's and when people took to the streets in the 60's and 70's to stop the senseless wars. When people sat down on the floors and refused to move, when they walked out of their places of work and shut them down, when they were willing to risk and endure jail time to make a point - that's when things changed.

QFT. But don't vote for someone whose administration has behaved in a pretty sinister way toward people trying to effect actual meaningful change.
posted by kengraham at 9:57 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is why most decision theorists tend to be one-boxers with respect to Newcomb's Problem

Sorry, I messed that up. They tend to be two-boxers.
posted by painquale at 9:57 PM on October 27, 2012


But Koeselitz, has the conventional wisdom about third parties really been borne out since the Ross Perot impact on the 92 election or even the 96 election? Republicans since then seem to be clinging to a base election strategy which barely even tries to appeal to any third party voters outside of a half-assed attempt to garner some limited libertarian votes. It's all about tacking way to the right in the primaries to garner base support then trying to not seem completely insane during the general election so that hopefully your reliable base voters might convince some of the more conservative democrats to vote along with them.

Maybe I'm missing something important, but I thought the Tea Party functioned as a pseudo third party or third party threat, doing just what koeselitz says: pulling the Republican Party rightward. If the Tea Party threatened a complete break unless their policies were supported, do you think Romney would move left, move right, or not move at all?
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 10:00 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would be more sad to have drone strikes, lose the ACA, have more Citizen's United supporting justices on the SC, have set backs to women's/minority's/gay rights and have more money funelled directly to the mega rich than I would be just to have drone strikes.

I find this author's argument for not voting Obama no more compelling than Scott Adams' "well, I will vote for Romney because maybe he'll be more willing to legalize pot" argument.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:01 PM on October 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm amazed how many people in this thread do not seem to understand the electoral college. No, in fact, your vote does not count for anything if you don't live in one of the closely contested battle ground states. If you live in a solid blue (or red) state, you can vote for Jill Stien, The Libertarian guy, Romney or just stay at home. It won't make any difference at all.

Also, the brain-dead pseudo morality that claims if you don't vote for one guy you are somehow morally responsible for the other guy winning is completely ridiculous. I can't imagine arguments like that do anything other than piss people off and make them less likely to support your guy.

In fact, by that same logic, if you offend someone enough to not want to vote for your guy, then aren't you morally responsible for the other guy winning? In reality, no and neither is the person who actually cast the ballot (on the other hand, if they vote for Romney, obviously they are partially responsible)

I think there are some good reasons for voting for Obama if you live in a swing state. If you don't? Well, feel free to vote your conscience.
I believe Obama will make for a materially better president over the next four years than Romney would. As such, I'm voting for Obama. If you genuinely believe that Romney will make a better president over the next four years, then vote for Romney.
And, of course third parties don't exist, right?
If you don't vote for Obama, you are by implication voting for Romney, no matter what tortured argument you gin up for yourself to imagine that this isn't the case. Wring your hands all you want, pine for a saner electoral system (and believe me, I pine with you), but to pretend that the choice before you is other than it is, is delusional.
No. First of all it counts half as much. Voting for Romney instead of Obama increases Romney's score by two, while voting for a third party increases it by one.

Secondly, if you're not in Ohio, or a few other tightly contested states, it really doesn't make any difference at all.
You can't use a vote to send a message. There's no notes of intention attached.
Again, this is not true at all when voting for a third party.
Sorry, this election (or any other) is not practice, it's reality.
Again, if you don't live in a swing state, this is not true
The good news is that the changes we need to make are entirely doable. It will cost about $100 trillion over 20 years to move our world to an entirely sustainable energy system, and the net worth of the global top 1 percent is $103 trillion.
That is a completely absurd figure. The actual cost for the US would be about $4 trillion, and by extension about $12 trillion for the whole world, as the US uses about 25% of the world's energy. Easily doable.
And if I vote for Jill Stein, I'm de facto endorsing Romney's war with Iran, since I had the opportunity to oppose it by voting for Obama.
Mitt Romney's position on Iran is exactly the same as Obama's. Didn't you watch the Debate? The only difference is that he thinks we need to be tougher on Russia and China regarding sanctions. Neither of them have ruled out a war. The whole "There will be a war with Iran if Romney wins and there will not if Obama wins!" is a combination of pure paranoia and fantasy. I certainly agree Romney's economic policies would be worse. But Obama's plan is to cut $2.5 for every $1 raised. That isn't very good either.
Obama's to blame for teachers being fired because Congress wouldn't permit the stimulus to be any bigger than it was?
Obama never even asked for a larger stimulus (other than a few % that congress knocked it down by) Larry Summers never even presented him with the argument for one. Claiming that Obama tried to get a much larger stimulus and was denied by congress is a straight up lie.
This is a silly, dangerous attitude that encourages people to stay home.
Again, it wasn't 537 votes. It was 537 votes in Florida. If you lived in NY or CA or TX and you didn't vote for Gore in 2000, your vote made no difference at all.

The reality is, the vast majority of Americans actually do have the "luxury" of not having their vote matter, if they want to make a statement they feel comfortable with.


SERIOUSLY PEOPLE, YOUR VOTES DON'T MATTER IF YOU DON'T LIVE IN A SWING STATE. Calm down.
posted by delmoi at 10:01 PM on October 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


(Though your votes for senate and house actually do matter no matter what state you live in, not to mention local election, ballot initiatives, etc so please educate yourself about those things and vote intelligently in your state elections)
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:05 PM on October 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Mitt Romney's position on Iran is exactly the same as Obama's. Didn't you watch the Debate?

The one where he changed every foreign policy position he's expressed for the past 3 years? Do you remember when Bush ran as a 'compassionate conservative'?

Same horseshit. Different bag.
posted by jrochest at 10:08 PM on October 27, 2012


Sorry, I messed that up. They tend to be two-boxers.

I thought the recent trend was for decision theorists to figure out how to one-box with CDT.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 10:09 PM on October 27, 2012


painquale: thanks for taking the time to explain evidential decision theory!

I've been following FiveThirtyEight pretty closely. Nate Silver noted back on August 25 that there was a considerable difference between Obama's lead among registered voters and likely voters: typically, Democratic supporters are less likely to vote than Republican supporters. Usually that's enough to give Republicans a 1.5% boost. This time, it looks more like 3%. (FiveThirtyEight's forecast already takes this into account.)

delmoi: SERIOUSLY PEOPLE, YOUR VOTES DON'T MATTER IF YOU DON'T LIVE IN A SWING STATE. Calm down.

Steven Weinberg:
I am sure that a Romney administration would do much worse than an Obama administration in domestic affairs—not only the economy, but also immigration, women’s rights, and judicial appointments—and on arms control, and I have no confidence that Romney would do better in the Middle East. Therefore if I lived in a swing state like Ohio or Florida, I would doubtless swallow my disappointment and vote for Obama. In any case, I would not allow disappointment with Obama to keep me from voting for truly liberal candidates for Congress, such as Elizabeth Warren.

As it happens, I live in a strongly Republican state where, because of the wonderful workings of the electoral college, my vote for president can have no effect. So I will allow myself the luxury of expressing my disappointment with Barack Obama, by voting for all Democratic candidates, except that I will not vote for either candidate for president.
posted by russilwvong at 10:10 PM on October 27, 2012


Johnathon, the tea party tried to appear as a spontaneously generated populist uprising but it's been clearly in the pocket of the Republican party since the get go. Sure some individual tea party members are probably closer to third party in some ways but the organization as a whole has been clearly about mobilizing conservative voters against Obama.

In that regard it's basically the same as Club for Growth types funding relentlessly conservative primary challengers in every Republican party primary in order to force out any Republican legislators that even contemplate compromising.

There are some third party types that seem to be propping up Ron Paul but it's really unclear how far those guys are from the orthodox Republican position or if the Republican party will ever really actively court them.
posted by vuron at 10:10 PM on October 27, 2012


The good news is that the changes we need to make are entirely doable. It will cost about $100 trillion over 20 years to move our world to an entirely sustainable energy system, and the net worth of the global top 1 percent is $103 trillion.

That is a completely absurd figure. The actual cost for the US would be about $4 trillion, and by extension about $12 trillion for the whole world, as the US uses about 25% of the world's energy. Easily doable.


Both figures are extremely absurd for all sorts of reasons -- the electrical grid build out required to handle 100% renewables would be very different than what we have today, we also don't have the battery capacity to smooth out different peak requirements and would require using natural gas or nuclear or something that can be run on demand and not generated based on weather.

Generally even if we threw as much money at the problem as possible various shortages in both labor and material would drive prices up over what is a relatively small time frame to utterly transform the very basis of the world economy.

The US DOE has published more reasonable analysis of 20% renewables or 80% "clean" in various time frames.
posted by Shit Parade at 10:11 PM on October 27, 2012


I find this author's argument for not voting Obama no more compelling than Scott Adams' "well, I will vote for Romney because maybe he'll be more willing to legalize pot" argument.
Well, Scott Adams is a pretty huge idiot.
The one where he changed every foreign policy position he's expressed for the past 3 years?
The only position he actually changed was the one about being out of Afghanistan by 2014, as far as I know.

He's never explicitly said he wants to go to war with Iran, as far as I know.

Seriously, claiming that not voting for Obama = voting for war with Iran is just not based on any kind of rational analysis.

In fact, it would be much more politically difficult for Romney to start a war with Iran then Obama. It would almost certainly cost Romney re-election if he did it. Obama doesn't have to worry about re-election, and as we can see from this thread liberals who would be horrified if Romney started a war with Iran wouldn't have a problem if Obama did - just like tons of people who were horrified with Bush's civil rights record suddenly had not problem with the same policies when implemented by Obama.

Either way, there isn't any evidence that Romney is more interested with a war in Iran then Obama.
posted by delmoi at 10:16 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


SERIOUSLY PEOPLE, YOUR VOTES DON'T MATTER IF YOU DON'T LIVE IN A SWING STATE. Calm down.

Caps Lock Day is over, however regrettably. (Besides, in the FPP, the author suggests that progressives should vote third party, even in swing states.)
posted by raysmj at 10:18 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


... the tea party tried to appear as a spontaneously generated populist uprising but it's been clearly in the pocket of the Republican party since the get go.

I'm not sure what this means. Does it mean that the people who marched supporting a Tea Party agenda were never going to vote for anyone other than a Republican, regardless of how the Republican candidates behaved? Does it mean that the Tea Party was funded by the Republican Party itself? Or by (radical?) conservatives with lots of money who also fund the Republican Party?

In any event, I've read a lot of material on the Tea Party but still feel like I know very little.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 10:22 PM on October 27, 2012


All of this hand-wringing and rehashing of Nader-bashing is silly. Unless you live in Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin or maybe N Carolina or Nevada you can with a VERY clear conscience vote for whomever you like. Don't let anyone tell you any different.

And for the record, blaming the Iraq War on pacifists who voted for Nader is fucking idiotic.
posted by willie11 at 10:23 PM on October 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


For someone who is not very interested in war with Iran, Romney sure surrounds himself with a bunch of defense hawks and does a bunch of sabre rattling.

Now granted sabre rattling is a time honored strategy in Presidential elections particularly on the right and both candidates are extremely quick to affirm that yes the US loves Israel every opportunity they get but I think it's also interesting to look at the people surrounding and advising Romney on foreign policy and see that in this area he's pretty clearly in the mold of Bush II and that turned out so well for us.

I think an invasion of Iran is somewhat unlikely but I don't think it would be out of the realm of possibility for a pre-emptive strike using cruise missiles to be launched against Iran strategic sites.
posted by vuron at 10:23 PM on October 27, 2012


You do your part in the voting booth to influence its course, you advocate as a citizen for particular policies afterward...

Not even remotely how democracy works or even COULD work.

Why is any candidate going to listen to you AFTER the election?


What the ...? Tell that to Martin Luther King. Or AIPAC, for that matter. I mean, seriously, this is exactly how democracy works. How else would it?

Here's how I see it: Obama is definitely not as progressive as I'd like him to be. He's severely disappointed me on a number of fronts. But I am voting for him, urging others to do so and have donated to his reelection campaign.

Because either Romney or Obama is going to be president, and I prefer Obama. It's that simple. Jill Stein is not going to be President, so why would I vote for her?

Further, I have absolutely no reason to believe Jill Stein would be a good president. Certainly not a better president than Obama. She's a great activist but she's never even held elected office before. What makes her qualified to be president, besides the fact that I agree with her on many issues?
posted by lunasol at 10:23 PM on October 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


jrochest, please know that someone sitting here in this bar in Brooklyn nursing an uncomfortable case of the election willies thinks you are the bee's knees.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 10:24 PM on October 27, 2012


Are people actually worried Obama is going to lose this election?
posted by edeezy at 10:30 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


SERIOUSLY PEOPLE, YOUR VOTES DON'T MATTER IF YOU DON'T LIVE IN A SWING STATE.

The Romney/Ryan team is so scary that watching the polls these days is like waiting for a biopsy to come back. And this damn thing is gonna come down to freaking Ohio, again. I am sick and tired of watching the fate of my homeland being decided by one little red state.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:35 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


edeezy: Are people actually worried Obama is going to lose this election?

The current prediction on FiveThirtyEight is that the popular vote will be 50.3% Obama, 48.7% Romney. It's very close.
posted by russilwvong at 10:35 PM on October 27, 2012


Are people actually worried Obama is going to lose this election?

If you have been paying close attention this election season, you know how ridiculous it is that Mitt Romney is this close - tied in the national polls, losing slightly but significantly in the electoral college.

That a guy like Romney who has disdain for half the country, clearly favors the wealthy, lies on national television again and again (his campaign comes out afterward and says he supports the opposite of what he said), has a party who put laws in place in lots of different states clearly designed to suppress the vote, won't release his taxes because we all (no matter who you're supporting) know there is some damaging stuff in there, and who jumped behind that "you built it" strawman invention still to this day, supporting republicans who say awful things about rape, who wants to defund planned parenthood and reduce spending for public freaking television and who thinks it is fair that millionaires pay a lower tax rate than an average American (said aboard his private plane) - that this goofball is this close this late in the game - YES that is worrisome.
posted by cashman at 10:37 PM on October 27, 2012 [10 favorites]


edeezy: “Are people actually worried Obama is going to lose this election?”

russilwvong: “The current prediction on FiveThirtyEight is that the popular vote will be 50.3% Obama, 48.7% Romney. It's very close.”

Er – the popular vote is close, but isn't it kind of crucial to point out that that same FiveThirtyEight is giving Barack Obama a 73.6% chance of winning?
posted by koeselitz at 10:40 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought the recent trend was for decision theorists to figure out how to one-box with CDT.

Yeah, but as you (and Spohn) say, it's a recent trend. That Spohn article looks neat, but it's techy enough that skimming it won't do; I'll have to sit down with it later.
posted by painquale at 10:41 PM on October 27, 2012


to everyone who sez their vote doesn't matter 'cuz they don't live in a swing state:

it's VERY likely that the popular vote will matter, if not for outcome then for the ripple effect (ie, claiming a mandate, political capital that can be used to pass legislation, etc).

EVERY VOTE MATTERS.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 10:42 PM on October 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


koeselitz: Er – the popular vote is close, but isn't it kind of crucial to point out that that same FiveThirtyEight is giving Barack Obama a 73.6% chance of winning?

Sure--and as the clock ticks down, the chances of Romney staging a further comeback diminish. Still, at this point Romney has a better than 1 in 4 chance of winning.

List of swing states, which at this point could still be won by either side:
Wisconsin (Obama leads by 3.9% in the FiveThirtyEight model, as of Thursday)
Nevada (2.8%)
Ohio (2.3%)
New Hampshire (2.2%)
Iowa (2.0%)
Colorado (0.6%)
Virginia (0.3%)
Florida (Romney leads by 1.3%)
North Carolina (3.1%)
posted by russilwvong at 10:43 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well I bought 900 shares of Obama on Intrade yesterday so I hope 538 is right.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 10:46 PM on October 27, 2012


Are people actually worried Obama is going to lose this election?

As a woman, yes. How could I not be worried? The bigotry and backwardsness I've seen emerging from the conservatives in my life re: women's rights just because Romney is even a candidate makes me terrified. Some of these people legitimately believe that if Romney is elected, it's permission from God to keep believing the horrible shit they believe.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:49 PM on October 27, 2012 [12 favorites]


Regarding abortion rights: If George W Bush couldn't seriously curtail the right to an abortion with GOP majorities in both houses, post 9/11 popularity and a surging conservative base I don't think Romney will be able to.

Supreme Court justices must be confirmed by the senate, which will stay in Democratic control this year.
posted by willie11 at 11:00 PM on October 27, 2012


Not knowing anything about Matt Stoller, I had to look him up. Unsurprisingly, he's a mid-30s white male, and given that he went to Harvard, I think I can make a few guesses about how much money he had growing up and has now.

I'm not surprised that he wrote this, because it takes a very definite sort of non-engagement with a large part of society to essentially suggest throwing children, minorities, and women under the bus to make a voting point.

Idiot.
posted by barnacles at 11:02 PM on October 27, 2012 [19 favorites]


The only time that anything got done to swing back that tide was when workers took to the streets and died in the streets in the 30's , when Blacks marched in the streets in the 60's and when people took to the streets in the 60's and 70's to stop the senseless wars.

But it did not require a third political party to oust one of the major parties to do these things. The important thing about a political party, IMO, is that it actually has power to get people elected, and the Democratic party has this. It seems to me it makes the most sense to rally support and fight for issues within whatever organizations are available, including the Green Party, but it wouldn't necessarily require ousting the Democratic Party to make big changes; it would just require creating enough political power to move them to the left.

Though he doesn't talk about it, Obama has done a lot to help people by expanding unemployment, food stamps, and supporting medicaid, creating ACA, suppurting gay rights and women's rights, etc. If the Republicans reverse this progress, it could have a fairly immediate, devastating impact on a lot of people.

Causal decision theory is committed to the claim that you should do whatever will bring about the greatest gain in expected utility.

In all of American history, a single vote has never determined the outcome of a presidential election... In a 2012 Economic Inquiry article, Columbia University political scientist Andrew Gelman, statistician Nate Silver, and University of California, Berkeley, economist Aaron Edlin use poll results from the 2008 election cycle to calculate that the chance of a randomly selected vote determining the outcome of a presidential election is about one in 60 million.

That one vote would most certainly be in a swing state. Seems to me the global impact of Obama winning the election over Romney could be in the billions, making it easily a rational choice within the 'causal decision theory' model for someone in a swing state to take the time to vote if it is worth as much as $10 in 'expected utility' to them. And this depends on how one quantifies things like equal rights. Maybe just having a 1/60M chance to have this much impact on so many lives is enough rational motivation for many people to vote.

Even if I could cause 25 Romney voters to vote Obama simply in virtue of my voting, I do not think I would change the election, and I think the influence of my voting is much, much smaller than that.

I wonder if the networking effect could be much larger for some people. Its not that one directly cause 25 others to vote, but one may play a role in influencing others and they may go on to influence more people and possibly create powerful 'memes' and so on.
posted by Golden Eternity at 11:03 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are people actually worried Obama is going to lose this election?

Me in 1980: There's no way that idiot Reagan is going to get elected.

Me in 2000: There's no way that ignoramus Bush is going to get elected.

Me in 2012: I have a very bad record predicting what kind of dipshit the American people are willing to elect President.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:07 PM on October 27, 2012 [14 favorites]


I'm not surprised that he wrote this, because it takes a very definite sort of non-engagement with a large part of society to essentially suggest throwing children, minorities, and women under the bus to make a voting point.

Did you read that article? He literally makes the opposite point, going to great lengths to describe how Obama's shitty first term have left those least fortunate among us worse off.
posted by willie11 at 11:07 PM on October 27, 2012


You poor Obamabots only just discovered a few nights ago what a crushingly dull technocrat Barack Obama is—but you’re still making the mistake of assuming that his snoozer performance against Mitt Romney during Wednesday’s debate was some sort of aberration. As Mark Ames argued way way back in this February 1, 2008 write-up for Alternet, Obama always was a neoliberal dullard— you people were just too starry-eyed and desperate-to-believe to see Obama for what he really was, and is. So blame yourselves for being 4-1/2 years too late to reality.
posted by clarknova at 11:14 PM on October 27, 2012


Er – the popular vote is close, but isn't it kind of crucial to point out that that same FiveThirtyEight is giving Barack Obama a 73.6% chance of winning?

I still find those odds uncomfortable. Draw a card from a deck: if it's a diamond, Romney is president. Brr.

Nate Silver's in an unhappy position. He's giving an Obama victory such a high probability that if Romney wins, Silver's reputation and career will take a big hit. People will forget that his forecast was a probability. They'll just remember that he got it wrong (which might be rational: how else are you supposed to verify the prediction was accurate?). But he's not predicting such an overwhelming victory that he needn't worry. There's a 1 in 4 chance he'll "get it wrong" and be discredited. There's pressure on pollsters to make debates look a lot closer than they actually are... predicting a coin flip means you don't put yourself on the line.

In all of American history, a single vote has never determined the outcome of a presidential election... In a 2012 Economic Inquiry article, Columbia University political scientist Andrew Gelman, statistician Nate Silver, and University of California, Berkeley, economist Aaron Edlin use poll results from the 2008 election cycle to calculate that the chance of a randomly selected vote determining the outcome of a presidential election is about one in 60 million.

I was surprised when that analysis came out that the odds were so high. Those are high enough that it would be worth my voting, I think... the difference in utility between Obama and Romney is also certainly 60 million times greater than the disutility of my going to the voting booth. Still, I think things are more complicated than the analysis makes out. If a national election really did come down to a single vote, people would flip out over voter error, the Supreme Court would be involved, and we'd probably have a redo or SCOTUS would install one of them or something. So, it seems that the scenario that would cause my vote to matter isn't as simple as the scenario in which Obama gets one vote more than Romney. It's the scenario in which Obama gets one vote more than a number that would make people flip out. But this does not seem like a determinate line, and there are various degrees of flipping out. I start having trouble thinking about the probabilities at this point.
posted by painquale at 11:20 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Koeselitz, I see where you are coming from. We do not have a parliamentary democracy, but our Congress is increasingly voting along parliamentary-style blocs and it seems like this won't change easily. Americans have long held a distrust of the party infrastructure like you, but as our electorate has grown in size and scale, simply voting for an individual has become more difficult. On the local level, School Board and even State Legislature, voters will freely break party lines because it's easier for an individual candidate to cultivate a sufficient organization independent of the party. You might even know the candidate or the candidate's family personally. The electorates are small enough to overcome party lines.

But how does one win 300,000 votes for a Congressional seat without the pooled resources and economy of scale a party provides? As a thought experiment, if we dismantled the party system, I think that only wealthy dilettantes (even more so than now) would be able to run for office because they'd be more able to cultivate an organization, dedicated to themselves instead of pooled as a party, to win.

The kinds of candidates that can cut through the party infrastructure have been independently wealthy. The politicians, fewer than they should be, that did not come from the elite all came up with party support.

As such, uneasy as it might make Americans, the parties are here to stay. The odds that you'll personally know your Congressman are much lower now than they used to be. It used to be you could just walk into the White House, but there are too many of us now.

But he's not running on that legacy, because he knows that there are third-party voters all over the base; so he's tacking that way, making sure he doesn't even really badmouth socialism.

I'm not quite sure this is completely true. It's partially true, but think of the issues that he tacked to the left on: gay marriage, a reprieve for DREAMers, health care and student loan reform. These are issues that are important to key base constituencies and were aimed at keeping these non-voters converted into voters coming back in 2012. Those weren't really overtures to the Ralph Nader crowd, were they?

Obama did expand the electorate in a way Gore and Kerry didn't, which gave him a bit of wiggle room to ignore the Ralph Nader crowd by replacing some of them with entirely new voters. Hispanics, gays, and young people who were non-voters and non-donors ranked the issues Obama did tack to the left on high enough that Obama gave them something.

In the end, fine, if a voter really thinks drone strikes are their #1 issue, I can hardly convince them to vote for Obama. It's their conscience, and arguments that downrank their issues won't convince them . Either way, though, I think they'll have more luck focusing their efforts on primaries within the Democratic Party, but I'll grant that they don't have to vote for Obama to do that. I'm at least comforted that Obama's surge turnout might win it without you.

The main objection to bringing up the specter of a Romney presidency is that the premise of the argument is flawed as a trolley problem, but it would be very hard to deny that Romney is better on the issue and that converting one vote from Obama to Stein is a net Romney +1 over Obama. It's a net Romney -1 over Stein, but she's not going to win.

I'm kind of surprised you're denying this, since you seem to know how elections work. This is the standard overview of third parties. Do you really feel as though it's flawed or incorrect?

Nah. You have a point. But the spoiler effect of third parties is also pretty well documented and standard. So the question boils down to whether Obama's sins are so grievous that the (less concrete) positive effect of switching from Obama to third party outweigh the (more concrete) spoiler effect. I will agree with you that there are times when this will be a necessary step. So is it worth it to me? No. But if you've carefully weighed the spoiler effect, and that it's still worth it to you...well, there's not a whole lot I can say or do. I did my best.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 11:39 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


"You" not meaning Koeselitz specifically, since he mentioned upthread he was voting Obama.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 11:41 PM on October 27, 2012


Everyone clap your hands! Clap your hands if you believe or Tinkerbell is going to die!
posted by ecmendenhall at 12:07 AM on October 28, 2012


A significant (or, at the very least, vocal) portion of the left is really, really terrible at realpolitik, and completely unwilling to admit that elections work as they do.

Sorry, but your vote for Jill Stein will increase her chances of becoming president from essentially zero to essentially zero, a difference of essentially zero. (Let's all say it together with Slick Willie: Zeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-roooooooooooooo.)

Instead, how about making your vote actually count for something?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:12 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


[A couple of notes here: This is one of those threads where overwrought, overemotional, hyperbolic stuff really pushes the train right off the bridge. Calling people terrorists is way out of line; please don't do that. All caps bold screaming doesn't help anything; please don't do that. Sarcastic performance art isn't helpful; please act like adults here. This isn't your ranting, cackling, heaving, shrieking, stabby thread; you can do better.]
posted by taz at 12:14 AM on October 28, 2012 [7 favorites]


Sorry, but your vote for Jill Stein will increase her chances of becoming president from essentially zero to essentially zero, a difference of essentially zero. (Let's all say it together with Slick Willie: Zeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-roooooooooooooo.)

Okay, but what's the probability that a vote for Stein will push the Green Party over the 5% mark needed for federal funding as a "minor party"?

And what about the signalling aspect pushed by koeselitz and others?

Everyone agrees that no third party is going to win this election. So, that must not be what the debate is about.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 12:20 AM on October 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Nate Silver's in an unhappy position. He's giving an Obama victory such a high probability that if Romney wins, Silver's reputation and career will take a big hit.

It's an interesting idea. Would his career really take that much of a hit? Do most people hold pundits' feet to the fire, after they are found to be wrong? Not saying Mr. Silver is a screamer like Jim Kramer, but that guy guessed incorrectly on the market more than 50% of the time. That's worse than making a decision off of flipping a coin and Kramer had a job and was taken seriously, apparently, for years. Would the NYTimes really part ways with Nate Silver, if Romney wins?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:13 AM on October 28, 2012


Twice as many Florida Democrats voted for George W. Bush than total Floridians voted for Nader (many of whom simply would not have otherwise voted). It's time for the Democrats to take some fucking responsibility instead of repeating the American Dolchstosslegende.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:00 AM on October 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not a progressive, but I'm furious at them, and at moderate liberals, for being such atrociously bad political organizers, and for doing such a poor job of selling their policies to the electorate. The main reason that the Teabaggers have been so successful is that they have been working very hard to do 'grass-roots networking', and all of the things that the left wing bragged about being so proficient. They've registered voters, kept in constant contact with them, followed up to make sure that they vote in primaries, and goaded them into making a presence at rallies and public meetings.

OK, granted that the main reason for the GOP's current success is the brilliant propaganda techniques employed by Fox News, but I don't understand how the opposition could have done such a dismal job of communication, given that they/we are selling "the truth" and facts rather than cognitive dissonance.
posted by The Sprout Queen at 2:15 AM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not voting for Jill Stein because I want her to win, because she can't, I'm voting for Jill Stein because I want to eventually be able to vote for a president who is an actual liberal. Obama is not that president.

I am tired of the way the Democratic Party holds me hostage will threats that the other guy will be worse. Yeah, I know. I'm a woman and I'm queer. I know. I want actual positive action on the democrats' part, not just scaremongering. Where the fuck was the Democratic Party while the innumerable restrictions on abortion were passed in the last four years? And they're supposed to be my champions? Fuck that.

Let them see a swing further left in the voting polls, maybe they'll pay some attention to liberal issues next time around.

Mine is a calculated vote. I want more politicians like Jill Stein so I'm voting for Jill Stein. I do not want a Republican controlled senate, so I'm voting for Elizabeth Warren. If Obama can't carry Massachusetts, he has bigger problems than my fucking vote.
posted by lydhre at 2:39 AM on October 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Election 20,012 BC - Where the Candidates Stand on the Issues

Obama vs. Romney Is Not The Real Fight For America's Soul

Where's the Left's Equivalent of Paul Ryan?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:40 AM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Good links, the man of twists and turns.

The last link (Paul Ryan's equivalent?) crystallizes for me why I'm voting for Stein. She's the only liberal candidate who represents my views. The more votes she gets, the more my views must be recognized by whoever wins the election.

One question. In the Election 20,012 BC article. What's the Sun God? I couldn't figure out what the Sun God is.
posted by surplus at 3:37 AM on October 28, 2012


It seems to me that the Democrat Left might be able to learn a bit from the Republican Right about this. The Republican right has been highly successful at skewing the party platform their way. They've done this, in part, by winning at playing chicken. In Congressional primaries, they've put up their own Tea Party candidates against moderate candidates. Sometimes they've won, and sometimes they've lost, but the key thing is that they've shown a willingness to lose elections to the other party rather than suffer a centrist candidate of their own. That's meant that the party leadership, and their Congressman and Senators as individuals, have had to shift policy in their direction.

However, it's notable that this has all been at the Congressional level. In Presidential elections, the Tea Party and the Right has always swung right behind the Republican candidate once the primaries are over. The stakes in a Presidential election are too high for the base to play chicken against the party leadership.

So yes in general, it can be a good strategy for the base to show a willingness to risk losing elections rather than compromise too far. But the place for that is really Congressional and local elections. The consequences of losing a Presidential election to send a message are too high. Also a single election isn't as good as multiple elections for sending a message; since it doesn't display a determined, sustained commitment to play hardball over the long term, and a single election is subject to individual factors that can obscure the message.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:41 AM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


The left's equivalent of Paul Ryan: maybe Elizabeth Warren?
posted by adrianhon at 3:53 AM on October 28, 2012


Nader voters gave us the Iraq War. They didn't know it at the time (though it wasn't hard to guess), but they did.

Bullshit.

Let me count the ways:

A) Bush stole the election
B) Gore was happy to let him
C) There were more Jewish voters voting for Pat Buchanan in Florida than the supposed winning margin was between Bush and Gore -- why not blame them?
D) or the Communist candidate for that matter, who also got more votes

But mostly:

E) Democrats in congress did nothing to stop the war
F) All those hardnosed realists did their best in 2001-2003 to fuck over the anti-war movement, more interested in staying pure by making sure the Maoists (remember ANSWER) knew their place than getting an effective movement started
G) the Democratic Party, as a whole, was more than happy to go along with the war.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:00 AM on October 28, 2012 [10 favorites]


DU: "The fact of the matter is that Democrats need votes from the Left. They can get them either through fear and intimidation ("Romney will get your kids killed by Iranian nukes!!!11") or they can earn them.

Which is the liberal path?
"

I don't get this. The answer is both. Obama may not have done things in your preferred way (or mine), but he has unquestionably advanced the agenda of the left. He has also advanced the agenda of the center and the right at other times. Nothing Romney has said, aside from his unconvincing debate walkbacks of his entire political career, makes me believe he will advance any of the issues I care about as a moderate leftist and will in fact work to dismantle many things I see as essential to the social compact we all share.

I have a lot of complaints about Obama, but to say that he has not advanced our shared agenda in any way is outright denial of reality. Progress need not stop here. We didn't not get Medicare because Social Security was enacted.

I find the drone policy distressing, but I conversely find things that save hundreds of thousands of lives to be heartening. Just having science in charge of government sponsored scientific research again will save countless lives as progress is made in medicine, energy, and other fields. Obamacare, for all its faults will save hundreds of thousands more by allowing poor people to have regular access to health care.

Do I like this moral calculus? No. I hate it. But it is the reality that I presently inhabit. Would that I be in another universe where the religious right and neoconservative warmongers had not taken over the national discourse. There is zero chance that we will get satisfaction on the drone issue either through the executive branch or the judicial branch if Romney gets to appoint justices. With Obama, we have the chance to push judges not bound by the stranglehold of right wing ideology and its cooption of the Constitution for its own ends. Surely you remember what happened when Bush tried to appoint Harriet Miers. She was right wing, but nowhere near as right wing as her replacement that was demanded by the Republicans.

So yes, a lot of the arguments for Obama are actually arguments against Romney. That is not universally the case, however. As I said earlier, Obama has made progress on health care, equality, energy, and many other issues. He's also done things I disagree with on some of those issues. That's sort of inherent in someone else being President and not me. Other people's values do not align precisely with my own. Other people's knowledge does not align precisely with my own. In the end, all I can do is pick the guy that most closely represents me that is likely to win and the guy I think will be more responsive to being persuaded to come to my view.

And failing that, I prefer to clean up less damage rather than more. Say what you will about Obama, but I have no doubt that Romney will leave a larger mess to dig ourselves out of. Obama is at least cognizant of the very real dangers we face both on moral issues and economic issues. Romney doesn't even realize the issues we're talking about exist as issues morally and he blames our economic woes on China, for fuck's sake. How can you seriously consider allowing someone who has little conception of the situation we're in a greater chance of becoming President than absolutely necessary? I know I'm banging the fear drum again, but people will die at the hands of Romney's foreign and domestic policy as surely as people die by the hellfire raining down from Obama's drones.

In my view your share of responsibility for our country's misdeeds changes not one whit by your vote for either candidate. As long as you remain a citizen, you remain responsible. That you disagree, or even actively work against it, is at best a mitigating factor. We're all in this together. For good or ill, for better or for worse, in good times and bad, we're all in this together. If I didn't believe that, I'd just be a Randian fucktard like all the other John Galts we seem to be surrounded with these days.
posted by wierdo at 4:28 AM on October 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


This thread appears to have covered the full spectrum of blame in 2000 for Bush beating Gore. From bad things, and people, happening in Florida, to third party votes which may or may not have otherwise gone to Gore.

One thing missing. Gore himself and his local crew. He lost his own home state of Tennessee. For the love of Cthulhu, how do you that? Even Walter Mondale, in the blowout of 1984, managed to carry his own home state, when he lost everything else.

I'm not sure about the point of apportioning blame for 2000 - apart from trying to make sure that history doesn't repeat itself. But if blame must be apportioned, then the Tennessee Democrats and Gore himself must take a bit of it. That state, his home state, would have gotten Al the presidency.
posted by Wordshore at 4:33 AM on October 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, Gore's campaign tactic of running away from the most popular President in recent history did him no favors at all.

I'm not sure about the point of apportioning blame for 2000

Well, in this case, it's a) to remove the deserved blame the Democrats have for their complicity in the Iraq War and b) to bludgeon people into voting Democratic.

And for the record, I voted Obama and will again.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:38 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


My theory of elections, which is mine:

Always vote for the person or party that's the closest to your ideology, values and priorities and don't worry about whether or not they're electable. Strategic voting is for people who are content with the status quo.

Every presidential election there will be the usual handwringing about how you need to chose the lesser evil because otherwise the big scary evil will come in and if the Democratic president gets elected, things will get slowly more bad, but there will be isolated incidents in which things get slightly better.

So that's what you can look forward to, a long slow descent into hell, or Romney.

The people who don't vote in presidential elections have the right of it; if all you do is meaningless or just confirms the status quo, why bother?
posted by MartinWisse at 4:46 AM on October 28, 2012


Bullshit.

Let me count the ways:

A) Bush stole the election
B) Gore was happy to let him
C) There were more Jewish voters voting for Pat Buchanan in Florida than the supposed winning margin was between Bush and Gore -- why not blame them?
D) or the Communist candidate for that matter, who also got more votes

But mostly:

E) Democrats in congress did nothing to stop the war
F) All those hardnosed realists did their best in 2001-2003 to fuck over the anti-war movement, more interested in staying pure by making sure the Maoists (remember ANSWER) knew their place than getting an effective movement started
G) the Democratic Party, as a whole, was more than happy to go along with the war.


Except...
A. But he wouldn't have been able to, or it would have been harder, without the Nader votes.
B. Cite please?
C. But there wouldn't have been more without the Nader votes. I myself don't blame Naderites for voting for Ralph, I like old Ralph, but unintended consequences are still consequences.
D. See above.
E. But the war was started by the Republican president. Do you think Gore would have started the Iraq war, or that Congress would have declared war unilaterally?
F. Maoists? Are you kidding here? There were Maoists?
G. Try holding an elected office while opposing a war in the US. As much as I hate it, the reality is a Member of Congress cannot oppose any war that has the slightest justification, no matter how spurious, once a president calls for one. That is one of the reasons why its important to elect the candidate least likely to call for war.
posted by tommyD at 4:47 AM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's the thing.

I'm further to the left than most "progressives"; I consider myself a Marxist and have for most of the past 8 years been an organized socialist. But in 2008 I supported Obama.

My support was wholly tactical. I thought that with Obama we could get a better terrain of struggle – that there was serious ground to his left that could be exploited. I thought there could be an Employee Free Choice Act (which went right down the Memory Hole...) that could be used to spur the labor movement back to life. That the economic crisis might be the place where a massive jobs plan focused on rebuilding our energy infrastructure could begin. That Obama would at least end the Iraq War, which I hated, and close Guantanamo.

But that whole terrain of struggle was cut out under our feet. Where I particularly felt it was in health care. There was a series of local meetings that were held right after the election for former Obama campaign supporters, when they talked about issues that could be pushed forward now. One of the main things was healthcare. There were meetings I was at where literally 30 out of 35 people were for single-payer health care (in the liberal parts of southern NJ) but the 2 conveners of the meeting, who were from Obama's organization, shut down discussion of the question because they couldn't control it.

It took on a national form in 2009. Obama and the circle around him literally cordoned off single-payer and strong-armed it out of the debate. Every group that had been for single-payer was either co-opted to supporting Obama's conservative Republican plan, or told that it would have no part in the debate. And the people who'd said we would have this terrific ground of struggle were now silent out of fear of embarrassing Obama. When push came to shove they couldn't organize rallies to support it because the grassroots wanted single-payer, and the Tea Party took over the national conversation. And right up until Occupy they held it.

Obama's moved the country rightward and only the right has protested him. Most of what passes for the left - outside of the small marginalized groups like the ones I've belonged to for most of the last 8 years - have refused to move because they don't want to embarrass him. But everything worth defending, whether it's fighting against wars or for abortion rights or health care or civil rights, has to be won on the streets. What governments do is, at best, a reflection of what we've done there.

And the irony is that a whole generation of leftists has been fighting since the late 1960s to move the Democrats leftward. They've done everything they can, fighting corrupt incumbents in office and building mass pressure groups and bringing every union in line with the Democratic Party. But the machine has devoured them. The machine has money, and in today's American system it is money that talks. The machine has used the threat of the ultra-right against us at every turn; we must support the right wing of the Democrats because the Republicans are worse.

But where I'm sitting the Democrats are more competent at doing evil. Obama's "Race to the Top" is privatizing education in ways that Bush could only dream about. Obama has pushed forward drone warfare and joined in on new wars, wars that aren't even vaguely declared, and declared himself to have the right to kill anyone anywhere. His biggest chest-thumping moment is the fact that special forces snuck into a compound and killed someone - an unspeakably horrible person, but Obama is basically saying he is all powerful to kill anyone he deems fit. Obama's America is not one where activists have ground to change things; it's one where we are defending people from FBI raids and witchhunts.

President Romney would be horrible. He would steal from insurance programs that people have paid into for decades, just to give tax cuts to the wealthy and pad the pockets of defense contractors. But for fuck's sake, Obama would do that too. The difference is that the left would protest Romney doing it. Roe v. Wade could be overturned by a Supreme Court justice that Romney appoints, but Obama has made it clear that it is not a litmus test for his justices either. Romney is not for clean energy - but neither is Obama, who panders to natural gas interests (i.e., fracking) Yes, Romney could take us to war with Iran; but if things go to a point where the imperialists see the need for a war with Iran, Obama will take us there too. Romney would be awful - but four more years of Obama would be awful too. And until progressives leave the Democrats, things will keep getting worse.

So I'm not going to support Obama. I live in New Jersey, where we have generous ballot access laws and I can vote for a socialist, and my vote doesn't count anyway. Eugene Debs said it best: "I'd rather vote for what I want and not get it, than vote for what I don't want and get it."
posted by graymouser at 5:26 AM on October 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Another major difference between Romney and President Obama: how many people will die due to lack of healthcare
posted by hydropsyche at 5:32 AM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


He lost his own home state of Tennessee. For the love of Cthulhu, how do you that?

Why don't you ask Mitt Romney? Win or lose, he's likely not going to take either Michigan, his home state, or Masschusetts, the state he governed. I'm not sure what this says about Mitt Romney except that, like Al Gore, he was able to win elected office in a state not politically oriented towards his party. That seems like a good thing, not a bad one.
posted by escabeche at 5:33 AM on October 28, 2012


Try holding an elected office while opposing a war in the US. As much as I hate it, the reality is a Member of Congress cannot oppose any war that has the slightest justification, no matter how spurious, once a president calls for one. That is one of the reasons why its important to elect the candidate least likely to call for war.

This is of course nonsense when it comes to the War on Iraq, opposition to which should've been the easiest thing to do even for centrist Democrats: What, you want to abandon Afghanistan and the hunt for Osama just because you have daddy issues?

But they either caved or actively supported the war.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:52 AM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's not about "daddy issues." It's about getting reelected. Craven, I know, but the way it is. We are talking about the US here right? Blame our electorate or our culture, or whatever, but you will be called unpatriotic if you don't support war in America, and it's a political death sentence.
posted by tommyD at 5:59 AM on October 28, 2012


Brandon Blatcher is right that Stoller's main argument is that this election is a meet and greet networking opportunity for the future. Personally, I'm content to do my meet & greet on Metafilter.

As someone who voted for McGovern, I can remind you that the concept of getting a more liberal candidate out of the Democrats will not solve the problem, which seems to exist at a lower level than the political. It has to do with how people inform themselves and think about things. It has to do with education. It has to do with media. It has to do with culture. The idea behind democracy was that people could evaluate and make choices and that seems to have been hacked. I'm not sure how to fix it, but it seems to be getting worse.

Meanwhile, if my vote doesn't count because I'm not in a swing state, then I can vote to make my state swing more by voting Stein.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:25 AM on October 28, 2012


One thing missing. Gore himself and his local crew. He lost his own home state of Tennessee. For the love of Cthulhu, how do you that? Even Walter Mondale, in the blowout of 1984, managed to carry his own home state, when he lost everything else.

This is meaningless, grandpa-ranting political discourse. It is silly. Very few people are going to vote for someone they don't like, just because he is from nearby.

Every vote matters. "Guaranteed" blue states are only that way because a bunch of individuals go out and vote.

Conscience doesn't matter on election day. To say it does is self indulgent. The way political action works in the US is to support your preferred candidates throughout the primary process and lower ticket candidates all throughout their careers to help them move up. But then on election day, you have to be pragmatic. You are only left with two viable choices. You can vote for the person who most closely aligns with your ideals, or not. It IS a short term compromise. It is saying "I hoped for better, but this is the best we can do this time around."

If the drone strikes are your metric, "punishing" Obama with a loss will have the reverse effect, because there is ZERO reason to believe that Romney is going to do anything but use them more. If Obama wins, you'll have someone who might listen to an electorate that is pissed off about their use. Of Romney does, you won't. Voting in a way that lets Romney win will put MORE blood on your hands, not less.

Letting Obama lose will do nothing to help more leftist policies in the future. Letting Obama lose gives more power to the right. There will be no coalition of liberal fringes to pick up the pieces next time around, because the right will use their four years of power to decimate their ideas, sliding the Overton window further to the right. The goal is to slide it back to the left. The only way to accomplish this is to have people in power who will do *some* progressive things and hopefully be able to show that they work better.

And even if building a liberal coalition from the rubble of a lost election were possible, it would take a long time. Even if in some fantasy world it only took until the next presidential election, that's four years of worse things happening to a lot of people. I'm not comfortable with that.
posted by gjc at 6:32 AM on October 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


> Very few people are going to vote for someone they don't like, just because he is from nearby.

Tennessee liked him enough to elect him to the US senate. He was there 1985-93 and was not ever voted out. (He left to run as Clinton's VP.)
posted by jfuller at 7:01 AM on October 28, 2012


Tennessee skewed much further right by the time Clinton left office, however. And Gore was running a national/Electoral College race in 2000, not one where he had to shift right along with Tennessee. This is old news, easily figured out.
posted by raysmj at 7:11 AM on October 28, 2012


Look, it is simple: you have the legislature, executive (through the president) and the judiciary. And you have three political positions, crazies, right-leaning and liberals.

The Crazies partially control one of them (the House) and seemingly have veto over the other half (Senate via filibuster) The judiciary is still right-leaning, but is on the verge of going all Crazy.

I think any reasonable liberal should consider not voting straight Democrat only when you have at least two of the three wings back in liberal control.
posted by the cydonian at 7:19 AM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


taz: [A couple of notes here: This is one of those threads where overwrought, overemotional, hyperbolic stuff really pushes the train right off the bridge. Calling people terrorists is way out of line; please don't do that. All caps bold screaming doesn't help anything; please don't do that. Sarcastic performance art isn't helpful; please act like adults here. This isn't your ranting, cackling, heaving, shrieking, stabby thread; you can do better.]

NINE DAYS UNTIL THE MADNESS IS OVER
posted by russilwvong at 7:20 AM on October 28, 2012


converting one vote from Obama to Stein is a net Romney +1 over Obama

What's "converting a vote"? That sounds like some type of fraud. If I don't vote, Obama gets O votes, Stein gets S votes, Romney gets R. If I vote for Obama, he gets O+1, stein gets S, Romney gets R. If I vote for Stein, Obama gets O, Stein gets S+1, Romney gets R. In the latter case, compared to the situation in which I didn't vote (i.e. the default), where is Romney's advantage over Obama? In both situations, their totals differ by |R-O| votes, not the |R-O|+1 that happens if I vote for Obama or Romney. What you're saying only makes sense if you compare the scenario in which I vote for Stein to the Scenario in which I vote for Obama ("converting a vote"), but that's silly, because my intentions are unknown before I go to the polls. Again, nobody is an Innate Obama Voter.
posted by kengraham at 7:32 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


If the drone strikes are your metric, "punishing" Obama with a loss will have the reverse effect, because there is ZERO reason to believe that Romney is going to do anything but use them more. If Obama wins, you'll have someone who might listen to an electorate that is pissed off about their use. Of Romney does, you won't. Voting in a way that lets Romney win will put MORE blood on your hands, not less.

But that is simply, demonstrably wrong. Obama's election tore the antiwar movement apart. It was devastating. Demonstrations in Washington DC went from hundreds of thousands to ten thousand. Regional demos went from thousands to low hundreds. The main umbrella group, United for Peace & Justice, virtually collapsed, only existing as a "network" doing some low-key lobbying for smaller defense budgets. The problem is precisely that Obama doesn't "listen" to his electorate. He and those around him bully liberal groups into shutting up or toeing the line.

Rhetoric that progressives "have to" support Obama or be complicit with the Republicans' atrocities is simply false. The idea that we can somehow "retake" a party we never had is a tragic lie. The structures of the Democratic party today exist to derail progressive social movements, use them to support corporate candidates, and then dismantle them. If you want a clear picture, look at the mainstream organizations of the women's movement. The only alternative is to get out of the Democratic trap, and that has to start now.
posted by graymouser at 7:32 AM on October 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


NINE DAYS UNTIL THE MADNESS IS OVER

10 DAYS TO START OF THE 2014 US ELECTION SEASON!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:43 AM on October 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


12 years ago I voted my conscience - I voted for Nader. I'm not making that same mistake again.

12 years ago, I voted my conscience and voted for Nader. I'm not voting for Jill Stein this year -- the opposition is different, the precariousness of my state is different, the odious stench emanating from the Democrat's running mate is certainly different -- but 12 years ago it wasn't a mistake.
posted by delfin at 7:43 AM on October 28, 2012


Brandon Blatcher: 10 DAYS TO START OF THE 2014 US ELECTION SEASON!

Actually, I expect the next bout of madness to be the negotiations to avoid driving over the fiscal cliff at the end of the year.
posted by russilwvong at 7:48 AM on October 28, 2012


Honestly, if you believe the democratic party is a lost cause - and I'm not entirely sure you're wrong - that makes it more justifiable to hold your nose and vote Obama. If advancing progressive values requires a new party, that's not going to start with a presidential race. No matter who wins, it starts from scratch. Liberals voting third party, as a tactical measure, only works if there's some hope that the Democrats will respond by moving to the left in hopes of recapturing those votes.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:50 AM on October 28, 2012


If Obama can't carry Massachusetts, he has bigger problems than my fucking vote.

The fact that you live in MA is a pretty nontrivial detail in your story. Almost no one in this thread has a problem with people in safe states voting for Stein - that's not what anyone's worried about. Have at it. In your position, I would do the same.
posted by naoko at 7:50 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


none of the "YOU MUST VOTE FOR OBAMA!!1!" arguments are persuasive to me because not one in this thread mentioned the fact that it could be entirely avoided if we had instant run-off voting.

if you can be counted on, then you don't count.
posted by cupcake1337 at 7:52 AM on October 28, 2012


none of the "YOU MUST VOTE FOR OBAMA!!1!" arguments are persuasive to me because not one in this thread mentioned the fact that it could be entirely avoided if we had instant run-off voting.

We do not have instant run-off voting for this election.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:57 AM on October 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


If your political engagement begins and ends with going to the voting booth once every 4 years, yeah, you don't get so much say in shit.
posted by fleacircus at 7:58 AM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


Liberals voting third party, as a tactical measure, only works if there's some hope that the Democrats will respond by moving to the left in hopes of recapturing those votes.

This. Not to mention that empirical evidence, both in the wake of the 2000 election and in this very thread, demonstrates that Democrats will respond otherwise.

If you actively drive away progressives and then you shriek angrily at progressives who aren't propping you up any more, you're... well, 'illogical' is a good place to start.
posted by delfin at 8:10 AM on October 28, 2012


Where the fuck was the Democratic Party while the innumerable restrictions on abortion were passed in the last four years?

In the minority in a record number of state legislatures, after the base failed to turn out and Tea Party candidates swept midterm races nationwide.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:28 AM on October 28, 2012 [13 favorites]


You know what this thread is missing? Some Romney endorsements!

Cincinnati Enquirer, Ohio:
President Barack Obama has had four years to overcome the job losses of the Great Recession he inherited, but the recovery has been too slow and too weak. It’s time for new leadership from Mitt Romney, a governor and business leader with a record of solving problems.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, Virginia:
The tone of the 2012 campaign might best be captured by the need to begin with an emphasis on what the Republican candidate will not do. Mitt Romney will not raise taxes on the middle class. He will not destroy Medicare. And he will not lie to the American people every time he opens his mouth.
Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nevada:
Nevadans need a president with a vision and political philosophy capable of restoring ingenuity, competition and excellence to our education and health care systems, of paring back the budget deficit and the explosive growth of our debt, of keeping energy affordable, of bringing back jobs and prosperity not just here, but in every American city with residents who want enough economic security to be able to take a Las Vegas vacation.

The answer is pro-growth tax and regulatory reform. The answer is tax and regulatory certainty for businesses. The answer is growing our way out of the budget deficit with a broader, simpler tax base and reduced rates and deductions for all - especially the risk-taker, the job creator and the entrepreneur. More jobs equals more taxpayers.
posted by russilwvong at 8:32 AM on October 28, 2012


The tone of the 2012 campaign might best be captured by the need to begin with an emphasis on what the Republican candidate will not do. Mitt Romney will not raise taxes on the middle class. He will not destroy Medicare. And he will not lie to the American people every time he opens his mouth.

My neighbors actually knocked on my door to see why I was laughing so hard as apparently it sounded like strangled, aghast sobs.

In the words of the ever immortal Cher Horowitz... As IF!
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:40 AM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


The tone of the 2012 campaign might best be captured by the need to begin with an emphasis on what the Republican candidate will not do. Mitt Romney will not raise taxes on the middle class. He will not destroy Medicare. And he will not lie to the American people every time he opens his mouth.
Is this one ironical?
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 8:42 AM on October 28, 2012


I'm not surprised that he wrote this, because it takes a very definite sort of non-engagement with a large part of society to essentially suggest throwing children, minorities, and women under the bus to make a voting point.

Luckily, there's a candidate that doesn't require voters to throw anyone under the bus - children, minorities, or women at home OR abroad! You can freely vote for them! As Mr Stoller is advocating.
posted by downing street memo at 8:47 AM on October 28, 2012


Progressives suggesting voting for a third party candidate remind me of nothing so much as this short cartoon from my childhood.

Which is to say: We are out of sweet rolls.
posted by Mooski at 8:52 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Where the fuck was the Democratic Party while the innumerable restrictions on abortion were passed in the last four years?

In the minority in a record number of state legislatures, after the base failed to turn out and Tea Party candidates swept midterm races nationwide.


For me, that ends the conversation. That's what happens when you don't keep Republican extremists out of office. Sometimes, when you don't really like any of the viable candidates, voting is no more glamorous than taking out the garbage. But stop doing it and crappy stuff starts building up fast.

(I'll just link to my more thorough argument about this from the 2011 Republican shut-the-government-down tantrum.)
posted by benito.strauss at 9:10 AM on October 28, 2012 [9 favorites]


One might question that if a percentage of a party's base does not feel represented and in fact feels insulted and rejected by said party, at what point does the percentage stop being "part of the base" and become "a constituency whose votes must be won back?"

Or is the party simply entitled to that percentage's votes forevermore because otherwise the wrong lizard might get in?
posted by delfin at 9:37 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not that I don't agree that we need to keep Republican extremists out; we do, and it is a high priority.

But there is a certain degree on either side of the political spectrum where being taken for granted wears very thin, which is why threads like this occur at regular intervals. It's hard to bridge a political gap when the other side doesn't bother reaching across.
posted by delfin at 9:57 AM on October 28, 2012


There are an awful lot of people in this thread using the word "conscience" with no apparent idea what it means.

If you see that an awful, evil thing is about to happen, and you have any power at all to affect it (even the smallest measurable amount of power), then acting to stop it is an act of conscience. Closing your eyes, plugging your ears, and wishing fervently for a magic unicorn to come and save you while assisting in the evil is not an act of conscience in this scenario.

Drone warfare, indefinite detention, and many other evil things are not on the table in this election. No American is getting a say on these things during the presidential election; no matter how you vote, the President of the United States is going to order drone strikes and look the other way on the immoral detention of people who are not necessarily guilty of anything during the next four years. Probably quite a lot, in fact. No amount of unicorn-wishing is going to fix that. Other things, like gay rights, the political alignment of a few Supreme Court justices, the future of American healthcare, and potentially a war with Iran are on the table and your vote has an effect on these things.

The long and the short of it is that voting for anyone other than Obama in the presidential election or even just abstaining from voting is an act of evil. If you don't vote for Obama, you are voting against marriage rights for homosexuals and you are voting for a significantly Republican SCOTUS. Voting against Obama will not have any effect on any policy that the two parties agree on (drone strikes, indefinite detention, allowing rich people to have their way with our laws and economy) now or in the future because the fact that you disagree with those policies is not information that can be gleaned from your vote. The vote is too simple a message to convey information that complex. Voting third party in the presidential election is not an action that can or will have any effect on the policies of the Democratic party.

I would have thought it obvious that you should vote your conscience. My conscience isn't in favor of me doing evil. I'm surprised that there are so many other people whose consciences seem to function in the opposite way.

If you are interested in fixing all the evil, by the way, the only way to effect change on policies that the Democratic and Republican parties agree on is to put different people in control at every level of the system. You need to vote more liberal (and get others to do so!) in local elections until your local and state legislatures are more liberal, then you need to vote to get these more liberal candidates moved up into Congress (and, if this is done enough, some day into the Oval Office). Citizen-powered change comes from the bottom, not the top, in our political system, and it takes hard work and time. You can't get off the couch and press the "make things better" button once every four years and then go back to sleep, especially because that button will not exist (as it doesn't in this election) if you don't put a hell of a lot of work into building it yourself.


Finally, to all the "don't bother voting, your single vote can't even have any effect" people: Where do you think all of the votes that aren't yours come from? If every single person's vote doesn't matter and can't have an effect, then the outcome of the election will be the exact same regardless of the number of people who vote, even if that number is reduced to zero. How can you think something like that?
posted by IAmUnaware at 10:07 AM on October 28, 2012 [18 favorites]


Drone warfare, indefinite detention, and many other evil things are not on the table in this election. No American is getting a say on these things during the presidential election; no matter how you vote, the President of the United States is going to order drone strikes and look the other way on the immoral detention of people who are not necessarily guilty of anything during the next four years. Probably quite a lot, in fact. No amount of unicorn-wishing is going to fix that. Other things, like gay rights, the political alignment of a few Supreme Court justices, the future of American healthcare, and potentially a war with Iran are on the table and your vote has an effect on these things.

Again I'm curious as to how one segregates the moral issues that are "on the table." President Obama has, in fact, more direct control over these(drones, ect.) issues than any of the social issues(gay rights, ect.) you cite.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:14 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


A couple of things people have said far better than I can:

In the minority in a record number of state legislatures, after the base failed to turn out and Tea Party candidates swept midterm races nationwide.

A thousand times yes. This is what happens when people think things like "I'm in a safe state" or "That nut couldn't possibly win!"

Drone warfare, indefinite detention, and many other evil things are not on the table in this election.

Very succinctly put. The voting booth is the end of a long road of trying to get issues front and center. It's also the beginning of a new road, that will be paved by new issues and crises. Who you vote for determines what direction and how well that road gets paved.
posted by gjc at 10:17 AM on October 28, 2012


Also you can't set up a system of collective moral responsibility to damn people who don't vote a certain way with out that same argument being an equally valid indictment of your own position. I mean if I'm going to be responsible for all the bad things Romney will hypothetically do, then you are equally as responsible for all the evil shit Obama has done in fact and will hypothetically do in a second term...as far as the extrajudicial killings and such.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:20 AM on October 28, 2012


A lot of times it's easier to choose between things based what you don't want. It really should be Obama vs. Huntsman to be this close, but the republican party platform is toxic to everyone, especially to women, minorities, and homosexuals, but also everyone in the working class. It will hurt even the delusional oligarchs who support it.

On preview, to add to what IAmUnaware's saying, to change the policies of the party you need to vote in primaries. You want a more liberal democratic and republican parties, you need to vote for those people early in the process and get them in office at all levels.
posted by wobh at 10:21 AM on October 28, 2012


Again I'm curious as to how one segregates the moral issues that are "on the table." President Obama has, in fact, more direct control over these(drones, ect.) issues than any of the social issues(gay rights, ect.) you cite.

Whoever wins the election will have control. In whose hands do you want that power? Who is more likely to use it responsibly, or give it up should the electorate demand it?

The election is NOT about what has the other guy done. It is about who the new person is, and what they will try to accomplish in the future.

Remember, the right's whole campaign is about sewing the seeds of doubt in the incumbent. Even though they are only explicit on certain issues, the tone they put out is designed to demoralize his supporters as much as it is to fire up their own base. Do not fall for it.
posted by gjc at 10:23 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


We do not have instant run-off voting for this election.

darn it! if we had only known 12 years ago that this kind of thing with 3rd parties could happen we would have had plenty of time to institute some kind of instant run-off voting system and this whole thing could have been avoided! oh, well, it's too late now. i guess i'll just vote for obama because he's slightly better than romney.

i'm sure after this election democrats will redouble their efforts to enact instant run-off voting so this kind of thing won't happen again in four years.
posted by cupcake1337 at 10:29 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also you can't set up a system of collective moral responsibility to damn people who don't vote a certain way with out that same argument being an equally valid indictment of your own position. I mean if I'm going to be responsible for all the bad things Romney will hypothetically do, then you are equally as responsible for all the evil shit Obama has done in fact and will hypothetically do in a second term...as far as the extrajudicial killings and such.

Sure you can. I am responsible for my part in the choice between McCain and Obama; I take culpability for the good with the bad. If second term Obama orders the extrajudicial killings of 100 people and Romney orders 101, you are worse than me if your vote helped that happen.

Purity of conviction and good intentions aren't enough in a complicated world. As someone upthread said, there are no signing statements attached to votes. Romney doesn't get less power just because a lot of people voted against something Obama already did. The election isn't about retention, it is about who sits in the big chair for the next 4 years. I don't think there is much disagreement here that we'd rather have Obama than Romney.

i'm sure after this election democrats will redouble their efforts to enact instant run-off voting so this kind of thing won't happen again in four years.

Even less likely if the other guy wins.
posted by gjc at 10:36 AM on October 28, 2012


Just focus on electing two Greens to the Senate. Forget all this Presidential horseshit. Look at all the influence that turd Lieberman had as an independent.
posted by benzenedream at 10:37 AM on October 28, 2012


Just focus on electing two Greens to the Senate. Forget all this Presidential horseshit. Look at all the influence that turd Lieberman had as an independent.

Pretty much. A third party President should be the last step in the process. If that President doesn't have many allies in in Congress, then they aren't going to be very effective and then that's the last 3rd party President you'll ever see.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:44 AM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


i'm sure after this election democrats will redouble their efforts to enact instant run-off voting so this kind of thing won't happen again in four years.

Even less likely if the other guy wins.


less likely in the next four years, yes, but not 10-20 years. and how likely would it be if obama were to be re-elected? it's like the difference between buy two lottery tickets versus buying one. i suspect it will only be when the green party has cost them enough elections, and threatening them hasn't been effective, that they will seriously consider the issue.

i can understand the lesser-of-two-evils argument, but for me, it's like the abortion issue.

contraception:abortion::instant run-off voting:romney winning because lefties voted for 3rd parties

i would like to reduce the number of abortions and the obvious solution is to make contraception more available. however, pro-lifers never come out pro contraception. i can only guess what's happening, but i think it's more about controlling other people's sex lives.

with this voting thing it's the same idea. if you really cared about this problem you'd at least be giving lip service to the idea, but there is only silence. i can't read minds, but if i had to guess, i'd say the real motivation is about supporting the institution of the democratic party, and not furthering the issues we supposedly agree on.
posted by cupcake1337 at 10:54 AM on October 28, 2012


Just focus on electing two Greens to the Senate. Forget all this Presidential horseshit. Look at all the influence that turd Lieberman had as an independent.

I mostly agree but to be fair, drama-queen Lieberman had so much power because Republicans and Democrats were competing for his vote. Green/independent senators can still put pressure on Dems from the left, of course, but for that to really work the Democrats need to have an almost-majority to begin with.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:59 AM on October 28, 2012


The long and the short of it is that voting for anyone other than Obama in the presidential election or even just abstaining from voting is an act of evil.

This is such utter bullshit that it's mind-boggling to even think of it.

Voting for Obama is complicity in awful things. Who Obama is and how he governs is no longer a hypothetical question. We know he is a conservative (with moderate leanings towards social liberalism) who believes that he has total power of life and death over every human being on the face of this earth. More than that, we know that in certain ways Obama is more effective at perpetrating evil than his Republican counterparts, because he is able to sideline the various movements that could be fighting for social justice.

I'm a believer in protest politics. I think that ordinary people taking to the streets and fighting for what's right is a way to change the political game. I watched Obama destroy that with some subtle pressure on the people who should've been in the streets pushing him left. Instead, he pushed them right. It took until Occupy for us to actually get out, and that's been sidelined fairly effectively.

So I take extreme exception to the idea that it's evil to not support Obama. Democrats have spent the last 20 years adopting Republican ideas, from ending welfare and embracing "free trade" to charter schools, Romney/Obamacare and cutting deficits; they jockey over being the best imperialists. I figure it's mostly social issues where they haven't gone over; if the tide points that way, they'll go there too. I'd rather have a straight fight with the Republicans than try to take on a Democrat who has sidelined everybody who can fight against the right-wing agenda.

That's not to say I want things to get worse so they can get better. I want people to start opposing Obama's wars, his drone strikes, his strong support of charter schools, his massive deportations of immigrants, the FBI's witchhunt of activists, indefinite detention, all the myriad evils of his administration - on the face of it. You can't do that while saying "Oh but vote for him so the even worse guy gets in." You need to stop playing the lesser evil game; it's run its course and is totally non-viable. Both parties are evil enough that they need to be opposed unconditionally.
posted by graymouser at 11:18 AM on October 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


Both parties are evil enough that they need to be opposed unconditionally.

You want people to do all these things and listen to you, but yet you consider them evil and unchangeable.
posted by FJT at 11:52 AM on October 28, 2012


IAmBroom: The long and the short of it is that voting for anyone other than Obama in the presidential election or even just abstaining from voting is an act of evil.

Flagged. This kind of overheated rhetoric isn't going to change any minds. You can't browbeat people into voting for Obama. (Are you equally angry at the 48.7% of likely voters who are planning to vote for Romney?)

Actually, I don't think there's that much disagreement here between the idealists and the realists. Has anyone here said that they're in a swing state, but they're going to vote for Jill Stein anyway? If they're not in a swing state, it's not going to matter that much.

Again, the list of swing states:
Wisconsin (where desjardins is)
Nevada
Ohio
New Hampshire
Iowa
Colorado
Virginia
Florida
North Carolina
As far as I can tell, everyone in the thread who has said they're planning to vote for Jill Stein has also said that they don't live in a swing state.
posted by russilwvong at 12:00 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


in both 04 and 08 i voted in iowa for a 3rd party.
posted by cupcake1337 at 12:03 PM on October 28, 2012


Okay -- everyone other than cupcake1337.
posted by russilwvong at 12:06 PM on October 28, 2012


I think I'm beginning to understand why Americans don't like to talk about politics. Apparently, you're either evil...or evil.
posted by FJT at 12:07 PM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


You want people to do all these things and listen to you, but yet you consider them evil and unchangeable.

The Democratic Party is evil and unchangeable. It is owned lock, stock and barrel by Wall Street and other powerful interests.

Progressives and workers are neither evil nor unchangeable. I have worked with progressives and workers and with Democratic Party hacks. They are different groups of people. My goal is not to change the Democratic Party but for their base - and honestly, a good chunk of the Republican base - to declare their independence from the party that exploits them and destroys movements in their interests.
posted by graymouser at 12:08 PM on October 28, 2012


Can we get a list on who is evil and who isn't? It's getting confusing in here.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:10 PM on October 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


honestly, a good chunk of the Republican base - to declare their independence from the party that exploits them and destroys movements in their interests.

How do you propose to do this?
posted by FJT at 12:17 PM on October 28, 2012


So I take extreme exception to the idea that it's evil to not support Obama

That's not what the comment said. Here's what it said:

voting for anyone other than Obama in the presidential election or even just abstaining from voting is an act of evil.

My vote is going to Obama, not because I support him, but because one of two people will be going to the White House in early 2013. My vote is an expression of my preference, not necessarily my support. Abstaining from voting, or voting third party would be me saying that I really don't care which of Romney or Obama is our next president -- and that's not true.

Romney and Obama will both continue with drone strikes (though Romney would be more likely to privatize it in a way that makes it even more opaque), continue selling the country to the highest bidder, continue to support NDAA, etc. etc. We've seen the laundry list.

What's important to me is where they differ from one another. And in that sense, on essentially every issue, and in particular on issues that disproportionately affect the underrepresented (women's rights, gay rights, healthcare, social services, etc), I prefer Obama's position. I do not have to support him entirely to prefer that he, instead of Mitt Romney be president.

Saying that a vote for Obama is an expression of support for inhumane drone strikes is every bit as flag-worthy as a comment that you interpreted as calling you evil.
posted by toxic at 12:39 PM on October 28, 2012


"Again, the list of swing states:

Wisconsin (where desjardins is)
Nevada
Ohio
..."

Wait; Ohio is an important state in this election?! Someone needs to tell the media that; they don't appear to have noticed.
posted by Wordshore at 12:43 PM on October 28, 2012


If you don't live in a swing state, voting for D or R is mathematically pointless. Are we all in agreement on that? Or if not, can you explain why not?

Given that, if you vote for Mr. Obama and you are not in a swing state, you cannot logically interpret your vote as "I don't really support his policies but I'm voting for him because I don't want Romney to win" because your vote won't make a difference to this outcome.

So if you vote for Mr. Obama and you're not in a swing state, this is indeed an active, positive vote on Mr. Obama's platform. You're saying that you actively support his platform - or at least the parts you don't support just aren't such a big deal compared to the rest.

Are we on the same page here?

So IF you are not in a swing state, and you vote for Mr. Obama, THEN you are "supporting drone attacks" - or at the very least saying, "drone attacks are no big deal for you" - because if you didn't want drone attacks on your conscience, then you could have voted for a third-party or note voted at all in completely certainty that this had no chance of affecting the result of the election.

I do believe that by voting for a candidate, you are taking an ethical stance - you can't rationalize away voting for, say, a white supremacist candidate by saying, "He has no chance of winning". The idea that millions can vote for Mr. Obama yet none of them share any ethical responsibility for his ongoing drone attacks seems ethically absurd.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:53 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


cupcake1337: "i'm sure after this election democrats will redouble their efforts to enact instant run-off voting so this kind of thing won't happen again in four years."

This is not something the national party is capable of doing. This is something that you have to do in your own state. Preferably with help from one or both of the major parties. Have you actually asked people if they would support IRV or some other alternative voting scheme, or do you just assume they don't because they don't talk about it as if it's something that they have to make a decision on in nine days?

lupus_yonderboy, in my view, your vote is irrelevant to your ethical responsibility regarding drone attacks. No matter which state you live in. By dint of living here, paying taxes here, and remaining a citizen here, you are in an ethically compromised situation.

Personally, I'll vote for Obama in my hard-red state for two reasons. Firstly, there is nobody other than the two major party candidates on the ballot. Of the two choices, Obama is clearly the better. Second, if I can eventually convince enough people to do the same, my state won't seem so hard red and we might actually get the chance to elect people to Congress who aren't to the right of Obama. People hate voting for losers. My hope is that with my vote and the votes of people like me, the Democrats will no longer be seen as the predestined losers here they have been of late.

You have to start somewhere. In my case somewhere happens to be only slightly to this side of the stone age. Compromises have to be made to make any progress at all.
posted by wierdo at 1:17 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


1- No, voting in a non-swing state is not mathematically pointless. Thinking that way is cynicism. The person with more votes wins. People have to vote in order to for that to happen. It all breaks down if a small percentage of people decide to let someone else do the voting. This is how elections turn, it is not impossible for someone to squeak away victories because "safe" states stop being so safe. Every vote makes a difference. It is a sort of narcissism to vote differently just because *my* vote isn't guaranteed to be the one that pushes someone over the top.

2- It is just as ethically absurd to vote in a way that allows someone worse to win. As we stand, right now, there are only two possible outcomes. The time for encouraging third parties for this election has passed. We only have one tool in our citizenship arsenal, the vote. You pull the lever for the viable candidate (remembering that third parties are not viable this time around) who will do the least damage. Anything else gives power to someone who will do more damage.

A vote is not an endorsement. It is a tool for choosing who will win. It doesn't matter if the system is flawed or the choices are non-ideal, because that's already set in stone for this time around. A vote that's not *for* a candidate is a vote against them.
posted by gjc at 1:20 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mean if I'm going to be responsible for all the bad things Romney will hypothetically do, then you are equally as responsible for all the evil shit Obama has done in fact and will hypothetically do in a second term...as far as the extrajudicial killings and such.

Neither, IMO. Let's say the election comes down to my vote in a swing state. If I vote for Obama, Obama wins. If I don't vote, or vote for a third party, Romney wins. In this case the only thing I am 'responsible' for are the bad things I can reasonably expect would only happen if Romney wins, or vice versa. My vote has no impact on bad things that happen in both cases.

It probably could be argued that not voting or voting for a third party dissolves me of responsibility, but I think this is false because I know, in this hypothetical situation, that not voting will result in Romney being elected.

And I just want to mention again that the Dems have supported medicaid, food stamps, and ACA, and other programs that do help a lot of people in real need, and if Ryan's last speech is any indication it seems like a Romney administration might make very big cuts to these programs.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:21 PM on October 28, 2012


The idea that millions can vote for Mr. Obama yet none of them share any ethical responsibility for his ongoing drone attacks seems ethically absurd.

The idea that ONLY Obama supporters share this ethical responsibility is equally absurd. Policymakers, soldiers, tax payers, researchers, and manufacturers all had a hand in developing, creating, programming, and using the drone that ends up doing the killing.

I mean, if you're making an argument that it is ultimately the voter's decision, and not the trigger puller's decision to kill, then we can sit here all day compiling lists of ethical responsibility that can stretch from Abel all the way to the 9/11 terrorists.
posted by FJT at 1:21 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Every vote makes a difference. It is a sort of narcissism to vote differently just because *my* vote isn't guaranteed to be the one that pushes someone over the top.

If this is true in swing states, it should be true in non-swing states as well. Is it also narcissistic to vote third party in New York because *your* vote won't change the outcome? I think the only way to justify voting tactically in Ohio but non-tactically in New York is if you think your lone vote has a chance of pushing Ohio over the top, but it doesn't in New York. Otherwise, what's the principle that lets you vote differently in these two cases?
posted by painquale at 1:38 PM on October 28, 2012


wierdo, yes, i have talked to people, i don't try to shoe-horn it into every conversation, but i've been a proponent of IRV for over a decade.

or do you just assume they don't because they don't talk about it as if it's something that they have to make a decision on in nine days?


i'm not sure who you mean by "they". if you mean the party, and major politicians, you don't have to assume anything, you can read what they say, what they do, what they treat as priorities. i would guess many of them would think it was a good thing hypothetically, and keep their opinion to themselves. but, for whatever reason, there has been no support of IRV from Dem politicians, the party, they've put no money behind it and they don't make it a priority. there are some great NGOs working on it though, check them out.

again, it's a lot like the abortion issue. it's about credibility. if you say "there should be fewer abortions" the next thing out of your mouth should be "and that's why we need to make contraception more available" or i'm not going to take you seriously. similarly, if you say "voting for a 3rd party is like voting for the republicans" the next thing out of your mouth better be "and that's why we need IRV" or i won't take you seriously.

this isn't a new problem. like i said sarcastically, they've had at least 12 years to do something about it, but they haven't. by "do something" i mean at the very least make a lot of noise about it. they haven't done that. instead, the Dem powers-that-be would rather try to shame green party supporters every four years.

the democratic party only has it's self to blame. i agree that it's a shitty situation. but don't blame Nader, or 3rd parties, or the people who vote for them: BLAME THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY.
posted by cupcake1337 at 1:43 PM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


You pull the lever for the viable candidate (remembering that third parties are not viable this time around) who will do the least damage. Anything else gives power to someone who will do more damage.

At some point, this "lesser evil" mentality has a cost. Progressives have become so pathologically dependent upon Democrats that they demobilize entirely to not let the Republicans take power. The problem is, since progressive movements demobilized rather than attempting to push the Obama administration left, the whole shebang has moved to the right.

Supporting Obama in 2012 has a cost. It means that people are relying on the Democrats rather than on progressive movements on the ground and in the streets to prevent war, to keep abortion legal, to fight all of the good fights. And at the end of the day the Democrats are not reliable. That's why Obama's drone strikes are important in this discussion: here is something that people should be out protesting, but instead they're campaigning for the guy who is doing it. You can't do both, and if push comes to shove I think protesting is more important.
posted by graymouser at 1:47 PM on October 28, 2012


Regarding voting for third party candidates, I am generally a big believer of that. I would have said back in '99 when we had a budget surplus and jobs were readily available that you should vote your conscience just like I did and I would have been a huge proponent of that. But back in '99 I never would have thought that 8 years of Republican pro-oligarchy rule would have been able to reduce our situation from one of prosperity to one of major class inequality, joblessness and the all but destruction of the American middle class. I would never have believed that restrictions to banks would be removed causing massive money flow through criminal actions now made legal from the middle class to the 1%. I would never believe that millions of people would be losing their homes within 5 years. Well I know now, with experience, what can happen.

I think now that the short term solution is to vote Democratic and the longer term solution to very actively support third party candidates and somehow get them into the system. I have no desire to plunge this country into even worse conditions than have existed the first decade of this century which I now know that the Republicans will certainly attempt. To me this is not so much Obama vs Romney as it is Democrats vs. Republicans and I have already experienced very personally what 8 years of the current types of Republican administrators do to this country.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 1:53 PM on October 28, 2012 [3 favorites]


graymouser: "if push comes to shove I think protesting is more important."

Ok. I think that killing people through neglect is still killing people, hence our different views on that point.

cupcake1337: "if you say "voting for a 3rd party is like voting for the republicans" the next thing out of your mouth better be "and that's why we need IRV" or i won't take you seriously."

I hope you actually mean "and that's why we need an alternative voting system". IRV is one of many, and not even mathematically the best. Better than FPTP, yes, but not by that much. Personally, I'm actually more concerned with the large size of Congressional districts and low number of elected representatives making it very easy to buy elections.
posted by wierdo at 1:56 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]



This is such utter bullshit that it's mind-boggling to even think of it.


Indeed. It's a few hairs shy of "You know who ELSE didn't vote for Obama...?"
posted by kengraham at 2:08 PM on October 28, 2012


Arrow's theorem says that there is no "mathematically best" voting system. however, i think IRV is most appropriate for electing a person to a specific office because it matches the ordinal nature of preferring candidates.
posted by cupcake1337 at 2:10 PM on October 28, 2012


I voted Jill Stein because there was a previous post where I discovered we nearly agreed on EVERYTHING.

That was pretty eye-opening to me and I rewarded her beliefs with my vote.

I live in Texas, so I guess you can count me as someone who did not vote for Romney, so quit hating on folks like me.

If the continued presidency of Barack Obama is important to you, then I would encourage you to actively campaign for him, and talk him up to anyone who will listen. You might lose a few friends or estrange relatives but if that's the outcome you want, that's the price you are going to have to pay.

Gore lost because of Gore. Kerry lost because of Kerry. As odious as the right-wing is, you have to admire their discipline and ability to look past their internal differences to get elections won; so stop painting third-party voters as villains every time your candidate loses.

It's not our fault, it's yours.
posted by Renoroc at 2:19 PM on October 28, 2012


Gore lost because of Gore. Kerry lost because of Kerry.

Well, if that's the case doesn't Jill Stein's loss fall on your head then?
posted by FJT at 2:30 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Democratic Party is evil and unchangeable.

In 1924, the Democratic National Convention was mockingly called a "Klanbake," as in Klu Klux Klan. 24 years later, the Democratic candidate for President was openly calling for a Civil Rights Act, and most of the Southern delegation walked out. 20 years after that, the Democrats nominated the man who signed that Civil Rights Act, as well as the Voting Rights Act and Medicare and Medicaid.

In 1956, the Republican National Convention celebrated Brown v. Board of Education. 12 years later, it was the party where nearly all of the Southern delegation from the 1948 DNC were welcomed with open arms.

So don't tell me any party is unchangeable.

My goal is not to change the Democratic Party but for their base - and honestly, a good chunk of the Republican base - to declare their independence from the party that exploits them and destroys movements in their interests.

You do realize that "a good chunk of the Republican base" will never declare independence, which essentially means you're advocating for forming two permanent minorities that will always be overridden by the Republican majority, right? It's always worth trying to change the party from within, but if you ignore the state and local portion for the national "Wall Street suckups" every single time, then of course you're going to have a hard time. But that's because you're doing wrong. The GOP knew this, and have been doing it well for the last several decades. Whatever people that would have peeled off have already done so, they've got the base set for the next several elections. Whether or not they can win those elections with pretty much just that base is unknown, and this year is one of the first real tests.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:47 PM on October 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm in a state which is solidly red and there's only one race, the House race, which has any chance of being competitive. So I can safely vote for Stein or Rocky or even Gary Johnson if I feel like making a joke.

But I'm going to vote for Obama for the same reasons why someone else might vote for a third party candidate in a blue state. I'm hoping to send a message, not to Washington, but to Topeka. I'm hoping my state somehow gets more votes for Obama than expected and that the teabaggers, who run the state government, might feel a brief moment of fear.

Will this happen if enough of us liberals on the prairie bother to show up on election day? Probably not. But, I have a better chance of sending a message by voting for Obama than I do by voting for one of the third parties.

For the rest of you stuck in red states, I'd recommend you do the same. Trying to send a message to Washington with your third party vote is an exercise in futility. Trying to send a message to your state government by voting for the Democrat is also probably futile, but has considerably better odds.
posted by honestcoyote at 2:47 PM on October 28, 2012 [6 favorites]


A vote that's not *for* a candidate is a vote against them.

This is false: although my vote for Obama is also a vote that's not for Romney, it doesn't subtract from Romney's vote total. It leaves it what it would be if I didn't exist. Sure, it subtracts from his hypothetical total were I to have voted for him instead of Obama, but that is not a valid comparison. I vote once. I add one vote to some candidate's tally. I add zero (and not -1) votes to every other candidate's tally. I've helped one candidate and hurt zero candidates, unless you think I secretly belonged to some candidate before I voted and subtracted from their Bizarro-World total. But I didn't, and I didn't; saying that I voted "against" Romney by voting for Obama is not accurate. Similarly, saying that I voted for Romney by not voting for Obama is not accurate, unless I actually voted for Romney.

For this election to be a zero-sum game -- a situation in which Obama's gain is always of equal magnitude to Romney's loss and vice versa -- it would have to be true that every vote was cast either for Obama or Romney, and that nobody had the option of not voting. Neither of these conditions is satisfied by reality, as evidenced both by the millions of people who vote for third-party candidates and the historically very low voter turnout.

The other thread with this argument in it has a title about Big Bird, but apparently we need the Count up in here.
posted by kengraham at 2:56 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Joss Whedon has endorsed Romney... for a previously undiscussed but potentially all-important reason (if you believe in the Zombie Apocalypse).
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:58 PM on October 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


I voted Jill Stein because there was a previous post where I discovered we nearly agreed on EVERYTHING.

That was pretty eye-opening to me and I rewarded her beliefs with my vote.


I don't understand this point of view. Hell, my wife and I agree on pretty everything politically and she'll make me grilled cheese sandwich, which is way more than Jill Stein would or could do. By your rationale I should vote for my wife. She has about the chance of being elected as Jill Stein.

Voting for a third party that has zero chance of getting federal funding as minority party, let alone getting elected is a complete mystery to me. It doesn't appear as though voting that way will accomplish anything and there doesn't appear to be the slightest plan for it to accomplish anything.

The thinking seems to be that if you live in non-swing state, your vote doesn't matter, so sure, give it to Stein. Which sounds odd to me, 'cause that only works if a few people do it. If too many do it, then the state becomes a swing state and then you better not throw your vote away. So vote for Stein, unless it mattes, then don't vote for Stein! Ok then.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:59 PM on October 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Voting for a third party that has zero chance of getting federal funding as minority party, let alone getting elected is a complete mystery to me. It doesn't appear as though voting that way will accomplish anything and there doesn't appear to be the slightest plan for it to accomplish anything.

A protest vote -- in and of itself -- is not meant to accomplish anything tangible most years. (Nader had a nonzero chance of reaching 5% but fell short; Stein has no such opportunity.) What it's intended to do is send a message to the candidate/party that feels entitled to your vote. Will it be heard? Probably not. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Also, I think you're seriously underestimating Jill Stein's grilled-cheese-sandwich-making abilities.
posted by delfin at 3:19 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


How does a 3rd Party actually resolve issues anyway? I know there's a lot of criticism of the Democratic Party and their lack of coverage of progressive concerns and issues, but why is that the case? Some of you have said it's a money issue, and when I've looked at it, it might also have to do with the sheer amount of people within it.

Have there been any political studies to determine the optimal political party size that maximizes the satisfaction of party supporters, yet also manages to get some legislation passed?

Because, if it's determined to be like a million people in a party, for example, we could have upwards of 200 political parties based on our existing electorate.
posted by FJT at 3:26 PM on October 28, 2012


The problem with the "progressive" wing of the Democratic Party is that they invariably work to undermine actual progress -- and oftentimes, the party as a whole -- when they aren't able, in any way shape, or form, to get things exactly how they would prefer.

We saw this over and over again during the health care debate, to the point that one of the strongest Republican talking points was that a majority of Americans agreed with them in rejecting the "Obamacare" compromise, claiming that the progressive wing was on their side of the argument. They were none-too-quietly tickled about this at several points, directly targeting them at several points, and intentionally fanning division and dissent amongst Democrats.

Let's be clear... a considerable amount of the Progressive wing -- perhaps over 50% -- were so angry and ideological about the political compromise needed to pass health care that they saw nothing wrong in their rejection of it, even if that would mean both 30 million Americans going without health care *AND* larger longterm deficits / healthcare costs.

If you want to make progress in politics, you need to realize that your party is going to move forward no faster than the decisive one or two votes, who live in territory largely unfriendly to the platform you are trying to champion. For the Democrats, that meant moving forward no faster than, say, Joe Lieberman was willing to tolerate.

Economy be damned... this election really should ultimately be about trying to save human lives. American ones. And generally reducing human misery and suffering. And if you want to do that, voting for President Obama is the clear choice. Any other choice you make will, quite literally, get lots of your fellow Americans killed... from wars, neglect, destruction of environmental regulations, ignoring global warming, etc.

No, seriously. If you support Mitt Romney, please do let us know what he will do to save human lives and keep more Americans safe than the policies espoused by President Obama. Because you *need* to make that argument before casting your vote, if you dare to call yourself a human being, as opposed to merely being a consumer.
posted by markkraft at 3:31 PM on October 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


No, seriously. If you support Mitt Romney*, please do let us know what he will do to save human lives and keep more Americans safe

To whom are you talking, here?

*My bold.
posted by kengraham at 3:39 PM on October 28, 2012


Any other choice you make will, quite literally, get lots of your fellow Americans killed... from wars, neglect, destruction of environmental regulations, ignoring global warming, etc.

Yet choosing Obama will also get lots of people killed. And we'll confirm that the Democrats can run on a record of terror, death, environmental neglect, corporatism and political incompetence and still get re-elected. At least under President Romney there would be somebody opposing the disaster (let's hear it for the adversarial political system!) - under Obama, you've got the Democrats cheering on the drive off a cliff, and the Republicans complaining that the pansy-ass liberals aren't going fast enough.

the political compromise needed to pass health care

Yes, the political compromise necessary to get all zero Republicans who ultimately supported the bill on board. How could we be so blind?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:52 PM on October 28, 2012


Yet choosing Obama will also get lots of people killed.

Whoever you choose, lots of people will get killed.

And we'll confirm that the Democrats can run on a record of terror, death, environmental neglect, corporatism and political incompetence and still get re-elected.

Obama is going to be re-elected and these weren't the highlights of his campaign, so I'm not sure what point you're making.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:04 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


At least under President Romney there would be somebody opposing the disaster (let's hear it for the adversarial political system!)

Yes, things were a lot better under President Bush. At least, I think they were, it was so long ago, are there even any historical records that have survived to the present day?

Yes, the political compromise necessary to get all zero Republicans who ultimately supported the bill on board.

Compromises were made to get conservative Democrats on board, not to speak of other powerful constituencies.
posted by leopard at 4:06 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Look at what happened after Gore lost in 2000 -- we had 9/11, the Iraq War, failed response to Katrina, 8 years of Bush with 3 SC nominations, and to top it all off 4 years of war criminal Barack Obama, followed by either another 4 years of the same or 4 even worse years of Mitt Romney. A vote for Nader was a vote for real change!

Listen to the third party moralists, they know what they're talking about, they've succeeded in the past and they'll succeed again.
posted by leopard at 4:10 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I reject it. I'll vote my values and I'd suggest other people with the ability do the same.

I need healthcare, and without the ACA I cannot get heath coverage at all. If Obama is not re-elected, I most likely will not be able to get health coverage, so I'm voting for Obama. That's my values.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:11 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Obama is going to be re-elected and these weren't the highlights of his campaign, so I'm not sure what point you're making.

That he did those things and "liberals" are still voting for him.

Yes, things were a lot better under President Bush. At least, I think they were, it was so long ago, are there even any historical records that have survived to the present day?


There are only oral legends of these so-called "anti-war" movements, and of candidates who advocated a thing called the "limited executive." Truly it was an age of wonders.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:13 PM on October 28, 2012


How does a 3rd Party actually resolve issues anyway?

Both major parties are owned and operated by Wall Street. Democrats and Republicans represent slightly different emphases within the huge capitalist banks and different power blocks (and these change over time, such as when the mass movement against segregation caused the old Democrats to be cast aside and absorbed into the Republican Party) but the fundamental fact is that these parties are both committed to a position in favor of the big banks and big business, including a foreign policy that is accurately described as imperialism.

A third party that is acceptable to progressives would be one that is independent of the big banks. This would need to be a very different party, one that was primarily based on grassroots activism and participation - a much better party in a lot of ways.

Let's be clear... a considerable amount of the Progressive wing -- perhaps over 50% -- were so angry and ideological about the political compromise needed to pass health care that they saw nothing wrong in their rejection of it, even if that would mean both 30 million Americans going without health care *AND* larger longterm deficits / healthcare costs.

To be clear: for most people who identify as progressives, Obamacare was not a compromise. We wanted single-payer health care, as had been introduced in HR 676, not the largest giveaway to an industry in history as literally everyone was mandated by law to buy their product, which is only going to keep growing in cost. It's an awful program with some sugar coating to make the bitter "medicine" go down, and the Republicans are right to run against it. And it probably derailed the case for single-payer for well over a decade.

FWIW, Obama used strong-arming and marginalization against the progressive community on this question. Groups that were for single payer were scattered as some accepted the "public option" red herring and anyone sticking with single-payer was basically read out of the whole debate. A local pro-single payer group I had worked with basically ceased to exist during the healthcare debates. If a "compromise" is basically taking your opponent's plan and implementing it, then it's not a compromise at all.

Any other choice you make will, quite literally, get lots of your fellow Americans killed... from wars, neglect, destruction of environmental regulations, ignoring global warming, etc.

First: Any war Romney would start, would also be started by Obama. There is fundamentally nothing different between them on foreign policy. The difference is that MoveOn.org would bankroll massive demonstrations against a war Romney starts but not one that Obama starts. If the powers behind US foreign policy decide that war with Iran is necessary, Obama or Romney will not make a difference.

Second: Environmental regulations? From someone as prone to greenwash fracking as Obama? I mean, it only imperils the Delaware River watershed that I live in, which is only the source of fresh water for tens of millions of people. But Obama wants more natural gas extraction, so that's something we'll get more of.

Third: Obama is not willing to undertake the massive steps needed to stop global warming. He's willing to talk a bit greener than Romney to pander and get a few votes, but his strategy is mainly to give tax breaks and contracts to companies who amount to a tiny amount of the massive industrial and transportation overhaul we need. (This is also a solution to the jobs crisis but since that would involve the government hiring people, god forbid.)
posted by graymouser at 4:13 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


graymouser: Both major parties are owned and operated by Wall Street.

Actually: Democrats Are From Colleges and Tech Companies, Republicans Are From Wall Street.

To be clear: for most people who identify as progressives, Obamacare was not a compromise.

As noted earlier, Obamacare will provide health insurance for 33 million previously uninsured people.
posted by russilwvong at 4:18 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are only oral legends of these so-called "anti-war" movements, and of candidates who advocated a thing called the "limited executive." Truly it was an age of wonders.

So if we get 8 years of President Romney and a loud anti-war movement that succeeds in electing another war criminal in 2020, you'll be happy? Mission accomplished!

The Bush Presidency was a glorious time for the anti-war movement and supporters of the limited executive. Glory days indeed.
posted by leopard at 4:23 PM on October 28, 2012


The Bush Presidency was a glorious time for the anti-war movement and supporters of the limited executive. Glory days indeed.!

Name one way Obama is better than Bush on executive power. One.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:29 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


graymouser: FWIW, Obama used strong-arming and marginalization against the progressive community on this question. Groups that were for single payer were scattered as some accepted the "public option" red herring and anyone sticking with single-payer was basically read out of the whole debate. A local pro-single payer group I had worked with basically ceased to exist during the healthcare debates. If a "compromise" is basically taking your opponent's plan and implementing it, then it's not a compromise at all.

Nate Silver, August 2009: How Many Votes Does the Public Option Have? How Many Does it Need?

Nate Silver, March 2010: Progressives' Strategic Choices on Health Care Likely Made Little Difference
No matter how clever progressives and activist groups might have been, they were enmeshed in a complex negotiation that:
(i) necessarily required the approval of a certain number of Blue Dogs;
(ii) featured some parties -- Republicans and lobbyists -- who had limited but nonzero influence and who were actively trying to do undo any settlement;
(iii) was overseen by a series of party leaders (Pelosi, Reid, Obama) who have institutional incentives to broker a compromise, regardless of their (fairly liberal) personal preferences and,
(iv) was constrained by an ambivalent public.
The influence of any one group in what is essentially a 10- or 12-way negotiation is liable to be fairly limited, no matter how wisely they select their strategy....
posted by russilwvong at 4:30 PM on October 28, 2012


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: Name one way Obama is better than Bush on executive power. One.

David Cole, author of The Torture Memos: Rationalizing the Unthinkable, criticizes Obama's record:
[Obama] has opposed all attempts to assign responsibility for the war crimes committed in the name of the US, including even apologies to the victims, and a public commission that might draw lessons for future policy. He has regularly exercised a secret power to kill suspected terrorists, including US citizens, with remote-controlled drones far from any battlefield, and has refused to disclose all but the most vague parameters of that awesome power. He has sought to block judicial review of many of the government’s most dubious tactics, including the drone program, the sweeping wiretapping of Americans’ international phone calls, and renditions to torture.
But he goes on to say:
Still, as the latest “torture memo” illustrates [a leaked memo written by Romney's national security advisers, recommending that he reinstate "enhanced interrogation" of prisoners], President Romney would be far worse. President Obama deserves credit for closing the CIA’s secret prisons, ending torture, abandoning President Bush’s assertions of unchecked presidential power, and insisting that the struggle against terrorism must be fought within the confines of the rule of law—including both constitutional and international law. Those reforms have made us, from all evidence, more safe, not less, while denying al-Qaeda the anti-US recruitment propaganda that President Bush delivered as if on orders from his adversary.

Will President Obama in a second term make progress on some of the issues on which he has been stymied by congressional opposition, such as the closure of Guantánamo and the trial of terrorists in civilian criminal court? A president concerned less about reelection and more about his historical legacy might well do more to restore the rule of law, and certainly more needs to be done. But one thing should be clear—that’s the question we want to be asking come November, and not what torture tactics Steven Bradbury will be advising President Mitt Romney to authorize behind closed doors.
posted by russilwvong at 4:38 PM on October 28, 2012


I think that part of the problem is the terrible branding of leftie goals in the U.S. I sometimes see surveys where if questions are phrased in a non-partisan way, support for leftie goals skyrockets as long as respondents don't know who benefits politically. When socialism is considered invective and a presidential candidate expects to get points by attacking the other guy's green plans, voting for a third party in a FPTP election seems like putting the cart before the horse. I'm obviously missing a lot of subtleties since I don't live in the country, but electing Sanders, who identifies as socialist, seems to me to have made more of an impact than voting for McKinney.
posted by ersatz at 4:40 PM on October 28, 2012


Dude, we went from torturing suspected terrorists to assassinating them. That's not better, and it's sure as hell not "within the confines of law."
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:41 PM on October 28, 2012


As noted earlier, Obamacare will provide health insurance for 33 million previously uninsured people.

Obamacare requires people to buy an increasingly expensive product that provides increasingly less service (between deductibles, maximums etc, it often does little or nothing to provide actual access to care) and does nothing to sever the link between employment and health care, other than to say "buy this product or we will tax you." It is an awful policy and I will proudly say that I was opposed to it from the left. It does help with regard to "pre-existing conditions" and so on, but does nothing to solve medical bankruptcies, and keeps the majority of the burden on people who cannot afford it. Again, an awful program. If it were introduced by a Republican it would have been rejected by most liberals.
posted by graymouser at 4:49 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, if that's the case doesn't Jill Stein's loss fall on your head then?

Absolutely, and you are not going to see me hurl invective at people who voted for Obama if Romney wins.
posted by Renoroc at 4:50 PM on October 28, 2012


Again, an awful program. If it were introduced by a Republican it would have been rejected by most liberals.

Right, Obama's plan isn't as good as Clinton's plan, or Carter's plan, or Nixon's plan, or Truman's plan, etc etc etc.

Sadly enough, it's still better than what came before it, because none of those plans actually became law.
posted by leopard at 5:02 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


and does nothing to sever the link between employment and health care

U.S. Set to Sponsor Health Insurance.
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will soon take on a new role as the sponsor of at least two nationwide health insurance plans to be operated under contract with the federal government and offered to consumers in every state.
I'm actually surprised this hasn't gotten more play on Metafilter yet. Seems like the sort of thing which should be popular. Yay Obama.
posted by Justinian at 5:09 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, yeah, for the folks in the thread talking about not voting for Obama from the left; What do you think the odds are of Romney sponsoring a national health plan? Hmmm?
posted by Justinian at 5:10 PM on October 28, 2012


Obamacare will provide health insurance for 33 million previously uninsured people.
it's still better than what came before it, because none of those plans actually became law.

Enacted in 2010, not taking effect until 2014. So, as of this writing, it has provided health insurance for 0 million previously insured people.

And seconding greymouser about "an increasingly expensive product that provides increasingly less service".
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:15 PM on October 28, 2012


and does nothing to sever the link between employment and health care

Because this part of the ACA doesn't kick in until January 1, 2014, if the law isn't repealed.
posted by toxic at 5:15 PM on October 28, 2012


What do you think the odds are of Romney sponsoring a national health plan? Hmmm?

It's all about heightening the contradictions, man. Harry Truman wanted universal health care, and we wound up with lousy Obamacare six decades later. This is because America over this time period was not sufficiently right-wing, with moderates like Richard Nixon and George W "compassionate conservative" Bush representing the extreme right. If more people had been dying on the streets over those 60 years, then the demand for a real solution would have been greater and the country would have achieved moral clarity. Alas it is what it is.
posted by leopard at 5:16 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Obama administration will soon take on a new role as the sponsor of at least two nationwide health insurance plans to be operated under contract with the federal government and offered to consumers in every state.

For whatever it's worth, when I saw this a few days ago it looked exactly like the sort of late-in-the-campaign move Obama is forced to make to shore up his unenthusiastic left wing. It's not much, but it's arguably the direct result of disaffection among progressives, or perhaps more specifically (and speculatively) among certain white female voters who have lost their 2008 excitement. Remember that in the last few weeks of the 2000 campaign, Gore made a big move leftward in his rhetoric, and (perhaps coincidentally) his numbers were quickly climbing, though not quite quickly enough. I suspect this proposal hasn't gotten too much attention because Obama would prefer it just be known to the left, and not turn into fodder for more attacks from the right.
posted by chortly at 5:22 PM on October 28, 2012


chortly: Why, when some, as it made clear above, don't get the whole idea of subsidized health care for those who can't afford it? Or who bitch that it's worthless because it doesn't go into effect until 2014? If you all think Romney is better for organizational purposes, then sure, it won't go into effect, ever.
posted by raysmj at 5:26 PM on October 28, 2012


It is an awful policy and I will proudly say that I was opposed to it from the left. It does help with regard to "pre-existing conditions" and so on, but does nothing to solve medical bankruptcies, and keeps the majority of the burden on people who cannot afford it.

It's more or less the same plan that Massachusetts uses. They seem to like it in that state. Low income individuals would receive either heavily subsidized to no-cost health care everywhere. Here in Nevada , if you are a childless jobless non-disabled man or woman with no income (even if you are 60 years old) - you get ZERO health care benefits. A great many states are like that . One year ago a jobless acquaintance of mine died of lung cancer. He waited too long to have the symptoms checked because he could not afford the cost.

Additional the Affordable Health care act does the following which you failed to mention:

1. People on Medicare can now get free preventative health care services

2. Restrictions on HMO profits - direct consumer refunds from HMOs who do not spend enough on direct health services.

3. Removal of lifetime dollar limits for child coverage

4. Ability to remain on parents insurance up till age 26

5. Increased eligibility for Medicaid coverage nationwide

6. Women can not be charged more than men for insurance.

and a lot more. ALL the above has a direct effect on lowering the number of medical bankruptcies.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 5:54 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


In my dreams I ascend into the astral plane and slaughter the god of deontic ethics, eliminating his pernicious influence from the world.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:01 PM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


chortly: "For whatever it's worth, when I saw this a few days ago it looked exactly like the sort of late-in-the-campaign move Obama is forced to make to shore up his unenthusiastic left wing. It's not much, but it's arguably the direct result of disaffection among progressives, or perhaps more specifically (and speculatively) among certain white female voters who have lost their 2008 excitement."

If the linked article hadn't noted that these rules have been in the making for 6 or 7 months now I might believe that these plans are being started to help shore up Obama's left flank. I would not be surprised if that's the reason the process is suddenly subject to publicity, though!
posted by wierdo at 6:03 PM on October 28, 2012


you can't rationalize away voting for, say, a white supremacist candidate by saying, "He has no chance of winning".

I don't totally agree - for example, one coherent strategy for a liberal might be to vote for someone totally unelectable (say, an open white supremacist) in the opposition party's primary.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:14 PM on October 28, 2012


If the linked article hadn't noted that these rules have been in the making for 6 or 7 months now I might believe that these plans are being started to help shore up Obama's left flank.

Yes, it's certainly about the timing of the publicity, to be more precise. Though with a lot of plans on paper or in the works, publicly touting future plans is to a slight degree a commitment to devoting increased resources to enacting those specific plans, which otherwise could quite readily languish (as many of the proposals in the ACA most certainly will).
posted by chortly at 6:22 PM on October 28, 2012


State law (in some states) is more progressive on health insurance than federal law. Obamacare raises the bar more in some states than in others. If nothing else, this goes to show that the old saying about "all politics is local" has some truth to it.

So, yeah, your vote may have more or less weight in the electoral college depending on where you vote.

But your vote in the presidential election is not the measure of the weight of your political influence. There is more than just the one race on your ballot and more things you can do than just passively vote. Politics is about the accumulation and exercise of power. It's not a form of consumerism (although a lot of conservatives would like it if it was.)

I don't think I've seen anybody here arguing against voting. Take a good look at your sample ballot before you decide that your vote is "worthless."

I saw waaaaaaay back up the thread somebody saying something about Washington state being a "safe" state for Democrats. That certainly wasn't true in 2004.

And that election is a very good example of how much weight a few votes can carry in a state election.
posted by warbaby at 7:13 PM on October 28, 2012


I don't think I've seen anybody here arguing against voting. Take a good look at your sample ballot before you decide that your vote is "worthless."

Actually, yeah, people have been arguing against voting in this thread.
posted by kafziel at 7:25 PM on October 28, 2012


Siddhartha Muhammad skydiving Christ on the moon. I didn't "argue against voting". I argued that there are not always compelling arguments for voting. "Not for" differs from "against" in this context, too, especially where it's not even "not for", just "not necessarily for". Given that the "hard-nosed realist" crowd is coming out in favour of absolutism and false dichotomies, I'm surprised that their much-vaunted real world isn't a hell of a lot simpler than it seems to me to be.
posted by kengraham at 8:49 PM on October 28, 2012


The problem with the "progressive" wing of the Democratic Party is that they invariably work to undermine actual progress -- and oftentimes, the party as a whole -- when they aren't able, in any way shape, or form, to get things exactly how they would prefer.

I'm getting really sick of this sort of take-my-ball-and-go-home irrealpolitik, as I don't particularly like getting the government the obstructionists deserve.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:14 PM on October 28, 2012


Regarding abortion rights: If George W Bush couldn't seriously curtail the right to an abortion with GOP majorities in both houses, post 9/11 popularity and a surging conservative base I don't think Romney will be able to.

Huh? The Partial Birth Abortion ban was passed during the W administration, and upheld in Gonzales v. Carhart with incredibly alarming disregard for health provisions and testimony from the medical community. What more evidence do you need that another GOP administration wouldn't try to go even further?
posted by mostly vowels at 10:18 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's are my questions for all of the people who are 1)lefty/progressives 2) committed to voting for Obama: what is your metric of failure? What would it take for you to decide that the system had failed and that voting for a Democratic presidential candidate wasn't a good decision?

And the follow up: what would it take to convince you that our system of government has failed irreparably?
posted by wuwei at 10:21 PM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not about the system having failed. I believe the current system should be swept away and replaced with something else, but I'm gonna keep voting to try and help reduce the harm being done. Obama isn't great, but he's not Mitt Romney, and since those are our only choices in the election, Obama it is.

It's needle exchange, that's all.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:24 PM on October 28, 2012


wuwei, metrics of failure are much less important than sound alternatives. Not voting doesn't do shit about the failed system. Neither does voting for Jill Stein. Hell, electing Jill Stein probably wouldn't accomplish much.
posted by leopard at 10:55 PM on October 28, 2012


What would it take for me to not vote for the Democrat? The Republican being someone I genuinely believed would lead to a better America, or a third-party candidate who stood a good chance of actually getting elected. It's not that complicated. I look at the options that are actually currently available, and I choose the best of those options. I might really want raspberry, but if the available flavors are vanilla and garbage, why, yes, I'll take vanilla. Even if it has a kind of trashy aftertaste.
posted by gracedissolved at 11:05 PM on October 28, 2012 [5 favorites]


what is your metric of failure? What would it take for you to decide that the system had failed and that voting for a Democratic presidential candidate wasn't a good decision?

Seriously? To have a better Republican presidential candidate. Just walking away in a huff isn't going to get you anywhere.

what would it take to convince you that our system of government has failed irreparably?

Sarah Palin on a winning Presidential ticket.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:14 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Yes, the political compromise necessary to get all zero Republicans who ultimately supported the bill on board."

Take a look at the reality instead.

The heart of the compromise wasn't with the Republicans. Rather, it was with the Blue Dog Democrats who held up passage of the bill in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Please note... the Blue Dog Dems are *specifically* targeted by corporate lobbyists and contributors to a much greater degree, in order to bend their ears and their politics. That's how they get the money to stay afloat in generally unfavorable territory.

Do you honestly think that all the ideology and anger that the progressives can muster is going to get career politicians like Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee Ross, Rep. Baron Hill of Indiana, or Rep. Zack Space of Ohio to change their minds, despite what their constituents were saying in town hall meetings? Despite their efforts to scale back healthcare reform in exchange for their votes, *all* of them either decided not to run again, or lost their next election by large margins.

Had any of the Republicans signed on to the deal, as you suggested the goal was... they would've been committing political suicide too. So yeah, no wonder they didn't vote for it!

The simple fact is that the GOP, their media, and their corporate backers are simply too good at inciting the public and whipping their constituency into lockstep obedience... and while I don't want to suggest that you shouldn't have ideals, you have to realize that if you want to achieve results that are closer to your ideal, you're going to have to approach it in a real-world environment, and will, in fact, have to compromise... even with those within your own political party.
posted by markkraft at 5:29 AM on October 29, 2012


I don't understand this belief that angry leftists have about voting third party. Burning the village down isn't going to save it.

Not only will burning down the village not "save" it, but it's the same process the hard-right folks want to bring about -- only they have the financial resources to rebuild society in their moralistic corporate-based new world order, while the lefties don't have the power to build whatever green locavore utopia they dream of bringing about. So guess what we'll end up with if the system crumbles.
posted by aught at 6:12 AM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow. I wandered over to this thread because I thought I'd get some intelligent banter about why the author of the piece in question was wrong...but this went South really fast. I think I'm an evil terrorist, but I also found out my vote doesn't count...or it does.
posted by Kokopuff at 6:58 AM on October 29, 2012


Wow. I wandered over to this thread because I thought I'd get some intelligent banter about why the author of the piece in question was wrong...but this went South really fast.

According to the author of that piece, now you know who has the integrity not to cave to bullying, so now you know who to network with.

Glad we could be of service!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:17 AM on October 29, 2012


"the price we pay for a marginally better presidency is the guarantee that both major parties will continue to support unbridled warmaking, execution by presidential fiat, the slow (if we're lucky) death of anything like economic equality..."

Given that President Obama has ended one war, is winding down the other, and is noticeably scaling down the drone war, while pushing back on Israel's warmongering over Iran, I think that the phrase "unbridled warmaking" is simply not accurate in any measurable, verifiable way.

Rather, what we are seeing is a gradual yet steady reduction in war, along with the fear, paranoia, and political necessities that come with it. That's ultimately what it will take to make the dismantling of the War on Terror politically viable. Indeed, President Obama will have greater leeway to reverse Bush's Executive Orders and make some of his own, as he will face fewer political ramifications for doing so.

In Guantanamo, there are 167 detainees now, down from a high of 670 during the Bush administration. No new detainees were brought to Guantanamo during the Obama administration. The Justice Department recently made public the names of 55 of these detainees who have been approved for transfer to other countries... a move that pleasantly surprised organizations concerned about the legal rights of detainees. The Obama administration has repeatedly tried to find countries willing to take in the detainees, despite Republican efforts to block detainees being transferred from our responsibility to that of other nations... and, after bringing in top talent at the Justice Department to restructure the entire system of military tribunals, trials in Guantanamo are proceeding in a transparent manner, with the same basic protections we have in our justice system.

Oh, and as for economic inequality, the last time I heard, President Obama wanted to let Bush-era tax cuts lapse for the wealthiest Americans. Even then, though, that will not entirely reverse a trend of income inequality that has been rapidly growing since the Reagan administration. If you want that trend to reverse, you're going to have to have Democrats in office long enough to change the Supreme Court and get rid of corporate money as a form of protected free speech.

So, yes, I'm hardly saying that all these things aren't longterm issues... but you are suggesting that the policies between the Democrats and Republicans are the same, without pointing out that the directions they are moving in are completely the opposite.
posted by markkraft at 7:35 AM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Very compelling article, that also makes me glad that I'm not American. Even though my (formerly third, now second) party of choice has never won government, the idea that one could not support them for fear of electing something more right wing never had much currency amongst here except amongst unthinking dolt and cynical partisans of the formerly second (now third) party. I don't know how I'd feel about my country if I seriously felt I couldn't vote my values.
posted by Kurichina at 8:02 AM on October 29, 2012


Unsurprisingly, [Stoller's] a mid-30s white male, and given that he went to Harvard, I think I can make a few guesses about how much money he had growing up and has now.

Newsflash: another privileged, straight, white guy thinks his "conscience" is the most important thing ever.

The funny thing is, Stoller's worked for Jon Corzine and Wesley Clark, neither of whom are nearly as pure as Jill Stein. You'd think that if Stoller's morally corrupt enough to work for Corzine and Clark, then he could also find it in him to be morally corrupt enough to vote for Obama.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:06 AM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Kurichina: "I don't know how I'd feel about my country if I seriously felt I couldn't vote my values."

You absolutely can vote your values here. You just have to do it in the primary, when the consequence isn't (slightly) increasing the chance that the batshitinsane party takes over. The problem is really that one party is batshitinsane and is full of batshitinsane people because they've kicked out all the people who refused to have their brains sucked out by the party apparatchiks.

They have been working toward this end since the 1960s and have finally managed to purge the party of anything approaching moderation, much less progressivism. They abandoned their left flank and the Democrats took it over.

As much as the far left of this country complains about the Democrats, they do have left, right, and center factions as political parties historically have in this country. Until recently, we have not ever been a nation with the entirety of a party voting in lock step. The problem is that one party still values at least the appearance of conducting themselves with decorum while the other doesn't give a rat's ass and is more than willing to use every dirty trick in the book. It's how they took over the Republican party, why would they not use the same tactics against the rest of the country?
posted by wierdo at 8:18 AM on October 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Third Party Nihilism: The Arguments Can Always Get Worse!
posted by tonycpsu at 8:23 AM on October 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


For all those who believe that third parties make no difference in America – and, hell, for everybody else too – today's XKCD is a stunningly good visualization of the ideological and partisan makeup of the House and Senate. Pretty much a must-view.
posted by koeselitz at 10:33 AM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Are people actually worried Obama is going to lose this election?
Personally, not really, however Nate Silver has been putting Romney at about 25% probability of winning. 19% on the "now cast". That's still pretty likely.

But non-swing state voting isn't going to make a difference here.
The current prediction on FiveThirtyEight is that the popular vote will be 50.3% Obama, 48.7% Romney. It's very close.
Why do people keep talking about the popular vote as if it mattered?
it's VERY likely that the popular vote will matter, if not for outcome then for the ripple effect (ie, claiming a mandate, political capital that can be used to pass legislation, etc).

EVERY VOTE MATTERS.
Yes, but there is no reason to symbolically support the president if you don't actually like him --even if you like Romney less.
The main reason that the Teabaggers have been so successful is that they have been working very hard to do 'grass-roots networking', and all of the things that the left wing bragged about being so proficient.
Oh dear god. The reason the teabaggers are so well organized is they have enormous financial support from massive lobbying groups like the Chamber of Commerce, and of course their own broadcast network
One thing missing. Gore himself and his local crew. He lost his own home state of Tennessee. For the love of Cthulhu, how do you that? Even Walter Mondale, in the blowout of 1984, managed to carry his own home state, when he lost everything else.
Romney isn't going to carry Michigan or Massachusetts. Of course he's not a well known local politician like a senator would be. He ran for senate once, governor once and won -- and wasn't that well liked.
But yeah, it's amazing how people are totally unwilling to blame Gore for losing to bush when if he'd just done slightly better job he would have won.
G. Try holding an elected office while opposing a war in the US. As much as I hate it, the reality is a Member of Congress cannot oppose any war that has the slightest justification
Are you kidding? The worst thing that happens is that you lose your seat, and maybe become a millionaire lobbyist? Someone who's willing to see hundreds of thousands of people die to stay in office isn't someone who I'd ever want to support. Are you fucking kidding?
It's not about "daddy issues." It's about getting reelected. Craven, I know
Right, it's craven, and I have no interest whatsoever in supporting a craven political party.
posted by delmoi at 10:40 AM on October 29, 2012


That's an excellent infographic, koeselitz -- surely one of Munroe's best -- but I don't think it supports the idea that third parties make a difference in America. Care to explain how you're using it to make that case?
posted by tonycpsu at 10:47 AM on October 29, 2012


there is no reason to symbolically support the president if you don't actually like him --even if you like Romney less.

No more reason than there is to symbolically support any presidential candidate, major party or minor and yet that's what these arguments are always about, symbolism. A vote for a presidential candidate with no chance of winning: symbolic. A vote for a presidential candidate who can't win in protest of another candidate who might: symbolic. A vote against a presidential candidate who isn't 100% whatever the voter imagines said candidate should be: symbolic.

The whole history of third party presidential quixoticry, especially in its lefty variety and especially especially as it likes to preen itself on the internet, is nothing but symbolism.

As long as the Electoral College and first-past-the-post voting remain a feature of US politics, minor party presidential votes will always be symbolic and the purer-than-thou types on the internet will continue to clutch those symbols to their breasts.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:40 AM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Mitt Romney's position on Iran is exactly the same as Obama's."

... at least it is in a presidential debate when he's motivated to move to the center, and in an environment where President Obama is motivated to come off as strongly supporting Israel, as opposed to saying that their leader is a liar and a war monger.

Excuse me if I spend more attention concentrating on what people do, as opposed to what they say.

In reality, there are a lot of obvious differences between Romney and Obama on Iran.

1> He has top advisors who are outspoken neoconservatives, such as John Bolton and Karl Rove. There is talk of Bolton actually being given a top cabinet position in a future Romney administration.

2> He's talks about Iran having an active nuclear weapons program, as if it actually existed. President Obama hasn't done that.

3> His own website on Iran says that "Ahmadinejad should be indicted for incitement to genocide"... with all the ramifications that will have for US foreign policy, and how weak and impotent the US would look if he either wasn't indicted, or wasn't extradited after possibly being found guilty. Either way, it would encourage a rift with our NATO allies, once we start inevitably putting pressure on the international community to reach the kind of decision we wanted, might cause a rift if they do not, and would put significant pressure on a Romney administration to launch a war on Iran to get the kind of justice they were seeking, while undoubtedly encouraging Iranians to unite around their president... a man who is term limited, doesn't actually call most of the shots in his country, and is due to step down in Iran next year!

4> He's also on record for saying that Iran absolutely will not develop a nuclear weapon under his administration... a statement that cannot be backed up, short of using force. So, if Iran *does* have a nuclear weapons program, or evidence -- accurate or not -- indicates that Iran is on the verge of having a nuclear weapon... what then? Can he afford to look weaker and weaker every day, like some kind of modern version of the Iranian hostage crisis, as Iran supposedly expands a nuclear arsenal? No. He would have to go to war with a country of 80 million people, clear on the other side of the world.

5> He's on record as wanting to sending at least two carrier groups to Iran's coastal waters. This not only greatly increases the odds of a US attack on Iran, it also increases the possibility for an unintended war, or a possible Iranian surprise attack on US carriers.

6> He's talked about cutting off all imports and exports from those nations who import from Iran. That's a huge list of friendly countries... including China, Japan, South Korea, India, South Africa, Turkey, Malaysia, and Taiwan.

7> Romney has ruled out direct diplomacy between the US and Iran, while President Obama supports it, and may, in fact, be close to a deal with Iran. It's entirely possible that an amicable deal is in the works so that Iran can pursue nuclear energy and nuclear medicine on some terms... but that is entirely dependent upon President Obama's reelection.

8> His own website also says that he favors "establishing a fully operational and effective missile defense system in Eastern Europe" (!!!!) to create a protective umbrella against Iranian nuclear weapons."

Take a look at a map... Do I *really* have to point out how ludicrous this statement is, and how it would help to reestablish Russia as our #1 foe... which was exactly what Mitt Romney called them awhile back.

Having a new cold war with Russia is, frankly, very much something that we should all want to avoid, because right now we face a zero percent chance of a nuclear attack from Iran.... but build a vastly expensive, utterly ineffective, inexpensively counter-measured missile defense system right on Russia's borders and it *will* actually significantly increase the odds of a massive nuclear confrontation. Hell, we nearly killed each other by complete accident on several occasions.

I don't know whether Mitt is playing a calculated game of politics with this, or actually believes that Russia is as big of a threat as he's said... we now know that most in the Bush administration were, in fact, true believers in the risk of Iraq... to the point that they ignored the CIA and started pushing people to find the evidence of weapons that simply did not exist. Either way, though, we should all be pretty fearful of the ramifications of a Romney presidency.
posted by markkraft at 12:29 PM on October 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Medicaid on the Ballot

Estimates suggest that a Romney victory would deny health insurance to about 45 million people who would have coverage if he lost, with two-thirds of that difference due to the assault on Medicaid.
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:18 PM on October 29, 2012


The argument against voting for a third party is not compelling.

The argument runs like this: Your vote matters, since if lots of people voted the way you propose to vote, then the Republican would win election. But your vote doesn't matter, since your vote wouldn't increase the chance of your preferred third-party candidate winning the election.

The issue, I think, is about what we are imagining holding fixed in these two claims. In the first, we are imagining that you vote for a third party, and so do a lot of other people. In the second case, we are imagining that you and you alone vote for the third-party candidate. But we ought to be making the same assumptions about the background conditions in both cases. If we assume that lots of people vote for the third-party candidate or might do so in the first condition, then we ought to make that same assumption in the other condition.

After all, if every Democratically inclined voter voted for Stein, then she would have as good a chance as Obama. It isn't like there is a mysterious energy field that keeps left-leaning people from voting for a Green or Socialist or whatever. People don't vote that way because they pre-negotiate out of voting that way by convincing themselves that their preferred candidate could not win, regardless of how they vote. Of course, if most people reason that way, the prophecy will be fulfilled: their preferred candidate will be unable to win. But the fact that many people do reason that way is no reason to think that people ought to reason that way.

And if we make the assumption that only one vote is in play, then as a statistical fact, that vote has practically zero chance of deciding the election. Its influence on the probability of victory for any candidate is virtually zero.

I don't think that is an argument for not voting. Rather, it is an argument for voting according to your preferences, rather than "strategically."
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 4:03 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Flag on the play. The number of Obama-to-Stein votes that could award the election to Romney is minuscule compared to the number of Obama-to-Stein votes that could award the election to Stein.
posted by tonycpsu at 4:08 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


After all, if every Democratically inclined voter voted for Stein, then she would have as good a chance as Obama. It isn't like there is a mysterious energy field that keeps left-leaning people from voting for a Green or Socialist or whatever.

Let's say every "Democratically" inclined voter voted their conscience and as a result 60% voted for Stein and 40% voted for Obama. Or 25% voted Socialist, 25% voted Obama, 25% voted Green, and 25% voted Freedom and Justice. Obviously, the Republican Party would win, or if there were more conservative parties I imagine there would be a run-off where at least half the country would have to vote for someone they didn't align with very well. It seems to me part of the political process is settling on a candidate that can garner enough popular support to actually win an election.

It's not a mysterious energy field that influences people to settle on a candidate they don't agree with on everything, it is the democratic process of 150 million diverse voters having to select a single leader. I don't think there is a way to get around the statistical fact that an individual vote is practically insignificant in an election this large. It is possible for some people to be more significant by participating in politics or advocating for issues they care about, I suppose. Maybe "strategic" voting is the only kind of voting that realistically exists.
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:56 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Actually, in truth, if I voted my conscious I would vote for myself. Because I'm the only one I know that 100% understands the important issues that matter to me and I am also the only one that places absolute trust in myself to not break any promises I make on the campaign to myself. And everyone else should vote the same. I mean, not vote for me, but vote for themselves.

It goes back to that saying. Only YOU can prevent forest fires. And torture. And drone strikes. And climate change.
posted by FJT at 5:08 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Only YOU can prevent forest fires. And torture. And drone strikes. And climate change.

So don't vote for Obama then?
posted by blue_beetle at 5:45 PM on October 29, 2012


Flag on the play. The number of Obama-to-Stein votes that could award the election to Romney is minuscule compared to the number of Obama-to-Stein votes that could award the election to Stein.

That's true, but irrelevant to the argument. What is at stake is (1) whether we should be thinking in terms of an unspecified lot of voters behaving differently or (2) whether we should be thinking in terms of one specified voter behaving differently. (Even that is perhaps overly charitable to the no-third-party position, since it is at best unclear that people should be treated as having a default status in favor of one of the two major parties.)

Again, if we are thinking about moving around a bunch of votes, then the argument is symmetric: if pro-Obama voters say, "You killed Obama's chances by voting for Stein, rather than Obama"; pro-Stein voters could, with equal propriety, say, "You killed Stein's chances by voting for Obama, rather than voting for Stein."

If we are thinking about moving a single vote, then we have strong statistical reasons to think that the single vote doesn't matter. So, vote in accordance with your preferences.

Actually, in truth, if I voted my conscious I would vote for myself.

Then you should do that. Unless you live in Oklahoma (I think), you have a write-in option.

Let's say every "Democratically" inclined voter voted their conscience and as a result 60% voted for Stein and 40% voted for Obama. Or 25% voted Socialist, 25% voted Obama, 25% voted Green, and 25% voted Freedom and Justice. Obviously, the Republican Party would win, or if there were more conservative parties I imagine there would be a run-off where at least half the country would have to vote for someone they didn't align with very well. It seems to me part of the political process is settling on a candidate that can garner enough popular support to actually win an election.

I don't disagree with the second half. The first half seems to assume that only the left should vote according to its preferences or could be persuaded to do so, neither of which I believe. But I'm not sure I see what follows. If the majority of people really prefer a conservative representative, then a conservative should be elected. If I am to effect change in such a case, I have to do it by persuading conservatives to move left.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 5:54 PM on October 29, 2012


President Obama is motivated to come off as strongly supporting Israel, as opposed to saying that their leader is a liar and a war monger.

Not really the point of this thread, but it needs to be pointed out that strong opposition to the current PM of Israel and strong support of Israel are perfectly compatible. Lots of people on this thread called G W Bush a liar, a war monger, and much worse, and that doesn't mean they're not strong supporters of the United States.
posted by escabeche at 5:57 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't disagree with the second half. The first half seems to assume that only the left should vote according to its preferences or could be persuaded to do so, neither of which I believe. But I'm not sure I see what follows. If the majority of people really prefer a conservative representative, then a conservative should be elected. If I am to effect change in such a case, I have to do it by persuading conservatives to move left.

In the first half there were presumably two 'progressive' parties and one conservative party, so conservatives only have one choice and progressives have two. Lets assume 35% of the population is conservative, and 65% is progressive. If the two progressive parties split the progressive vote 32.5% each, the conservative party could win even though 65% of the population is against them. To "strategically" prevent this circumstance, progressive voters would have to decide on one candidate. I guess rank-choice voting or a mandatory run-off when a candidate receives less than 50% of the vote would prevent this, but that is not the system we have, currently. In cases where there are enough progressive votes to elect a progressive candidate, it is not necessary to persuade 'conservatives.' In cases where there is not, maybe it is necessary to compromise with moderates.
posted by Golden Eternity at 6:16 PM on October 29, 2012


Again, if we are thinking about moving around a bunch of votes, then the argument is symmetric: if pro-Obama voters say, "You killed Obama's chances by voting for Stein, rather than Obama"; pro-Stein voters could, with equal propriety, say, "You killed Stein's chances by voting for Obama, rather than voting for Stein."

I don't think it's symmetric. We are not arguing over arbitrary pro-Stein or pro-Obama voters. We are arguing over "Stein voters who could be convinced to vote for Obama" and "Obama voters who could be convinced to vote for Stein". The populations are of wildly different size; a symmetry argument doesn't apply.

If we are thinking about moving a single vote, then we have strong statistical reasons to think that the single vote doesn't matter. So, vote in accordance with your preferences.

If a single vote doesn't matter, then why vote at all? Why not stay home and read a good book? The best answer I can think of (and I'm not claiming this is true of anybody else) is that it makes the person voting feel better about themselves. And I guess voting strictly by preference makes them feel even better. I can certainly accept that.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:20 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


The first half seems to assume that only the left should vote according to its preferences or could be persuaded to do so, neither of which I believe.

If the sides are roughly equal and one side votes its conscience and the other does not, the side that compromises wins. There's a reason people vote for the least-worst.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:44 PM on October 29, 2012


benito.strauss, some people like to buy lottery tickets, even though it makes no mathematical sense. Perhaps the moment of fantasy, the irrational moment of "hey, it could be me this time", is worth the dollar. I think voting for President is the same way, and it's free; it's a little moment where you can fantasize that your opinion matters, that you have a say in the operation of the government, even at the very highest level. Of course it's not actually true, in a statistical sense, but it's a little feeling of "king for a day".

Of course once you're done with your moment of fantasy about the presidential race, there's a whole list of local races where the numbers are small enough that your vote actually kind of does matter just a little bit. Not as exciting, maybe, but once you've started filling out the ballot, why not keep going?
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:29 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


He's also on record for saying that Iran absolutely will not develop a nuclear weapon under his administration... a statement that cannot be backed up, short of using force.
This is the only actually relevant point you brought up, and it's identical to what Obama has said. The problem isn't that there's no chance Romney will invade Iran, but rather no guarantee Obama won't.

Like I said, Obama has much greater political latitude. If Obama were to support military action against Iran, I guarantee you this site would be full of people backing him 100%. If Romney did it, wouldn't see more then a handful.

Not that the opinion of metafilter matters much, but you'd see the same thing in polling and stuff like that. If the US were to get into a war with Iran with Romney, it would probably cost him re-election.

Anyway, the only point is that "If you don't vote for Obama, you are voting for war with Iran!!!!" is total nonsense. There's no stated policy difference between the two, and the rest of it is relatively baseless speculation. Attacking people because they don't take your speculation as the absolute truth is pretty weak sauce.
posted by delmoi at 8:34 PM on October 29, 2012


If Obama were to support military action against Iran, I guarantee you this site would be full of people backing him 100%.

Bullshit
posted by bookman117 at 8:41 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


If Obama were to support military action against Iran, I guarantee you this site would be full of people backing him 100%.

You've never been more wrong.

But there's always tomorrow.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:04 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's no stated policy difference between the two, and the rest of it is relatively baseless speculation.

In the case of Romney it is complete speculation. Romney has taken both sides of just about any issue, and clearly is echoing Obama on foreign policy as a political maneuver. He will say just about anything to get elected, it seems. What Romney would actually do when in office is anybody's guess. He does have John Bolton as a top foreign policy adviser and claims to have a close relationship with Netanyahu - these things are probably worth putting in the equation.

In Obama's case we have four years to go off of. He has resisted Israel's calls to strike Iran so far; he has avoided much involvement in Syria so far; I think the involvement in Libya was reasonably small; has ended the war in Iraq; has scheduled an end to the war in Afghanistan; and has not prevented Egypt from electing a President from the Muslim Brotherhood.

My guess is Obama would try everything he could possibly do to avoid military involvement with Iran. I'm not so sure about Mitt Romney and John "the only other option is to take pre-emptive military action to break Iran's program" Bolton.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:23 PM on October 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Another major factor is considering Obama vs. the Republican neo-conservatives (*) on foreign policy is their respective grasp on reality.

Reality is that Iran is three times larger than Iraq by population, and geographically much larger as well. Reality is that there's close ties between Iran and the Shia majority in Iraq. Reality is that Iran is in a good position to close the Strait of Hormuz, choking off a third of the world's sea-borne oil. Reality is that bombing Iran will not destroy its nuclear weapons program, and may even accelerate it.

In short, for the US to go to war with Iran would be incredibly stupid. Reality is what will constrain the Obama administration from going to war with Iran.

The neo-conservatives, on the other hand, are -- well, I hesitate to use the word insane, but they certainly don't appear to have a firm grasp on reality.

(*) Romney himself has little foreign policy experience, as was painfully obvious from his recent overseas trip. Nearly all of his foreign policy advisors are veterans of the Bush administration.
posted by russilwvong at 11:44 PM on October 29, 2012


The neo-conservatives, on the other hand, are -- well, I hesitate to use the word insane, but they certainly don't appear to have a firm grasp on reality.

Neocons create their own reality.
posted by homunculus at 12:07 AM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


"There's no stated policy difference between the two, and the rest of it is relatively baseless speculation."

Why do you feel compelled to repeat "no stated policy difference", when Romney's own website, his prior speeches, reports of his insider conversations, and his choice of close advisers makes it clear that there is a policy difference, both stated and unstated?

It's simply not a logical, credible argument to make, because you're strictly limiting policy differences to what was said in about three minutes of a debate.

The truth is, if asked, the candidates would disagree with you that there is no difference in their policies on Iran... though they would likely opt out of fully and clearly explaining those differences, for political reasons, even though they've oftentimes mentioned elements of their policies in speeches, on their websites, etc.

Anyone who watches the debates alone in order to determine the policies of the candidates is cheating themselves of an informed position. The debates are Kabuki. They are, in fact, about the poorest source of information available to us in order to determine the details of a candidate's actual position on the issues.

It seems pretty ridiculous to write off the most credible info you have on what Mitt Romney's policies are as "baseless speculation". The guy has said he backs Israel to the hilt, his advisors are amongst the foremost champions of the doctrine of pre-emptive war and regime change, he's advocated regime change through the indictment of Iran's leader, he's also advocating direct support for those who want to topple his regime, he's opposed direct negotiations and is currently criticizing the president for his administration's negotiations with Iran.

Mitt Romney has also said that Russia is our biggest foe, at the heart of the problem when it comes to Iran. He proposes restarting a costly, potentially dangerous arms race with them... which is exactly what would happen if you put a missile defense system on its borders in Eastern Europe, as opposed to anywhere near Iran. It would also incite the kind of policies that led to armed confrontation between Russia and its neighbors, such as we saw between Russia and Georgia in 2008, with the possibility of US troops being drawn into or stuck in the middle of such a conflict, the potential for Russia to use its oil and natural gas exports as a way of punishing NATO countries, etc. It would also undermine Russia's previously promising efforts to resolve the uranium issue with Iran from becoming a facesaving compromise that would achieve the US' principal objectives when it comes to Iran's uranium enrichment program.

The simple fact is, Russia is potentially a credible partner when it comes to resolving the Iranian issue, in that it would allow all sides involved to save face.
posted by markkraft at 5:55 AM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I'm sorry, but if you seriously think Mitt Romney would be as circumspect about the use of military force in Iran as Obama, you haven't paid any attention to his campaign at all. An overwhelming majority of his foreign policy team are old GWB hands, including the aforementioned John "Fuck the United Nations" Bolton, "Baghdad Dan" Senor, and a rogues' gallery of Project for a New American Century types. Romney hardly even mentioned sanctions during the primary campaign, focusing on the use of American military power to scare Iran into compliance, but then when the sanctions started working, he suddenly had the courage to follow Obama's lead while quibbling about the details of a policy he didn't even support.

Romney would be terrible on domestic policy, but with congress having basically abrogated its responsibility for declaring war in recent decades, the prospect of Romney as commander-in-chief is far more frightening. I hope you Stein-curious voters keep this in mind when you go to vote next week.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:31 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Blazecock Pileon: ""Under Bush, economic inequality was bad, as 65 cents of every dollar of income growth went to the top 1 percent. Under Obama, however, that number is 93 cents out of every dollar.""

I think this can be explained fairly simply; that Obama has always tried to compromise and appear bipartisan, even when the Democrats held a majority in the House and Senate.

What we needed for economic recovery was big goofy government spending on projects. Instead, it was mostly corporate debt buyouts and tax cuts.

As a result, there was only one economic incentive out there, and it was for businesses to become even more efficient with the labor they had. So they would fire people and make the remaining workforce work harder, which they could easily do because the weak labor market meant people weren't able to seek better employment. So the pattern became: All of these -- companies needing less labor, average salaries going own, efficiency going up -- are great for share prices. The stock market recovered right away. That's where most rich people have their money anyway.

You only need to really look at the larger economic picture to see that the economic recovery, if it can be described as such, is top down. If ever there could be an inditement of the trickle-down theory, this recovery is it. Despite the wealthy seeing their wealth increase significantly over the past few years, none of that has trickled down to the middle class. Proof, if any more was needed, that the wealthy are not job creators.

So yeah, I would blame Obama for this but also the extremely distorted political spectrum that most politicians sit on. So distorted that a centrist (maybe even slightly right of center) like Obama would be considered the "far left" while in reality a more balanced "opposite" view of trickle down economics would be something closer to socialism.

Instead, we have, at one end, "get rid of all social welfare, let the rich retain as much of their wealth as possible, somehow they will magically make the economy better" and on the other end we just have, "maybe we can keep using the social welfare policies we have now and restore our taxation to levels that are still lower than the levels during most of Reagan's presidency".

What we need is someone with all of the charisma and youth appeal of Obama but also someone who is both tough-as-nails and holds truly progressive political policies. I've pondered before whether it might be better for Obama to lose and for Romney to have 4 weak years of presidency followed by someone who is really new and progressive. But that was back before Romney decided to become some crazy Uruk-Hai level conservative. Plus in 2016 you can guess that Hillary Clinton is going to make a serious bid for president again, and this time she probably would get the nomination. For whatever reason, we just can't seem to get real progressives past the first couple of months of the primaries. I genuinely think that Howard Dean could have beat Bush in 2004, but we keep choosing Kerry's. I think that, more than anything else, is why Obama has been a disappointment. I really thought he was a progressive. Even if he once was, his policies now don't really reflect that, and his effective legislation definitely doesn't reflect that.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:06 AM on October 30, 2012


"Under Bush, economic inequality was bad, as 65 cents of every dollar of income growth went to the top 1 percent. Under Obama, however, that number is 93 cents out of every dollar."

I'm not saying economic inequality isn't an important issue... it is. It's a trend that has been growing since Ronald Reagan. But what you are not addressing -- quite obviously -- is why was there such a rapid, jolting shift during the Obama administration.

In short: It's the recession.

What you are, in effect, saying, is that Bush's recession caused millions of people to lose their job, that people are desperate for work, and that the end result of that is that it's a hirer's -- and not a worker's -- market. Many companies have downsized and laid people off... only to rehire new employees for lower salaries, once the economy started improving slightly. Obviously, negative income growth will cause a very considerable shift in income inequality and the proportion of income going to the top 1 percent, especially when salaries at the top are still going up... in large part because their companies are still profitable after cuts and less expensive rehires.

If you want to reverse income inequality, that will *only* happen when the demand for skilled workers is considerably higher than the supply again... or when there's the kind of political consensus needed to actually increase taxes on the rich. (Good luck with that...)

The question is, what could President Obama have done to improve this situation, short of doing his best to create more jobs? And what effect did the Republicans have on income inequality when they rejected all jobs plans and stimulus initiatives proposed by the Democrats, even those which were largely based on Republican feedback?

So, yeah, you can cite your talking point there. It's a popular one right now, because there are a lot of angry people. But be honest... it's far more of an indictment of the Republican Party and their policies than of anything that President Obama has done or not done.
posted by markkraft at 11:27 AM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Income inequality... another case in point:

"The first era of inequality lasted roughly from the post-civil war era ("the Gilded Age") to sometime around 1937.

What those concerned about rising income inequality should ask themselves is this: why did income inequality continue to increase from the start of The Great Depression in 1929 through to 1937, even though FDR was leading the nation for much of that time?

If you're honest with yourself, you'll realize the answer... and perhaps cut our current president a bit of slack.
posted by markkraft at 12:24 PM on October 30, 2012


(Here's the answer, btw.)
posted by markkraft at 12:30 PM on October 30, 2012


Matt Stoller on Elizabeth Warren:

How Elizabeth Warren saved taxpayers $1 billion: Elizabeth Warren's work keeping tabs on the bank bailout is a great argument for good government
posted by homunculus at 2:51 PM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Charles P. Pierce: Why I'm Voting To Re-Elect President Obama
I thought long and hard about tossing her [Jill Stein] my vote, because I live in the bluest of blue states [Massachusetts], and I felt that, in casting my vote that way, I would absolve myself of complicity in the drone strikes, and in the inexcusable pass given to the Wall Street pirates, and in what I am sure is going to be an altogether dreadful Grand Bargain while not materially damaging the most important cause of all: making sure that Willard Romney is not president. And I might have done it, had Jill not gone on TV and talked about how those people who are voting for the incumbent president simply to make sure that Willard Romney is not president are doing so out of "fear."
Horse hockey.
It is not fear. It is simple, compelling logic. We have two major political parties. Until that great gettin'-up morning, when purists on both sides of the ideological ditch manage to create workable third parties that look like something more substantial than organized unicorn hunts — which won't happen until we have proportional voting, and I wish you as much luck with that as Lani Guinier had — we always will have two major political parties.
Some links and annotation added.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:28 AM on October 31, 2012 [5 favorites]


talked about how those people who are voting for the incumbent president simply to make sure that Willard Romney is not president are doing so out of "fear."

Among other reasons, sure, but you're damn right I fear a Romney administration. And all due respect to Stein, but "Vote for me! What are you, chicken?" might not be the message she really wants to convey.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:15 AM on October 31, 2012


Pierce does a very nice job of capturing how I feel about voting this year in better words than I have been able to.
posted by octothorpe at 8:19 AM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Infographic for comparison of Romney vs. Obama at their worst. Pretty much sums things up from my perspective.
posted by humanfont at 8:30 AM on October 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think that infographic perfectly illustrates the moral vacuum of the Democratic Party. It describes poor President Obama as "continuing the drone strikes". As if a staffer lost the war machine manual somewhere, and gee whiz, nobody knows how to turn these durned drones OFF!

There is a point at which we need to draw a hard, fast line. I wouldn't be friends with someone who murders people, I wouldn't employ someone who murders people, and, likewise, I won't vote for someone who murders people. (Shelly is just a whiz at Apples to Apples! Shame about the whole axe murder thing...) There are some things that are unambiguously worth damaging poll ratings for. If torture and murder are prerequisites for gaining the electorate's confidence, we have way bigger problems than who to fucking vote for.

This is all moot. The Democrats can whine as much as they like. They would effectively have my vote this election if they had ever fought for instant runoff or other voting reforms. Their actions-- or non-actions-- speak decibels; it is obvious that the Democratic Party would rather write ransom notes with one hand while throwing an entitled hissy fit with the other.
posted by threeants at 8:32 PM on October 31, 2012


I won't pretend it's not a shit sandwich any way you layer the ingredients. And I will say without reservation that the idea of a Romney presidency fills me with a special sort of dread.

It'd be awful if my local Wal-Mart was bought and converted into a nuclear waste spewage facility, but that doesn't mean I'm going to go spend my paycheck at Wal-Mart in support.
posted by threeants at 8:38 PM on October 31, 2012


threeants: "This is all moot. The Democrats can whine as much as they like. They would effectively have my vote this election if they had ever fought for instant runoff or other voting reforms. Their actions-- or non-actions-- speak decibels; it is obvious that the Democratic Party would rather write ransom notes with one hand while throwing an entitled hissy fit with the other."

But for that pesky Constitution, which doesn't give Congress the power to force any particular type of election on the states. How about rather than complaining that other people haven't reformed the system, why don't you go talk to some of your state legislators and get them thinking about it, since they're the ones who have the power. Or get out there and gather signatures (and raise money) for a ballot initiative, if your state allows it.

The onus is on us to solve this problem, not Washington.
posted by wierdo at 9:12 PM on October 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: Dude, we went from torturing suspected terrorists to assassinating them. That's not better, and it's sure as hell not "within the confines of law."

threeants: There is a point at which we need to draw a hard, fast line. I wouldn't be friends with someone who murders people, I wouldn't employ someone who murders people, and, likewise, I won't vote for someone who murders people. ... If torture and murder are prerequisites for gaining the electorate's confidence, we have way bigger problems than who to fucking vote for.

I think there's some confusion here. Torture is a clear violation of the laws of war. Assassination is not. The laws of war don't prohibit killing your enemies; they're primarily about protecting non-combatants.

Several years ago I tried to summarize the laws of war in the alt.politics.international FAQ, as follows (based on the book Crimes of War):
Despite the anarchic nature of international politics, it's generally accepted (at least in the West) that you have to draw the line somewhere.

... During wartime, the laws of war (again, as commonly accepted in the West) require protection of non-combatants, including civilians as well as soldiers who surrender or are captured. They can't be tortured, raped, summarily executed, starved, or worked to death.

Attacks on military targets may endanger non-combatants. The laws of war recognize this, and require proportionality: the risk to non-combatants must be proportional to the military benefit of the action. Bombing an entire city, for example, as happened on both sides during World War II, violates the laws of war. Destroying a dam or nuclear power plant is prohibited if it would release deadly forces endangering civilians. Smart bombs which miss their target and kill civilians do not violate the laws of war, provided that reasonable precautions were taken to prevent this from happening.
The Crimes of War website discusses the clear prohibitions of torture in international law:
While a State is entitled to suppress an insurrection as well as detain and prosecute rebels, torture is universally prohibited. “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture,” states the 1984 Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The Convention ... defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person,” when the agent responsible is “a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.” The treaty lists reasons for inflicting pain or suffering that are associated with torture: obtaining from the detainee or a third person information or a confession; punishing him for an act that he or a third person has committed; intimidating or coercing him or someone else; or for reasons based on discrimination. Pain and suffering arising only from “lawful sanctions” is not prohibited under the Convention.

In addition, torture during armed conflict is specifically prohibited by international humanitarian law, whether the conflict is international or internal, and no matter whether the victims are soldiers who have laid down their arms, civilians, or rebels. The prohibition exists in customary law and in treaties. The Geneva Conventions of 1949 include torture of protected persons (sick or wounded members of the armed forces, prisoners of war, or civilians in the hands of the enemy) among the grave breaches which States are obliged to enforce through criminal prosecution. The first Additional Protocol prohibits torture as well as humiliating and degrading treatment of any detainee, as does Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions in non-international conflicts.

The International Committee of the Red Cross study of customary international humanitarian law says that the use of “torture, cruel or inhuman treatment and outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment” against any person is forbidden in all armed conflicts.
Steve Coll does a good job of describing what's wrong with the Obama administration's use of drone assassination. But assassination is not in itself a clear violation of the laws of war, the way that torture is.

(Looking at pop culture, there's innumerable movies and stories in which the hero is an assassin. Example. How many movies are there in which the hero is a torturer?)
posted by russilwvong at 10:50 PM on October 31, 2012


russilwvong, Obama's drone strikes have caused numerous non-combatant deaths, about some of which the president has apparently been dishonest via his embrace of a ridiculous interpretation of the word "civilian". The definition of "civilian" discussed in the second link is reminiscent of a Clintonian "what 'is' is", except that people die as a result.

Looking at pop culture, there's innumerable movies and stories in which the hero is an assassin.

There are also numerous movies in which non-human animals talk. Presumably the public shouldn't be taking its cues, in terms of what moral standards to impose on its leaders, from popular entertainment, since the latter's purpose is profit, not communicating high moral standards.

It'd be awful if my local Wal-Mart was bought and converted into a nuclear waste spewage facility, but that doesn't mean I'm going to go spend my paycheck at Wal-Mart in support.

Well-put.
posted by kengraham at 6:29 AM on November 1, 2012


Well-put? It's fucking gibberish. Could you explain the metaphor for me?

The Democrats can whine as much as they like. They would effectively have my vote this election if they had ever fought for instant runoff or other voting reforms.

This is a special kind of entitlement. Note first that threeants isn't making a moral case against Obama; apparently he was willing to overlook the drone strikes that have so many wringing their hands and vote if only the President had catered to his own pet issue. It's crazy to try to punish a candidate for failing to do something that no one else anywhere on the political spectrum has done either, but aside from that, the narcissism of withholding a vote over a single issue—and a wonky, legislative, single issue at that—is startling. It's like refusing to vote for the President because he hasn't "fought" for a national high speed rail system. It's purest crankery.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:38 AM on November 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


How many movies are there in which the hero is a torturer?

I don't know how many there have been, but "several" seems like the right answer: Taken, Man on Fire, and The Dark Knight all have some kind of torture for information (and those were just off the top of my head).

The use of torture, or at least "enhanced" interrogation, is common enough to be a TV Trope.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 10:01 AM on November 1, 2012


How many movies are there in which the hero is a torturer?

Many, many action movies involve the good guy torturing the bad guy. The bad guy is so bad, and has information so vital that it's the only way, and anyway he's such a bad guy that he deserves it anyway.

I feel that the majority of Americans who support torture are basically using these film tropes as their primary source of understanding the issue.
posted by cell divide at 11:12 AM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


It'd be awful if my local Wal-Mart was bought and converted into a nuclear waste spewage facility, but that doesn't mean I'm going to go spend my paycheck at Wal-Mart in support.

If I had a choice between a local Wal-Mart and a "nuclear waste spewage facility," I would certainly choose the Wal-Mart. This doesn't seem like a difficult choice to me, honestly. If I chose the "spewage" facility knowing that it would cause certain harm to many of my neighbors, this would actually seem kind of irresponsible.
posted by Golden Eternity at 1:06 PM on November 1, 2012


Note also that casting a vote for a candidate who is certain to remain politically impotent over a candidate who might exercise political power will never, in any way, affect single issue X. A voter who is genuinely appalled by institutionalized torture, or drone strikes, or whatever, is more likely to eliminate them by voting for Obama or Romney (whichever the voter calculates will be more receptive to pressure) than to vote for a candidate who can't do anything at all. And to the extent that minor candidates run to change things, not as a joke, they also know that it's better to have political power than not.

Unless, of course, a voter genuinely believes that the entire American political edifice is hopelessly corrupt and hopelessly evil; in which case that voter should not only not vote, but should also consider either fleeing the country or starting a revolution.

Advocates of minor Presidential candidates so adamantly refuse to address this central point, that more can be done with political power than without, that it's impossible to escape the conclusion that such advocates are more interested in feeling good than in trying to do good.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:51 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Unless, of course, a voter genuinely believes that the entire American political edifice is hopelessly corrupt and hopelessly evil; in which case that voter should not only not vote, but should also consider either fleeing the country or starting a revolution.

"Starting a revolution" could, depending on what you mean and to whom you're talking, entail personally doing things that are as objectionable as the actions by elected officials to which that voter objects; in this case, you're essentially saying: "The US political edifice: love it or leave it," which is un-great.

The Nuclear Waste Wal-Mart Scenario is good because it is ridiculous and oversimplified while sharing the important features of the actual situation in question. Ridiculous, oversimplified analogies can help to clarify which issues are being argued about. In this case, the issue is whether the threat of Worse Outcome generates a responsibility to give active support to Bad Outcome if Bad Outcome and Worse Outcome are mutually exclusive. It's a faithful analogy because, like a presidential election, the person in the NWW-MS has at least three options, namely to actively support Bad, to actively support Worse, or to do neither. The analogy fails in the sense that Bad and Worse are more clearly delineated in the hypothetical example; that's part of why it's an oversimplification.

All I claim is that there are reasonable arguments in favour of the position that, if there is a neutral action that one can individually take, then one is not obligated to actively help to bring about a bad outcome just because the bad outcome would (with some likelihood) forestall a worse outcome. I also think that the situation changes if one is forced to actively help to bring about one of the outcomes: in that case, I'd argue, one is obligated to support the bad outcome. That's not the case in the election in question, because by, e.g. not voting, one is not lending active support to either outcome (instead, one is contributing 0 votes to each candidate).
posted by kengraham at 3:38 PM on November 1, 2012


That's not the case in the election in question, because by, e.g. not voting, one is not lending active support to either outcome (instead, one is contributing 0 votes to each candidate).

I think this is arguably not true. Let's say, in the Wal-Mart example, there is actually a local ordinance to replace the Wal-Mart that is up for a popular vote. 49.1% of the locality is for nuclear "spewage" because it will bring in money and create jobs or something. 48.9% is for Wal-Mart because they like cheap stuff, and may not be able to afford to live without it. These groups are so certain that the outcome is essentially caste in stone. Then there is 2% against both options that have instead created a third choice to tax the locality and setup an organic garden on the property. There is 100% accurate polling, so everyone knows what is up.

In this case, if the organic garden movement votes for Wal-Mart, nuclear spewage does not happen. If they don't vote, vote for spewage, or vote for the organic garden, then spewage does happen, and they know this. In my mind, this creates a responsibility for them to vote for Wal-Mart because of the known outcome if they do not. Perhaps one could argue that it is really the responsibility of the other voters to vote for the organic garden. That is true, but the reality of the situation is if the organic garden hasn't garnered more than 2% of the vote, and the behavior of the other voters is predictable, then it becomes irresponsible for them to vote for the garden if they care about the consequence of the nuclear spewage.

Voting does not really constitute active support in a situation like this. It is a choice that is thrust upon a group that has known outcomes. Choosing not to participate, is still a choice, because it still has a known outcome. Since the group is only given two choices, it is only the difference between the choices that is being supported in any way.
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:31 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Unless, of course, a voter genuinely believes that the entire American political edifice is hopelessly corrupt and hopelessly evil; in which case that voter should not only not vote, but should also consider either fleeing the country or starting a revolution.

Or, you know, shrugging, voting for whoever, and getting on with things that are under their control, like having kids or not or arguing on the internet or not. As I noted upthread, it's broken. That doesn't mean either of the two things you suggest. It does inform me that you rely on false equivalencies in your rhetoric.
posted by mwhybark at 5:00 PM on November 1, 2012


I think the Wal-Mart analogy does more to obfuscate than it does to help understand the issues involved. Sometimes simplification is necessary to convey a point, but I think we're all smart enough to talk about these issues directly without such a poor analogy.

It's actually quite simple. If the voters who stay home on election day (or vote Jill Stein or Mickey Mouse) didn't claim to give a damn about progressive public policy goals, or made a convincing case that electing Mitt Romney as POTUS would further those progressive goals, there would be absolutely nothing wrong with their inaction. In practice, they are choosing to not avail themselves of an opportunity to vote for the most progressive candidate with a chance of winning the election (keeping in mind that Stoller suggested that even swing state progressive voters withhold their vote from Obama.) Their inaction (or meaningless action in the case of a Stein vote) increases the chance that Mitt Romney wins the election -- full stop.

At the same time, they want to lecture Obama voters that they're the traitors, because Obama did some things that are decidedly not progressive, a fact that most Obama voters would not dispute. When you ask them how Mitt Romney would be better on those "dealbreaker" issues, they have no cogent answer. Sometimes they'll respond with "well, there's very little chance I'll be the deciding vote, so I'm just going to send Obama a message that he won't get my vote if he (e.g. continues the drone war)" as if this message will be heard as the champagne is popping in Chicago. The only way that message gets heard is if the champagne pops in Boston instead, and then we're back to the lack of evidence that Romney will do better on drones, the drug war, or whatever else the "dealbreaker" issue is.

The game theory here for progressive voters is not complicated. Two choices (vote Obama, don't vote Obama) and one goal (elect the most progressive candidate.) There is a zero real value assigned to "sending a message", and whatever weights you assign to each issue you care about, there are zero issues on which Romney would be more progressive than Obama, and many on which Obama would be more progressive than Romney.

The Matt Stollers of the world can withhold their vote from the most progressive candidate on every issue, or they can lecture other progressives about being bad progressives, but they cannot do both.
posted by tonycpsu at 5:49 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Note first that threeants isn't making a moral case against Obama; apparently he was willing to overlook the drone strikes that have so many wringing their hands and vote if only the President had catered to his own pet issue. It's crazy to try to punish a candidate for failing to do something that no one else anywhere on the political spectrum has done either, but aside from that, the narcissism of withholding a vote over a single issue—and a wonky, legislative, single issue at that—is startling. It's like refusing to vote for the President because he hasn't "fought" for a national high speed rail system. It's purest crankery.

I think you've misunderstood. I'm not saying I'm a single-issue voter on ballot reform. I'm saying the Democrats would literally have my vote if they achieved instant runoff voting, because Barack Obama would receive my second-place designation behind a third-party candidate.

The petulance of the Democratic Party is such that they feel naturally entitled to the votes of people who share virtually no political beliefs in common with them while at the same time taking no steps whatsoever to cede the tiniest bit of ground to actual democratic process in pursuit of those votes. You can't have your cake and eat it too.
posted by threeants at 6:24 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


By all means, continue to complain that your preferences aren't being represented by a party when you haven't even bothered to demonstrate that this is a thing people want. The national popular vote didn't manage to be passed into law in half the states necessary for it to go into effect by whinging alone. There is nothing stopping you from working toward your stated ideal while helping to limit the damage done by the megalomaniacs on the far right in he meantime.

You might want to ask a disaffected Labour voter what they think of Cameron and Clegg.
posted by wierdo at 12:59 AM on November 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


The game theory here for progressive voters is not complicated. Two choices (vote Obama, don't vote Obama) and one goal (elect the most progressive candidate.) There is a zero real value assigned to "sending a message", and whatever weights you assign to each issue you care about, there are zero issues on which Romney would be more progressive than Obama, and many on which Obama would be more progressive than Romney.

The fact you're missing is that Obama's election de-mobilized progressives who had done a lot to protest Bush on the ground. Once you enter that into the calculus, things start to get a bit skewed, since Obama's conservative and imperialist policies will go uncontested by much of what passes for the left, while Romney's more conservative and imperialist policies would face more serious resistance. Once you enter that into the equation it's much closer to being a wash. But as I've said before, the important thing is getting out on the streets and opposing both imperialist, conservative parties - which you can't do from a position of perpetual support for the Democrats.

Also, the vote for third parties is a good barometer of organization outside the Democratic Party. I have third party options on every single office on my ballot this year, and I intend to vote third party on every single line. I hope more people do vote their consciences. I'll be voting Socialist where I can (Socialism & Liberation for President, Socialist Party for Senate) and Green or independent downticket, because I want to see higher third-party vote totals across the board. I think this is a better use of my vote in every case.
posted by graymouser at 3:04 AM on November 2, 2012


but the reality of the situation is if the organic garden hasn't garnered more than 2% of the vote, and the behavior of the other voters is predictable, then it becomes irresponsible for them to vote for the garden if they care about the consequence of the nuclear spewage.

This analysis has a problem, because it argues that one should base one's voting behaviour on how much of the "vote" a given option has garnered, before the election. If it's known prior to the election that 49.1% are pro-toxic-sludge with enough certainty for it to enter into one's decision, then why is an election being held, anyway? In fact, it's not known with any certainty. It could be 48.9% for sludge and 49.1% for Wal-Mart, in which case my responsibility to vote Wal-Mart has vanished, because they'll win without me. Is the Right Way To Vote to watch exit-poll data all day, and vote at the last possible second?

By the argument I think you're making, if it's not likely a close race between Bad and Worse, then I can vote however I like, because we're either Fucked or Very Fucked anyway. However, if it is likely a close race, then whether or not the argument making me responsible for voting Fucked over Very Fucked kicks in is unknown.

The worst thing about some of the arguments against positions like Stoller's (and I'm not defending TFA too much, because the latter part of it contains a large amount of Silly) is the assumption that everyone who hasn't contracted the Insane Right-Wing Mind-Virus (whose existence I freely admit/deplore/whatever) is "innately" a Democratic voter, unless they are somehow waylaid by a third-party candidate or apathy or whatever. This assumption underlies talk about votes being "taken" from whatever candidate. The problem with this is that, on election day, everyone starts with 0 votes (modulo stuffed ballot boxes) and has to accumulate votes. They don't start with some predetermined proportion from which votes are added or subtracted.

The petulance of the Democratic Party is such that they feel naturally entitled to the votes of people who share virtually no political beliefs in common with them while at the same time taking no steps whatsoever to cede the tiniest bit of ground to actual democratic process in pursuit of those votes. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

This.
posted by kengraham at 7:33 AM on November 2, 2012


graymouser: "The fact you're missing is that Obama's election de-mobilized progressives who had done a lot to protest Bush on the ground. Once you enter that into the calculus, things start to get a bit skewed, since Obama's conservative and imperialist policies will go uncontested by much of what passes for the left, while Romney's more conservative and imperialist policies would face more serious resistance. Once you enter that into the equation it's much closer to being a wash."

If the most you can say is that it's "much closer to being a wash," then you're acknowledging that Obama would represent progressive priorities more, but that the value of the message your third party vote sends (which is what you're talking about when you say you want to see higher third-party totals across the board) is enough to outweigh those differences.

To me, this is either a significant overestimation of the value of sending a message, or a significant undervaluing of the many progressive victories Obama has already presided over that would be scaled back or eliminated under Romney. The same lefty activists you insist has been neutered and pacified by having their guy in the White House are going to be powerless to stop Mitt Romney from rolling back PPACA, reinstating DADT, appointing SCOTUS justices that will overturn Roe, etc. And when exactly were these lefty activists powerful enough to stop imperial foreign policy before? Slow it down ten years after it's started? Maybe. But the idea that re-energizing the American left against a Republican President would lead to better outcomes than not electing the Republican President in the first place is a complete farce.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:53 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can only speak for myself, but I am not particularly swayed by the argument, "things will be worse, but at least more people will be complaining about it."
posted by kyrademon at 8:17 AM on November 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you haven't followed koeselitz's link, I recommend it highly. Had it not been linked already, I'd have tried to build a post on it. http://xkcd.com/1127/
posted by theora55 at 8:24 AM on November 2, 2012


"Dude, we went from torturing suspected terrorists to assassinating them. That's not better, and it's sure as hell not "within the confines of law."

So, basically what we tried to do with Pancho Villa, Rommel, Castro, Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, and Mullah Omar, and did successfully with Yamamoto, Guevara, Zarqawi, and Bin Laden, right? Or basically, a far less widespread, less indiscriminate high-tech version of the Phoenix Program, in which the US assassinated 26,369 people a few decades back.

How do you differentiate the legality of drones being used to target specific people, as opposed to, say, planes or soldiers? Also, is it an assassination when the host country in question has actually approved the attack, or wants the US do it with its drones, because there's less of a chance of killing innocent people than using their own air force? What about if there's no government rule of law in the area in question, or an unwillingness of that government to extradite a known murderer? What, in your opinion, is new about these drone strikes that distinguish them from other targeted killings?

What are your personal thoughts on the death of Osama Bin Laden vs. that of a terrorist by a drone strike, as far as legality is concerned?

Or what about the difference between a drone strike, and that of an Afghan car bomber, identified by name and hunted down, due to Afghanistan's widespread program of biometrics?

Part of what we are seeing here is that war is getting less indiscriminate and arguably safer for civilians overall... but a lot more personal, even to an invasive degree. And even though most of us have real issues with the indiscriminate terrorist bombers and their leaders who make up the bulk of our drone targets, it's hard to argue that the nature of this new weapon doesn't illicit a level of anger and resistance that simply don't coincide with the actual number of civilians that have died from their strikes, as compared to other weapons.

Admittedly, we aren't assassinating 26,369 people in a conflict anymore, or killing far, far more with indiscriminate bombing campaigns, but despite that, drones are even less popular than either trained assassins special forces or airstrikes that usually use 50 to 100 times larger payloads in their attacks, increasing the risk of civilian deaths.

" I won't vote for someone who murders people."

i.e. "I would never vote for a presidential candidate who I thought had the least bit of chance of ever becoming president."
posted by markkraft at 8:49 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, basically what we tried to do with Pancho Villa, Rommel, Castro, Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, and Mullah Omar, and did successfully with Yamamoto, Guevara, Zarqawi, and Bin Laden, right?

Yes, killing someone who's been the public face of a terrorist and/or tyrannical movement for decades is exactly like bombing people whose names we don't know but who we're oh-so-sure are really al-Qaeda rank and file, just like the Bush administration was sure about all the terrorists it threw in Guantanamo.

(To be fair, it is a lot like the Afghan car bomber, but I don't think that example came out quite like you meant it to.)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:58 AM on November 2, 2012


tonycpsu: If I understand what graymouser is saying, he's saying that a longer-term strategy is to accept a hard shift to the right, which will mobilize a larger coalition of voters (perhaps around a new party) which can then take power and move the country in a progressive direction.

graymouser, even in the long term, I don't see how you'll get the numbers. The Economist noted during the lead-up to the Iraq War that 10% of Americans had opposed the Gulf War; I think 10% is a fair estimate of core left voters. 30% of Americans had supported the Vietnam War to the bitter end; that's a fair estimate of core right voters (the BTKWB limit).

kengraham, I'm not a Democrat -- I'm a Canadian. (*) That said, I do think that Obama does have significant positive accomplishments, from the point of view of a progressive voter. The most important is health insurance, which Democratic administrations from Truman to Clinton were unable to pass. (I know that progressives such as graymouser regard the ACA as inadequate, even a betrayal; but I think it's fair to say that given the current political makeup of the US, it's about as good as it could be. As it is, the ACA barely passed through the Senate and the Supreme Court.) The ACA will provide health insurance for 33 million people who don't have health insurance today.

Second is the stimulus and the economic recovery. I find Paul Krugman's analysis convincing--the stimulus wasn't enough. Obama should have pushed for a larger stimulus up front (the actual stimulus was $600 billion, Christy Romer's analysis was that a stimulus of $1.2 billion was required), anticipating that the Republicans would block further stimulus. Even so, the stimulus was enough to prevent a deeper and longer recession, as seen in Europe and the UK.

Third is better policy on social-justice issues, such as gay marriage and deportation of illegal immigrants.

(*) My self-interest in the US election, such as it is, is that I see a number of crises and challenges facing the world as a whole, starting with climate change. I think the worse the US is governed, the worse position we'll be in to deal with these problems. And I think the US has been far better governed under the Obama administration than it was under the eight years of the Bush administration. What would a Romney administration look like? Jonathan Chait.

One further note: the laws of war recognize that military attacks may put non-combatants at risk. The applicable rule is proportionality: the risk to non-combatants must be proportionate to the military benefit of the attack. Military attacks which endanger civilians, injure them, and kill them, are not inherently illegal. (During the planning for the raid on bin Laden, for example, one option considered was simply dropping enough bombs to destroy the entire house, which would have killed the 20 children living in the house, and a number of houses close by. The laws of war are not very restrictive. In the actual raid, at least one woman was shot dead.)

The view of the Obama administration (shared by most Americans, I think) is that the US is at war with al-Qaeda; hence the use of military force against al-Qaeda is legitimate, provided that the laws of war are followed.
posted by russilwvong at 9:11 AM on November 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


russilwvong: "tonycpsu: If I understand what graymouser is saying, he's saying that a longer-term strategy is to accept a hard shift to the right, which will mobilize a larger coalition of voters (perhaps around a new party) which can then take power and move the country in a progressive direction."

Wait, isn't that how we got to Obama in the first place? The "hard shift to the right" gets eight years, but the Democratic alternative only gets four, most of which he spends trying to clean up the epic shitstorms created by eight years of those right-wing policies? This is the most ridiculous eleven-dimensional chess argument I've ever heard. "In order to save the country, we must first let the other guys do their best to destroy it -- even though they just spent a decade doing that!"

I sincerely hope that's not what graymouser was saying.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:31 AM on November 2, 2012


Oh, and also, how did we get to that eight years of right-wing policies? At least in part, we got there because of a vanity third party run that suckered in a bunch of lefties who made the perfect the enemy of the not completely fucking awful.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:33 AM on November 2, 2012


It just doesn't work to try to game the system. A friend voted for Nader in 2000, on the idea that a W presidency would teach Americans a lesson. How'd that work for ya? Yeah, I want a perfect candidate, too, but the realities of the job are complex to a degree that must be overwhelming, and there must be so many Faustian bargains to make. (lookit me, I got to use the term Faustian bargain! w00t.)

Last time I hired someone, I used several hiring rubrics. The one that resonated, and ultimately helped me make my decision was "1. Smart, 2. Gets stuff done." Both Big Party candidates are smart. Both get stuff done. It really is an election where we are choosing what stuff we think should get done. Things I like: Things I don't like: I think he's a decent, honest, committed president, who has done a fantastic job with the crappy hand he was dealt; far better than any other candidate could have. I think he is trying to move the country steadily towards goals that I support, and that his legacy will show that he made change in increments that add up. He sets an example of parenting and generally being a pretty good guy, and people need that.

And he's still black. I am deeply moved by pictures of African-American children looking at him in awe, understanding that a black man can be the leader of the United States, a black family can live in the White House, a black woman 1st Lady can be beautiful, glamorous, smart, respected and cool. If you don't want to vote on race, that's fine with me, and I'd vote for him if he was white, Hispanic, Asian, female and/or Mormon, but it sweetens the deal to do a little affirmative action at the highest level. I'm going to enjoy going to my polling place and cheerfully voting for him Tuesday.

Cites:
- http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/march_april_2012/features/obamas_top_50_accomplishments035755.php?page=1
- http://pleasecutthecrap.typepad.com/main/what-has-obama-done-since-january-20-2009.html
- http://whatthefuckh
- http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/09/06/1128093/-President-Obama-s-Accomplishments-So-Farasobamadonesofar.com/
- http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=81904
- http://3chicspolitico.com/president-obamas-accomplishments/
- http://readersupportednews.org/off-site-opinion-section/72-72/13282-a-list-of-president-obamas-accomplishments
posted by theora55 at 10:09 AM on November 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


graymouser, don't take this the wrong way, but your view is completely ignorant of how political parties change. If you want to move the Democrats to the left, learn from the far right and how they took over the Republican Party. Like it or not, that's how you get it done.

Read Rule and Ruin by Geoffrey Kabaservice if you'd like a road map.
posted by wierdo at 10:14 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, Mitt Romney represents everything I despise about corporate greed and the utter lack of corporate ethics. He'd be a tool for the very rich, he'd roll back health care reform, which isn't perfect health care reform, but it's so much better than the clusterfuck we have now, he'd let the anti-choice lobby have their own way, he'd appoint Supreme Court and federal judges reflecting his narrow, white, religious view of the world. Romney is genuinely clueless and out of touch with people who work at crappy jobs that don't pay much and have few, if any, benefits, and who have no chance to get ahead. The traditional middle class is shrinking and being replaced by those people. He's a smarter, Mormon, less honest version of George W. Bush. Paul Ryan is Dick Cheney's favorite person, and that should tell you a lot.

And, if this election is cluster-fucked by voting fraud, I vow to take to the streets. If for no other reason than their despicable attempts to suppress voting, you shouldn't vote for 1 single Republican.
posted by theora55 at 10:18 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


jeebus. help me, i'm ranting and i can't shut up.
posted by theora55 at 10:18 AM on November 2, 2012


FIVE DAYS UNTIL THE MADNESS ENDS
posted by russilwvong at 10:27 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


graymouser, even in the long term, I don't see how you'll get the numbers. The Economist noted during the lead-up to the Iraq War that 10% of Americans had opposed the Gulf War; I think 10% is a fair estimate of core left voters. 30% of Americans had supported the Vietnam War to the bitter end; that's a fair estimate of core right voters (the BTKWB limit).

Between demographic shifts (the move towards a white minority) and ongoing structural changes (i.e. permanent inequality, structural unemployment, lower-wage work) in the economy, I think the numbers will get there. People who supported Vietnam to the bitter end are literally a dying breed, and the new America will be very different from the old.

graymouser, don't take this the wrong way, but your view is completely ignorant of how political parties change. If you want to move the Democrats to the left, learn from the far right and how they took over the Republican Party. Like it or not, that's how you get it done.

The far right took over the Republican Party because people with a shitload of money supported them. Any other narrative is simply being disingenuous.

FWIW, I do NOT want to move the Democrats to the left. I want to replace them with a mass based socialist party, which does not have the same corporate ties as the Democrats. Both parties are wholly beholden to the people who pay them. A lot of socialists disagree with me, and they've got a record of more than 40 years of failure to move the Democrats left. I want something fundamentally different and better.

"In order to save the country, we must first let the other guys do their best to destroy it -- even though they just spent a decade doing that!"

I sincerely hope that's not what graymouser was saying.


No, what I'm saying is that voting for Obama is not going to stop the march towards greater inequality, oppression and war. If people aren't out in the streets, either Obama or Romney is going to make things a lot worse. The problem is that Obama will slow the pace, but at the expense of the mass of progressives going along with it, while Romney will quicken it but there will be resistance. Siding with Obama, pragmatically, means you can't try and put things aright, because you are stuck defending someone who's going the wrong way. As an antiwar activist I watched this happen first-hand - when an "antiwar" president was elected, given the Nobel Peace Prize, and then escalated an ongoing war, the main group that had been funding the big antiwar organization* cut the money dry and the protests shriveled up. So I view supporting Obama as unacceptable. And whether Obama or Romney is elected you can bet I'll be protesting the president.

*MoveOn had been giving key funding to United for Peace & Justice, which held most of the large rallies from 2003-2007.
posted by graymouser at 11:19 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


graymouser: "Siding with Obama, pragmatically, means you can't try and put things aright, because you are stuck defending someone who's going the wrong way. "

False choice. One can side with Obama when he does things they like and oppose him when he does things they don't like, and one can vote for Obama so he'll continue the implementation of PPACA, let the Bush tax cuts expire, etc. and then be "out in the streets" against his drone wars, indefinite detentions, and the like.

If he does more good things than bad, then he deserves your vote. After you vote, you can get right back to protesting against his bad policies and working to elect Democrats (or third parties if you like) to push him in a better direction legislatively. I don't see how trying to get a third party going will be more effective than electing "more and better Democrats" as the saying goes, especially in a first-past-the-post electoral system, but I'm more sympathetic to someone who votes third party in state/local elections (where independents do occasionally win, if rarely) than to people who insist that a third party vote in this Presidential election will be meaningful when they never are except as spoilers.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:31 AM on November 2, 2012


False choice. One can side with Obama when he does things they like and oppose him when he does things they don't like, and one can vote for Obama so he'll continue the implementation of PPACA, let the Bush tax cuts expire, etc. and then be "out in the streets" against his drone wars, indefinite detentions, and the like.

But that's the rub - they really can't. When the debate around Obamacare came around, the people who were for single payer were either pressured into supporting it or marginalized. When UfPJ made clear that they would protest Afghanistan (the one bit of backbone they've ever showed), funding from big liberal PACs like MoveOn dried up straightaway.

I had bought into this rhetoric in 2008. But the strategic lesser-evilism that most progressives have bought into means that any actual criticism or fightback with a sitting Democratic president is impossible. Obama faced virtually no challenge from the left until Occupy, which to its credit has refused to buy into the strategy.

If he does more good things than bad, then he deserves your vote.

If you want to go by that criterion, he doesn't deserve it. And that's why he won't get it.

I don't see how trying to get a third party going will be more effective than electing "more and better Democrats" as the saying goes, especially in a first-past-the-post electoral system, but I'm more sympathetic to someone who votes third party in state/local elections (where independents do occasionally win, if rarely) than to people who insist that a third party vote in this Presidential election will be meaningful when they never are except as spoilers.

Again: it's the money. The Democratic Party is institutionally beholden to the rich and big banks and corporations in this country for campaign funding. As long as that's true, the only way to vote for non-corporate candidates will be to vote third party, and try to get them up to the point where matching funds are possible.

As for the "spoiler" nonsense, well, the only way to show yourself as an even marginal force in American politics is to run a candidate for President. A hundred years ago there was a hell of a Socialist candidate, even. But as I mentioned upthread I'll be voting third party all the way down the line.
posted by graymouser at 11:44 AM on November 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


However, if it is likely a close race, then whether or not the argument making me responsible for voting Fucked over Very Fucked kicks in is unknown.

If you account for uncertainty the outcome is not completely unkown, it is statistically quantifiable with probabilities. Let's say: if none of the 2% garden voters switch their vote for Wal-Mart, then Wal-Mart loses the election 90% of the time. If just 50% of the garden voters switch their vote, Wal-Mart wins 99% of the time.


This analysis has a problem, because it argues that one should base one's voting behaviour on how much of the "vote" a given option has garnered, before the election. If it's known prior to the election that 49.1% are pro-toxic-sludge with enough certainty for it to enter into one's decision, then why is an election being held, anyway? In fact, it's not known with any certainty. It could be 48.9% for sludge and 49.1% for Wal-Mart, in which case my responsibility to vote Wal-Mart has vanished, because they'll win without me. Is the Right Way To Vote to watch exit-poll data all day, and vote at the last possible second?

I was trying to remove uncertainty from the problem because I think it confuses the argument. If we account for uncertainty, then the voters that vote for the garden are voting for a practically impossible outcome. They may be hoping and praying that by chance nuclear spewage loses anyway, but they haven't taken the action available to them to prevent it.


The problem with this is that, on election day, everyone starts with 0 votes (modulo stuffed ballot boxes) and has to accumulate votes. They don't start with some predetermined proportion from which votes are added or subtracted.

But 5 days before the election, the polling analysis can give a somewhat accurate representation of decided and undecided votes.


By the argument I think you're making, if it's not likely a close race between Bad and Worse, then I can vote however I like, because we're either Fucked or Very Fucked anyway.

This morning I was thinking about what I'd do if the polls were Obama: 10%, Romney: 40%, Ron Paul: 40%. It would be a nightmare.


The view of the Obama administration (shared by most Americans, I think) is that the US is at war with al-Qaeda; hence the use of military force against al-Qaeda is legitimate, provided that the laws of war are followed.

I think an argument could be made that the US, along with the new shamelessly corrupt Afghan government, are essentially at war with the Taliban, and that basically means the US is at war with parts of Pakistan. The looming disaster that the US may be trying to prevent is the Taliban taking back Afghanistan after the US/Allies pull out. If this were to happen, it would certainly result in a long future of massive killing, torture, and human rights violations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:07 PM on November 2, 2012


graymouser: "Again: it's the money. The Democratic Party is institutionally beholden to the rich and big banks and corporations in this country for campaign funding. As long as that's true, the only way to vote for non-corporate candidates will be to vote third party, and try to get them up to the point where matching funds are possible."

Huh, that's weird. Some 35% of Obama's donations have come from people who have donated less than $200. Big corporate money, that. I'm with you on the need to move the country to the left and the need to get money out of politics, but let's not get all Republican with the facts. Do you honestly think that your approach is new? People have been trying to get a third party enough votes to get matching funds since modern campaign finance began. It has yet to happen.

Nobody viable is going to disarm without being forced to do so. With the current Supreme Court, that can only be achieved through a Constitutional amendment. Voting for Jill Stein doesn't do a damn thing to advance that goal.

graymouser: "The far right took over the Republican Party because people with a shitload of money supported them. Any other narrative is simply being disingenuous."

Bare assertions aren't terribly helpful. Read the book and tell me that money was the driving force behind the ascendancy of the far right within the Republican party. The fact of the matter is that money isn't that important in internal power struggles. A network of ideologues who buy into your vision are far more useful. Ron Paul's supporters got damn close this year to throwing a huge wrench in the works. Their problem is that they waited until primary season, rather than working to eliminate opposition figures within the party before election season.
posted by wierdo at 12:19 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some 35% of Obama's donations have come from people who have donated less than $200. Big corporate money, that.

So by flipping those numbers, 65% came from large donors. Curious, that.

Ron Paul's supporters got damn close this year to throwing a huge wrench in the works.

No, no they didn't. Paul got on the debates and won a couple of delegates. But you really cannot be serious if you think that the conservative shifts of the Republican party were not well-funded things. The most recent, the Tea Party, is astroturf through and through. It's naive to say anything less.
posted by graymouser at 12:29 PM on November 2, 2012


The problem is that Obama will slow the pace, but at the expense of the mass of progressives going along with it, while Romney will quicken it but there will be resistance.

If you believe this, then you should vote for Romney, because the sooner Romney is in the White House, the sooner everything will turn to shit; and the sooner everything turns to shit, the sooner we can get that groovy progressive resistance going.

You should also ditch metafilter for Slate, because, man, they'd pay for "A Progressive Argument for Mitt Romney" piece over there.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:32 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


graymouser: " But that's the rub - they really can't. When the debate around Obamacare came around, the people who were for single payer were either pressured into supporting it or marginalized. "

Please to be explaining how single payer passes a Senate with Ben Nelson and Max Baucus as must-have votes. The choice wasn't single payer or Obamacare, the choice was Obamacare or not Obamacare, and you needed every one of those 60 Democrats in the Senate to get it.

If you want to go by that criterion, he doesn't deserve it. And that's why he won't get it.

Tell that to the 33 million people who will have health insurance, the gay soldiers who no longer have to live in fear, and the women who can now sue their employers if they find they're being underpaid because of their gender, just to name a few. All so you can put a different guy in charge of the drone program, and who waffles on whether we'll be out of Afghanistan by 2014 if he's elected?

As for the "spoiler" nonsense, well, the only way to show yourself as an even marginal force in American politics is to run a candidate for President. A hundred years ago there was a hell of a Socialist candidate, even.

Interesting. So Ross Perot and Ralph Nader's quixotic runs created what, exactly, for the Reform and Green parties? Nader himself gave up on the Greens for his '04 and '08 runs -- what does that tell you about their power?

Bernie Sanders gets it. He's not a member of any party, and he calls himself a Democratic Socialist, but he caucuses with the Democrats because he knows that's how you get shit done in our broken system. If he thought his policy goals could be achieved by affiliating with a third party, or that he could use his stature as a U.S. Senator to give a leg up to a third party, he would certainly do so. But he realizes that the Democratic party is a fine host vehicle for pushing for progressive change, albeit at glacial speed, and can get what he wants without nominally being a Democrat.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:49 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Obama Has Granted Clemency More Rarely Than Any Modern President
posted by homunculus at 12:49 PM on November 2, 2012


Please to be explaining how single payer passes a Senate with Ben Nelson and Max Baucus as must-have votes.

The 111th Senate could have removed the filibuster when it first approved its rules, or made HR 676 subject to reconciliation, or used the nuclear option. It's not like it was physically impossible with a Democratic majority in both chambers to pass a key piece of legislation if the will were actually there to put it forward. It's also possible for a party to use various means of leverage to force its Senators to vote for something, such as removing them from various committees or stripping funding from their campaigns – it's not like their hands are mysteriously tied.

The choice wasn't single payer or Obamacare, the choice was Obamacare or not Obamacare, and you needed every one of those 60 Democrats in the Senate to get it.

Not Obamacare was a better option. Really, if the Democrats couldn't get 60 Senators to vote for what would be a generations-long cornerstone of policy on the level of Social Security and Medicare combined, they don't deserve a lick of support.

Tell that to the 33 million people who will have health insurance

Who will be forced to buy insurance that costs increasingly more and covers increasingly less.

the gay soldiers who no longer have to live in fear

Repealing DADT was a correction of his predecessor's mistake, and a welcome thing.

the women who can now sue their employers if they find they're being underpaid because of their gender

Yep, that's a good thing.

just to name a few.

You named 2 things that I agree with. So Obama's deported more immigrants than George W. Bush, and he was a party to the NATO bombing of Libya. Not to mention Obamacare, which even though it has certain measures I agree with is still at its core an awful program. Even if you listed a dozen more, there are far more terrible things that Obama has done, and the balance sheet is terrible.

All so you can put a different guy in charge of the drone program, and who waffles on whether we'll be out of Afghanistan by 2014 if he's elected?

I don't want either Obama or Romney, and I will express my preference in the voting booth.

So Ross Perot and Ralph Nader's quixotic runs created what, exactly, for the Reform and Green parties?

The Green party is a utopian liberal party that was torn apart by factional infighting between Democratic operatives who went in to sabotage the thing and socialists who thought it might be a shortcut to a third party. The Reform party is not even progressive and started hanging out with the real hardcore reactionaries like Buchanan. I'm afraid I don't have too much use for either, but their failures aren't the central thing here.
posted by graymouser at 1:27 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Green party is a utopian liberal party that was torn apart by factional infighting between Democratic operatives who went in to sabotage the thing

And at this point we've definitely entered Alex Jones-land.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:42 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you believe this, then you should vote for Romney, because the sooner Romney is in the White House, the sooner everything will turn to shit; and the sooner everything turns to shit, the sooner we can get that groovy progressive resistance going.

You should also ditch metafilter for Slate, because, man, they'd pay for "A Progressive Argument for Mitt Romney" piece over there.


This is just pathetic. I don't want things to turn to shit; I'm addressing the fact that both candidates are taking us in that direction, but with different specific dynamics. We are at a point where lesser-evil politics means giving up the fight that is the only way back out of the shit. Until people get that, the Democrats will keep moving rightward (since after all they need to win) and things will keep getting worse.
posted by graymouser at 1:49 PM on November 2, 2012


And at this point we've definitely entered Alex Jones-land.

Er, no. The Demogreens were real, and won out in 2004 - hence David Cobb telling people not to vote for him unless they lived in "safe states." Maybe operatives is too strong of a term, but there were elements that were essentially Democrats who wanted to support Kerry but still have a "protest" vote where it didn't matter.
posted by graymouser at 1:53 PM on November 2, 2012


graymouser: "The 111th Senate could have removed the filibuster when it first approved its rules, or made HR 676 subject to reconciliation, or used the nuclear option."

Not really, no way, and not even close.

1. It's true that the Senate has a once-every-two-years boostrapping process during which a majority vote can eliminate the filibuster, or virtually any other Senate rule. However, the Democrats had a massive (in my opinion justified, but in retrospect counterproductive) cow when the Republicans vowed to end the filibuster with the nuclear option over Bush's judicial nominees, leading to the Democrats shutting down the Senate and eventually the "Gang of 14" compromise. To turn around and kill the filibuster three years later would have been seen as an opportunistic hypocritical power grab, and could have had a significant impact on red state Democratic Senators trying to keep their seats in 2010. (Nobody could have known in 2008 that PPACA could be done within two years, and I doubt it would have been if the first thing Democrats did was eliminate the filibuster after complaining about the GOP trying to eliminate it a few years earlier.)

2. Reconciliation rules are very limited. Some of the bill could have gone through reconciliation, but much of it (parts that don't deal directly with budgetary matters) couldn't. And even if Reid somehow managed to get it packaged in such a way that it passed parliamentarian review, he had only 40 Senators who were on board with a public option, and many of them would have withdrawn their support if it was full single payer instead of a public option. So, no, the 50 votes would not have been there for single payer or a public option passed through reconciliation, even if the parliamentary hurdles could have been cleared.

3. See #1 re: the GOP's nuclear option threat. Sure-fire way to make sure they would have lost control of the Senate for the 112th congress (remember how close they were to it in the first place -- Hello, Senators Angle, Buck, Lowden, and O'Donnell!)

Not Obamacare was a better option. Really, if the Democrats couldn't get 60 Senators to vote for what would be a generations-long cornerstone of policy on the level of Social Security and Medicare combined, they don't deserve a lick of support.

That's funny, because Social Security and Medicare themselves didn't start out as the programs they are today. They started as much smaller programs that have been expanded over the years. Occasionally they get scaled back, but the long-term trend has been toward a more generous welfare state.

If everyone had your maximalist attitude from the 1930s to the 1960s, the programs we have would not exist today.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:05 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Obama faces stiff task to blunt Gary Johnson's challenge in Colorado: Libertarian maverick's message of small government and social tolerance thrills young voters and threatens president's hopes
posted by homunculus at 3:43 PM on November 2, 2012


tonycpsu:

... and why exactly is any of that an argument FOR voting for Democrats, who can't even muster 40 Senators who'd support a measly "public option"? People who get things done demand much more than the pathetic centrist pre-cooked compromises that today's Democrats put together. And a party I would vote for doesn't sit around and fret over the niceties of parliamentary procedure in the Senate, which is a mind-boggling anti-democratic (in the small "d" sense) institution.

Obamacare isn't a road to single payer. It bars any such road and creates a massive giveaway to insurance companies. It is basically a terrible bargain: accept people who are ineligible and we'll make your increasingly worthless and expensive product mandatory for everyone, even healthy young people who can't afford it.
posted by graymouser at 3:54 PM on November 2, 2012


Obamacare imposes significant regulations on private health insurers to protect the quality of the services offered. It also limits the amount if money that can be spent on administrative and marketing expenses by the insurance companies. It does not preclude a state such as Vermont from adopting a single payer health insurance system.
posted by humanfont at 4:23 PM on November 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Previous mefi comments on ACA worth reading, IMO:

Vysharra

Mars Saxman
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:06 PM on November 2, 2012


graymouser: "even healthy young people who can't afford it."

If they really can't afford it, they get government help paying for it. Yeah, I think it could be done better, but as humanfont pointed out, it is also rather flexible in what it allows the states to do, so long as people are insured.
posted by wierdo at 5:24 PM on November 2, 2012


graymouser, with respect to Democratic uselessness, the Democrats who didn't back the public option were mostly red state Dems like Jon Tester, Mark Begich, Kent Conrad, etc. If you have a strategy for getting more liberal Democrats (or, heck more liberal third party candidates) into these seats, or putting enough pressure on them that they'll risk losing their seats for a position they don't
I'd love to hear about it, but as long as we have a chamber of congress that allocates its votes so disproportionately to the benefit of rural red states, getting even a 50+1 majority for a liberal position on Senate votes is going to be a challenge -- regardless of whether those votes were to come from Democrats, Greens, Socialists, or the Pirate Party.

You're also wrong on PPACA's compatibility with single-payer, as humanfront and weirdo point out.

Anyway, since you're just moving the goalposts at this point ("they could have used the filibuster or reconciliation!" "Well... if they couldn't, they're useless anyway!") I'm happy to just agree to disagree here rather than continuing to talk past each other.
posted by tonycpsu at 5:27 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


tonycpsu: I don't think I'm moving the goalposts, I think we have very different perspectives on what makes a party worth voting for. And I think that leads us to a very different perspective on all this, which I'm willing to let rest for the time being. You can vote Obama, I'll vote socialist, and at the end of the day that will be that.
posted by graymouser at 6:20 PM on November 2, 2012


Who is the worst civil liberties president in US history?
posted by homunculus at 10:19 PM on November 2, 2012


I say Ronald Reagan, but that's because I hate that fucker with a passion for setting the country up for all this shit.
posted by mwhybark at 10:43 PM on November 2, 2012


Andrew Jackson?
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 10:59 PM on November 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


The worst civil liberties president in US history? Hmm ...

- Presidents and slavery:

Twelve presidents owned slaves (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Munroe, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Johnson, Grant). Some, like Washington, freed their slaves in their wills, and others no longer had slaves by the time they took office.

Jackson owned the most (around 160), owned slaves while in office, and did not free them in his will. Tyler was probably the most outright racist of the presidents. Buchanan made pro-slavery policy a central tenet of his administration. Millard Fillmore, who did not own slaves himself, passed the Fugitive Slave Act. Johnson created the Jim Crow laws and fought the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment.

- Presidents and other race issues:

Jackson was also responsible for the forced resettlement and deaths of Native Americans, becoming the only president to defy a Supreme Court ruling in doing so.

FDR oversaw the illegal internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans.

- Presidents and free speech:

John Adams passed the Alien and Sedition acts. Wilson passed the Sedition Act, which criminalized all radical criticism of the government, and ordered that numerous specific dissenters to be silenced.

- Presidents and privacy:

LBJ and Nixon abused FBI surveillance programs to monitor the activities of activist groups. GWB introduced surveillance programs on U.S. citizens and used the fear of international terrorism to curtail other rights. Obama has continued GWB-era surveillance programs.

- Presidents and other civil liberties issues:

Wilson was responsible for the Palmer Raids, in which he ordered the arrest and attempted illegal deportation of over 10,000 people. Lincoln illegally suspended Habeus Corpus.

Obviously there's a heck of a lot more (Cointelpro, the Red Scare, anti-Suffrage, many more presidents than those listed used some form of illegal surveillance, etc., etc., etc.)

But at a quick glance, I'd probably put Jackson at the top of the worst civil liberties president in US history list.
posted by kyrademon at 4:51 AM on November 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ah, right. The NDAA, which passed the House with a veto-proof majority and the Senate at 98-1. And which, if vetoed, would leave the entire Department of Defense without funding, and all its employees without paychecks or benefits, until it was re-passed over the veto, because it's the National Defense Authorization Act that Congress has to re-pass every year to keep funding national defense. Which Obama signed with a statement expressing particular disgust with the controversial sections, and explaining that he signed it only because to not do so would literally serve no purpose and cause a lot of harm to DoD employees.

Clearly, Obama is history's greatest monster for orchestrating the NDAA singlehandedly.
posted by kafziel at 8:26 AM on November 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Going off on a bit of a tangent related vaguely to kyrademon's post, I find it very interesting how the tea party types fail to recognize the fairly large differences of opinion our early leaders, including those whose names are signed to the Constitution, had. Hell, even the so-called originalists on the Supreme Court forget about everybody but Jefferson. He may be second only to Saint Reagan in their esteem.
posted by wierdo at 1:32 PM on November 3, 2012


The Case for Obama and Against Liberal Despair: There are valid critiques of the president, but what's important now is that a vote for Obama is a vote against extremism -- and for functional government.
posted by homunculus at 3:39 PM on November 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Who is the worst civil liberties president in US history?

Without considering slavery, doesn't it have to be Lincoln? I've seen a case made by neo-confederates that the civil war was illegal, as there was nothing in the constitution saying states could not secede. Lincoln apparently invaded the South without prior congressional consent. There were 750k soldiers killed and possibly 100k to 250k civilian deaths (including slaves, which is really hard to estimate), and tons of property damage. If secession was illegal, then wouldn't that make all of those killed American citizens (except slaves prior to the emancipation proclamation, I guess)? And, if secession was legal, it was perhaps an illegal act of imperialist aggression by the North. Imagine what Lincoln might have done if he'd had kill lists and drones at his disposal.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:52 AM on November 4, 2012


The Civil War did not actually start until the South attacked Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Lincoln immediately called for a special session of Congress, which on July 4th authorized calling up the troops. The battle of Bull Run happened on July 21.

So, either citizens in rebellion attacked the North (the usual point of view) or a foreign power attacked the North (not the usual point of view, for a number of good reasons, but kind of moot for the purposes of this discussion) and the North responded with force authorized by Congress.

Basically, it simply did not happen the way you have described it.
posted by kyrademon at 5:00 AM on November 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Who is the worst civil liberties president in US history?

Jackson, obviously. We should take him off the money and put someone else on.

Obama is Bad on Civil Liberties, But Romney Would Be Much Worse
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:29 AM on November 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Case for Obama and Against Liberal Despair

A number of writers who identify with what passes in America for a left-of-center world view say they will not vote for Barack Obama's reelection or that they would prefer that Mitt Romney become president. There seem to be three principal varieties of this attitude:

1. Obama is an unprincipled center-right politician who deceived us by campaigning as a progressive. Obama has implemented policies destructive enough to be "deal breakers" for principled voters. This objection focuses mainly on Obama's drone campaign, the surge in Afghanistan, indefinite detention, and his purported willingness to cut Social Security and Medicare.

2. Obama, by "normalizing" bipartisan acceptance of Republican policies, may in the long-term be worse than Romney.This argument ratchets up the indictment against Obama by asserting not that Obama is insufficiently better than Romney, as the first argument usually implies, but that he may be worse. In this argument, Democrats are the key "enablers" in the process of moving the American political spectrum inexorably rightward.

3. "The worse the better." I have not yet seen this argument in print, but I have heard some persons of a progressive or leftish tendency express it. They say they would prefer a Romney victory because it would administer a horse doctor's dose of emetic to a deluded electorate. By "heightening the contradictions" inherent in the American political system, a Romney victory would accelerate a crash whose pieces a reinvigorated left-populism would pick up.

[...]

If we are to give the third argument credence, we should stock up on canned food and ammunition. "The worse the better" is a Leninist argument suitable for those wishing to overthrow a harsh authoritarian system -- and replace it with a similar one, but with themselves in charge, just as Lenin sought to replace Tsarist autocracy with Leninist totalitarianism. Very likely, though, disaffected Americans who claim to hope for a heightening of contradictions don't think with such ruthless consequentiality. No doubt most who say it do so because they think it sounds clever and mildly shocking. But attempts at self-government, imperfect and riddled with failure as history has shown them to be, demand serious adult thinking. The "lesser of two evils" political options that these people incessantly complain about are an existential fact of politics, just as many of our most important personal decisions in life boil down to choosing the lesser evil. We might as well wonder why man was born to suffer and die.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:16 AM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Al Jazeera: Where is the Green Party? As climate change become increasingly apparent, many wonder why the Green Party is being ignored in the US election.
posted by homunculus at 11:30 AM on November 4, 2012


If we are to give the third argument credence, we should stock up on canned food and ammunition.

false equivalency bullshit, as ever
posted by mwhybark at 4:26 PM on November 4, 2012


mwhybark: " false equivalency bullshit, as ever"

[citation needed]
posted by tonycpsu at 5:38 PM on November 4, 2012


The Dogs of War Are Barking: Mitt Romney’s Team Wants to Let 'Em Loose in Iran
posted by homunculus at 11:51 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


"...a vote for Obama is a vote against extremism -- and for functional government."


No, I think a Romney presidency would/will be much more functional - just at accomplishing very bad things at home and abroad.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:17 PM on November 5, 2012


Israeli Report Cites a Thwarted 2010 Move on Iran

An Israeli news channel reported Sunday night that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak asked the Israeli military in 2010 to prepare for an imminent attack on the Iranian nuclear program, but that their efforts were blocked by concerns over whether the military could do so and whether the men had the authority to give such an order.

“Eventually, at the moment of truth, the answer that was given was that, in fact, the ability did not exist,” Mr. Barak said in the clip that was shown on Sunday.

The Obama administration spent much of the year pressing Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Barak to hold back on military action against Iran in favor of severe sanctions and intense diplomacy, though the issue receded somewhat after Mr. Netanyahu said in a speech to the United Nations on Sept. 27 that the moment of truth would come next spring or summer, not in 2012.

posted by Golden Eternity at 1:58 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Golden Eternity: “Without considering slavery, doesn't it have to be Lincoln? I've seen a case made by neo-confederates that the civil war was illegal, as there was nothing in the constitution saying states could not secede. Lincoln apparently invaded the South without prior congressional consent. There were 750k soldiers killed and possibly 100k to 250k civilian deaths (including slaves, which is really hard to estimate), and tons of property damage. If secession was illegal, then wouldn't that make all of those killed American citizens (except slaves prior to the emancipation proclamation, I guess)? And, if secession was legal, it was perhaps an illegal act of imperialist aggression by the North. Imagine what Lincoln might have done if he'd had kill lists and drones at his disposal.”

kyrademon: “The Civil War did not actually start until the South attacked Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Lincoln immediately called for a special session of Congress, which on July 4th authorized calling up the troops. The battle of Bull Run happened on July 21. So, either citizens in rebellion attacked the North (the usual point of view) or a foreign power attacked the North (not the usual point of view, for a number of good reasons, but kind of moot for the purposes of this discussion) and the North responded with force authorized by Congress. Basically, it simply did not happen the way you have described it.”

Boy, am I glad kyrademon demolished this ridiculous argument so I didn't have to. You may inform neo-confederates that they are flat wrong. Lincoln did not in any sense 'invade' the South; in fact, huge tactical advantages were lost because he insisted on waiting until the South openly and without any ambiguity initiated hostilities by attacking Fort Sumter. kyrademon notes the special session on July 4th, 1861, where Lincoln requested and was granted the exercise of war powers; it's worth actually reading his address on that occasion, since it lays out nicely the actual sequence of events and puts to rest the notion that the Civil War represented an "invasion," whether legal or illegal.
posted by koeselitz at 2:36 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the End, Vote for Obama Because Fuck Romney:
The Rude Pundit wants Mitt Romney disgraced. He wants Romney pelted with rotting vegetables because Romney is also "Romney," the avatar of the avaricious, of the Kochs and Sheldon Adelson, of the bounty of disinformation that flowed because of the democracy-killing Citizens United decision (which Obama Super PACs took advantage of, too), who has no actual plans to do anything other than assure that the greedy are allowed to wallow in their shit-filled cash pits like the pigs they are and laugh while the rest of us argue over the scraps of issues like "abortion" and "education" and "health care," avoiding the real damage of income disparity, the confronting of which would necessarily take care of the other issues.

He wants Romney pantsed and whipped through the streets until he disappears, yowling into the wilderness, never to be seen again, because the Rude Pundit wants to kill the myth of the businessman-as-leader. Let's be clear: Romney had only four years of experience as an elected official of any sort, far less than Obama when he ran in 2008. So Romney's left with his Bain Capital experience, and we're supposed to believe that because he knows how to contort the finances of failing companies in order to profit his investors, he should be allowed to decide whether or not we should go to war with Iran.
-----
No, Barack Obama ain't poor and he ain't perfect. And this blog has pissed off more than a few readers by pointing that out, especially on civil liberties, and even more especially on drone attacks. He could have been even more aggressive with those who opposed him. He could have developed a way to communicate what the health care reform law does, what the stimulus has done, and more. We could list a shitload of his accomplishments, and that would be enough.

But it's also enough to say this: Fuck Mitt Romney. Fuck him and everything he represents. Vote to make him pay in a way he never has had to in his entire awful life.
posted by octothorpe at 2:40 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Update: Lawsuit filed in Ohio over software updates to vote tabulation machines

The co-chairman of the Ohio Green Party and editor of FreePress.org, Bob Fitrakis, on Monday filed a federal lawsuit over software that was allegedly installed on central vote tabulation machines in 39 Ohio counties without being tested or certified for use, as required by state law.
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:12 PM on November 5, 2012


I figure Mitt Romney has been told "No" only once in his life, when he lost that race to Ted Kennedy. I want to tell him "No!" again. If that were the only reason at all to vote for Obama, it'd be enough for me.
posted by octobersurprise at 4:13 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Chris Hedges: The S&M Election

Robert Scheer: Vote for the B-
posted by homunculus at 4:51 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


[citation needed]

The citation is in the post, as you know. Bad faith arguing! two-love.
posted by mwhybark at 5:13 PM on November 5, 2012


UN imposes sanctions on Haqqani Network

The committee also ordered an asset freeze, arms embargo and travel ban against Afghan-born Abdul Rauf Zakir, also known as Qari Zakir, who it said oversees training of suicide attackers and provides instructions on how to construct improvised explosive devices.

The Security Council committee described him as "chief of suicide operations for the Haqqani Network" under its leader, Sirajuddin Jallaloudine Haqqani, "and in charge of all operations in Kabul, Takhar, Kunduz and Baghlan provinces."

posted by Golden Eternity at 5:14 PM on November 5, 2012


Yeah, I'm not a big Obama fan, but Mitt Romney can go fuck every cubic centimeter of himself.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:26 PM on November 5, 2012


Gary Johnson's Closing Statement in Ohio: "Vote for the Person You Believe In"
posted by homunculus at 6:02 PM on November 5, 2012


Gary Johnson: Obama will win

Johnson?
posted by homunculus at 7:57 PM on November 5, 2012


“Eventually, at the moment of truth, the answer that was given was that, in fact, the ability did not exist,” Mr. Barak said in the clip that was shown on Sunday.

The Obama administration spent much of the year pressing Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Barak to hold back on military action against Iran in favor of severe sanctions and intense diplomacy, though the issue receded somewhat after Mr. Netanyahu said in a speech to the United Nations on Sept. 27 that the moment of truth would come next spring or summer, not in 2012.


President Mitt will make sure they have all the 'ability' they need. Out of all his flip flopping one point he's perfectly clear on: upon his return Jesus Christ will split the Mount of Olives.


But it's also enough to say this: Fuck Mitt Romney. Fuck him and everything he represents. Vote to make him pay in a way he never has had to in his entire awful life.

You are now aware that losing a presidential election doesn't in any way shape or form resemble anything remotely like 'paying' or justice or anything else. You are also aware that Romney, like Reagan and Bush and Sam Walton and the Kochs and every single one of them will die peacefully in their comfortable beds, at ripe old ages. They will never pay. Ever.
posted by clarknova at 8:10 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why You Should Consider Vermin Supreme in 2012

Stein or Supreme: What kind of voter am I?
posted by homunculus at 2:27 PM on November 6, 2012


Are You Sick of Hearing About The Elections?
posted by homunculus at 3:52 PM on November 6, 2012


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