Friday, January 20, 2012

Daily Kos gives example of petulant juvenilism

Characterizing the behavior of the rightwing American community, HamptonRoadsProgressive in the Daily Kos(sack) declares "Namecalling, everything from "Socialist" to "Nazi" to "Antichrist". Isn't that the kind of petulant bullshit that gets engaged in by playground adversaries in grade school?"  The author of the article says this after referring to Tea Party participants as Teabaggers.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Why the Election System Needs to Change

Whether or not the conditions for Duverger's Law are well understood, the principle seems to be alive and well in America.  Most of us know that where we might have minority party candidates we prefer, choosing one of them drastically increases the odds of electing the majority party candidate we like least.  It is demoralizing whether one votes for someone who had little chance of winning or votes for someone for whom they had little hope.

For example, if Ross Perot had persisted in the 1992 election, it's very possible that Clinton would not have been elected.  Looked at another way, Perot's withdrawal from the race along with his curious plug for Clinton makes one wonder whether strategic withdrawal is yet another inherent weakness in the system.

Let's say that in 2007, the electoral system had been adjusted to allow instant run-off voting.  Now, imagine that we had a different scenario in 2008.  As Barack Obama takes the lead in his party, instead of agreeing to become Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton forms the Progressive Party and runs against him.  In other circles, Gary Johnson represents the Libertarian ticket.  Ron Paul forms his own Change Party ticket.  Newt Gingrich forms a Conservative ticket outside the GOP.  And good old "maverick" McCain still heads the GOP ticket.  Not to mention the indomitable Ralph Nader.

Now that's an interesting election!  In this alternate universe, many people that voted for Obama in this universe might have picked Gary Johnson as their first choice, followed by Hillary and then by Obama.  Or picked Nader first followed by Obama and then Hillary.  Or Ron Paul, followed by McCain, followed by Hillary.  Some that voted for McCain, in the alternate universe may have picked Ron Paul, followed by Gingrich, followed by Johnson, followed by McCain.  Others might have picked Johnson, followed by Paul, followed by McCain, followed by Gingrich.

And how would this Babel be resolved in instant run-off voting?  In the more interesting case (in which people actually prefer minority party candidates to the GOP and Democrat choices), it may have to go through several rounds of elimination votes.  First Nader is eliminated and those ballots are reevaluated to count for the next preferred candidate.  Most of these votes get are distributed between Clinton, Obama,  Paul and Johnson.  Let's say the next eliminated is Gingrich.  Most of his votes get distributed between McCain, Paul and Johnson.

In the next round, McCain is eliminated and most of his votes are distributed between Johnson and Paul.  Obama gets eliminated next and his votes are distributed between Clinton, Johnson and Paul.  Ron Paul  is eliminated and most of his votes go to Johnson.  Maybe Johnson wins,  maybe Clinton wins.  It all depends on the order of preference selected by each voter.

As you can see, the least preferred candidates, the least objectionable by the most people, get eliminated first.

But there is even more to it than this.  You can prefer a candidate without worrying about throwing away your vote.  You can truly come closer to voting your conscience.  This is encouraging to voters.  It also encourages alternative platforms.   It allows a true reformer to come out of nowhere and convince voters of both camps that he has something they might prefer to that offered by their previous party of choice.   It increases competitions among platforms and decreases the polarization of the Two Party system.   It also increases the likelihood of more voters feeling that the election winner represents them to some extent.

I think many Independents, Democrats, and Republicans often feel that they are choosing which crook can represent their interests best.  I believe IRV would be a step in the right direction.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Has the "Left" Really Changed?

From Dr. Sanity:

What we have witnessed over the 30- 45 years since the Left ascended to dominate political thought in the mid 20th century, is its rapid and unprecedented decline into wholesale intellectual and moral bankruptcy. The noble values and ideals they once stood for have been abandoned; and almost as if a surreal cosmic joke was being played on them, they have—without even noticing!-- embraced the exact opposite of what they once stood for. 
Where once they stood for freedom; they now enable dictatorships and apologize for tyrants. Where once they sought to bring justice to the world; they now defend horrific acts of mass murder and enslavement. Where once they rightly demanded equal opportunity, they have embraced all kinds of racial quotas and discriminatory practices and demand equality of outcome. Where once they sought to empower the weak; they are now instrumental in maintaining and expanding their victimhood.
True enough about where they are now, not necessarily about where they were.  Depends on how you define the Left.  Many Progressives have historically defended fascist and other totalitarian collectivist regimes from the beginning of the movement.  Many Progressives have had historically condescending attitudes toward the "inferior races" and been guided by the institutional racism of the scientific elite at the beginning of the 20th century.