Sunday, September 26, 2010

Winning elections by making the other side lose


Ostensibly each party's goal in an election is to get out the vote for their side.

But remember the story about the two campers in Alaska who're awakened one night by a ferocious grizzly bear poking its head into the tent? As the bear roars, one of the guys starts pulling on his tennis shoes. The other guy says incredulously, "What are you doing that for. You know you can't outrun a grizzly bear." The first guy replies "I don't have to outrun the bear."

Ditto in elections. To come in first, all you have to do is make sure the other guy comes in second. That is, you don't have to get out your vote if you can get the other side's rank and file to not vote.

Southern polling quizzes and poll taxes of yore were the obvious way to do this. Along with notices posted in black neighborhoods telling people to vote on the wrong day or in the wrong place. Or, as in Ohio a few elections ago, they put fewer polling places in places that were majority Democrat, resulting in 10 hour waits to vote in some places, and people abandoning their quest for enfranchisement right and left.

But the best way is through adroit use of propaganda--witlessly aided by the other side's ideological purists--to portray the other side's people as either stupid, corrupt, or simply "not of our tribe." Showing Kerry windsurfing was a perfect example. Guys don't windsurf. Metrosexuals do. You wouldn't want a metrosexual to marry your sister, would you?

This is also always part of a party's backup plan--that is, even if I can't convince you to love my guys, if I can convince you to not love yours, you just might catch the A's game on voting day instead of taking time out to go to the polls.

So as you watch this campaign's hijinks, pay close attention to how each party tries to get the other side's faithful to be, well, faithless.

And remember: the people who voted for Nader elected Bush. They thought there was no difference between Gore and Bush. Does any sane human being on this planet think so today?

6 comments:

One Salient Oversight said...

It wasn't the intention of Nader voters to bring Bush to power - it was their intention to vote for Nader.

And this is exactly why the US electoral system is so broken. The US and UK electoral system is based on the "first past the post" (FPTP) concept. This is fine when only two candidates but very problematic once a third candidate joins the race.

A [preferential voting](https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Preferential_voting) system can be installed in the US without any change to the constitution. It replaces FPTP by allowing voters a second preference to the candidate of their choice.

In 2000 it would've meant that Nader votes ended up being awarded to Gore, assuming that Nader voters would prefer Gore over Bush.

In 1992 it would've meant Perot votes ended up being awarded to GHW Bush, assuming that Perot voters would prefer Bush over Clinton.

In both 2000 and 1992 it would've been enough to swing the election against the eventual winner. Both Republicans and Democrats therefore have an interest in introducing Preferential voting.

This system can also be used to vote for Congressmen from both houses. While third parties may not get into power, they can maintain and grow a voting base over time. This is because, in a preferential system, a vote for a third party is not wasted.

Australia has a preferential voting system. Over the last 12-15 years, the Green Party has increased its "primary vote" from 2% of the vote to just over 13% at the last election. As a result they are wielding more and more legislative power as more and more Green politicians end up in our parliament. They certainly don't control a majority, but they do control "the balance of power" which means that both major parties have to increasingly deal with the Greens in order to pass legislation.

The Preferential System is better than FPTF, but is not a proportional system. In order for the US to have an electoral system based upon Proportional Representation, they would have to change the constitution:

* A Single transferable vote system would require multiple members from congressional districts. This would increase the amount of representatives but be a better mix as a result.
* A Mixed member system would require representatives to be added to congress that don't directly represent a district, but are added to congress in order to make the numbers more proportional.

One Salient Oversight said...

It wasn't the intention of Nader voters to bring Bush to power - it was their intention to vote for Nader.

And this is exactly why the US electoral system is so broken. The US and UK electoral system is based on the "first past the post" (FPTP) concept. This is fine when only two candidates but very problematic once a third candidate joins the race.

A [preferential voting](https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Preferential_voting) system can be installed in the US without any change to the constitution. It replaces FPTP by allowing voters a second preference to the candidate of their choice.

In 2000 it would've meant that Nader votes ended up being awarded to Gore, assuming that Nader voters would prefer Gore over Bush.

In 1992 it would've meant Perot votes ended up being awarded to GHW Bush, assuming that Perot voters would prefer Bush over Clinton.

In both 2000 and 1992 it would've been enough to swing the election against the eventual winner. Both Republicans and Democrats therefore have an interest in introducing Preferential voting.

This system can also be used to vote for Congressmen from both houses. While third parties may not get into power, they can maintain and grow a voting base over time. This is because, in a preferential system, a vote for a third party is not wasted.

Australia has a preferential voting system. Over the last 12-15 years, the Green Party has increased its "primary vote" from 2% of the vote to just over 13% at the last election. As a result they are wielding more and more legislative power as more and more Green politicians end up in our parliament. They certainly don't control a majority, but they do control "the balance of power" which means that both major parties have to increasingly deal with the Greens in order to pass legislation.

The Preferential System is better than FPTF, but is not a proportional system. In order for the US to have an electoral system based upon Proportional Representation, they would have to change the constitution:

* A Single transferable vote system would require multiple members from congressional districts. This would increase the amount of representatives but be a better mix as a result.
* A Mixed member system would require representatives to be added to congress that don't directly represent a district, but are added to congress in order to make the numbers more proportional.

One Salient Oversight said...

It wasn't the intention of Nader voters to bring Bush to power - it was their intention to vote for Nader.

And this is exactly why the US electoral system is so broken. The US and UK electoral system is based on the "first past the post" (FPTP) concept. This is fine when only two candidates but very problematic once a third candidate joins the race.

A [preferential voting](https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Preferential_voting) system can be installed in the US without any change to the constitution. It replaces FPTP by allowing voters a second preference to the candidate of their choice.

In 2000 it would've meant that Nader votes ended up being awarded to Gore, assuming that Nader voters would prefer Gore over Bush.

In 1992 it would've meant Perot votes ended up being awarded to GHW Bush, assuming that Perot voters would prefer Bush over Clinton.

In both 2000 and 1992 it would've been enough to swing the election against the eventual winner. Both Republicans and Democrats therefore have an interest in introducing Preferential voting.

This system can also be used to vote for Congressmen from both houses. While third parties may not get into power, they can maintain and grow a voting base over time. This is because, in a preferential system, a vote for a third party is not wasted.

One Salient Oversight said...

Australia has a preferential voting system. Over the last 12-15 years, the Green Party has increased its "primary vote" from 2% of the vote to just over 13% at the last election. As a result they are wielding more and more legislative power as more and more Green politicians end up in our parliament. They certainly don't control a majority, but they do control "the balance of power" which means that both major parties have to increasingly deal with the Greens in order to pass legislation.

The Preferential System is better than FPTF, but is not a proportional system. In order for the US to have an electoral system based upon Proportional Representation, they would have to change the constitution:

* A Single transferable vote system would require multiple members from congressional districts. This would increase the amount of representatives but be a better mix as a result.
* A Mixed member system would require representatives to be added to congress that don't directly represent a district, but are added to congress in order to make the numbers more proportional.

Ehkzu said...

I wasn't saying anything about the Nader voters' intentions--I was saying what they accomplished. And I was criticizing them for applying a simplistic, Manichean (black & white) worldview to the situation.

That said, I've previously written that the U.S., being perhaps the first modern democracy, is also the most primitive, with its governing document--the Constitution--preserving a number of antidemocratic traits as an artifact of the compromises required to get the 13 colonies to unite.

And I've also advocated replacing our winner take all system with the instant runoff system you alluded to.

I believe this is a nonpartisan idea that neither advantages nor disadvantages either major party. However, it does endanger the current incumbency, I suppose. But yes it's a truly great idea and I have to believe its time will come.

The biggest challenges our Congressional setup faces are the legislative extremism inculcated by gerrymandering putting the parties int he driver's seat instead of the voters, and the fact that America doesn't have a 1 man 1 vote system. One Montana voter has the same voting power as nearly 4 Californians, due to the fact that the Electoral College systematically discriminates against the large states, all but Texas of which are Democratic majority states.

So every Republican Congress for many decades has actually represented minority rule of the country.

Ehkzu said...

Re: the Nader vote--

To put it even more simply, when your actions achieve the opposite of your intentions, perhaps its time to re-examine your relationship with reality.

Of course all this is a sidebar to the topic I raised here, which is how parties can win by confusing and discouraging the voters on the other side. It helps when the propagandists command as much money and influence as the Republicans' billionaire paymasters have.

I see the same thing at the local level, only here the shoe is on the other foot, where city employee unions can and will wage concentrated campaigns against city council candidates who fail to kiss the employee union bosses' rings.