The Mass Insanity of American Voters

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama

When American voters cannot agree that if a president violates his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America, he should be disqualified from consideration for reelection, there exists a serious problem. Similarly, when a candidate for the presidency seeking to challenge the incumbent makes clear his intention to maintain the status quo and perpetuate the existing criminal establishment order, and American voters cannot agree that this should disqualify him from consideration, there exists a serious problem.

The standard argument one comes across when confronted with individuals who plan on voting for either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney is that “We must vote for the lesser of two evils!” One hears this standard refrain time and time again, the reasoning being that if we don’t vote for the “lesser” evil, then the “greater” evil will gain power. The argument goes that if you don’t vote for either evil, then you are “throwing away your vote” and thereby effectively voting for the “greater” evil for not helping to increase the chances that the “lesser” evil will win. Consequently, you will be responsible for the even more disastrous consequences of the policies that the “greater” evil will pursue.

When confronted with the “lesser of evils” argument, one might be tempted to inquire: Why must we vote for evil? Shouldn’t we rather oppose it and not vote for it? After all, it takes no great feat of cognition to recognize that this logic serves only to perpetuate evil on an ever increasing scale as Americans incrementally lower their standards every election cycle for what currently existing evils they are willing to accept and tolerate in order to supposedly prevent even worse evils in the future.

Now, when one points this out to someone who has just offered up the standard “lesser of evils” argument, a typical response is for them to try to backtrack by saying something like, “Well, I don’t really think (insert candidate) is ‘evil’.” They then will list things their candidate has done or positions they have that they think are good, and perhaps add a comment like, “It’s unrealistic to expect there to be a candidate who is perfect”, or something similar—which will bring the conversation right back around to the above points about candidates doing certain criminal things or having certain unjustifiable positions that should disqualify them from consideration. And then if you therefore ask such individuals if their standards are so low that they consider a president violating his oath of office to be merely “imperfection”, they will typically say something like, “Well, I’m not voting for those bad policies, I’m only voting for his good policies.” And then if you point out that they just contradicted their own argument that if you don’t vote for the “lesser” evil with them, then you will be responsible for all the bad things that the “greater” evil will do, they will probably begin to start saying slightly less predictable things, such as telling you what a naïve idealist you are for believing in utopian fantasies, and so on.

The Devil himself would be hard pressed to come up with a more effective means by which to corrupt an entire nation—to make a society into a people without principle, a people who meaninglessly spout empty words about moral values while accepting and even defending the lawlessness of their government and actively struggling to maintain the criminal establishment order—than to convince the masses that they “must vote for the lesser of two evils”.

And if the existing establishment order wished to overthrow the Constitution, turn the U.S. into a totalitarian police state, and enslave the population, it would be the simplest thing for it to do, so long as Americans continued to cling to this logic. All it would need to do would be to create an illusion of “choice” each election cycle between two amenable, pro-establishment candidates who would both continue down this path towards tyranny, albeit each at a slightly different pace or with different sounding rhetoric, and the American sheeple, content to bicker with each other over which of these two candidates would pursue their enslavement at the slower pace, would just continue to vote in favor of legitimizing and further entrenching the violations of the Constitution, loss of their Liberty, illegal wars, murderous criminality, etc., that had occurred over the previous four years in order to supposedly prevent the very same from hypothetically occurring in the future on an even greater scale under the other guy. So long as the establishment would present one candidate who adopts positions that are even more extreme than the other, even more frightening to contemplate than the horrors that exist under the present status quo, then Americans would be incrementally made into obedient serfs who would vote to have themselves shackled and chained so long as it meant keeping the guy from their party in power. And in the end, it wouldn’t really matter which party’s candidate a plurality of Americans decided was the “lesser” evil, because the ship of state would remain steady on course regardless.

What people who make the “lesser of evils” argument are really saying, if we translate it into meaningful terms, is that for the president to repeatedly violate his oath of office, trample the Constitution, violate international law, murder innocent civilians abroad, continue the nation down the road to economic ruin, etc., is all acceptable to them, just so long as the president is a member of their party. Thus, when Romney supporters say we must vote for Romney to prevent Obama from getting reelected, what they are really saying is that maintaining the criminal establishment order is acceptable to them so long as a Republican is president. And when Obama supporters say we must vote for Obama to prevent Romney from gaining office, what they are really saying is that maintaining the criminal establishment order is acceptable to them so long as a Democrat is president.

It is remarkable that this kind of commitment to ideology straight down party lines exists in this day and age, the age of information and the internet, and yet one may still come across many Americans who consider the Democratic party to be the yin to the Republican party’s yang. The very language used in political discourse of “left” vs. “right” reinforces this downright delusional paradigm. Then there are Americans who recognize that there is largely a consensus across party lines on pretty much all of the most crucial issues, but they tend to focus on those areas where there are subtle differences, real or perceived. Missing the forest for the trees, they argue that we must feed this monster rather than that one, to stop that one from devouring us, all the while failing to see how futile this is since they are just two heads of the same hydra, and the only way to stop it from further devastation is to just stop feeding the beast altogether.

We may see how application of this “lesser of evils” logic has worked out so far this century. In the 2000 election, anyone who did not vote for either of the two pro-establishment candidates was considered to have “thrown away” their vote. But where is the logic in the argument that having voted for either of the two pro-establishment candidates and thus having voted to perpetuate the status quo was not throwing away their vote? One would think that, if the goal was actually to effect real and meaningful change, it would be more logical to say that anyone who voted for the Democratic or the Republican candidate wasted their vote. In that election, it was not exactly clear which candidate a plurality of Americans actually viewed as the lesser evil, so the Supreme Court stepped in and decided for them.

And then after four years of Bush, a plurality of Americans cast their votes to reelect him to a second term, thereby signaling to the establishment that the trampling of the Constitution, the loss of Liberty, the torturing of prisoners, the murderous war on Iraq, etc., was acceptable to them, just so long as a Republican was in the Oval Office. The message received by Washington was that the president could violate his oath of office and commit high crimes for which the Constitution demands he be impeached and for which he should be tried for war crimes under international law, and this was all okay with the American people and could be carried out in their name. The message received in Washington was confirmation that Americans would accept the extraordinary criminality of the existing establishment so long as a plurality of them voted to legitimize it on the basis of the belief that not doing so would result in some even greater evil if the other party’s candidate won.

Although Bush was elected into office on a platform of limited government, free markets, minding our own affairs internationally, “no nation building”, etc., and although he proceeded to put the lie to his rhetoric by implementing opposite policies, his supporters continued to back him anyway and voted to reelect him in 2004 simply because he was their party’s guy, and if they voted for a third-party candidate, the Democratic party’s guy might win. This blind loyalty to party was—it should by now be uncontroversial to say—absolutely disastrous for the country. By voting to reelect Bush, a plurality of Americans were responsible for legitimizing, in the eyes of the establishment order, the violent crimes and authoritarian usurpations of power by the U.S. government.

Even so, by the end of Bush’s second term, Americans were finally beginning to wake up to the realities of just how disastrous eight years of Bush had been. Even many conservative voters had become disillusioned with what had transpired under his two terms, and the liberals and independents had begun to effectively mobilize against the government’s criminal policies. And then along came Obama, with his empty rhetoric about “hope” and “change”, perfectly transparent at the time to anyone who took the time to parse his words and analyze them for any real underlying meaning. Even many of those who largely recognized the vacuousness of his lofty-sounding rhetoric were convinced that he was the “lesser evil”. All it took for the establishment to ensure that there was no rollback of the policies that were implemented under Bush was to pit Obama against someone who would be regarded by more Americans as the “greater evil”. Enter Bush-policy advocate and warmongerer extraordinaire John McCain.

Unsurprisingly, Obama won, and many liberals went back  to sleep, satisfying themselves in their sense of accomplishment and false sense of security that now that they had cast their ballot and a Democrat was in the White House, rather than one of these Republican warmongers, things would be okay. And then, rather than rolling them back, Obama proceeded to complete the institutionalization of Bush’s policies so as to cement them into permanency.

By declaring his empty promise to close Guantanamo, for instance, he succeeded in obtaining Americans’ acquiescence for the system of military detentions, which he made clear from the beginning he would continue. He succeeded in gaining Americans’ acceptance of the usurpation of Executive authority under which this system was established and the basic framework under which it operated. He ended, so far as we know, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques”—otherwise known as torture—while refusing to renounce the assumed unconstitutional power of the Executive to authorize such human rights abuses and while preventing those responsible for implementing this policy from being held accountable for violating U.S. and international law.

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Jeremy R. Hammond

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Jeremy R. Hammond
Jeremy R. Hammond is an independent political analyst and a recipient of the Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism. He is the founding editor of Foreign Policy Journal and the author of Ron Paul vs. Paul Krugman: Austrian vs. Keynesian economics in the financial crisis and The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination: The Struggle for Palestine and the Roots of the Israeli-Arab Conflict. His forthcoming book is on the contemporary U.S. role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

20 Responses to "The Mass Insanity of American Voters"

  1. Jiminy Cricket  October 12, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    Thank you editor

    Your on the money time and time again

    one of the best if not very best of on the Web
    while its still free

    Reply
  2. Dawn  October 14, 2012 at 8:10 am

    It would be my wish that this article be mandatory reading for every American before casting their vote this coming election. Excellent. Keep up the great work.

    Reply
  3. Christy  October 15, 2012 at 10:23 am

    I agrree with Dawn couldn’t have said it better!

    Reply
  4. Whistler  October 15, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Thank you for putting into words many of the things I have been thinking whenever I’m told that I’ll be wasting my vote. I see it quite often, I also have had people telling me that I’ll be stealing a vote from the two main candidates by choosing a third party. this has never made sense to me, because the vote belongs to me until I choose to give it. Your words in this article are elegant, and a true pleasure to read. I hope many more people take the time to read them.

    Reply
  5. K Watts  October 15, 2012 at 11:19 am

    I am voting my beliefs while I am still allowed to! You gave me the very words I needed for a come-back to the “wasted vote” rhetoric. I’m not betting a horse in a race. I’m not voting to win. I’m voting for what I feel it right! Some may not get it, but maybe some will stop and think…

    Reply
  6. Lucy Fehr  October 15, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Would like to express my sincere appreciation for your well-written piece. Hope everyone could read it before the nov elections.

    Reply
  7. Reid Campbell  October 15, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    Excellent article, I’ve been arguing these points to deaf ears for a long time now, I will post this bit of wisdom everywhere I can. Thanks, RC

    Reply
  8. a free bird  October 19, 2012 at 1:55 am

    Thank you Mr. Hammond

    for your excellent analysis of the ‘election’ this year where people have been given a chance to continue wage more wars.
    Your article explains how dangerous would be if people vote for “the lesser of evils” since this way of thinking helps the status quo continues without any real change that Obama promised and gullible people believed him which means Bush policy on steroid meaning more war and killings of innocent people including children in the faraway places where is considered CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY.

    People should remember voting for a third party or boycotting the election is not a crime, but voting for criminal policies of the ‘elected’ party against Muslims is a crime.
    Most important, your position against the “left” and their message of electing a ‘lesser evil’ is right. The cooperation of the phony “left” with imperialism/Zionism is not limited to American ‘left’, but is a daily practice among the Iranian ‘left’ abroad. According to one of the Iranian ‘left’, Majedi, the majority of the Iranian ‘left’ opposition groups abroad receive hand out from western governments in EU and the US even Arab states. They also have close cooperation with Israel Lobby, no wonder people will find their names on “Israel Hasbara Committee” next to Jaffarzade, a member of the Mujahedin, MEK, where recently was taken off the US department terrorist list due to strong influence that Israel Lobby has on US policy.
    You write:

    {The “lesser of evils” argument certainly qualifies. This insanity … people on the “left” telling others that they should vote third-party if they live in a “blue” state, but that if they live in a “swing” state, they should vote for Obama.}

    Mr. Hammond: These are the words of Noam Chomsky who tells the voters vote for Obama who believes in “the Jewish State” and thinks undivided Jerusalem is the ‘capital of the jewish state’. This is not the first time that Noam Chomsky asking the voter to elect one from the establishment.

    Noam Chomsky did the same and in 2004 asked voters to vote for John Kerry, another war monger, against George Bush where Obama inherited his policy of mass murdering of Muslims in the far away
    http://www.chomsky.info/onchomsky/200501–.htm

    places including American citizens and their children abroad and violation of human rights at home, but against all these hypocrisy he force illegal sanctions on Iranian population to ‘correct’ Iranian government behavior to abandon Iran’s legal right to enrichment. Obama’s policy is considered CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY, according to international law. Many Iranians have received death sentence due to shortage of medicine which is ILLEGAL to bring ‘regime change’.
    People are united to defeat the DARK FORCES of our time.

    Reply
  9. John Bowden  October 22, 2012 at 11:04 am

    I don’t agree with you sir. I think Bush was a good president, certainly better than the guy in there now. I voted for McCain and Palin. I new Obama was a mistake. He could sweet talk, but no substance, just Hate white males For a so called christian pastor in Jeremia White, and Marxist leanings for his government philosophies. Bush made a major mistake going in Iraq i think. It cost too much and hurt our economy. We had to go to war in Afghanistan they committed Pearl harbor on our twin towers. Would you say President Roosivelt (FDR) the god of all democrats was a war monger? Was his vice president (a democrat too) a war criminal for dropping the bomb? not once but twice on Japan?
    I don’t see anything of substance which makes me think Romni is not a Constitutionalist. ANY way all this talk about the least of two evils is a bbunch of dribble. No man is good, only God. We have to choose men of character and reputation both of which Romni has and none of which Obama had prior to his election. We put a man with no experience who has proven himself incompetent to do the job and has cost American lives at our US Embassys abroad.

    Reply
    • Jeremy R. Hammond
      Jeremy R. Hammond  October 22, 2012 at 1:08 pm

      I think Bush was a good president

      He is a war criminal.

      I don’t see anything of substance which makes me think Romni is not a Constitutionalist

      Willful ignorance is bliss.

      Reply
  10. ___j___  October 24, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    Jeremy, this is a solid article, but you are missing out on an important aspect: math.

    That old song about the lesser-of-two-weevils actually *does* have practical basis in reality, although it is a bit subtle. I fully concede you are on the nose about the *morality* of voting for evil, even a wee-bit-less evil, rather than voting *FOR* somebody you really and truly believe is a GOOD person for the job. But practicality sometimes trumps idealized morality, and the style of voting-system we use makes elections just such a scenario. Here is my own swingstate-lesser-of-weevils-but-elsewhere-greater-good rule, which captures the essence of the *correct* practical way to deal with elections of the sort we are stuck with:

    SLOW-BEGG#1. Vote 3rd-party if you live in a locked-up-solid state, to send a message through time to future primary-election-candidates about what you REALLY want in a president, *but* vote lesser-of-two-dominant-party-evils if you live in a swing-state (this year) where the electoral-math of the general-election is against you.

    This rule can be tailored for an audience:

    #1_C. For liberty-loving constitutionalists, if you live in a swing-state then pick your poison of 4 years Obama versus 8 years of Our Party Rominee, but if you don’t, vote Gary Johnson or maybe Virgil Goode or even write-in Ron Paul (assuming you are sure your ballot won’t be invalidated by some clerk).

    #1_D. For dems, if you live in a swing-state vote Obama, but if you don’t, vote Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, to send a message about 2014+2016.

    #1_R. For repubs, if you live in a swing-state vote Romney, but if you don’t, vote Virgil Goode or Gary Johnson, to send a message to 2014+2016.

    The phrasing of what I call here #1_D is very similar to something you mentioned in the article as “intriguing yet insane” advice for some liberal folks, presumably from other liberal folks. It is good advice. The math is clear.

    Here is the election-math, as simple as I can make it, with links that explain it more fully. We use a voting system that we think of a normal voting, but the technical name is plurality-voting. There is a specific feature, the independence of clones criterion, that our voting system lacks. We have proof this feature *really* matters in practice: when two repubs and one dem ran in 1992, and also in 1912, the lone dem won. Similarly, when two dems run against one repub, the repubs lose.

    TR 27% + Taft 23% = 50% repub, but dem Wilson still wins w/ 42%. Perot 19% + Bush#1 37% = 56% repub, but dem Clinton#1 still wins w/ 43%.

    Gore 48% + Nader 3% = 51% dem, but repub Bush#2 still wins w/ 48%. Humphrey 43% + Wallace 14% = 57% dem, but repub Nixon wins w/ only 43%.

    This phenomenon is the mathematical foundation of the lesser-of-two-evils rule. It is *also* the mathematical reason we have a twin-party-dominated election system, by the way! Because, as you quite correctly point out, the lesser-weevil rule becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But the rule is not to blame. The voting-system-math *driving* that rule of thumb is what matters.

    Every few years, a good chunk of conservative voters decide they like the libertarian-party guy better than their usual choice of the repub nominee, and as a direct result of them not picking a major-nominee, the *dem* nominee wins. (Wilson and WWI was the greater of two evils!) Similarly, every few years a good chunk of liberal voters decide they like the green-party guy better than their usual choice of the dem nominee, and as a direct result of them not picking a major-nominee, the *repub* wins. (Nixon and watergate was the greater of two evils!)

    Therefore, your primary argument, that voters just need to change their minds about believing in the lesser-weevil stuff, and if that happens, we will no longer have awful candidates, is flat wrong. Liberal-leaning voters have tried that before, and ended up causing the Iraq war and Watergate. Conservative-leaning voters have tried that before, and ended up causing WWI and Hillarycare.

    However, there *is* a silver lining. If we look at the math of the lesser-weevil rule, it becomes crystal clear that it *only* applies to people living in swing-states, for presidential elections anyways (the electoral college is all that matters in those… which means the nationwide popvote is only vaguely predictive… but otherwise totally irrelevant to winning). Every presidential race, there are about ten swing-states, and they tend to be the same for long periods of time. In 2012, the swing-states are FL OH NC CO VA IA NV WI NH.

    If you reside *anywhere* else, then you can vote your conscience on the presidential election, most likely by following something like #1_R, or #1_D, or in my case #1_C. Imagine how many popvotes Gary Johnson and Virgil Goode might get if the millions of everyday repubs in CA understood that Obama was *going* to win every single ecVote from the state, and therefore they could decide *honestly* whether they liked Mitt the best.

    Spread the word for people to vote best-of-all-good-ones should they reside in a swing-state, but explain the math that shows them it cannot hurt their second-choice lesser-weevil. That rule of thumb *only* applies in the ten swing-states.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tactical_voting#Plurality_voting

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plurality_voting_system#Disadvantages

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duverger%27s_law

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spoiler_effect#Presidential_elections

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/bull_moose_party

    p.s. Long-term, of course, we need a better voting-system for our elections. We have computers now, and we have many novel and interesting voting-systems that have been invented in the last couple hundred years. There are also ancient voting-systems, used in the days of Aristotle and the Venetian Doge, that might be useful.

    Personally, though, having looked into this issue seriously, no existing voting system quite fixes all the major problems, at least, without introducing other problems just as bad. Fundamentally, we need a voting-system which does not encourage favorite-betrayal, a voting system which does not mathematically tend to be two-party dominated (key!), a voting system which is straightforward to understand for the below-average-intelligence-american, and a voting system that rewards voter-honesty rather than punishes it. Of course, we also want a voting system that exists! And we want that voting-system to be resistant to fraud, and easy to verify, and cheap to implement, and so on.

    The best I’ve been able to come up with so far is a modified form of auto-exaggeration-embedded range-voting. I plan to try it out at the corporate-board level, and then see if it can be deployed to the local city council, before pushing for my scheme as the best way to elect the POTUS. But I’d very much hope for some competition, from other good voting-system variants.

    p.p.s. Short-term, I think our best option is to encourage folks in non-swing-states to follow the SLOW-BEGG rule. Third-party candidates may begin to get significant chunks of the overall popvote… which will get more voters interested in those wacky libertarian and constitutionalist ideas… and more than anything, *that* increased awareness in and of itself will help us to get better twin-party nominees. Because after all, freedom is popular!

    Once that starts happening, there will be a demographic tipping-point where the SLOW-BEGG rule starts to be ‘incorrect’ for mainstream dems and repubs. The lesser-weevil rule only applies to swing-states, but if enough people in California stop voting for the dem nominee, then the state of California might *become* a swing-state once again. At that point, it may be prudent to modify our advice to mainstream voters who actually *like* the sort of twin-party system that gives us Clinton-Dole and Romney-Obama candidates. Like this…

    #2_D. For dems, if you live in a [shaky-blue-state or] swing-state vote Obama, but if you don’t [i.e. you live in a solid-red-state], vote Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, to send a message about 2014+2016.

    #2_R. For repubs, if you live in a [shaky-red-state or] swing-state vote Romney, but if you don’t [i.e. you live in a solid-blue-state], vote Virgil Goode or Gary Johnson, to send a message to 2014+2016.

    However, the more general SLOW-BEGG rule *is* still completely correct, as long as voters realize that “swing-states” can change from election to election, and pay attention to the statewide polls for THEIR state, every year before actually voting.

    Reply
    • Jeremy R. Hammond
      Jeremy R. Hammond  October 25, 2012 at 7:07 am

      I fully concede you are on the nose about the *morality* of voting for evil…

      So if you recognize that voting for evil is immoral, why do you argue that people should do it anyways? I fully concede that if we reject morality and sell our souls by voting to perpetuate the establishment order, then you are on the nose about the “math” of voting for evil.

      Therefore, your primary argument, that voters just need to change their minds about believing in the lesser-weevil stuff, and if that happens, we will no longer have awful candidates, is flat wrong. Liberal-leaning voters have tried that before, and ended up causing the Iraq war and Watergate. Conservative-leaning voters have tried that before, and ended up causing WWI and Hillarycare.

      No, it is not “flat wrong” that if Americans don’t want to have evil, they shouldn’t vote for it. Your fallacy is obvious, apart from rejecting morality, which is that obviously this wasn’t tried. Obviously, a plurality of Americans in the cases you offer voted according to the “lesser of evils” thinking and voted for a candidate from the Republican/Democrat Party. There just weren’t enough Americans in those cases who came to their senses and refused to sell their souls by voting to endorse evil policies. A second fallacy is that, obviously, it wasn’t voters who didn’t vote for the Rep/Dem Party who caused the policies the Rep/Dem implemented, it was all the voters who didn’t have the sense not to do so who were responsible for those evils.

      Reply
      • ___j___  October 25, 2012 at 11:03 am

        “So if you recognize that voting for evil is immoral, why do you argue that people should”

        For the same reason I argue that people should shoot burglars who break into their house in the middle of the night, even though killing is not the best way to morally deal with petty crime. Because of the math. Nine times out of ten, the burglar will turn out to be a petty criminal just suffering from dumbness. But that other one chance in ten, they will be a killer, planning to wipe out you and your entire family. The math says to shoot all burglars. Period.

        You are arguing that voting for the lesser-weevil would be immoral, so people should stop doing it. You also imply that only PSYCHOLOGICAL reasons exist for why people ever started doing it. But that’s not true. There is a mathematical reason for people to follow the lesser-weevil rule: because if you do not follow that rule, the math of our voting system WILL punish you. You say that Americans that want to avoid voting for evil, should. I have no problem with that, it is their choice. But those in swing-states will have to overcome the practical math of the voting-system, which is a disincentive. And those outside the swing-states do not realize there *is* no penalty.

        You also say that a moral decision will *end* the long train of evil nominees in the twin-parties. That is incorrect — because the voting system is going to punish those with the moral fortitude to do what is right, practical consequence be damned. Maybe you are confident that 50% of Americans are filled with the necessary gumption? But from here I just don’t see it. The punishment is too strong in practical terms. Speaking of which, we seem to be disagreeing about the set of examples somehow.

        Here is one that I say illustrates the practical punishment of voters failing to follow the lesser-weevil rule. 1912: the dem nominee is Wilson supported by 42% of voters, the repub nominee is Taft supported by 50% of voters. However, TR does not think Taft will run the country properly, so he forms the Bull Moose 3rd-party. *If* the repub voters follow the lesser-weevil rule, then they will all vote for Taft. But half the repub voters (an anomalously large percentage!) break the rule and vote for TR’s 3rd-party. The rule-breakers are all punished, because Wilson wins, not TR their first choice, and not Taft their second choice. Since *only* a very small percentage of dems broke the lesser-weevil rule (to vote for Eugene Debs or whatever), Wilson the dem won. Do you not agree that the folks voting for TR were punished with an undesired outcome?

        (Maybe the trouble is that you see TR as an evil candidate too… if that is the holdup, then try replacing his name with Ron Paul, or Patrick Henry or whomever your favorite non-evil politician may happen to be. The math stays the same: voting for the 3rd-party person results in immediate and painful punishment, with your least-favorite of the three candidates winning. This disincentive keeps the lesser-weevil rule alive, forever.)

        “There just weren’t enough Americans in those cases who came to their senses and refused to sell their souls by voting to endorse evil policies”

        Ahhhh. Ummmm… yes, that is a true statement… but do you realize how many tens of millions of people will have to *simultaneously* all decide to refuse to vote for the twin-party nominees, for those decisions to actually change the outcome of the election in question? Remember when Perot got 20% of the votes, and then faded to obscurity the very next election — that isn’t bad luck. It is the math. People that voted for Perot in 1992, but wanted Bush as their second choice, felt punished by Clinton getting elected. (Because they *were* punished!) That is why Perot dropped like a rock in 1996, and was out entirely in 2000.

        This is the key point. The math of our voting system is what causes the lesser-weevil rule, not people deciding to believe the rule, making an immoral compromise for no reason. There is a very good, very plain reason, even if not every voter can explain the math behind the rule to you. Most dems “know” not to vote for the green party or the libertarian party, because Nader spoiled FL in 2000 for Gore. Most repubs “know” not to vote for the constitution party or the libertarian party, because Perot spoiled a few states for Dole, and a ton of states for Bush1st.

        My main argument is that what everyday voters think they “know” is actually incorrect, in 40 states out of the 50. Mathematically, the lesser-weevil rule is only applicable if you live in a swing-state, for presidential elections anyhoo. Is your argument with me that, even in the swing states where the lesser-weevil rule applies, and the practical consequence is punishing, voters should still refuse to follow the rule? In that case, we have no disagreement on any fundamental, just a disagreement on gumption-level of America.

        But you sound like you think we should *never* advocate the lesser-weevil rule, on principle, and that explaining the math to the residents of the 40 states (where the lesser-weevil rule does NOT even apply) is therefore pointless. Is that what you intend to say, or am I reading you wrong?

        p.s. You also put forth an argument that, if person #1 voted for Wilson, person #2 voted for Taft, and person #3 voted for TR, that in fact *only* person #1 bears any responsibility for Wilson’s presidential policies. The other folks did not vote FOR him, after all. Well… sorta.

        Because of the voting-system we have, quite often voters are in fact voting AGAINST their least-favorite nominee, rather than actually voting ‘for’ any person whatsoever. Person #3 insisted on voting *for* TR, and as a direct result of their refusal to vote against Wilson (by following the lesser weevil rule), in the election Wilson won. Whether you think person #3 has any responsibility for the policies Wilson follows while in office, depends on whether you think that person #1 in fact has any responsibility…

        We are getting into deep territory here, concerning the intent of the voter and the transitory-or-not nature of responsibility, that we prolly cannot settle today. Was *Wilson* responsible for our troops that died in WWI, or were the American generals, or were the German snipers, or the German generals, or even the French leadership which began the war… or the assassin who shot the archduke?

        I’m really more interested in the other discussion we are having. I’m saying that we ought to be doing our best to inform the people in the 40 states *outside* the swing-states that they can feel free to do the moral thing, and vote *for* a candidate they want. It won’t change the outcome of the electoral college anyway, so why not? You are saying that we should make the moral case against the lesser-weevil rule… but do you mean, in the 40 states where there is no practical pain, or *also* in the 10 states where there is pain?

        Because while I *agree* with your stance on the moral issue, I think we will have far more SUCCESS convincing folks that will experience no downside from doing the moral thing (the 40 states), than we will achieve with the folks in swing-states, where there is a mathematical penalty on morality.

        Reply
        • Jeremy R. Hammond
          Jeremy R. Hammond  October 25, 2012 at 2:49 pm

          “So if you recognize that voting for evil is immoral, why do you argue that people should”

          For the same reason I argue that people should shoot burglars who break into their house in the middle of the night

          But acting in self-defense is not immoral. There is no parallel.

          You are arguing that voting for the lesser-weevil would be immoral, so people should stop doing it.

          Yes, I am arguing that people should stop acting immorally.

          “There just weren’t enough Americans in those cases who came to their senses and refused to sell their souls by voting to endorse evil policies”

          Ahhhh. Ummmm… yes, that is a true statement… but do you realize how many tens of millions of people will have to *simultaneously* all decide to refuse to vote for the twin-party nominees, for those decisions to actually change the outcome of the election in question?

          Nobody is suggesting that it would happen all at once. But sanity and morality has to start somewhere. So instead of arguing that people should act insane and immorally and vote for evil, you could, for instance, persuade people to act sanely and morally and not vote for evil, and thus grow the numbers of people who do the right thing instead of the wrong thing, until the numbers grow to the point of critical mass necessary for the crimes of the establishment order to become unsustainable, instead of perpetually endorsed and legitimized.

          The math of our voting system is what causes the lesser-weevil rule, not people deciding to believe the rule, making an immoral compromise for no reason.

          That is a circular argument.

          But you sound like you think we should *never* advocate the lesser-weevil rule, on principle, and that explaining the math to the residents of the 40 states (where the lesser-weevil rule does NOT even apply) is therefore pointless. Is that what you intend to say, or am I reading you wrong?

          I don’t know what you are unclear about. I am saying people should not act insane, and that they should not act immorally. I am saying they should not vote for evil. Period.

          Because of the voting-system we have, quite often voters are in fact voting AGAINST their least-favorite nominee, rather than actually voting ‘for’ any person whatsoever.

          Your “rather than” makes that statement false, since the means by which you are saying the vote “against” Tweedledee is by voting for Tweedledum.

          You are saying that we should make the moral case against the lesser-weevil rule… but do you mean, in the 40 states where there is no practical pain, or *also* in the 10 states where there is pain?

          Dude, did you not actually read the whole article, or what? Again, in what way have I been unclear? What did I say? I wrote:

          This insanity sometimes manifests itself in an intriguing way; you will sometimes hear people on the “left” telling others that they should vote third-party if they live in a “blue” state, but that if they live in a “swing” state, they should vote for Obama. In other words, the argument is that Obama is a candidate who is at best not worthy of receiving your vote, who is unworthy of the office of the presidency on his own merits, but who is just considered less unworthy than the other guy.

          We may agree with liberals that stopping Romney from becoming the president is a worthy cause, and with conservatives about stopping Obama from gaining a second term—but at what cost should this goal be achieved? At the cost of sending the message to Washington that the president is above the law, that he will not be held accountable for violating his oath of office, no matter how abhorrent his violation of the Constitution or international law? The ends do not justify the means. Preventing Romney from becoming president does not justify voting for Obama, and vice versa.

          Because while I *agree* with your stance on the moral issue…

          No, since you are arguing that people in swing states should act immorally and vote for evil, you absolutely do not.

          Reply
  11. ___j___  October 25, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    “voting for the lesser-weevil would be immoral, so people should stop”

    Here we agree. What we disagree on is how to achieve that goal.

    j: “do you realize how many tens of millions of people will have to *simultaneously* all decide…” Jeremy: Nobody is suggesting that it would happen all at once.

    I am trying to point out that *you* are suggesting such a thing, in effect. The slow approach that you explicitly speak of, gradually persuading people one-by-one to give up voting AGAINST tweedle-ree or instead AGAINST tweedle-dem every election, getting them to start voting *for* non-evil candidates, has an Achilles’ heel, a deadly weakness not readily apparent at first glance. The slow and gradual winning of hearts and minds will take many election cycles.

    However, each and every election cycle, the folks that refuse to follow the lesser-weevil rule are being passively punished (their vote for a third party candidate is ‘wasted’ except as a message). Far more importantly, on a regular basis, in 2000 and 1992 and 1968 and 1912 (some would also say 1996 and even 1980 … with Anderson the moderate RINO spoiling the election for Carter!), the math behind the lesser-weevil rule will come into play, and the president will be the greater-weevil.

    Under those circumstances, people that voted for non-evil may or may not bear direct responsibility for any policies of the greater-weevil prez (deep question!), but they *will* get the blame for not following the lesser-weevil rule from friends and neighbors. This is an ACTIVE repeated punishment on top of the passive repeated punishment of not actually getting a non-evil candidate elected.

    Because the math is clear: people who voted for Nader in 2000 are the reason we had Bush2nd and a war in Iraq, rather than Gore with cap-n-trade. People who voted for Perot in 1992 is the reason we had Clinton and Hillarycare, rather than Bush1st and read-my-lips. [In repub mythology and under some assumptions… some say Bush1st would have lost anyways by a hair even without Perot-voters.]

    You are correct when you say that sanity and moral voting have to start somewhere. But you are not correct to assume that you can slowly grow the number (and more crucially the percentage) of folks that refuse to follow the lesser-weevil rule, because there *are* definite disincentives that will quickly reverse all your work. Thus, I can assert that you are advocating for tens of millions to all change their minds simultaneously, deciding in the course of a SINGLE election to stop voting immorally. That, on paper, could work out… but the practical barriers are obvious.

    The practical barriers to slowly convincing folks are less obvious, more subtle, but clear as a bell to those who look at election-history. Trying to win hearts and minds slowly is a noble goal, but every person you win over will be continually punished by inherent math the voting-system, until that day when you’ve converted over the necessary tens of millions. My argument is that day will never arrive, with those gradual tactics: the penalty for failing to follow the lesser-weevil rule is far too great: for every 10 people you convert in 2012, by 2014 you will have lost a third of them, by 2016 another third, and by 2018 all of them, or with *luck* all but one.

    You can argue that the penalty is not as severe as I seem to think, or that we can convert people over so super-quickly that we will exceed the rate of loss causes by the practical math-penalties I point out, but you cannot argue that there is *no* downside to voting for non-evil candidates, right?

    My suggestion is that, *while* we argue the moral case, we should also pick our battles carefully. Trying to convince repub voters in california that their vote is *already* ignored by the electoral college, since the dem wins all the ecVotes from CA every time no matter what, and that *therefore* they ought to vote morally, is a good plan. The lesser-weevil rule is not applicable in that state, for those voters! Trying to convince dem voters in FL that they should never vote for the party nominee, and instead should vote 3rd-party, is absolutely positively an uphill battle, since Nader is the counter-argument. You are saying that we should still make the moral argument, and I have no problem with that. I just don’t expect it will *work* very well, because the practical costs are too high for Florida dems. But there are only ten or so swing-states, so why should we not concentrate on the low-hanging fruit first?

    Think back to the 1800s, and the moral battle to end slavery. Vermont ended slavery in 1781 or something like that, right? And christians argued for the morality of freeing slaves, and ending the immorality of slaveholding, pretty constantly. In states where there was low practical cost, such as in the north, or in new territories, they had many successes. In states where the practical cost was high, they got nowhere from 1776 through 1860.

    The point is not that we need a war to change the voting-system… the point is that we ought to get half the voters in 40 of the states voting morally first, and then work on the remaining ten states where the lesser-weevil rule actually has a clear practical cost.

    p.s. You saw this as a circular argument: “The math of our voting system is what causes the lesser-weevil rule, not people deciding to believe the rule, making an immoral compromise for no reason.” Actually, it isn’t exactly a circular argument in the way you mean… but it absolutely is a cyclical argument.

    The voting-math exists at all times, without changing. But only in certain elections are conditions right for a spoiler candidate to arise. (There are always 3rd-party candidates but they are rarely successful enough to be *spoiler* candidates that change an election outcome.) Thus we live in a dynamic situation, where at any given time perhaps 3% of the population is willing to vote third-party, in a particular election. Then, as the successful third-party gains traction, and donors, and popularity, their candidates start to get more popvotes in elections.

    Which is good, right? Yes in obvious ways, but no in a subtle way: popular third-party candidates are *exactly* the cause of the conditions for a spoiler election. The more popular they become, the more likely they are to spoil an election! Once they spoil an election, or even are *perceived* as maybe having spoiled an election, that candidate and that third party die, nigh-immediately. TR and bull moose, Perot and reform, Nader and his little cadre.

    The math never changes, but the people who follow the lesser-weevil rule constantly fluctuate. Once you’ve been the disappointed spoiler-voter, you have a visceral understanding of the consequences of failing to follow the lesser-weevil rule, and so you tend never to vote 3rd-party again. That is the cycle: people do not follow the rule for “no reason” as I pointed out in the snippet you quoted. They follow it for a very good reason! They convince others to also follow the rule… including many folks that have no *real* reason to do so, such as repub-voters in California.

    We agree that persuading people to act morally, and vote *for* non-evil candidates, is a good goal. But we disagree on which people to focus on: I’m saying that there are particular groups of voters in particular states which can *sanely* vote morally, with no penalty whatsoever. You are saying that voting for evil is always insane, but that is equating immorality with insanity. Many sane people were slaveholders. Many sane people were soldiers in the German army under Hitler. Fighting immorality is tough! We need to pick our battles carefully, if we someday hope to win. That’s all I’m trying to say here.

    “…point of critical mass necessary for the crimes of the establishment order to become unsustainable, instead of perpetually endorsed and legitimized.”

    Yes. Achieving critical mass is the key. But the first question is, how? Some say boycott the vote (which I say won’t work). You say push the moral argument (which I mostly agree with… but again feel that there are some aspects that won’t work).

    The second question is, what sort of change are we intending to accomplish? From my understanding of the math of the voting-system, the root *cause* of the fact that we live under a twin-party system with increasingly evil nominees is the math behind the lesser-weevil rule. Once we achieve critical mass, and are in a position to make changes, it is crucial that we find a voting-system which does not suffer from the flaws of our current one.

    The historical precedent is clear. Remember how George Washington always said to avoid political parties? Remember the era of Good Feelings, when elections were vicious but everybody liked the results? Those days gradually disappeared, partly because of the immorality of slavery that caused regional frictions, partly because of corruption in DC that caused political frictions, but also I would argue because the math of our voting-system guarantees we end up with a twin-party-dominated election system. Not circularly: cyclically.

    We need to fix that problem, by figuring out a voting-system that doesn’t suck, or to put it more precisely, a voting system that rewards moral voters, rather than punishing them. Once we do that, nobody will have to *argue* for morality in voting — it will happen naturally.

    p.p.s. “Dude, did you not actually read the whole article, or what?” Heh heh. [grin] Yes, I read the whole thing. It’s a long article, but a good one, well worth reading. As long as it is though, my argument is that your article will remain incomplete until you address the election-math.

    Calling dems in Florida ‘insane’ for refusing to vote 3rd-party again is simply incorrect, because of Nader — the lesser-weevil rule applies to them, so their refusal is quite sane IN THE SHORT-TERM, albeit (you argue and I mostly agree) somewhat immoral. Calling repubs in California ‘insane’ for refusing to vote 3rd-party, using exactly the same logic as the dems in Florida, is closer to the mark… but they aren’t actually insane either, but simply uninformed. They don’t know that the lesser-weevil thumb-rule does not apply to them!

    I’m saying that we should focus advocacy on the groups of people that are demographically most likely to be receptive to our message, repubs in CA, dems in TX, and so on. We should also *honestly* explain to dems in FL (and repubs in FL for that matter) that, while we understand the lesser-weevil-related penalties exist, we still think the moral argument wins, and if they will just look to the *long-term* results of continuing to follow the lesser-weevil rule, they might agree. Especially if we already have many millions of voters in the non-swing-states voting morally, right?

    That is my actual argument. If you still think, therefore, that I disagree with you about the morality of voting, well, read my comments again. Jefferson was morally against slavery, but could not figure out *how* to end it, and was himself a slaveholder his entire lifetime. He argued that slavery should be ended, but he understood that, when many of his fellow Virginians refused his argument, it wasn’t because they were insane, or willfully immoral (in most cases), but rather quite simply because the associated penalty was TOO HIGH for them to follow the moral pathway. Along the same lines, while I do not condone FL dems and FL repubs following the lesser-weevil rule, I certainly grok why they might. Would you argue that Jefferson was ‘absolutely not’ really and truly deep-down morally against slavery?

    p.p.p.s. Maybe that’s a better parallel than the shooting of burglars. But to me, acting in self-defense is a moral response only to the extent that your action does not have immoral consequences that are avoidable. Consider a situation where 20 terrorists from Saudi Arabia, led by a and funded by a former Saudi now living in Afghanistan, were to kill 3000 americans. Is it therefore moral to nuke the Sauds? My answer is no. Self-defense cannot be used as justification for any arbitrary action.

    Say, for example, invading Iraq? Pretty sure you and I agree on that one! Morally, given evidence the Iraqi dictator bought Nigerian yellowcake, and has plans to use it against us (by giving a ‘dirty bomb’ to some terrorists), I would argue that an invasion of Iraq to overthrow that leader was *plausibly* self-defense, maybe. But what if the yellowcake was a lie, cooked up to justify profits for favored defense-industry contractors?

    As for the burglary thing, I understand shooting in self-defense as a practical response, but for me personally, I’d rather depend on a baseball bat (and living in a rural area). If I moved to a city with a high violent crime rate, I’d keep a gun… but the first few rounds in the clip would be blanks, or maybe riot-control rubber-bullets, rather than live ammo. Moral *and* practical.

    Reply
    • ___j___  October 25, 2012 at 11:07 pm

      Anyways, I’ve enjoyed this discussion. One thing that I just noticed, and which may be throwing your understanding of my true position off-kilter, is that the SLOW-BEGG rule actually does in fact tell voters in swing-states to vote for evil.

      That’s not because I believe they ought to, morally, but as a way to keep the rule somewhat terse. It’s just supposed to be a transitional rule, until we get a better voting-system. I’m happy to revise it, in a way that conveys the idea that voting for the lesser-weevil is still just voting for a weevil, which is immoral… but how can we do it in a way that keeps the rule a single phrase, as opposed to a series of my thousand-word posts? Here’s an attempt.

      Revised: Vote *for* good candidates (3rd-party) if you live in a locked-up-solid state, to send a message through time to future primary-election-candidates about what you REALLY want in a president, *but* you may decide to pragmatically vote against the greater-of-two-dominant-party-evils if you live in a 2012 swing-state, where electoral-math hurts you when you vote 3rd-party (but we still say voting for evil is immoral and that this is bad long-term policy).

      It’s a confusing topic, and that leads to a confusing general-purpose rule. 85 words! Which is one of the main reasons I want to tailor the general rule to specific audiences: it simplifies the language dramatically, if we make some assumptions about the person reading the rule.

      Something like this:

      Dear repub-leaning voter in California — voting for the lesser-weevil is not just immoral, it is crazy! Your vote for McCain was thrown in the trash by the electoral college!

      Please, vote *for* good candidates (3rd-party), to send a message through time to future primary-election-candidates about what you REALLY want in a president. (Plus you feel great doing it!)

      Doing this cannot help Obama, nor can it hurt Romney (except perhaps his pride)… but it might just help make the Republican nominee in 2016 somebody you actually *want* to vote for, not somebody you have to hold your nose and vote for.

      (That’s 25 words for the tailored-rule; not bad.)

      Reply
      • Jeremy R. Hammond
        Jeremy R. Hammond  October 26, 2012 at 7:47 am

        I see your second question answers my reply to your first, which is that, yes, you are arguing that people in swing states should vote for evil. So with that, from your previous comment,

        “voting for the lesser-weevil would be immoral, so people should stop”

        Here we agree. What we disagree on is how to achieve that goal.

        Indeed. I want to achieve that goal by persuading people to stop acting immorally and voting for evil. You want to achieve that goal by persuading people to continue acting immorally and voting for evil. That is insane.

        Reply
    • Jeremy R. Hammond
      Jeremy R. Hammond  October 26, 2012 at 7:44 am

      It’s unclear to me what you are arguing. Are you arguing that people in swing states should vote for the lesser evil? Or are you arguing that they shouldn’t, but that we just shouldn’t try to persuade them not to?

      I see no reason not to try to persuade everyone , regardless of which state they reside in, to act sane and morally.

      Morally, given evidence the Iraqi dictator bought Nigerian yellowcake, and has plans to use it against us (by giving a ‘dirty bomb’ to some terrorists), I would argue that an invasion of Iraq to overthrow that leader was *plausibly* self-defense, maybe.

      You digress, but you do know that was a lie, right? Surely you cannot be unaware that the documents alleging to show Iraqi attempts to obtain yellowcake were forgeries.

      Reply
  12. Alexander Paterson  October 27, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Jeremy,

    In the run-up to George W Bush’s second term of office, the thought occured to me that there was a distinct possibility that he would receive just one vote in the presidential election.

    He had proven beyond doubt that fears of his lack of cogitive reasoning skills expressed before his first term of office were fully justified. For a while I thought it possible that his wife may vote for him, thus giving him two votes, but on reflection I gave her the benefit of the doubt.

    We all know how wrong I was.

    So unless someone has discovered a cure for mass insanity, I think you are spot on.

    The Highlander

    Reply

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