Vote Your Conscience

I will do my best to be brief.

I am voting today. But I am not voting for President Obama. I urge everyone else not to vote for him as well. I will do my best to explain why.

He has failed to bring “change” to the White House, or much of the executive government over which he presides. And he did promise change. Increased transparency, a return to higher moral ground, justice for the most vulnerable among us.

The President of the United States is responsible first and foremost for two things: the security of the country and the just execution of its laws. I do not think many of the President’s policies abroad make the country more secure. And I do think that in all too many instances the President’s administration has continued a tradition of pernicious double-standards when it comes to carrying out the will of the people as articulated by Congress.

In dealing with the economic crisis, the administration was exceedingly plutocratic in its approach and priorities. A whole host of other issues were never addressed. In particular, the country continues to develop unsustainably, even in spite of an economic reset which left the door open for a different way forward. We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. But neither can we can’t let the good, or the not-as-bad, be the enemy of the better.

On health care I am glad the President, and Democrats in Congress, pushed much needed reforms as hard, and for as long, as was necessary in order to pass them. My brother has juvenile (Type 1) diabetes. Pre-existing conditions and staying on your parent’s health insurance plan until you 26 are not talking points: they are two issues central to how he will move forward with his own life.

But on too many other issues, the President does not represent my views, at least not publically, though perhaps as some suggest, and others hope, he does share them in private.

And where it concerns matters that he has direct control over, such as foreign policy and the execution of the drug war, as well as other questions of maintaining the peace, there is more than a little daylight between his positions and mine. In fact, it at times feels as though we are complete worlds apart. From promising to go to war with Iran, to already having engaged in an unauthorized one in Libya, the President has demonstrated that he doesn’t regard the separation of powers, or his responsibility to the other two branches of government, in the same way that I do.

He does not view torture by rendition, or its more innocuous title of “rendition-lite”, in the same way that I do. Nor does he view the precisely targeted use of lethal force to kill alleged “bad guys” and innocents alike, quite as tragically, and horrifically, as I do.

The President and I do not see eye to eye, based on his actions, rather than his words, on what constitutes “due process,” or, for that matter, what American citizens are guaranteed under the Constitution he is sworn to uphold, or, for that matter, what other human beings are owed as fellow inhabits  of this planet, as living, breathing, individual beings.

A vote for President Obama would communicate that these differences between he and I don’t exist, or that they don’t matter. When all the votes are counted, the one with my name on it will not also read: “but I didn’t really want to.” The official record will not show that I find policies X, Y, and Z to be abhorrent, and that my vote for Obama is really a vote against Romney.

The record will only show that a certain number of people support Obama, and therefore approve of the job he would do, rather than any of his rivals, and the jobs that they would do.

But I do not approve of the job he has done. And I do not approve of the job he maintains he will continue to do. And I do not want to go forward down this road anymore. That is why I cannot in good conscience vote for the President, or recommend that anyone else does.

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411 thoughts on “Vote Your Conscience

  1. I’m not sure where I fall on this issue–I shall vote in about an hour. I can’t fault you for your reasoning, and I might very well adopt it and vote for Johnson. (I almost definitely won’t vote for Stein. I don’t identify as a libertarian, but Stein’s vision and the vision of her party strike me as too dangerously statist.)

    I do believe, however, that a President Johnson (or Stein) would think at least twice before fully abrogating the powers that have accrued to the executive. The Ring of Power is a hard thing to surrender. But of course, I realize that’s not the point, in part because they have no real hope of winning.

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  2. In terms of national government, I can forgive absolutely everything Obama did (or didn’t) accomplish because he had to deal with an incredibly obstinate congress that both refused to pass things he proposed and kept forcing things like, “Appeal Obamacare” out there. It’s the danger of having a divided Congress, especially when one party’s platform is basically, “If we make it so Obama can’t do anything, he’ll lose the election, and we’ll disillusion the young. This–and cheating–are our only two options to remain viable.”

    The other stuff is more understandable. I live in a State where Obama is 100% going to win, so my vote’s between him and Jill Stein, who I agree with more but who will probably get 1% of the vote. In a more important state, here’s the thing: the election’s close enough that Obama’s not going to win with a mandate. While I may not agree with Obama on every issue (in fact, I disagree with him more than you do), I disagree with Romney an incredibly large amount: a Romney victory would be affirming electoral fraud, obstinately refusing to compromise, and favoring the super rich as the ways to victory. A Romney loss might cause the party to not be so incredibly evil.

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    • These are all good points, and the calculus that will lead most (I pressume aplurality), of those who vote for the President to do so.

      I would take issue with this: “Obama’s not going to win with a mandate.”

      There is more than small chance Obama finishes the night with a booming victory (i.e. takes Ohio AND either Florida or Virginia).

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    • On each issue that Ethan enumerated, an Obama loss would result in a win by a man–and a party–that is committed to immeasurably worse positions.

      So he is going to vote against a man that almost certainly shares most of his values, but that has to govern in the world that actually exists: with a rival party in control on one house of congress, and the other subject to monumental obstruction, and in which about 30 percent of the country considers him foreign, illegitimate, and hostile to their “American” values.

      I really don’t have the words to express the sputtering contempt for which I view this position. Especially after it made the difference in the 2000 election, and brought us George W. Bush.

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      • “a man that almost certainly shares most of his values,”

        This is false.

        Congress has nothing (read: extremely little) to do with the greater part of where I disagree with the President.

        “it made the difference in the 2000 election, and brought us George W. Bush.”

        This is false, or at the very least, lacks much (if any) evidence. An infinite number of things contributed to Bush winning, not least of which was the Supreme Court.

        You assume that all Nader voters would have voted for Gore, instead of splitting equally, or not voting at all. Other contributing factors include Gore not running a good campaign, and Bush running a better one.

        Careful, play with counterfactuals, and you might, well, claim something that has little (if any) basis.

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        • Hey, if you can honestly say that Obama shares fewer of your values than Romney and the Republicans (and your enumerated list suggests that that is not the case), by all means vote for someone else than Obama.

          But I suggest that you’ll be contributing to an outcome that you’ll find much worse. Romney has specifically embraced “enhanced interrogation,” is hostile to not only gay marriage but gay civil rights, seems itching to escalate confrontations with Iran and China, and proffers economic policies that would increase our debt and economic instability into the future.

          I certainly don’t agree with Obama on everything. But, with whatever voting power I have within my purview, I can see that the of the two real world alternatives, one is better and one is worse.

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          • And war in Syria and an air war in Iran, and bringing torture back, and supporting the Avigdor Lieberman policies in Israel-Palestine.

            And Supreme Court justices like Alito and Scalia (probably 2 of them) who will do everything to keep the drug war legal and up and running. (Scalia’s hypocrisy on state’s rights and the drug war knows no bounds.) Who would do everything to stop gay marriage and rights for

            Anyone even vaguely liberal who votes in a way that makes a Romney win more likely is voting to make liberal and libertarin goals much, much, much less likely to be achieved in the next four years and in the decades while Romney’s justices sit on the bench,

            It is true that lots of liberLs didn’t vote for Gore, and we ended up with the Iraq war, torture, etc., etc.

            Don’t make a worse mistake by not voting against Romney.

            Please, I beg you.

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            • and supporting the Avigdor Lieberman policies in Israel-Palestine.

              In all practical ways, Obama has done that. He’s said a couple mildly critical things in private. At the same time, he’s blocked any criticism or even recognition of Israel’s actions at the UNSC, and committed to blocking the Palestinian bid for statehood even though Israel’s made it blatantly obvious that meaningful negotiations aren’t an option.

              There’s a reasonable argument to be made that there’s very, very, very little space between Obama and Romney on any matter of Middle East-North Africa policy. Obama’s already gotten involved in one war there (with spillover effects in Mali that few people have recognized), and has committed to go to war with Iran if Israel thinks they’re too close to a nuclear weapon, despite the fundamental hypocrisy of two nuclear-armed states deciding that another country getting the same capabilities they have is a justifiable cause for aggression.

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                • The Palestinians have been willing to negotiate the whole time, provided Israel gives any indication that its previous agreements have any meaning. As long as Israel continues systemically pushing Palestinians out of East Jerusalem and out of Area C of the West Bank by destroying their homes, wells, and anything else of value they possess; as long as it continues expanding settlements with the object of dividing Palestine into small, non-contiguous, ungovernable areas, it can’t have any interest in negotiations except as a delaying tactic. You don’t pay your people large sums of money to move into a territory you expect to give up. The PA tried to talk for years, and got nowhere. They did everything Israel asked. Israel depleted their water far beyond the already unequal amount permitted in the Oslo Accords, expanded their settlements, terrorized their people, crushed their economy, and drove their people from their homes, and continues to do all these things. There’s no reason for them to pretend.

                  Israel spend years trapping the PA in a catch-22 – we can’t negotiate with you because your government is divided, but if you united your government by coming to an accord with Hamas, we won’t talk to you because of Hamas. Now, if Israel would simply freeze settlements – not even begin removing them, despite the fact that every nation in the world except for Israel itself recognized their fundamental illegality, despite the fact that many of them are built on privately owned Palestinian land – there would be negotiations.

                  Israel has no interest in showing good faith, because they have no good faith to show. Their every action, their every government policy since 1967 shows that they never intended to give up the West Bank. That’s why they howled so loudly when Obama even ventured to mention the Green Line. That’s why Rabin stated clearly that he was against a Palestinian state even while Oslo was being negotiated. That’s why settlements have been being built and government-funded ever since ’67.

                  I’ve been in the West Bank, this summer. Almost the entire population of Zone 3 (60% of the West Bank) has been driven out; Israel’s on the edge of being able to annex it the way they have East Jerusalem. They want the land without the people. They’re on the edge of getting that. Outside of Jericho, Ramallah and a couple other places, the area is treated as Israeli territory already. As long as the settlements continue, the only possible purpose of proposing negotiations is delaying the day when the nations of the world recognize that until the day when they realize it’s become impossible to prevent.

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                  • The Palestinians have been willing to negotiate the whole time

                    Hamas, Hezbollah, and Fatah won’t even negotiate with each other, and that’s before you get to all the splitters.

                    The problem is finding a valid partner to negotiate with among the Palestinians, followed by keeping them alive after all the assassination attempts. Arafat only survived as long as he did because the Palestinians knew he wasn’t negotiating in good faith, ever.

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                    • Hamas didn’t mean to win the Gaza. Really. They were as upset as everyone else!
                      That said, Hamas doesn’t want Hamas’ electoral positions to be the public face of Palestine (if only because they lose all foreign aid then). Sucks to be them, truly.

                      Arafat negotiated in good faith, even if he lied to everyone at all times. Quixiotic guy, that.

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                    • Though you’re correct in certain respects, that’s not entirely true. All three entities, Hamas, Hizb’allah and Fatah/PA are clients of the more-powerful entities who control them.

                      Hamas is really nothing but a relabeled Muslim Brotherhood and they’re a proxy for Egypt.

                      Hizb’allah is a proxy for Iran.

                      These days, Fatah/PA is a proxy for the UN and to a very considerable extent, the USA.

                      At one time, they all took money from anti-US entities: chiefly the USSR, Libya, Iran, fundamentalists in KSA and the like. These days, everything’s changed, what with the Arab Spring.

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                    • M.A.,
                      I mention arafat lied to EVERYONE? He’d say one thing in English, another in French, and a third in Arabic. It worked, somehow, for him.

                      Thing is? Clinton Peres and Arafat saved all the hard work for after Oslo. What to do with Jerusalem among them… (the Jews MUST have a way to get to their wall, and the Arabs MUST be able to get to their mosque. we ought to just make it a UN controlled city, but that would be too easy)

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                    • No, Kim, it didn’t. Arafat was just a jumped up bank robber. That’s a fact. Arafat never had a constituency beyond the Israelis who would periodically prop him up like a Straw Man at some conference table so they could say to the Americans “Behold, we are negotiating with the Palestinians!”

                      To understand the I/P conflict, follow the money. Holds true for most things in life, by the way. Want Israel to negotiate? Pay them. Peace with Egypt? Rent it from the Egyptians. Peace with the Palestinians? Rent it from Arafat or the PA. Why can’t we have peace with Hamas or Hizb’allah. Because others have already rented them. But that’s gonna change, very soon.

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                • In the South, they set fire to black churches and houses, with the goal to forcibly intimidate the folk within.

                  How is Israel any different, now that they use the force of law to bulldoze people’s houses?

                  *before you bring in the “but the terrorists!” angle, I remind you that black men down South had guns for self-defense*

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        • You assume that all Nader voters would have voted for Gore, instead of splitting equally, or not voting at all.

          I agree that it’s Gore’s fault that he lost the election, but this is pretty extreme. All? Gore lost by a 537 votes and Nader received nearly 97,488. One percent would have done the trick. I suppose it’s possible that 99.6% of Nader voters would have stayed home, but it doesn’t strike me as especially likely.

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          • ‘Twas the Palm Beach ballot, that resulted in some number of Gore voters casting votes for Pat Buchanan, that made the difference in Florida.

            Blaming it on people who cast sincere votes is, in my opinion, something of which to be morally contemptuous (directing that at Snarky, not at T-Frog).

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            • I think it’s pretty clear how Nader’s candidacy affected the outcome of the election, but from a moral standpoint, I absolutely agree with you.

              I thought that one of the most inspiring moments of the 2000 election was when Nader basically said, “Those aren’t ‘your’ votes. Nobody owes you votes. If you want those votes, go out and do something to earn them.” It was right up there with Reagan running for Governor of California and saying essentially, “Some of you say that I can’t do this because I’m just an actor. Well, that’s democracy. We’re all ‘just’ something, but we still get to be heard.”

              Sometimes we need somebody to remind us of what it’s really about.

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              • Both are great sentiments. You have one life, and it assures you one vote. Don’t waste it, but don’t give it away, either, If someone wants it, make sure they deserve it, and make they earn it. And if they really piss you off, give it to their arch nemesis with a smile on your face.

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  3. The official record will not show that I find policies X, Y, and Z to be abhorrent, and that my vote for Obama is really a vote against Romney.

    The record will only show that a certain number of people support Obama, and therefore approve of the job he would do, rather than any of his rivals, and the jobs that they would do.

    It would not show the former, and it would not show the latter. The later doesn’t actually make sense – it is not known with any certainty what job even Obama would do over the next four years. But it also wouldn’t show approval for what he has done in office. All it would show is the minimum it implies: that the people who voted for Obama chose to use their vote to avoid another outcome (namely, a Mitt Romney presidency). To be sure, some of the people who vote for him do affirmatively approve of what he has done (some perhaps of every single peep and wiggle!). But we know with equal certainty that many others who will vote for him don’t hold that view, and don’t intend their vote to communicate that. It follows that the record will only show that a certain number of people chose to use their vote to try to increase (to whatever miniscule degree it might have that effect) the likelihood that Obama would be returned to office, doing so in the context of a two-outcome possibility tree in possession of 100% certainty of what the alternative branch at least initially looks like. What that record means is open to individual interpretation. Yours is only one possible such interpretation, and not a necessary one.

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    • But believing those two things make people like Ethan feel better about themselves and superior than the rest of us. Voting as therapy. It’s all the rage apparently. Even Ethan’s brother fell on the wayside in the consideration. (Health care? Fuck that!)

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    • I should have probably written, “they job (they think) he would do.”

      In terms of what is communicated by vote, I think we would have to look just as much at how the communicative act is interpreted, as how it was intended.

      When the press reports on what the aggregate of mine and other votes mean, what will matter are the numbers, which will be taken as support/disapproval, pending some unsually nuanced exit polling, which only academics will really pay attention to once the election has died back down anyway.

      I’m really very split on this issue though, which is why I haven’t written more thoroughly on it, or discussed it much prior to the election. Why should we interpret a vote as a deeply calculated act of gaming the sytem, i.e. trying to consider how everyone else will vote, and how everyone else will decide their vote, along a somewhat infinite regess directed by a prisoner’s dilema type void of actual information on how everyone else will vote?

      For instance, what if a majority of Americans who would vote actually know of either Johnson or Stein, and would vote for either Johnson or Stein, but ultimately decide not to, because in isolation, they don’t think that either of those candidates has enough support to save voting for them from being a wasteful act?

      If everyone voted so that the rule whereby they decide their vote could be rationally ruled to be a catagorical imperative, or some other such Kantian verbiage, everyone would just have to vote for who they agree with, or who they want to be President, without trying to game the outcome by predicting how their vote will impact the result given how they predict everyone else will vote.

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      • So if I’m reading you correctly the outcome you’d realistically desire would be an extremely narrow Obama victory with civil rights and libertarian third parties bringing in a significantly increased share of the tally? Obviously your ideal preference being a victory for a civil rights/libertarian third party challenger?

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      • We significantly control how it gets interpreted. At the very least we control what we say about what the vote necessarily means. In other words, you literally contribute to this vote meaning that more by saying so. but in this case, you didn’t even hedge, you said what it means in absolute terms – what the vote totals literally “show” (not just what they mean). I think you’re literally wrong about that, but moreover, if you choose to acknowledge the ambiguity in what this vote means, you increase its ambiguity, which you should want even as you argue about how people should vote. And there’s good reason to think this vote’s meaning on these issues is ambiguous compared to, say 2004. That year, Bush’s terrorism policies were a significant part of the substance of the election debate. It could reasonably be said that vote had some meaning as to voters’ views on those issues. (Though even then, other issues were also important to voters, so certainly your statement wouldn’t hold then, either – that 52% of voters siply approved of every Bush policy. There actually is polling data that is plenty specific to make better inferences than the ones you do here). This year, these issues simply have not been the focus of the campaign – and this is because the only plausible alternative oath-taker has not offered any contrasting option. It’ is excellent for those who are passionate on these issues to voice that opinion by refusing to vote for either competitive candidate and find one who will not take the oath who offers proper alternatives. But it simply is false the the vote totals “show” so many full endorsement of any candidate’s full agenda or record. No one thinks that is what a vote means. I actually think it’s absurd to suggest that that is how votes are broadly interpreted. But you’re increasing the danger that it will be by saying so.

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        • “No one thinks that is what a vote means.”

          Let us wait until tomorrow then to see what is said. I will repost links right here to anyone who does end up thinking that.

          Your entire analsysis presumes a game, the game being: how do I make my vote contribute to best outcome, ALL FACTORS CONSIDERED.

          Re: Kant, I’m unconvinced that democracy functions well this way. Re: my example about voters not going third party because other people tell them those third party candidates have no chance in hell, well, if everyone who thought that actually just voted for who they wanted to win, rather than who they thought could win, results would be very different–truer you might say.

          So I don’t subscribe to the framework in which your judging the act of voting. If you don’t want Johnson or Stein to be President, that’s one thing, but not voting for one of them even though you do is another.

          What if, per a thought experiment, there was a moderate between Romney and Obama, that had somehow beat the latter out of the Democratic nomination. Obama decides to run and independent insurgency campaign though, which, as President, would not be too difficult. Say Romney showed 38 %, the moderate showed 30 %, and Obama showed 25 % in the national polls.

          Who would you support in that instance, assuming that on every issue, Moderate challenger X is somewhere between the other two?

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          • If we had a runoff system requiring a majority, your argument would have validity.

            In a runoff system, Johnson or Stein could get 5% on the initial vote to cross the threshold for future elections’ party recognizance and then everyone could come back to choose between the main two candidates.

            Like it or not, though, the electors are chosen by plurality (unless you’re in one of those weirdo states that allocates their electors in some attempt to make it a proportional match).

            We only get one shot at this vote. If you vote Johnson or Stein knowing that their candidacies are doomed – and you DO know that, right now; they are nonviable and stand no chance of election – then your vote is a throwaway in the system. You have just opted to take zero say in the outcome of the choice of electors, as much so as if you’d sat on your duff watching the election returns without going to the polls.

            A vote for Johnson or Stein is not a vote for a viable candidate. At best it is a protest vote or a “I want the Libertarians/Greens to hit the 5% threshold for recognition in the 2016 election cycle” vote. You can hem and haw about your ideal of what the election process ought to be, but today we’re dealing in the reality of how things are instead.

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            • f you vote Johnson or Stein knowing that their candidacies are doomed – and you DO know that, right now; they are nonviable and stand no chance of election – then your vote is a throwaway in the system.

              Mind-boggling. Dude, you made it through law school, so I know you have the ability to analyze things. Analyze, already!

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          • Again, I’m not taking you up on the argument about whom we should be voting for or if I’m voting for the right person. I’m not judging the act of voting – you are.

            You’re right, that “No one thinks that” was hyperbole. Some people do and will. So link away. It remains the case that the vote totals don’t “show” anything like what you said they do. It’s through an interpretive act of force that you’re insisting they do, and you’re advancing that meaning by insisting on it in the presence of an overwhelmingly more reasonable account of the necessary meanings of vote results. That’s my point.

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      • On whether we should always vote principles, that was not the issue I raised. I raised the issue of interpretation. The question of voting on balance or on principle I claim to have no answer for – it’s tough. My answer is aided by the facts that (1) I will always have disagreements with any candidate – it’s no less unprincipled to vote for someone who doesn’t hold my Important Principle #2 even though he does hold my Important Principle #1. All different stuff will matter all the time; and (2) I am pretty hazy on my own principles and skeptical of the concept generally. But that’s just my approach – I’m not saying people shouldn’t vote their consciences. But their consciences can be muddy, and they can be dependent on an outcome calculation that uses strategic thinking to forecast consequences.

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      • I’m not happy with Obama in many ways.
        In many ways there are candidates that I would rather see win.
        However, there is no world in which Romney is a better fit for my ideal candidate than Obama and those are the only two choices which will rationally be elected.
        Under these circumstances I am morally obligated to attempt to prevent a Romney presidency.
        I suspect that Romney will be no better and in fact may be worse on most of your issues as well, but you go on feeling good about yourself. I hope we both still feel good tomorrow.

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          • Akin isn’t so bad.
            I’m really surprised at the outrage that one statement could make.

            On the other hand, McCaskill was a former prosecutor in Kansas City.
            Her husband was busted smoking pot at one of the riverboat casinos.
            It got hushed up, and the charges went away.
            In the meantime, she’s out putting people in jail for the very same thing.
            Do you think she never saw a sack of buds laying around the house?
            Sure, send her to Washington where the hypocrisy can have greater effect.

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  4. At Ethan

    Essentially the same comments can be attributed to Mitt’s positions, which is why I’m not voting for him either. The overlap between the two candidates essentially provides no significant difference. I will not vote for either.

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  5. I hate to have to be the first one in the thread to raise the warty old practical and so very predictable objection but how do you rationalize the fact that Obama’s opponent is worse than he is on every single one of the issues you have raised?

    On economics Romney could be expected to be as corporatist as Obama at the very least.
    On healthcare Romney has promised to repeal the reforms Obama has signed.
    On torture Romney has asserted he would return to the Bush II era policies.
    On the War on Drugs Romney doesn’t even pay lip service to revisiting the issue of drugs while Obama at least occasionally makes gestures in that direction.
    On foreign policy Romney has espoused a more belligerent and interventionist posture and has denounced the “lead from behind” and consensus building styles Obama has used to avoid things like direct attacks on Iran or Syria.
    On Libya this is indeed a tough issue but I find it surprising you are sanguine with the idea of Obama sitting back and letting Gaddafi kill hundreds of thousands of people in Bengazi. Considering how Libya is over all shaping up in a pretty productive way (with no Iraq style American presence) I’d say Obama comes out ahead on Libya, the consulate attack notwithstanding.
    On civil rights Romney has had nothing libertarian or solidly civil rights related to say in objection to Obama’s drone program or extrajudicial killing. I’d also add that on social issues in the US (which you leave out I presume because you approve of Obama’s position on them) Romney stands adamantly opposed to Obama’s policies.

    So based on this I’m confused by your position. Does voting against Obama really advance the principles you espouse? You would no doubt retort that you have no intent in voting for Romney but we both know how this first past the post electoral system works neither of us are naive. Obama has indeed been a muddled, hyper-cautious, contradictory and supremely imperfect vessel for the principles you address about in this post but Romney, in contrast, is an anathema to them. I don’t think highly enough of Obama to call this a case of letting the good be sacrificed in pursuit of the unachievable perfect but I am perplexed that you would advocate an outcome of abhorrent over unsatisfactory.

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    • I’ll refer you for the time being to my comment responding to Michael Drew. I think there is something necessarily undemocratic (i.e. against the concept’s underlying princiles) about voting as a game rather than an act of political expression.

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      • Sometimes it’s not a matter of choosing to steer the car clear of the accident or run headlong into it.

        Sometimes all you can do is hit the brakes, steer, and turn a full rear-ender into a minor fender-bender.

        Romney’s policies would be the full-on, 3-ambulance collision; Obama’s policies aren’t perfect but at worst they’re the fender-bender. Which one do you want to go with?

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          • No, there aren’t.

            Gary Johnson will not win a single electoral vote. You know this.
            Stein will not win a single electoral vote. You know this.

            The rest of the 3rd-party candidates will also not win a single electoral vote.

            If you consolidated every single 3rd party and they all got together to nominate just one single 3rd-party protest candidate, that candidate would not win a single electoral vote. Ross Perot didn’t even manage it.

            I don’t know which state you’re voting in, but I’m just going to be blunt here; you’re misrepresenting the 3rd parties as viable choices (emphasis on the word “viable”). They are not. Categorically, unequivocally, not.

            If you’re in a state that you can reasonably expect to be a lock for either Romney or Obama, then sure, throw your vote where you want it. If you’re in a close state, elections have consequences and your choice is between the 3-ambulance collision or the fender-bender.

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            • “The rest of the 3rd-party candidates will also not win a single electoral vote.”

              How can you know this? Most of the country hasn’t voted yet? That’s the point of voting, to express what we think via pledging our support for one candidate or another.

              I’m all for having a discussion of what a vote “should” be about though (for instance: is the act of voting a moral one governed by utilitarian/consequentialist considerations? If so, what stops the subversion of the process of voting, by not voting for your prefered candidate and instead voting against another, from also being a moral consideration?)

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                • This, plus the existing polling, which is done in ways that are scientifically valid and have been tested over a long period of time for reliability. They have a margin of error, but Johnson’s (or any other third party’s) low level of support has tracked over and over and may as well be considered fact.

                  Again to Ethan: you could put down $5 in Vegas on Gary Johnson getting a minimum one electoral vote – just one is all it would take – and if you won that bet you’d be a multimillionaire.

                  But even you have to admit that’s a sucker’s bet and all you are doing is wasting your five bucks. And I don’t need to wait for the election returns to be completely tallied down to every last absentee ballot in order to understand that.

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            • The adage “voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil” is literally true in this case. Voting for either of the two main candidates means you’re choosing to support a candidate who plans to continue a foreign policy that has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people. The choice is just how much you’re willing to spend to do it.

              So, on this issue, a better analogy would be hiring a hitman. A vote for Obama is hiring a hitman to kill your neighbors for $10,000 while a vote for Romney is hiring him for $12,000.

              Regardless of the viability of a third party candidate, I can’t cast a vote for Obama or Romney without admitting that I’m evil in doing so.

              If all of us always followed the lesser of the evils voting method, not only would be all end up evil, but third party ideas would never have a chance to rise to the surface. If voters always voted their conscience rather than treating elections as a game, the ideas of liberty might actually be viable options today.

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              • So, on this issue, a better analogy would be hiring a hitman. A vote for Obama is hiring a hitman to kill your neighbors for $10,000 while a vote for Romney is hiring him for $12,000.

                It’s more like “Hire the guy who’s been doing my lawn for the last 4 years again, even though he sometimes mows down the iris and spits on the sidewalk” or “Hire the guy who does the lawncare for the vacant lot down the street where there used to be a factory and there’s now a bunch of chest high weeds and a “FOR LEASE” sign for twice as much money ’cause he swears this time he’s really gonna do the job right” but sure, that’s the same thing.

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      • I think there is something necessarily undemocratic (i.e. against the concept’s underlying princiles) about voting as a game rather than an act of political expression.

        Perhaps, but:

        1) Democracy itself is a flawed system. Choosing it as the best of a collection of flawed alternatives is itself a “game.” It is quite “democratic,” for example, to subject Jason’s relationship and my relationship and all other same-sex relationships to the whims of the majority, but that hardly makes it just.

        2) Needs must. Here’s where I toot my pragmatism horn. There are only two even remotely plausible outcomes to the election — Romney wins or Obama does. One candidate is disappointing, and the other is much, much worse. The practical, predictable outcomes of a Romney presidency are even worse for your ideals than an Obama win. I applaud your loyalty to your ideals and your wish for a more purely democratic system, but politics always has and always will involve a great deal of gamesmanship, and to wish otherwise is to succumb to the nirvana fallacy.

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      • I can’t resist throwing in a disagreement here, because I believe exactly the opposite. If one wants to accomplish something with ones vote, then it is necessarily a game because you need to coordinate with a large number of other people to reach a desirable outcome. Voting as political expression is fine, as long as all you want to accomplish is to make a statement and don’t care about actually changing anything policy wise.

        So voting is a game. Refusing to support a candidate who you disagree with is a strategy.

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        • “Voting as political expression is fine, as long as all you want to accomplish is to make a statement and don’t care about actually changing anything policy wise.”

          This is silly. Or at least misunderstands which game I’m talking about. There is playing the game of, we’re going to have an election, here’s how you vote, come here at this time, pull these levers, etc.

          Then there’s the game of trying to play electoral poker where hundreds of millions of people are sitting at a giant table (or a bunch of smaller ones if you want to stick hard and fast to the electoral calculus), trying to figure out what to do based on what they think everyone else will or might do.

          For just one more example of why this is ludicrous, imagine if enough people in a “safe” state decide to vote for a third party candidate because individually they think they can do so without changing the outcome of the election, but then end up swinging their state to the other guy or gal because enough of them thought this way?

          So even for those saying it’s alright to vote third party in a swing state, per your logic it’s not really alright, because if enough people thought that they might undermine the very premise upon which they based the the decision to do so.

          I’m I the only person that feels that’s an irresolvable paradox? What am I missing?

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          • Since you ask, I think you’re missing a few things:

            First, if you’re really picturing a giant poker game in your head then your metaphor is flawed. There are not millions of potential outcomes; there are realistically speaking only two.

            Secondly, although you don’t go the next step and say this, you seem to assume that there is (or could be) a candidate out there that advocates no policy that voters – even a large cross section – don’t find morally flawed. This is not the case, and could not be the case in a pluralistic culture like ours.

            Lastly, you’re making the same mistake that many that are biting your heels are making as well: That there is one method and set of criteria for a person to make a voting decision, and any that deviate from that are invalid and immoral. It is a particularly narrow way to view others.

            Your passion does you justice, and I’m not about to try to curtail it, but I think this is why you’re seeing the degree of pushback that you are.

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            • There are millions of potential outcomes if you assume that we’re looking at an iterated game instead of a standalone one. Even if you’re the one dude who casts the vote that wins the election, that would still be the case. I’m pretty sure that who wins the Presidential election is far less important to long term gay rights (for example) than whether or not 1 passes for the good Doctor.

              No comment on the second; I don’t think it’s quite that bipolar either way.

              That last one, I don’t think Ethan makes that mistake. He clearly believes that his method of choosing is right for him (which I hope we can agree is okay) and he clearly believes that his method of choosing curtails his giving of even a recommendation. But I don’t see him saying anywhere in his post, “And clearly, if you vote for Obama you’re a monster because you value (whatever) greater than these things that I point out are deal-breakers for me.”

              Although lots of people are inferring that, clearly.

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      • In countries with more than 2 viable parties, you often have to weigh how much a party you like agrees with you and how likely they are to win this time around, amd how awful an opposition win will be.

        Voting your conscience and voting strategically are the same thing. You are voting to make a good moral outcome more likely.

        Do you think Romney and Obama are pretty much the same in the morality of their policies. Ithink you do. If so, don’t vote for them. But I ask you to remember that Bush was pretty bad. and Romney says he will be more Bush than Bush.

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      • Then I guess I’m missing the point. Perhaps Ethan thinks there’re a much larger number of people who prioritize his priorities the way he does than I do? In my view of the electorate if everyone who prioritizes as Ethan does voted a third party we’d have a Romney landslide. How is this outcome desirable to a person with his priorities? Or is somni’s rather cruel accusation of therapudic voting on target?

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        • The point of an Election is to find all this out, not try to game the result before hand. Whoever you want to be President, you vote for them, that’s how this works. If you consider the election as a game instead, and encourage other people to do so as well, we end up with choices nobody wanted, and results that don’t accurately “represent” the democratic populace.

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          • So then taking into consideration the consequence of my vote, the actual predictable outcome of it and of similar voting behavior by people like me is gaming the system?
            Heck I’d rather have you or Hanley as President over Obama. I could write you in. I’m a spiteful man, if I had the power I might just wave my magic wand and make Jaybird president.

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          • Whoever you want to be President, you vote for them, that’s how this works.

            That’s actually not the same thing at all as breaking it down by record, look for “deal-breakers,” or doing whatever other calculations of principle-accordance versus principle-discordance, and coming to some conclusion on that basis. Further, at some point, you want some degree of coordination between voters-as-principle-expressors. Otherwise you’d have a muddle of tons of self-voting, more tons of voting-for-nearest-trusted-acquaintance-willing-to-serve, very lesser candidates, etc. on up. Surely, at some point you actually do want strategery even on the part of the principled – ie.e. taking candidates with some notoriety over pure principle, otherwise it becomes functionally a low-n election where those who do elect strategy over principle can easily dominate. Well, we’re just on the other side of that tipping point, which is inevitable. You should be glad – it affords you the option to truly vote on principle without actually having to worry about the strategic trade-off. You should likewise let others react to prevailing conditions as they find them relatively in peace without too much sanctimonious. People should just not vote out of pure spite in order to bring harm to specific people with no legitimate positive counterjustification.

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          • “Whoever you want to be President, you vote for them, that’s how this works.”

            I disagree.
            Not necessarily about elections, but about how democracy works.
            Democracy, and governing in a pluralistic society, is NOT about asserting our moral values, and holding fast to them.

            Even in the most idealized state, governing is about cooperation with those who disagree, and finding ways to resolve and work together to reach a satisfactory result.

            If every single American took Ethan’s advice, we would have about 6,000 Presidential candidates splitting the Electoral College votes.
            And the winner would face what? A splintered Congress composed of 535 people each adamantly “voting their conscience”?

            There very DNA of our political system is hardwired to force cooperation, compromise, and sausage making.

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  6. I will be voting my conscience when I vote for President Obama later this morning. Am I thrilled with everything he’s done while in office? No. I’m particularly distressed by his continuation of Bush’s expansions of executive power. I too had hoped for more transparency and less militarism.

    However, I think he struck the most reasonable bargain possible with the Republicans with regard to the stimulus, and managed to get an initial stab at health care reform through Congress (although much of the credit goes to Reid and Pelosi). He also worked with the military to repeal DADT, and finally came around on gay marriage. He’s faced an obstinate Republican Party, intent on making him a one-term president and voting down any legislation he supports, even if it sprang from Republican ideas. And then there’s the Supreme Court. I’m fine with the two women he nominated; the next president will likely get to nominate at least two more justices and I’ll be damned if I do anything that leaves the process to a Republican president.

    Am I as enthusiastic about voting for Obama as I was the first time around? No. But I wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic about voting for Clinton the second go-round either. Reality tends to wear off the romance.

    Finally, I refuse to award the Republican Party by voting for its presidential candidate. The party and it’s cheering section on Fox News, talk radio, and the conservative blog-o-sphere has embraced the anti-science, anti-intellectual bias of its base and run with it. There’s a reason why the higher your level of education, the less likely you are to vote Republican. The party has chased out its moderates in favor of the fundamentalists, too many of whom profess a certain no-nothingism that scares me.

    So yes, after weighing my conscience and contemplating a vote for Stein, I’m quite comfortable voting for Obama again.

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  7. A couple questions: Do the substantive gains made by gays (DADT) and women (Lily Led better + women’s health in PPACA) qualify, to you, as important issues?

    I’m not trolling you here; there are real, important differences between the candidates on these issues, so how do you square that?

    Ultimately, are you saying that your principles trump actual outcomes? Put differently, if Romney wins and encourages the House to somehow or overturn nullify PPACA, this will affect millions of people. What would be your response?

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      • Ah, Downs paradox: voting is not rational.

        What a downer to bring that up on election day, Hanley. It’s like being a skeptic about life aftter death as your friends mom is dying of cancer.

        I think we went over this endlessly a few weeks ago.

        If each individual who votes strategically doesn’t impact the election, and a set of 100000 voters is just a set of those individual voters, then 100000 individuals voting strategically can’t impact the election. But 100000 strategic votes can impact the outcome. So, it can’t be the case that an individual’s vote has no impact., i.e because then no individual’s vote would have an impact, and that is clearly false.

        Also, if strategic voting for Obama doesn’t impact the election, then voting for Stein tos end a message doesn’t impact people’s gettingor not getting that message. Your one vote does no more adding to Stein’s toll than it does Obama’s.

        So Downs’ paradox might be (I don’t think so) a good reason not to vote at all, but it isn’t a good reason to vote one way as opposed to another.

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        • If each individual who votes strategically doesn’t impact the election, and a set of 100000 voters is just a set of those individual voters, then 100000 individuals voting strategically can’t impact the election.

          That’s a factually incorrect statement. It’s very true that if 100000 people vote strategically in a state with a close election that it could change the outcome. But it’s equally likely (to quite a few places past the decimal point) that 99999 would have the same effect, so any one individual still isn’t affecting the outcome.

          It’s like paying off the national debt. If I gave $10,000, it would have a wholly insignificant impact on the size of the national debt. If 300 million American gave $10,000 we’d pay off $3 trillion, which is pretty significant. But if we deducted my $10,000 from that $3 trillion, it would be an insignificant change.

          When we’re dealing with large numbers, we just can’t say that because the large number matters, that a small number within that large number matters.

          As to whether Downs’ paradox is a good reason not to vote, it depends whether you’re voting strategically (in which case it is a good reason not to vote, in a large-n election) or whether you’re voting as consumption, in which case it’s not a good reason not to vote. It applies only to strategic voting. Period.

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          • “so any one individual still isn’t affecting the outcome.”

            So if no individual effects the outcome of a vote then the outcome of a vote is not determined by a set of voters, because a set of voters just is the individual voters.

            Downs paradox is as much an argument for “no one’s indidual vote doesn’t determine the election” as The Sorites Paradox is for the conclusion “there is no such thing as a heap of sand.”

            IMO. But we don’t need to have this battle all over again. There’s a big literature on Down’s paradox and that thread still exists. If you want to discuss it, maybe some other thread is better or we can email or something.

            How is consumption voting rational? Why not just be happy that I would’ve voted for X, instead of actually voting for X, if my vote has no effect? Or why not write a blog post, twlling others to vote (less time than actually voting.) I can get the good from voting without actually spending time voting, so why bother spending time to vote?

            I mean, imagine we really lived in a country where elections were rigged such that so and so would always win and this was common knowledge, such that it really was true that your vote had no impact on the election and strategic voting was truly irrtional. (No strategic vote will keep Stalin, say, from winning.) Would consumption voting be rational in that situation where strategic voting was ineffectual and irrational?

            If consumption voting wouldn’t be rational in that hypothetical case, how is our case different, in your eyes?

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            • So if no individual effects the outcome of a vote then the outcome of a vote is not determined by a set of voters, because a set of voters just is the individual voters.

              Oh, my god, you’re killing me. It’s just repetition of the same old logical incoherence. Show me how any one single person’s vote actually has an effect on determining who’s the winner. Just fishing show me, already.

              The only examples that you are going to be able to find are in small n elections. In fact I’ll go so far as to predict that if you search diligently, you’ve got a pretty good chance of finding a news story about some small town where the vote for mayor was tied 42-42, or something like that. But show me any large n election–mayor of a large city, U.S. Representative, state governor, U.S. senator, or president, where changing any one vote will change the outcome. Do it and I’ll publicly admit my idiocy and praise you as the wisest person on earth. I’ll buy you a bottle of the finest bourbon. I’ll fly out to your home and wash your windows. Just show me the case.

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              • What I get from this is that it’s better to spend more on power hitters rather than blowing the roll on pitching.
                Even if one of those power hitters happens to strike out, it’s not really going to effect the outcome.

                Or something like that.

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              • ” Show me how any one single person’s vote actually has an effect on determining who’s the winner. Just fishing show me, already.

                The paradox is the result of logical incoherence.

                The incoherence is found in the expression “the vote that won the election” or “the vote that, if switched would change the outcome of the election.” This is an empty expression even in an election that was won by one vote. (Which vote is it?) It is an empty expression like “the highest integer”; it has a Fregean sense, but no reference. If you assume that “the highest integer” has a reference you get paradoxes, too. Those paradoxes dissolve when you accept that the expression has no reference.

                So too does Downs’ paradox resolve when you accept that “the winning vote” is always empty.

                “repetition of the same old logical incoherence.”

                Thanks. You are so charitable and fun to talk to. I will cease discussing this issue with you now.

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      • Well, let’s get back to your objection to the game-like aspects of democracy. But let’s stipulate that it will always be a game to a great extent, no matter how much one might wish otherwise. Lament that all you want, but it cannot be denied.

        Let us further stipulate that the politician you prefer will never become President. Ever. I suspect (but am obviously just guessing as best I can) that no candidate who adheres to your ideals sufficiently to win your vote ever will.

        So what do you do with your vote? Reading Burt’s post over at NaPP about Johnson, I understand his decision to vote the way he did. Knowing that, in California, his vote will not make any difference in the allocation of electoral votes and thus who is POTUS, his vote makes sense in advancing a certain very clear practical goal — getting the libertarians a larger share of our political attention. I laud him in that goal.

        While I cannot speak for his thinking, were I in his shoes a HUGE part of my decision would be predicated upon where I lived. If you reject the notion that your state of residence should play any role in making your decision, it strikes me as similar to playing a game (which, again, politics will always be) without looking at the board.

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        • “If you reject the notion that your state of residence should play any role in making your decision, it strikes me as similar to playing a game (which, again, politics will always be) without looking at the board.”

          This is the crux.

          It’s very much a question of: is the board there because we say it is (i.e. because we play the game as if there is a specific one in front of us), or is it there regardless, in which case yes, my flouting it is condemnable.

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          • The economy is still there even if you aren’t buying things (Roth says it’s just another game, and that’s true enough).

            That said, I would very much support “vote your conscience” and DONATE your conscience too. Find a few respectable folks who are close to winning, and donate to them. It’ll do you folks a bit of good to get “better thinkers” in, at any rate.

            Or, if you really want to be ballsy, Find another Bernie Sanders.

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          • It’s very much a question of: is the board there because we say it is (i.e. because we play the game as if there is a specific one in front of us), or is it there regardless, in which case yes, my flouting it is condemnable.

            Yes, this is the heart of the whole question. As the risk of belaboring the analogy, you miss the entire point if you approach this as if the game is only the vote today rather that the entire election process in the US. You want to change the nature of the “game”? Then hopefully you were out there as an activist for third parties years ago. Like the social conservatives who have changed the game by running for school boards and other local offices, get some libertarians elected to state assembly or city council. What you are wanting to do now is come in at the end of a game of chess that has been being played for years and throw down a bunch of playing cards in the hope that people we see that bridge is the better game. Please.

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        • Re: if nobody’s there to play the game, is the board still there, etc.

          I think a lot of my frustration is not from people who disagree with the framework I’m using, but with the notion of “of the only two viable candidates.”

          The specific mix of that reality, whether it’s half self-fulfilling, or mostly, or not at all, is important I think. How many people here, if Johnson or Stein had as good a chance as any to win, would shift their vote to one of them? If most would, my instinct is to extend that question to the populace writ large, and wonder if there aren’t enough people who feel that way that, if they voted their concience, would have a much larger impact on American electoral politics than just one election between two candidates whose largest disagreements are over issues neither of them has a whole lot of power to do anything about.

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  8. “He has failed to bring “change” to the White House, or much of the executive government over which he presides. ”

    Hard to do when within hours of inauguration the other side declared their job was to “make sure Obama fails” and proceeded to do the legislative equivalent of human-chain-handcuffing themselves around the governmental system.

    “I do not think many of the President’s policies abroad make the country more secure.”

    Examples, please? I think we’re more secure with being out of Iraq and winding down in Afghanistan. And that’s just a start. Here’s more: http://www.forbes.com/sites/lorenthompson/2012/09/05/compared-with-bush-obamas-defense-record-looks-real-good/

    “In dealing with the economic crisis,”

    I invite you to say what you think the President should have done. I invite you to review the recorded fact that EVERY jobs bill brought forth was either blocked by Republicans in the House, or filibustered by same in the Senate. Absent being able to get Congress to put a bill on his desk due to the “don’t give him anything to sign” policies of the GOP, what do you propose he should have done that he didn’t already do, or that he did that you believe he should not have?

    “The President and I do not see eye to eye, …

    A vote for President Obama would communicate that these differences between he and I don’t exist, or that they don’t matter. When all the votes are counted, the one with my name on it will not also read: “but I didn’t really want to.” The official record will not show that I find policies X, Y, and Z to be abhorrent, and that my vote for Obama is really a vote against Romney.”

    Apply this to Romney as well. How many policies of Romney (which Romney?) do you disagree with? How many of them are deal-breakers in one sense or another because the issue is too important to you?

    The vote does not record on individual policies, that much is true. But the vote is by a secret ballot anyways. The vote does not record anyone’s intentions or reservations, by design.

    What you’ve put forth is nothing but a false argument full of heat but no light, sound but no content. If you intend a Romney victory, please give your reasoning for. If you intend to vote third party, and you are in a state where it won’t matter, I invite you to do so. If you intend to vote third party in a close state… well, I think you are making a horrid mistake and you ARE making the perfect the enemy of the good whether you’re willing to admit it or not.

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  9. Ethan, you may not agree with all of the Libertarian policy planks but I would hope you’d see that they are at least principled and part of their constellation of policy preferences align with your own much more closely than do those of either the Democrats or the Republicans. Consider giving them your support — realistically, of course, they will not win high office now or in 2016 but with sufficient support they can at least have a place at the table and force the major parties to offer rational justifications for their platforms. Based on what you’ve written I see no principled way for you to vote other than for a third party. Maybe you woild consider voting Green instead but the Libertarians have a better shot of getting over the 5% threshold.

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    • “realistically, of course, they will not win high office now or in 2016 but with sufficient support they can at least have a place at the table and force the major parties to offer rational justifications for their platforms. ”

      You seem to have the USA confused with a parliamentary system…

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    • Given Ethan’s principles, the Greens seem like a much better option. Libertarians are fine if you only care about executive power and drugs and don’t value things like Medicare, Social Security, public transport, public education, the environment, and all the parts of government that look out for the interests and well-being of the poor. But so long as a left-wing person is going to vote third party, they may as well vote for a party that agrees with all their principles rather than agrees with half and fundamentally opposes the other half.

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    • I agree with a bunch of libertarian party planks — get rid of the drug war, stay out of foreign wars, limits on executive power, what consenting adults do in their own bedrooms is their business. Heck, I even agree with the minimal government plank, so long as it comes with the caveat “…consistent with stability in an urban high-tech society.” Which, IMO, means you have to be at least somewhat concerned with outcomes, not just opportunities. So there’s a certain level of subsidies, transfers, and the coercion that goes with them. As the level of tech goes up, the level of transfers will go up as well.

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  10. People gotta vote for what they gotta vote for. Some people will be compelled to vote for Obama because they fear what Romney will do. Some people will vote for Romney because they fear what Obama will do. Voting, for these people, is something that they are compelled to do. My arguments won’t have an impact on them.

    Some people will vote for Romney because they support what they they think he’s portrayed himself as supporting. Some people will vote for Obama because they support what they think he’s portrayed himself as supporting. It’s easier to make “you know, he doesn’t *REALLY* support that” arguments in that case… but, hey. I suppose it’s better that people project their hopes onto the person they’re voting for than projecting their fears on the person they’re voting against.

    I do find myself irritated when people tell me that I have to vote a certain way, lest we fall into the abyss whose edge we stand upon.

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    • I think there is are two layers here.

      In a way then, I’m advancing two oughts (though not making them the explicit subject of the post). The first is, if we subscribe to democratic elections, we must subscribe to the constituent principles upon which they are based. We can reasonably disagree on this, but my position is that using a vote not to express one’s political preference, but to most effectively mitigate harm, is not only an incredibly difficult calculation to make (what if a Romney presidency, while worse in the short run, ends up being better over the long run, for reasons X, Y, Z, etc.) but subverts the point of democratic elections, making this the wrong thing to do if one does not wishto subvert democratic electorial outcomes (though some of us, I’m sure, would).

      My second ought is that, within the framework of democratic elections as political preference, I’m perfectly fine arguing with someone about why their preferences are either incorrect (i.e. they are confused about what they actually want/believe/prefer), or wrong–that is, immoral, bad, not in keeping with the good life, etc.

      I think we can reasonably disagree about both of these oughts, but not about whether oughts are involved. But that’s another meta for another time.

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  11. Re: M.A.

    “Hard to do when within hours of inauguration…”

    The White House, the administration that is, and how it operates, he alone is responsible.

    “I think we’re more secure with being out of Iraq and winding down in Afghanistan.”

    We are not “out” of Iraq, the President actually doubled the troop presence in Afghanistan, so there has been no “winding down,” and he has escelated strikes in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, etc. as well as gone to war with a third country (Libya), while *promising* to go to war with Iran, if they don’t stop making a nuclear bomb.

    “I invite you to say what you think…”

    The Obama Admin, filled with Clintonian neo-liberals, focused on making banks solvent (i.e. give them trillions of dollars), and a stimulus, half of which I agreed with. The Admin has never pushed strongly for mortgage relief, and did not make job recovery programs a center piece until after health care reform. So while there are few fundamental disagreements between the President and I in this area, I do not find that he best represents me in it either.

    “If you intend a Romney victory, please give your reasoning for. If you intend to vote third party, and you are in a state where it won’t matter, I invite you to do so. If you intend to vote third party in a close state… well, I think you are making a horrid mistake and you ARE making the perfect the enemy of the good whether you’re willing to admit it or not.”

    I do not intend a Romney victory, anymore than hostage negotiators intend for hostages to die when they don’t give in to appeasement. If Obama best represents you, and you want him to be President, than you *should* vote for him (even if I would ask you to reflect on how your values relate to his actions and promises).

    He, however, does not represent most what I believe, especially, mostly, in the areas where he actually has the power to directly affect change.

    You assume an awful lot about how other people will vote, and then base your vote on that. I think that approach is spurious.

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    • “You assume an awful lot about how other people will vote, and then base your vote on that. I think that approach is spurious.”

      Scientifically speaking, the polls are meaningful and have a tendency to be accurate to within a few percentage points.

      We know, going into this morning, that certain states are going to be pretty much locked in for either Obama or Romney. Good example: to assume that Texas flips to Obama is simply infeasible.

      We know that certain states are much, much closer but we also know via the same polling that none of the third party candidates are viable. None of them stands the slightest chance of winning an electoral vote. I could put $5 down in Vegas on Gary Johnson getting a single electoral vote and manage to walk away a millionaire if he somehow did, but I know and you know as well that all I’d be doing is throwing away my five bucks.

      So yes, I base my vote on the choices presented. 3-ambulance wreck, or minor fender-bender. Which would you choose? I can say “but I wanted a third choice” all day long but I’m simply not going to get it and you know that just as well as I do.

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      • “Scientifically speaking, the polls are meaningful and have a tendency to be accurate to within a few percentage points.”

        You do see that, if everyone takes this into consideration, it makes the polls questionable right? What if people are lying about their preferences to the pollsters in order to try and boost their preferred outcome, or most preferred realistic outcome?

        Hey, people will see these polls and cast their votes somewhat on the basis of them, in which case if I report my support in X way, I can effect the outcome by Y, and so should say Z. And then everyone thinks that, and then has to take that into consideration when they use the polling data to guide their own vote, which is itself not an honest appraisel but a calculated one.

        I think it is spurious because I don’t see you or anyone else being able to meaningfully sort through that level of meta-gamenship.

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        • “What if people are lying about their preferences to the pollsters in order to try and boost their preferred outcome, or most preferred realistic outcome?”

          Uh…what? How exactly do you lie to a pollster to boost your preferred outcome? If you support “X”, what more can you do than tell the pollster “I support X”?

          The only way respondents can manipulate poll results would be if people with a particular opinion almost uniformly refuse to answer polls, resulting in their view being underrepresented. The only other thing I can come up with is, say, Republicans saying they’re going to vote for Obama or Democrats saying they’re going to vote for Romney in order to instill overconfidence in the other side. That would seem to take the concept of gaming the poll to ridiculous paranoia.

          Mike

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        • The problem with this conversation is that the further we go, the more strident you get, and the more you sound like someone trying to convince himself the nose on his face isn’t there.

          There’s reality, and there’s the way you seem to want things to be. The two do not seem to have a strong correlation.

          “You do see that, if everyone takes this into consideration, it makes the polls questionable right? ”

          Except that decades of testing, rigorous over the course of elections past, have shown that the vast majority of people are quite honest to the pollsters. 100% of the population are not liars trying to “game” the poll system, not even 1% are.

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    • I think your argument is strong.

      Above all, because if Obama wins and we go to war with Iran in the next four year, all the people here who voted for him knowing that he’d said he was willing to go to war with Iran over the Iranian nuclear program will be complicit.

      If Romney wins and goes to war with Iran, you will not be complicit, not matter how often and loudly they try to tell you they are.

      My party, in Canada, has spent probably over 50 years being told, by all and sundry, that we empower the Conservatives merely by existing and espousing positions to the left of the Liberal Party. As of a year and a half ago, we are the Official Opposition and in a good position to actually make left-wing positions heard and taken seriously by the rest of the country, and the party that believed in power rather than principles is in its death throes. I never, before 2011, seriously imagined the NDP rising above third-party status – but we did, and got rid of a secessionist party in the process.

      Sometimes the impossible is possible. But it won’t happen unless people are willing to believe it can be.

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      • Canada is not the United States; Westminster system parliamentary elections are not US presidential elections. It might have been hard to imagine that NDP rising to the position of Official Opposition, but that didn’t mean it had no representation in government. You may not like first past the post; I don’t. But it’s a fact in the US.

        And as far as I’m concerned, “complicit” versus “not complicit” is a distinction without a difference. Either you do what you can to prevent it, or you don’t. If you think a Johnson or Stein vote actually acts to minimize the risk of war, by all means make that case (perhaps there is a case to be made, especially in a safe state). Otherwise, what that says to me is that you’re more concerned with keeping your hands clean than actually preventing war.

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        • Either you do what you can to prevent it, or you don’t.

          No. Either you support something, or you don’t. You’re responsible for the people you choose to elect. You’re not responsible for the actions of people you vote against. To say Ethan’s responsible for Romney’s actions when he voted against Romney is ridiculous.

          There’s no vote that can guarantee there won’t be a war. All you can do is ensure that you’re not stating, with your vote, that you’d be OK with war.

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          • There’s no vote that can guarantee there won’t be a war, true enough. There’s no vote that can guarantee there will be a war either, but that doesn’t mean a pacifistic ought to vote for Romney. That doesn’t mean some candidates, and some votes, don’t make war more or less likely. So you figure out, as best you can, what would make it least likely, and then you vote that way.

            Actions have consequences. You are responsible for the consequences of your actions, certainly when those consequences are foreseeable.

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            • And as far as I’m concerned, “complicit” versus “not complicit” is a distinction without a difference. Either you do what you can to prevent it, or you don’t.

              Actions have consequences. You are responsible for the consequences of your actions, certainly when those consequences are foreseeable.

              Solid reasoning, Mr. Fnord. The Pontius Pilate system of morality is indefensible to most western minds.

              [The proposition that a president who believes in a strong national defense might be better at keeping the peace than one who favors a more minimal American military is off the table here, but we take what we can get.]

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        • If you thought that Romney winning would certainly lead to an immoral war with Iran, and you were a poll worker in a 95% democratic district, would you toss a box of ballots in the trash to reduce Obama’s chances?

          If not, aren’t you more concerned with keeping your hands clean than actually preventing war?

          Or can we agree that there are acceptable expressions of attempting to prevent war and unacceptable ones?

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          • I think you’ve got the party wrong somewhere in there, but I take your point.

            I would say there that I’m more concerned with preventing election fraud than with preventing war (given the certainty of election fraud and relatively small chance of preventing war in the hypothetical, in any case). And yes, I’m comfortable saying that, and defending the fact that election fraud causes harm, and that the harm in this case outweighs the harm of the increased chance of a Romney victory (my answer might be different if it were a box of Hitler ballots).

            If you want to make an actual argument for the benefit of a third party vote, that such a vote doesn’t, on balance, cause harm, I’m all ears. Heck, I already believe that the benefit exists to the extent that I’d advise voting that way in a non-swing state. But acting in a way that increases the risk of war just so that you’re not “responsible” for that war is absurd.

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  12. I’d encourage you to read nearly anything decided 5-4 by Justice Thomas or Justice Scalia. Here’s a snippet of a Scalia interview (emphasis mine),

    [California Lawyer:] What do you do when the original meaning of a constitutional provision is either in doubt or is unknown?

    [Justice Scalia:] I do not pretend that originalism is perfect. There are some questions you have no easy answer to, and you have to take your best shot. … We don’t have the answer to everything, but by God we have an answer to a lot of stuff … especially the most controversial: whether the death penalty is unconstitutional, whether there’s a constitutional right to abortion, to suicide, and I could go on. All the most controversial stuff. … I don’t even have to read the briefs, for Pete’s sake.

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    • Scalia is correct: Where the Constitution is silent, it’s silent. It permits allowing these things, it permits banning them. In those cases, the Supreme Court should remain silent under the separation of powers, and defer to the duly constituted power of the Congress to decide and determine such things.

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            • The 9th and 10th are twins. The 10th, if you prefer;

              The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

              The power to allow or ban certain things is reserved to the States, as I indictated, “the people” if and when power is further devolved.

              But even Scalia indicates that some level of gun control is permissible; the Second is not necessarily a guarantee of an inalienable right to firearms, else you could own machine guns, which you can’t.

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              • Scalia is an unprincipled statist who, when given the opportunity to vote on whether he should have the power to tell others how to live, votes in the affirmative.

                A plain language reading of the Constitution takes you to some pretty interesting places, doubly so if you interpret the 14th to allow Incorporation.

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                • I don’t do ad hom, JB. Scalia’s judicial philosophy is powerful, regardless of his inconsistencies on cases.

                  And once you gin up the 14th and “equal protection,” I agree anything is possible.

                  And I’m familiar with Randy Barnett’s libertarianish “presumption of liberty,” but it rides on a redefinition of “liberty,” which is a sophistry–keeping the word but altering its meaning. “Liberty is not license” was the understanding of the Constitution when it was ratified.

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                • Any nation which would permit abortion, euthanasia, or the death penalty has no absolute right to life, the most basic form of property.
                  Where police are permitted to use deadly force against the citizenry, whether purposefully or accidentally, there is no absolute right to life.
                  “Fundamental” perhaps, but “absolute,” no.

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        • Just so we don’t get too sloppy in our language . . .

          The correct phrase is “the United States Constitution and laws” or “the Constitution and its laws,” or something of the like.
          Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871.

          This has been found to mean that certain statutes of the United States create substantial enforceable rights in themselves.

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  13. I could write a tirade, but I won’t.

    I couldn’t disagree with you more.

    Because of the Nader split, we ended up with Bush. I can actually say that I’m terrified of the alternative to Obama. And for you to gloss over the accomplishments of this administration as though they are minor, is myopic. Healthcare reform, repealing DADT, and bringing Bin Laden to justice is more than the previous administration did in all 8 years.

    What Michelle said above: However, I think he struck the most reasonable bargain possible with the Republicans with regard to the stimulus, and managed to get an initial stab at health care reform through Congress (although much of the credit goes to Reid and Pelosi). He also worked with the military to repeal DADT, and finally came around on gay marriage. He’s faced an obstinate Republican Party, intent on making him a one-term president and voting down any legislation he supports, even if it sprang from Republican ideas. And then there’s the Supreme Court. I’m fine with the two women he nominated; the next president will likely get to nominate at least two more justices and I’ll be damned if I do anything that leaves the process to a Republican president.

    Summarizes my feelings much more succinctly and without nearly as much vitriol as I would have used.

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    • Did not gloss over: Healthcare reform

      “Repealing DADT” is a good step toward equality, but not something I consider a major accomplishment, given that all it takes is an executive order, AND I’m happy for those who want to serve who can do so more openly now, but not that impressed re: allowing gay and lesbian men and women to enlist to go prepare to kill other men and women. The issue of rape in the military is a much more serious one, and which still needs to be addressed.

      “Bringing Bin Laden to justice.” I don’t think it was possible to bring Bin Laden “to justice,” and to the degree that it is, I’m far from sure that killing him is what true justice would mean, but very adamant that the money and personel used to track him down could have been much better spent on any number of serious causes, at home or abroad, which require resources to save lives, hundreds to thousands, rather than just killing a single one.

      As for Nader, per what I wrote in a comment above, any number of things led Gore to lose, including a poor campaign on his part vs. a good one by Bush, and not least of all the Supreme Court. Blaming Nader as the sole, or even a potentially determinant factore, pressumes that everyone who voted for him would not have split their vote between Gore and Bush instead, or simply not voted at all.

      But, before you break my kneck at the next family dinner, let me urge you to pick up this game from Steam, right now. I’ve played 20 hours over the last three days…simply can’t stop.

      http://www.ftlgame.com/

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      • Blaming Nader as the sole, or even a potentially determinant factor, pressumes that everyone who voted for him would not have split their vote between Gore and Bush instead, or simply not voted at all.

        Agree. Statements blaming Nader for Gore’s loss make me nuts for this very reason. People needed someone to blame, and ol’ Ralph was it (and should Johnson or Stein somehow make a good showing, prepare for a repeat performance). Nader’s basic thrust (that the major parties are more alike than different, and that both are far too beholden to corporate interests) is held by many Americans across the left-right Occupy-Tea Party spectrums – to assume that he only siphoned otherwise-Democratic votes makes no sense.

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        • I’ll happily blame a partisan Supreme Court, a screwed up Florida electoral system, a middling campaign by Gore, and Nader’s ego-driven candidacy for Bush winning Florida. Knock out one of those and Gore wins Florida. Since two were baked in the cake, I don’t feel too bad blaming Nader 50/50 with Gore.

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          • You’ll have to define ‘ego-driven candidacy’ for me, I guess. Are the other guys selfless martyrs? ‘Ego-driven’ sounds like a safe description of any pol operating at that level.

            Nader had quite a record of accomplishments that the left loved, at one time. Certainly he had accomplished more in his life than had Obama pre-2008.

            And he’s the bad guy now.

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  14. The basic problem here is that Ethan sees voting from a completely selfish, or at least self-focused, perspective. He’s casting a ballot as an act of self-expression, rather than to achieve any particular purpose or even advance any agenda. At this moment, Ethan doesn’t give a flying fig for anything else except his desire to be able to walk around with an air of self-righteousness because “I didn’t vote for Obama.”

    Mike

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    • Doesn’t everyone? Yes, people come up with lofty ideals as to why they’re voting from a self-focused perspective but, in the end, they’re still voting from a self-focused perspective.

      BTW, I’m still torn between Obama and Johnson and will probably make my mind up when I leave work to vote after checking the polling. (Ex: Johnson being close to 5% might swing me towards him.) I agree with Johnson on more issues but Obama did me a solid a few years ago.

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      • “BTW, I’m still torn between Obama and Johnson and will probably make my mind up when I leave work to vote after checking the polling.”

        I really don’t have a problem with someone saying “I’m voting for X”. Vote for who you want, but don’t write a post telling me why “I’m not voting for Y”. You see, a post about voting for “X” is fundamentally all about why “X” is so great. A post about not voting for “Y” is fundamentally about why the writer is so wonderful for not supporting “Y”.

        Mike

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        • The point of this post is to express a moral conflict, one I find myself in, and one I’m sure others do, and, having decided where I stand on it, to encourage anyone else that they are not alone in coming to that conclusion.

          If you don’t like personalized writing, you should probably stay clear of the whole Internet thing.

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          • “The point of this post is to express a moral conflict”

            No, the point is self-aggrandizement. “Look at how moral and profound I am!”

            Tell me why I should vote for Stein or Johnson or some other person. But that would make them the star of the show and not you and your precious moral conflict, wouldn’t it?

            MIke

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            • I make no claims to being profound in the above, nore do I actually make any strong moral claims.

              It peice is written as a personal declaration because, on election day, I thought its particular rhetorical effect would be the most appropriate.

              And look at the comments! We’re having such a grand discussion that it appears the original post, whatever its failings, certainly didn’t fail to prompt lively debate.

              In the spirit of self-aggrandizement then: I award myself an -A.

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              • Ethan, you know I’m not always on your side on things, but in this case–whether or not I’d like who you voted for–I’m totally supportive of you and of your decision to write this post. MBunge’s claim that a post about not voting for X is really a post about yourself is weird; the post is clearly about why X ultimately isn’t good enough to get your vote. It all seems quite simple to me that I’m astounded at the pushback on your motivations. (Or I would be, if I wasn’t so aware that the intertoobz are full of that kind of nonsense.)

                Good work. Don’t let those ignorant folks ruin your day.

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  15. I find it amusing that every US presidential election seems to be ‘the most important ever’ and a noticeable number of people on both sides seem to take seriously the idea that their opponent is so bad he will bring in a dictatorship and they’ll never get to vote again.

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  16. Here’s an experiment: you approach an intersection in your car, and you hate those who run lights. Behind you, a man in a truck is tailgating at high speed, but the light is turning yellow. Another man waits to cross the street and has started early, staring at his cell phone. You can honk and race through the intersection; he will be scared and probably jump back to the curb, and you will have contributed to the ongoing road rage affecting society. Or, you can stop short, obeying the law and your personal code of not running red lights, with a very good chance that the tailgating truck will swerve around you and potentially hit the pedestrian. Do you do the think you disdain (run the light) in order to contribute to a result, as best you can imperfectly predict, that is safer for the pedestrian?

    We make decisions every day that affect people around us. We base these on our code of what is right, but also our best estimate of the probabilities of certain results happening because of our decisions. We do not get to appeal to an ultimate arbiter of why our choice was good even though it led to bad consequences; we have to take responsibility for our own choices and for the predictive power we had when making them, whether we were right or wrong – this is the notion of “intent” under the law.

    If you vote your conscience, please do not act as though you either a) cannot predict that this functionally matters in terms of likelihood of either Obama or Rommey winning, with no other outcome, or b) are not responsible for outcomes because there are so many other factors, like how well they ran a race, that matter. Other factors are relevant (the trucker shouldn’t tailgate) but they are simply facts at the time of your decision, and do not diminish your own personal responsibility for making the best decision you can. Other outcomes are possible (the pedestrian might stop short on his own), but the future being unknown is also not a reason to treat a decision as only about the decision and not apply your best logic about what’s likely to happen.

    If you want to slam the brakes, that’s your choice – but don’t act as though it’s only about you and the car, and the truck and pedestrian are their own problems and not your responsibility to consider.

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  17. I finally had to break with my Occupy friends who thought like this. Their fierce moral stances resulted in every meeting turning into a Monty Python skit, where the decision over what toppings to put on the pizza always devolved into people shouting about an “Anarcho-syndicalist system of proportional representation” or the heteronormative hegemony of pepperoni blah de blah argle bargle.

    This is why third parties have never worked- because usually they are founded on this sort of absolutist stance, and very few Americans are interested in joining that church.

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    • In fact, since we’ve gone off the reservation with you taking that out of context, let’s take it even further.

      Perhaps “I hope/I fantasize/I day dream” distills the very essence of the Obama slogan? It all starts with hope…fades to a fantasy when he gets into office, and is now an idle day dream best entertained during bouts of severe boredom.

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      • “A vote for President Obama would communicate that these differences between he and I don’t exist, or that they don’t matter.”

        Since when has this ever been true about any candidate, ever? You don’t get to just make stuff up because of how you feel about things. That is why I make the comment about your statement “I hope/fantasize/day dream.” I carefully read your post, understood its sophomoric assumptions and conclusions, and thanked you for the summary.

        Whatever, dude. I gotta prediction for you. In something like ten or twenty years you are going to go back and read that sentence, and are going to cringe mightily.

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        • Which sentence are we talking about? You’ve now quoted two.

          If the latter, then in answer to, “Since when has this ever been true about any candidate, ever?” I don’t think I’m alone in submitting that voting for a candidate even if you don’t agree with them is the surest way to make yourself an impotent political player.

          And most of the political interests of which the Democratic party is formed are quite impotent, at least when it comes to Presidential politics. After all, the President doesn’t have to actually worry about civil libertarians, gays and lesbians, ethnic minorities, labor, or other constituencies going to the other side, he only has to do *just* enough to make sure enough of them still get out and vote, becuase Dems are the only party for all of those groups by default.

          By continuing to vote for a candidate who does so little of what you want, and shares so few of your values, I don’t think it’s ridiculous to claim that the big message being communicated there is, “You can do whatever you want without political consequence because that other guy will always suck more than you.”

          And I write the post with a certain tone and in a certain style, because until there are political consequences for erroding civil liberties, going to war with other countries of one man’s accord, and threatening to invade others, and discriminatly bombing men, women, and children half way across the world, those things will continue to happen, whoever is elected.

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          • I am calling bullshit. Your failure to even try to subject a Romney presidency to the type of analysis that you do to Obama’s entirely undermines your argument.

            Despite the number of candidates on the ballot, I assert that there are exactly two possible electoral outcomes. I would respect a positive argument made for Romney, because it at least engages reality. But what you are doing here is intellectually embarrassing.

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              • Aaah Jeez, now I dunnit.

                Look guys, I prefer to just leave Mr. Gach to his own choices. But his initial post includes the words “I urge everyone else not to vote for him as well. I will do my best to explain why.” This is an invitation to take his words seriously. I dunno what they do where you come from, but that includes calling out woefully inadequate thought.

                I could prepare a complementary word salad that gently implored the estimable Mr. Gach to consider things that maybe he hadn’t thought of yet. Or I could, as pithily as I can, distill my objections to fit in as small a comment box as possible.

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                • See, the problem here, Mr. Nevada, is that Ethan clearly dislikes Romney as well. Underlying his whole post is the assumption that he needs to explain his choice not to vote for Obama, because an Obama vote is within the realm of plausibility for him, whereas he doesn’t even need to bother to explain his choice not to vote for Romney, because his not voting for Romney is so obvious it’s just taken for granted.

                  So when he encourages us to not vote for Obama, he’s not implying we should vote for Romney. He’s really encouraging us to vote for neither.

                  But you’re focused on the “a vote for third-party instead of Obama is a vote for Romney” concept. But it’s a false concept, and Ethan recognizes that. You can shout all you want about how he’s aiding a Romney win, but it’s not going to get you anywhere because you’re relying on an assumption he’s already rejected.

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                  • You misunderstand me. I am definitely not saying that “a vote for third-party instead of Obama is a vote for Romney.” I have not shouted anything about aiding a Romney win.

                    I am actually trying to tell him that there are better ways to improve civil liberties, and help drone strike victims.

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                    • NO! He can vote for anybody he wants! I don’t object to his reasons for doing so. I object to the nonsense he asserts after he says “I urge everyone else not to vote for him as well.”

                      His choice is his choice, and I am very cool with that. But “I urge everyone else not to vote for him as well,” is a political statement. His assumptions about a vote implying assent to all policies, is political nonsense.

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                    • Sierra (and if you are not male, please forgive me for previously making that assumption), you still are not explaining yourself well. What relevance does the “better ways” comment have if you are cool with his non-Obama vote?

                      And as to his making a political statement, for pete’s sake everybody and their cousin has spent the last few months making political statements, and telling us who they think we should or should not vote for. You haven’t really expressed a good reason for getting so upset with Ethan.

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            • “Your failure to even try to subject a Romney presidency to the type of analysis that you do to Obama’s entirely undermines your argument.”

              I think this is the reality of any election involving an incumbent. Obama has a record of what he has done as President. With Romney, we can only project.

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