Democracy, Current Events

Against thinking independent voters must vote for your candidate

This is a general response to those that insist a vote for a third party is a vote for the “other” candidate–the one you are so convinced must be defeated–in this or any election.  (And ignores the view that no individual’s vote makes any difference to the outcome of an election.)

Insisting that people not vote for the candidate they prefer because you think it will hurt your candidate’s chance is basically saying democratic elections in the US are a bad idea. Maybe you believe that. In fact, I do–not because democracy is inherently bad, but because our version of it, at least in national elections, is awful.  The electoral college, gerrymandering of voting districts, and the idiotic Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), are all part of the problem, but I can’t here delve into any of them.

Here’s the thing: if you believe our quasi-democratic system is bad, you should come clean about it. Either tell the world you prefer that your party just pick the next president rather than bother with what masquerades here as a popular democratic election or encourage a change in the system. Work to end gerrymandering, the electoral college, or the CPD’s stranglehold on the presidential debates. Or push for some bigger change. In any case, don’t pretend to believe that our system is working well while bemoaning the fact the other half of the duopoly nominated such a terrible candidate (or, as I think, that both halves did).

In short, don’t take for granted that our electoral system has to be the way it currently is.  Until 1988, we had real debates between the leading nominees for president.  That system was changed as the Democrats and Republicans colluded to change their nature.  Part of that is how the supposedly non-partisan (but really partisan for the duopoly) CPD limits the debates to the two parties.  Yes, the CPD relies on polls done by others.  But those polls are frequently themselves problematic.  Sometimes the questions are framed as if there are only 2 candidates–making it near impossible for any third party candidates to score well.  Sometimes, the third party candidates are listed, but with their names prefaced with “third party candidate X”–with the likely result that X scores low since people want to think of themselves as supporting a top tier candidate, not someone thought of as in third place or worse–no matter how good that candidate is.  (I’m not suggesting intentional collusion between the duopoly and the polling companies.)

Some will say this is all silly because people should vote strategically to get the best possible candidate in office and that voting for the candidate that one happens to like is simply unnecessary luxury or, worse, a childish desire.  But there is reasonable debate about how one should vote–strategically, according to one’s conscience, etc–just as there is reasonable debate about what elected officials are meant to do–represent the stated interests of their constituents or act according to their conscience, etc. If you have an argument that we should not vote for the person we think best (or according to our conscience), then–but only then–you might have a case to tell others who to vote for.  Then again, you might have a case for just letting your party pick the winner.

To conclude here–almost certainly my last post about the current election–I think it’s clear that the current bad choices are the results of the terrible way the Democratic and Republican parties operate–including colluding to run the CPD and, worse, to incite passionate hatred of the other side amongst their rank and file members.  Given that, I do not think independent voters need to capitulate to the duopoly. If Democrats or Republicans want my vote–and I assume the same is true for many of those who think of themselves as independent, libertarian, green, or ….–they should put forward a good candidate.  For me, that requires that the candidate be willing to engage in honest debates where they actually respond to what their competitor says and work to make the best case for their candidacy and their policies on their merits, not emotions. 

Democrats and Republicans should not expect independent voters to solve the problem their parties are responsible for creating.  Whether a new party–or a thoroughly reformed version of one of those two–can make things better is another question.  I think the answer is yes, but I don’t see it happening from either Dems or Reps.

  • j_m_h

    I’m just wondering if this election largely disproves the Median Voter Theorem or if not just how it could be crafted as consistent with the theory.

    • Andrew

      This is outside my expertise, but I’ve been thinking about the question. Is your thought that the median voter would not like someone like HRC or DT as president? Or the somewhat more complicated thought that, since the electorate is so close to equally divided, the median voter would be undecided? Or…

      • j_m_h

        It’s been a long time but IIRC the MVT is that the candidates will tend to formulate a platform and policies that include the median voter’s preferences. The idea being that the candidate already has their core to the left or the right of the median so if you get the middle voter the other side loses by that one vote. That suggests the candidates would be arguing about similar positions and trying to convince the median vote they are the one who would deliver. I suspect that might be consistent with a very nasty campaign and we certainly are getting that from both side. But I don’t see where they seem to be competing for the common middle position.

        The other aspect think about here is not that the electorate is so balanced on each side but that in general the people see this as a choice of two evils — the big middle ground where the median vote should be found doesn’t want either candidate. That seems more consistent with something of a polarized election process and platforms that ignore the middle/median in favor of the tails. (personally I think this is more the case due to how our election rules work — no real majority is needed to win, merely more of the votes that are cast so it’s always the narrow interests that participate and not the general interest from the middle)

        While I don’t see this as part of the current election I think I would try reconciling the theory to Parties rather than candidates. I think the Parties might try to form a coalition of members that will include the median voter and then add from one or the others sides — marginalizing those at the extremes. When the Parties fail to do this they start falling apart (which I think is what we’re seeing now) and a new Party will emerge to capture that fat center of the distribution.

        Not really well thought out here and probably poorly expressed but hope some of the idea(s) gets through.

        • Sean II

          This case probably is a challenge to MVT, in the sense that both sides seem focused almost exclusively on stoking turnout among their base.

          Closest thing I can see to an MVT pitched battle is: both candidates are running against free trade. Trump evidently because he believes that, but Hilary in a clearly cynical bid to capture that classic MVT schmoe who lives in Ohio someplace where lots of people still pine for the rust belt’s mid-century halcion, symbolized by all those mini-Magnitogorsk ghost towns they have there.

        • Andrew

          Really interesting. I’ll have to give this more thought.

  • Dale

    Libertarians frequently point out that some proposed policy will have awful unintended consequences, no matter how principled or noble the intentions of its supporters might be. Why, then, is it out of line for someone to say the same to them, i.e., that no matter how principled or noble their support for Gary Johnson might be, voting for him will have the unintended consequence of making an unintended and apocalyptic outcome more likely? (When I chide Andrew about this on Facebook the outcome in question is the election of Donald Trump; no doubt others make the same point but substitute in the election of Hillary Rodham Clinton.) If one believes… and how can one not?… that this year one of the major party candidates is vastly worse (for the country and world) than the other, worse by orders of magnitude, then in urging libertarians not to vote for Johnson one’s concern is not that a vote for Johnson will hurt your party’s chances. It’s rather that it will help the other party’s chances.

    • This first assumes that votes for Johnson significantly harm Clinton’s (or Trump’s) chances of winning. Based on polling, this was only briefly a considerable possibility that the third party vote turnout would cause any disruption at all. Basically in mid-September when Clinton had her fainting/pneumonia incident. Once Trump opened his mouth again for a debate, the race was over.

      It isn’t that close nationally that the portion of Johnson’s vote that ordinarily comes from legitimate support for either major party candidate, a generic candidate rather than the disliked candidates we actually have, is likely to tip the election one way or the other. There’s an argument a couple of states could be close enough that third party votes will have siphoned off in a noticeable way, but this again assumes Johnson hasn’t been pulling more or less equally from both parties nominal supporters and effectively canceling out his impact on the overall race (or if one sees Trump as uniquely dangerous, a view I think we share, isn’t pulling slightly more from Trump’s side of the ledger as seems plausible). In any case, flipping Utah or Nevada probably isn’t going to cost anyone the election overall. Those are margin of victory states at this point, for running up the score or covering the losing spread.

      At that point, “strategic” voting for the third party candidate may be entirely reasonable as a method of voicing support for the direction of change the losing party could or should pursue. Whether they listen or not (they clearly did not after 2012 if Trump is who they chose to nominate). Or as a method for building up that third option to replace the losing party if it fails to hold its coalition together.

      The correct argument following that logic is to argue Johnson’s policy preferences are dangerous or would have awful unintended consequences, or that a more libertarian-GOP would be awful (or at least worse than the current incarnation). The assumption that a small number of votes will tip an election that does not appear to be that close and seems likely only to get less so is not a convincing argument against third party votes.

    • Andrew

      One thought: unintended consequences do matter, but the actors need to suffer the consequences in order to learn. Obama correctly pinned the Trump debacle on the Republican party. The Republicans engaged in rhetoric that gave rise to worse rhetoric for years, culminating (let’s hope this is the culmination!) in Trump. But the Democrats are also culpable for the rise of Clinton 2. In each case, the parties engaged in activities that had the unintended consequence of leaving them with terrible candidates for president. They need to face up to that. A Johnson win–or even a victory in the less significant sense or Johnson taking 20 or 30% of the popular vote–might help them do that.

      Second thought: I know people (too many!) that want Trump to win (and more who want HRC to win); your argument obviously only holds force for those that think one of the 2 main candidates is a huge serious threat to the world. But you know I largely agree with your assessment of the worst major party candidate for president I have ever seen. So, how can I risk the unintended consequence of a Trump win? Well, if I am honest, I may not risk it when I go to vote. That said, I think there are multiple possibilities. One is that Trump basically lets Pence handle all domestic and foreign policy (as was supposedly offered to Kasich first). Another, which would be hugely positive in my view, would be that congress finally realizes it has to reign in presidential powers. So, one unintended consequence of my vote for a third party might be a vast improvement of the government as the powers are rebalanced. I admit, there could be really disastrous consequences as well. I don’t trust Trump with nuclear weapons; honestly, I don’t trust him not to use them on this continent. But, then, there are lots of people in the upper echelons of government and military that also don’t trust him with them–and perhaps they will handle it. (I hate to load them with that responsibility–but similarly, Democrats should at least feel bad loading responsibility of this outcome on independents.)

      Finally, its probably worth noting that the question is really interesting because we typically think of unintended consequences of actions by private citizens as unproblematic because they alone suffer the consequences (barring negative externalities, for which interference would be permissible). Unintended consequences of government activity, by contrast, of necessity impacts others who didn’t make the decision. This is a case that bridges the two–my private vote, if it can impact the election at all (which some debate), can have disastrous consequences. But even there, that is only because of the consequences of the horrible actions of the two parties.

      • Beth

        Trump scares the S*** out of me.

        • Sean II

          Well, he shouldn’t.

          Even if he somehow managed to win, the entire establishment will spring into action to make sure his presidency is born in shackles. He’d have about as much real power as Kalinin.

          Dude would probably end up signing an amnesty bill at the end of his first year.

          • King Goat

            The office of the Presidency has considerable inherent powers such that even one with little sway and pull with whatever ‘establishment’ exists can do considerable harm using those powers in living out their ignorance and general nastiness. See Andrew Johnson as a historical example.

            But nice try!

          • Sean II

            Name one big scary thing you imagine a President Trump could do against the establishment’s wishes, and I’ll explain to you why it won’t happen, who will stop it, what methods they’ll probably use, etc.

          • j_m_h

            Visit other countries as the President of the USA and open his mouth (can he even complete a sentence of articulate a simple though?) or simply be know globally as such and hold press conferences? Either will continue to alienate our allies and I suspect he’d act as erratically as the current Filipino president seems to be acting which could have some serious consequence. It’s not just what he might do but as much what others might do in reaction to his statements.

          • Sean II

            No, you’re mistaken.

            If Barack Obama held a preser tomorrow and said “trust me people, we’re gonna get the oil we need if we have to take it”, that WOULD cause a major international crisis. Precisely because Obama has credibility and never says shit like that. The resulting crisis would be a product of [crazy statement] + [credible and serious voice].

            Trump’s already forfeited the second ingredient. Everyone knows his statements are crazy, improvised, empty, etc. Only the media pretends (with great and labored effort) not to know this.

            Foreign leaders know he can’t actually do the shit he says. No doubt they’ll feign shock when it suits, but behind closed doors all the key institutions will reassure them and each other: “Don’t worry. Trump talks like that because he can’t do anything else”.

            And the further you got into a Trump presidency, the more obvious it would become that his words never turned into anything except…more words.

          • King Goat

            Yeah, and world leaders, diplomats, press and opinion leaders never get bent out of shape and push for policy, alliance, changes based on offensive comments of others of the same! Extremists groups, for example, would never seize on patently offensive comments by a President Trump to whip up anti-US sentiments to higher levels.

            If Trump is elected Presidebt he’s going to be seen as the official public spokesperson for our country. Smack dab in the middle of a global war over hearts and minds offensive speech can do considerable damage.

          • King Goat

            I gave you an actual historical example, so we don’t need to conjure a hypothetical.

            Executives have some considerable executive powers that don’t need the supposed ‘establishment’ from outside to execute. And this doesn’t even consider the harm a President can do as national spokesperson.

          • Sean II

            “…we don’t need to conjure a hypothetical.”

            Translation: you can’t come up with a convincing scenario.

          • King Goat

            Oh for fuck’s sake. It’s like you said ‘tell me how an NFL team with a QB with a QB rating below 80 can win the Super Bowl’ and I reply ‘well, the Broncos did it with Peyton Manning and your reply is ‘oh, can’t tell me how then, eh? GOTCHA!’ You don’t have to conjure a scenario when someone points to an exact historical example of what we’re talking about. We know a President with virtually no ‘establishment’ support can fuck the state of the country up for decades because it’s happened.

            But if you prefer a hypothetical to what’s actually happened, OK, that’s easy. And to make it fun, let’s skip the obvious potentially disastrous exercises of power we could choose and do an obscure but weighty one. The Art. II power to recognize countries, by accepting their Ambassadors and such. He could recognize, say, the ‘break away’ Crimean state, significantly damaging our standing with our NATO and Eastern European allies and emboldening Russia’s aggression in that area. Or he could go against long bipartisan executive consensus and suddenly recognize Jerusalem as capital of Israel, a move that could very likely trigger the Arab League countries to respond in ways like lessening their support for our cooperative military goals in the area to something like the oil embargo of the 70’s (there’s a reason why that’s been a bipartisan tradition despite the favorable political climate towards Israel in the U.S.).

            So there, that’s one of several executive powers where the executive exercises near exclusive authority and in the wrong, stupid hands could royally fuck things up for us and the rest of the world, and that’s an obscure relatively small one!

          • Sean II

            Recognize an independent Crimea? Publicly say Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel? These are your nightmare scenarios?

            I’m really glad Stephen King wrote The Dead Zone instead of you. “Crazed with power, Stillson decides it is his destiny to abuse the Treaty Clause…” just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

            In any case this a perfect example for the point I’m making. Leaving aside the obvious fact that Hilary is WAY more likely to do one of those things than Trump…

            The fact remains: presidents can’t really do such things on their own.

            This is what you don’t understand about the system. If Trump or Hilary wakes up one morning and says “Fuck it, we’re recognizing Quebec! Scramble the bombers!”, the White House will be swarmed by nervous Joint Chiefs and senior civil servants threatening public resignations, lobbyists threatening much worse, ambassadors from everywhere expressing the “grave concerns” of everybody, followed quickly by wonky pollsters saying “Mr. President, our latest data suggests big negatives for an unprovoked war with Canada. Couldn’t we try provoking someone else instead?” After the pollsters comes the Senate leadership and the Supreme Court whisperers. They explain just how easy it would be to conjure up an argument to the effect that the Executive was only ever supposed to have these powers so long as the Legislature acquiesced, and since now it clearly doesn’t, maybe you’d better not find out just how creative the nation’s top lawyers can be when faced with the chance to win everlasting fame and glory simply by halting your stupid plan.

            And that’s just what happens before the media finds out.

            After a while, the President – no matter whether its clever Clinton or dense Donald – figures out that their scheme will end in massive humiliation of them, personally…where the best case scenario is going down in history as the President who forced America to child-proof its foreign policy-making.

          • King Goat

            I actually do think emboldening Russia to continue to take over its neighbors and fracturing the alliance that literally saved the world would be nightmares. I guess you were talking about Walking Dead type of nightmares?

            OK, I’ll bite, which one of those is Hillary WAY!!!! more likely to do? Because I’ll bet you here and now whatever you’d like she won’t do either.

            “presidents can’t really do either of those things on their own.”

            Actually, the do it with a stroke of their pen and an announcement. That’s it. Your scramble the bombers is way in left field. It’s totally in the Executive’s legal authority to do it just like that.

            Oh, but your argument is that Donald fucking Trump would be constrained by his many handlers from doing such a thing. Yeah, that’s a man that’s been totally restrained by his handlers, Congressional leaders and the press lately!

            I mean, you’re arguing that a guy who has consistently done stupid things to his candidacy and his party, in the face of pushback by the very same type of people, and who often responds by *doubling down* is going to straighten up and fly right. That a guy who as the representative of his party has hurt that party’s brand with what are seeming to be real consequences (they might actually lose the Senate now) will, when he becomes representative of the nation will magically not do the same.

            With all due respect, this is one of your worst footings I’ve seen. And it’s easy to see why, it’s bog-standard talking point for commenters who clearly would either not like to see Trump smashed or want him to do well who have some sense that directly defending Trump as a great prospect isn’t going to fly with the audience. You see it on cites like Volokh all the time, especially when his poll numbers started tanking. Look, it doesn’t take some great imagination to see that whatever his faults I’m betting you recognize, that Trump doing well isn’t going to be a bad thing for the ‘race realism’ that you espouse, and that you’d probably not like him, and it, be discredited by a massive loss. But this whole ‘he’s not so bad, you shouldn’t oppose the guy too much because you know when he gets in he’s totally going to be checkmated by Paul Ryan and Wolf Blitzer in a way magically which didn’t happen despite their manifest efforts during his primary rise’ is beneath you (and I mean that as a compliment and hope it’s taken as such).

          • King Goat

            I wanted to add how facile it is to talk about some monolithic ‘establishment’ that one can presuppose will stand against Trump. The ‘establishment’ is one of those things existing in conservative and Green Party broadsheets and talk radio and is analytically garbage.

            If, before 9/11 and the Bush administration someone had said ‘you know, we have to watch out for an administration that would literally start torturing people’ I’d expect people to say ‘oh, the ‘establishment’ of career bureaucrats and the press would resist and be all over that, that would never happen!’ But we know what happened: seems the ‘establishment’ is wide ranging and you can find plenty that either agree or out of craven careerism were happy to hold motherfuckers down and torture them if so ordered.

            Just like Rence Priebus and the majority of GOP officials, the ‘establishment’ is full of people who’d be more than happy to back Trump even after a tidal wave of ludicrous/scary positions and comments by him.

            When you find yourself talking like the rank and file Tea Paritier who shows up at the rally in his tri-cornered hat or the Jill Stein supporter wearing their Occupy t-shirt you should take a step back and reconsider what you’re saying.

          • Sean II

            I’ve been trying to give you a fair shake lately, but with comments like these you’re making it very difficult. Please try and match my discipline with some of your own.

            The issue under discussion is: how much power do presidents really have, when trying to do big bad scary things that no one else really wants?

            In answering that question I gave a pretty standard analysis, based on public choice, the concept of expectations, historical perspective on the surprising constraints that bind leaders even in seemingly autocratic regimes, etc.

            Because on a long view it turns out that most heads of state are rather puppet-like. The deeds people attribute to them are not in fact their own. Gitmo and the Iraq War are outstanding recent examples. Those things didn’t happen because Bush wanted them, they happened because an enormous majority of the establishment did. The Iraq vote was nearly a 3-to-1 landslide, and at the time that was a far more controversial policy than torture, rendering, etc. (Don’t be fooled by the fact that, years later, everyone pretended to have been against these things all along. As someone put it better than me: “The War on Terror is like a reverse Woodstock for the beltway class. Everyone claims not to have participated, when in fact they did.”)

            In any case, that’s the main argument here. Presidents don’t have much real power, and they have even less when opposed by 100% of the hacks in one party, and 50% of the hacks in the other.

            Now you can’t answer this argument by pointing to a piece of paper and saying “it says here”, for anyone can see that those pieces of paper are easily swept aside whenever the need arises (see again: War on Terror).

            No, to answer this argument you must find examples of presidents (or heads of state in places similar to the U.S.) going rogue and getting away with it. Cases where the man at the top did something big, against the wishes of the organized, established groups and institutions in that society.

            Do you have anything responsive to that issue, or no?

          • King Goat

            I’ve given you those examples. First, Johnson. Through his pardon power he restored to power much of the Confederates who later played critical roles in sabotaging efforts to establish the former slaves. Do you want to argue the ‘establishment’ in power at the time wanted that? The Radical Republicans were furious at him about it. How did that work? There was no pardons office, what happened was pardon candidates wrote or came to him, personally. Historians say he, being a non-aristocrat himself, was flattered by plantation owners having to come to him and he signed many on the spot.

            Then he vetoed law after law, much of those vetoes were overrode (which again demonstrates how ‘rogue’ he was acting, Presidential vetoes being overridden is rare). Many critical civil rights and relief bills were held up.

            But then, when those bills passed he would relieve officials trying to make them work. This one got him hauled into impeachment.

            It’s just laughable to argue that Johnson was acting under any ‘establishment’ at the time. His party was at one of the biggest disadvantages in our political history, and his own party didn’t care much for him. The South was politically neutered-most were not admitted back into the federal government.

            But Johnson was a personally very racist man and one that had a very strange inferiority complex towards the plantation class where he was from, and he idiosyncratically acted counter to the political powers and public mood of his day and his obstructionism meant the denial of rights and relief to millions.

            Now fast forward to the present. You’re insisting that Trump won’t and or can’t act crazily in ways that will hurt the nation. But as I said, his entire candidacy argues against that. He’s repeatedly defied the ‘establishment’ of his party in ways that have harmed his party over and over and over. But somehow he’s magically going to be constrained when he becomes President. Right.

          • Sean II

            “But Johnson…idiosyncratically acted counter to the political powers and public mood of his day and his obstructionism meant the denial of rights and relief to millions.”

            Okay, if you insist on doubling down behind this dead-end an example, explain this:

            If all these people really wanted Reconstruction to work, why didn’t they make it work once Johnson was out of their way?

            NOTE: here’s a nice decision point for you, facing these two choices:

            A) You can Rube up an elaborate theory about how Johnson’s actions doomed the South to 100 years of racist backsliding, even though that’s not what the country actually wanted.

            B) You can admit that Reconstruction failed every bit as much under Grant (that notorious rebel sympathizer!) as it did under Johnson…almost like, I know this sounds crazy, but almost like it doesn’t matter very much who is the president, when looking at long run policy developments.

            For the love of god Goat, don’t do the predictable thing and choose A).

            Just come up with a different example.

          • King Goat

            I do think it’s arguable he did do lasting harm. His pardons alone did that, there was no mood for restoring the South’s political class in subsequent administrations. He let that cat out of the bag, and he did it using one of those ‘on paper’ unilateral executive powers you dismiss and in defiance of the existing political powers that be and national mood of the time.

            Also, If the Radical Republicans reforms could have been entrenched early who knows what snowball effect would follow? Often in history you have to act relatively quickly to do something that will have lasting effect. The saying ‘never let a crisis go to waste’ embodies the common realization that at certain key times you can use the national mood at that time to entrench institutional change such that it survived when the mood peters out later.

            But you know what? I don’t have to do that at all. Even if he didn’t have lasting harm he prevented relief and rights for millions during his tenure, and that in itself qualifies as a nightmare for those effected. So, again, here’s a clear example of a President fucking things up out of their own personal actions (stemming from their own personal foibles) in the face of the political establishment and mood of his day.

          • Sean II

            So to be clear: you say this phenomenon – presidents imposing their will on a nation opposed – is inherent in the powers of the office, but you cannot produce other (or by my count any) examples of it happening?

          • King Goat

            Me: Presidents can screw things up in the face of political establishment opposition.
            You: no they can’t, give me one example, just one.
            Me: OK, X.
            You: Nuh-uh, way wrong, and here’s why!
            Long, long exchange about X follows. Then:
            You: Well, maybe X, but how about another?

            While we’ve both brought up the national mood, you’re initial main point was that the ‘establishment’ would stop a Trump or did so with Johnson. And I’ve given you another example of that with the torture. A big chunk of the public was OK with torture, but a big chunk of the public would be OK with recognizing Crimea, and, he’ll, recognizing Jerusalem as part of Israel would probably be overwhelmingly popular. The point is both would be counter to as thorough of an ‘establishment’ consensus as can be imagined and would have nightmare consequences for us.

          • Sean II

            Except that I never said “maybe X”.

            You’re dead wrong about Johnson, and I’ve more than adequately shown why.

            So I offered you the chance to provide another case.

            Which evidently you can’t.

          • King Goat

            I’m correct about Johnson and more than adequately have shown why. And I’ve provided you with another case several times and you’ve never even put forward a response. And again, the rubber really hits the road in that the very guy we’re talking about has a demonstrable history of saying and doing things, despite the wishes and best efforts of his advisers and the establishment, which have caused demonstrable harm to the organization he represents. This is magically going to be different when he goes from representing one of the two big national parties to representing the country.

          • Sean II

            I notice that comment did not in fact name another example.

          • King Goat

            I named the torture example several times now.

          • Sean II

            That’s another obvious loser.

            In the years after 9/11, torture wasn’t just tolerated, it was POPULAR. Bush didn’t impose that on anyone.

            It was enthusiastically supported by the following interest groups: our closest allies, our NEMA allies, including Israel and its powerful supporters here, along with the military, the intelligence community, law enforcement, right wing think tanks, and conservative media.

            It was winked at by these interests: most of of the non-Muslim world, plus the state department, key parts of our legal establishment, multi national corporations, center-left think tanks, and mainstream media.

            It was opposed by…who? Code Pink and Democracy Now? Plus a few Senate Democrats with extremely safe seats?

            Obviously not a case of President vs. The Establishment. Rather, it was a case of the Establishment doing something in the early 2000s which it would now prefer to disavow.

            Try again.

          • King Goat

            “Or at least against the wishes of most of those everybodies who are some bodies in the nation’s power structure”

            See, after all your talk prior about this being popular with the public, right wing pundits and Israel (?) you suddenly do seem to recall what you’ve been positing: the U.S. political establishment, that hoary analytically fuzzy bugaboo of extremists of both sides of the aisle made up of our professional class of bureaucrats and political operatives. And if you look at that, it was an unthinkable proposition that we’d engage in torture as official policy. The U.S. led the world post WW II in propagating human rights accords and rhetoric, it was a staple of our military code of justice, our intelligence services, our diplomatic corps and our jurisprudence (see the evolution of the obscure Alien Tort Statute into an incredible frequently used device to bring international torturers to justice). Again, your using hindsight to look back, if you can find suggestions from ‘establishment’ sources prior to 9/11 that we engage in torture as a regular, official procedure then I’ll say you have a point. But I’m betting you can’t. The U.S. zeitgeist was to differentiate ourselves from the Nazis and Communists in ways like this. How ingrained was this in the ‘establishment?’ Resistance from the military and intelligence services is well documented, even given the propensity to always find an amoral careerist or psychopath in any ‘establishment’ to carry out even beyond the pale orders it still only happened because OLC came up with tortured legal opinions the administration argued showed that actual torture was not going on. That is, it was so ingrained in our legal and bureaucratic establishment that the only way it happened was that it’s ‘boosters’ *denied they were doing it.*

            So there’s that example. But hey, how about yet another? Let’s take the Watergate break in. The fall out from that, a constitutional crisis, an enduring drop in faith in our institutions (hell, in response to it Captain America in comics *stopped being Captain America* and became the character Nomad!).

            All kinds of dirty tricks were part and parcel of national political culture, but in Watergate Nixon crossed a line. Burglarizing your political opponents campaign headquarters was not part of the political establishment’s MO. Why did it happen? Historians covering it point to idiosyncrasies about Nixon personally: a pronounced inferiority complex, authoritarian personality and a clinical paranoia, combined with similar traits in his hand picked inner circle, led tricky Dick to do such an amoral and reckless act (and foolishly unnecessary, McGovern was going down, everybody but Nixon knew it). But he did it, as blunders often are it was full of amateurism and soon the nation faced its second impeachment in its two hundred year history (itself a measure of how outside the establishment the actions were), and all due to the person at the top, not the push of historical forces or intense lobbying, the forces you argue will prevent such nightmares stemming from the personal failings of the Chief Executive.

            But again, we don’t need Johnson, Bush’s and Nixon’s examples. We have Trump’s. The guy already has shown how easy it is, especially in this day and age, to simply *say* something stupid which harms the immense, national organization he represents, and how one man due to his personality quirks can do this in defiance of the ‘establishment’ of his party’s donors, career officials and other leaders. This is going to magically stop when he goes from representing one of the big two national parties to the nation as a whole? Doesn’t seem likely, a risky bet indeed!

          • Sean II

            So you offer Watergate?

            Problem: that wasn’t in the least bit unusual. It was strictly going rate for politics at the time.

            Watergate wasn’t some case of a crazy President going rogue. It was simply par for the course, since Nixon’s two immediate predecessors did as bad (Kennedy) or worse (Johnson).

            What changed in the early 1970s was that the public finallly caught up to something they never noticed before – i.e. that politicians lie and cheat, at all levels.

            And the resulting “loss of faith in institutions” was not a bad thing. When people lose faith in a corrupt institution, that’s a good thing.

            What’s bad about long running con-jobs finally getting dragged into public view?

          • King Goat

            Johnson and Kennedy ordered amateurish burglaries of the opposing party they were certain to defeat, tried to cover it up with hush money, recorded themselves discussing it with their team in profanity laden tapes which they kept around, and obstructed justice when caught, ultimately offering the justification that ‘it’s not illegal when the President does it’ forcing the first and only Presidential resignation and subsequent pardon on the eve of the second only impeachment proceedings? Cuz I must have missed that in my history classes.

            The point is that no broad interest group pressure led to that nightmare scenario of lawless bungling, it was at least largely on Nixon’s very idiosyncratic worldview and insecurities.

            Personalities matter.

            I get you might think it was a great time had by all, but let’s stipulate that for many, if not most, people, constitutional crises and sudden loss of faith in government institutions might qualify as ‘nightmares.’ YMMV. It certainly harmed his party for about a decade (thanks for Jimmy Carter, Dick!).

          • Sean II

            Kennedy stole a national election, and with Johnson it’d be easier just to list the few he didn’t steal.

            You think guys like that were shy about spying on opposing campaigns?

          • King Goat

            Ah, so you don’t have some kind of specific equivalent to offer (not that it would matter to the argument if you did). Nor did you answer my directly put questions.

          • Sean II

            They didn’t get caught. But read Robert Caro and you get the idea clear enough.

          • King Goat

            That’s part of the point, right? Kennedy ‘stealing the election’ was, and still is, a disputed charge see here, http:/
            which links to a more thorough overview. Nixon got caught red handed, the paranoid taped himself and his men talking about it.

            So your answer is that Trump is no more likely to say things damaging his party than Hillary is. Yeah, that’s why so many Democrat party leaders, Senators, Congresspersons, including the Minority leader, etc., have leapfrogged themselves to run away from all her gaffes like Trump. Wait a minute, that only happened with Trump!

            I mean really Sean. Equating the two is like when someone answers you pointing out that blacks commit more murders with ‘well, whites commit so many mass shootings!’ Trump is far more likely to make a recklessly unprofessional statement. Hell, that’s a big part of his appeal to many followers (‘he’s not so PC! He talks like people do sitting around the table!’).

          • Sean II

            In all my commenting career I have never seen such a hilarious case of “own goal”.

            Your latest, short version: “Trump’s many reckless statements have made him a pariah throughout the governing class, including the elite of his own party…”

            Does this sound like your argument or mine?

            Listen closely to the even shorter version: “Trump has alienated the Establishment…”

            Hear it now? You’ve come so far afield that you’re shouting my very thesis back at me!

          • King Goat

            I think you misunderstand your own argument, which was that Trump would be constrained by the establishment. My pointing out that he continues to make these kinds of comments *in the face of his party’s establishment’s urgings, cajoling and admonishments to stop shows they haven’t and can’t constrain him.* That’s not an own goal, it’s one of those Carli Lloyd strikes into your goal from around mid-field.

            From your first post I responded too: “Even if he somehow managed to win, the entire establishment will spring into action to make sure his presidency is born in shackles.”

          • Sean II

            Yeah, I’m sure no one will notice how you slid from “Trump, starter of WWIII” all the way down to “Trump, utterer of gaffes”, without losing any of your gravitas along the way.

            I suppose now you’ll say gaffes are as bad as unnecessary wars, or maybe that gaffes start unnecessary wars (they don’t), or whatever.

            In any case, I answered that point long ago. Gaffes matter when they escape from a credible person’s mouth (like Obama), not when they spring predictably from a notorious gaffe-master (which is why Joe Biden remains so perfectly harmless).
            Final post for me on the topic:

            I entered this thread and responded to Beth’s “Trump scares the shit out of me” comment for one reason:

            After studying politics for 25 years, it’s kind of irritating to watch this Boor get mistaken for a Borgia.

            Thought I might set the record straight by reminding people that, since the Great Man theory of history is bunk, happy news: that means the Great Monster theory is bunk too.

            The policies we end up with, come about because they’re favored by 1) a majority of people, or more often 2) a well organized minority with concentrated interests.

            Most of the latter oppose Trump now, and will continue to do so even more effectively after the election.

            In other words: everyone needs to chill the fuck out, and stop with the histrionic signaling. Trump ain’t gonna be Hitler. He ain’t gonna be Stalin. He ain’t even gonna be Pinochet.

            In fact, if he won, the leader he’d most likely resemble is Allende.

          • King Goat

            I’m not sure I think gaffes start WWIII or ever said as much, that was your strawman presentation of my argument; you’ll note my earliest responses to you mentioned ‘considerable damage,’ which seems hyperbolic to interpret as WWIII, but which can still be something to be worried or frightened about, especially when it’s so easily avoidable.

            As the official spokesperson of the U.S. a President’s gaffes can hurt this nation, just as Trump’s gaffes have really hurt the national party he represents. Insulting our ME allies, for example, undermines their ability to resist the anti-US sentiment within their nations that is already quite strong. If that results in them cooperating with us less, and our friends and neighbors doing more of the fighting and dying, then yes I consider that a ‘nightmare,’ though of course not Hitler/Stalin (again, a reference I never made but which you attributed to my arguments). And it’s an an easily averted one: let’s not elect a guy who is prone to such gaffes.

            And Trump doesn’t just make ‘gaffes,’ which tend to be one-off’s which politicians and their spokespersons can more easily walk back. He’s an undisciplined, unprofessional person, he makes more and worse gaffes and then *doubles down on them,* even after this so called all-powerful ‘establishment’ of yours attacks him for it. The whole point of Trump’s movement is that he has never been a part of, has so far upended, and therefore feels more free to oppose, the ‘establishment.’ Now, I’d agree with you that we shouldn’t take that at face value, while I lost faith in the ‘establishment’ a long while ago to stop awful, ultimately damaging things happening to this country, I do think they’d stop many of the ‘nightmare’ scenarios potentially arising from a President Trump. This is especially true in our political system, with all those checks and balances built in. But there is *some* truth to it, the man is no political insider and he has said and done things very few such insiders would ever do (imagine a member of the ‘establishment’ or just someone who bows to it in any way being asked on national television if they would disavow David Duke and doing anything other than climbing a ladder of disavowal so far and so fast). Your point has been, ‘don’t worry, everyone bows to the establishment,’ but clearly this ain’t that guy. He’s proven that *time and time again.*

            Now, thank God that in our system the establishment doesn’t have to rely on the Executive bowing to it. It can get all the others that do to engage in the many checks and balances we have, and it can work all those ‘informal’ levers of power that made even autocrats in other systems check themselves. But here’s the thing; just as Trump is honest to God unique in his separateness from ‘the establishment’ (I mean, really, can you name any other US major party candidate with less connection to ‘the establishment’ of their day? Even Johnson was a former Senator and loyal TN party man, Wilkie was a very establishment businessman, etc.), our nation is honest to God unique in it’s system, with its Executive independently elected and serving apart from any parliamentary input and given several exclusive powers. Some of those exclusive powers require very little ‘filter’ through ‘the establishment’ to make them effected, but they could potentially still do ‘considerable damage.’ And that’s what I talked about in abot half of my comments, that giving this uniquely reckless guy those powers could indeed be damaging.

            The rest were about the ‘PR’ power of the President, the ‘misuse’ of the ‘power of the bully pulpit’ in the hands of an undisciplined speaker who ‘doubles down’ on his reckless comments. I’ve said all I think I need to say about how that, too, can be damaging.

            In the end, I submit that your ideas of harm are far too ‘all or nothing.’ Will Trump cause WWIII? Unlikely, for sure. But could he do something stupid that would harm us in other ways, resulting in things like having me and you waiting in hour long lines to fill our car’s gas tanks? I think that’s actually quite possible, and while it might not be a great plot for a Stephen King horror story I still think it’s something we should really avoid.

          • Sean II

            Slight hyperbole yes, strawman no. That “he might recognize Crimea” comment you made early on sure seemed like it was tending in a “which might in turn trigger WWIII” direction. Why else would such a thing be worth worrying about?

          • King Goat

            Read what I actually wrote about that the first time.

  • Steve Trinward

    It still amazes me how many of my closest friends (preceding FB by decades in many cases) tell me I’m “voting for Drumpf,” and how many on the other side (far fewer but important to me anyway) tell me I am “voting for Killary” … I’m not; I’m voting for Gary Johnson, mostly in an effort to use this election to snap the duopoly’s hold on the process. If enough vote that way, and it cannot be ignored as the 1% or so has been in the past, the claim that this a “two party” system could finally fall and collapse. That is worth so much more than whether Tweedle Dumb or Twqeedle Dumber is on the throne for the next 4 years (no way either of these dingbats gets a second shot).

    • Andrew


  • King Goat

    “I think it’s clear that the current bad choices are the results of the terrible way the Democratic and Republican parties operate”

    One issue I have with Brennan’s recent ideas on epistocracy is that we already have a version of it, don’t we? A relatively small group of better than average informed voters participate in the big two party primaries, caucuses and rules committees resulting in our two usually disappointing choices the rest of us end up choosing from.

    • Rob Gressis

      Well, those better than average informed voters are Hooligans, not Vulcans, to use Brennan’s terminology. Plus, they’re largely misinformed, even though they’re also better than average informed.

      • j_m_h

        Does that change the implications?

  • Pingback: Rational Review News Digest, 10/19/16 - Syria: Regime, Russian warplanes stop bombing Aleppo; Ecuador: Regime admits it cut off Assange's Internet to help Clinton - Thomas L. Knapp -

  • SimpleMachine88

    You know, some of us here are registered republicans. Even though I would always prefer a libertarian, I do generally vote republican because I think it’s the lesser of the two. And I think voting in the primary to try to get either major party to veer more libertarian is more effective than a separate libertarian party in our political system. Not this time.

    Among republicans the argument is that we are supposed to rally behind the nominee, even though close to half the party loathes the man, supposedly for the sake of the court. After all, I voted in the primary, my candidates Bush, Kasich, Rubio, just lost. I do think there is some expectation that if you participate in a primary, there is some obligation to support its result. I get the argument, after all if Trump had lost I’m sure he’d be running a third party candidacy, and I’d be calling his supporters backstabbers. Heck, I already am, how dare Trump attack Ayotte or Ryan. So there is some hypocrisy. And I really don’t care, because there is absolutely no way I’m voting for that thug.

    In reality there are going to be FAR more defections from traditional republican voters than from the left in this election towards third party candidates. I’m one of them.

    • Anecdotally you are almost certainly right. I see several mainstream lifelong Republicans in my Facebook orbit who are stating clearly that they cannot support Donald Trump and will be voting for Gary Johnson. OTOH I am not seeing any lifelong Democrats who are intending to vote for Gary Johnson, especially not after his Aleppo moment, which, in my opinion, damaged his standing significantly because it made him look unrepentantly ill-informed. (Disclosure: I will be voting Libertarian).
      There are a bunch of people in my Facebook who are loudly proclaiming that they are voting for Trump. Some of them are lifelong Republicans for whom partisan lockstep trumps independent decision-making. Others I am not sure about, since I haven’t seen enough of their postings on politics to know. They may be disengaged voters who were stirred into becoming Trump supporters this election cycle.