Tag: <span>Voting</span>

Taking Democracy for Granted

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As the presidential election approaches, the amount of (mostly virtual) ink being spilled on the contest has reached epic proportions. Obviously you can find articles and blog posts about all sorts of things, but as of this writing (10/13/16) the major headlines all appear to be about the accusations of Trump’s sexual harassment. While I’m sure these accusations are interesting, I’m not sure that they are important. But let’s talk about the interesting bits first, and then we’ll examine its importance.

Of all the things going on with this story the element that interests me the most is the timing of the accusations. It seems to be a classic October Surprise. And by that I mean it appears likely that people have been waiting to announce their accusations until a point when the accusations could inflict the maximum damage. I see no evidence that any of the revelations are the result of things which only could have been uncovered recently. As far as I can tell, just based on a brief glance (there are a LOT of accusations) even the most recent dates from 2013. Also it’s not as if Trump has just suddenly become important, or that it has suddenly become important for him to be stopped. Four or five months have passed since he was a lock for the Republican nomination, over a year has passed since he announced he was running, and he’s been a public figure since before I graduated from high school. (Which trust me is a long time.) Why wait until now to go public?

Obviously a certain amount of speculation is involved. There can be many reasons for delaying an accusation against a public figure, not the least of which is the media circus certain to ensue as soon as you do. But on the other hand it distresses me when I find out that people have been afraid to come forward. Not only is that something we need to work on (though my ideas for how to do this may be different than most.) But it would have been hugely beneficial to know all this stuff during the primaries rather than four weeks before the election. Still, the point of all of this, is to say that if it was intentional, then, “Well played!” I always thought that Trump was going to have a difficult time of it, but as I said recently in an email to a friend of mine, I think he’s well and truly beaten, if not out-maneuvered at this point.

In that same email to my friend I said a couple of other things that are worth relating. First I offered the caveat that I had repeatedly been wrong about “Peak Trump” so it’s possible I was wrong this time, though this one feels different, possibly because he’s been faltering in places where he was previously strong, like the debates and Utah, normally the most reliable Republican state there is (more on that later.)

The second thing I said in the email was that I found the manner of Trump’s demise to be fascinating, particularly given Bill Clinton’s history in this area. Obviously there are differences, but those differences aren’t as great as people like to think. Which brings me to the issue of whether these accusations aren’t merely interesting, but important. Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has recently taken some heat for his commentary on the election. One of his recent pieces was titled Scandal Poker, where he compares the various accusations against Trump and Clinton to determine whether either has the edge. On the issue of their treatment of women he declares things a tie. I’m not sure that I agree with that, at least not in terms of how things are being perceived. (Which is pretty critical when you’re going to decide things by popular vote.) And, frankly, the reason perception tilts in Clinton’s favor is in large part because the people who police these sorts of things are more forgiving of indiscretions on the left side of the aisle than they are on the right. But if you remove perception from the equation and just look at it’s effect on their ability to be president then I don’t think it’s important. Meaning, I don’t think chastity has much correlation with the ability to be a good president. Jimmy Carter was by all accounts a very chaste person and a mediocre (at best) President. And of course more recently everyone seems to agree that Clinton was an above average president, but as we’ve mentioned he wasn’t very chaste.

Does this mean we shouldn’t want moral people to be president? I think all else being equal we definitely should, in fact I think we should even give it some weight, but with all of the other potential issues on the table it’s honestly not going to be at the top of my list. Now of course as Mormons/Christians we do think chastity is important, and in a broader sense the Book of Mormon explicitly ties morality into good governance. (Mosiah 29:25-27) But if the salvation of the country lies in having chaste presidents we’ve been doomed since at least Kennedy if not before.

If Donald’s (and Bill’s) chastity isn’t important, what is? I mentioned the enormous amount of ink being spilled, and it’s forgivable if the interesting and titillating stuff makes the front page, but surely in all that’s being written the truly important stuff is in there, just perhaps not on the front page? I would argue that it’s not, that no one is talking about the truly important issues and questions, which go well beyond Clinton and Trump. The truly important questions are, what are the limits of democracy? And has democracy*, in fact, failed?

*I understand that we’re not really a democracy, but I use that word throughout because it makes more sense to modern ears and is a mostly accurate description of things in any event.

From a Mormon perspective we already know what the limits of democracy are, it lasts until the people choose inquity, and when that happens it pretty much doesn’t matter what your form of government is, bad things are on the horizon. And, as you might imagine from the general tenor of doom and gloom on this blog, I think that’s the position we’re in. Rather than offer up statistics or some high level view of things, let me instead relate the situation I encountered the other day. I found myself in a meeting with four old (all 70+) men, and we ended up talking, in a general way, about politics. From the discussion it was impossible to say if they were hard-core devotees of either party, but knowing what I do about them, I suspect that they all lean Republican in a vague way, but have voted for many Democrats over the years. As the conversation progressed it was apparent that none of them had any idea who to vote for. In miniature, this is the problem. This group of men hadn’t chosen inquity, but come November 8th they won’t be able not to. Maybe that’s not true, maybe one of the two candidates isn’t a bad choice, but that’s certainly not how they feel. And even setting aside this example we’re still looking at an election between the most unpopular presidential candidate ever, and the second most unpopular presidential candidate ever. And even if you don’t agree that it’s symptomatic of the failure of democracy, you’re surely not going to argue that the 2016 election is democracy’s finest hour either.

Of course there is the option of voting third party, which I’ve talked about already, and perhaps the gentlemen I was talking with will all end up voting for Evan McMullin. There’s even a scenario where he could actually become president. Evan just has to take Utah, Trump has to prevent Hillary from winning a majority of the remaining electoral votes, and then when it gets tossed to the House they give it to Evan. I could see McMullin taking Utah. The rest seems pretty improbable, bordering on the fantastic. In other words, while I appreciate the fact that people are getting a lesson on what happens if no one gets a majority of the electoral votes. It’s not going to get us out of this.

We return then to what I consider the important point. Has democracy failed? To answer that I’d like to go back in history a bit. To start with, it’s obvious if one looks at the history of the American experiment that it was by no means certain that it would work, or that democracy in general had any sort of legs. It’s important to recall that six years after the Revolutionary War ended, there was a revolution in France and it did not go well. And that besides the bloodiness of the whole affair that actually returned to the monarchy under Napoleon III. Which certainly makes it sound like it didn’t take. But we don’t even have to look at France, switching from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution after less than ten years is not the sort of thing that inspires confidence. All of this may seem obvious to you, but even if it does, you may still not realize how precarious things still seemed even as late as the Civil War. This point was brought home to me recently while reading Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

For most people the Civil War starts and ends with the issue of slavery. And certainly I don’t want to take anything away from that. There would have been no Civil War without slavery and it deserves to be mentioned first whenever the Civil War is discussed. But as is usually the case there is a benefit to going deeper, because while slavery was necessary for the start of the Civil War, it was not sufficient. As Abraham Lincoln said:

If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.

Flat out stating that for him, the preservation of the Union was the primary goal. I had heard that quote before, though Team of Rivals reminded me of it, and corrected other mistaken ideas I had been carrying around.

One of the big things I was mistaken about was support for ending slavery even after the war had started. I had always kind of assumed that once war started and especially once the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued that it was pretty much understood, “Well as long as we’re doing this we should definitely make sure to eliminate slavery.” But even late in the war, when the South, through back channels, suggested peace, as long as they got to keep slavery (what sort of peace that would be is anybody’s guess), Lincoln was worried about this news leaking out. While he was adamant that he wouldn’t roll back emancipation, he knew that if the general public found out that the only thing keeping the war going was the issue of slavery, that they would turn against it. Several times it’s made clear that if the war became about just ending slavery that the general population of the North would stop supporting it.

Honestly I’ve never understood why it was so important to preserve the Union, why they couldn’t just let the south go and call it a day. Maybe I’m alone in that, but I can’t imagine Texas seceding and urging my son who turns 18 in a few months to immediately go enlist in the Army so he could join in on the invasion. And I’m pretty certain most people feel the same way. I particularly don’t understand why it was so important to preserve the Union when I consider the 670,000 people who would end up dead (390,000 just on the side of the Union). Now obviously I have the benefit of hindsight which Lincoln did not, but even so he would have to be a great fool to assume that it would not be terrible and bloody. And of course in addition to the number of dead there was the cost of the war, over $8 billion between the two belligerents and over $6 billion just for the North. (To say nothing of veteran benefits which eventually ended up exceeding the original cost of the war.)

To put those two figures in modern terms. Our current population is roughly 10 times the population in 1860, so imagine 6.7 million people dying, or roughly 2200 9/11’s or 1000 Iraqs and Afghanistans. And turning to the financial impact the cost would be equal to $30 trillion in today’s money. All of which is to say that they spent a lot of blood and treasure just to preserve the Union. So why was that so important?

After reading Team of Rivals I think I finally have an answer. As I said earlier we forget how precarious and how experimental our form of government was back then. Recall that at the time of the Civil War, the revolution and the passage of the Constitution were still within living memory. The Thomas Jefferson presidency was to them as the JFK presidency is to us. The debates we have about the expansion of the government under the New Deal? Imagine the same debates and the same time horizon, except the debates are about whether democracy is possible at all. All of this is stated very eloquently by Lincoln in the Gettysburg address:

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

We forget that it did still seem like a big experiment. At the start of the Civil War there were only three Democracies in the whole world (The aforementioned Napoleon III was in power in France). And of course the US was by far the largest and most ambitious. It certainly must have seemed possible, even probable that if you just let 11 states secede that the entire project was doomed. Whether that was the case I don’t know, but even if I don’t agree it makes sense.

Returning from our long detour through the Civil War, the takeaway is that they were intensely aware of the fragility of democracy, and conscious that it just might not work under some conditions. In fact one of the chief concerns about slavery was that democracy itself couldn’t function appropriately while slavery existed. Ignoring entirely the question of how black slaves should be treated.

By contrast today we just figure that democracy should work, that the governmental system we have will last forever. Or until the benevolent AI overlords can take over. Whether I agree with them or not, during the Civil War people were willing to fight and die in defense of their vision of how the nation should work. I am not suggesting that that’s what we should be doing. I am suggesting that we have gone entirely in the opposite direction to the point where we take democracy for granted. When the founding fathers created our system of government it was unique in all the world. We were the first thing even resembling a democracy in a long time. The Founding Fathers had to go back to the Roman Republic and Ancient Greece in order to find working examples to draw from. Beyond that it was just a bunch of theories put forth by people like Locke and Rousseau. One of their key worries was whether it would even work. As Benjamin Franklin said, when asked what form of government they had, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” This same question confronted Lincoln when he decided to go to war. But in the decades since then we have stopped asking whether we can keep it and we just assume that it’s part of the landscape. It may be overly simplistic to phrase it this way, but it’s precisely when you stop worrying about something that it can be the most likely to happen.

If our lack of concern was the only symptom then you should feel free to dismiss everything I’ve said (though hopefully you enjoyed the Civil War discussion) but of course there are lots of symptoms beyond just a lack of concern.

The current election is obviously a big one. No one feels like this is a contest between two noble individuals put forth after solemn deliberation by their respective parties to honorably contest for the highest position in the land. Instead it feels like the squabbling of toddlers (and I am perfectly willing to blame Trump for a greater portion of that). Reading Team of Rivals I couldn’t help but come away with the impression that the politicians of that era were giants compared to what we have to choose from today.

The increasing rancor of political discourse and the political parties in general is another symptom. Returning to the Civil War things were obviously more heated than they are now, but that shouldn’t provide any comfort when we realize what the final cost was to eventually heal that divide.

Still another symptom is the near absolute power of the Supreme Court. When it comes down to it most people admit that that’s where the true battleground is. And they may hate Trump with the fire of a thousand suns, but confess they’re still going to vote for him because he’s their only chance to get right-wing nominees on the bench. The topic of the Supreme Court will get it’s own post in the near future, but having nine people (and in reality just one person, Kennedy) decide all of the most pressing issues of our day is not the definition of a healthy democracy.

Closely related to the previous symptom, the tendency for people to lose on an issue when put to a popular vote and then get the courts to overrule that vote is another alarming trend. Same Sex Marriage (SSM) is one of the best examples of this, but it’s not the first time it happened and it certainly won’t be the last. Vox.com, a publication which certainly supports SSM recently posted an article pointing out the democracies collapse without graceful losers, not realizing that this same thinking applies something like SSM. (Needless to say there was no reference to that in the article or even to courts overturning majority votes.)

The final symptom I want to discuss, and I will probably get in trouble for this, is the current ideology that quantity is all that matters when it comes to voting. Quality doesn’t matter at all. Allow me to explain. While everyone talks about the need for well-informed voters, voters who care about what’s happening and are voting to make a difference, in every case where a choice must be made between quality and quantity, quantity wins. Of course almost no one views it as a tradeoff, despite the fact that there’s always a tradeoff between the two, to the point where it might as well be a fundamental law of the universe.

Getting to far into the weeds on this particular issue is liable to upset even the people who’ve made it this far, so let me just speak about it in more general terms. Nate Silver recently made a splash when he put out two electoral maps, the one showing what the election would look like if just women voted and one showing what it would look like if just men voted. Obviously no one’s trying to suggest that the election should be restricted in either fashion, but it’s a great example of the idea that you get different results based on how you slice the electorate. Right now we’re not slicing it, we’re making every effort to get every single person possible to vote. Which as I said is a quantity in deference to everything else. Now it’s certainly possible that maximizing quantity also maximizes beneficial outcomes, but I doubt it, and as you may be aware the founding fathers did not think that was the case either.

You may argue those were different times, and indeed they were, but moving it to the present day let’s engage in the following thought experiment. Imagine if we discovered a way to get 10 million more people to vote. Further imagine that these are all people who had never voted before, people who are entirely apathetic about the process, people who if asked could barely identify the people running for president (forget about any other offices). If we could get these people to vote, would they actually improve the outcome of the election? Would we get better leaders from an election with these 10 million people than without them? I can’t see anyway to argue that they would. You might argue that it has some moral benefit, but even that argument would disappear if you changed it from 10 million generic people to 10 million low-information, racist, misogynist  Trump supporters.

It’s easy to forget how recent democracy is. Even our own history of 230+ years is not very long by historical standards, but if we turn again to the website I referenced when I claimed there were only 3 democracies at the start of the Civil War (US, Switzerland and New Zealand) we find that the number of democracies hovered at 40 or less until 1984! To quote from the same website political freedom is a recent achievement. It may not seem that way, and it may seem like it’s something which is as immutable as the rising of the Sun, at least in the US, but that’s not the case. We take it for granted at our peril. Whether you agree with any or all of my symptoms I hope we can all agree that putting forward two candidates who were were seemingly grown in a lab for the express purpose of aggravating the other side is not a good sign.


Is It Finally Time to Start Thinking About Voting Third Party?

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Having spent the last several posts in a discussion of politics I thought it might be worthwhile to do one more and break on through to the other side as they say, but I promise this will be the last post for awhile on the topic. And for this last post I’d like to talk about voting. Obviously this is the key way we participate in politics as citizens of the United States. Which is not to overlook the people who attend caucuses, or go door-to-door with a local candidate, or even run for office, but not only are such people rare, they probably already have a pretty good idea how they want to vote. I think they could nevertheless benefit from what I say here, but it is still primarily directed at people whose highest engagement with politics is voting. Of course, we haven’t even touched on the significant percentage of people who don’t even do that, despite the impassioned pleas of celebrities and the desperation of political parties, and in the case of members, the Church itself. (I would be curious to know what percentage of temple recommend holders vote.) I actually don’t blame people for not voting. It’s exceedingly rare that a single vote makes a difference, and economically when you consider the opportunity cost it definitely seems like a waste of time.

Still we are urged to vote, and I have actually seen one vote make a difference. It was a local bond issue, and I voted against it. Had I voted for it, the vote would have been tied. So one vote can make a difference, though it hardly ever happens, and if it does, only in smaller elections.

Of course while being strongly urged to vote, the Church does not, despite the fear-mongering of its more radical opponents to the contrary, tell us who to vote for. They leave that to the individual, perhaps secure that we’ll do the right thing, but what is the right thing exactly? That’s what I want to explore, and I’m not confident that I’ll reach any definitive conclusions but perhaps in the act of exploration we’ll uncover some wisdom.

There are many methodologies for picking who to vote for, some obviously better than others. To get us started let’s look at one of my favorite, but most narrowly useful methodologies. Voting for people you know. Given that we are technically a republic not a democracy, in most cases you don’t get to decide what happens you only get to decide who get’s to decide what happens. And if that decision maker is someone who you can call on the phone and actually talk to, that substantially increases their utility. Lobbying is built around a very similar concept, which is why it’s so popular, even if we believe the defenders that it merely provides access not influence. For this reason, I’ll confess that this is the method I use first when deciding who to vote for. In addition to giving me a marginally greater say in the workings of government it’s also quick. Many of the methods we’re going to discuss require a lot of study and might still yield an unclear result. Not this one. As I said it’s not something I can draw on very often, and on some occasions, such as local elections, I might know both people. Thus, whatever the benefits of this method it is not universally applicable, which requires that we have additional methods to draw on.

Certainly if we can take any political lesson from the scriptures it would involve the great harm caused by unrighteous leaders. Of course most of the leaders in question are kings, and as of 1783 we don’t have one of those. But I would certainly expect that if someone demonstrably wicked was running for office that you wouldn’t vote for them. I imagine there are many people on both sides in the current election who feel like there is some demonstrable wickedness going on in the presidential race, but I’ve always had a hard time determining how righteous someone is. Without knowing their heart, evaluating their righteousness is at best inexact and at worst might result in labelling good evil and evil good. More commonly any such an attempt is subjective, and prone to an overweighting of some things and an underweighting others. For example is it better to have an adulterer or an embezzler as a leader? I would probably say it would be better to have an adulterer, but isn’t adultery a more serious sin than embezzling? Which sins do we tolerate? If we aren’t willing to tolerate a serious amount of lying then it’s going to be hard to find anyone to vote for.

Lately we have had access to more LDS candidates, most notably Mitt Romney. Perhaps if we just had LDS members to choose from at all levels that would solve the problem? Unfortunately I don’t think so. The two most prominent Mormon politicians are Romney and Harry Reid, and you are unlikely to find someone who would vote for both of them. Furthermore, at the local level you will frequently find that two LDS people are running against each other. Finally, having a religious test strikes even co-religionists as distasteful.

By this point you may be wondering when I’m going to talk about the method of just voting on the issues, well in essence this is just a very watered down version of trying to judge someone’s righteousness. And it sounds great in theory, but in practice there are hidden difficulties. First it requires you to get out of the political my team vs. your team mentality I described in a previous episode. And once you really start looking at the issues and thinking deeply about them you’ll find that it’s only very rarely that a candidate lines up exactly the same as you do on every issue. Often you can totally agree with them on one issue and find their stand on another issue to be completely repugnant. Or what’s worse their stand on an issue may be unclear. And that doesn’t even take into account the strong possibility that they’ll say one thing while campaigning but do something entirely different once they’re actually elected.

Confronted with the difficulty of trying to track dozens of issues, uncovering not only the candidates position but your own feelings about it, and then further attempting to prioritize all those positions in some fashion, many people give up and decide to simplify things by becoming single issue voters. If you’re only focused on one thing then your research is greatly simplified. If all you care about is whether someone is pro-life you don’t have to listen to their foreign policy speech. While this may simplify things it can also leave you in no better position than you were before. For instance in a two party system you can easily end up in a situation where both candidates have the same position on an issue. They may disagree or agree with you, but it hardly matters because you’re left in a situation where despite having a very firm position on an issue, you don’t have any way of differentiating. They’re both great on your issue or they’re both horrible.

Of course there are more than two parties, and that’s what I’ve been building towards, and it’s one of the reasons why I think it’s important to get out of the my team vs. the other team political headspace that’s so prevalent. Yes, it’s almost certainly true that if you don’t vote for Clinton or Trump in this election then you have wasted your vote, in the sense that your candidate, be it Stein or Johnson or whoever, can’t possibly win regardless of whether you voted for them or not. And it can be difficult to watch the Republican-Democrat football game and not get caught up in it, to even realize that there’s another option. But I think if you are going to follow the advice of the brethren and vote you should really consider all of the candidates. Once you do, and further once you give up on the idea of wasting your vote, choosing a candidate becomes far less objectionable, and frankly more straightforward.

Now I am not going to get into dissection of the platform of the Libertarian Party or the Greens, or even the Party of Socialism and Liberation. What I am going to address is the argument that if you don’t vote Republican or Democrat that you have wasted your vote. To begin with, in practice, unless an election comes down to a single vote you have wasted your vote regardless of who you vote for. But of course voting goes beyond merely deciding the outcome of an election, it is also a way to express your point of view. A somewhat crude way, but it’s undoubtedly true that once a winner has been determined, the next question is to ask by how much they won. If someone wins by 0.2% (or loses the popular vote but wins the Electoral College) they have a substantially different mandate than if they win by 23%. And of course 23% is a landslide. It’s a shellacking. It’s a pummeling.

If Clinton or Trump were to achieve that level of victory it would be historic. People would be talking about it for a long time, just like they talk about Reagan beating Mondale. But here’s where it gets interesting that 23% margin of victory I just barely mentioned actually comes from Nixon beating McGovern. Does anyone talk about that anymore? Particularly given that just a couple of years later Nixon resigned?  

My point is that if you vote for one of the two major parties your vote is going to get lost in the flood of all the other votes. And even if your vote helped Nixon to the fourth biggest margin of victory in history (and the biggest in the last 50 years) in two years it might all be forgotten. But when we turn to third party candidates the “flood” is more of a trickle and so it takes a lot fewer votes to make an impact. People are still talking about Nadar’s run in 2000 and he only ended up with 2.75% of the vote.

If you know that your vote is not going to make the difference in the actual outcome of election. That you’re only left with two reasons to vote. You can either vote because it’s your duty or because you want to send a message (or possibly both.) It doesn’t necessarily matter what message you’re trying to send. If you’re a Trump supporter perhaps, looking at the polls, you might want to make sure he doesn’t get slaughtered in a fashion similar to Mondale, or Goldwater. If you’re a Clinton supporter perhaps you think she’s got it in the bag, but you would love to make Utah a swing state.  But if you are going to try and make this statement with one of the two major parties you have to look at how much of a percentage your candidate has to get for a statement to really be made. In almost all cases your vote is going to make more of a splash if it’s part of the 2.75% than if it’s part of the 50%.

In saying this I am not saying that you can’t vote for one of the two major parties, I only suggest that if there is a third party which matches your ideology more closely that you should definitely consider voting for them. That is not a wasted vote. And if it really is our duty to vote and if it really is something the brethren want us to take seriously shouldn’t be be looking for the truly best candidate regardless of their chances of winning?

Interestingly the church structure itself bears some interesting parallels which might even point in the direction of a third party. First when people are called to a position in the Church it has very little to do with seniority. We’ve all heard of cases of bishops who are in their 20’s or Stake Presidents who are in their 30’s. When you look at the two major parties do you ever get a sense that a lot of times the candidate is just the one who’s turn it is? That’s certainly the case with Hillary in this election and I think it was the case with Romney and McCain in the previous elections. If we look past the obvious candidates when calling people to serve in Church, how much more should we do the same when looking for a presidential candidate?

And further there’s the process of sustaining people. You may think of raising your hand to sustain someone as voting for one of the two parties. Most of the time that appears to be the only choice available, but if you really feel strongly you do have the option to raise your hand and oppose a calling. I don’t recommend it unless you really do have misgivings (and I certainly think those people who are doing it at General Conference are misguided) but, the point I’m trying to get at is how impactful that is. If you’ve ever been in a local meeting where someone raised their hand to oppose a calling, then it’s a situation people are still talking about. It’s the same way in the presidential elections. When you break with the pack and vote for a third party people notice. And yes there’s a lot of pressure to not do it (another parallel) but, I would say that in elections you shouldn’t let that stop you.

In case it’s not clear the primary methodology I recommend (after voting for people you know) is to vote for the best candidate, regardless of the party. I know it seems like a radical idea, but it shouldn’t. In the Book of Mormon, Mosiah 29:27 we read that:

And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.

I personally think we’re fast approaching that point if we haven’t already, and it’s possible that we are already at the point where if we stick with the two major parties then we have no choice but to choose iniquity. And then aren’t we partially culpable for that choice?

To be honest this episode did not start out as a full-throated defense of third parties, though that does appear to be what it ended up as. I will say that personally I have never voted for one of the two main presidential candidates. I say this not to boost, but more to point out that it has been a long-standing obsession of mine. I do think we need greater third party participation in the whole process. I am pretty fed up with both the Republicans and Democrats. And If you’re not, if you have thought deeply about the issues and Trump or Clinton is your preferred candidate, then vote for them with a clear conscience and my blessing, but if you are planning to vote while holding your nose perhaps it would make more sense to look at one of the third party candidates before you do. You might find someone who makes you hold your nose a little bit less. And rather than wasting your vote you’d be sending a message at least as clear as whatever message you might send by voting for a Republican or a Democrat.

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One final voting methodology as a bonus for people who’ve read this far. If you have a system of judicial retention like we do in Utah, and I’m honestly not sure how widely this practice is used, then you should always vote NOT to retain any of the judges (unless you know them personally, see my first point). The reason for this is that for the most part judges are always retained with over 90% of the vote, and so your vote not to retain will have no impact for any judge who’s even halfway competent, but if there is a judge out there who isn’t getting 90% or at least 80% then they really should go, and by voting not to retain them you can help out that process. We had a situation just like this many years ago, in this case I had heard of the judge in question, but because I was using this method it didn’t matter whether I had heard about him or not, I helped get him off the bench. Of course this also relates to my general bias against incumbency, but we’re already pretty far into things so I’ll save that for another time.