Thursday, November 10, 2016

What's Broken, and What Works.

In my last post, A Victory for Ranked-Choice Voting, I pointed out that ignorant people "don't know how the system is supposed to work, so they opt to perpetuate a broken system." But not all of the people who perpetuate that system are ignorant, and not all educated people recognize which part of the system is broken. On this Veteran's Day, I think it's worthwhile to keep an eye on that which those of us who have defended the Constitution swore to defend.

For the record, I think the broken part is the two-party hammerlock on the political system at practically every level. There is nothing in the Constitution formalizing such a thing, and it has done nothing but cause grief and dissent. Ever.

What is NOT broken is the Electoral College. It is formalized in the Constitution, it is very carefully constructed after much deliberation, and does its job extremely well. Yet, periodically we hear calls to abolish the Electoral College. These calls always come from liberal Democrats, and always come after they've lost an election. The reasons will become clear.

Liberals don't like to think about this, so what you've probably heard only from conservative voices is that we do not live in a pure democracy. We live in a representative republic, and this is by design. Liberals like to think of themselves as champions of minorities, while simultaneously demanding a system of pure majority rule. If they thought about it they might recognize the cognitive dissonance, but they rarely think about it seriously. Instead they "feel" about it... it's an emotional response. The Founding Fathers, on the other hand, thought about it. They wrote all those thoughts down, too. And what they concluded was that was that pure majority rule, of the type you find in a pure democracy, is fatal to the rights of the minority. Whatever the majority wants, the majority gets, and the minority may as well get used to oppression. That is always the result of a pure democratic system, and that is what the Electoral College avoids. Here's how:

It's not that liberals are ignorant of this... they know it. It just doesn't matter to them, because they're voting with their "feels", and not with their "thinks". It "feels" fair to imagine that all votes are evenly distributed and that voters of various parties are evenly co-mingled, even though they're not. So although they know about "red states" and "blue states", they pointedly ignore any such thing in their push for the national popular vote.

The Founding Fathers knew that the rights of rural people would be perpetually trampled by urbanites. So each individual state holds a popular election. The candidate that wins gets to send a certain number of delegates to vote in the Electoral College. The number of delegates is determined by the number of Senators (2) a state has, plus the number of Representatives (determined by population). So a populous state like New York or California gets a LOT more delegates than a sparsely populated state like North Dakota, but if very many sparsely populated states vote the same way, they could overcome the advantage of the urban centers. The end result is that a Presidential candidate cannot get by with appealing to one kind of voter in one area. He or she has to appeal to a broad variety of voters... a plurality of the voters in each state, considered individually. We are after all, the united STATES. We're not a monolithic entity.

So occasionally we'll elect someone who did not win the popular vote. This isn't a flaw of the system, it's exactly what it is deliberately designed to do. The liberals know that. They just don't care, which is why they don't mention it, or mis-characterize this benefit as a flaw.


I'm going to take a short aside to answer a question I was asked offline last night: Why are the urban centers so liberal?  I surmise that it's a natural consequence of being urban. A person in New York City does not experience the same degree of autonomy as someone in Georgia. In rural areas, property ownership and self-reliance are survival skills. In NYC, the same is practically impossible, at least in the same way. Most people can not buy a home there. They can't really raise their own food, arrange their own transportation. You are exceptionally privileged and fortunate if you can. Instead you're dependent on public transportation. You rent. You're naturally dependent on others, to a far greater degree than those who live in the rest of the country. Socialism is a natural way of thinking in a city. You would expect to find the political Left in urban areas just as you would expect to find fish in water. It is their environment.

In rural areas, even when people choose to live much as they would if they lived in a city, it is their option, not their necessity. So even if they don't exercise their autonomy, they have an expectation that the option always exists. Hence, "red states" are mostly rural.

This isn't news. It's not some radical theory. It's the way it has always been, and the Founding Fathers knew it and built it into the structure of the electoral process.


Now the Daily Kos is serving up the fiction of "fairness" once again. Although they know that the system is deliberately intended to balance representation, they deliberately characterize it as "rigged". And although they know that the popular vote would hand over control of every election to Democrats in perpetuity, that doesn't matter, because it's what they want. And although they know that their proposal isn't actually to abolish the Electoral College, that's what they titled it. Honesty has never actually been their polity (see what I did there?).

Instead of abolishing the Electoral College, they would further break the system in order to maintain and perpetuate the broken aspects of it (party rule) that should be the part we abolish. In arguing deceptively as they do, they take on the role of the disingenuous leading the ignorant down a path to certain destruction. Rather than actually abolish the Electoral College with a Constitutional amendment (which they know they have exactly zero chance of doing under any circumstances whatsoever), they would circumvent the electoral college by having states collude to appoint only faithless electors, who would ignore their own states' popular votes, casting their presidential ballots instead for the candidate who won the national popular vote. In other words, were they to vote faithlessly, these electors would represent everyone except the people who elected them.

THAT is what a great many Democrats think is "fair".

It's a terrible idea, destructive at its core. To buy into it requires you to be largely ignorant of civics, or to be both knowledgeable and choose to ignore the reasons for our system's construction.


Once again I refer you to for a description of ranked-choice voting, which is a moral and scrupulous method by which citizens can ensure that the person most amenable to the most voters is elected within their state; which increases representation by encouraging participation of more diverse points of view, and which is not intended to wrest power by force or deception... rather, it is intended to grant power to those most acceptable to the broadest spectrum of voters.

The Electoral College is good.
The Electoral College plus ranked-choice voting is BETTER.



A friend of mine recently opined as follows in a discussion on my Facebook wall:
If the Electoral College does not reject Trump, then it has no purpose and should be eliminated. All other Western democratic republics do fine without one.
I can't really agree with either part of that. For the first part, one of the purposes of the Electoral College is to distribute the influence of the electorate. It balances centers of population against regional differences. It did exactly that, this time, and served its intended purpose. I did not back their chosen candidate... but then again, I didn't back the Democrat either. The fact that they didn't pick MY candidate doesn't mean they're not doing their job.

For the second part, they do things a bit differently all over. Canada, for instance, doesn't directly elect their Prime Minister any more than we do (and this is usual for parliamentary systems). Rather, the leader of the party winning the most seats simply becomes PM. If we had a parliamentary system, Trump probably wouldn't be the choice, but it would still be a Republican... probably Paul Ryan.

Though people tend to complain about "gridlock", I call it by its proper name: "checks and balances". Our system maintains the possibility that the Congress can have a majority that opposes the President, and that can change in as little as two years. You don't get that in a parliamentary system, and though some might count that as a positive, I don't. Our system deliberately allows us to indicate our choice for President separately from our choices for Congressional representation. Although under the Electoral College system the number of votes per district is exactly the same as it would be under a parliamentary system, we the People get to indicate where we think those votes should be cast.

Governing people SHOULD be hard, because free people should for the most part be governing themselves. It's a distinctly American point of view, and that's not just my opinion... it's woven into the fabric of our political system.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

A Victory for Ranked-Choice Voting

Ranked-choice voting has passed in Maine.

Had ranked-choice voting been in effect generally, across the Union, the results of this election might have been very different, as the second choices of Libertarian, Green, and other third-party voters would have been invoked. Then again, the results might NOT have been different; but they would have been more palatable to voters, as the winner of each state would always be chosen by simple majority and the method itself would have had a strong influence on the campaign.

We have never seen a more divisive campaign. Rather than vote their consciences, for a candidate that most accurately reflects their views, people voted "strategically", to place a winner. This is never... and I repeat, never... the most satisfactory way to select a candidate.

Quick review: We currently have "first past the post" elections in 50 states. You simply say, "I want X," and if X has the more votes than the other candidates, X wins. That doesn't mean that X had the majority of the votes. If there are one or more third parties in a contentious campaign, he likely didn't. The result is that "first past the post" often selects a candidate by plurality that most voters didn't want.

In ranked-choice voting, you rank the candidates in order of preference. You essentially say, "I want X. But if X doesn't win, I can live with Y. If neither of them wins, then Z. But W is my least favorite." Then if nobody has a majority (51%), then the candidate with the least number of votes gives up his votes to his voters' second choices, and so on, until someone has a clear majority. This is explained in detail at

The point is, with ranked choice voting we'd always wind up with a candidate that most Americans said they could at least live with, and that person would always be elected by a clear majority.

Also, people would be more inclined to vote their conscience rather than vote strategically. You'll always get a better choice because people would not be pressured into voting for a giant douche simply because they don't want a shit sandwich in office. Candidates would be forced to focus on issues, because those are what would make or break an election. And that's not just applicable to the general election. You can be absolutely sure that had ranked-choice voting been in effect in the primaries, we would not have been faced with this choice.

Furthermore, it would be the end of the ridiculous claim that voting your conscience is "a vote for the other side". This particular claim is incalculably stupid. The problem is never, never, never that the voter expressed his honest opinion at the polls. That's what voters are supposed to do. The problem is that we have a system that actively discourages voters from doing what they're supposed to do. As Maine proved last night, you can do something about that.

There was a lot of media talk about ignorant voters last night. Some have said they despise third-party choices. Let's be clear. The ignorant voters are the ones who didn't go out there and do what they were supposed to do and vote their conscience. They're ignorant because they don't know how the system is supposed to work, so they opt to perpetuate a broken system. A candidate should never be despised for offering an alternative, whether you agree with it or not. And voters should never be despised for choosing someone who fairly represents them. If you're blaming them, you're the problem. You.

If you're in any way dissatisfied with this election, whether at the nation, state, or local level -- if you feel the wrong candidates won, or the results were artificially tight -- then do something about it. Press your state legislature or back a citizen's initiative to get ranked-choice voting on the ballot in your state. In the long term, this is the most important issue we face. It can prevent this country from tearing itself in half. It is more important than a wall, or free "stuff", or any issue that was hotly debated in this election. It is literally the best thing you can do for your country, and the most effective way of keeping America's "Great Experiment" alive.