Independent Voters and the Crisis of Democracy that is Democratic-Republican Party Government

For Pennsylvania's The Morning Call, Christopher Borick reports on the results of a poll surveying attitudes of the state's independent voters:
According to the commonwealth's secretary of state, there are about half a million residents of the Keystone State who have registered to vote as independents. Because state election laws prohibit independents from voting in party primaries, the percentage of independents in the state is low in comparison with many other states . . .

The president's diminished standing among Pennsylvania independents has not translated to support for the work being done by Republicans in Congress . . . Simply put, the commonwealth's independent voters do like much of what they see happening in the nation's capital . . .

With all the dissatisfaction and conflicted views regarding the two major parties, it is understandable that a solid majority of the state's independent voters maintain the view that a third party is needed to represent the American people. But even as these voters seek something different, there is a hesitancy to throw their support to third party or independent candidates for fear that their votes would lead to their ''least favorite'' candidates winning elections.
In other words, Pennsylvania's independent voters are held hostage by the Democratic-Republican two-party system and the ideology that sustains it. But this particular poll raising an interesting possibility: with the widespread recognition that that the Democratic and Republican Parties represent a set of twin evils, are we not approaching a situation in which the logic of strategic voting simply breaks down? Strategic voters do not cast an affirmative vote for their favorite candidate, but rather choose the 'lesser of two evils' from the duopoly parties in a defensive vote against the major party candidate they dislike more. This is also known as 'favorite betrayal' – a phenomenon that could be neutralized simply by the implementation of approval or range voting.

Consider a simple example of such betrayal. There are four candidates in a given race: a Republican, a Democrat, a Green and a Libertarian. An individual whose views are best represented by the Green Party candidate in a given election will instead vote for the Democrat in a strategic maneuver against the Republican. Similarly, an individual whose views are best represented by the Libertarian Party candidate will instead vote for the Republican in a strategic maneuver against the Democrat. However, when such voters realize that voting Democrat or Republican is not an adequate defense against Democratic-Republican Party government, they often simply do not vote rather than vote for the candidate who best represents their views and interests. The reproduction of the two-party state and duopoly system of government hinges upon a crisis of democracy.

5 comments:

broken ladder said...

are we not approaching a situation in which the logic of strategic voting simply breaks down?

Unfortunately, no. This is the Prisoners' Dilemma. Even if a large bloc of voters would be better off to cast a sincere vote for a candidate outside of the two major party options, each individual voter is still better off to vote for his favorite between those major party candidates.

So what is absolutely necessary is a voting method in which, even if voters pursue a strategy that is optimal at the individual level, the net effect of that is very good. Score Voting and Approval Voting are, as you say, exactly what we need -- because they make it safe for voters to support the candidate(s) they prefer to their favorite front-runners.

It would be interesting to try to "consolidate" the alternative parties of America into a solid bloc, then use one of these better voting systems to choose a nominee for the general election. Then they could focus their donations on one candidate. Even if e.g. a Green got the nomination, Libertarians would probably be better off to support that candidate than to support one of the major candidates, and vice versa.

It's heartening to see these methods increasingly being mentioned by alternative party members, and independents. It used to be "IRV, rah rah rah", but now people are starting to understand that IRV is suicide for minor parties (traditional runoffs are actually much better).

d.eris said...

But what I am wondering though is whether people who decide that they are no longer going to vote strategically just don't vote at all. Can they be persuaded to cast sincere votes?

broken ladder said...

Well, I think it's worth noting that with Score Voting, a sincere ballot is actually not that bad of a strategy. Something like 70% as strong as an ideal strategic vote.

http://scorevoting.net/RVstrat3.html

d.eris said...

On your other point, I do like the idea of "consolidation," especially between the Greens and Libertarians. You've probably seen me push that angle before here.

btw, did you see Friedman pushing ranked choice in his recent NYT column?

broken ladder said...

Yes I saw it. Disappointing on the one hand. But good that voting reform in general is getting such mainstream attention.

 
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