How to Organize the Nonvoting Majority?

From Rich Tafel at the Huffington Post:
2012 is emerging as another anti-incumbent election year. However, swinging back and forth between two parties won't bring the change voters seek.  Instead, it's time for the frustrated American electorate to dump our two-party system. . . . multi-party democracies are the norm, not the exception, around the world.  In fact, there are only five two-party democracies in the entire world.

Jamaica is one, the only nation to declare financial default in 2010. Another is Japan, which has the highest debt to GDP ratio in the world, standing at well over 200 percent. Are you seeing the pattern of fiscal trouble and two-party systems?

It is a great irony that a country preaching freedom of choice offers only two real choices for our political participation.  If Americans were told to choose between two cars, shirts, colors or family sizes, we'd rise up in revolt against such Soviet dictates. Tell us we have only two parties, however, and we accept it as though any alternative is unimaginable.

The two parties don't reflect the views of our citizens. . . . The problem is that our political class, funded by the same donors, controls the system that works for them. Though the two parties bicker and attack each other, they join forces in protecting their two-party monopoly.
Advocates of independent and third party alternatives to the two-party charade often argue against the myriad ways in which the Democrats and Republicans have rigged our political system to consolidate power in the hands of the two-party machine at all levels of government.  Yet, despite the many discriminatory hurdles that have been erected against them, third party and independent candidates for office can often be found on ballots across the country every election season.  If so many Americans are so dissatisfied with Republican-Democrat party government, why do they continue to vote for Democrats and Republicans?  Of course, the majority of Americans don't, opting not to cast a ballot than cast it for a representative of the major parties.  However, so long as they refuse to actively support alternatives, we will all continue to be held hostage by the dwindling minority of Americans who, inexplicably, still support the Republican and Democratic parties.

If the majority of Americans don't vote, that likely means we all know a lot of non-voters.  Maybe it is time to take them to task. 


DLW said...

We also gotta take into account the politics of electoral reform, which involves finding a middle way between our ideals and the reality of the status quo.

Methinks more competitive "more local" elections wd serve to incentivize LTPs to recruit non-voters to vote for their candidates in "more local" elections and to vote strategically with them in "less local" elections...

I need to regiser at I'm f-book friends with Nathan Daschle.

Solomon Kleinsmith said...

Have to have people on the ballot worth voting for. I can usually find something down ticket to get me to hit the polls on voting day, but I look at lot farther down the ticket than most people do, and often don't vote for any candidates at all.

Taking people to task for not voting is totally bass ackwards. Not going to have any success harping on people for not voting when the people on the ballot are terrible.

Solomon Kleinsmith
Rise of the Center

d.eris said...

I think it can be argued that almost any third party or independent candidate who is on the ballot is worth voting for, and may even whether you happen to agree with their policy prescriptions etc. or not.

See this interesting article on how even random selection of independent legislators can improve the system.

DLW said...

It does not follow.

A careful reading of the article you cite does not justify always voting against the two major parties, regardless of context, including the use of FPTP.

1. It presumes the existence of two major parties or two major party coalitions.

2. It treats two major parties and two party coalitions as functionally the same, so long as there is intra-party/coalition discipline, which tends to be laxer in often unstable party coalitions.

3. The key thing is to change the rules so that there can be some representation that is independent of the two major coalitions to act like lubricants for deal-making. While the article mentions the use of randomization, this could easily be achieved with the partial use of 3 seat LR Hare, since it lowers the barrier to LTPs winning considerably. And LTPs, with less party infrastructure and hierarchy, wd not need the $peech that is the life-blood of major/minor parties.

D.Eris, which is more important, attacking the two major parties, as seems to be the common thread here, or pushing for structural reforms that'd trim/transform the two major parties? In my opinion, It's a fact that too much of the former detracts from the latter, since us outsiders are going to need insider-support to bring about the latter!


d.eris said...

"Which is more important?"

imho, I think it is more important to support and try to advance alternatives to the major parties than to try to transform them. I've addressed that a fair amount in discussions of infiltration strategy. But I also don't think this is really an either/or situation. There is no reason why one can't support alternatives to the two-party charade, and reforms to the system and the parties themselves. These things would seem to go hand in hand, no?

DLW said...

D. Eris: imho, I think it is more important to support and try to advance alternatives to the major parties than to try to transform them. I've addressed that a fair amount in discussions of infiltration strategy.

But what if the issue isn't with those who are in power via the two major parties but rather the system that gives them too much powers and not enough checks and balances?

But I also don't think this is really an either/or situation. There is no reason why one can't support alternatives to the two-party charade, and reforms to the system and the parties themselves. These things would seem to go hand in hand, no?

It's a matter of experience.
Is it a charade, really, or rather two opposing teams competing for the same rent$, with somewhat different priorities for charitable contributions to "worthy causes"?

We've had two major parties for a long time in the US. We've also had a lot of governmental successes here. Ergo, it's not the existence of two major parties that is the reason for our substandard political outcomes in recent decades. It's a matter of experience, but it takes a broader historical perspective to get at what's been going on...

Also, We gotta recognize that outsiders like us don't got much power and so while the two party system is an easy target, it's not the path of least resistance, either. If power tends to corrupt, we can't presume that the effect from changing who is in power will compound positively. I'd bet the farm that pushing hard for the use of American forms of PR in "more local" elections would compound for a very long time...

TiradeFaction said...

I'm more on D.eris page on voting, I think people not voting is a tendency of our public that should be more generally criticized, since it's generally not helpful. I sympathize with the idea that one shouldn't vote given the choices are terrible, but that's generally through the lens of "viable" choices offered by the mainstream media. In most jurisdictions, there's usually some alternative candidate running that probably jives with X constituency views, at least moreso than the "viable" candidates. More people voting for those candidates does have the potential to send a lot of potential positive feedbacks into the system, and can help build up opposition to the status quo in X district. Also there's just a general benefit for more demographs voting in elections, take for example, senior citizens as opposed to low income people. Senior citizens vote in rows, and because so, are an un ignorable constituency to both major parties, and their demands usually given a pretty healthy level of consideration. Low income people on the other hand in doves, do not vote, and therefore are either ignored or made an easy target in our political discussions.

I think D.eris is also backing up his call for more awareness on our choices, by the act of his newspaper and website(s) and helpfully disseminating information on this topic. It's certainly a start...

DLW said...

I think from a purely rationale perspective that if you have two equally bad feasible choices that the right strategy would be to vote strategically for a better election rule or to randomize your vote. In the latter case, you at least create more uncertainty about the outcome and force the intere$t$ to hedge more, thereby getting a lower return.

But if we want more people to vote, we need to incentivize folks to get them to turn out to vote. This requires giving third parties a better chance of winning some seats, or electoral reform.


d.eris said...

My hunch or suspicion is that a lot of people don't vote because they don't like the Democrats or the Republicans in general. But if that is the case, and they don't want to cast their ballots for either of two bad choices, I think it is a complete cop out to just throw up your hands, say to hell with them, and disengage completely from the process. One thing I'm trying to bring attention to is that there are other, superior, choices in many elections.

DLW said...

What folks are missing most here is that there is a deeper reason why the Dems and Pubs suck so much..., and this wasn't the case in the past.
Their rivalry was handicapped in the economically powerful state of IL for a long time, which freed up other states in their economic sphere of influence to experiment politically in ways that threatened the duopoly enuf to force them to adopt the ideas... And, thus, the duopoly became more dynamic and neither really thought they could dominate the other(Yes, there was the Democratic party machine, but it was embattled.) and so they were able to work together a lot better than currently is the case.

As such, it's fundamentally abou the rules of the game, not who's on top! If you don't change the rules then experience suggests that symbolic protests by voting for third parties in "less local" elections will fail to challenge the status quo effectively.


TiradeFaction said...

Yeah, but DLW, who says getting third parties in office couldn't result in "changing the rules"? The only real way to directly vote for rule change is initiatives and referendums, a tactic I support for many different reforms (including electoral reform). It's only available in some states, but if you're in one, I'd go that route.

As D.eris puts it, there's already superior choices on the ballot, the trick is to get people to become more aware of them. Given the MSM won't do it, we have to do it ourselves. And D.eris is doing a fine job on that front.

DLW said...

I agree that he's doing a good job promoting third party awareness, which can lead to electoral reforms.

But we need more theory. Third party acivists don't agree on much, but they should be able to agree that CFR is hard too enforce effectively without 3rd party candidates in power, and that to get that we need more (quasi)PR elections. They also should be able to agree on the necessity of playing political jujitsu so long as third party candidates can win more often. The system is rigged to keep the two major parties in power even without much public support. But we don't need to get tweedle dee and tweedle dum out of power to make crucial reforms... and that is what third party activists seem not to get.

DLW said...

I just wanted to add that I agree that getting 3rd party folks into office can result in rule changes.

My view is that long-term, it's the rule changes that potentially can do a lot of good, more so than what is accomplished o.w. during a third party candidate's time in office. But successful upstarts tend to downplay the import of rule changes, once they are in power and benefit from how the status quo protects unduly those in power.

We need to recognize this perverse tendency and unite more around key rule changes than purportedly universal and often ridiculously ambitious policy platforms.