Monday, October 17, 2016

The Lady Or The Tiger?

The Lady or the Tiger?" Most of us know the short story first published in 1882 by Frank Stockton that tells of an unusual punishment imposed by a semi-barbaric king in which the accused must choose between two doors. Behind one door is a maiden and behind the other is a tiger.
hile there is no shortage of memes or impassioned bloggers trying to convince people to vote for outlier parties in the presidential election with appeals to emotion primarily or perhaps fair play or even ideology purity. Is there any path for any of these outlier candidates to win?

It is not a coincidence (see the power structure article) that in the many years since this country’s establishment of democracy, no more than two parties have ruled national elections and the senate. Although 43% of Americans today are classified as political independents and despite the present preference of an emergent third party among voters, the Libertarians and Green Party members struggle to find support nationally and could not get enough signatures or forgot to file the paperwork, or couldn't raise the 5,000 dollar filing fee to even be on the ballot in 12 of the states.
That alone prevents them from even having a path to winning a national election.
But that's not the only thing that stops them from possibly winning.
This, as I say is no coincidence,
it's in the mechanics laid out in our constitution.
The rules strongly encourage a two party system.
I do not like this any more than staunch believers in libertarian-ism
or any of the 150 some political parties in the US do.
It isn't "fair", it isn't "good"...but it is so.

I'm betting most people would find policy positions much closer to what they personally would choose somewhere in that array outside of the 2 major parties.
If one votes for policy only with no regard for viability, (the possibility of actually winning)
there are compelling reasons to do just that,
yet most people want to ACTUALLY effect policy
and to do that you have to win elections.
Currently friends, an outlier party can not win.

The closest an outlier party has ever come to the presidency was Theodore Roosevelt’s 1912 Progressive party campaign where he won 27.5% of the vote!
That only occurred as conservatives wrangled control of Republican party chasing the Roosevelt progressives away. Which led eventually to the Democratic party becoming their home.(as faulted as it may be, the Democratic party has been the sole source of all progressive legislation since 1930. It's been the source of all legislation that dealt with civil rights, women's rights, infrastructure investment, funding education, the arts, social services, national parks, etc. All these matters were supported by the Democrats and opposed by the Republicans).
The reason outlier parties simply can not win is primarily the structure of the nation’s voting system and the simple concept of Duverger’s law.

The electoral college, created to formally elect presidents, requires an absolute majority of at least 270 votes, and this requirement in itself makes third parties nonviable.
Winner-take-all systems which 48 of the 50 states use for the electoral college make it impossible for a third party to emerge with any chance of gaining considerable electoral votes.
It's that simple.
Wouldn't we all LOVE to do away with the electoral college?
I imagine all but the staunchest conservative who has no faith in democracy , but dreamily longs for the good old days of feudal states would agree.

Getting rid of the electoral college requires rewriting the US constitution.
That my friends is a very big hurtle to any change.
It's not impossible, but it requires a 2/3s YEA vote in both houses (votes from people who benefited from the existing system), AND ratification from 2/3s of the states.
I would love to see plurality myself, but I will not vote for someone who simply can not win and hence not effect any policy at all.
In local and state elections, it may well be another story.
And if enough elections are won at that level by an outlier party
a network can begin to be built to supplant one of the larger parties.
(the possibility of converting the existing system at the federal level to a plurality are slim as we have supplanting is the more likely scenario).

The populace realizes this statistical improbability of outside party success, and most third party supporters coalesce around the largest party with whom they identify the closer election day comes.
They form an allegiance with this party although they identify more with the smaller party, in order to defeat the largest party of their ideological opponents. Those who go against this process will be blamed for lost elections by splitting votes and guaranteeing success of the major opposing party. This process happens in countries where plurality is the norm more so than the US actually.
(Look at the un-natural alliance of the Liberals & the Tories in England for instance).
Candidates and supporters of outlier parties deny this, but the data just does not support their claims.
Social Scientists studying the matter as it applies in the U.S. agree the net effect of voting for outlier parties only helps whichever of the major parties is least like the outlier one a person votes for.
Could we become more pluralistic like the UK or Canada?
Not without amendment to the constitution.

Differences in voting processes explain why the United Kingdom normally has three or more parties that have a fair chance at elections while the US does not.
With our winner-take-all system , proportionality is tossed aside no matter how close the plurality of the vote actually is.
In the UK, though it may not be direct proportionality, more than three parties get a certain amount of seats in the House of Commons. In the US, anything other than a Democrat or a Republican is rarely seen, (only two independents in the Senate. None at all in the House of Representatives.) Unfortunately, both systems end up being troubled by some form of gerrymandering, but far more so in the US.

There are further restrictions other than absolute majority in the electoral college that put further severe dampers on any third party efforts. The amount of private money and funding in forms of Super PACs and other organizations leaves other parties little to work with in terms of competition.
Parties who do not have significant funding compared to the standard billion dollar benchmark of the large parties are surpassed immensely in efforts of marketing, a requirement to spread the message and even existence of the party. Private funding also means the GOP and Democratic Party receive an easy pass when it comes to the eligibility requirements of raising at least $5,000 in 20 states while third parties struggle to meet it. (Those are state by state rules...again the constitution gives states this power).

You have to remember that the political parties are nothing more than private clubs. They have no official state function, nor any requirements to behave in a democratic more so than a yacht club or a golf club. Furthermore, the Democrats and Republicans can even be seen working together to disenfranchise smaller parties. One example of this is the Committee of Presidential Debates that determines who is allowed on the highly-watched general election debate stage. Rules and regulations are often imposed to shut out smaller parties instead of allowing the nominees from the third and fourth largest parties to debate, effectively creating a monopoly on these debates.
Again this problem arises because they are no more than private clubs that are not controlled by government any more so than the process of  selecting Grand Poobahs at the Flintstone's Waterbuffalo Lodge.

These are unfortunate truths but they are truths none the less.
America’s two-party system is a result of its electoral structure.
Its electoral structure is not a result of its two-party system.

Possible solutions
Instant Runoff.
The current political process leaves many Americans longing for more choices of candidates and hoping for election reform. One voting process that may prove to be a more inclusive solution is an instant run-off.
Instant run-off elections constitute candidate ranking by the voter.
The voter would list over three candidates starting with the most preferred.
If a voter’s first pick candidate received the least votes, their vote would then be given to their second pick.
With this process, though it is not flawless, no blame could be placed on a voter of a third party for splitting votes and the winner take all effect at least could be overcome.

Public Financing
Removing the effect of private capital on elections would transform the process entirely.
It would create a level playing field where no candidate could garner advantage.
It would also eliminate the institutionalized graft where politicians owe their financiers favors.

Want to reform the process?
That's how you do it.
Want to vote for someone other than a major party candidate and have your vote actually HELP your cause?
That's how you do it,
Until then, it's casting the first your own face.

As to T
he Lady or the Tiger?
Sutton never solved the riddle...he left it up to you.

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