Category Archives: Political Science

Something Missing From Trump’s Inaugural Address

Okay, I’m still up, and I’d like to talk about that inaugural address. It’s all gloom and doom, blamed on elitist politicians and foreigners, leading to Trump’s usual calls for nationalism, trade restrictions, and border controls.

I was planning to tear into the speech line by line, but I’m too far into the rum to keep it together for as long as that would take, so let me offer just one observation. Trump winds up the speech this way:

Together, We Will Make America Strong Again.

We Will Make America Wealthy Again.

We Will Make America Proud Again.

We Will Make America Safe Again.

And, Yes, Together, We Will Make America Great Again.

He said nothing about making America free.

The Highpoint of the Trump Presidency

Eight years ago, when Barack Obama had just taken the Presidential oath of office, I wrote that it was “The Highpoint of the Obama Presidency,” and I see no reason not to say just about the same thing about the Trump Presidency today.

As the most populist presidential candidate in a long time, Trump’s supporters have been projecting their hopes and dreams onto him for almost two years. He’s been Harry Potter’s Mirror of Erised, reflecting back their heart’s desire.

That’s all about to change. Starting today, his ambitions are going to get a lot more specific and concrete than just “Make America Great Again.” Starting today, we’re going to judge him not just on what he says, but on what he does and—even more importantly—on what he accomplishes.

If you have high hopes for Trump, he’s going to disappoint you. He has to. There’s no way he can accomplish all the things he’s said he’s going to do, and as I’ve learned from watching Obama, in many cases, he’s not even going to try. Personally, I think this will be an even bigger problem with Trump, since he has more than the usual politician’s gift for telling people what they want to hear.

If Trump wants to get anything done, he’s going to have to make some tradeoffs, and then his choices will reveal his true nature. His supporters will find out what his presidency is really all about. They’ll find out which of them he really loves, and which get left in the cold. My guess is that he only really loves himself, so he’s only going to help people who can help him.

As a libertarian, I have nothing to look forward to in a Trump administration. The most I can maybe hope for is that his drunkard’s walk through public policy will occasionally lead to some random idea I like. A few libertarians are encouraged by Betsy DeVos’s support for school choice, but she strikes me as the sort of person who just doesn’t like other people running the schools. I doubt she’d be so excited about alternative schooling if the public schools did things her way. I suppose a few of Trump’s economic team have vaguely pro-free-market leanings, but what good they might do is likely to be more than undone by Trump’s mercantilism and crony capitalism. And what good is a stable dollar when the President can jolt the markets with just a tweet?

Trump campaigned like an authoritarian, and I expect him to be one, which is going to make me miserable for the next four years. However, I don’t think most current Trump supporters are going to be feel much better about his presidency. The reality can never live up to the promise — especially with a guy who doesn’t see a need to keep promises — and starting today, the reality of the Trump presidency is unavoidable. Whatever it is, here it comes.

The Mythical California Problem

Now that we’ve had a second recent election in which the candidate who won the popular vote ended up losing the electoral vote, lots of people are talking about getting rid of the Electoral College. My gut feeling is that it would be a good idea, because it seems like an unnecessary complication that violates the one person, one vote principle, but I’m willing to be persuaded. There’s one argument, however, that just doesn’t work.

That’s a little…simplistic. Maybe let’s look at the Federalist Papers Project post by Robert Gehl that he links to

If the election was decided by the popular vote, than we would be swearing in a President Hillary Clinton.

But that’s not how it works. And – as he has said many time – if Donald Trump was campaigning for the popular vote, rather than the electoral vote, he would have campaigned much differently.

Perhaps he would have spent more time in California – a state that voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton.

But he didn’t and Hillary’s margin of victory in that state was 4.3 million votes – or 61.5 percent

And therein lies the rub.

The purpose of the Electoral College is to prevent regional candidates from dominating national elections.

California is now a one-party state. There were zero Republicans running for statewide office and no GOP candidates in nine of California’s congressional districts. At the state level, Investor’s Business Daily reports, six districts had no Republicans for the state senate and 16 districts had no Republicans for the state assembly.

Clinton was going to win California’s 55 electoral votes, so Trump didn’t campaign there.

That argument is a real muddle. For one thing (and you can’t imagine how much it pains me to say this), Donald Trump is right: If the election had been based on the popular vote, he would have changed his campaign strategy. So would Hillary, of course. As a result, you can’t project the results of a popular election system using the popular vote obtained under an electoral voting system. The systems just work differently. Both candidates knew that the results of the election would depend on the electoral college and they shaped their campaigns for that system. Voters knew it too — pundits have been talking about it for a year, and swing state voters couldn’t go ten minutes without someone telling them how important their vote was — and all that would have figured into their choices, including the choice of whether or not to vote.

(This is also the error made by people who say that Hillary’s popular victory gives her a moral right to be President: By definition, she only won the popular election among voters who made their choices knowing that the popular election didn’t matter. It’s not clear she would have won under a straight popular vote after both candidates spent half a year campaigning for that vote.)

This is why Gehl’s argument is incoherent: On the one hand, he argues that a popular election would be unfair because it gives Californians too much power, and on the other hand he argues that Trump could have won a popular election. I don’t think you can have it both ways.

Let me try yet another version of the California argument, this time from one of my favorite foils, Jack Marshall:

The Electoral College was designed to prevent big states in a federal system from dictating to the other states, which might not share their culture or sensitivities. Imagine a big, wacko state like California dominating our politics. In fact, that’s exactly what would happen without the Electoral College. In the election just completed, Clinton won the Golden Bankrupt Illegal Immigrant-Enabling State by almost 4 million votes, while Trump got more votes than  Clinton in the other 49 states and the District of Columbia.  That’s why we have the Electoral College, and a more brilliant device the Founders never devised.

Reducing the power of large states may very well have been the intent of the designers of the Electoral College, but it’s a morally dubious goal. The Constitution was negotiated by representatives from the states, and under the Articles of Confederation, each state counted equally. Delegates from the larger states felt this was unfair, since they represented the interests of more people. Because of this conflict, the U.S. Constitution is a compromise between proportional representation and representation by state. This shows up in the different methods of choosing members of the House and Senate, and in the related method for allocating electoral voters.

However, as a matter of equity and fairness, I don’t see how you can claim that all people are equal when using non-proportional representation. Anything other than exactly one person, one vote gives some citizens unfair advantages over others. Wyoming has three electors, roughly one for every 200,000 residents, whereas California has 55 electors, which works out to about one for every 700,000 residents. All other things being equal, if California voters get one vote for president, then Wyoming voters are each getting about 3.5 votes. You can argue that this system was a necessary compromise at the time, but there’s no way it’s a fair arrangement today.

Furthermore, the idea that California would dominate our politics under a popular vote system is nonsense because under a popular vote system, there are no states. Imagine you had a giant map of the entire United States showing every voter colored red or blue to indicate which presidential candidate they voted for. It would be a vast mix of shades of purple, with deep blue cities and vast open patches of red, all made up of 125 million tiny colored specks, one for each voter. It would look a bit like this:

 countymappurple2012

(That actually shows county results from 2012, tinted proportionately, but I think it’s close enough to demonstrate the idea.)

Now imagine drawing a box on that map large enough to contain 13 million voters, a little more than 10% of the electorate. If you arbitrarily draw the box so that it contains a lot of red, you might be able to get a 2:1 ratio of Republicans to Democrats, so that Republicans outnumber Democrats by 4 million votes. On the other hand, if you happened to draw a box that contains a lot of blue, you might get the opposite result: 4 million more Democrats in the box than Republicans. It’s the same map, and the same popular vote totals either way.

When folks like Gehl and Marshall argue that Hillary only won the popular vote because of California, all they’re doing is drawing a box, this time following the California border. The fact that they can draw such a box doesn’t prove that the people in the box “dominate” the election. It’s just an arbitrary box.

You might object that this isn’t an arbitrary box, because it’s the State of California. Yes it is, and under our current electoral voting system, the voters within its boundaries control a block of 55 electoral votes, about 20% of the 270 votes needed to win, and they all go to whoever wins the popular vote within the state, even if they only win by a little. That makes California pretty important to control.

But if we switch to a nationwide popular election, no one has control of California, because state boundaries don’t matter any more. The voting totals reported on election night might be organized by state for administrative purposes, with fancy computerized maps and everything, but all that really matters in a popular election is the total vote. The State of California becomes just an arbitrary collection of 13 million individual voters based on where they happen to live. It’s no more significant than grouping them by the first letter of their last name, and it’s no more sensible to talk about California domination of the popular vote than to argue about whether people whose names start with “S” are dominating the election.

California is a vast and diverse state, with cities, small towns, and farmland. It’s a home for a gigantic tech sector, it’s a center for international trade, and it’s a major exporter of agricultural products and entertainment. It has given us Jerry Brown and Ronald Reagan, and it’s a mistake to think of its residents as a uniform collection of bankrupt illegal immigrant-enabling leftists, as some would have it.

Basically, saying Hillary only won because of California is a silly game. You could just as easily say that Trump only won because of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which have a combined population of about ten million fewer people than California. Heck, if you just nudged the borders of those three states enough to push about 100,000 Republican voters into neighboring states, Hillary would have won the electoral vote.

To put it yet another way, the population of California is greater than that of Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, and West Virginia combined. In a system where everybody counts equally, Californians are a large fraction of everybody — about 1/8 of the U.S. population —  so why shouldn’t they have a proportionately large effect on the election?

I’m not saying there aren’t any good reasons for the Electoral College, but the California effect isn’t one of them. People who complain about the effect California would have in a popular election are just complaining that large numbers of people disagree with them, and in arguing for the Electoral College on that basis, they are arguing for partial disenfranchisement of those people.

Some Observations on Halderman’s Concerns About Election Hacking

Word has been going around that some computer scientists have urged Clinton to challenge the election results because of possible hacking-related voter fraud in key states:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign is being urged by a number of top computer scientists to call for a recount of vote totals in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, according to a source with knowledge of the request.

[…]

The scientists, among them J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, told the Clinton campaign they believe there is a questionable trend of Clinton performing worse in counties that relied on electronic voting machines compared to paper ballots and optical scanners, according to the source.

The group informed [the Clinton campaign] that Clinton received 7% fewer votes in counties that relied on electronic voting machines, which the group said could have been hacked.

Their group told Podesta and Elias that while they had not found any evidence of hacking, the pattern needs to be looked at by an independent review.

I have a few observations:

First, as of the time I’m writing this, nobody has found actual smoking gun proof that any election machines were hacked, let alone that a significant number were.

Second, Halderman is a legitimate computer scientist and an expert on computer security. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s not also some kind of political hack, but in that absence of evidence of dishonesty, we should probably make a rebuttable presumption that he knows what he’s talking about.

Third, Halderman’s statistical observation, as described here, is pretty weak. It’s based on a correlation showing that Clinton received fewer votes (compared to polls) in counties that used electronic voting machines. Like all correlations, whether it has found something meaningful depends on whether co-factors have been eliminated.

In this case, the problem is that use of electronic voting machines was not randomly assigned to counties. This makes it likely that both the decision to use electronic voting machines and the decision to vote for Trump are somehow related to a third factor. For example, Nate Silver has argued that the effect goes away when you control for race and education. This suggests that (I’m just guessing) perhaps affluent well-educated white people are more likely to lie and say they didn’t vote for Trump, and affluent counties are more likely to spring for electronic voting machines. You’d want to rule out things like that before declaring that the election had been fixed.

Fourth, the preceding does not mean that Halderman is (perhaps dishonestly) leaping to conclusions. Rather, this is how scientific investigations work. You begin by doing a quick and inexpensive investigation to see if it looks there might be something interesting going on. In this case, if they’d found no correlation whatsoever between electronic voting and a deviation from the polling data, they could have pretty much ruled out hacking and moved on to investigating something else. However, because the quick statistical analysis couldn’t rule out some kind of problem, the next step is to investigate further, perhaps by using more advanced statistics, or by examining the paper trail from the vote.

Fifth, Professor Halderman says pretty much the same thing in his post on the subject. He makes it quite clear that his best guess is that the election has not been tampered with. However, given the well-known security vulnerabilities in many of our electronic voting systems — Halderman’s team has hacked real voting machines in the lab — he thinks it would be nice to examine the paper trail, just to make sure. But random college professors have no legal standing to get this done. The legal request has to come from one of the candidates, and as a practical matter, only the losing candidate has an interest in a recount. That is pretty much all that Halderman is asking for: That someone in a position to do so asks to take a look at the evidence.

It’s worth noting that computer scientists as a group are unusually skeptical about the security of electronic voting machines. (I have two degrees in computer science, and I’m skeptical.) Before the first electronic voting machines appeared, computer scientists had spent decades researching how to build secure voting systems, yet it’s clear that few real-world electronic voting machines are based on that research. I’ve also heard that voting machines are not designed and operated in keeping with modern security practices. For all those reasons, a lot of computer scientists think it’s a good idea to stick to paper ballots.

Voting Gary Johnson…but Never Trump

I’ve never been in love with the presidential candidate from either major party, not in any election. That’s not, as some people assume, because I can’t tell the difference between them. It’s because I don’t care about the difference between them. On many of the issues that matter most to me, there’s very little difference between Republicans and Democrats. Even in this election, the policies of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have a lot in common from a my point of view. A few examples:

  • Freedom of speech — From Trumps’ expansion of libel laws to Clinton’s attack on rap music and video games to their shared interest in shutting down parts of the internet, they both suck.
  • The War on Drugs — Other than a small amount of movement on marijuana, neither one shows any interest in dialing back the war on drugs.
  • Civil forfeiture abuse — Our law enforcement agencies have been ripping people off for decades in the guise of fighting crime, and it’s still not a major election issue.
  • Criminal justice reform — Clinton has said a few nice things, but the Clintons have historically been part of the problem, and there’s no reason to believe Hillary will change her ways. Trump is an authoritarian who’d love to run a police state.
  • Sex worker rights — This is a new issue for me, but nobody in either party cares about it.

If this were a normal election, the candidates’ agreement on my issues would leave me indifferent to which one wins, so I’d cast my vote without hesitation for the libertarian candidate — Gary Johnson this year — because that might at least send a message.

That possibility is making democrats a bit nuts this year, and they’ve been warning Johnson voters that they’ll be responsible if Trump wins because voting for Johnson could pull votes away from Hillary. I responded with an angry rant taking Democrats to task for making self-righteous demands without admitting their own enormous culpability. It attracted thousands of new visitors, and I got a bunch of comments. (It turns out that anger and swearing will get you pretty far on the internet. Who knew?)

The thing is, despite my rant at Democrats’ insulting demands, I do share their belief that Donald Trump is a uniquely bad candidate. After all, If I thought Trump and Hillary were equally bad, I wouldn’t be so angry about them trying to pin Trump on us libertarians.

It’s not that I love Hillary Clinton. But she’s a bad politician in a normal sort of way. Hillary is a standard-issue technocrat who sees a government solution for everything. College too expensive? Start a program. Terrorists killing people? Start a war. That’s a pretty awful way to govern, but it’s also a pretty common way to govern, and we know how to survive it.

As for the allegations of corruption, she’s a standard-issue influence peddler, trading her attention and influence in exchange for help achieving her political goals. I guess I’m not outraged by that because I grew up in Chicago, where everyone knows that’s just how politics works. It’s a big problem, but it’s also a very familiar problem.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, is whole different kind of threat. He’s a terrible person who’d make a terrible President. He’s a cruel narcissistic sociopath who seeks the approval of racists and instinctively tries to exert personal control over everything. He’s the kind of populist authoritarian who looms large in the history books, often in chapters with titles like “Factors Leading to War” or “How the Republic Fell.”

On the issues, although I find him and Clinton equally bad on the items I listed above, he has nevertheless raised an entirely new issue where the difference is stark. Well, it’s not really a new issue, but it’s one which I hadn’t thought of as an important factor in elections because all of the recent candidates have been pretty good about it. I’m talking about xenophobic bigotry. Trump himself seems to be an anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican, anti-Asian, and anti-immigrant bigot, and he tolerates anti-black bigotry among his supporters.

This is something we haven’t seen in a while, and it creates a bit of a dilemma for those of us who have been planning to vote for Gary Johnson to send a message, as Jennifer Abel explains:

[…] remembering that “the plural of ‘anecdote’ is not ‘data’” – here’s an interesting anecdote I’ve noticed this presidential election: of the many people who say “Trump and Clinton are equally bad, and thus the only moral voting options this year are to either vote third party or not vote at all,” they’re all white and overwhelmingly male — i.e., NOT members of any ethnic, racial, religious or gender group whom a President Trump would seek to legally discriminate against.

[…] there’s one way HRC is hands-down better than Trump: she does NOT want to, for example, deport all Muslims from the country, she has NOT said that American-born citizens of Mexican ancestry are too untrustworthy to be federal judges, and so forth.

Whatever a Trump Presidency might mean, middle aged white guys like me will probably not bear the brunt of it. It’s not that I’m guaranteed to be safe — people like Trump tend to cut a wide swath of destruction — but I probably won’t be a target.

The same cannot be said for everybody. Immigrants, Mexicans, and Muslims seem like they’ll be in for a particularly hard time. I know Muslims who are genuinely concerned for their families, and I can’t honestly tell them everything will be okay.

So if I send a message by voting for Gary Johnson and that throws the race to Trump, it will be people other than me who suffer the burden. I think it’s important to let politicians know there are voters who value libertarian ideas, but it’s not so important that I’m willing to sacrifice the welfare of minorities, immigrants, and women to send the message.

That this conflict exists is not the fault of libertarians. We didn’t create this mess, and Democrats are being total dicks by blaming us for it. But… We are, nevertheless, in this mess. It’s our responsibility to respond to it in the best way we can, and our moral calculus must be based on the reality we face, not the world as we’d like it to be. We have to play the cards we’re dealt. And for some of us Gary Johnson supporters, that might just mean voting for Hillary Clinton to block Trump.

Here in Illinois, I have it easy, because Clinton is all but certain to win the state’s 20 electoral votes. Of the 53 polls that FiveThirtyEight believes to be statistically predictive in this state, Clinton has won every single one, including the 37 polls that included Gary Johnson. So voting for Gary Johnson can’t help Trump in Illinois because nothing can help Trump in Illinois.

(I was planning to point out that libertarians in small states like Vermont have it even easier because not only does Clinton have a double-digit lead in every poll, but the state is also so small that even if it flipped to Trump it would be unlikely to change the outcome of the election. However, Clinton’s lead has recently narrowed to the point that losing Vermont could conceivably make a big difference.)

Libertarians in Tennessee also have it easy, for the opposite reason: Trump has won all 39 significant polls there, and there’s very little chance he won’t carry the state. Nothing can stop Trump in Tennessee, so Johnson supporters there might as well send a strategic message by voting their conscience.

People like Jennifer, however, don’t have that luxury. She lives in Georgia, where the candidates are much more closely matched. FiveThirtyEight still projects Trump as the most likely winner there, but it’s not a sure thing. In particular, Trump’s lead in the polls is often less than the size of the Johnson vote, which means that if all the Johnson voters switched to Hillary, they could probably block Trump from getting Georgia’s 16 electoral votes. That’s why Jennifer felt she had to bite the bullet and vote for Hillary in order to block Trump.

To be honest, even in the battleground state of Georgia, there are so many people voting that it’s very unlikely that Jennifer’s single vote will be the deciding vote in the race. That may sound like I’m arguing she might as well have voted Gary Johnson, but it’s actually an argument that she might as well have saved herself the trouble and not voted at all.

But if you, like Jennifer, are going to go through the trouble of voting, you might as well pretend it matters and do it the right way. Check the polls before going to the voting booth.

Are You On the Inside?

I think part of the appeal of Donald Trump to his supporters is that he appears to be a guy who’s willing and able to take on the establishment. If you don’t like the way the country has been going, Trump will steer it back on track. If the economic recovery you keep hearing about hasn’t done a thing for you, Trump will get you what you deserve. If you feel the nation is in the hands of people who don’t give a damn about you, Trump will take it back. If you feel like your lot in life sucks, Trump will make America great again.

He’s kind of a superhero-con-man who can manipulate the system and make it work for regular people — think Michael Westen with a trust fund. He sees what he wants and takes it. He plays by his own rules, and he wins. He gets out of debt by declaring bankruptcy, and he upgrades his wife to a newer model whenever he gets tired of the old one. And now he’s going to Washington to take on the crooked politicians who’ve been running this country for decades, and he’ll beat them at their own game, because he’s a master player at the game.

At least, that’s how he sells himself. But I think a lot of Trump supporters need to ask themselves a very important question: Are you sure you’re on the inside of the con?

Trump says he’ll game the system in your favor, but how do you know you’re not just another part of the system that he’s gaming for his own benefit? After all, which seems more likely? That a billionaire who’s never held public office, never been involved in organizations that serve the public interest, never shown the slightest interest in public policy, and never championed a cause other than himself would all of a sudden develop an overwhelming urge to help ordinary Americans? Or that everything Donald Trump says and does is for the glory and greater good of Donald Trump?

Unless you are Donald Trump, or maybe a close member of his family, he doesn’t really give a damn about you, and he’s going to abandon you as soon as he no longer needs you. You’ll end up with nothing that you wanted.

Democrats Need to Apologize or STFU

To be a libertarian voter — let alone a Libertarian voter — these days is to read endless editorials by Clinton supporters explaining that we shouldn’t vote for Gary Johnson because that could tip the election to Donald Trump. It gets old fast.

Today’s example come from the anonymous cowards at the Washington Post editorial board in a piece entitled “Do Gary Johnson supporters really want to help Trump win?” (I suppose there’s someplace on the WaPo site that lists board members, so they aren’t completely anonymous, but this is the same editorial board that called for Edward Snowden to be prosecuted even after he gave them a story that lead to a Pulitzer prize so fuck ’em.)

After rehashing Johnson’s recent interview flubs, the board asks,

Do ideological libertarians really want this man to represent their movement?

Well you bastards in the media don’t pay attention to any of the other libertarians, or to libertarian ideas and values in general, so I guess he’ll have to do.

Does his loopy campaign bring credibility to their political philosophy?

Yes, if you actually listen to what the man says about libertarian ideas, rather than just gaffes seized on by the media. He brings a lot more credibility to libertarian political philosophy than Clinton’s political philosophy brings to Clinton’s political philosophy.

I could continue picking over the details of some of their criticisms of Johnson, but let’s skip to the main conclusion:

Does Mr. Johnson’s running mate, former Massachusetts governor William Weld…really want to help Donald Trump win…?…

How could Mr. Weld, who acknowledged the danger Mr. Trump poses in an interview with us in July, live with his complicity in electing the Republican nominee?

How, indeed, could anyone?

Here’s a quick piece of advice to Democrats trying to convince libertarian voters not to vote for Johnson because that could throw the election to Trump:

Start your argument with a fucking apology.

Our candidate is getting significant national attention for the first time in years, and you’re asking us to walk away from him. You are asking us for a favor. The least you could do is apologize for all the shit you’ve done that got us here in the first place.

In case you haven’t noticed, the Libertarian party isn’t exactly a major national political force. You pretend to care about Johnson’s representation of libertarian ideals, but Democrats have combined forces with the Republicans to keep from having those ideals in the debates by setting ridiculously high polling standards, even though our candidate will be on the ballot in every state. If you now want our help, you need to apologize for that.

Speaking of ballots, every single election — every time — the Libertarian party struggles to get our candidate on the ballot. That’s because you Democrats have conspired with Republicans to set high ballot access barriers against third party candidates. You owe us an apology for that too.

Your candidate gets transition briefings from the government and flies around the country in a chartered jet with her entourage while ours gets no briefings and takes commercial flights, and you have the gall to criticize our candidate for not finding the time to prepare for every question. You probably owe us an apology for that as well.

Election after election, and in between elections, both major parties ignore our issues. You both support the war on drugs, you both support harsh immigration restrictions, you both involve us in wars all over the world, you both support using taxpayer money to reward favored constituencies, and you both undermine our free markets with protectionism, over-regulation, and crony capitalism. Apologize for that. Not just to us, but to every single person in the United States.

Maybe that’s asking too much, so let me tell you the least you could apologize for: If you’re a Democrat who wants Johnson supporters to switch to Clinton to avoid a Trump victory, you need to apologize for your own abject, craven stupidity. Libertarians, both “big-L” and small, are a tiny portion of the population. We didn’t cause this. Republicans let a narcissistic psychopath take over their party, and you Democrats responded by nominating one of the least popular candidates in living memory.

That’s not our fault. We didn’t make you do that. You did that to yourselves. This shit show of an election is a problem of your own making. And now you’re trying to tell us it’s our fault?

Fuck you.

If you want us to abandon our ideals and goals and our candidate to help you fix this problem that you created, you should start your request with a sincere apology. Or shut the fuck up.

Paul Krugman Doesn’t Get the Message

I hate to say bad things about Paul Krugman, because it was his books back in the 1990s that got me interested in economics, but he sure can be a condescending ass sometimes, as illustrated by his recent opinion piece about whether it makes sense for Democrats who are unhappy with Clinton to vote for Johnson:

Does it make sense to vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president? Sure, as long as you believe two things. First, you have to believe that it makes no difference at all whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump moves into the White House — because one of them will.

Krugman is leaving out an important precondition: You have to believe that your vote can sway the election. Literally speaking, that’s almost never the case. In order for your vote to make an actual difference in the outcome, you’d not only have to be the deciding vote in your state, but also your state flipping would have to flip the electoral college. The chances of both of those things happening are so unlikely that you shouldn’t waste any time thinking about it.

(Your vote has other effects, which I’ll get to later.)

Second, you have to believe that America will be better off in the long run if we eliminate environmental regulation, abolish the income tax, do away with public schools, and dismantle Social Security and Medicare — which is what the Libertarian platform calls for.

First of all, this is disingenuous. The Libertarian party platform has historically been written as an absolutist statement of doctrinaire libertarian theory, unlike, say, the Democratic party platform, which is a lengthy list of promises to every identifiable interest group. In either case, you’re not electing a party, you’re electing a person, and their personal positions on the issues are far more important than their respective party platforms.

Gary Johnson is a moderate libertarian. He isn’t going to try to do everything in the Libertarian platform, if for no other reason than that he knows Congress will fight him. For example, although Johnson does want to eliminate the income tax, he wants to replace it with a consumption tax, which is a variation on European-style VAT taxes. A vote for Johnson isn’t a vote for the Libertarian party platform.

Second, Krugman is cherry-picking the items from the libertarian platform that he thinks his readers will hate the most. You’ll notice he didn’t mention that the Libertarian platform is very pro-choice, pro-free-speech, and pro-trade.

Third, like most people who criticize Libertarians for some of their extreme positions, Krugman is ignoring the crazy positions of the major party candidates — such as Hillary Clinton’s disturbing policies on things like trade, labor, free speech, immigration, industrial policy, crime, and war — probably because he is used to them and considers them unremarkable.

To elaborate on one glaring example, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both support the War on Drugs, which I consider to be a monstrous enterprise that has wrecked hundreds of thousands of lives and has provided the justification for an encroaching police state that is eroding our Constitutional protections and robbing Americans of their privacy and their freedom. I think Trump is an unusually bad candidate, but in a normal election year, with Democrats and Republicans both supporting the awful War on Drugs, I really don’t much care which of them wins. They both suck.

Now, maybe you don’t care. Maybe you consider center-left policies just as bad as hard-right policies. And maybe you have somehow managed to reconcile that disdain with tolerance for libertarian free-market mania. If so, by all means vote for Mr. Johnson.

But don’t vote for a minor-party candidate to make a statement. Nobody cares.

Really? Because Krugman sure seems to care, at least enough to write this piece. In fact, there’s been a surge of Johnson-bashing from the left over the past few weeks. It sounds to me like the Democratic machine is getting at least some of the message.

The reason your vote matters is because if the candidates know you are part of a group that has an interest in certain issues, they just might adjust their positions on those issues to get your vote. (Clinton did that quite blatantly to attract Bernie Sanders supporters.) And even if Clinton doesn’t lean libertarian for this election, the Johnson voters should attract candidates in future elections who want to get their votes.

This is a variation on the “a vote for Johnson is a vote for Trump” trope. (Republicans have a trope that is exactly the same except it ends in “Clinton.”) By voting for Johnson instead of Clinton, Krugman is saying, Johnson voters are handing a victory to a candidate they’ll like even less than Clinton.

You know what, Krugman? Fuck that shit. If you want people to vote for your candidate, you should have picked a better candidate. But you chose Clinton, and now you’re trying to blame someone else for the problem you caused. Gary Johnson wouldn’t be polling a fifth of what he’s polling now if your candidate wasn’t a warmongering technocrat and the other side wasn’t running a raging narcissistic sociopath. Gary Johnson, and people voting for Gary Johnson, are not the problem here. The problem is that your candidate sucks, and you can’t blame that on the Libertarian party platform.

Nevertheless, for those of my readers who prefer Johnson to Clinton, but who would hate to inadvertently hand Trump the presidency, there’s a simple solution: Plan to vote for Johnson, and if you get called in a poll, be sure to tell them you’re voting for Johnson.

Then, just before election day, check the poll results for your state to see how Clinton, Trump, and Johnson are doing. If Clinton is losing to Trump, and the Johnson vote is large enough that Clinton would win if she got his votes, then switch your vote to Clinton at the last minute to defeat Trump.

On the other hand, if Clinton is winning, or if Trump is winning by so much that the Johnson vote won’t make a difference, then you might as well go ahead and vote for Gary Johnson. You won’t do any harm, you’ll feel better about your vote, and you’ll send a message to future politicians that you’re out there and that they can win your vote by adopting positions that appeal to your interests.

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