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« Energy and Politics | Main | Monkey Shines in Arizona »

October 13, 2004

My Stance, and I'm Sticking With It

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

What to do on election day? Good lord, what a pickle.

Do I vote for Kerry as a way of punishing the Republicans for their arrogance and idiocies? What does it take for them to understand that they should be the party of modest government? But a protest vote against Bush would almost certainly be interpreted as a vote for Kerry, and I'd hate to give anyone the impression I'm sanctioning that zero. God only knows what he stands for anyway ...

But maybe a Kerry presidency wouldn't be the worst thing imaginable. The combo of Democratic president and Republican legislature often creates gridlock, and gridlock seems to be the only way that brakes get applied to runaway government these days. Still, that's a risky strategy. What if differences get ironed out and laws get passed? Wouldn't want that ...

I could stay at home on election day. But what are the chances that the political class will understand such a thoroughly thought-out act as a protest against the lousy choice they've coughed up? In their usual self-important way, they'd just think I was being "apathetic." What does it take to make the political class understand that they're doing a lousy job of serving the rest of us? And how can "sorry, no thanks, do better" be expressed in the American voting booth as it's currently constituted? ...

I have to admit that what I'm really hoping to see is the nonvoting percentage of the electorate grow so huge that the political class is forced to ask themselves if maybe, just maybe, they're doing something wrong. If only dramatically tumbling CD sales can shake up the music business, perhaps only nose-diving voter-participation figures can wake up our political class. Too bad we aren't offered a "none of the above" option in the voting booth -- a reform I'd genuinely like to see enacted. So I guess I'm rooting for whoever steps to the fore and encourages us to express our political preference by refusing-to-vote ...

But really, I've got no idea what I'm going to do on election day. I have made progress of a minor sort, though; I've finally come up with an answer to the inescapable "who are you voting for" question that I can live with. Here it is: "No matter who wins, I'm going to be disappointed."

Best,

Michael

UPDATE: Thanks to Tatyana, who links to this fun posting and commentsfest at Samizdata. OuterLife posts a proposal I can certainly get onboard with, as well as some more interesting links.

posted by Michael at October 13, 2004




Comments

I've had my head under the covers for this election cycle, I've been so unhappy with Kerry and Bush. Does anybody have a good 3rd party candidate to vote for?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on October 13, 2004 11:10 AM



Right on, brother.

Posted by: Ethan Herdrick on October 13, 2004 11:37 AM



Michael, you're so not alone, it's not even funny.
See, for example, this thread, where commenters propose variants from spoiling the bulletin to strategically electing Kerry so as to eliminate Hillary's chances to run in 2008.

Personally, I don't see in current system any means of letting politicians know how the "masses" feel; and until politicians don't suffer with their own buck (except Ross Perot, and that's one of the few successful examples I know of getting the message thru), they will misunderstand your reasons behind inactions...

Posted by: Tatyana on October 13, 2004 11:56 AM



"Do I vote for Kerry as a way of punishing the Republicans for their arrogance and idiocies? What does it take for them to understand that they should be the party of modest government? "

More registered and active voters that might be swayed by a future candidate that actually favors modest government? Can't hurt.

"But a protest vote against Bush would almost certainly be interpreted as a vote for Kerry, and I'd hate to give anyone the impression I'm sanctioning that zero."

Then vote against him. Not only does he think that Bush's most boneheaded government giveaways are "inadequate", but he came right out and said that drug dealers and prostitutes ought to be dealth with the same way as terrorists! (Actually, he said that the other way around, but it's logically equivalent and destroys any pretention that Kerry might favor limited government in any sphere of life, in addition to not taking terrorism seriously enough. A free-spending nanny that won't even bother to protect us is worse than useless).

"But maybe a Kerry presidency wouldn't be the worst thing imaginable. "

Sure, I can imagine worse things than a Kerry presidency. Doesn't mean I'd want to live through it.

"But maybe a Kerry presidency wouldn't be the worst thing imaginable. The combo of Democratic president and Republican legislature often creates gridlock, and I'm a fan of gridlock, which seems to be the only way that brakes get applied to runaway government these days."

A contention between a free-spending Republican Congress and a President that thinks their spending is "inadequate" is not likely to be resolved in our favor.

When a Congress that actually attempted to rein in spending faced President Clinton, he allowed the government to shut down rather than countenance any sort of restraint on entitlements or discretionary spending. Congress gave in. When Bush I faced a Congress that refused to cut spending, he gave in and broke his pledge against further tax increases. "Gridlock" ain't all it's cracked up to be, when you get right down to it.

Posted by: Ken on October 13, 2004 12:09 PM



I'm voting for Badnarnik. Yes, he's a nutjob. But, if he receives a few percent, it will be interpreted as an obvious protest against a Republican party that has moved from fiscal conservatism to wholesale embrace of the religious right.

Posted by: Dave on October 13, 2004 12:22 PM



Ken -- Have I got you right: you're voting for the man who has increased the size and scope of government more than anyone since LBJ? And you see that as a better strategy than rooting for gridlock? You're more of an optimist than I am ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 13, 2004 12:24 PM



Ken wrote:
he came right out and said that drug dealers and prostitutes ought to be dealth with the same way as terrorists!

Kerry's comment was this:
"As a former law-enforcement person, I know we're never going to end prostitution. We're never going to end illegal gambling. But we're going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn't on the rise. It isn't threatening people's lives every day, and fundamentally, it's something that you continue to fight, but it's not threatening the fabric of your life."

As pointed out in this post from The Volokh Conspiracy, the implications of Kerry's comments may be less anti-libertarian if you understand that his experience as "a former law-enforcement person" was as a District Attorney in Massachusetts fighting organized crime:

"Kerry's first big job after law school was as the First Assistant District Attorney (the #2 prosecutor) with the Middlesex County (Massachusetts) DA's Office. According to this Boston Globe article, Kerry overhauled the office in part by focusing on the threat of organized crime:

With a $3.8 million infusion of federal funds he helped obtain, Kerry nearly tripled the staff . . . . He launched initiatives that were innovative at the time: special units to prosecute white-collar and organized crime . . . and a system for fast-tracking priority cases to trial. He also directed the investigation that led to the first conviction of Somerville's Howie Winter, one of the state's notorious gangsters.

According to this article, Howie Winter was notorious for running an illegal gambling empire:

Among the top cases on which Kerry worked was the prosecution of Howie Winter, an organized crime leader who ran gambling rackets in the Boston area and western Massachusetts. Winter was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

While Kerry's choice of analogies appears a bit strange at first, it seems plausible that he was simply relying on his experience setting priorities for the Middlesex County DA's Office back in the 1970s. Kerry prosecuted illegal gambling cases, and presumably had to defend his focus on such cases against critics who claimed that there was no point in prosecuting them.

Of course, this doesn't mean that Kerry is right to see the war on terror as similar to his prior battles against organized crime and illegal gambling. But I think this history may shed some light on why Kerry chose the specific examples he did."

Posted by: Jesse M. on October 13, 2004 12:32 PM



"Ken -- Have I got you right: you're voting for the man who has increased the size and scope of government more than anyone since LBJ?"

Actually, I'm advising you to consider voting against the man who think that Bush's increases are "inadequate".

"And you see that as a better strategy than rooting for gridlock? "

Yes. Gridlock between high spending and insanely high spending leads to a compromise position that boils down to "half-insanely high spending". If we're lucky.

Remember what happened last time we had "gridlock", between Clinton and a conservative Congress. Congress ended up rolling over, and spending increases continued with little interruption.

Posted by: Ken on October 13, 2004 1:03 PM



If only three people buy some new crap CD, this cuts into record executives' blow budget. So it sends a message. If only three people vote for a politician, he still gets to be in charge the same as if 3,000,000 voted for him. I'm not sure how staying home is going to send any kind of message, even as I certainly sympathize with the sentiment. After all, George Bush got 500,000 fewer votes than than Al Gore, and it evidently hasn't moderated or humbled him at all.

Posted by: Evan McElravy on October 13, 2004 1:15 PM



Ken wrote:
'Actually, I'm advising you to consider voting against the man who think that Bush's increases are "inadequate".'

Can you give us the exact context of this "inadequate" quote? Are you sure he isn't just talking about some specific programs which make up a small percentage of our overall spending?

Posted by: Jesse M. on October 13, 2004 1:18 PM



Ken -- I don't think you're quite wrestling with the fact that spending and government-inflation generally have both increased since BushII and the Repubs broke up the Clinton-era gridlock.

Evan -- Of course you're right: someone wins anyway. On the other hand, if nonparticipation becomes dramatic enough, the press (and columnists, and pundits, etc) may eventually wake up to the fact that the nonparticipation represents a vote against how things are going. And a new national discussion will begin. To be honest, I'm surprised the news outlets haven't taken that line this time around. Instead, they've been treating the election as though it's a routine battle between right and left, and just oh-so-exciting. What if Time or 60 Minutes did a big piece saying, Wait a minute ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 13, 2004 1:24 PM



The answer is simple: Ralph Nader.

A vote for Nader (1) punishes the Republicans, who do not get your vote (2) does not help Kerry, who doesn't get your vote either, and (3) is in the long-term interest of Republicans, by pushing the Dems closer to the Nader-view is the misguided belief that the Nader-vote was by a disillusioned "progressive" Democrat.

Posted by: Richard Bellamy on October 13, 2004 1:29 PM



I'm pretty sure the Democratic and Republican party establishments would applaud a decision to stay home on election day. Consider their joint gerrymandering of Congressional districts to eliminate competitive races (only 4 House incumbents lost in 2002). I think their shared goal is to render elections obsolete.

Posted by: Outer Life on October 13, 2004 2:10 PM



I've thought about this a little more and believe I have hit upon the answer. I'm going to form a new political party called the "None of the Above" party. Our simple non-partisan platform will consist solely of doing anything we can to attack the anti-democratic laws, policies and procedures utilized by the Democrats and Republicans to maintain their oligopoly. As we succeed in opening up elections in particular jurisdictions, I expect our party members in those jurisdictions would leave us for partisan political parties that more closely match their own preferences.

After all, once you have a true choice, you no longer have any reason to vote None of the Above.

Posted by: Outer Life on October 13, 2004 2:36 PM



I believe that was Richard Pryor's platform in "Brewster's Millions".

Posted by: Richard Bellamy on October 13, 2004 2:41 PM



"God only knows what he stands for" Isn't that also true of Bush? What he says never seems to be backed up by actions.

Posted by: Chester on October 13, 2004 3:28 PM



Staying home and not voting only feeds the cynical BS that pundits and Euros love to throw around about st00p1d detached Americans who can't break away from the teevee. It ain't like these two aren't giving you a clear-cut choice, anyway. Hold your nose and pull a lever, MB.

Hell, write me in. You'd enjoy my Presidency.

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on October 13, 2004 4:22 PM



Sign me up for The Fat Guy's campaign!

If anyone's still interested: here's a Marginal Revolution posting about how much govt spending has increased under various presidents. GWBush sits at the top of it.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 13, 2004 6:03 PM



I might write-in Mr. Dylan, but I've got to finish his memoir first.

Posted by: Brian on October 13, 2004 6:23 PM



I think that NOT voting, or voting 3rd party, is childish. As grownups we have to make decisions between mixed alternatives. And, actually, politicians like it when we don't vote. They are NOT going to be responsive to a boycott.

I don't think Kerrys policies are at all unclear. He's enunciated them many times, and clearly too (the only ambiguity is created by Bush entirely, and one is wise not to be confused by this silly flip-flop stuff). And we all know what Bush is for and against.

I'm for Kerry because I can hope he'll be less of a drunken spender than Bush, and I think his (actual) military experience will make him a better Commander In Chief then Bush, who I think is an amateur bungler whose ego outstrips his capability.

B

Posted by: bliffle on October 13, 2004 7:47 PM



Mr. Chaffin:

Had I only known you would agree to be President, I'd have bugged George Soros until he had parted with enough dough to get you on the ballot in all 50 states.

Damn, I'm sure I'd have enjoyed your tenure in office. Now I'm more bummed than ever.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on October 13, 2004 11:19 PM



I think Bush and Cheney are just so dangerous that I think not voting at all is better than voting for them to protest John Kerry.

I do like your "none of the above" suggestion.

But when you say that non-participation in voting will send a message to the political class---I mean, how low does voter participation need to go? It's already barely 50%. Nothing will send a message to the political class as long as whoever-gets-the-most-(electoral)-votes-wins. We would have to change the rules, and, say, 60% of the country has to vote for it to count. But then...you'd have the Karl Rove fascists rounding up senior citizen homes, complete with walkers and wheelchairs, and carting people on meds to the polls. Wait a minute...Karl wouldn't include the walkers and wheelchairs!

Posted by: annette on October 14, 2004 9:05 AM



Hey, don't neglect the dead. They have the secondary virtue of voting in alphabetical order, too.

Remember--vote early, vote often.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on October 14, 2004 10:38 AM



Mr. Shaffin:
I understand the position you aspire might look tempting from a distance and your candidacy no doubt will be supported by millions; nevertheless, may I suggest today's Lileks post for your consideration:

...If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve. If mailed the paychecks nevertheless, I will cash them with a heavy heart: really, the people of Minnesota deserve so much better.

[For those of you who dont't follow: see this site: http://www.geocities.com/lileksforsenate]

Posted by: Tatyana on October 14, 2004 10:53 AM



Depending on whether you think the terrorist threat is a mortal threat or a nuisance -- that's how you'll vote.

Posted by: ricpic on October 14, 2004 11:10 AM



Another take on upcoming choice, via Resplendent Mango (thanks, Katie!)

Posted by: Tatyana on October 14, 2004 1:57 PM



My apologies for the broken link.
Here: http://www.command-post.org/oped/2_archives/015908.html

Posted by: Tatyana on October 14, 2004 1:59 PM



I confess I don't know much about the American Congressional set-up, but Canada went through a similar debate in our recent election.

The country had been downright irritated by our ruling Liberal party and our unimpressive Prime Minister Paul Martin but the other options of the far-right party, the far-left party and the Quebec-separatist party didn't exactly inspire.

So we ended up voting the Liberals back in but just barely, sticking them with a minority government that would force them to negotiate with the other parties more than they had. The message was clear.

Kind of like what Bush promised when he was elected by a thread -- something about uniting, not dividing?

Posted by: Scott D on October 15, 2004 9:38 AM



In Canada, in our 100% paper-ballot elections, the recommended course of action for cantankerous old farts is to "decline" their ballots: hand your blank ballot to the electoral officer (or whatever the person in charge of a polling station is called) and say that you refuse to vote. Declined ballots are tabulated separately from spoiled ballots, which are normally considered to result from voter incompetence.

I don't know if there's an equivalent in the States.

Posted by: Chris Burd on October 15, 2004 12:53 PM



Well, I am personally disappointed by the amount of increase in spending by Bush and the whores in Congress. Pork is dish best served by both Parties. As Far as Kerry is concerned, I can't pull the lever for a man who slandered his brother in arms the way he did. Viet Nam may have been the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time but and protesting it was a moral duty, but the way he did it marks him as a man with little judgement. I also echo ken, he feels spending for education by the federal gov't was not enough, ditto for free drugs for seniors. How I long for the days of Reagan where they at least talked about getting rid of odious dept that have no business in the federal gov't.

Be that as it may, I am voting for Bush for 2 reasons, I believe that he has done well so far in Afghanistan and Iraq. Were there tactical mistakes, you betcha. But the overarching theme, terrorists are caused by oppressive governments and seek haven in these governments. Freedom and democracy, though a long term solution will greatly reduce the number of cranks who wish us ill. I do not see this sort of vision thing from Kerry. For to long America has tolerated my thug. We can't clean up the world but where the nexis of oppression, terrorism et al form up, taking action is preferable to inaction or summits or the UN or whatever. Second, I am intrigued by partial privitization of Soc Security and the ownership society.

Posted by: Kevin on October 15, 2004 1:34 PM



Michael.
I realize that you are joking when you say about Kerry that "God only knows what he stands for anyway ..."
But not all of your readers may recognize that humor.

Posted by: David Sucher on October 17, 2004 11:17 PM



come on libertarians vote for Kerry. 4 years of gridlock and the adults regain control of the republican party.

Posted by: Joe O on October 18, 2004 2:22 PM



But then...you'd have the Karl Rove fascists rounding up senior citizen homes, complete with walkers and wheelchairs, and carting people on meds to the polls. Wait a minute...Karl wouldn't include the walkers and wheelchairs!

Posted by: 六合彩 on October 27, 2004 6:57 AM



I like what Dave said "it will be interpreted as an obvious protest against a Republican party".
I have been researching candidates and the history of our country more this year than any time in my life. I am 46 and recently spent part of my honeymoon at Gettysburg and Harpers Ferry. Until I really understood that 450,000 Americans killed each other over the issue of slavery, I believe I never understood war. I have been researching the history of corporations, tariff, and excise taxes, and I keep coming up with revolution ie; Boston Tea Party. We are all getting the shit screwed out of us and I'm appalled at the ignorance we're all putting up with. I have been very impressed with what the Libertarian party has positioned itself on. I checked out the education degrees of 60 of 100 U.S. senators and 49 percent were lawyers and 51 percent were other. This certainly paints a picture of who's running things. Don't people understand that the "Two" parties, are really one show, that conmtrols everything. Case in point: How can people of a state vote to legalize medicinal marijuana, but some legislators at the federal level can stop a whole state from doing what the people voted for? These guys/gals can't get a weed right, how can you trust these suits to serve important issues. In the words of my new favorite guitar player "Steve Earle" The revolution starts now...." Long story short.....I will protest the republican/democratic regime by voting for Badnarnik!

Posted by: Craig on October 27, 2004 9:58 PM






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