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Swayed Green, Cynthia McKinney Supporters at Swat

By
October 31, 2008

As November 4th draws nearer, there is an increasing buzz of anticipation as well as anxiety on this campus over the outcome of the election. The overwhelming majority of Swatties are supporting Democratic hopeful Barack Obama with a few vying for McCain, but another possibly smaller minority of students intend to or have already voted for Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney. McKinney, a former Democratic Congresswoman from Georgia, is running for office with activist-journalist Rosa Clemente as Vice Presidential candidate.

Senior Ladule Lako LoSarah ’09, a registered Green Party voter, says he strongly identifies with “McKinney’s sense of disillusionment with the Democratic Party’s complicity with the Bush agenda. The party hasn’t supported her in the past and hasn’t stepped up with a voice of dissent. That’s what she’s trying to be, a dissenting voice.”

Yet despite her fervent anti-war stance, starring appearance in political documentary “American Blackout,” and radically-progressive views, McKinney certainly doesn’t have widespread name recognition even at Swarthmore. In fact, the McKinney-Clemente ticket marks the very first combined minority women campaign, but mention of the name is all too often greeted with “Who? Cindy McCain?”

Marc Engel ’09 frankly attributes this lack of publicity to the status of the Green Party within the rigid 2-party system, “if there’s not much funding, there’s not much you can do to get your message out there.” Nevertheless, Engel, a registered Democrat, researching and finding McKinney’s views concurrent with his own personal strong anti-war and radical leftist sentiments voted for her by absentee in Ohio.

Evan Nesterak ’09, an unaffiliated voter registered in Colorado, also recently sent in his ballot for McKinney, saying that he didn’t “want to feel like he might be settling over [his] ideals” if he voted for a candidate that’s more likely to win.

All three supporters cited deep concerns over the realities of Obama’s moderate stance on issues and campaign ties to various businesses. Lako LoSarah states that “Obama is not as progressive as people think; he claimed he was anti-war and is now reconsidering this position; he has also changed his position on environmental issues like off-shore drilling.” Similarly, Engel says Obama has repeatedly sold himself out after the primaries, “coming away from his unconditional ‘end the war in Iraq’ and then unconditionally accepting Colin Powell’s endorsement, a real slap in the face to the anti-war community.”

The current Obamamania offers no check on Obama’s changing positions, marketing him as ultra-liberal while being ultra-moderate under the table. The required corporate sponsorship is also troubling to many Green students. “Companies invest in candidates for a reason. You can’t easily break that monied connection,” Nesterak observes. “The election becomes more about beating the other candidate rather than doing well for the country. What Obama’s done well is that he doesn’t show that he’s trying to appease people.”

“It’s ironic that Republicans lambast Obama for extreme leftism,” Engel also notes, “because he’s often just propped up as a radical. If we really want to be radical, let’s be radical and vote for a truly progressive African American woman who comes from the community with a Latina vice president.”

Swarthmore, on the whole, is largely welcoming of Green supporters. However, Engel says “[he] was surprised that there isn’t more action on the behalf of Cynthia.” College Dems, with its large voter base, is likely more concerned with working with the broader local population rather than on-campus opinion.

As to accusations from other students of “throwing away your vote” on a candidate that is likely to lose, Lako LoSarah stressed the importance of using one’s vote democratically. “It makes me upset that the debates are closed to the third party candidates; people don’t even question why that happens. If you feel as if there’s a problem with the two-party system, voting for one of the two candidates doesn’t speak up against it; it supports it.” On a final note, he added “Vote for the candidate that best represents your views. Don’t compromise.”

40 Responses to Swayed Green, Cynthia McKinney Supporters at Swat

  1. Peter '11

    October 31, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Haha, Cynthia McKinney is hilarious (if you don't believe me read her wikipedia page). On a related note, it would be quite nice if the voting system allowed for second choices (as in, you could vote for McKinney but if she doesn't win your vote could go to your second choice, probably Obama). That way a vote for McKinney wouldn't effectively amount to a vote for McCain (or, more accurately, perhaps just not voting at all). Obviously since that helps third parties it's probably not going to happen.

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  2. Lauren Stokes

    October 31, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    It's surprising how very little I have heard about third parties in this campaign. During, the last two presidential campaigns, people were so worried about the "Nader effect" that the third parties were much more in the public eye than they usually are.

    Too bad, because I would like to have seen McKinney's ideas get a wider audience.

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  3. Marc

    October 31, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Cynthia McKinney is a tireless champion for the people who has fought courageously, like so many other African American politicians, against those who would lie and stir up controversy to defame her. She is practically the only contemporary politician to advocate boldly for what she believes in and on behalf of the people and values she represents. I find that inspiring, not hilarious.

    Secondly in an election where voter security is shaky and republican intimidation and dirty tactics are rampant, one can hardly say that a vote for McKinney is a vote for McCain. Especially since there are third party candidates on the right who take votes for McCain. Furthermore, our vote is not "not voting at all" because it accurately represents and records the voice of dissent and change in this Country, which the democrats clearly do not represent.

    The biggest thing that could help third parties is to require the debates commission, which is controlled by the two major parties, to invite third party candidates to their debates. And campaign finance reform of course.

    Marc Engel

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  4. Frank Church

    October 31, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    Obama's certainly not as progressive as I would like, but Cynthia McKinney comes across as pretty nutty and abrasive. If she were elected President, she wouldn't have much support from Congress, and that would mean two to four years of a stalemated government.

    I'm not really sure that any third parties can be truly effective nationally unless we ditch first past the post voting, and that's not going to happen. Probably the best bet for folks who want a more progressive Democratic Party is to support folks like Chris Dodd, probably the most progressive person making a serious run for the Democratic nomination this year, or…Hank Johnson. Comparing Hank Johnson to Cynthia McKinney is instructive. We need more Hank Johnsons in Congress.

    Oh yeah, and there's no reason to worry about voting for McKinney, unless you live in a really close and really small state like North Dakota. McKinney might be beat by folks writing in Ron Paul.

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  5. Will

    November 1, 2008 at 2:17 am

    There are two great things about voting for a third party candidate.

    1. It's a protest vote.
    2. It's a joke vote.

    I heartedly approve of both of those sentiments. McKinney doesn't represent my views, but more power to those who want to support her.

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  6. Carl Shapiro

    November 2, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    I was a little surprised that this article did not mention Cynthia McKinney's extremely controversial stay in Congress. Wikipedia pretty well covers her big controversies, such as her run-in with the Capitol police and allegations of anti-semitism. She was so controversial that two different democratic challengers successfully unseated her in a very liberal majority-black district in Atlanta. For comparison, John Lewis, who serves in a very similar adjacent district district is rarely challenged and wins comfortably every election. This article should have explained her past controversies.

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  7. Swattie Expat

    November 3, 2008 at 9:23 am

    Voting for a no-name, no-chance third party candidate (especially if you're in a state as important as Ohio, for the love of Christ) is irresponsible, irrational, and idealistic to the point of insanity. Actually, now that I put it that way, I'm amazed that she doesn't have 100% support on the Swarthmore campus.

    I realize that the odds of your individual vote mattering in any case are comparable to winning the lottery three times in one day, so one could make an argument that I'm wasting my time even devoting brain power to the subject, but surely your memory isn't short enough to have forgotten 2000. (Just an aside here, I can't believe you voted third party in Ohio.) Were those silly, worthless "protest" votes against the system really worth the last eight years? Do you feel like you've accomplished something?

    I'm not one to defend democracy, specifically American democracy, but don't pretend that you're some kind of noble crusader because you vote like a cognitively challenged lemming. If you care in any way for the fate of the country or the world, you have a responsibility to vote in a way that could possibly have an impact in your preferred direction. The keyword there is 'possibly.'

    You voted third party in Ohio. I can't even add anything to that.

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  8. question

    November 3, 2008 at 9:55 am

    Out of all the people to blame for the 2000 election scandal, to blame people who voted for third party candidates is irresponsible, irrational and unfair.

    If you want to sway third party voters to your side in important states like Ohio, get candidates that best represent their views. Also don't blame third party candidate supporters for the results of the past two stolen elections when the fault clearly lies with those who orchestrated the mass disenfranchisement of black voters.

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  9. Voice of reason

    November 3, 2008 at 10:26 am

    This woman is a nutbar, plain and simple.

    According to Wikipedia, she…
    …is a member of the 9/11 "Truth" Movement and alleged Bush knew 9/11 would occur but let it happen in order to make money in the stock market.
    …punched a police officer at Capitol Hill
    …and my favorite…accused the Department of Defense of shooting 5,000 New Orleans residents in the head and dumping them in a swamp.

    A thoughtful and reasonable pick for our next president?

    Come on Daily Gazette. Why not mention anything substantial about a candidate except that a few Swattie outliers support her?

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  10. Evan

    November 3, 2008 at 10:26 am

    Hey everybody,

    First in response to her stay in Congress. McKinney lost her elections in Congress because Republicans crossed over in the primaries and voted for the rival candidate whom they had planted as a moderate within the democratic party. Please check out American Blackout. So in response to the comment "She was so controversial that two different democratic challengers successfully unseated her in a very liberal majority-black district in Atlanta." Let's change that to–she was so controversial to republican politics that they devised a way to get her kicked out of congress and stifle the true voice of her voters in Atlanta. (Please see AmericanBlackout.com)

    I am amazed at the condescending attitude taken by many of the posts. I tought, especially at Swarthmore, we might have an deeper understanding of a vote. For those who say there is such a thing as a wasted voted, shame on you. There is no such thing as a wasted vote, just a voter unregistered (unless it's a provisional ballot in a Republican district).

    The arguments people make against a third party vote are simply arguments over the definition of a vote. For me a vote is an individual's opportunity to make a choice for president. It is not a time to choose the lesser of two evils it is not a time to conform your views. No candidate is perfect, no candidate is the be all and end all.

    So after understanding that—your choice may be Obama, McCain, McKinney, Paul, or whoever your vote lands on. And that is what matters. We need diversity in the political discourse. And if every election we decide to hold back our true voices, then every election we perpetuate a two-party system. Which in turn leads to a compromised political system. Let me ask you this– if there were more Green party members in congress, would we have had the ridiculous bailout, would we still be in Iraq? It makes you wonder how political diversity–currently shunned and insulted in this country–could have prevented the current political mess.

    I extremely dislike people telling others who to vote for. It should be a discussion of issues, the pros and cons, not an attempt to stifle and pressure one's voice into what someone else believes. So, Swattie Expat, get off your high horse and stop insulting people for voting the way they did. If you think it was a light decision to vote for McKinney you are mistaken, and you somehow think we haven't thought about the issues. Furthermore, if you knew Marc, Ladule and myself, you might understand that we worked to educate on voter disenfranchisement and for powervote.org. So I feel like I have accomplished something in this election and it was centered around involvement and issues, not telling people what to believe or do. Do you feel like you've accomplished something by needlessly insulting people who voted after thinking hard about the definition of a vote and the issues at hand?

    I guess, on the bright side, even though some of the comments were insulting and petty remarks with nothing to really back them up,–it shows everyone is really vested in the election and seems to really care where our country is headed. But I will just say let's get to the place we envision through positive discourse and positive action. Let's avoid personal attacks and belittling comments, because in the end we are going to get there together.

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  11. evan

    November 3, 2008 at 10:28 am

    I am also really glad that everyone gets their information from wikipedia.

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  12. W

    November 3, 2008 at 10:41 am

    Couldn't you find a better source than Wikipedia?! If I am to believe some crazy shit that some rando wrote about a divisive political figure, Wikipedia is not going to do it.

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  13. Dan

    November 3, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Money isn't required to get your name out there. It's called a grassroots campaign–just get a lot of people out there working, and the money will come later.

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  14. why not wiki?

    November 3, 2008 at 10:54 am

    All the above claims about the candidate have news stories as sources.

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  15. Neena Cherayil

    November 3, 2008 at 11:14 am

    Before we all get into the [citation needed] mess, this article was meant to be a profile of McKinney supporters at Swarthmore not a profile of McKinney herself.

    Another interesting but unrelated sidenote, other students whom I had talked to were very reluctant to contribute quotes to the article or said nothing more than "I don't know much about the Green Party"

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  16. j

    November 3, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Compromise. Just compromise. Do it. When you wake up Wednesday morning with President McCain, because Obama lost PA… or vice versa. If you sort like McCain but love love love Bob Barr… don't vote Barr. Be realistic. This isn't a symbolic election, it's an election that will have gigantic effects on your life.

    DON'T BE STUPID.

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  17. Evan

    November 3, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Contact me for a discussion, enester1

    Hi again,

    Just wanted to say that if anyone really wants to discuss why I voted for Cynthia McKinney, and talk about voting in general please let me know and I would be happy to meet with you. There are a lot of comments that are quick to assume quite a lot about McKinney supporters.

    So, I just wanted to extend the offer of a discussion, so as to avoid these comments that assume something about my intelligence because I voted for Cynthia McKinney.

    I enjoy having these discussion and it's a chance to learn from one another. I have had many discussions in the past few months and would be glad to meet up. (enester1)

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  18. Linnet

    November 3, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    If you really care about getting alternative voices into the political mainstream, why not support unseating moderate Democratic legislators at the state and federal level and replacing them with third-party or more left-leaning alternatives? Casting a vote for a candidate who cannot possibly win seems pretty irresponsible if you truly side with McKinney on issues like abortion, the environment, and foreign policy, unless you hail from a state whose allegiance is certain.

    There is a reason that we have a two-party system in America, and that is because of how the American population falls politically. (Anyone who's interested in a non-wikipedian reference could pick up Anthony Downs's Economic Theory of Demcoracy.) We are a bipolar electorate and like it or not, that requires some compromise, especially because of our winner-take-all design. In other countries, where sizable portions of the population fit into other discrete groups, other parties can arise. Do note, though, that where they do, coalition governments–famously ineffective–tend to dominate.

    I'm not quite sure how campaign finance reform would catapult third party candidates out of the fringe…the most successful contemporary third party candidate, Ross Perot, was independently wealthy–and we've (rightly, in my opinion) made that less of a determinant. In fact, I'd argue that Obama's grassroots organizing and general independence from the party regime is as close as a third party candidate might get toward financial viability in this political climate…and note how he did it from within our existing infrastructure.

    finally, Obama's the most progressive viable candidate since Bobby Kennedy and possibly ever. you really want to throw that away for a clearly irrelevant protest vote?

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  19. Carl Shapiro

    November 3, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    In response to Evan, McKinney's first loss to Majette was probably due to Republican crossover. But, the turnover was probably not that large. Her loss still shows that a large minority of democratic voters disapproved of her enough to vote against her in a primary challenge. That is relatively rare. Her second loss to Johnson was not due to Republican crossover. The Republican primary for Lt. Gov. was extremely tight and the largest Republican section of the district was removed during reapportionment.

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  20. Dr House

    November 3, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    You are an idiot.

    Seriously.

    "I live in a battleground state that could be the difference between Obama and McCain becoming the next president, and I'd rather live with my head up my ass, which is coincidentally full of idealism, than do what is right."

    WRONG. Your ass is full of shit, not idealism, get your head out of it.

    We do not live in a country where a number of political parties greater than 2 will be tolerated for quite some time, if ever. Stop thinking throwing your vote away will make some sort of difference.

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  21. llakolo1

    November 3, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    This seems to be the omnipresent debate of third party politics.

    Majority (electoral or popular) vote wins. Therefore, we have to realize that the republican and democratic candidates are trying to appeal to the majority of Americans. The average American earned around $50,000 in 2007 and only about 37.3 million Americans lived in poverty. These politicians speak for those who are comfortable because the majority of Americans are comfortable and want things to stay the way they are. There is a voiceless minority who would like drastic change to occur in American society, politics, and economics.
    Who is to speak up for the oppressed? If we suppress dissident voices in the political system only the people who benefit from "business as usual" will have political representation.

    It was Mandela who said, "A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones."

    And honestly, we have a lot of work to do. A good start would be a political system that takes the views of the marginalized into consideration.

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  22. Argos

    November 3, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    If you insist upon supporting third parties, support them when they run for local offices and have more of a chance of winning. Our country isn't pluralistic enough for voting green or whatever in a presidential election to be an intelligent choice. Maybe it would be if our country was smaller and our political parties were more likely to schism whenever differences arose, but we're not Weimar Germany, we're the bloody United States.

    Incidentally, does anyone actually "love love love" Bob Barr?
    Does anyone even take the Libertarians seriously?

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  23. Marc Engel

    November 3, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    Two Points:

    1. I've spent over ten hours campaigning for Obama over the last few days, so any damage has therefore been expiated.

    2. According to CNN, factoring in the third party candidates increases Obama's lead.

    (http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/11/02/obama-seven-points-ahead-in-cnns-final-poll/)

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  24. Economists hate voting

    November 3, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    Even though I will be voting for dems and I think the policies of this third party candidate border on insane, I have nothing wrong with 3rd party voting in principle.

    It is actually incredibly difficult to construct a reasonable argument for why people should vote if their main concern is just getting their favorite candidate elected. Economists have tried and failed. Small gestures achieve small, beneficial steps toward a goal in many parts of life (ex. choosing to recycle a can), but voting for president is NOT one of them. Especially in the electoral system where states' electoral votes are won in an all-or-nothing fashion, the marginal effect of your vote in influencing the election's outcome is unimaginably small. Really, really, really small. Like zero. You are more likely to be killed driving to the polling place than to influence the winner of a presidential election.

    People vote for other reasons than to influence the outcome of an election. They vote to express themselves, to engage in their communities, to live up to a Kantian categorical imperative that says "If everyone didn't vote, democracy wouldn't exist." My two elderly grandparents will be making a physically difficult journey to the polls to vote for this election. One will vote McCain, the other Obama. They could just stay at home and the outcome of the election would be exactly the same. But, they won't, and we aren't very surprised to hear that.

    In sum, don't give a person a hard time for "throwing their vote away" by voting for a third party. Everyone basically throws their vote away for president in that no one vote will matter (sorry, but it's true). Let them express their beliefs just like you want to.

    PS- (and I hope this doesn't implode my argument entirely)

    That being said, I do think 3rd party politicians, at least the somewhat popular ones who still have no chance of winning, are despicable. Unlike the individual 3rd party voter, these candidates can sway the election by influencing a good deal of the electorate. They clearly value expression of ideals way more than actual implementation of those ideals. They would rather protest from the outside than change Washington from the inside and they are willing to subject the country to conditions that are much worse (even according to their own values!) simply to protest.

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  25. Peter '11

    November 4, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    Ok, Economists actually makes a very good point. Still, get a couple hundred people rallied around your candidate in a swing state and you possibly could influence the election…

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  26. Dr House

    November 4, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    "I've spent over ten hours campaigning for Obama over the last few days, so any damage has therefore been expiated."

    WRONG. You didn't maximize your benefit, you could have done even more for him by actually putting your vote to good use. Besides, 10+ hours of campaigning doesn't really sound like much, factoring in the location of (I'm assuming) eastern Pennsylania. Obama doesn't need the votes there, especially not possible votes you may have gotten from that kind old senile lady you talked to who probably already forgot all of your points and made an impulsive decision to vote McCain or stay home today anyway. Obama could have used that guaranteed vote in Ohio, but you had to go off and be stupid, didn't you?

    "Really, really, really small. Like zero."

    Really, really, really small is not the same as zero in this context, especially in relation to a vote in a swing state. Although it is actuarially more likely that you will die driving to the polling place than have your vote actually have mattered, your argument is entirely cyclical. A myopic rational agent would sit at home instead of voting if they knew everybody else was probably going to vote anyway, but a person who is not a complete IDIOT (like you, get it?) would realize that everyone else is thinking that as well, then that person will go vote since they think they will be the only one who realized this. But then that person realized that everyone else would figure this out and then that person stays at home… (and the cylce continues)

    You didn't need to get to your PS to implode your argument because you never had one in the first place. People vote because it decides the next president. You are not throwing your vote away by voting for a major candidate, you are throwing away your time (at most). You are an idiot if you cannot realize the difference between throwing your time away and throwing your vote away. Then again, I am not surprised by the fact that so many of you are idiots, so….. to summarize, voting for a major candidate is a waste of your time, and voting for a 3rd party is a waste of your time AND vote. Cut your losses and make your vote count if you are going to vote in the first place.

    "And honestly, we have a lot of work to do. A good start would be a political system that takes the views of the marginalized into consideration."

    That may be a good political system if you want your political system to suck. There will always be marginalized people who could be better off by making the majority of people worse off. There are always trade offs that have to be made, and we don't live in some fantasy world where everything is perfect. The world isn't fair, and due to human nature it never will be, so grow up already.

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  27. Marc Engel

    November 5, 2008 at 3:19 am

    Dr. House,

    Your comments, while "rigorously argued," show that you're missing some key things about politics and this campaign. First of all, Obama won Ohio. And was ahead when I made my decision to vote for McKinney.

    Second, if Obama didn't need votes in Eastern PA then why was the Delco district that contained Media the SINGLE MOST visited district by McCain and Palin in the ENTIRE COUNTRY?

    Furthermore, anyone who has worked in a campaign knows that the days leading up to the election decide the election, especially for democrats who depend on high turnout. None of the campaign matters if people don't vote, and all the canvassing work I did over the last few days was Get Out the Vote efforts–ie talking only to Obama supporters and making sure they voted. And I talked to more than grandmothers, actually some republicans who decided to vote Obama.

    If I didn't maximize my benefit, it's because I didn't want to. Sorry all you Obama maniacs out there, but I actually don't think he's all that and a bag of chips. I wanted him to win over McCain, but I also wanted to express my belief in the vision and the ticket of Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente. If that makes me an "idiot" in economics terms, so be it. I'll wear the dunce cap any day.

    Finally,

    If you are going to have the audacity and gall to call Ladule, Evan, myself, and the tens of thousands of other men and women who were inspired by the Green party's all women of color ticket, couldn't you at least attach your name to that insult so we know you stand by it?

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  28. Swattie Expat

    November 5, 2008 at 8:03 am

    "First of all, Obama won Ohio. And was ahead when I made my decision to vote for McKinney."

    Your assignment, class, is to figure out why this logic makes my head hurt.

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  29. Dr House

    November 5, 2008 at 8:25 am

    "First of all, Obama won Ohio. And was ahead when I made my decision to vote for McKinney."

    Wow, can you read my fortune as well?

    "Second, if Obama didn't need votes in Eastern PA then why was the Delco district that contained Media the SINGLE MOST visited district by McCain and Palin in the ENTIRE COUNTRY?"

    They must have just liked the food in Media or something, they have some decent restaurants over there. Honestly, Pennsylvania was in the bag for a while. If you wanted Obama to win over McCain it makes no sense to have wasted your vote in Ohio, especially since Obama's lead there had been slimming as the election approached. However, I am not going to bother making rigorous arguments anymore since trying to reason with someone who refuses to see reason is just a waste of time.

    Besides, shouldn't the Green party be getting people to not vote for them at all? They know they can't win, so if you were going to throw your vote away on them they should just encourage you to stay home and not vote so as to not waste paper on your ballot and gas on the drive to the polling station. Seems fairly hypocritical to me…

    Oh, and I prefer anonymity. I don't know you 3 people that I insulted, nor do I care who you are or want to know you, so you are as anonymous to me as I am to you (along with the "tens of thousands" of idiots who threw away their votes on the Green party).

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  30. Economists hate voting

    November 5, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Sorry, House, but insulting someone is not the same as winning a rational argument. Some people actually read about issues before formulating an opinion and trashing other people. Start with these articles if you are interested in throw away vote arguments. A warning: learning new things means questioning your knee jerk instincts. This process may make you uncomfortable.

    Riker, William H., and Peter C. Ordeshook. "A Theory of the Calculus of Voting." The American Political Science Review 62 (1968)

    Meehl, Paul E. "The Selfish Voter Paradox and the Thrown-Away Vote Argument." The American Political Science Review 71 (1977)

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  31. Swattie Expat

    November 5, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    A quick Google search for that second article and a read of a summary (http://tinyurl.com/6nlvc6) makes it seem like their argument is based entirely on the "fact" that if a number is sufficiently small, then it must be equal to zero. They then make a normative evaluation of the worth of peoples' time and their estimate of the effects of the election on their lives to support an argument that it's irrational for anyone to vote. A mathematical falsehood and two assumptions does not an ironclad theory make.

    That's just for the individual case. If you're going to try to tell me that large (but not large enough to get their guy elected, of course) groups of individuals changing their votes to a third party doesn't have an effect or is perfectly justified, then I'll be laughing for the next two hours and will never get this problem set done on time.

    And before you cry about it, no, I didn't read both of the articles. Feel free to give me your own little summary of them if you like, but I don't have time to audit your political philosophy class for you.

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  32. Dr House

    November 5, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Funny, I do think my arguments through way ahead of making them public (so as to not be an idiot myself), and then I call people idiots for fun after I have made my rational points (or sometimes before, just to shake things up). What I don't do is cite redundant articles to the points I have already made like an idiot, because citing random papers doesn't win you a rational argument, nor do I think it is fun, so clearly you just wasted your time.

    From looking them both over briefly they are just restating the exact claim you made previously. They both just say voting is a waste of time if done for making a difference. There is a fancy Latin term for this poor debating strategy you have made, although I'm clearly not as pretentious as you so I feel no need to put it in here to make myself feel smarter without adding to the debate at all (its argumentum ad nauseam, FYI, and you made it worse by attacking a Straw Man with it instead of targeting what I said, so honestly I'm just impressed by how stupid you are).

    Anyway, the point of my previous argument wasn't against whether or not voting is a waste of time, it is that voting for a third party candidate is a waste of your time AND vote (with a capitalized "and" and all). I didn't ever argue the point that voting in the first place wasn't a waste of time, which honestly I am not sold on anyway since you get utility from making the vote in that feel good sense, and people are rational but emotional, so even if they vote while knowing fully well it is a waste of their time (especially in non-swing states), they are doing it for some reason(s) like what you said they did it for: "they vote to express themselves, to engage in their communities, to live up to a Kantian categorical imperative that says." I really don't think you understood the premises for the articles or my argument, perhaps you need some new glasses? No, that would be optimistic, probably just a new brain.

    So to summarize my points for your insignificant intelligence to best comprehend, Marc is an idiot for wasting his time voting to make a point (via your argument), and you are an idiot for not understanding either article you listed, your own logic, or my flawlessly expressed points. Perhaps it is you who should stop crying every time someone calls you an idiot for being an idiot and should learn from those who are smarter and have thought things out more than you.

    Also, my ad hominems shall continue, because, well, they're fun.

    P.S.
    You're stupid.

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  33. Economists hate voting

    November 5, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Hey expat,
    I agree with you that large number of 3rd party voters can sway elections. But, every voting decision is an individual one. So, as much as these "but if everyone did X, it would be bad/good" arguments are intuitively appealing (after all, they are a pretty large cornerstone of our moral foundation), they still can't explain the individual voting decision if the only goal of voting is to elect your candidate and the voter faces some cost of going to the polls.

    And yes, the argument does depend on an assumption, but I would call it "empirically-based" rather than "normative". You are right that the assumption is that people should not care about really small likelihood of contributing to something when there is some cost to trying to contribute. I think it is a fair assumption. Implausibly extreme risk aversion can explain the voting decision, but 1) measured risk aversion coefficients don't tend to be nearly this high and 2) if a person were that risk averse, he or she would similarly fear the unpredictable dangers of leaving his or her home to vote. So yes, some empirically-based bounds are needed to support the theory but one major point in the literature is that these assumptions are not very controversial. One doesn't need to go far out on an empirical limb to see why the voting decision is confusing.

    I'm beginning to learn that people fall into mainly two camps when it comes to economic analysis of every day decisions. They are either bored to death or infuriated. You can shoot the messenger if you want, but I am just explaining a relatively well known paradox in microeconomics. I hope it gets people to think about human nature and civic duty a bit more.

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  34. Swattie Expat

    November 5, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    I'm confused here. I realize I'm not going to get anywhere sounding off against something that political scientists and economists undoubtedly spend a lot of time on, but it seems like if you quasi-empirically determine some parameters (expected chance of one vote counting is easy enough, utility gained from voting is not) and that leads you to a paradox, you might want to re-examine how you arrived at those parameters. Wouldn't voting behaviour be pretty much explained if you factored in the obvious utility from voting into the model?

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  35. Economists hate voting

    November 5, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    Expat,

    Yeah you are absolutely right that factoring in the obvious utility from voting helps explain why people vote. I'm pretty sure one of the papers demonstrates this by adding in a "civic duty" utility variable, which represents the extra utility a person gets from enjoying participation in the democratic process.

    However, this highlights the problem of the voter paradox rather than getting rid of it. The original, paradox-producing model said that the ONLY utility gained from voting was from increasing the chances your candidate will win. By adding in this extra utility term, the later authors are admitting that some extra utility, derived from something besides increasing your candidate's winning chances, is necessary to explain voting.

    My point has always been that the motivation for voting can't only be the desire to increase your candidate's chances of winning. Other social and psychological reasons must play into the decision. I don't pretend to know what those are. I don't know exactly why I like to vote. Still, people who verbally abuse a 3rd party voter for "wasting his vote" may be overlooking that their own votes are not as influential to the election result as they might like to think (swing state or no swing state).

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  36. Swattie Expat

    November 5, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Is it not true, though, that under either model you are only maximising your utility (given that a small number is greater than zero) if you vote in a manner that could possibly, with P(a small number), influence the outcome in the way you would prefer? The utility maximising choice, as most economists would agree, is the only rational choice. This is the reasoning behind my claim of irrationality regarding third party voting and the ad hominem attacks of stupidity, since anyone that willingly devolves from Homo Economicus to some kind of lesser being is stupid by definition.

    I feel like we mean "wasting your vote" in the same way a pot-smoking, TV-watching McDonald's burger-flipper in his late 30s "wasted his life." It could have been worth more were it not for misguided thoughts and bad decisions.

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  37. .

    November 5, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    Dr. House you wrote. "but a person who is not a complete IDIOT (like you, get it?) would realize that everyone else is thinking that as well, then that person will go vote since they think they will be the only one who realized this. But then that person realized that everyone else would figure this out and then that person stays at home… (and the cylce continues)"

    That's the paradox of voting, but the thing public choice theory misses is that people's preferences are shaped by their socialization into powerful myths, i.e. "an individual vote matters (can sway the outcome of an election), it's our civic duty to vote," etc. Because a sufficient number of people continue to buy into the culture of democracy, an individual's place in the schema is symbolic and personal. You acknowledge as much when you say that the rational agent would vote because it gives him the utility of feeling good. So if we should vote to feel good, and Marc voted for the Green candidate because it made him feel good, what exactly is your problem? You've acknowledged that an individual vote doesn't impact the outcome. so what's your deal? If it's all symbolic why do you care what symbols are chosen?

    Swattie expat, yes a smaller number is greater than 0. But in real life, we all round very small numbers down to zero. To quote the totally credible source of facebook, there's about a 1/940 000 chance you'll be mauled by a bear. That's a non-zero sum, just like 1 out of 6 million votes (in PA) is a non-zero sum, and you appear to take the care to vote, "just in case" the small chance of you casting the swaying vote turns out to be the case. With that in mind, what precautions have you taken to prevent getting mauled by a bear? Is your house bear-proof? Do you carry bear mace? Are you planning never to go to Alaska (without at least 2 armed Palins to protect you?)

    Dude, the importance of voting is a myth, and it's totally cool if you buy it, because we need a lot of people to buy it for democracy to work, but don't try to rationalize it in econ/logic terms. Cultural narratives don't work like that.

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  38. Economists hate voting

    November 6, 2008 at 1:33 am

    Whoever wrote that last post, I agree with you %100.

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  39. Dr House

    November 7, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Someone give — . (whoever he/she is) a cookie for being the first one to attempt logic.

    I am saying that Marc claimed that his Green party vote was to make a difference, making him naive. Yes, of course his actual motives were to make himself feel good, but he doesn't admit that, so he claims he did it for x cause, but clearly he did it for his own selfish reasons, since if he were voting to make a difference he would have maximized his chances of doing so by voting for Obama.

    And Economists hate voting, please come up with your own opinions or learn to articulate yourself. You sit there proposing other people's ideas or, worse, simply being a yes-man. I know it must be difficult for you, but with a lot of effort you just might do it!

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  40. ladule

    April 2, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    should this article be rerun?

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