February 11, 2003

Let's Get Snarky!

Matthew Yglesias wins the "let's get snarky!" prize for the first quarter of 2003:


2-10-03: Tom Tomorrow goes into outrage overload. 7-24-00: Tom Tomorrow explains that there's no difference between the two parties. I for one am really glad that folks had a third option that fateful November.


The dive was not too difficult--a certain fish-barrel-gun element. But the technical excellence is unsurpassable. Here are the cartoons:

Now:

Then:

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Posted by DeLong at February 11, 2003 03:53 PM | TrackBack
Comments

Wow. Matt's really ventured down Non Sequitur Alley there. As I say on his own site, "Being outraged at the specific acts of the Bush presidency 2001-2003 does precious little to invalidate the 2000 critique of an election which ended in a campaign fought for the support of a demographic the size of a postage stamp."

In fact, Matt's implied argument -- that the Nader option created the Bush presidency created the conditions for liberal outrage -- just goes to show the way that the two-party system imposes a blinkered political viewpoint even on intelligent Americans.

Posted by: nick sweeney on February 11, 2003 04:48 PM

Well... Gore's policy ideas and qualifications were better than Nader's, and most Americans would vote for Gore in an election between Gore and Nader without Bush in there, yet Gore let Nader's ideas go unchallenged by pretending he didn't exist. Nader would have been willing to debate Gore, and Gore could have shown what a bad president Nader would have made, yet Gore missed that oppurtunity repeatedly.

Why?

Posted by: Julian Elson on February 11, 2003 06:11 PM

Naderites are "disappointed" liberals...

Posted by: alex on February 12, 2003 02:57 AM

Excuse me waiter, can I get some election reform? Starting with instant runoffs and moving to proportional representation?

And while we're at it, I'd like to send the "Electoral College" back to the chef. It's all whacked out...way too much corn and cotton!

Posted by: adam on February 12, 2003 09:11 AM

I remember a Tom Tomorrow from 2000 (sorry, I'm too lazy to look it up) claiming that the only difference between Gore and Bush was the possible appointment of a "slightly less conservative judiciary." Since then, I've seen one post from an ex-Naderite to the effect that Bush is "worse that we expected."
Has Tom Tomorrow ever commented on this? I don't visit his site often. He can be very funny, and sometimes scores direct hits, but he can also leave me wondering what planet he lives on. The difference is budget numbers alone would be enough for me to want to do whatever it takes to keep Bush out. I avoid commenting on other issues much in the public eye at the moment.

Posted by: Jonathan Goldberg on February 12, 2003 09:15 AM

If Tom Tomorrow were correct in 2002, that the choice is between two centrist politicians, then probably the voting would not matter, unless one of the candidates (more precisly, only one) was woefully incompetent.

However, I am extremally curious how Tom arrived at the conclusion that Bush was centrist. Just because this enthusiastic executioner proclaimed that he is compassionate?

Posted by: Piotr Berman on February 12, 2003 10:43 AM

When I see discussions like this, I often have the sneaking suspicion the Democrats would move to the left if they started winning 55% or 60% of the two-party vote. So it does matter who people vote for, even if the two parties aren't far appart.

Posted by: stefan on February 12, 2003 01:03 PM

Brad DeLong writes, "I for one am really glad that folks had a third option that fateful November."

Oy, vey! You must not have gotten a very good look at your ballot! ;-)

As far as I know, at least the following 7 people were on the ballot in California for U.S. President:

Bush (Republican)
Gore (Democrat)
Nader (Green)
Browne (Libertarian)
Hagelin (Natural Law)
Buchanan (Reform)
Phillips (Constitution)

It really bugs me, as a Libertarian, when people say we voters have "only two choices." (Or even "three choices.")

There are plenty of parties out there. A voter should vote for the best candidate, regardless of whether on not that candidate has any realistic chance to win. You don't get any prize for picking the winning candidate!

Posted by: Mark Bahner on February 13, 2003 09:37 AM

"There are plenty of parties out there. A voter should vote for the best candidate, regardless of whether on not that candidate has any realistic chance to win. You don't get any prize for picking the winning candidate!"

I wonder if Mark really believes this or is just trying to get more people to vote Nader in 2004 (Did you vote for Browne? No, don't answer.) Why not (gasp) view voting as a game-theoretic situation in which one's job is to optimize national welfare, rather than simply voting for the best candidate? If the best possible candidate has an infinitesimal chance of winning, but your vote could make a difference between taking one candidate who is moderately bad and one who is infinitely worse, why would you hesitate?

I've consistently voted this way not because I like either of the two main parties, but because in this case there _is_ a huge prize for picking the winning candidate. The huge difference in payoffs means that in effect there are only two choices for a rational optimizer. And that will continue to be the case until the electoral system has either proportional representation or runoff balloting--either reform will make the Libertarians and Greens, among others, much more viable political parties.

Too bad Tom Tomorrow didn't see this. Or now, having seen it, he is probably kicking himself just as much as Yglesias is kicking him.

Posted by: andres on February 14, 2003 03:45 PM

a thought.

now, we all know that an argument can be made that the place for Nader was in the democratic primary. but the Dems are not more interested in ramping up outside of existing avenues.

please pay attention.

the electorate is a minority of eligible voters. the pool of eligible voters could be greatly expanded --not only through moter voter.
for example, voting now means increased likelihood to serve on jury, interface with THE MAN. the average scumbo says, why bother? In economic terms, a rational response.

when dems were in power, they could have enforced the sanctity of voting records. As far as i know, it's never been proposed.

ok, so you say it wouldnt make a difference. do you really think the Arizona/Nevada pot referendum goes down 60-40 if all interested parties could vote and feel more secure? if so, you're wrong

and you're wrong to cling to quaint, outmoded notions of where we be polis-wise.

and you're way wrong if you think that the dems can turn left out of power (that is, before capital starts cruising to the oh-so-less-inscrutable East, North Korea soon to be Qaddafi-ied).

Have a nice day

Posted by: bill on February 14, 2003 05:30 PM

"I wonder if Mark really believes this or is just trying to get more people to vote Nader in 2004."

Of all the candidates to get onto presidential ballots in 2004, Nader, if he runs, will probably be the worst, in my opinion. It's very hard to say, since they're all so close to zero, but Nader will probably be the *least* libertarian candidate in 2004. So I definitely don't have any reason to encourage people to vote for him (other than to encourage them to do the most logical thing).

"Did you vote for Browne? No, don't answer.)"

Too late! :-) You asked, so, YES, OF COURSE I voted for Harry Browne! He was clearly the best candidate, in terms of his goals--returning power to The People--matching mine.

And if Bush had lost Florida by a few hundred votes, instead of winning by a few hundred votes, most of the Republican talking heads would have said Harry Browne "cost" Bush the election. So what? I, and virtually EVERY OTHER LIBERTARIAN****, would have shed no tears. Bush wasn't the best candidate...Browne was. Bush and his successors (and Gore and his successors) would have learned a lesson...they need to place more emphasis on personal freedom.

****I get the Libertarian Party monthly newsletter. There is always an (informal) poll on various issues. One question was, "Should Libertarians run in elections, even if it would cause the 'better' candidate of the major parties to lose?" The answer was more close to unanimous than any poll they've ever taken: "Yes. Absolutely."

"Why not (gasp) view voting as a game-theoretic situation in which one's job is to optimize national welfare,..."

If so, I certainly voted in a way to "optimize national welfare"...because if the nation was more Libertarian, it would be a far, far better place.

"...rather than simply voting for the best candidate?"

Voting for the best candidate DOES attempt to "optimize national welfare"...because it tries to pull OTHER candidates towards the views of the candidate one thinks is best.

"If the best possible candidate has an infinitesimal chance of winning, but your vote could make a difference between taking one candidate who is moderately bad and one who is infinitely worse, why would you hesitate?"

Let's review the key clause in that question: "...but your vote could make the difference between taking one candidate who is moderately bad and one who is infinitely worse..."

Stop right there, Andres! Don't you see the complete illogic of that clause?! Your one vote will NEVER determine the outcome of ANY federal election! That's why you should vote for the single best candidate, without exception.

Look at the 2000 Presidential election, which is as close as any Presidential election will be for the next 500 years. Even if you'd been in the state of Florida, Bush officially won by 537 votes in that state. If you'd lived in Florida, and voted for Nader rather than Gore, Gore would have lost by 538 votes, rather than 537 he was certified to have lost by. And there will never be an Presidential election that close for another 500 years.

Again, a federal election will NEVER be decided by one vote! If you'd like to bet on that, I'll be happy to give you great odds.

"I've consistently voted this way not because I like either of the two main parties, but because in this case there _is_ a huge prize for picking the winning candidate."

No there isn't! There can't be, because your vote is secret. This isn't horse racing. You get no money for judging who will win.

If you liked Nader better than Gore, you committed an error in logic, if you voted for Gore. The error in logic was that you had the idea that your one vote would be the difference between Gore or Bush being elected.

"And that will continue to be the case until the electoral system has either proportional representation or runoff balloting--either reform will make the Libertarians and Greens, among others, much more viable political parties."

Either change would require a Constitutional amendment. A Constitutional amendment that both you and I know that Democrats and Republicans would not support (since we agree that such measures could help non-major parties). Since that isn't going to happen, are you going to spend your life voting for someone who you don't think is the best candidate? If so, you're not being logical. The logical thing to do is to vote for the person you think is the best candidate.****

****At least in *federal* elections. In *local* elections, your one vote just *might* be the difference in the election. For example, a school bond referendum in my parents town of Plainfield, CT came up with a *tie* vote(!!!)...out of something like 8,000 ballots cast.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on February 18, 2003 09:15 AM

Yep. Guess I'll vote for the Social Democratic Party next election (write-in vote...). Or maybe the "bill" Party, whose manifesto makes more sense than the above. There's no accounting for taste, or for politics.

Posted by: andres on February 18, 2003 01:48 PM
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