TCS Daily


November: The Case for Staying Home

By Arnold Kling - September 14, 2006 12:00 AM

"As a life-long Republican and occasional federal official, I must acknowledge a hard truth: I don't much care how a divided government is next realized. And, in 2006, there's only one way that's going to happen."
-- William Niskanen

The Washington Monthly recently ran a forum entitled, It's Time for Us to Go, in which William Niskanen and six other erstwhile Republicans extolled the benefits of a Democratic victory in the forthcoming Congressional elections. Niskanen's views were based on statistical and historical analysis suggesting that divided government tends to mean smaller government. Some of the other writers were more emotional. A few of them sound to me, quite honestly, like they are cranky because their own time in power has passed. I am not coming from the same place as these has-beens. I am a never-was and never-want-to-be.

However, I agree that the Republicans deserve to lose this November. On Tuesday, September 12, I cast my last vote of 2006. A registered Democrat (I often find excuses to vote for Democrats, even though I disagree with them on many important issues ), I took part in the Maryland primary, casting my ballot for certain losers. I voted, futilely, against the "teacher-approved" slate. These are the union-endorsed candidates who before every election promise to "reduce class size" and "close the achievement gap" and who after they win proceed to enact their real agenda of raising the ratio of non-teaching staff to classroom teachers ever closer to infinity. In Maryland, and especially in Montgomery County, the "teacher-approved" slate always wins, and the education bureaucracy always gets more bloated.

I am not angry with President Bush. As far as the war in Iraq is concerned, if I had been in his position, I would have done the same thing. I thought that when the UN passed a resolution telling Saddam Hussein "Allow unfettered inspections or else," then when he obstructed inspectors we had to follow through with "or else." I understand now that the international community takes it for granted that the UN never means what it says when it threatens bad guys (just ask the people of Darfur), but I suffer from a lack of diplomatic subtlety and nuance.

Still right now, nothing looks worse than "K Street Republicans" and "Big-Government Conservatives." The philosophical differences with neoconservatism that I outlined three years ago have only deepened since. That piece, which re-reads quite well if I may say so myself, quotes Bruce Bartlett, now a participant in the Washington Monthly forum, as a skeptic back then as well.

Sending a Different Message

Ordinarily, I vote every time, even when I do not like the choices. I like to send the message, "I am here, and I care, so try to earn my vote."

This time, I want to send a different message. The message is, "I find both parties totally unsatisfactory. I value liberty and individual responsibility, and legislators of both parties have flouted those values in recent years."

The Atlantic Monthly recently ran a story on strategists for both parties who for tactical reasons think that it might be better to lose in these elections. If only. The only thing better than getting rid of Republicans would be getting rid of both Republicans and Democrats and electing some independents. But I do not see any credible independents taking advantage of what would otherwise be a great year to try to break into the market.

I want everyone who agrees with me to stay home, too. I want the headline on Wednesday morning after the election to read, "Mid-year Election Suffers Record Low Turnout." Of course, even if only one vote is cast in each Congressional District, as long as the Democrats win, the mainstream media will report it as "Bush Repudiated! -- Democrats Win Overwhelming Popular Mandate!" But I am thinking that if turnout is particularly low, somebody, somewhere will notice, and maybe some candidates committed to liberty and individual responsibility will emerge next time.

The author is a TCS Daily Contributing Editor.

Categories:

132 Comments

But will they care?
My guess is no. Participation rates are already quite low and politicians don't seem to think that is a problem. I would love to find some outlet to express my frustration with the current political landscape - if someone could provide me an effect alternative I would do it and convince everyone else around me to follow.

Instead, why not
go to the polls and drop (in the box) a well written protest note in place of the ballot paper?

If sufficient people do this, it WILL be noticed.

And how am I supposed to do that when
all I (and many others) have are electronic voting machines, even for early voting? I'm staying home as well. I suspect it's probably illegal as well, but I'm too lazy to check.

I'm with Arnold. I made up my mind several weeks ago. I really thought (in 2000) that Gore should have won so the economic chickens could have come home to roost in the correct hen house. But the MSM would have managed to blame everything on the Republicans anyway.

No Subject
Even if the voting machines are all electronic, you must be able to leave a note with the election officials.

After all, it is still the US of A where first amendment rights are protected.

That would send a more powerful message than merely abstaining.

It tells those who care to listen that you are not lazy or cynical but are fed up with the choices available.

This action (of leaving a note) is akin to writing N/A (not applicable) against a line item in a (official) document.

This (N/A) tells the reader (of the document) that the item was given thought and a conclusion was reached that it is not applicable to the issue at hand, as opposed to forgetting it or overlooking it.

In fact, in a majority of official documents, the instructions make it clear that no item should be left blank but to be filled with N/A if a particular item is not relevant.

The reasoning is obvious.

Something like that should be pushed in the electoral arena also.

Throw the bums out! Except...
The bums who are currently in office will ensure we do not pull a Somalia in Iraq. They will edeavor to win the War on Terror, rather than endeavoring to make nice with Osama and Friends and hand them a massive victory. The people in place will stand firm, wheras the Democrats have already promised to run away and let Iraq collapse in to a terrorist playground. If people stay home or vote Democrat, we are going to end up invading Iraq again in six or seven years, and nobody will take us seriously on the world stage. Our moment will be over, and we will be a second-rate power by perception if not in fact.

Yes, the Republicans (in the Senate in particular,) are a disgrace. True, they have grown government in a way not seen since LBJ. True, they have not accomplished one meaningful bit of reform on Social Security, taxation, Medicare, etc. True, they have jacked up tariffs. True, they passsed that No Child Left Behind monster. True, they restricted our freedom to speak with our dollars with McCain-Feingold. However, does any of this really matter when compared with a war that threatens the survival of Western Civiliazation?

No, it does not. If you want conservatives, vote for the challenegers if you live in states with such people. If you want someone else, find them and ask them to run. However, make no mistake: Both this election and the 2008 election are going to absolutely critical in determining the direction of the War on Terror. Defeat and victory are at stake here, not just limited government.

Not voting due to your stated reasons is being a quitter
There has to be at least one issue(or candidate) on the ballot that you feel strongly about (either positively or negatively). Get your butt down to the polls in November and at least vote on that issue or person.

How many local issues are going to be decided on this November's ballot in the area of Maryland you live in?

You don't think that Steele is a far better Senate candidate than Cardin?

There are no Libertarians running for any offices in your area (always a favorite of mine for a vote when the two major parties throw up candidates that I can not stand to support)?

No Subject
Voting for someone merely because they are better (though still bad) than the alternative is tacit approval of their politicies.

This only encourages the crappy direction that all of the partisans on both sides. Until there is a legitimate 3rd way, I can't see voting for Republicrats.

NO NO NO!
Don't just stay home! What message does that send? That the only options are R, D or neither? If the complaint is that there isn't enough competition to adequatly foster full debate, don't just accept it! Vote for a third party like Libertarian or (God forbid) even Green! Yes, it has nearly the same effect as staying home, but it does a better job of displaying the reason why you're not voting for D or R.

Low voter turnout sends only the most blunt message: dissatisfaction. It doesn't communicate any information as to the nature of that dissatisfaction - rising third parties do.

Concur and ....
Vote for at least one candidate or issue on the ballot to prove you showed up.

Also, NV used to have 'none of the above' as a ballot choice.

More states should consider it.

And another reason why there may be so few choices is the the two parties have rigged ballot access to prevent third party candidates from even getting on a ballot. Most states do have write ins as well.

Another option is to 'vote' by changing registration. Voter registration data is sent to politicians on a regular basis. If all those 'I's' suddenly became 'L' or 'G', or 'C' that will give an indication to the politicians where there constituents are politically.

(There should be a campaign to eliminate the 'independent' as a choice. It is a cop out and lets people feel good about not making any choices.)

The WOPR Party gains a new member
While I agree with the sentiment expressed by Mr. Kling, I find the logic fatally flawed. Simply because the Republicans deserve to lose, and they do, that doesn't mean that the Democrats deserve to win.

Voters (legal, illegal, no ID required!) are largely presented with ballots consisting of:
- Lousy Candidate (D)
- Lousy Candidate (R)
- Lousy Candidate (I)
- Lousy Candidate (G)
- Lousy Candidate (ad infinitum)

The voter (again, no ID required!) is left with 3 basic choices:
- vote for the least repulsive candidate
- run for office, hopefully you're not another Lousy Candidate
- or, like Mr. Kling, join the WOPR Party

What is the WOPR Party? If you recall the end of the movie "Wargames" you'll remember that WOPR (the computer controlling the nuclear missile silos) says "The only winning move is not to play" which many, perhaps soon to be most, citizens have adopted as their voting mantra.

The succession of repulsive candidates has, well, repulsed, many potential voters and forced them into the WOPR Party. Every campaign manager tells his/her candidate to run Left/Right to attract the base in the primaries and then move to the center for the general election where the clueless then proclaim "there's no difference between the parties". Following the election, the ranks of the WOPR Party swell with those betrayed by what was promised in the primaries and not delivered and with those betrayed by what was promised in the general election and not delivered. The repulsive candidate smiles his/her porcine smile and gets ready for the next election.

I'll admit that I'm inching closer to the WOPR Party but I'll still vote for the "best of the worst" because I can't support the "worst of the worst". You should vote too because my "best" may be your "worst" and you shouldn't let the "worst" win by default.

So form a viable third party
Arnold, the only problem with your prescription is that we're already doing that.

Back in 2002, the last off-season election, 17% of the electorate voted Democrat. 18% voted Republican. And 65% of us voted for no one.

As you know, "no one" won.

I know a lot of these disaffected people. They are cynical about the intent and the abilities of both parties to do anything that will benefit them-- and rightly so. They don't vote as a matter of conviction, and I can't find the words to convince them to vote. Because boosting the lesser of two negatives just fails to excite.

Instead they need a positive-- a party whose platform is populist and whose appeal is to the gut and to the best interests of the demographic majority.

Of course campaigns can't be won without money. I doubt a national third party could become viable without a war chest in the $150 million range. So a backer is needed-- someone with that kind of money to spare, who doesn't mind betraying the interests of his economic class. Maybe you could give George Soros a call.

Here in NC we have had a lively and committed Libertarian Party, fielding candidates in local and state elections for years. Their only problem? They're hugely unpopular.

In 2002 they got less than one percent of the vote, which got them taken off the ballot by our rules. So in 2004 they ran that perennial favorite--- no one.

So whatever the Libertarians are selling, the people of this largely blue collar, military state aren't buying. I would alter the message to suit the recipient and add large amounts of cash, so it could get out to the public in its new, improved version

Vote libertarian even if you need to write in. At least it lets the politicians know...
...That you do not believe their lies.

And if the libertarian's get a few percentage points and the repubs lose a be less than a few percentage points we might begin to move the party.

And my Ron Paul win reelection to congress in a landslide.


Yes Yes Yes!
Republican vs. Democrat is a false choice.

Divided Governmment vs. Single Party Control is the real choice.

Divided Government results in better oversight, better protection of our liberty, and better fiscal responisiblity.

Third parties, if they are effective, have the opposite of the intended effect (Perot elects Clinton, Nader elects Bush). If the third party draws from both parties equally, it is irrelevant and impotent (see Libertarian Party).

In a highly polarized political environment, a relatively small block of enlightened voters, voting consistently for divided government, sometimes Republican, sometimes Democrat, can have an positive impact far out of proportion to their actual numbers.

In 2006, the Divided Government vote is for a Democratic House. Niskanen documents that a divided congress is even more beneficial than a divided government. If the Dems take the House, and the Republicans keep the Senate, its all good.

More Divided Government resources are on my blog Divided We Stand, United we Fall (www.DWSUWF.us)

Vote for Better Government, Vote for Divided Government

Roosting in the right hen house
"I really thought (in 2000) that Gore should have won so the economic chickens could have come home to roost in the correct hen house."

By that reasoning you should vote Republican in 2008. Our pattern, for the past 25 years, has been for the Republicans to spend and then for the Democrats to tax, to make our fiscal ends meet. If we elect a Democrat in 2008 it just reinforces this dynamic.

Instead we should vote for the Republican so he can either continue floating the economy on air, or he will have to drink the koolaid and raise taxes, like GB One did back in 1991.

A Democrat was supposed to have followed the Reagan years. Because it was apparent that whoever followed our eight year experiment in voodoo economics would be a one term president.

So vote Republican. Let's see the consequences of our behaviors.

Kling is Dead wrong... Emphasis on "Dead"
Kling has it wrong -- Dead wrong. All of the complaints about out-of-control GOP spending are correct; but a Democrat controlled House and/or Senate would tie the President up in committee subpoenas trying to impeach him, which is a Very Dangerous Thing in wartime.

Furthermore, a Democrat controlled Senate would mean any Supreme Court Justices in the mold of Scalia and Roberts would never get confirmed. Given the Court's stinker in Kelo and Kling's (assumed) disgust at it, I'm surprised he would stay at home and not vote for Steele as his Senator.

[I originally posted this on Lucianne.com

A suggestion
You and I don't always fall on the same side of an issue. But you might look at my comment below: So form a viable third party.

Regards,

No can do
Can't write in any more. That's one reason they went to electronic ballots.

You get one from Column A or one from Column B. That's it.

Protest notes are futile
I worked a few elections and I can assure you that most of the people who handle the mechanics of it would be inclined to dump anything not marked for the offered choices as invalid ballots and dump them in the already gigantic boo-boo pile.

The Libertarians are a viable alternative vote wherever available. Our system isn't at all conducive to revolution so there can be no cataclysmic change but so what?

Read about the Fabians. Socialists understood that reform beats revolution every time. So they took their game plan straight from Fabius Cuncator (“The Delayer”) who whipped Hannibal's butt by refusing to meet him in any sort of high stakes forum like a pitched battle. Relentlessly and with single minded focus, Fabius snuck up on the much bigger and better equipped army and basically bled him dry, bite by bite.

The Fabian Society focuses on influence and leverage. Originally they just bit off a little piece of the electorate in every election in as many areas as they could manage and negotiated their chunk of voter base to get their party platform enacted. They were largely responsible for Britain’s Labour Party, The London School of Economics, and, surprise! our education system (Why argue with Mummy and Daddums about what little Fauntleroy should learn when you can teach the teachers progressive notions and let them do it?). The Libertarian Party seems to be following the Fabian game plan and surely that’s a smart approach.

Another elemental strategy is to keep the farm teams churning. Nearly all federal candidates come from local elections. Therefore, on the local and state level people can simply vote a straight challenger ticket. Without a base constituency the Junior Varsity players have nothing to offer the K Street Suits.

And, of course, keep reading and commenting on sites like these. The prime time super strategists definitely check these better known sites (or at least they assign team member grunts to check them) for vital signs.

So, I’m voting…

Democrats spend even more than Republicans
That's what history shows.

There is a Third Choice
Mr. Kling's logic is deeply flawed: the only message conveyed by not voting is that "we don't care". If he wants to send the message -- "I find both parties totally unsatisfactory...", he needs to cast his vote beyond the traditional two-party choices: VOTE LIBERTARIAN!

Klown Kling
TO: Kling
RE: Staying Home?

I'd recommend you do NOT stay home. Rather, you emigrate to someplace other than the US.

However, if you don't care to do the latter, do the former and vote for some other party that you think has a better chance of living up to your expectations.

Otherwise....

....get the flock out of THIS country and don't let the screen door hit you in the ass on your way out.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Non-participation on the part of the general populus is the biggest problem in any democratic government.]

Get the ignorant out of this country
With all do respect, Chuckles, I think it's important for some people to stay OUT of the voting booth. I would even argue that the current voter participation rates are way too high.

Surely you can see that rounding up bums in vans full of booze and cigs to take them voting is the wrong way to good government. Brow beating citizens into doing their duty is hardly any better.

After standing watch at a number of polling stations in a few elections, I came to the conclusion that the informed voter is a near mythological creature. But that's not so bad. Those who are concerned, passionate even, show up at the poll ready to do electoral battle to achieve their ends. Better to have an all volunteer voter battalion who have armed and trained themselves for the fight than the smug, "I'm John Q Goody-Two-Shoes, and I vote!" knucklehead.

I used to amuse myself by asking people not who they voted for but how they decided who to vote for. Most people describe what is basically a wackier version of their betting strategy at the local greyhound track, ("I add up the number of letters in the name and divide by lucky seven", "Vote for the Irishman, the least corrupt/most efficient." "Never vote ethnic. This country's not made for foreigners.", "I just make a diagonal pattern in the blocks.", "He's got such a nice looking family.")

You can't even tell people to be informed. How could they get properly informed? If you had to make room in your home for the federal register of legislation (never mind state and local), you wouldn't have to worry about the kiddies watching too much TV. You wouldn't have room for one.

I read books, periodicals, and the Internet for as much as six hours every day on current issues. Am I informed? Sort of. I hope.

But my physician husband by whose generosity and hard work I have the ability to read so extensively couldn't possibly do that. My "knowledge" is miles wide and inches deep allowing me to navigate through a citizen's sea of concerns. His knowledge is inches wide and miles deep permitting action in only a small, though vital, area. We have developed this symbiosis naturally and he pretty much seeks my opinion on outside matters like voter issues.

I see this, BTW, as a viable gender construct in the future evolution of marriage. Smarter women than me would serve humanity better by going home and tending to their families where they can now stay directly (electronically) connected to the outside world AND raise better citizens and future voters.

But what if everyone suddenly committed to such extensive but necessarily random research like I do? The GDP would drop to zip, PDQ.

Relax, Chuckles. We fire-breathers attract enough attention. Those who respond are issue oriented and that's okay. They are yeast to the bread of life. This Get Out The Vote mania has caused too much trouble already.

I will vote
If for no other reason that having my voice heard on the several ballot issues. Voting isn't all about, and shouldn't be even mostly about, the politicians. The most important items are the voter initiatives; these will effect you more directly and immediately than what some politico does in D.C.

Crying Wolf... or just crying...
Democraps can't have an election without crying fraud! The last election was a 2-1 margin, yet there was fraud?

I challenge everyone to go to your local polling place, meet and shake hands with the peole running the polls. Then see how you feel when the MSM runs story after story about fraud or disenfranchisement.

Stay at homes
Seems to me that this election is about far more than whether or not to stay at home, hold one's nose and vote Republican, or vote Democratic as a protest. If this were say 1998 the issues might not be so stark but since then the Dems have lunged so precipitously leftward that Ross Perot's crack about there not being a dime's worth of difference between the parties no longer applies--in spades. To have moved so far as to make even the Clintons look like centrists is a signal and unsavory accomplishment. Whatever one's dismay over the Republican's spending habits or multi-culti failings the electoral choice has never been starker and the assertion that getting drubbed this fall will energize the conservative base is a thin reed upon which to hang one's hopes. Letting the bull loose in the china shop may leave Dresden glass owners in high dudgeon but there'll still be a lot of irreparably broken shards that someone will have to clean up.

To hope that putting the Dems back in positions of leadership will inculcate some responsibility and elevate their behavior to a more grown-up level doesn't qualify as even the thinnest of reeds. For me the walrus-in-the-punchbowl issue of fighting or appeasing Islamist intolerance and violence soundly trumps relatively petty domestic squabbles and so the craven defeatism of the Dems attracts rather than repels me from the polls.

Amen!!
"urely you can see that rounding up bums in vans full of booze and cigs to take them voting is the wrong way to good government. Brow beating citizens into doing their duty is hardly any better."

My state is spending money to browbeat the citizenry into voting right now. If you really care to vote, you don't need to be reminded every 20 minutes that the election is Nov. 7.

You don't have to vote for each race
We'd make a far stronger point if in some locale, there were 20% more total votes for the office of dog catcher than for the Congressional seat. That would tell the Congressperson that his office isn't as important to us as the dogcatcher.

Selling disaffection with democracy
If today's incumbents have put voters off of voting, then their performance in office has sold voters on disaffection with democracy. And I don't blame the voters or King; I, too, am disaffected by our democracy because it doesn't work very well as political systems go, which is both its primary blessing and curse. Just imagine the perfect society we'd be living for if things were otherwise.

Forming a new party attempts to reform our democracy from within the system and according to the system's rules. But it's that very system that procures the governments we don't like and will continue doing so in perpetuity. And if this is the prevailing sentiment, then it explains why third parties have just as much trouble selling themselves as do the first two: Who needs three rotten eggs when two will do?

Cheers, rb.

Needed: A National Referendum Process
If each 2 year election contained "Referendum" items, many more might vote. There if no way elected officials, subject to multiple conflicting influences, can represent a citizen better than a citizen can respresent themselves.

I recommend that all citizens vote this Nov 2006 for those who will agree to establish a National Referendum process.

There is an idea whose time has come
It just might help. For sure it would help politicians understand what a majority in their district really wanted and give them a better idea how to vote on various bills in congress.

not always a panacea
Here in Nevada, the Supreme Court threw out a ballot initiative limiting the growth of spending, because there was a spelling error in the copy submitted to the govt.
The spelling error was corrected in the forms submitted to the voters for signatures.

Because the two versions were different, the intiatiative was declared invalid, and won't be on Nov. ballot.

In Florida, a ballot initiative to limit affirmative action, because it had Civil Rights in it's title. The courts ruled that such a label was deceptive.

In Montana and North Dakota…
the same SOS (stop over spending) initiative went to the courts. Dakota threw it out also, because signature collection violated the law there. That same issue may get it tossed in Montana as well.

And a lot of people are pis sed off!! Still, the ability to get initiatives on the ballot is a very good thing. Now, if only we can keep the liberal judges from stopping this as well.

You got that right!
Someone previously posted that he wished Al Gore had originally beaten W so that when the "chickens came home to roost" economically speaking, we'd all know which hen house we were in. Very good point.

But then we would have had Big Al at the helm on 9/11 something I recall even a majority of Dems at the time expressed relief about.

The Dems in charge of defense!? Good grief, Charlie Brown! We would have to clear all battle ready troops through the feminist field training trials, multicultural military readiness ops, and mass production of stress cards for all those who might get overwhelmed by the noise and heat of beating the baddies in Baghdad.

Quick, quick! Where's my GOP voter's guide?!

Stupidity Never Dies
This is one of the most dumbasstic statements I ever had to bear the burden of reading.

The Law West of the Middle East (and reality) is not only a Terrorist state sympathizer, but a Communist, too.

His heart bleeds so much I have to wonder if he was assassinated by a bullet through that organ years ago but doesn't know he's just a wandering ghost now.

Here's the dynamic deal for the last 40+ years (with the roots of it all going back to Andy Jackson): The Republicans steal your rights while the Democrats steal your money. Neither one of the parties is trying to balance anything at all, except their own bipartisanly shared, demented obsession with personal power.

Anybody Find It Odd that Arnie Cavorts with the opposition and want to call the shots?
"On Tuesday, September 12, I cast my last vote of 2006. A registered Democrat (I often find excuses to vote for Democrats, even though I disagree with them on many important issues ), I took part in the Maryland primary, casting my ballot for certain losers. I voted, futilely, against the "teacher-approved" slate."

So Arnie, you are a REGISTERED DEMOCRAT and you "find excuses" to vote for them, but complain the Republicans don't suit you.

You cavort with the opposition and want to call the shots?

This really is a little like a kid threatening to run away to me.






What the hell?
Send a letter to your Congressman. Someone reads those - they'll notice. Your voice is only one of many, so don't be suprised if your brilliant analysis doesn't become policy.

KLING FOR CONGRESS
If elected , Arnold will have to move his column to The Congressional Record ,compelling the usual commentators here to read it.

Staying Away!
TO: msfitz52
RE: Let Them Non-Participate

"With all do respect, Chuckles, I think it's important for some people to stay OUT of the voting booth. I would even argue that the current voter participation rates are way too high." -- msfitz52

Respectfully....

...I agree, albeit in a different mode.

Let them stay away from the voting booth by leaving the country. Especially, if they don't have the 'time' to go to vote in the first place.

Let them emigrate to Mexico! And good riddance.

RE: Women, Politics and Families

"Smarter women than me would serve humanity better by going home and tending to their families where they can now stay directly (electronically) connected to the outside world AND raise better citizens and future voters." -- msfitz52

I tend to agree with you. The root cause of most of our societal woes is that good women are not in the business of raising good citizens. [Note: I'm married to the proverbial woman....see Proverbs 31, latter part.]

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Women will never be the equal of men until they can have large bald spots and still think they're good-looking. - Aunt Opal]

Absentee Voting
I would highly recommend absentee or early voting for any election.

My father died in 2000 just before the election and I had to leave the state and could not vote.

So vote often and vote early. (Or one of those.)

Florida Primary
After getting too many computer generated phone calls that violated Reagan's 11th Commandment (Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican) from both leading candidates to replace Jeb Bush, I decided to protest by voting for all 4 candidates.

I didn't want to leave the governor's race blank, I wanted to spoil my ballot and be obvious about it.

Unfortunately, the machine that collected and counted the ballots kept spitting mine back out. When it came out the 3rd time the poll workers came running, thinking the machine had a problem. When I explained my protest, they told me I had to fill out another and leave it blank, but I couldn't mark more than one candidate.

Our county has had these machines since 1994. If only Palm Beach and surrounding counties had them in 2000, them maybe Al Gore wouldn't have been such a poor loser.

AK a registered Democrat
Interesting: a feature writer of TCS is a registered Democrat. Think about it ...

Your crtitcal assumption is incorrect.
Thank you for the alert above. You are quite right that these two issues interrelate.

I have to take issue with the critical assumption of your post. Namely, that the 65% of people who did not vote made a decision to vote for nobody. I would suggest that most of these people did not make a decision to cast their ballot for nobody to send a message, but that the majority of this 65% simply decided not to vote. There is a critical difference between the two. If 65% of people made a decision to stay home to send a message, then you are correct. A Third Party candidate is entirely viable and should make the attempt to run. On the other hand, if I am correct, this 65% of people simply does not care enough about politics to bother voting, and a Third Party candidate will have a serious uphill battle ahead of them.

There are, within that 65%, a substantial number of people for whom circumstances arose that prevented them from voting. Perhaps they were ill that day, or had to be out of town unexpectedly, or were simply too busy to vote. This is to be expected on any given election day, and cannot be overcome by any party, let alone a Third Party. There is a much larger percentage, however, that simply does not care enough to vote. My guess is that of that 65%, the vast majority of people simply valued the extra hour of sleep that they would get if they did not vote early more than the ability to cast a ballot, or valued getting home and eating dinner more than they valued standing in line for an hour or two to cast a ballot that they do not believe will matter. There are also always a large number of people who have looked at the candidates involved, and do not care for either of them. These people actually decide not to vote to send a message, wheras most people who do not vote do not do so because they either cannot do so or do not care enough to do so.

The people who make decisions and really take the time to evaluate candidates have probably already found homes in one of the two existing parties. These are the people who go out and work for candidates, or at least take voting as a kind of duty. These are the organizers, the people who make a difference at election time. The other 65% of people do not have a real effect on politics because they do not participate.

It is only if one of the two major parties disintegrates, or angers so many of their members that they cannot win that a Third Party is viable. This will release enough people who care enough to vote to do something about it. Luckily for Third Party fans, the Democratic Party is baout to do so. Similarly, the RINO/Conservative split in the Republican Party is growing stronger by the day, and will likely result in a lot of diasaffected RINOs. There may be a viable Third Party when the Democrats fall apart, but not before then.

None of the above
My assumption is that if you sent in an absentee ballot with none of the boxes checked, but a note written on it explaining your position, it would just become one of the mountains of "spoiled ballots" they throw out.

Not that easy any more. Today you have to choose from among the candidates they offer you.

Calls for speculation
I would offer, based on personal observations, some adjustments to your critical assumptions.

"There are, within that 65%, a substantial number of people for whom circumstances arose that prevented them from voting. Perhaps they were ill that day, or had to be out of town unexpectedly, or were simply too busy to vote."

In reality, talking to many of these committed nonvoters, as I have done, I find two things to be true:

They do not make their decision not to vote in order to send a signal to anyone. They don't think anyone is listening.

They do not abstain because they have no interest in politics (in your words, because they don't care enough to vote). In fact they care passionately about politics as it concerns questions that affect them vitally, and they know it.

The problem is that they are cynical about all the candidates. They assume, quite rightly, that every candidate they are offered has the taint of moneyed interests clinging to him, that he has no actual interest in the plight of the common man and that there is no one honest to vote for. Thus they give up in frustration.

Go down to a breakfast place where people hang out in the morning talking to each other, and conduct this survey for yourself.

Knowing this key fact, one can take the lesson that a populist candidate who could reach these disaffected voters could win over a demographic heretofore untouched by either party. But it would take money to get the message out. Huge money.

Don't know do you?
You assume.

I bet you could write in a vote if you wanted. You just have not asked.

Building a winning ticket
We actually haven't had a history full of many inspiring, populist leaders. But if you recall Ross Perot, that plain speaking, anti-establishment gent polled quite a few votes-- despite the fact that he was kind of a fruitcake.

He would have done far better without his abysmal choice of a running mate-- a choice that displayed his wackiness to full advantage and turned a lot of people off late in the campaign. I think he shows how vulnerable the system is to an intelligent, nonestablishment challenger. People want someone they can vote FOR-- not just the least harmful of the candidates they dislike. And I think there is real pent up demand for such a candidate.

The Libertarian Party, everywhere I've seen it at work, has been incapable of kindling the necessary spark of enthusiasm among these disaffected voters. What we need is a strong personality with a knack for putting the right words to people's discontent. Abstruse philosophies of governance just don't reach anyone-- people just want to know if the candidate is going to kick some Washington ass.

BTW I haven't ignored your last several posts. I take them out and look at them from time to time. Whenever I manage to figure out what you're saying I'll be able to address them. :)

But who'll stay home to cook the books?
Are you really, really sure you want all those who are too busy running the country to vote living in Mexico?

Is it better to have Maureen Minibrain and Larry Littlethink marching off to the polling place to auto-vote the next big entitlement goody into their grubby little hands?

Frankly, I wouldn't be too miffed with Daddy if he wants to leave the big decisions to Mommy while he slaves away at the local corporate office park for the good of the family...

Two thoughts on Brother Arnold
A registered Democrat on TCS. Hmmm...

First thought: Arnold has a high humiliation quotient.

Second thought: He hasn't felt humiliated enough to take it to the next level, full blown neocon.

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