Tag Archives: Conservative

Voting Third-Party in 2016

In his recent Op Ed, Paul Krugman talked about the dangerous attraction of voting Libertarian (see here). I’d like to second this. Well actually from my perspective he is seconding me, but he did hit “Publish” a few hours before this planned Monday morning post.

Look, Paul said it well but here’s my unique take on this. I have long advocated voting third-party to anyone who would listen. I argued, soundly I still think, that Progressives consistently vote out of fear and have failed to play the smarter and longer strategic game. By failing to take a stand for change and to lose a Presidency or a Supreme Court Judge in the short term, we consistently vote for the “lesser of two evils.” This has only played into the hands of the Conservatives in which they win either way, maintaining the status quo and moving the center methodically ever further to the Right with each election cycle. Unless we are willing to back a third party candidate in large numbers and lose a battle, sacrifice a Pawn or even a Queen, we cannot hope to win the war.

But there are rational limits to everything, and even in war there are some battles that we cannot give up; a hill that we cannot allow to be taken, a Rubicon that cannot allow the enemy to cross. If Jeb Bush or John Kasich were the Republican nominee, I would still be advising the long game. However, Donald Trump totally changes my calculus. A pathological liar who rivals Kim Jong-un only in his level of obscene narcissism, simply cannot be allowed to assume a position of such immense power. Allowing a reckless buffoon like Trump to take office in America, even if only for four years, is utterly unacceptable.

As much as it catches in my throat to even say it, voting third party is simply foolish in this election. I admit that I am motivated by fear here. I am afraid of the real, existential threat of Donald Trump. Sometimes fear can save our lives.

Even if one grants the silly Fox meme that Hillary is a crook, a crook in the White House is infinitely preferable to an utterly self-serving compulsive liar.

One of my biggest complaints and concerns about Hillary is that she is too hawkish. But recklessly insane Donald Trump has already said he would launch missiles if some guys give the finger to personnel on one of our Destroyers! There is absolutely no comparison here. Hillary the lesser of two evils? Absolutely, by an incalculable margin.

And don’t fool yourself. Your vote matters even if you live in a safely Blue State. Unless Hillary wins with an overwhelming popular vote, she will have no mandate and the forces that spawned Trump will only feel encouraged and emboldened to block her every effort and to keep giving us more of the same extreme Conservatism.

libertarianIf, after all this, you still feel compelled to vote third-party, think about who you are supporting with your symbolic vote. Johnson and Weld are Libertarians. They claim to be “fiscally conservative and socially liberal.” But this is a HUGE LIE. They are only socially liberal in as far as they support the legalization of pot and a woman’s right to choose. But they also support privatization of almost every social institution including education, the right to own assault weapons, eliminating all corporate taxes, instituting a hugely regressive consumption tax, trusting in the private sector to stop climate change, and eliminating almost all regulations. The list goes on and on. These guys are not socially liberal since all of their “fiscally conservative” positions are actually socially conservative positions painted up as fiscal common sense.

If you vote Libertarian, you are not just saying you reject the status quo, you are also saying you support all of their extreme Libertarian positions that are too far Right for even mainstream Conservatives to accept.

One final plea. If you DO still feel compelled to vote third-party, strongly consider voting for Dr. Jill Stein. The Green Party is not an ideologically blinded wolf in sheep’s clothing like the Libertarians. They are truly sensible, rational, intelligent, and represent real Progressive change. If we were not faced with the horrifying specter of a Donald Trump Presidency, I would be proud to vote Green. Vote for them down ticket as much as you can.

Sorry Jill, I feel terrible but please try again and again!!

 

Our Curious Public Mood Swings

PolicyMood

This is a fascinating and revealing chart illustrating our curious public mood swings. It was produced by Larry Bartels (see here) using data compiled by James Stimson (see here). It measures the “policy mood” of the country since 1950. The higher the score, the more conservative was public opinion at that particular point in time.

Stinson derived this policy mood index from responses to a wide range of public policy surveys. Since it does not rely upon self-identification as liberal or conservative, it is arguably a more nuanced and accurate measure of where public attitudes fall on the liberal-conservative spectrum.

The most obvious thing to note here are the dramatic swings. Clearly public attitudes about major issues are not as fixed as we might imagine. Over the past 65 years public opinion has swung up and down by almost 20 points. Clearly public sentiment can be swayed significantly.

The most interesting thing about these swings is revealed when you refer to the Administration timeline that Bartels added to the x-axis. If you study this a bit you’ll undoubtedly start to scratch your head in confusion. Under each Democrat administration the country became more conservative, and under each Conservative administration the country became more liberal. This is entirely counter-intuitive and immensely important.

The nation became dramatically more liberal during the Eisenhower years. Ike was moderately conservative overall but staunchly conservative on economic issues. It became slightly more conservative during the moderately liberal Kennedy/Johnson era but shifted far toward the conservative extreme during the very liberal Carter years. Similarly, during the extremely conservative Reagan era, public sentiment shot back down again toward the liberal end of the spectrum. Under Clinton, the public then became more conservative and after a year or two of George Bush became more liberal again. Finally, under the very liberal President Obama, we have become dramatically more conservative.

The next observation may or may not be significant, but the swing has been between 30 and 50 on this scale of conservatism. I can’t imagine what kind of views it would require to earn a 100% rating on this scale, but for what it’s worth public opinion has remained solidly on the liberal side of the spectrum. This seems to defy the popular meme that America is a “near Right” country. It suggests we are actually (still) a “near Left” country.

But that may not last if trends continue. Although this chart bounces up and down, there is still a clear upward best fit line. This supports the long-term trend toward conversativism reported independently by other sources. Essentially each President since Eisenhower has rated as more conservative. More specifically, each Republican President has been more conservative than the previous Republican President and each Democrat President has been more conservative than the previous Democrat President. This reinforces the observation that despite these swings, the Conservatives succeed year after year in moving the “center” ever farther toward the Right.

So what conclusions can we draw from these data? First, it isn’t true that we are intractably divided and cannot change. Clearly a very significant fraction of us can be moved a substantial amount in one direction or the other. Next, we are perhaps overall more liberal than the Right would like to have us believe. However, we are trending ever more conservative and that is never likely to reverse as long as liberals keep voting for the “lesser of two evils” who is still ever more conservative than his or her predecessor.

Finally, as Bartels pointed out in his article, Presidents do not actually succeed in shifting public opinion their direction. The data rather show that the public tends to recoil reliably away from the President in their attitudes. Paradoxically and counter-intuitively, these data suggest that the fastest way to shift public sentiment toward the liberal end would be to elect a highly conservative President. And the best way to reverse the long-term trend toward conservatism may be to allow our “lesser of two evils” Democratic candidates to lose.