Elections, Part 5: Thresholds, fuzziness and realignments

by SDG

in Government

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

UPDATE: new comments link for Part 5 (TypePad says they’re working on this!)

New comments link for Part 4 (TypePad says they’re working on this!)

SDG here (not Jimmy) with more thoughts on voting.

In Part 4 I proposed what I called the “intuitive and obvious” claim that “you vote for the candidate you hope to see win.” The first point in need of further consideration is what is meant by “the candidate you hope to see win.”

Whatever the merits of voting any way at all, in the end any election will produce a winner whose administration will have practical implications for the common good. Such implications, it should be noted, are broad-based, extending not only to the implementation or non-implementation of specific policy initiatives, but also to such effects as public advocacy of or opposition to key principles on public discourse and cultural sensibilities, the stamp of a candidate’s administration on the party and the nation, and of course the long-term effects of a candidate’s judicial nominees.

Let’s suppose two major-party candidates X and Y. Candidate X strongly supports several intrinsically immoral policies — virtually every such policy on the market, let’s suppose — while candidate Y is largely opposed to most of them, though with various qualifying asterisks and footnotes. (For example, let’s suppose that Y favors embryonic stem-cell research, though not as robustly as X, and while Y is anti-abortion he allows loopholes that may not be compatible with Catholic teaching, and so forth. What? It’s a thought experiment.)

Candidate X is highly likely to vigorously reinforce and strengthen the culture of death in various ways: legislative support for intrinsically evil policies, increased public funding for abortion, evil-activist justices to the Supreme Court as well as lower-level judges, and so forth.

In virtually all of these respects, we recognize that candidate Y is highly likely to be an improvement on candidate X, even if Y still has significant problems. Y will oppose most intrinsically immoral policies, though he may advance some, if not to the extent that X would. It seems likely that Y’s judicial nominees would be an improvement upon X’s, though far from certain that they would be particularly good. The country would be spared the corrosive cultural effects of X’s public advocacy of intrinsic evils.

Of course X would accomplish some good things in office; so presumably would Y, or so would any candidate. It could even be that the implications of a victory for X would include some positive effects on the very issues where Y advocates intrinsically immoral policies. Almost any catastrophe will include some good effects. It doesn’t change the fact that a victory for X is a catastrophe, and that Y would be significantly preferable.

At this point it seems fairly clear that we may say we do not want to see X win — that, of the two possible outcomes, an X administration would be the more undesirable outcome for the common good. Thus it would seem that, of the two possible outcomes, a Y administration is the preferred outcome.

Yet if candidate Y supports even one intrinsically evil policy, can we speak of “hoping” that he wins? Is that “hoping” for evil?

In almost any race there are assorted candidates flying well below the radar — Chuck Baldwin, Ralph Nader, Bob Barr, Cynthia McKinney. If we could, many of us would pick one of these marginal or quixotic candidates to send to the White House. Many do in fact cast votes for such candidates, or if necessary even write in the candidates of their choice. Why shouldn’t the rest of us follow suit? Why settle for the lesser of two evils if there is a better choice?

The common-sense response, of course, is that Z has zero chance of winning. Much as we might like to see someone else win, we have no real hope of our quixotic candidate (or any other) winning. We may choose to vote for him anyway — it is not my primary purpose here to oppose quixotic voting as a matter of personal choice — but at the end of the day, or the election cycle, the White House will in fact go to one of the two major-party tickets. Whatever objections and criticisms we may have of the selection process, whatever better systems we might advocate in principle, the reality of our current system is that, once the primaries are over, the campaign underway, the VP choices announced, there are only two possible outcomes.

Some idealists may resist this conclusion. Why is it that Z has no chance of winning? Isn’t it simply because we all agree that he has no chance? Isn’t it a self-fulfilling perception? If enough of us got up on election day and voted for him, why then, he would be the winner. What if everyone rebeled and voted for the genuinely good candidate? Wouldn’t that be a better world? Why shouldn’t we do our part to work toward that better world?

This line of thought is appealing, but it doesn’t work in practice. This isn’t necessarily to dismiss all quixotic voting, which might be advocated on other grounds. However, the fact remains that, no matter how many of us vote quixotic, the outcome of the election will be collectively decided by those who vote for one of the major-party candidates.

To begin with, our quixotic candidate is doomed, not because everyone agrees he is doomed, but for the more elementary reason that a critical mass of voters never think of him at all. However it has happened, he hasn’t made the necessary impression on the collective consciousness of the voting public to have a real shot.

It may not be his fault. The exigencies of the American political process turn heavily on factors ranging from national organizational infrastructure to the enormous amounts of money needed to power national and grass-roots campaigns as well as the realities of national public attention and media coverage. Once again, we can rail against the system as much as we like; it may be that there are better systems, and perhaps we should consider them.

In our present situation, though, it essentially doesn’t matter how many of us rebel against the two-party duopoly and vote quixotic — our quixotic candidate is still doomed. Let’s suppose some astronomical percentage of the electorate — over half, or even two-thirds — were to wake up on voting day and decide to throw viability to the winds and truly vote their heart for the two-person ticket they would truly most want to see in the White House. Would that be a better world?

In a word, no — at least, not as regards the outcome of this election.

For one thing, once we widen the pool of candidates beyond the major parties, there’s no particular reason why voters thinking outside the two-party box will commence rallying around our quixotic candidate, or any candidate we might support, or even any candidate we might like better than X or Y. The field of potential quixotic candidates — and the bloc of potential quixotic voters — is too diverse. Votes will be cast for Baldwin, Nader, Barr and McKinney. But many will find none of those choices acceptable. If we are truly voting our hearts, there’s no reason why we should be limited to names on the ballot. And so we will get write-ins for anyone and everyone from Pat Robertson to Nancy Pelosi, Bill Gates to T. Boone Pickins, Paris Hilton to Scott Hahn, Michael Moore to Mel Gibson.

In the end, our massive quixotic vote will wind up hopelessly divided among countless prospects. Very likely a great many voters, however carefully they consider choices outside the two-party box, will still wind up with no better idea than to vote for the major-party ticket of their choice — not to mention the pragmatic voters who will do the same. In the end, the largest bloc of votes for a single candidate will still ultimately go to one of the two major-party tickets.

In an earlier combox discussion on this blog, someone suggested that a certain pro-life quixotic candidate could win if only American Catholics were serious about voting pro-life. The problem, of course, is that he couldn’t: There aren’t enough Catholics in America, pro-life or otherwise. We aren’t a large enough bloc, even voting all together, to elect a quixotic candidate all by ourselves. Catholics in general are a key swing vote, but a candidate needs support from multiple sectors in order to win.

The only practical effect of any such extravagant experiment in quixotic voting is this: The winning major-party ticket will be picked by a smaller bloc of voters than ever before — and, conversely, whatever preference that enormous bloc of quixotic voters may have as a group between the two major-party tickets will be a non-factor in the outcome. Our massive exercise in quixotic voting turns out to be an exercise in large-scale self-disenfranchisement.

Again, this isn’t necessarily an argument against all quixotic voting. It could be argued that, in the long run, such a defeat can have a salutary effect for the losing cause. Efforts to avoid similar defeats may possibly result in improved major-party candidates seeking to unite the base and woo back disaffected quixotic voters. And maybe so. On the other hand, the losing party could also wind up essentially writing off the quixotic vote (or the sector of the quixotic vote we happen to represent) and seeking to shore up other sectors of support — possibly along lines that worked for the winning ticket. Again, I’m not primarily arguing the merits of quixotic voting, so the point is moot.

The argument at this stage is simply the obvious observation that, things being what they are, the outcome of the election will be collectively decided by those voters who vote for one of the two major-party candidates. The more numerous quixotic voters are, the fewer major-party voters will have input on which of the two major-party candidates will in fact govern the country.

I said above that voting quixotic amounted to an act of self-disenfranchisement. For many quixotic voters, though, it may be seen as an expression of an existing sense of disenfranchisement — of their inability to influence the process in any way, as illustrated in the present race by the poorness of both candidates, neither of whom even remotely resembles a candidate the quixotic voter would like to support.

Quixotic voters note that no presidential election, no matter how close or contested, ever turns on one single vote. No one vote affects the outcome. Even if I have a preference for one of the major-party candidates over the other, I as an individual have no actual power even to contribute to his victory. My vote has no actual effect. Therefore, there is no compelling reason for me to cast my vote for a lousy major-party candidate just because the other guy is even worse. It’s not like my vote has any chance of saving us from the worse candidate anyway.

At first glance this might seem like an exercise in fuzzy-logic sophistry, but the point is subtler than that. Fuzzy logic deals with degrees of truth and fuzzy sets. For example, one person who picks one flower from a national park may tell himself that one flower won’t ruin the park — but a million people picking a million flowers ruins the park, and every one of the million people who picks one flower is complicit in the park’s ruin. Isn’t the quixotic voter essentially committing the same error as the flower-picker?

Actually, not exactly, no. The “ruin” of the park is a matter of degrees; each flower picked really does infinitesimally damage the park. If a million picked flowers ruins the park, ten thousand would damage it, twenty thousand would be twice as bad, and so on. It’s a matter of degree.

The outcome of an election, though, is not a matter of degree in the same way. Rather, it’s a matter of reaching or not reaching a given threshold. There is a sense in which, beyond that threshold in either direction, more or fewer votes doesn’t change the outcome; a candidate is no more or less president (or not president) for the margin by which he exceeds or falls short of the needed threshold.

Thus, in contrast to the flower picker whose one act of flower-picking really does have an effect, it may be argued that the individual voter actually makes no difference to the outcome. Therefore, since my vote doesn’t actually affect the outcome, there is no practical reason to vote pragmatic rather than quixotic.

This argument is of a type that seems superficially cogent, but I think our common sense distrusts the conclusion. One might as well conclude that there is no point in voting at all. Certainly it is hard to see why, on this point of view, exercising the right to vote should be considered “morally obligatory,” much less a form of “co-responsibility for the common good” (CCC 2240). How can we exercise “co-responsibility” if our vote makes no difference?

In any election, while the outcome is in one sense not affected by any one vote, it is nevertheless individual votes and nothing else that determines the outcome. (In our system this principle is modified by the vagaries of the electoral college process, in which individual votes are tallied on a state-by-state basis, and the correlation between the popular vote and a winning number of electoral votes isn’t exact. Nevertheless, the state-by-state outcome ultimately determines the final outcome.) Individually considered, we have no power to affect the outcome, but the outcome is determined by nothing other than individual votes.

In a certain sense, the outcome of every election is ultimately determined, on a state-by-state basis, by the distribution of potential voters among three crucial blocs:

A. those who vote for X (henceforth “Xers”),

B. those who vote for Y (henceforth “Yers”), and

C. those who vote for neither X nor Y, either because they vote quixotic or because they don’t vote at all.

Specifically, the outcome is determined solely by which of the first two groups has the advantage of numbers on a state-by-state basis. (The third group affects the outcome only by their absence from the first two blocs.)

Needless to say, none of these blocs is a monolithic unity. Those who vote as Xers or Yers do so for a wide range of different, even conflicting reasons. Some may support X or Y in spite of factors that others reckon among the main reasons to vote for that same candidate. There may in fact be no one policy, priority or factor that unites all Xers or all Yers — other than their common preference for their candidate over the major-party rival.

Yet this preference, while it unites all Xers and all Yers, is not synonymous with being an Xer or a Yer. The crucial threefold division of Xers, Yers and others substantially overlaps with, but is not identical to, another, equally crucial threefold division:

A. possible voters who prefer X to Y — who believe that the common good would be better served by an X administration than a Y administration;

B. possible voters who prefer Y to X — who believe that the common good would be better served by a Y administration than an X administration; and

C. possible voters who have no preference between X and Y — who see no clear advantage or disadvantage for the common good from either in relation to the other.

Among each of these groups, again, is a great deal of diversity, with divergent and conflicting priorities, values, outlooks and opinions. Even regarding their common preference for X or Y, there is room for a wide diversity of opinion regarding the merits of both X and Y, from enthusiastic and unqualified support to those who reluctantly consider one candidate the lesser of two evils. Conversely, attitudes toward the non-supported candidate may fall anywhere along an opposite spectrum, from considering (say) Y a good candidate but not as good as X to considering Y a disastrous candidate. Many on both sides may consider X better than Y in some respects, but Y better than X in others.

Ultimately, though, however strongly, with whatever conflicts, and for whatever reasons, some potential voters prefer X to Y, and others prefer Y to X. For lack of a better term, I’ll classify these groups as “X-friendly” and “Y-friendly” — though, again, this shouldn’t be taken to imply any actual fondness for X or Y.

It will be seen at once that all Xers (those who actually vote for X) are also X-friendlies (with minimal allowances for confusion over ballot configurations and so forth, as well as those marginal voters who may not actually technically exist). However, not all X-friendlies necessarily wind up voting as Xers. Many X-friendlies may wind up in that indeterminate, self-disenfranchised third bloc, those who either cast no vote, or who vote quixotic.

In short, the outcome on a state-by-state basis is determined by two factors. Factor 1 is which group has the advantage of numbers, X-friendlies or Y-friendlies. Factor 2 is how reliably X-friendlies wind up voting as Xers and how reliably Y-friendlies wind up voting as Yers. Do the math (it’s multiplication) and you’ve got the winner. To the extent that X-friendlies tend to vote as Xers, X is more likely to win; to the extent that Y-friendlies tend to vote as Yers, Y is more likely to win.

From this, it seems to follow that to be, say, Y-friendly more or less entails hoping that Yers outnumber Xers state by state, rather than vice versa — which, in turn, more or less entails hoping that Y-friendlies (that is, potential voters like ourselves) as a group wind up, by a critical margin, voting as Yers.

There are various ways of trying to resist this line of thought, but I find them unconvincing, as I try to show in time. The bottom line is that if we think the common good will be best served by a Y administration rather than an X administration, we hope that Y will win, which means we hope that others who also think as we do that the common good will be best served by a Y administration vote for Y.

If they do not do so — if potential voters who are only somewhat or marginally Y-friendly wind up not voting, or voting quixotic, and if in part as a result of this Xers wind up outnumbering Yers state by state, so that X wins — then the common good suffers relative to Y winning.

From this is seems to follow that what we wish to see other voters like ourselves do, we bear some responsibility to do ourselves. If we believe the common good is best served by voters like ourselves voting a certain way, that is how we ought to vote. If we are Y-friendly and want other Y-friendlies to vote as Yers, then we have some responsibility to vote as Yers ourselves. (The term “responsibility” is used here in a general, popular sense, not a technical moral-theology sense. To put it more precisely: On a Y-friendly assessment of the election, to vote as Yers should be seen as a permissible act that discharges our general moral obligation to take co-responsibility for the common good by voting. Other acts also, including voting quixotic, might be argued to discharge that moral obligation; it falls to prudential judgment to decide which of the available permissible ways of discharging our duty is most prudent and advantageous.)

How much “responsibility” we have as Y-friendlies to vote as Yers (that is, how much good “voters like us” can hope to accomplish voting as Yers) may vary with circumstances, but it is never, I submit, entirely nonexistent. Obviously in a critical battleground state the obligation is much more significant than in a state that is solidly friendly to our candidate. However, even in an overwhelmingly Y-friendly state, Y’s victory still depends on actual Y-friendly voters actually turning out voting. That Y’s victory in this state is practically inevitable doesn’t change the fact that Y can’t win the state without actual votes from Y-friendly voters. It is thus incumbent on Y-friendly voters even in an overwhelmingly Y-friendly state actually to turn out and vote for Y; though individual Y-friendlies might make a prudential judgment that enough Y-friendlies will vote as Yers to permit some Y-friendlies to seek the common good in other ways (e.g., voting quixotic).

What about Y-friendly voters who live in an overwhelmingly X-friendly state? Superficially, their situation might seem to be the same as that of Y-friendly voters who live in a solidly Y-friendly state: The outcome is essentially a foregone conclusion, so it “doesn’t matter” how they vote. In fact, though, there is a difference. In even the most Y-friendly state, it is still necessary for some Y-friendly voters to turn out and vote as Yers in order for Y to win. In the most X-friendly states, OTOH, Y cannot win no matter how many Y-friendlies vote for him. In that state, Y is a non-viable candidate; he cannot win there any more than quixotic candidate Z can win. So is there any reason Y-friendlies should vote for him?

Again, Y-friendlies in such a situation may legitimately consider voting quixotic, but yes, there is still good to be accomplished by voting as Yers, no matter what state you live in. The reason is that the “threshold” character of election victory has been somewhat overstated. Although winning or losing is a threshold event, election results do have a somewhat fuzzy character (fuzzy fuzziness, as it were) in which every single vote contributes, just as every flower contributes to the forest. There is winning and winning. The popular vote does matter; how much you win or lose by does matter.

For example, consider this sentence from Zogby regarding recent poll numbers that show Obama with double-digit leads over McCain:

These numbers, if they hold, are blowout numbers. They fit the 1980 model with Reagan’s victory over Carter — but they are happening 12 days before Reagan blasted ahead. If Obama wins like this we can be talking not only victory but realignment…

“Not only victory but realignment.” IOW, the wider the gap between the winner and his nearest competitor, the greater the winner’s perceived mandate; the more he will be perceived to have the will of the people behind him; the less political clout his opponents will have to push back on his agenda; the more pressure they will feel to cooperate with his initiatives.

When Bush 43 eked out an electoral college win by Supreme Court decision in 2000, it was widely understood that he came to office with very little political clout and would have to govern in a very bipartisan style. Bush was accordingly humble and soft-spoken in the early months of his first term.

What changed that, of course, was the devastating “realignment” of 9/11. In the new crisis environment, bipartisanship was shelved for united front, Democrats and Republicans closed ranks, and Bush’s approval ratings soared to the highest levels of any president in U.S. history. This gave him the political capital to aggressively pursue his agenda with little resistance — and he poured out that political capital like water, in ways that, many would conclude, led to his ultimately suffering the worst approval ratings of any president in history.

What events may occur during a president’s term that may affect his perceived mandate, we have no way of knowing. The one fixed point, possibly the key event in the absence of some 9/11-like crisis, is the election.

For Y-friendlies who oppose an X administration, even in an overwhelmingly X-friendly state, it makes sense to want X to win by a smaller margin rather than a greater margin. Likewise, whether or not we can prevent an X victory at the electoral level, we at least want to prevent “realignment.” The popular vote matters; the margin of victory or defeat matters. Thus there is always reason to vote for the preferred viable candidate.

What about voting quixotic? Doesn’t that also add a vote to the non-realignment side of the equation? Yes, to a degree. If X wins 51 percent of the vote, that has a certain fixed value, whether Y wins 49 percent and all possible Zs win 2 percent, or Y wins 42 percent and all possible Zs win 9 percent.

However, there is also a fixed value in the point spread between the winner and his nearest competitor. Winning by two percentage points is one thing; winning by nine percentage points is something else. In terms of weighing against an X mandate, there is always value in voting for Y, whether in an X-friendly state or a Y-friendly state.

Once again, this is not to say that voting quixotic might not be felt to accomplish other goods that are more worth pursuing, particularly in highly X-friendly or Y-friendly states. It is simply to say that there is, in fact, good to be accomplished in voting for Y, no matter what state you live in. It is never the case that such a vote is meaningless.

Whew. More to come.

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{ 96 comments }

Diogenes October 24, 2008 at 9:40 am

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Jordanes October 24, 2008 at 10:05 am

Okay Diogenes. There’s no argument that this country is in horrendous shape, that the Republican Party is decidely not a Catholic party. So, what is a Catholic voter to do this time around? Let Obama stroll leisurely into office and turn the other cheek as he proceeds to demolish every last vestige of pro-life law and policy in the land, and goes on to sign FOCA which will make Catholic health care illegal? It’s not like there are any real alternatives for those who understand their moral obligation to work to prevent Obama’s election.

SDG October 24, 2008 at 10:12 am

Diogenes,

Leaders in the Catholic and other conservative pro-life churches are almost making it mandatory this presidential election that the faithful vote for McCain

That would not be my view.

or, more to the point, vote against the pro-abortion Obama.

That would be my view. It would also seem to be consistent with the view of 1 in 4 American Catholic bishops, virtually all bishops who have spoken on the subject.

But is this single-issue pro-life exhortation really in harmony with authentic Christian tradition?

I did my best to address this question in Part 2 of the current series.

Are these leaders really showing that they are of the mettle of their predecessors, from the Apostles to St. Thomas Beckett to Cardinal Mindszenty?

I suppose that would depend on which leaders you have in mind. I think there are always more Hophnis and Phineases than Samuels and Davids. Likewise, more Jeroboams and Rehoboams than Hezekiahs and Josiahs. I’m not sure what that has to do with the question at hand.

Indeed, the pro-life ploy is perfectly demonic: in holding out the illusionary possibility of destroying an evil an even greater evil is fed. But what can be more evil than killing babies? It is that which is the cause of this killing and myriad other evils. Indeed, as atrocious as abortion is, it is nonetheless a symptom. Our nation is not vicious because it allows abortion, rather it allows abortion because the nation is vicious.

False dichotomy. It’s both/and, not either/or. Abortion harms society. Roe v. Wade harms society. Pro-choice politicians defining freedom and human rights in the public square to include killing the innocent harm society.
If I am a fish in a school of fish swimming in toxic waters, and we have a choice between swimming closer to the source where the toxicity is greater, or further from the source where the toxicity is less, my recommendation will be the less toxic waters rather than the more toxic waters. Undoubtedly the situation remains wholly unsatisfactory, but the less we pollute ourselves in the short term, the clearer heads we will have in the long term, and the greater the chances of one day swimming to clear waters.What is your recommendation?

But tragically the election of another Republican will not take care of the symptom; at the very best (don’t hold your breath) it will remand it back to the states.

As opposed to passing FOCA, repealing the Hyde Amendment, rescinding Mexico City, funding clone-and-kill, etc? I’ll take status quo, thanks very much. Yes indeed, chop off my right hand, if the alternative is losing both hands.

However, it is certain that voting for either the Republican or Democratic candidate will strengthen the systemic evil that is the current Republican-Democratic political axis, and the powers that manipulate that government.

Whereas voting quixotic will… accomplish what, exactly?

One would think U.S. pro-lifers would care about the Iraqi unborn just as much as they care about other unborn babies.

I do. That doesn’t change the fact that laws permitting the direct killing of innocent life are a greater threat to a just society than an unjust war.

Anyone that supports a candidate that gleefully looks forward to the bombing of innocent civilians (born or unborn, Christian or Moslem) in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and the devil knows where, is not pro-life, and surely not a good Christian!

That is not a judgment I feel capable of making about anyone on the basis of politics. Not Kmiec, and not you.

Dan Hunter October 24, 2008 at 10:24 am

Diogenes,
Here, Here!!!

Diogenes October 24, 2008 at 10:31 am

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Jordanes October 24, 2008 at 10:51 am

An orthodox Christian must hold that voting for any overtly pro-abortion candidate is intrinsically evil.
That, of course, is not the teaching of the Catholic Church.

JACK October 24, 2008 at 10:55 am

“However, the fact remains that, no matter how many of us vote quixotic, the outcome of the election will be collectively decided by those who vote for one of the major-party candidates.”
This, again, is only a true statement given the pre-suppositions you have made at the outset. I’m not arguing with your general point, but clearly this is not true of all possible outcomes if you don’t a priori deeem someone “quixotic” or doomed.
As for the Catholic vote, I agree that *given the present state of faithfulness and unity of the Catholic body in the United States* Catholics couldn’t swing the election. But as a demographic matter, we sure as hell could. George Bush received the most votes ever for President of the United States. He received 62 million votes. As of 2003, there were reportedly 80 million Catholics in the United States. There’s probably another 30 million ex-Catholics in the United States.
Now if we stop ourselves from having the knee-jerk reaction to dismiss the significance of these figures (“oh, but some of them are just culturally Catholic, some of them dissent on pro-life maters…”) and take seriously the fact that these are all people who were baptized into the Body, even taking a significant cut on the numbers for those ineligible to vote, this should give us some pause. Not so much from some naive notion that tomorrow we could coalesce all Catholics together in some great voting block. It should give us some pause about the state of disrepair and disunity present in the Body living in the United States and how our own lack of faithfulness to Christ creates some of the very circumstances we now face.
That was my point. If we had a greater degree of faithfulness, and a greater unity, which by its nature also asks for a greater lived experience of communion, things could be different. A friend of mine long ago suggested what if all of his friends agreed we would vote the same way and then discussed who to vote for. It’s an altogether foreign way for many Americans to think, but it seems clear that it could be a dramatic living of communion without sacrificing any dignity in the process and could lead to dramatically different results.
My bottom line is that I think too many of us go through this whole analysis with a mindset of what a shame it is that we find ourselves put in this position, without bothering to consider that we are among those very people who have put ourselves in this position. We treat the matter as circumstances the culture has imposed on us, without any real acknowledgment of how large a role we play in the creation and perpetuation of that culture.

David L. October 24, 2008 at 10:56 am

At this point it doesn’t matter. Obama will most certainly be elected in a landslide. The Republicans have now pulled their campaign ads out of Colorado and are trailing in Indiana. I already voted for Baldwin. It seems my vote will count more than quixotic votes for John McCain!

SDG October 24, 2008 at 11:14 am

This, again, is only a true statement given the pre-suppositions you have made at the outset.

I realize my post is annoyingly long and cumbersome, but I did argue this point at length, not just restate my presuppositions. See the bit about a two-thirds experiment in quixotic voting.
This just occurred to me: As a pragmatic matter, if we can’t get a genuinely pro-life candidate on a major-party ticket in the primaries, we can’t get him elected.

At this point it doesn’t matter. Obama will most certainly be elected in a landslide.

Even if you’re right, and some polls suggest otherwise, there are still landslides and landslides. If we can’t prevent Obama from taking the White House, and I haven’t given up hope yet, we should at least try to prevent a realignment.

Diogenes October 24, 2008 at 11:21 am

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JACK October 24, 2008 at 11:27 am

“I realize my post is annoyingly long and cumbersome, but I did argue this point at length, not just restate my presuppositions. See the bit about a two-thirds experiment in quixotic voting.”
SDG, if I gave you the impression that I didn’t read through your argument, I’m sorry. I did. I appreciate it. It’s been a long time since my game theory classes and I’ve been loathe to even begin the path you have started stepping towards to really model the behavior. But it should be clear to you that your model is still built on pre-suppositions about the nature of the electorate and major party support, etc. That you have heightened the rigor hasn’t really changed that. Again, I’m not arguing with the general aspect of your point. I find you to have reasoned through it fairly well. But it is still dependent on a presumed present state of affairs. That was my point.
I think my other point about the Body of Christ, frankly, is the more substantive one of my comments.

Jordanes October 24, 2008 at 11:39 am

I already voted for Baldwin. It seems my vote will count more than quixotic votes for John McCain!
No, your vote will be lost in a sea of Obama votes and forgotten. If I remember right you said you live in Illinois, so as a practical matter it wouldn’t matter who you voted for or if you voted. Your vote won’t have more influence than those that will be cast for McCain, since there will be vastly more cast for him, even in Illinois, than will be cast of Baldwin.
If we can’t prevent Obama from taking the White House, and I haven’t given up hope yet, we should at least try to prevent a realignment.
Yeah, I’ve not given up either. The polls are just . . . bizarre this year. One says they’re neck and neck, another says Obama is 15 points ahead, another 5 points. It’s still most likely that Obama will win, but the fight’s not over yet. And we also need to keep Congressional numbers in view too. It’s going to be bad, but just how bad is not yet clear.

Blackadder October 24, 2008 at 11:52 am

Isn’t clear to me that someone like Chuck Baldwin could actually win the Presidency, even if everyone voted for him.
The reason, basically, is this: under the electoral college system, voters technically do not vote for a presidential candidate. Rather, they vote for a slate of electors who have publicly committed themselves to that candidate. If a candidate is not on the ballot in a given state, however, there are no designated electors associated with that candidate, and thus, no way for votes for that candidate to translate to votes in the electoral college. For a candidate to be able to win the presidency, then, they would have to be on the ballot in enough states so that they could at least theoretically win 270 electoral votes. According to Wikepedia,/a>, this is true only of the candidates of the Republican, Democrat, Green, Libertarian, or Constitutional parties (and even some of these five are not on the ballot in some states, and hence one cannot vote for their party candidate for president in those states). For example, in Texas the only candidates one could vote for who had even a theoretical chance of winning the presidency would be the Republican, Democratic, and Libertarian nominees. Whether this makes SDG’s case stronger or weaker I leave for others to decide.

Tim J. October 24, 2008 at 11:52 am

Withdrawing one’s influence from this particular national election by voting third party isn’t necessarily equal to “fighting the good fight”.
Yes, it would feel good to vote for someone who believes everything I do, but at this point such a move is the opposite of “making a statement”. Any candidates other than the two major ones WILL be roundly ignored, as none of them have anything but a statistically insignificant amount of support.
Not that a third party candidate can’t have great influence on a particular race. Thanks to Ross Perot, we had eight years of Bill Clinton.
What the quixotic voter may see as “taking a stand” will be seen by others as running away, and will be welcomed and celebrated by the Obama camp. If Obama wins in a close race (which I think pretty likely), they will be toasting these quixotic voters for a narrow (but sweet) victory.
It’s a bit like drawing your sword and standing bold on a hilltop in Shiloh, when the battle is in Gettysburg. A great gesture, but ill timed.

Blackadder October 24, 2008 at 11:53 am

Oh brother!

Blackadder October 24, 2008 at 12:03 pm

Finishing up my explanation, while Baldwin, as Constitution party nominee, would seem to be on the ballot in enough states that he could just barely secure enough electoral college votes to win should he win every state in which he has slated electors, several state parties have recently disaffiliated themselves from the national party after it failed to disaffiliate from the Nevada branch of the party, whose 2006 candidate for governor had supported legal abortion in the case of rape and incest (got that?) So it’s not clear that the electors from these states really would support him even if, as improbable as it is, he were to win those states.

SDG October 24, 2008 at 12:11 pm

“DIOGENES”:
I was busily writing more to you when it belatedly occurred to me that I wasn’t reading comments at all, but excerpts from an essay that had nothing to do with what I wrote.
I Googled it. Your material was written by a G.C. Dilsaver and posted here without attribution, which is copyright violation.
And then I remembered that someone else had recently violated copyright by posting material from another author using the handle “Diogenes” (in fact, the material was taken from the anonymous blogger “Diogenes” at Catholic Culture).
And then I wondered: Would Dan Hunter really post someone else’s essay under an alias handle — after previously being warned about copyright violations?
And then write “Here! Here!” [sic] in response to material he posted himself?
Apparently he would.
So, DAN HUNTER:
Please do not violate copyright again. This is your LAST WARNING. Also, please respect Da Rulz and limit yourself to a single handle within any one combox. And don’t pretend to be more than one person so it seems like people are agreeing with you. It’s childish and dishonest.
Thank you.

David B. October 24, 2008 at 1:45 pm

SDG,
Just curious, how does one discover that a person is using two handles? Is a blogger able to view the IP address and then add two and two together?

Dave Mueller October 24, 2008 at 1:48 pm

Great post, Steven! I don’t really have anything to add to what you said at this time…
Don’t put too much stock in the polls, though. I’d be very surprised to see Obama win Indiana, even though a recent poll showed him up by 10. The numbers just don’t make sense. I’ll believe it when I see it.
Show up at the polls and do your little part to elect the (viable) candidate whom you wish to win…then we’ll see…

Dan Hunter October 24, 2008 at 1:53 pm

SDG,
I apologize for posting copywritten material.
The following I am permitted to post, with your permission.
It is a statement by Charles Baldwin giving us the reason why it is not a wasted vote to vote for him.
Printer Friendly Version
Email this article to a friend
10/23/2008
A WASTED VOTE
by Chuck Baldwin
Constitution Party 2008 Presidential Candidate
When asked why they will not vote for a third party candidate, many people will respond by saying something like, “He cannot win.” Or, “I don’t want to waste my vote.” It is true: America has not elected a third party candidate since 1860. Does that automatically mean, however, that every vote cast for one of the two major party candidates is not a wasted vote? I don’t think so.
In the first place, a wasted vote is a vote for someone you know does not represent your own beliefs and principles. A wasted vote is a vote for someone you know will not lead the country in the way it should go. A wasted vote is a vote for the “lesser of two evils.” Or, in the case of John McCain and Barack Obama, what we have is a choice between the “evil of two lessers.”
Albert Einstein is credited with saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. For years now, Republicans and Democrats have been leading the country in the same basic direction: toward bigger and bigger government; more and more socialism, globalism, corporatism, and foreign interventionism; and the dismantling of constitutional liberties. Yet, voters continue to think that they are voting for “change” when they vote for a Republican or Democrat. This is truly insane!
Take a look at the recent $700 billion Wall Street bailout: both John McCain and Barack Obama endorsed and lobbied for it. Both McCain and Obama will continue to bail out these international banksters on the backs of the American taxpayers. Both McCain and Obama support giving illegal aliens amnesty and a path to citizenship. In the debate this past Tuesday night, both McCain and Obama expressed support for sending U.S. forces around the world for “peacekeeping” purposes. They also expressed support for sending combat forces against foreign countries even if those countries do not pose a threat to the United States. Neither Obama nor McCain will do anything to stem the tide of a burgeoning police state or a mushrooming New World Order. Both Obama and McCain support NAFTA and similar “free trade” deals. Neither candidate will do anything to rid America of the Federal Reserve, or work to eliminate the personal income tax, or disband the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Both Obama and McCain support the United Nations. So, pray tell, how is a vote for either McCain or Obama not a wasted vote?
But, back to the “he cannot win” argument: to vote for John McCain is to vote for a man who cannot win. Yes, I am saying it here and now: John McCain cannot win this election. The handwriting is on the wall. The Fat Lady is singing. It is all over. Finished. John McCain cannot win.
With only three weeks before the election, Barack Obama is pulling away. McCain has already pulled his campaign out of Michigan. In other key battleground states, McCain is slipping fast. He was ahead in Missouri; now it is a toss-up or leaning to Obama. A couple of weeks ago, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida were all leaning towards McCain, or at least toss-up states. Now, they are all leaning to Obama. Even the longtime GOP bellwether state of Indiana is moving toward Obama. In addition, new voter registrations are at an all-time high, and few of them are registering as Republicans. In fact, the Republican Party now claims only around 25% of the electorate, and Independents are increasingly leaning toward Obama.
Ladies and gentlemen, Barack Obama is headed for an electoral landslide victory over John McCain. John McCain can no more beat Barack Obama than Bob Dole could beat Bill Clinton.
I ask, therefore, Are not conservatives and Christians who vote for John McCain guilty of the same thing that they accuse people who vote for third party candidates of doing? Are they not voting for someone who cannot win? Indeed, they are. In fact, conservatives and Christians who vote for John McCain are not only voting for a man who cannot win, they are voting for a man who does not share their own beliefs and principles. If this is not insanity, nothing is!
So, why not (for once in your life, perhaps) cast a vote purely for principle! Vote for someone who is truly pro-life. Someone who would quickly secure our nation’s borders, and end the invasion of our country by illegal aliens. Someone who would, on his first day in office, release Border Patrol agents Ramos and Compean and fire U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton. Someone who would immediately, upon assuming office, begin leading the charge to dismantle the Federal Reserve, overturn the 16th Amendment, expunge the IRS, and return America to sound money principles. Someone who would get the US out of the UN. Someone who would stop spending billions and trillions of dollars for foreign aid. Someone who would prosecute the Wall Street bankers who defrauded the American people out of billions of dollars. Someone who would work to repeal NAFTA, CAFTA, GATT, the WTO, and stop the NAFTA superhighway. Someone who would say a resounding “No” to the New World Order. Someone who would stop using our brave men and women in uniform as global cops for the United Nations. Someone who would stop America’s global adventurism and interventionism. Someone who would steadfastly support and defend the right of the people to keep and bear arms.
“Who is this person?” you ask. Go herehere to find out.
As John Quincy Adams said, “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”

Dave Mueller October 24, 2008 at 3:02 pm

But, back to the “he cannot win” argument: to vote for John McCain is to vote for a man who cannot win. Yes, I am saying it here and now: John McCain cannot win this election. The handwriting is on the wall. The Fat Lady is singing. It is all over. Finished. John McCain cannot win.
With only three weeks before the election, Barack Obama is pulling away. McCain has already pulled his campaign out of Michigan. In other key battleground states, McCain is slipping fast. He was ahead in Missouri; now it is a toss-up or leaning to Obama. A couple of weeks ago, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida were all leaning towards McCain, or at least toss-up states. Now, they are all leaning to Obama. Even the longtime GOP bellwether state of Indiana is moving toward Obama. In addition, new voter registrations are at an all-time high, and few of them are registering as Republicans. In fact, the Republican Party now claims only around 25% of the electorate, and Independents are increasingly leaning toward Obama.
Ladies and gentlemen, Barack Obama is headed for an electoral landslide victory over John McCain. John McCain can no more beat Barack Obama than Bob Dole could beat Bill Clinton.

You are wrong….even if we go by Intrade, which is about an objective of a source we could hope for, McCain is currently at 14%. Chuck Baldwin is at 0%. I think McCain’s chances are higher than Intrade shows because the polls are definitely skewed. RCP shows Obama at +12% in my state. There is no way that can be true. Obama will win Minnesota, in all likelihood, but that number is too high by AT LEAST 5%. The same is true of many other states that I’m looking at.
I’m getting a little suspicious. You’re probably a member of the Constitution Party. All I hear is Baldwin, Baldwin, Baldwin. Why not Keyes? I’m sure there are several people I could write in who are good candidates, who are all equally doomed. Why does it have to be Baldwin?

Tim J. October 24, 2008 at 4:19 pm

“Ladies and gentlemen, Barack Obama is headed for an electoral landslide victory over John McCain. John McCain can no more beat Barack Obama than Bob Dole could beat Bill Clinton.”
That sounds like it could have been written by an Obama staffer.
Reminds me of Tokyo Rose… “You can’t win, boys. Just face it. Why not make it easy on yourselves and give up?”

The Masked Chicken October 24, 2008 at 5:48 pm

You know, I was wondering. This election is really an expose on how American’s think (or don’t think). Americans, at the very dawn of their history and all the way up to World War I, were interested in principles. You can see it in the Circuit riding Methodists of the 1810’s to the fierce cry of the tent revivals in the Tennessee Valley in 1870 to the early rallies of the suffragettes in the 1860 up to 1910.
After World War I, the Country’s priorities shifted to living the good life. The major force behind this was the rise of the young rich class and the fear and stresses of coming home after the War. This situation continued until after World War II, when one more step down the ladder of separation of principle and practice occurred when people’s main interest shifted from neither principles or quality of life, but the ability to define life for themselves. The shift was from realizing that someone else was in control of life to trying to control life for themselves. of course, that meant controlling babies in the womb. Thus, what was the eugenics movement before World War I re-mainifested itself after World War II as both population control and the freedom to have sex without responsibility. Economics became less about saving up for a rainy day than about buying a share in making the weather.
Obama is the logical conclusion to this slowly creeping narcissism. How can people in Ohio, for instance, a state as conservative as they come, suddenly decide to switch from voting for McCain to voting for Obama? Have they suddenly decided that their well-being is more important than that of future children? In a word, yes. People are afraid of the future. The sudden economic crisis has shown that. They have no faith, or rather, their faith is a sunny-day faith. Test it, a little, and it collapses and they run after whatever illusory security they think they can find.
I said that people were afraid of the future, but that is not entirely correct. They are afraid of the future, but they are not afraid for the future. If they truly were afraid for the future, they would not stop the flow of the future by allowing the very stuff of the future (babies) to be killed in the womb. Rather, they are afraid for their imagined futures, the ones they cling to so desperately, the one where they are in control, that they will sacrifice the future for the future.
This is not the self-reliance that made America. The author, above, that spoke of re-alignment if this election goes too far toward Obama, was incorrect. An Obama win will not cause a re-alignment; it will merely expose in a more direct fashion the re-alignment that occurred more than a generation ago. Men of good-will have fought to retain the old ways of integrity, but they have been fighting policy, rather than making it; they have been fighting to hold back the river, rather than direct it.
Make no mistake, men of good-will have not been in control of this country for a long time. McCain, by himself, will never be able to forge a policy of pro-life until we, as a nation, become aligned to life. We are not.
I want McCain to win, because I cannot imagine the horror of him not winning, but, perhaps, if America were to really see themselves for what they have become, perhaps they would be shocked enough to change. Even then, given modern sales techniques, however, nothing short of men on horses killing first-borns would be enough for the media to call evil, evil and for some people to recognize it, as such.
It is not enough for McCain to win the votes of the people, he must win the hearts of the people if a true culture of life is to take hold. America must go back to being led by principles, instead of by passions and wants. He cannot do that. Only I can do that and only you can do that.
The analysis is all wrong. Even if Catholic voted as a block, it would mean, nothing, nothing, do you hear me (please, hear me). As long as Catholics are not willing to live and die as Catholics, but are pushed by every wind that blows a pleasant breeze, there will always be regression and evil will re-assert itself. For McCain to win, it would simply take one thing (but it is too late for this election, I fear) – for Catholics to be Catholic, to live the life of Christ they have been called to live, not take the easy way presented on the psychiatrists couch or by the advertisers. Catholics have always won the hearts and mind of people by their witness, their quiet witness of Catholic beliefs. What we need, in short, is a critical mass of people who truly believe that there is a God worth worshiping and that we are not him.
If you want to win hearts, you must speak to hearts. The old Latin phrase, the crest of St. Francis de Sales, “Cor ad cor loquitur,” must be the sword by which Catholics change society. de Sales also pointed out that when the house is on fire, possessions are thrown out of the window, but I am afraid, in this election, when the house is on fire, both common sense and care for the vulnerable are thrown out of the window. If we do not provide a cooling breeze for the fire of fear and self-preservation, all will be lost in the pro-life movement.
I have no easy solution to the election other than to suggest that, for the next two weeks, to whomever who will hear, DO NOT TALK ABOUT THE ECONOMY. Talk about children and only children. In the midst of the fire, people need to hear the direction to the exit.
I leave with two quotes from St. Francis de Sales. They are old prayers, but so relevant to the needs of today. They show just how far we have become a nation of moral weaklings (the real reason we will loose this election, try as we might to staunch the loss of blood). If only we could each pass on these messages of hope during the next week, perhaps, if a fire cannot be lighted now, at least a wick can be laid to be later ignited. Go to it, everyone. Be good Catholics. Talk about the faith, not the election. Talk about life, not death. Be fireflies in the darkness.
The Chicken
[Quote One]
Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life;
rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise,
God, whose very own you are,
will lead you safely through all things;
and when you cannot stand it,
God will carry you in His arms.
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
the same understanding Father who cares for
you today will take care of you then and every day.
He will either shield you from suffering
or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace,
and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.
[Quote Two]
The Everlasting God has in His wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross He now presents to you as a gift from His inmost Heart. This cross He now sends you He has considered with His all-knowing eyes, understood with His divine mind, tested with His wise justice, warmed with loving arms and weighed with His own Hands, to see that it be not one inch too large and not one once too heavy for you. He has blessed it with His Holy Name, anointed it with His grace, perfumed it with His consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God.

Rotten Orange October 24, 2008 at 6:04 pm

Have you been absent from the comments for all day because you were waiting for the inspiration to write with the eloquece displayed above?

DBP October 24, 2008 at 6:34 pm

If all Catholics voted for a pro-life third party candidate, it may not make any third candidate viable in this election but it may be seen as an investment that could pay off down the road. It would provoke others in future elections to consider with greater seriousness voting outside the two party regime. Considered this way, voting for a third party pro-life candidate could be considered an act of temperance.
If all Catholics voted for a pro-life third party candidate or if all pro-life voters did so, then that candidate or two would receive a total of 25% or 16% of the vote respectively. Such an outcome would do one thing for the pro-life cause worth infinitely more than a McCain victory: garner publicity for the pro-life cause and wonderment about its passion and ideals, provoking the media to discuss both the political avalanche and the underlying political and moral debate, and creating a unique pro-life “evangelization” moment in the American consciousness at all levels of society.
I don’t think Scott Hahn himself considers himself qualified to be president and I have no clue if he is willing to accept the personal sacrifice it entails. Anyone considering writing in Scott Hahn may be participating in a cult of personality. It is not that “viability” plays no role but that an active candidacy and a lower tier of viability that is concerned not with viability in winning but viaibility in over time changing the national political landscape is what is critical. If no one within this lower tier is morally acceptable, then that would be an indictment against the Catholic laity. There are many examples of “quixotic” candidates in presidential primaries who had no chance of winning but who managed to change the political landscape for the better. Tom Tancredo for instance caused candidates to be more firm in their immigration policies and was satisfied in that accomplishment. Saying that if we vote third party then we must consider voting for Scott Hahn is introducing a sort of false dichotomy 😉
re earlier thread: Law is a part of culture and can shape culture and that fact doesn’t excuse one from doing due diligence in analyzing whether one course would shape culture more effectively than another.

The Masked Chicken October 24, 2008 at 7:04 pm

Rotten Orange,
No, I was teaching (Friday is my long day); it is raining and dreary, here, and we all know what rain does to wet straw…(said the Scarecrow).
The Chicken

DBP October 24, 2008 at 7:06 pm

A 25% or 16% third party vote would also provoke the American public and ruling two party regime to consider implementation of modest proposals to make a state’s electoral college be allotted in a proportional manner, as opposed to winner take all or by congressional district. This would obviously over the long term increase the viability of third party candidates and moreover increase their impact on the political roundtable. More ambitiously, it could also move us closer to implement alternative voting regimes that are already in place in some countries and in the United States too for some elections. The structural problem that causes our moral quandries is tactical voting, i.e. “when a voter supports a candidate other than his or her sincere preference in order to prevent an undesirable outcome”. Two alternative voting methods that I personally am sympathetic to are Condorcet’s method and approval voting. They both would largely render our discussions here moot. A constant loss of 25% or 16% for the Republican party would make them see the selfish advantage in abandoning the present regime and moving in this direction.

The Masked Chicken October 25, 2008 at 4:39 am

Sorry to interrupt the conversation, but what’s up with the Payday Loan posts in the Greek New Testament article on Jimmy’s site? Are they Politibots?
The Masked Chicken

Jeb Protestant October 25, 2008 at 6:03 am

Let’s also remember that the Democrats are likely to increase their majority in Congress. Not only FOCA, but adding homosexuals to Title 7, amnesty for illegals, and even repealing the Defense of Marrige Act might become likely.
Any case for not voting for McCain evaporates when you consider this, in my opinion.
-J. Prot.

paul f October 25, 2008 at 8:41 am

I’m a little confused. I could never vote for Senator Obama because it is obvious to me that under his leadership the number of abortions would rise. However, if you were to eliminate the abortion issue, I would still not vote for Senator Obama because I don’t want to be on Medicare (at least not for another 35 years).
In other words, why are so many Catholics chomping at the bit to vote for an unqualified person with bad ideas?

Jordanes October 25, 2008 at 8:51 am

Because the consciences and intellects of most Catholics have been formed by the secular culture instead by the Church.

Sleeping Beastly October 25, 2008 at 9:14 am

SDG,
(I may be repeating myself at this point, and so violating Jimmy’s hobby-horse clause, but in a way I’m beginning to feel that this whole discussion involves most of us repeating ourselves, or at least elaborating on our previous statements. If my post violates any part of Da Rulz, please delete it.)
In 2004, just over 120 million votes were counted for the two major party candidates. That means that fewer than half of the adults in this country (250 million) bothered to vote for either George Bush or John Kerry. What does that tell us about the winner’s mandate?
Generally when I bring this up, I’m told that those who didn’t vote are lazy or apathetic, which I think is nonsense. Mostly.
We don’t really have numbers for the people who stayed home. They didn’t hand in ballots saying “I stayed home because I don’t care who’s president,” or “I stayed home because I don’t think any viable candidate truly represents me and my neighbors.” They simply didn’t vote, and that’s all we know about them.
Write-in votes were also not counted in most areas, so we don’t have any way of knowing how many people did bother to show up to the polls to cast a vote for Mickey Mouse or Daffy Duck or even Scott Hahn.
The dissenting votes that were counted and recorded were the votes for “quixotic” third party candidates. These are the votes that make the most difference, in my opinion.
I can’t see a significant difference in the major parties or their candidates. This is why I encourage the disaffected to:
1) Refuse to endorse the false choice involved in the two-party system, and particularly in the current election.
AND
2) Register that refusal in a measurable way by voting for a registered third party candidate.
The more votes recorded for third parties the more viable they will be in future elections.

The Masked Chicken October 25, 2008 at 9:48 am

Dear Sleeping Beastly,
No one is contesting that third parties should be able to have a greater influence on the political process than they do and your suggestion is one to remember for the future.
If FOCA and other such acts were not already on the launch pad, I would be far less insistent on people voting for McCain. Those acts are one step away from being implemented and they can’t wait for third party footing to take hold. At the current time, in the current situation, third parties cannot stop FOCA. Only the Republican party has a shot at doing that. This is a time thing, not a party thing. I know that, effectively, ties up any third parties, but that bad law is there, waiting to be enacted.
The Chicken

decker2003 October 25, 2008 at 12:04 pm

In every successive presidential election since 1980, the pro-life movement has been willing to accept just a little bit less of a commitment from the Republican candidate to restore legal protection for life in utero in exchange for its endorsement. Yet, despite 28 years of declining commitment to the cause, the alliance remains solid because the pro-life movement fears that the election of the Democrat would be even worse. Reagan supported a Human Life Amendment. McCain won’t even promise to appoint anti-Roe judges or end support for ECSR. By sticking to the “lesser of two evils” approach, we are guaranteeing our own long-term defeat. If we decline to support the Republican nominee, then the Republicans could get the message that they need to do more to count on our votes than just be a little bit less evil than the Democrats. That’s my voting strategy.

DBP October 25, 2008 at 12:07 pm

That is why I make the suggestion that foregoing voting for McCain would be an act of temperance. Temperance is the foresaking of a lesser good for a greater good. Much more good, including many more abortions prevented, would be effected in the long run by voting third party than in voting for McCain, even assuming that the former would tip the scales to a McCain loss and the latter tip the scales to a McCain victory. Temperance is not only the foresaking of a good such as carnal pleasure tied with something characteristically evil in its circumstance such as adultery, but the forsaking of a good that would normally be licitly obtained. Sustenance of the human body is one such good but forsaking it may be both an act of temperance and an act of courage insofar as hunger is involved when a person is called to do so in the service of a greater good such as medically prescribed dieting or a medical procedure requiring prolonged fasting.
If you are the only doctor in a town with no other doctors nearby and you are currently taking care of just one patient in critical condition and leaving his side would result in his passing, it may be an act of temperance to do so if another more pressing emergency arises involving not just one but a hundred lives hanging in the balance. If the person you were treating was someone you had come to have affection for, it may be especially an act of temperance. The same is true of abstaining from voting for McCain, granting the assumptions some have unrealistically made. The difference is that instead of two unequal goods being separated by space, they are now separated by time.
A two party regime will never effect the overturning of Roe or a minimization of abortion. The effection of it is realistically over a century a way and while it may be satisfying to see results in our life time, it is temperance to forego whatever subjective and objective goods voting for McCain may entail for the sake of a greater long term good. Intemperance is, objectively, a sin.

The Masked Chicken October 25, 2008 at 12:24 pm

a. All virtues must be subjected to prudence. Temperance is a virtue, but fasting to the point of death or refusing to take food when one is about to die is imprudent temperance.
It may be temperance to hope for a third party to come along that will be able to get rid of abortion, permanently, but one does not start this when the patient is about to die. FOCA is a binary poison. The bill is sitting there. It only needs to be activated. Once it is, untold havoc occurs. Prudence suggests that now is not the time for the sort of temperance advocated in voting third party.
b. It is merely a hypothesis that abortion will take one hundred years to overcome and that it will take a third party. One may explore various options as being forms of temperance, but to say that voting for McCain would be a form of intemperance assumes that the third party hypothesis has passed beyond the realm of hypothesis to fact. This is not, obviously the case, here, since this would imply knowledge not yet available and is speculative. Thus, until voting for a third party is more than just an arguable position, it does not have the force of virtue, per se There are other positions which may be more reasonable, under the cirumstances, such as voting to prevent FOCA.
The Chicken

bill912 October 25, 2008 at 12:51 pm

McCain promised to nominate strict constructionist judges. Strict constructionist=anti-Roe.

DBP October 25, 2008 at 1:21 pm

Appropriately formed belief that it is probably true can make it prudent to act on that probability by voting third party and also too make it an act of temperance. Lack of certainty does not excuse one from being prudent or temperate or courageous or just; else, playing Russian roulette would not be imprudent or intemperate. Even beliefs that don’t amount to knowledge must be considered in one’s conscience. One may believe it will probably rain tomorrow based on the season and what he heard forecast a few days ago. That belief may not be knowledge and may even be false. Perhaps, the latest forecast, unbeknownst to him, is that it will probably be sunny or perhaps the real probability is obscured from present forecasting instruments or the instruments suffer from transient technical malfunction. In the last two cases, however, if he has the responsbility of scheduling a picnic, he would be imprudent and intemperate in scheduling it tomorrow instead of postponing. In the first case he would be imprudent, cowardly and intemperate in not doing further due diligence.
If a manager of someone’s investment funds felt free to do as he pleased as long as no knowledge or certainty were involved, he would and should be fired and his victim recompensed.
Facts exist independently of our awareness of them. It may be a fact that there is alien microbial life near Alpha Centauri if in fact there is alien microbial life near there, even though no one knows it. Facts are not relative. Facts are merely objective features of the world and if voting for McCain is objectively intemperate that is an objective feature of the act of voting for McCain, whether we know it to be so or not. If believe it to be intemperate, then whether it is objectively intemperate or not, it would be formally intemperate and that formal intemperance too would be an objective feature of the world

SDG October 25, 2008 at 3:29 pm

Beastly:

I may be repeating myself at this point, and so violating Jimmy’s hobby-horse clause

Not at all. I’ve been aware of thoughtful questions from you drifting by in the stream of my back-and-forth with Zippy, and I’ve always meant to reply, so I appreciate any repeating you might do.

In 2004, just over 120 million votes were counted for the two major party candidates. That means that fewer than half of the adults in this country (250 million) bothered to vote for either George Bush or John Kerry. What does that tell us about the winner’s mandate?

George Bush didn’t get a “mandate” in either term. From sharply divided, closely balanced electorates in both terms, he squeaked out a narrow (and, as you point out, apathetic) victory in each case. Without the realigment event provided by 9/11, he would have had a lot less clout and would have had to govern in a much more bipartisan style.
I’m afraid to think of Obama winning, and even more afraid to think of an Obama blowout realignment event. If Obama wins, I still want it to be as close as possible.

The dissenting votes that were counted and recorded were the votes for “quixotic” third party candidates. These are the votes that make the most difference, in my opinion.

How, exactly? What difference have those votes made?

I can’t see a significant difference in the major parties or their candidates.

For those who see it like this, I agree: Vote third party. I can’t remotely imagine saying something like this — that was the whole point of Part 2 (Obama) and Part 3 (McCain): There’s a lot of difference. But if you don’t see it that way, by all means, vote third party. Just don’t tell me I’m wrong for voting McCain.

The more votes recorded for third parties the more viable they will be in future elections.

I would like for this to be true, but in practice I doubt if this will ever be the case for the foreseeable future. I am open to being convinced otherwise.

David B. October 25, 2008 at 5:05 pm

“The sudden economic crisis has shown that. They have no faith, or rather, their faith is a sunny-day faith. Test it, a little, and it collapses and they run after whatever illusory security they think they can find.”
Or, as the Joker said “their morals, their code, it’s a bad joke: dropped at the first sign of trouble.”
I hope you’re not right. I hope voters don’t pull the switch on the other boat, as it were.

The Masked Chicken October 25, 2008 at 5:54 pm

It is about one week before the election and I’m sure that everyone here has either made up their mind or is considering the issues with the intensity that they deserve.
I think I’ve about said all I can. My major concern is not about the economy or the war in Iraq, as bad as those are. My first concern is with the most helpless. My concern is with the children yet unborn who will never be born, now.
How foolish we all are. All of these problems and not one ounce of common sense.
‘But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and be not weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.’ [Isa 40:31]
Do you remember the movie, Chariots of Fire? Remember the note that got passed to Eric Liddell, just before he ran in the 400m race, instead of the 100m, refusing because it was being held on the sabbath? In the movie, a fellow Englishman was shown slipping the note to Liddell, who ran with it in his hand and won the race he was not favored to win. The note was from 1st Samuel 2:30. It said, simply, “Those who honor me I will honor.”
We worry so much about the economy and about war. If we would only start with the weakest and honor God through them, the other things would take care of themselves. We no longer have the will to God in this country, at least not very much, because we cannot even hold tight a baby in the womb, anymore. We are so foolish. If only we would trust.
Oh, that note. It turns out the movie took some artistic license. You see, the note was not handed to Liddell by a fellow Englishman. It was given to him by a coach from the U. S. team. Would that we had the same ability to recognize a work of God, today, in the United States.
I doubt anything I could say further in these comboxes about the election would persuade anyone better than I have already tried. If you simply will ask yourselves where is the work of the Lord and listen with all of your heart, I trust that everyone, hear, will vote with the sense that is needed.
I trust in God. I wish I could trust in my fellow Americans. At this point, I have no more words. History will tell us how we voted and that will be it, in honor or dishonor.
However you choose to vote, chose the honorable way.
Sorry for the words. It is rapidly approaching a time for silence heads bowed in prayer. How else should one spend the week before such a important election. This one will be more important than anyone here can know.
The Chicken

Rotten Orange October 25, 2008 at 6:35 pm

I think I’ve about said all I can. My major concern is not about the economy or the war in Iraq, as bad as those are. My first concern is with the most helpless. My concern is with the children yet unborn who will never be born, now.

Sadly, human beings are prone to complicate what should be very simple. And since Catholics are human beings…

David L. October 26, 2008 at 3:57 am

Waitto go Third Party advocates. The only way to advocate a pro-life posture is to shipwreck the corrupt 2 party system that safeguards Roe and has misguided people here taking it personal because many of us have woken up and refuse to give a nuthead, like John McCain, our votes.

SDG October 26, 2008 at 6:05 am

Waitto go Third Party advocates. The only way to advocate a pro-life posture is to shipwreck the corrupt 2 party system that safeguards Roe and has misguided people here taking it personal because many of us have woken up and refuse to give a nuthead, like John McCain, our votes.

And voting third party will accomplish this “shipwreck” exactly how?

vox borealis October 26, 2008 at 6:24 am

Advocates of a third party–or more accurately, those who hope to bring down the two party system by opting out–make fine philosophical arguments. But in the end, I sense, they are the type of folks who only seem happy to be unhappy. They in reality shirk the responsibility to effect change, albeit slow and incremental change. Indeed, they shirk hard (political) work altogether.
Oh sure, they argue that theirs is really the harder task: taking on an entire corrupt system, knowing that it will take years, decades, even centuries to bring it down. But this is simply cover for their own functional apathy. By voting third party they can (hope to) absolves themselves of any responsibility of decisions the government makes, they never have to worry that the candidate they vote for does anything wrong in office (because he is never in office), and all the while they can chastise the wicked candidates that the rest of us sheep vote for.
OK, fine. Really, the whole discussion is rather tired. Let them go their own way–the political equivalent of “take my ball and go home.” There is no satisfying those who revel in their own disenfranchisement.
===
PS–It is interesting that the third party names bounded around most often here are Keyes and Baldwin, two former Republicans. Now, on the one hand, their frustration and eventual break with one of the major parties could be held up as evidence that the two-party system is corrupt. On the other hand, in the case of Keyes, his break came very late because of a failed presidential bid (essentially because he felt that the party was excluding him). But his very presidential campaign, albeit limited, shows that such candidates can make strides within the two party system. In other words, and effective strategy could be to keep working within the present system, putting pressure on one (or both parties), seeding it with more and more people like the now-quixotic third partiers. I suspect that this is a far more reasonable method to effect political change, given the system that is entrenched, than trying to bring the system down entirely.
Our third-party advocates will have none this, and there is no convincing them. On the issue of Roe v. Wade, they have had 35 years of hard work, and 20 years of incremental success. They will throw that out in order to say nyah-nyah to the system. Imagine if those who fought the evils of slavery, or who demanded the right of women to vote, had such patience.

Jordanes October 26, 2008 at 6:26 am

The only way to advocate a pro-life posture is to shipwreck the corrupt 2 party system that safeguards Roe.
The only way, eh? Somehow I doubt you’ll find the Pope or the bishops agreeing with your opinion, David L.
The corrupt two-party system may well shipwreck itself, and please God that will be soon, but supporting unknowns with no chance of getting more than a few thousand votes won’t do a thing to accomplish that. I’m afraid it’s you who are misguided.
A word of advice: you’ll be more successful in getting the average voter to take you seriously if you start referring to Sen. McCain without using descriptives such as “nuthead,” “psychotic,” “mentally ill,” “emotionally disturbed,” or whatever other descriptives that Constitution Party members seem to support.
Really, at this point in time the Constitution Party more resembles a political sect than a stable and serious political party.

Rotten Orange October 26, 2008 at 6:27 am

Thank you, vox borealis.

Sleeping Beastly October 26, 2008 at 7:35 am

SDG,
George Bush didn’t get a “mandate” in either term. From sharply divided, closely balanced electorates in both terms, he squeaked out a narrow (and, as you point out, apathetic) victory in each case. Without the realigment event provided by 9/11, he would have had a lot less clout and would have had to govern in a much more bipartisan style.
Sorry. I should have mentioned that 2004 saw the highest voter turnout in almost forty years. My point wasn’t just that Bush didn’t have a mandate; I don’t think we’ve had a president with a respectable mandate for a very long time.
I’m afraid to think of Obama winning, and even more afraid to think of an Obama blowout realignment event. If Obama wins, I still want it to be as close as possible.
Third party votes will affect Obama’s share of the popular vote just as much as votes for McCain. I understand that the figures may not be reported this way so as to make his election seem more impressive. It may be reported that Obama took 5 million more votes than McCain, rather than 45% of the popular vote, in which case we ought to point out that fewer than a quarter of those who could vote bothered to cast their votes for him.
How, exactly? What difference have those [third party] votes made?
Well, for one thing, the Constitutional and Independent parties are on the national radar. I know that third party votes have led, eventually, to third party candidates being elected to every office shy of the presidency. If one of these parties gains a sizeable chunk of the popular vote this time around, we may see their candidates participating in the next set of presidential debates, which would make a huge difference.
For those who see it like this [no significant difference between the two major parties] I agree: Vote third party. I can’t remotely imagine saying something like this — that was the whole point of Part 2 (Obama) and Part 3 (McCain): There’s a lot of difference. But if you don’t see it that way, by all means, vote third party. Just don’t tell me I’m wrong for voting McCain.
Hm. Well, I will tell you I disagree with your assessment of the candidates. But (and here I’m repeating myself again) I don’t think there’s really any way to prove a difference, or lack thereof, since we can only compare each candidate’s term with a theoretical term by the other candidate, and then only in hindsight. There are things we can look at (behavior of previous Democratic and Republican presidents, or the voting records of the senators in question, for instance) as evidence, and I guess the decision comes down to what kind of weight one chooses to assign to which evidence. I think I’ve said before that I understand why people want to vote for McCain, and that a vote for McCain might actually be a better way for me to use my vote. I don’t have Zippy’s moral conviction on this subject, so I just have to take my best guess at this point.
I also think that a lack of difference is not the only worthy reason for voting third party. Some see a significant difference between the two candidates, but think that it is more important that we have better choices next time around than that we elect the lesser evil this time. This is a valid reason to vote third party, in an attempt to correct for the Hegelian mambo. (I forgot which commentor provided me with that gem of a term, but whoever he is, he has my thanks.)
I would like for this to be true [that more voted for third parties will mean greater third party viability in the future] but in practice I doubt if this will ever be the case for the foreseeable future. I am open to being convinced otherwise.
Well, I’m doing my part to give you someone worth voting for next time around. Time will tell, I suppose.

Sleeping Beastly October 26, 2008 at 7:46 am

Chicken,
If FOCA and other such acts were not already on the launch pad, I would be far less insistent on people voting for McCain. Those acts are one step away from being implemented and they can’t wait for third party footing to take hold. At the current time, in the current situation, third parties cannot stop FOCA. Only the Republican party has a shot at doing that. This is a time thing, not a party thing. I know that, effectively, ties up any third parties, but that bad law is there, waiting to be enacted.
There are always bad laws waiting to be enacted. Congress will likely approve FOCA with or without presidential support. I have not heard that McCain has offered to veto the bill; only that Obama has agreed to sign it. I am not convinced that McCain would veto FOCA, but even if he does and his veto is overridden, the effect will be the same.
Every election, I hear the same song: Yes, our candidate sucks, but the other guy is so bad that we just can’t afford not to vote for the lesser evil this time. This one election is so important, that we can shelve our guns until next time, and stick to them when the election doesn’t matter so much. The current “choice” is a direct result of just that kind of thinking. I guess I’m wondering how bad it has to get before we jump the major party ship entirely. I get the sense we’d be having this same discussion even if it were Giuliani on the Republican ticket.

Another Tim October 26, 2008 at 10:32 am

SDG,
Thanks for a very thought-provoking series of posts. I had planned to vote for neither major candidate. Your comment on the potential impact of an Obama mandate has me reconsidering. I am moving rapidly toward your view that “If Obama wins, I still want it to be as close as possible.”

Jordanes October 26, 2008 at 12:10 pm

I get the sense we’d be having this same discussion even if it were Giuliani on the Republican ticket.
Maybe, but I wouldn’t be participating in it, because I’d be going third party or writing in somebody’s name as a protest vote. Giuliani’s position on abortion and sodomitic pseudomarriage is indistinguishable from Obama’s. Indeed, if Giuliani were the Republican candidate there’d be so many Republicans refusing to vote for him that Obama would win by the greatest landslide vote in human history, so we may as well all vote third party or do a write in in such a case. If a party really wants to commit suicide, there’s no point in letting it take us with it.

DBP October 26, 2008 at 4:53 pm

Giuliani just like McCain, promised to nominate “strict constructionists” to the bench.
I am curious. Would some McCain supporters here as suggested have supported Giuliani and argued for the permissibility of voting for him had Giuliani one and had Giuliani picked McCain as his running mate? What if McCain had picked Giuliani instead of Palin?

SDG October 26, 2008 at 5:20 pm

I am curious. Would some McCain supporters here as suggested have supported Giuliani and argued for the permissibility of voting for him had Giuliani one and had Giuliani picked McCain as his running mate? What if McCain had picked Giuliani instead of Palin?

For the permissibility, yes. However, I was prepared myself not to vote for a McCain ticket that included a pro-choice running mate, as indicated at the time, and would have felt even more strongly about a Giuliani–McCain ticket with Giuliani at the top of the ticket.
I have to admit, though, that that was before I fully appreciated just how aggressively pro-abortion Obama is, how greatly he will expand both abortion rights and federal funding. For instance, I didn’t yet fully understand the threat of FOCA. I can’t say for sure what I would have done in that case.
Whatever I would have done, the logic of the moral permissibility of voting for the least problematic viable ticket would still hold.

Sleeping Beastly October 26, 2008 at 7:10 pm

Chicken,
It may be temperance to hope for a third party to come along that will be able to get rid of abortion, permanently, but one does not start this when the patient is about to die.
A third party worth voting for is not going to just come along, no matter how hard we hope. Such a party will need to gain credibility, which means it will need votes.
FOCA is a binary poison. The bill is sitting there. It only needs to be activated. Once it is, untold havoc occurs.
That may be a bit of an exaggeration. Untold havoc is already occurring. FOCA is just a piece of the larger problem.
We worry so much about the economy and about war. If we would only start with the weakest and honor God through them, the other things would take care of themselves.
In all fairness, unjust wars of aggression are every bit as evil as pro-abortion policies. Many of the people who have died in our wars were helpless victims of American foreign policy decisions. I know it’s fashionable in conservative Catholic circles to pretend that war is not a significant issue. But while it’s debatable (I suppose) whether the Iraq war was justly waged, it is not debatable that an unjust war is a grievous offense against God and man, and we ought not to ignore it as a significant issue just because we happen to also be afflicted with a nationwide holocaust of the unborn. A candidate’s likelihood to engage in unjust war is something we should all consider right alongside his stance on abortion issues.
I trust in God. I wish I could trust in my fellow Americans.
Chicken, you can trust in your fellow Americans. Not as much as you can trust in God, of course, but most of your fellow citizens are good, decent people who would rather see you happy and healthy and prosperous than otherwise. If they disagree with you on policies, it’s not because they bear you any ill will. We Americans are stubborn, but we are educable, and we’re mostly a well-meaning lot in any case.

bklyn catholic October 26, 2008 at 7:44 pm

Perhaps someone could clarify for me: will the passage of FOCA for Catholic Hospitals to provide contraception and perform abortions? My reading of FOCA speaks only to Government entities. Will this include Catholic hospitals that receive government funding? Or does this only refer to public hospitals?
Relavent text from FOCA is bookended by < <<<...>>>> below.
“Freedom of Choice Act – Declares that it is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to: (1) bear a child; (2) terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability; or (3) terminate a pregnancy after fetal viability when necessary to protect her life or her health.
Prohibits a federal, state, or local governmental entity from: (1) denying or interfering with a woman’s right to exercise such choices; or
< <<<<(2) discriminating against the exercise of those rights in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information. Provides that such prohibition shall apply retroactively.>>>>>
Authorizes an individual aggrieved by a violation of this Act to obtain appropriate relief, including relief against a governmental entity, in a civil action.”

Sleeping Beastly October 27, 2008 at 4:55 am

Vox,
Your armchair psychology aside, I hope you’re not suggesting that all the heavy lifting of the abolitionist and suffrage movements was done by people who bravely shouldered the heavy burden of voting for only viable candidates. Maybe I missed your point?

Scott W. October 27, 2008 at 9:02 am

I get the sense we’d be having this same discussion even if it were Giuliani on the Republican ticket.
This helps the GOP case rather than hurts it because it is a what-is and not a what-if. There were a few Republican notables that were prepared to gloss over Guiliani’s abortion (Hannity in particular), same-sex marriage, etc. but many like Dobson and Coulter (and of course Catholics Against Rudy) rejected it outright–as did the party when Guiliani went down not just in defeat, but flaming defeat. Now consider the Dems–was there anything remotely like this fight on that side during the primaries? Just the opposite, they were fighting over who was the more pro-abortion candidate. There was no Catholics against Hillary. Or Obama. Or anyone. They were too busy trying to cram the square peg of life issues into the round hole of Leftist entitlements and call it “consistent ethic of life”. “A pox on both your houses” simply doesn’t fit the Guiliani experience. (Feel free to use that as a band name. :)

Dave Mueller October 27, 2008 at 9:57 am

A candidate’s likelihood to engage in unjust war is something we should all consider right alongside his stance on abortion issues.
Well, yes and no. We can’t know for sure in most cases if a war is unjust. We can have a strongly held opinion, which seems to us to be manifestly the case, but wars in general are not INTRINSICALLY evil, so it can’t really be put at the same level as abortion, which IS intrinsically evil.
Another reason it can’t really be placed on the same level as abortion is that no war except an apocalyptic situation takes nearly as many lives as abortion.

The Masked Chicken October 27, 2008 at 10:48 am

Also, even innocent victims of war can decide to fight back and many have done so. Babies in the womb cannot even protest.
The Chicken

The Masked Chicken October 27, 2008 at 10:49 am

Also, even innocent victims of war can decide to fight back and many have done so. Babies in the womb cannot even protest.
The Chicken

The Masked Chicken October 27, 2008 at 10:49 am

Also, even innocent victims of war can decide to fight back and many have done so. Babies in the womb cannot even protest.
The Chicken

DBP October 27, 2008 at 2:11 pm

Lying is intrinsically evil but waging a non-intrinsically unjust war can be graver than lying. Spanking someone is not intrinsically evil but spanking schoolchildren indiscriminately would be graver a sin than most acts of lying. Being intrinsically evil is a metaphysical property of an act; it has no bearing on how important the issues surrounding the act are politically.
Unjust wars can be intrinsically evil too. Wars that include targeting of civilians to demoralize the populace would in those elements be intrinsically evil. Wars that are fought with an unjust intention would also in terms of the intention be intrinsically evil. Wars that are fought imprudently where the evils brought about by the war dwarf any good brought about by the war would be intrinsically evil in terms of what can arguably be described as part of the object of the act.
Any particular act if evil is always intrinsically evil; it is something about the act that makes it evil not something outside the act — outside the object, intent, and circumstances. When some say that some acts are intrinsically evil and others extrinsically evil they mean only that a class of acts characterized by their object are all evil by virtue of their object regardless of intent and circumstances; or they mean only that a class of acts characterized by their intent are all evil by virtue of their intent regardless of object and circumstances; or, rarely, they mean only that a class of acts characterized by their circumstances are evil regardless of intent or variation in object. The short hand for one of these categories is “lying is intrinsically evil” etc.
The substantive question is whether an unjust war is evil by virtue of its intent, object, or circumstances. The answer is all three; it depends on the war. It is folly to say that one cannot know for certain if a war is unjust or that a particular act of war is unjust. Acts of war that involve raping of innocents for instance would be evil in their object. It is true that one cannot know for certain in judging some aspects of war like the prospect for success or what evils it may bring about. But that from that lack of certainty can arise a moral certainty and from that moral certainty an absolute certainty in terms of judging what would be formally the right course of action.
If one candidate is 100% pro life and another is pro life except in cases of rape, incest, and jeopardy to the mother’s life and the former candidate also happens to favor invading Russia; then, while invading Russia — with non-intrinsically evil means and a good intention — may not be intrinsically evil, it would still be imprudent and thus unjust and a very valid reason to consider voting for the latter candidate instead of the former.

Sleeping Beastly October 27, 2008 at 2:20 pm

Scott,
I’m not disputing the fact that the Republican party speaks more to anti-abortion voters than does the Democratic party. The converse is true with anti-war voters. It seems to me that both parties are paying empty lip service in both cases, but that wasn’t the point I was making. Neither was I trying to say that the Democratic party is preferable to the Republicans. I was wondering how bad it would have to get before pro-lifers broke ranks with the Republican party altogether. Jordanes’ answer was that Giuliani would be bad enough, although McCain isn’t. SDG’s answer was that he wasn’t sure (and is, no doubt, happy that he isn’t faced with an Obama-Giuliani election.) To me, the situation is bad enough to justify a break already.
Dave,
We can’t know for sure in most cases if a war is unjust.
True, although not for lack of objective criteria. We can, however, be fairly certain most of the time.
We can have a strongly held opinion, which seems to us to be manifestly the case, but wars in general are not INTRINSICALLY evil, so it can’t really be put at the same level as abortion, which IS intrinsically evil.
True, but I wasn’t speaking of war in general. I was speaking of unjust wars. Medical procedures that result in the death of an unborn child are not intrinsically evil, although procured abortion is. War is not intrinsically evil, although unjust war is.
Another reason it can’t really be placed on the same level as abortion is that no war except an apocalyptic situation takes nearly as many lives as abortion.
True. Still, both are grave evils, and both ought to be considered when evaluating a candidate, no?
Chicken,
Also, even innocent victims of war can decide to fight back and many have done so. Babies in the womb cannot even protest.
Some innocent victims can fight back. Most civilians do not have the resources to do so, and those who do are often condemned for prolonging the occupation. Babies and children in lands under attack never have the option to fight back or even to protest. Most victims of war are helpless against it.

The Masked Chicken October 27, 2008 at 3:30 pm

Dear Sleeping Beastly,
You wrote:
Babies and children in lands under attack never have the option to fight back or even to protest. Most victims of war are helpless against it.
Most babies and children in lands under attack have mothers (and fathers) who will fight for them. In the case of abortion, it is the mother who is killing (at least indirectly) the child, willfully.
The Chicken

SDG October 27, 2008 at 3:56 pm

Unjust wars can be intrinsically evil too. Wars that include targeting of civilians to demoralize the populace would in those elements be intrinsically evil.

This is not the way these words are generally used in moral theology. An unjust war is usually described as extrinsically evil, otherwise we wouldn’t need the word “unjust.” If we expand the definition of “intrinsic evil” to include unjust examples of things, then by definition all evils are “intrinsic evils.” As it is, we usually reserve the term “intrinsic evils” for those things that are evil by definition without needing to supply a qualifier like “unjust.”
While an act like “targeting of civilians to demoralize the populace” could be described as “intrinsically evil,” that would again be extrinsic to the war itself. For example, the bombing of civilian targets in Berlin was an unjust act, but that doesn’t make WWII an unjust war from the Allied side.

David B. October 27, 2008 at 4:56 pm

A sign of Hope (for the nation, anyway): Catholics, who have almost (Al Smith) always gone with the winning candidate, are leaning toward McCain.

DBP October 27, 2008 at 5:05 pm

I can’t speak to how it is generally used in moral theology, but I don’t recall seeing the term “extrinsically evil” in the Catechism. I understand “intrinsically” to just be a synonym for “inherently.” An act considered in its object, intent and circumstances is inherently evil whether it is by virtue of object, intent, or circumstance. A war can be unjust due to intent; one of the criteria for a war to be just is to have a good intention. That act of war, due to its intent, would be inherently evil. If it’s not inherently evil then that means it is evil in some arbitrary way or just because it is forbidden by law. We know that nothing is evil arbitrarily and in the case of things evil due to be being forbidden by law the inherent evil there is that it is inherently evil, intrinsically evil, to disobey authentic authority, such as that of God, the State, or the Church.
I don’t see how one can describe a means of execution in a war to be “extrinsic” to the war. It’s not something outside the war; it is part of it.
Regardless, it has no bearing on the gravity of evil. Intrinsically evil does not mean more evil. It speaks to the way in which it is evil, not the degree to which it is evil

DBP October 27, 2008 at 5:26 pm

An unjust war is usually described as extrinsically evil, otherwise we wouldn’t need the word “unjust.”

No. We can describe sexual intercourse as “unjust sexual intercourse”, i.e. sexual intercourse not in conformity with justice. This term would describe adultery, fornication, and heterosexual rape. All three of these things are intrinsically evil, not “extrinsically evil” but by this reasoning they aren’t intrinsically evil and would be extrinsically evil, “otherwise we wouldn’t need the word ‘unjust'” Sexual intercourse is not intrinsically evil and war is not intrinsically evil, but that doesn’t mean that illicit sexual intercourse or illicit war is not intrinsically evil. In the former case it in all three forms, is; in the latter case, it is in certain forms such as when waged with a bad intention or when waged without authentic authority or when the means is illicit. If the means consisted wholly in nuclear retaliation on all cities in Russia and the goal of the war was the annihilation of Russia for the purpose of revenge, that war would be as intrinsically evil as they come. But intrinsic evil has nothing to do with gravity of evil. It’s become a buzz word in politics to minimize issues those on the Catholic right are happy with but which don’t sit right with the magisterium. I do not agree with all of this, certainly not the recommendation to give up on third parties or liberalism on immigration, but THIS by John Allen is good reading. Sometimes Catholics take their political ideology and make their faith fit it; Joe Biden and the Catholic right are both examples of this. We should take our faith and have it shape our political ideology. Our docility to the magisterium and loyalty to Catholic tradition should be each greater than our political affections.

J.R. Stoodley October 27, 2008 at 5:57 pm

A sign of Hope (for the nation, anyway): Catholics, who have almost (Al Smith) always gone with the winning candidate, are leaning toward McCain.
I’d call that a serious sign of hope. Even if it doesn’t change the result of the election if the “Catholic vote” doesn’t go to Obama, even if by a narrow margine, that seriously reduces that potential scandal.

Sleeping Beastly October 27, 2008 at 7:06 pm

DBP,
Sometimes Catholics take their political ideology and make their faith fit it; Joe Biden and the Catholic right are both examples of this. We should take our faith and have it shape our political ideology. Our docility to the magisterium and loyalty to Catholic tradition should be each greater than our political affections.
This is something that has been eating at the back of my brain for awhile now, and you’ve put it into words quite nicely. Thank you.
The thing is, I think that candidates like Keyes and Baldwin could draw some of the more compassionate voters from the Democratic party as well- at least those who are opposed to wars of aggression, but not particularly attached to abortion-on-demand and gay marriage. These voters most certainly exist; as SDG pointed out, people align themselves with candidates for a wide variety of reasons.
Chicken,
Most babies and children in lands under attack have mothers (and fathers) who will fight for them. In the case of abortion, it is the mother who is killing (at least indirectly) the child, willfully.
Does a murder become less evil if the victim is less helpless? Is an unjust war against a well-armed populace more justifiable than an unjust war against a defenseless people? Abortion is a horrible evil; it is not a reason to ignore the horrible evil of unjust war. That’s all I was really trying to say.

vox borealis October 27, 2008 at 7:44 pm

Sleeping,
The vast majority of suffrage supporters and slavery opponents did so by operating within the political system, not by “opting out” and following quixotic voting practices. Indeed, Abraham Lincoln succeeded in bringing about an end to slavery (yes, I have simplified the story) by taking a bunch of bits and pieces and galvanizing them within the Republican party. In other words, the end of slavery was precisely the product of working within a two-party system rather than by trying to overturn or “shipwreck” that system.

Sleeping Beastly October 27, 2008 at 8:20 pm

Vox,
The end of slavery happened because the president issued an executive order ending it. Can you imagine any of today’s Republicans doing that with abortion?
Keep in mind that when Lincoln was elected, the Republican party was only six years old, and was busy supplanting the Whig party. Abolitionists were so fed up with their two-party system that they thought it might be worth giving their votes to someone else. Lincoln was the first Republican president elected, and his presidency was most definitely the result of disaffected voters who were willing to give a new party a try.
I don’t see how Lincoln’s presidency is a good argument against third-party voting.

vox borealis October 27, 2008 at 9:51 pm

Sleeping,
The Abe Lincoln argument is exactly a good argument, because it shows the inefficacy of trying to bring down the two party system. Yes, the Republicans replaced the Whigs, but what emerged? Not a three+ party system, but a reaffirmed two arty system, only with a different two parties.
Can I imagine an executive order ending abortion? No, but only because of the legal roadblocks in place, which is tied to the growing power of the supreme court (which Lincoln did not have to deal with).
That said, I can only imagine the end of abortion coming through the entrenched two party system, rather than through some quixotic effort to bring down the entire system.
If you think that voting for the already-splintering Constitution Party (or the like) is a viable alternative, or historically comparable to the early Republican party, or even a realistic long-term option for “shipwrecking” the two-party system, your interpretation of reality is vastly different from my own.

Sleeping Beastly October 28, 2008 at 1:41 am

Vox,
I know as well as you that our political system will not stand for 3+ parties for any length of time. I’m not saying that casting third-party votes will change that. But it may change the overall situation we have: two “different” parties that uphold or tolerate most of the same evils. It may lead to one of the major parties being replaced or reformed.
Time will tell whether the Constitution party (or some other) will play the same role the Republican party did in 1860. Certainly it won’t without a substantial number of votes cast its direction.
And for the record, Lincoln was dealing with a very similar Supreme Court situation when he took office. The Supreme Court had just upheld the constitutionality of slavery in the Dred Scott decision of 1857. In 1862-63, Lincoln was issuing the Emancipation Proclamation.
While an executive order’s power to override a SCOTUS decision is dubious, it is a significant challenge to such a decision. Since 1973, we have had five Republican presidents, and not a whisper of such a challenge. The Supreme Court isn’t excessively powerful in spite of the efforts of the executive and legislative branches; it’s excessively powerful because the other branches refuse to make the necessary efforts to check it.
None of the Republicans in Congress has so much as proposed an anti-abortion amendment in the past quarter century. 35 years of legal abortion and 40 million dead, despite 24 years of executive office by ostensibly pro-life presidents, and 821 Republican senate seats won. Neither party is taking the anti-abortion cause seriously, just as neither party is committed to responsible use of our military.
I guess I wonder how you “imagine the end of abortion coming through the entrenched two party system.” What do you suppose that will look like?

SDG October 28, 2008 at 3:04 am

DBP,
I don’t disagree in principle with the point you’re making viz. intrinsic evil, but there is a reason for the standard taxonomy.
The types of “unjust sexual intercourse” you mention can be rigorously defined and identified with minimal effort and no wiggle room, so that it becomes convenient and precise to say, e.g., that “adultery is always/intrinsically wrong.” It is not similarly helpful to say “unjust wars are always/intrinsically wrong.” The heavy lifting of ascertaining which [i]wars are just and which unjust[/i] depending on circumstances which can be more helpfully expressed by saying that wars may be just or unjust.

I don’t see how one can describe a means of execution in a war to be “extrinsic” to the war. It’s not something outside the war; it is part of it.

Just war theory is principally concerned with the justification for going to war at all. It could be almost taken for granted that in any war, however just, some unjust acts will be committed by both sides. A just cause pursued by partially unjust means is still usefully distinguished from an unjust cause.

Regardless, it has no bearing on the gravity of evil. Intrinsically evil does not mean more evil. It speaks to the way in which it is evil, not the degree to which it is evil

True, but given equally grave physical effects, intrinsic evil as a cause is more damaging to the human person and to society than extrinsic evil. For example, an evil abortion law and an unjust war may each wrongly cause the deaths of similar numbers of people each year, but the former is singled out by John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae as “crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize.”
Put another way, if you as an individual or a society wrongly think an unjust war is just, you are much less compromised than if you think that abortion is morally licit.

The Masked Chicken October 28, 2008 at 5:08 am

Dear Sleeping Beastly,
You wrote,
While an executive order’s power to override a SCOTUS decision is dubious, it is a significant challenge to such a decision. Since 1973, we have had five Republican presidents, and not a whisper of such a challenge. The Supreme Court isn’t excessively powerful in spite of the efforts of the executive and legislative branches; it’s excessively powerful because the other branches refuse to make the necessary efforts to check it.
That is a vast oversimplification of history. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery, the thirteenth amendment did. Lincoln’s Proclamation was an exercise of what one might call a power of war act by a commander-in-chief so as to regulate the status of people within his territory. Many slaves escaped to the north, precisely so they could enjoy that freedom.
No president is going to directly end abortion, at least not without vast legal challenges. This did not happen during Lincoln’s administration because: a)his Proclamation was seen as a document of war, not a document of politics and b) the Supreme Court did not have the ability to challenge such a document under those conditions. That would not be the case if a peacetime president decided to end abortion by fiat.
If you really want to draw an historical parallel, then a president should be lobbying for a Constitutional amendment, although such an amendment would have to be very carefully crafted, because Roe vs. Wage has made getting rid of abortion connected to privacy and discovery and the Supreme Court has held those aspects when applied to abortion (wrongly, I think) to be Constitutional. Times are very much different than in Lincoln’s day.
The Chicken

Sleeping Beastly October 28, 2008 at 8:29 am

Chicken,
I agree that it will, ultimately, take a constitutional amendment to end abortion in America. The Roe decision is not likely to get reversed from the Supreme Court bench, and if it did, the reversal would likely be re-challenged over and over again. (If the Court can change its mind once; it can change its mind again and again.) Such an amendment would not need to be terribly complicated; any of the proposed human life amendments would have done the trick. Ideally, it should clarify that the word “person” when used in the Constitution applies to all human beings from conception to natural death, particularly as regards the fifth and fourteenth amendments.
At any rate, while I do agree with you that it was really the thirteenth amendment that ended slavery, and not the emancipation proclamation, the latter was not without effect, else it would have been useless as an act of war. At the time, slaves heard of the proclamation and knew it for what it was: a promise from the most powerful man in the country to uphold their freedom. Union soldiers and federal officers did not, in general, worry about the Dred Scott decision when obeying that order. As I said, an executive order’s power against a SCOTUS decision is dubious, but not completely negligible.
You are right that times were different. I was not trying to say the two situations are alike in every way; I don’t think that history repeats itself to that degree. I was originally simply disputing that the abolitionist cause is a good argument against third party voting.
In all fairness, I think Vox was saying that the abolitionist cause gained ground prior to the formation of the Republican party because its adherents were willing to accept partial victories (such as the act of 1807) in place of the total abolition of slavery that they really desired. Working for such changes may have been bitter but necessary. However, when your party doesn’t adequately represent your interests, I really think it’s time for that party to be reformed or replaced. Most likely, Vox and I simply disagree as to whether that time is now or at some future date.

The Masked Chicken October 28, 2008 at 9:02 am

Dear Sleeping Beastly,
You wrote:
However, when your party doesn’t adequately represent your interests, I really think it’s time for that party to be reformed or replaced. Most likely, Vox and I simply disagree as to whether that time is now or at some future date.
Actually, the time was, maybe, thirty-five years ago (1973) :(
The Chicken

vox borealis October 28, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Sleeping,
You ask good questions. the most important: ‘I guess I wonder how you “imagine the end of abortion coming through the entrenched two party system.” What do you suppose that will look like?’
I do not envision a single bill. I do not imagine an executive order, nor do envision a civil war. Rather, I envision the supreme court eventually overturning Roe and other dubious laws that created “rights” where the constitution has none. I then imagine the problem being kicked to the states, where the vast majority would immediately legalize abortion, in most cases very widely. I then see political pressure placed on the state level to slowly restrict abortion until in more and more cases it is virtually outlawed. I fear that it will never be outlawed entirely, but I would work toward as many legal restrictions in as many places as possible.
But that can only happen, I believe, by operating within the current political framework. There *has* been some advances over the last thirty years, albeit very small. Pulling out of the two party system now will, I fear, erase all of those small gains and (even worse) banish the issue to irrelevance forever. I truly believe that now is the worst possible time to opt out of the two party arrangement.
Anyway, that is my view, but of course, we will see what happens as the future unfolds. I may be entirely wrong.

J.R. Stoodley October 28, 2008 at 3:16 pm

One thing is almost certain. Unless Obama and the Democratic Congress skrew up royally in the next couple years, leading to a surge in support for the Republicans, either the Republican Party will redefine itself or will die and be replaced by another party. In any case the pro-life movement needs to stay mainstream if it’s to stay relevant in national politics. We can’t afford to be left behind in a realignment.

Sleeping Beastly October 28, 2008 at 8:54 pm

Vox,
I can’t think of a single issue in our nation’s history that has been resolved in the way you envision. Maybe my knowledge of American history has some holes you could fill in?
And I am not sure I know what you mean by “operating within the current political framework.” I haven’t been advocating an armed revolution here. Using third parties to replace or reform existing parties is a tried and true part of the American political process. It may not always be an appropriate strategy, but it’s not a complete repudiation of the system.

vox borealis October 28, 2008 at 9:54 pm

Sleeping,
There is no comparable issue, historically speaking. Even slavery doesn’t really fit, because the union was much more fragile in the 19th century, the supreme court was weaker (though getting stronger), states were stronger (though federal power was growing). And since when is a third party a tried and true part of the American political process? There hasn’t been one since the mid-19th century. It is unrealistic to expect an early 19th century political dynamic to play out in a 20th/21st century context.
At this precise juncture, to seek a third party means almost certain marginalization, just as Stoodley points out.
BTW, asking what political issue was solved in the way I described? The civil rights movement was solved in a not dissimilar, slow and piecemeal fashion (aided by some legislation and some critical supreme court decisions).

DBP October 29, 2008 at 12:39 am

If a 16-25% block of voters consistently votes third party in every national election, it is in at least one of the two major party’s self-interest to not marginalize that block of voters by either appeasing that block or by reforming the system with approval voting or Condorcet’s method. In both systems, the concerns you have about wasting a vote on a third party or being marginalized are largely moot. In some countries, for instance Australia, they already use for national elections alternative voting methods, which while note as good as these two methods also allay significantly these two concerns. It is unrealistic to think that the same or better reform could not take root in the United States and unrealistic to think that both major parties would simply idly stand by without changing or implementing voting system reform if a voting block that large was consistently swathed out. I urge you to educate yourself and read about these two systems.

Sleeping Beastly October 29, 2008 at 11:07 pm

Vox,
Third parties remain a part of the political process, even if they haven’t gotten a candidate into the oval office since Lincoln’s time. They continue to get candidates elected to other offices in many states, and it’s not inconceivable that they could do so in a presidential election again someday. I also think it’s safe to say that Perot and Nader (both third party candidates) had an effect on the outcomes of the 1992 and 2004 elections respectively, which makes them part of the political process even in 20th-century presidential elections.
At this precise juncture, to seek a third party means almost certain marginalization, just as Stoodley points out.
Sorry, but I just don’t see it that way at all. What did you see in Stoodley’s post that I missed?
BTW, asking what political issue was solved in the way I described? The civil rights movement was solved in a not dissimilar, slow and piecemeal fashion (aided by some legislation and some critical supreme court decisions).
Granted that the Plessy decision was overturned by the Supreme Court. The Plessy decision was somewhat different from the Roe decision for a number of reasons. First, the Plessy decision upheld states’ rights to make restrictive laws; the Roe decision denied that right. Second, the Roe decision has already been reconfirmed in the 1992 Casey decision.
Finally, the Brown decision was by no means the end of the civil rights struggle. The Civil Rights Act itself, which could be considered the primary victory of the civil rights movement, was only really effective because the legislators who enacted it were sneaky enough to slip it under the umbrella of the commerce clause. In any case, none of it happened because people stuck to their contemporary political framework. It didn’t happen because civil rights activists knuckled down and voted for the least racist viable candidates. It happened because they put social pressure on their leaders, often breaking the law to do so.

vox borealis October 30, 2008 at 4:14 pm

Sleeping,
“They continue to get candidates elected to other offices in many states, and it’s not inconceivable that they could do so in a presidential election again someday. ”
Yes, it is pretty inconceivable. I don’t know about third party candidates getting elected in :many states,” but even if so, the very local nature of state level and sub-state level elections allows for the occasional third party victory. Like, what, ONE independent in the entire House? Thurd party candidates can win occasional seats in state legislatures, or the odd mayorship (like the not infrequent socialist mayor of Ithaca, NY).
But the presidential election, with the electoral college, is a winner-takes-all system that strongly discourages third-party success. There is no proportional allotment of votes. Even if a third party candidate won a significant percentage of popular votes, he would still likely gain NO electoral votes.
Yeah, sure, Pirot and Nader influenced electoral outcomes, the same way as if those voters hadn’t voted at all. That’s not an argument for the power of third parties so much as a confirmation that voting third party is essentially opting out of the voting altogether. It certainly does not suggest that a third party will emerge as a politically viable alternative any time in the foreseeable future.

DBP October 30, 2008 at 4:31 pm

States are free in the electoral college system to change the way they allocate their electoral votes. Two states have changed it already to a district allocation instead of winner take all. Those two states and the other 48 are free to change it also to proportional allocation. It is inconceivable that if 16-25% consistently vote third party that neither major party will push for electoral reform; it’s to their advantage to do so. The party that is the victim of the spoiler effect would benefit from moving to proportional allocation or to approval voting or Condorcet’s method; in the latter two cases, the spoiler effect is eliminated and in the first case it is lessened.

vox borealis October 30, 2008 at 5:53 pm

DBP,
Possibly, but I don’t see how a 15 or 20% third party vote would convince the two major parties to adopt electoral reform. If anything, I could see them pushing to reinforce winner-takes-all systems. I am also not convinced that many states would go the route of Maine and Nebraska. Large states such as California have more political clout in winner-takes-all voting schemes, since proportional voting, given the historic closeness of US elections, would only divide up the electoral votes more or less evenly between the candidates. For very small states with few electoral votes, proportional voting would have little effect–how many ways can 3 be divided? Also, very small states tend to be over-represented in the electoral college, precisely because of winner-takes-all vote apportioning.
All in all, winner-takes-all makes winning individual states more important, and from that perspective there is little incentive to change the current system. Maybe some middle sized states would take the same path as Maine, though I just don’t see the political advantages of doing so. Proportional voting might benefit a third party, but then why would the major parties (or their constituents) go for such a plan?

Sleeping Beastly October 30, 2008 at 7:11 pm

Vox,
Yes, it is pretty inconceivable. I don’t know about third party candidates getting elected in :many states,” but even if so, the very local nature of state level and sub-state level elections allows for the occasional third party victory. Like, what, ONE independent in the entire House?
Well, two if you count the Senate. And third parties don’t generally win gubernatorial races, although we have had a number of third party governors in Alaska, Connecticut, Maine, and Minnesota recently. Things change. There was a time when third parties put candidates into the oval office. That changed for awhile, and it may well change again.
But the presidential election, with the electoral college, is a winner-takes-all system that strongly discourages third-party success. There is no proportional allotment of votes. Even if a third party candidate won a significant percentage of popular votes, he would still likely gain NO electoral votes.
Likely true- the first time around. Once a third party candidate became a credible threat, though, that party might become a contender, forcing either a reform or replacement of one or both of the major parties. Also, as DBP has pointed out, such a situation might encourage a party losing influence to lobby for proportional representation, or some other similar reform to the election process.
Yeah, sure, Pirot and Nader influenced electoral outcomes, the same way as if those voters hadn’t voted at all. That’s not an argument for the power of third parties so much as a confirmation that voting third party is essentially opting out of the voting altogether.
Not exactly. Since third party votes are counted and recorded, it lets everyone (including analysts for the major parties) know why certain voters opted not to give their votes to the mainstream candidates.
All in all, winner-takes-all makes winning individual states more important, and from that perspective there is little incentive to change the current system. Maybe some middle sized states would take the same path as Maine, though I just don’t see the political advantages of doing so. Proportional voting might benefit a third party, but then why would the major parties (or their constituents) go for such a plan?
The losers in particular might favor such a plan if it would give them a share of electoral votes they might otherwise lose. Even the winning party might favor it if it provided a way to strip votes from the opposition, or if it looked as though a third party might begin stripping votes from them.
At any rate, disaffected constituents are a very large group, and might favor such a plan even without their representatives being on board.

DBP October 30, 2008 at 9:48 pm

I explained why they would. Proportional allocation of electoral votes would be advantageous not just for a third party but for the major party that happens to be the victim of the spoiler effect. So, for instance, if 20% consistently voted third party and these 20% were all voters who previously had been voting Republican, then you might have results that look like:
20% Third party
30% Republican
50% Democrat
If the state had 10 electoral votes, all 10 would go to the Democrat under winner take all. With proportional allocation, the Republican party would benefit since 3 out of the 10 would go the Republican and only 5 out of 10 instead of all 10, to the Democrat. So the Republican party would be self-interestedly seeking to implement electoral reform if third party voters stuck with it.
If instead of proportional allocation, we used Condorcet’s method or approval voting, you could still retain winner take all, have people vote on principle, and have no spoiler effect. So your concern about big states versus small states would vanish here.
Condorcet’s method is a little complicated to explain here, but approval voting works by just making it permitted for voters to select more than one candidate. So, you could cast your vote for the Constitution Party, Libertarian Party, and the Republican Party while not voting for any of the other parties on the ballot. The candidate with the most votes wins. The Australian system is inferior but in that system, all the candidates are ranked. Only the current top choice on a ballot is counted. The person who finishes last is then automatically removed from consideration and then the new current top choice on each ballot is recounted. Again, the last place finisher is removed. This process continues until a candidate has a majority. This is different from the run offs that happen in some places in America. Those run offs just involve the top two and require a new election. This is an automated computerized process that eliminates the last place finisher one by one as needed. Surprisingly the Australian system can be manipulated; the two other methods can’t be manipulated in a significant way. Read the two links I included above.

vox borealis October 31, 2008 at 3:29 pm

I understand your reasoning, but I doubt that t would work in practice. The losing major party (in your case, the 30% Republicans) would still likely win several states, while the third party candidate’s 20% votes will be spread over several states, thereby earning no electoral votes. In this case, it is worth it for the losing party to stick with the winner-takes-all system.
Now, let’s say that you are talking about the election results in a given state, then yes, the losing party would want (I assume) to get a piece of the pie: in this case, the Republicans would get three out of ten hypothetical votes, assuming that the electoral votes are apportioned by popular vote. Which is not exactly the case with Maine and Nebraska.
Anyway, I am still not convinced that the losing party would want to pressure for a change in the system, for fear of losing other electoral votes in states in which they are they are the lead vote getters.
Look, I live in Canada, with more than two parties. Every election there is a cry for proportional voting. But you know what, in never comes from the major parties (Liberals and now Conservatives), but rather from the more fringe parties (Greens and NDP) who are locked in perpetual minority in voting district after voting district. So even here, without an entrenched two party system, there is little incentive for the big parties to share. They are better served by trying to win a winner-take-all system than by trying to get portions of a proportional system.
The same thing would happen in the US: the Repubs and Dems will perpetuate the two party system via a winner takes all system. The ONLY way this would change is if one party emerges as completely dominant for a long period of time. So yeah, I guess we could all hope the Dems (or Repubs) dominate all elections for twenty or thirty years, and then maybe there will be change. Is that a good strategy?

DBP October 31, 2008 at 4:00 pm

You and I both should be more hopeful. The Australian system I mentioned is in implementation already in some places, though not apparently automated in all cases.
wiki
This and the much inferior manual single round runoff system in implementation are hopeful signs.
If all pro-lifers voted third party, abandoning the Republican party, the Republican party would win zero or a handful of states.
Understand too, instant run off voting, approval voting, and Condorcet’s method are all 100% compatible with winner take all voting with little or zero spoiler effect.

DBP October 31, 2008 at 4:22 pm

I confess; I didn’t read your last paragraph. Sorry. You hit the nail on the head. That is my strategy and I think it’s a good one. Twenty or thirty years is a blink of an eye compared to the centuries or milennia of good this will do in the long run.

vox borealis October 31, 2008 at 7:06 pm

DBP,
Maybe you’re right. But my prediction for twenty to thirty years assumes that one party (in this case the Democratic party) wins all of the elections, thereby reducing other parties (including the Republicans) to the effective status of fringe party. Only then would the non-winning parties seek to overthrow the two party system.
But, I am not convinced that all of the pro-lifers puling out would hurt the republicans so much that they would would then lose all elections for twenty years AND then decide to abandon the two party, winner take all system. Rather, there is a major danger that the pro-lifers relegate themselves to the fringe, while the Republicans merely reorient themselves to steal votes from the Democrats.
meanwhile, unfettered Democratic success for a generation could do, to use your terms, centuries or millenia of damage. As the 1960s have shown us, it takes generations (at least) to undo the damage that “progressives” can do in the blink of an eye.
This is a calculation–that is to say, gamble–that I am not willing to take.
The institutional and para-institutional entrenchment of the US two party system is such that, I believe, it is silly to invoke comparisons to countries with parliamentary systems. Moreover, I believe that efforts to bring down this entrenched system at this juncture in the US’s political history is at best misguided, and at worst reckless.
I hope for everyone’s sake that I am wrong.

Sleeping Beastly October 31, 2008 at 8:36 pm

Vox,
Its a gamble either way. You’re gambling on the prudence of your own voting tactics, just as I and DBP are. I think we already have a picture of what lesser-evil voting gives us, and I think we can do better.
Your talk about the pro-life movement being relegated to the fringe doesn’t make any sense to me. A third party, even a fully pro-life party, will not appeal only to disaffected Republicans. Likely, a credible third party (one that has gotten the 20% of the popular vote, for instance) would appeal to disaffected voters who currently vote Democrat as well. I’ve known plenty of anti-war Democrats who would probably prefer a Constitution party candidate to a Democrat, even if it meant sacrificing abortion on demand.
A credible third party could even draw votes from many of the people who currently don’t bother to vote. As I’ve pointed out before, fewer than 50% of the voting-age population bothers to vote in presidential elections. They’re a voting pool that is not currently tapped by either of the mainstream parties.
And if the Republicans change their platform to steal votes from the Democrats, might they not wind up losing as many to a third party as they pick up? I find it hard to imagine how the two parties could be any more alike, but I suppose abandoning the anti-abortion plank altogether might do the trick. In that case, I think you’re dealing with Coke and Pepsi fighting over cola-fanciers, while 7-Up picks up everyone else; either Coke or Pepsi becomes irrelevant, and might as well cede the stage entirely, or merge with the other.
Finally, if the Republican party is capable of pulling a majority vote with a pro-life platform, why couldn’t a third party do the same?

Sleeping Beastly October 31, 2008 at 8:39 pm

Vox,
A minor quibble: I’m not advocating “bring[ing] down this entrenched system.” I’m talking about reforming or replacing one of the major political parties. Not inherently any more radical than NAFTA and the Patriot Act.

vox borealis November 1, 2008 at 6:41 am

I would quibble with your statement that the Republicans have ever pulled a majority of votes with a pro-life platform. In a two party system, both parties must be “big tent” parties, coalitions of various interests. The republican party was never a pro-life party. Rather, it was a party in which interests converged such that the Pro-life movement made the most traction.
But for abortion foes to spin off and try to create a pro-life party, which would be seen as a fundamentally one-issue party by the majority of Americans, they will relegate themselves to fringedom. I remember voting in NY State when the right to Life party was on the ballot. How many votes did that party get?
You wish to reform one of the major parties? It is easier and more effective to this from within. You want to replace one of the major parties (but in the end keep a two-party system)? That is a another matter, a situation that has not been seen in about 150 years. It’s doable, maybe, but I highly doubt that it would succeed. And even if it does, the next twenty or thirty or fifty years it takes for the real transformation to take hold will allow the Democrats unfettered power to enact their culture of death policies. And those policies, laws, supreme court decisions and so forth, will be very deeply entrenched and darn near impossible to un-enact.
At least that’s how I see it.
My main point is not that one should never decide not to vote Republican, though I do believe that this particular election, with this particular democratic candidate and a looming supermajority in both houses and a couple of supreme court justices likely in play, is reckless. Rather, I am arguing that dreams of a third party are just that, dreams. Even to compare the idea to US politics in the 1850s is to be blind to the entrenched political reality of our time. Thus, I believe it is a waste of time and energy to try to undermine or eliminate the two party system. Nor am I arguing that what you propose is radical, just fundamentally impractical.
In the end, that you concede that all you want to do is to reform one of the parties is essentially what I have been arguing all along. Work from within. And especially at this particular juncture.

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