S&R asks: have you given up on voting yet?

The Scrogues – a fair percentage of them anyway – had a lively conversation recently. Though not a consensus, the “we’re fucked and it really doesn’t matter” contingent beat the (nonexistent) “the Dems will fix it if we just elect enough of them” contingent like the tortoise trounced Achilles. I know, sad. Where’d all the hope go?

I haven’t given up on voting, but it’s not because i believe in the Democrats…and i’ve never believed in the Republicans.

I don’t see voting as a right or a privilege. In a Constitutional Republic with universal suffrage, i consider it an obligation. I’m convinced that at least 85% of the eligible voters regularly going to the polls would pretty well fix the unresponsive nature of our two party system and be the biggest step towards ending political corruption. (And i don’t think that convicted felons should be disenfranchised.)

That being said, the Democratic Party can kiss my ass. I already solemnly swore to never vote for a Democrat, ever again. For this i can thank Mr. Obama and the present crop of Congressional Dems. I mean it. Before Obama i’d be tempted to vote Democratic as a means to vote against the GOP. Now i’m free.

Free to write in Huey Long or maybe even Joseph Stalin if i’m in a particularly foul mood. In my political fantasies every ballot would have a “none of the above” option. I’ll bet that i’m not alone, eh? Imagine a presidential election with “none of the above” winning in a landslide; with a little less apathy i’d start a campaign to get it on ballots. As it stands i’ll stick to having a professional looking yard sign made to put out at the curb for election time.

Before we get to your answers, it should be noted that the Scrogues were in broad agreement that local elections are important. I agree. That’s about the only part of a ballot i consider worth taking seriously anymore.

So have at it and tell us what you think, and pretty please tell us why we need to elect more Dems and stand behind our President.

38 replies »

  1. Well said and I agree; local politics are more important than ever.

    And I also agree about voting being an obligation. At least one of my great grandfathers fought in WW I. Both grandfathers in WW II. A great uncle in Korea and two uncles in Viet Nam. If they fought for this country., then the least I can do to honor them is to get off my butt and vote.

    The only thing worse than our two party system is that the Tea Party would like to be door #3. We can find the energy to bitch about how unfair the BCS is for college football, but no one seems to complain that we don’t have playoffs for political office. That and true campaign finance reform will keep elections from ever getting interesting.

  2. Maybe I can’t do everything. But I can do something. So I do vote; every election — local, state and federal. And I encourage like-minded folks to do the same. (Unlike-minded folks are on their own, as far as I’m concerned.)
    Things aren’t fair and it is a pain in the ass to get involved in local politics. But I feel better when I do. As the cliche goes: If not me, who?

    • I’m going to continue to vote. I, like Lex, consider it an obligation rather than a right, because that “right” is so rare and new, historically speaking, that it feels almost immoral to not vote.

      I’ll refrain from a couple of threadfucks (on Obama’s record and voting), however, as both are probably more useful as posts than as comments.

  3. Your post is long on how disappointed you are but short on why. To be sure, there are lots of things I am disappointed at also, but for the most part Obama is delivering as advertised (http://politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/). Here are a few of the things that have been done in the past couple of years that reassure me that having having Democrats controlling both houses and the White House is a good thing:

    – Healthcare law which will save lots of lives and money
    – Financial regulation which hedge against future meltdowns and scale back profiteering
    – Strong gains in reducing the threat of nuclear weapons
    – Huge investments in energy efficiency and green energy
    – Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
    – Reducing the number of troops in Iraq
    – The stimulus that went largely toward rebuilding the crumbling national infrastructure

    Making the assumption that you too agree that these are good things, are you trying to weigh whether achieving this is worth the disappointment in other areas? Are your protest votes worth the risk of having an inept or harmful candidate reach office (I’m thinking Nader and Florida)?

  4. As far as Obama going for Social Security cuts. I figure that is the main reason we were duped into electing him. His chopping of S.S. will be like Nixon going to China & Clinton passing welfare “reform” & NAFTA. As the late prophet, George Carlin warned about the rich over a decade ago: “Now they’re coming for your Social Security. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends.”

    I’ve voted in every election since 1976. When I first started-out I registered Republican like my parents. But over the years I noticed that I almost never voted for a Republican for any office. As the Reps veered further right into nut-territory, I completely abandoned them & automatically eliminate any Rep from consideration. I’ve always tried to vote for any independent candidate possible.

    In 2008, I voted for Obama & the Dems with high hopes. But I am near-totally disillusioned. I see no good reason to vote for any of them ever again. I plan to vote strictly for 3rd party candidates, or if none is available I guess I’ll leave that particular race blank. If the Reps win, then so be it. I figure it only accelerates us going down the toilet by a short time.

  5. Djerrid,

    I could make strong arguments that every one of the things on your list are either A. not what they’re advertised to be or B. did not go nearly as far as they should and could have. Each one probably deserves a post, but i have neither the time nor inclination because it really doesn’t matter.

    I’m not a fan of Obama actually expanding paramilitary covert operations. His little drone war in Pakistan is the worst sort of bullshit. His covering up for and defending torturers (and i don’t believe that it’s stopped) is beyond the pale. His decision that he has the right to order assassinations – even of US citizens – on a whim disgusts me. That he hasn’t deemed us fit to receive the civil liberties taken during the Bush administration raises the bile in my throat. And his expansion of the fool’s errand in Afghanistan makes me question the intelligence he’s so famous for.

    I could go on, but the crux of the proverbial biscuit is that he is not leading and he’s certainly not representing the vast majority of Americans. So long as his fealty is to Wall Street bankers and the military-industrial complex, he’s worthless. We don’t need the last cheerleader for a dying empire, we need someone who recognizes the illness of empire and works to save the republic.

    I won’t even get started on his deficit reduction bullshit…

    I didn’t say that Obama is not as advertised, but by election time i only voted for him as my part to keep Sarah Palin out of the White House. That was a mistake. If she was, maybe “the left” would still be against war and the suspension of civil liberties.

    P.S. his “reduction” of nuclear weapons is just an accounting trick, and he expanded the destabilizing missile defense system of his predecessor.

    • Every time I find myself in a debate over Obama, there’s a little sidestep I like to take for the sake of perspective. In some ways, it damns Obama, but in other ways it damns the whole fucking country and how far we’ve slid. It’s actually pretty simple: Obama is substantially, and demonstrably, less progressive than was Richard Nixon.

      Don’t buy it? Read ’em and weep: http://www.scholarsandrogues.com/2008/06/24/a-progressive-for-our-times/

      Ultimately it comes down to this. I’m disgusted, for all the reasons that Lex ticks off and then some. I believe the system is fucked to the gills, and I see no way to meaningful reform that doesn’t involve a shooting revolution. Unfortunately, the people most likely to engage in said shooting revolution are our least informed and least thoughtful elements on the right, and if present conditions are any indication they’d be shooting at the people who are trying to save them from the people they’re fighting to defend.

      As I say, fucked.

      I know for certain that I could never again vote for Obama. However, for the reasons that Djerrid and Cat articulate, and more, I will most certainly vote against the Republicans, and even in my most idealistic moments I’m capable of grasping that there’s only a value in that if the against vote has me voting for the Dem nominee, which will certainly be Obama.

      This is America. If you have a brain, it’s hard to find anyone at the national level worth voting for. You just have to hold your nose and decide how to cast your no vote.

  6. Yep, I’m a voter and will keep on voting. I went through one LOUSY election season in (I think) ’88 with a Mr. Right Now who argued with me on politics every chance he got and then said, the night before the election, “I don’t feel like voting, it’s too far to drive.” I told him if he did that, he had to shut up about politics because he forfeited his right to complain (and that’s all he was doing anyway). I don’t really care about the “free speech” rights of the non-voters on political issues. If you’re not voting, or throwing your vote away on Mickey Mouse, you’re part of the problem (or could become part of the problem). If you’re not going to vote for someone who has a chance of winning, at least make it a vote for conscience.

    Yes, I’ll vote for Obama again for many of the same reasons as Djerrid. No, not a darn thing has gone far enough in my opinion. But it’s a miracle that ANYTHING is getting done in this political climate. Would you rather have nothing than half-measures? Electing one more TRUE independent (not a dyed-in-the-wool Tea-Bagger) to Congress won’t help. Getting campaign finance reform will. Getting another Dem senator or two will. Yep, those are long shots and I’m not a betting person (way too cheap for that).

    Besides that, throwing a vote away in 2012 as some sort of protest could land Sarah Palin / Newt Gingrich / Mitt Romney / Joe the Plumber in the White House. Would that be better?

  7. i will never vote Democrat again. being thrown under the bus is such an experience i figured would come from the Republicans quite naturally, not being in the Faith Based/loony tune/Fascist mode of thinking.

    the only way to end the charade is to vote Republican to help collapse the house of cards the Democrats are party to. there is no difference other than a slow death or a quick kill. Bipartisan bs better than St. Ronnie of Reagan. lies, thieves and more Republicans

    a shame most people will let the Democrats fool them like the Republicans have been doing for the last 40 years. if Obama is a Democrat than Creationism is truth. lol. stupid is as stupid does.

    to live in such “exciting” times is not for the fool hardy, or maybe it is for the fool hardy to put up the fools who vote Democrat and Republican. lol some choice, eh! Gitmo is closed and whistle blowers are protected by Obama. i could go on. lol

    the only part about Obama i liked was when the Republicans went apeshit over the Nobel “Piece” Prize. but that didn’t last long enough to make Obama worth it. and most of all watch what happens to Social Security.

    How’s that Hopey Changey thing working out for you????

  8. Hi Lex,

    Let’s start with your A and B. I didn’t expect Obama to get every single thing he promised since you generally have to shoot high as a candidate and hope you can get as far as you can while in office, but in just the first two years he’s making a lot of progress (see the link I attached above). As far as not going far enough, I would agree, if he was an emperor; but he’s not. He still has to contend with Congress where I would put most of the blame (I have yet to find a good answer to why the dems haven’t made the GOP go through their filibusterer threats). At that point if, say, the healthcare bill reached the Oval Office desk but it was short of your expectations, would you veto it for not going far enough and have millions go without insurance to appease your ideology?

    In the “not good” category, drone expansion, Afghan escalation, extending civil right infringements for the intel biz, etc., I agree and won’t defend it. Would McCain, Clinton or Palin done things any better? I wouldn’t bet on it.

    “… i only voted for him as my part to keep Sarah Palin out of the White House. That was a mistake. If she was, maybe “the left” would still be against war and the suspension of civil liberties.”

    I’m bookmarking that quote so I can trot it back out when people ask how has politics become so cynical and disingenuous. I had an anarchist friend during the 2004 election – a real Tyler Durden, WTO brick-thrower. He was suggesting something even his anarchist friends balked at – starting up an Anarchists for Bush movement. He figured that having another four years of Bush would pretty much guarantee a governmental and financial collapse which would hasten the end of governments as we know it. He wasn’t far off, except it just made it worse for everyone except the extremely well off.

    I consider myself a practical gradualist. If I go two steps forward and one step back, I don’t get so pissed at myself for that step back that I take another two steps back to punish myself. (“Maybe that’ll make me so mad I’ll only take giant leaps forward from now on! I won’t accept anything less!”)

    When I’m at the voting booth, I vote for the best candidate, period. I go to mid-term county caucuses and vote in every primary because I care about the quality of my government. Save your “statements” for the letter to the editor, the call to your representative, the blog post. I don’t let the poorest qualities of the best candidates stop me for voting for them, ‘less I doom everyone to getting something worse.

  9. i’m also very disappointed in Obama. but seriously, if you could go back to nov. ’08, would you vote for McCain? as disappointed as i am with the current situation, the alternative was Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency. and that heartbeat belonged to a man who’d already outlived his father.

    Obama is the symptom, not the disease.

  10. If Bush v. Gore and Franken v. whomever taught me nothing else, it’s that every single vote counts. I go the other direction–I’m much more concerned about voting and getting involved in getting out the vote during the PRIMARIES, because in places like Arizona where the districts are heavily gerrymandered, the ultimate winner is often determined at the primary stage, especially the Republican primaries, where the most right wing groups are really, really good at getting out the vote.

    I’ve actually decided that I’m going to start voting in the Republican primaries in AZ, because the Democrats are pretty similar and rarely even have contested primaries at the state and local levels. But the difference between traditional Arizona republicans of the Barry Goldwater/Bruce Babbitt/John McCain type and the extreme right wing types like J.D. Hayworth and Russell Pearce and Joe Arpaio is SUBSTANTIVE.

    So I guess I’m calling bullshit on those people who say all politicians are the same and who you vote for or whether you vote at all does not matter. Hayworth v. McCain primary is going to come right down to the wire, and could have major implications for the entire nation. I’m as annoyed as anyone at how desperately McCain has been pandering to the right, but you have to understand that is because he is fighting for his seat and the entire tradition of sort of reasonably moderate bipartisanship that he stood for before the Palin fiasco, and in the current state of Republican politics here, he’s got to pull over at least a few of those folks to even stay in the race for November.


    Of course, I wouldn’t vote for him against pretty much any democratic challenger in the general election, but against J.D. f)@%!#g Hayworth, HELL YEAH!

  11. Do you have to register as Republican to vote in the AZ Republican primary?

    And Polly, don’t you know that politicians don’t come from anywhere? They spring full-fledged from the collective mind of the backroom boys (or in Dubya’s case, from an orifice further south (okay, he kind of actually did)). All this silliness about getting involved on the local level and effecting change in the long run is just so… so… Pollyanna-ish. Or patriotic. Or something. And totally uncool. Despair is the new black!

  12. Ann, I’m with you on the whole Despair is the new black thing. Giving up on democracy and loosing all faith in public officials seems to be very much in vogue right now at both ends of the political spectrum. The thing is, I don’t see how wallowing in discontent will make the world or one’s own personal circumstances any better.

    • Agreed, Djerrid. The problem is that a lot of us also don’t see how engagement will make much difference, either. Local level, sure. Absolutely. But let’s be honest. The Obama presidency is the result of a MASSIVE level of engagement by an unhappy, mostly disaffected progressive base. And the result has been … what?

      Your self-description of “incrementalist” is a good one, I think. But it’s hard not to look around and see it as one step forward, ten million steps back. We can learn a lot from what happened on Wall St. the day after Obama’s “landmark” health care “reform” bill passed. You know, the one that issued forth from his promise to get a public option? Wall Street’s response? A big rally, led by health insurance stocks. The bill doesn’t do a lot of what people have been led to believe it does, but it DOES require people to buy insurance, even though there aren’t any regulations about what the insurance companies can charge for it.

      Change we can believe in? Really?

      You’re absolutely right about Congress. More to the point, I’ve noted before that a big part of the problem is that we don’t have a Democratic Party. We have two parties (at least) sharing the name, and the way things are constructed right now there’s no such thing as a filibuster-proof majority. You could have 100 Dems in the Senate and you’d have Blue Dogs hamstringing progressives at every turn.

      But that doesn’t excuse Obama for his open disdain for progressives, for his repeated willingness to let himself get punked by the right, for the fact that he seems to care more about what Glenn Beck’s audience thinks than he does about the people whose passion and energy elected him, etc.

      I GET the realities of politics. Seriously. I’m hardly a starry-eyed romantic when it comes to grasping the dirty, ugly fights you have to fight to get a tenth of your agenda passed. My problem is that Obama didn’t lose the fight. He surrendered before it started. I expected slightly better from a Southside Chicago streetfighter.

  13. I haven’t given up on democracy (which isn’t what we have, but no matter right now). I’ve given up on the gear and ratchet two party system. I’ve certainly given up on the Democrats who never stand up to the Republicans but put an inordinate amount of energy into muzzling anyone to the left of Nixon.

    I’m not wallowing in discontent either. Like i said, i’ll be going to the polls every time they open just like i always have. And i’ll only throw away votes when it comes to national office. Further, i do not consider voting for a third party to be throwing away a vote. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans represent me AT ALL. Why the fuck should i vote for them?

    I’m not rooting for a team here. And, no, i don’t think that Palin in the WH would be significantly worse than Obama. At least i’d know who my enemy is rather than dealing with the slick talking and back stabbing. And in the end, every major party candidate is going to be a rotten neoliberal when it comes to economics and an imperialist when it comes to foreign policy. The difference will only be in degrees.

    2% less evil isn’t enough for me. Sorry.

  14. Making the world and one’s own personal circumstances better is worth concentrating on, but it will not come from tweaking the edges of a failing system in a hollow state.

    So like Homo Sovieticus, i’ll be working on building parallel institutions in all the places where the state fails to fulfill its mandate. (which is pretty much all of them at this point) Despair….hardly. Despair can only come from believing in the American mythology and being let down. I’ve never suffered from that disease so i don’t suffer from despair when i see it exposed.

  15. http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/.a/6a00d83451c45669e20133f2b86c4b970b-320wi

    I don’t get the “2% less evil” thing. Let’s go back to 2000 and say that a small fraction of disenchanted voters like yourself decided that Gore was a better person to have as head of state than Bush. It isn’t a stretch to think he would have been more competent at managing intel and might have been able to head off 9/11. Or would have been ideologically hell-bent on invading Iraq. Or would have been able to make inroads into reducing carbon emissions. Wouldn’t just the 100k+ civilian and 4400 US military lives not taken away in Iraq be a bit better than “2% less evil”?

    I am also quite interested in your building of “parallel institutions in all the places where the state fails to fulfill its mandate”. I am particularly interested in your parallel system of purifying and disseminating potable water, your parallel program for building and maintaining an interstate highway system, your para-millitary – *ahem* – I mean parallel military. Do you perchance have a newsletter I could subscribe to?

    In the meantime, here’s a quote I found today from P.M. Carpenter that sums up my thoughts pretty well:

    I direct your attention to American history, from early 19th-century social reforms to the decades-long battle for emancipation to the century’s later political-bureaucratic reforms to TR and Wilson’s Progressive Era to FDR’s New Dealism and to the Great(er) Society envisioned by LBJ. Each level of sociopolitical progress was grinding and grueling and packed with half-measures — because remember, the other side gets its say, too; plus the other side, notwithstanding our oft-proper ridicule, is not always without its own version of idealism, possessed just as passionately.

    And now, Barack Obama’s correction of a dreadful, 30-year pseudoconservative misadventure. Step by step. Piece by piece. Half-measures by half-measures, which in time will become 60-percent measures, then 80-percent measures …

    That, quite simply, is the way it is. Indeed, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. If genuine conservative genius there ever was, it came in the Founders’ Burkean inspiration that true and lasting progress must pass the tests of peaceful struggle and tireless debate. Achieving a national consensus is hard, but it’s necessary to progress’ durability; vast and overanxious progress in a consensual void only insures its unraveling. http://blog.buzzflash.com/carpenter/711

    • Djerrid just provoked a thought in my head – why is it that, when progressives get frustrated they decide to never to vote again, but when conservatives get frustrated they get all motivated to vote?

      Seems like this is a self-fulfilling prophecy here – progressives can’t stand the corruption and rightward direction of national politics, so they bow out and thus enable the continued corruption and rightward direction of national politics.

      If that observation is accurate, then it seems to me like progressives not voting may not be the best approach.

      (BTW, mathematically, voting for someone who’s 2% less evil each election gets you someone who’s about 10% less evil after 5 elections and 18% less evil after 10 elections. .98^N, in case you want to know the equation…. 🙂 )

  16. Because many progressives are idealists at heart? And idealists, who tend to be emotionally involved with their beliefs, are not very good at compromise? When the big dream doesn’t happen right away, they get hurt. It’s almost like they got personally dumped by Barack Obama… and I still don’t quite understand how a group of supposedly politically savvy people could truly have believed every promise a politician made. And there’s the crux. It all seems so black and white for so many of you. Fix it. Now. Perfectly. If you can’t, you suck. I hate you. You betrayed me. But I knew you were a liar all along (so I’m still smart) but I gave you a chance (so I tried) but now you’ve proven… what? That real progress is agonizing and painful and slow? That one man cannot change two centuries of political practice in one term? That sucks. I don’t want it to be that way. So I’m going to ignore everything good you’ve actually done, or downplay it because it’s not exactly what I want in a perfect world, and I’m going to take my toys and go home. And don’t call me.

    Despair is a luxury. If you’re not in constant agonizing pain, if you and your family are not starving or dying, if there’s anyone in the world who loves you or whom you love, if there’s something bigger than you that matters to you, if you feel any kind of responsibility to leave the earth a tiny bit better, if you are blessed with enough sanity to be able to wake up occasionally and envision a nice day, if you have the energy and time to be pissed off… then enough already.

    Vent all you like, be as angry as you can be, use it. But if you opt out completely, then you can sulk by yourself. Meanwhile, Cat will wrestle drywall, Polly will sweat with the protesters and vote for a Republican, Brian will spend hundreds of hours clarifying a labyrinth of irrationality, Denny will keep on digging and shining his light and me? I’ll probably be combing nits out of kids’ hair at Brighton next week, or taking old towels to the ADL, or making more winter hats. Yeah, not very impressive. Not much at all. But one lice-free kid is something. One comfortable old dog in a shelter is something. One homeless guy with a warm head is something. And I’ll be damned if I let nothingness win.

  17. You keep dunking the comb in the killing solution. You wear gloves. I’d wear a frickin’ Hazmat suit if I could.

  18. Ok, i asked if people were going to give up voting, but from what i wrote in the post it’s pretty clear that i’m not giving up on voting…unless by “voting” we mean voting for either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party.

    Shades of Levi Strauss…are we, the great evolution of life, trapped in a black or white world? There won’t be any other parties if no one ever votes for them, see? There won’t be “change” if we take whatever we’re given and say, “Please, sir, may I have some more?”

    So as this debate always goes, the true believers erect strawmen and skew the conversation to make it sound like being fed up with the Democratic Party means that someone will vote Republican or completely “opt out” of society. And if all else fails, trot out the bogeyman of “just a few more votes would have kept us from Bush”. Maybe if Gore could campaign his way out of a paper bag it wouldn’t have been so close. Maybe if he hadn’t rolled over like a good Democrat he would have won the recount crappola. Why should i assume that Gore would have moved on climate issues as president? He didn’t do squat about them when he was VP. I know that Democrats like to conveniently forget, but the Clinton administration set the precedent that Bush used to invade Iraq. It was Clinton and Gore who made it national policy to effect regime change in Iraq.

    I feel no need to defend my statement about parallel institutions because i never said anything about dropping out of society…only that i’m not voting Democratic. (And it would be post length dealing with imperial collapse and resilient communities, not survivalist bullshit.)

    And my feelings are not because i expected so much out of Obama. I didn’t expect anything more than we’ve gotten, which is why i had to hold my nose to vote for him. I didn’t expect anything more than we’ve gotten out of Clinton either. Or Biden. Maybe Kucinich, but he never had a snowball’s chance in hell anyhow.

    I certainly didn’t expect a sparkle pony and every problem to vanish. That’s another strawman, and presupposes to know what i (we) did expect or even want.

    Finally, i never said that no one should vote Democratic. It’s your vote, use it as you will. I guess i don’t understand why people are so threatened by someone who’s simply done with the Democratic Party…a party i never belonged to, donated to, or bought a bumper sticker in support of. Shit, i voted for the Communists rather than Clinton in ’96. I’ve never been loyal or reliable.

    • Let me add one thing on Gore. It’s important to go back and look at WHO HE WAS IN 2000. We’ll never know what kind of president he’d have been, but I was unimpressed with him at that point for reasons. At the head of the list, he was central to the Clinton administration’s telecom and information policy and was largely responsible for the fact that for eight years the FCC was a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T. It’s not often that I look at policy and say yep, the Republicans were on the side of the angels there, but that’s exactly what it was like.

      I’m glad that post-VP Gore has spent so much of his energy on green issues and at this moment in time I have a pretty positive regard for him. And yeah, I’m also smart enough to know that the worst-case scenario of President Gore would have been preferable to what we wound up with instead. I just want to make sure that we don’t romanticize Al v2000 into something that it wasn’t.

      If he’d been more like he is today it’s hard to imagine him losing to Bush, with or without our votes.

  19. Brian, I like your idea of mathematically reducing Evil in the world, but I think you are forgetting about the Law of Diminishing Returns. If Bush had a full 100 Points of Evil to inflict upon the earth (not to be confused with his dad’s Thousand Points of Light) and Gore had only 90 Points of Evil then we would get a 10% reduction with that election. For the next election a 10% reduction of 90 would get rid of 9 more points, and then 8 points in the election after that and so on.

    But, *gasp* that would mean that democracy would never, ever fully get rid of all of the evil in the world. Oh, Founding Fathers! How could you have forsaken me so!

    Also: shower caps help.

    • Nope, didn’t forget diminishing returns. .98^5 = .90, .98^10 = .81, .98^50 = .36, and so on.

      Diminishing returns is built in, but the return is closer to linear at the beginning because the 2% difference in evil is so small. It’s much more non-linear if your delta is 10% or 25% (although you get a lot less evil a whole lot faster, even with diminishing returns – 4 election cycles at 25% reduction in evil per candidate gets you down to .31 while it takes 50 election cycles to get to .36 as shown above). BTW, the real equations is (1-ΔE)^N, where ΔE is the difference in evil between the two candidates and is a number between 0 and 1 and N is the number of election cycles required to reach a target difference in evil.

      I also prefer to think that 50% is the “neutral” point, but that could just be wishful thinking on my part.

    • I’d settle for less evil, and even 2% would be nice.

      But I made a point earlier that nobody deemed worth note, evidently. To wit, Obama did not LOSE the healthcare fight, for example, he SURRENDERED WITHOUT A FIGHT.

      I think this subtle distinction explains why so many folks are so disaffected. We know the rules, we know the game, we know the enemy, and we know that when the shooting starts you’re probably going to get winged at least. And the element that so invested in Obama’s HOPE was ready and willing to fight. Seriously, these folks were ready to man the barricades.

      They’re mad because Obama did not lead them into battle. He said I’ll be right back, then walked over and fellated the enemy.

      It’s also important to note that so much of what there is to admire in this thread – Ann’s battle against head lice, for instance – is VERY local, and even those who you’d be tempted to characterize as the most despairing among us have not dismissed the importance of those local battles. The attacks have been on NATIONAL PARTY STRUCTURES.

      I don’t think we do much advance the conversation if we fail to acknowledge these distinctions and to represent them in good faith.

      • Now, I don’t know what was going on behind the scenes, and maybe you do, Sam, but I’m not convinced you’re right about that. I think maybe Obama realized that leading a full charge of his forces in the health care fight would deplete them so much that they wouldn’t be in a position to fight for the financial regulations, or climate/energy legislation (although that’s pretty much toast now), or any of his other priorities. I can’t prove that’s what happened, but I’m not willing to go as far as you are on this one and call it a surrender either. Maybe I’m simply more willing to suspend my cynicism some given that Obama has passed a few major pieces of legislation that, while half measures, are still solar systems better than what we had a year ago.

        The local stuff matters a ton, but there are reasons to still vote for national positions (Rep, Senator, President). We got an EPA that’s actually doing something about climate disruption, for example, because there’s a difference between Bush/McCain and Obama. We have a Democratic Senate that, while they didn’t take up climate or energy legislation, have still rejected amending the Clean Air Act to strip the EPA of its authority to regulate carbon dioxide. We also have a Senate that, for the moment at least, won’t let another Alito or Thomas onto the Supreme Court. And the court has a MAJOR impact on our country, especially given recent rulings.

        No question, local matters a lot for a whole bunch of reasons, one of which is that changes at the local level enable change at the national level by giving support to the kind of national politicians who we actually WANT to vote for instead of HAVE to vote for. But national level politics still matter to the local level, and not voting is just going to let the national stuff screw up the local level more rather than less.

  20. Lay off Barack, dudes! Barack Obama is as thoughtful and dedicated an optimist and pragmatist as William James and John Dewey and all my other great INTJ Pollyanna heroes put together, and a pretty savvy politician to boot. (So I’m guessing ENFJ because he has way better empathetic and intutive people skills than my tribe, and yet I totally get him. Gore is almost certainly INTJ because that’s why he’s so stiff and wooden and dorky on a campaign platform and so relaxed and engaging when he’s getting up close and personal with a small team of documentarians.)

    If you are looking for someone to blame on the Democratic side, try Bill Clinton. He’s the one who started this whole Democratic trend of leaning over so hard to please the center/right in order to get elected that you basically sell out every principle of liberty and justice and a reasonable social safety net and intelligent regulation of the economy that even asshats like Nixon couldn’t argue with in the 1960s or 70s. By campaigning on a platform to “end welfare as we know it” and coming up with bullshit compromises with social conservatives like “don’t ask don’t tell” he managed to move the Dems so far toward the center and into the right that, in order to muster a coherent opposition, the Republicans had to scuttle WAY far to the right and managed to produce Newt Gingrinch (sic) and the Contract on America (sic), who did indeed end welfare as we knew it by basically ripping the entire social safety net to shreds and throwing it in the trash. But Obama, and arguably Gore before him, did not start this trend and have pulled as hard in the opposite direction as far and hard as they were able to do given the conditions in Congress and on the ground, which they inherited from their predecessors. Obama did a frakking heroic job during the election of pulling things so far back the other way that he managed to convince over 60% of the electorate that an African American man could embody both the down home virtues of the midwest and the up-from-your-bootstraps tradition of American immigrant history, and to persuade leftists who had been jaded or catastrophically depressed that that whole hopey changey thing might still work.

    Yeah, since he’s been in office, he’s been so busy putting out fires and trying to get control of the chaotic mess that he inherited from Bush that he hasn’t been able to move as far or as fast with all of the other things we lefties wanted him to do. But yeah, I still believe he’s the person that I voted for and that he’s working his ass off to get things back on track so we can move forward.

    But Ann should realize that I have never been any hipper or trendier in my politics than I have been in my fashion sense. Just as I need to remember, as #22 above demonstrates, that despite her cynicism and pessimism, she has always been a mama bear who’s going to keep knitting hats and feeding stray dogs even if she is convinced that the entire world is rapidly circling the drain. Which is why I heart her.

    Polly’s feeling very hopey and changey this week. Si se puede! Juntos somos fuertes!

  21. Brian, it was reported…after the fact and rather hushed up…that Obama had done his negotiating with the power players long before any bill start working through Congress. About a decade ago there was a lot of anger that Cheney would have the temerity to set energy policy with a handful of oil execs and not tell us about it. I see no difference between the two situations.

    Also, are we assuming that the Democrats will get less evil with each election cycle? That hasn’t been true so far. And if the Republicans get 4% more evil and the Democrats hold at 2% less evil than the Republicans, then they are actually getting more evil.

    Further, i’m pretty tired of the Democrats setting the bar for themselves continually lower and/or using the freakin Republicans as the bar in the first place.

    • There’s a big difference for me, though. I’ve read enough of both the bills to know that the Bush energy bill helped almost no-one beside the energy companies, while the health care bill will help real people and the health industry. The lack of transparency sucks, but sometimes the ends can partially offset the means.

      You have a fair point about the other stuff, though. I’m curious about what you’re solution is, though. Pushing locally for truly liberal/progressive candidates in order to build a local groundswell that’s big enough to be exported and could eventually drive national change sounds like a great idea to me (see my comment about Seattle’s new mayor). I’d personally add voting for the national candidate whose the closest to my personal political beliefs in order to stall the country’s rightward drift as long as possible, but if that’s not your cup of tea, so be it.

  22. Strawmen and ponies and sparkles, oh my. It may be a bit late in the thread, but Lex, the “opting-out” remark wasn’t aimed at you. There are other commenters on here, and my reading comprehension hasn’t been completely dried up by four years at home with the cub.

    The “focusing on negatives” part? Oh yes, that was completely for you, and for certain other people around here who may or may not be bald. Not that you don’t raise valid points, and you have every right in the world to express your feelings, but I find that prioritizing my attention in that manner leads to paralysis rather than action. And since worst-case, what’s-wrong-here, fix-it-all-now crisis thinking is natural to me (thank you, brain chemistry and chaotically violent childhood), I had to make a conscious choice a long time ago to think differently. The other options were unpalatable, to say the least, and now that I am in fact a mama bear, they’re no longer even options. Hope or go under.

    So it’s a bit personal, yes. But in a larger sense, it still seems more productive, more healthy and more sustainable, in a basic get up out of bed every day way, to focus first on what we have demonstrably accomplished and to keep it in mind during the fight for more. You vent. I’ll have another drink. We’ll probably wind up at the same place anyway.

    (note to Polly: I still don’t get the whole “hiking pants” concept, but I’m trying)

  23. It’s not about diminishing returns. It’s about getting to the same place slower or faster. Either way the Dem or Republicans are going to impoverish you and take away your civil rights, the question is just how fast. And this is a bipartisan project: Obama will probably slash SS, he has cut abortion funding — the Republicans couldn’t do either thing. It’s a Nixon to China thing.

    I am aware of no evidence that optimists make good analysts and a ton of evidence that pessimists (and depressed people) do. Optimism is a great strategy for living your life: you will be healthier and happier. But you will also suck as an analyst. Default human thinking is already ridiculously biased to the upside (it pretty much has to be, or we wouldn’t get out of bed). Being a pessimist still generally leaves you too optimistic for good analysis. Only severely clinically depressed people are actual realistic at how they look at the world.

  24. Optimism? Not me. Polly is absolutely right about that – I expect human beings to behave in the most self-interested way possible, I expect people in groups to behave irrationally and cruelly, I expect institutions to think institutionally and stop at nothing to preserve themselves, I expect the vast majority of people to live their lives with minimal reflection, even less restraint and absolutely no critical or long-term thinking. I expect them to breed without planning and parent without care. I expect them to distrust and despise the “other.”

    In short, I expect humans to behave like the monkeys with car keys we are. But I allow myself to hope for the occasional pleasant surprise, and I refuse to behave as though commonality excuses the worst in us, and in order to keep functioning (and in my overweening vanity), I won’t let myself off the hook to keep fighting, and that includes always remembering that it IS possible for things to suck less.

    Not optimism. Calculated self-brainwashing.