Friday, October 5, 2012

Good for Mitt

From: David Atkins:
Mitt Romney may be the most dishonest politician I've ever had the misfortune of watching. This is a man who seems to literally believe that there is no consequence at all for shamelessly contradicting himself from one week to the next.

Those who believe that Mitt "won" the first debate hands down seem to believe that Romney is justified in his complete cynicism about the process and the electorate. Those who believe, as David Axelrod and I do, that Romney mortgaged long-term political pain for a 24-hour news cycle win, have just a little more faith in this creaky old electoral system.

American democracy is broken. But it's not that broken.

Mitt was losing. So he decided to win. And everyone agrees that he won the debate. So far there have indeed been no consequences for him shamelessly contradicting himself from one week to the next. And why should there be, among the small pool of voters who have not yet made up their minds?

Meanwhile, why didn't Obama talk about Romney's 47% comments in the debate? From here: "'It just didn’t come up in the debate,' Messina said. 'It wasn’t a deliberate decision.'” I guess that no one in the Democratic Party has ever heard of bringing up talking points about one's opponent in a debate, to define them. They didn't think about it so hard that it wasn't even deliberate that they didn't think about it. After all, the basic attitude is this: We must be bipartisan -- above the fray -- and work together on a Grand Bargain to destroy Social Security. And those 47% are sort of shameful, aren't they? Why would anyone speak up about them when they don't have to?

American democracy is that broken.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

That's not how it works

More about voting, or not voting, in the upcoming U.S. election. I know that I should just let this go, but it beats writing the last few posts about Occupy that I feel like I should finish.

Jim Henley suggests individual trade-offs here, of the form "If [loyalist progressive] wants [disgruntled anti-militarist] to vote for the Democrats, then [loyalist progressive] should trade that person something they want, like a letter to a politician." The basic problem with that is that signatures on petitions, letters to politicians, and so on are valueless. We've already determined that -- that's a major reason why movements like Occupy spring up. Petitions, letters, one-day protests and so on don't cause anyone to do anything. So trading a valueless political action for a valueless vote is like some kids pretending to play poker but they can't really keep track of whether one red chip is worth 5 black or vice versa.

Let's consider the disgruntled anti-militarists as a bloc, at least in potential. They're not negotiating with individual Democrats. They're negotiating with the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party has the power to give them at least some of what they want, in the form of actual changed policies. And the anti-militarists, at least in potential, would have the power to give the Democratic Party what it wants, in the form of won elections.

In fact, the disgruntled anti-militarists are not a bloc, and do not have the power to make a difference in elections, mostly because most people in America like war, assassination, and torture, or at least don't see why anyone but a nut would object very strongly. So we have a trading situation going through supposed middlemen (i.e. the individual voters or letter-writers) in which none of the middlemen have the power to carry out the deal. I don't think you need to have a libertarian background to see why this may not be a good idea. "Here, kid, I'll give you 5 black chips for your red one. Aren't you happy now?" You might equally well object that the red chip is valueless too, so if there is condescension or futility it's going both ways. But.

But the important part of not voting is to say that you're not playing the game. People want the reassurance of knowing that settled, middle-class people with young children, like me, are still dutifully going through the motions, and are not seriously saying that maybe it's time that we just stopped supporting the whole American political system. That's what you lose if you trade the red chips for the black chips. And that's why I don't expect there to be a lot of people taking this deal.