I tweeted that “FairVote errs in failing to promote Approval Voting for U.S. Presidency, U.S. Senate, and State governorships”.
Brian Boyko responded by posting http://www.boykotx.org/great-as-the-enemy-of-good/.
This is my response to Mr. Boyko’s response.
Perhaps FairVote doesn’t “err”, but rather, perhaps they are deliberately following a political agenda to maintain the officers and back-room operatives of the “Republican” and “Democratic” Parties in power over US government policy via control of the elections at both Federal and State levels. I wonder whether FairVote receives sponsorship from military contractors. In any event, trying to guess the motivations of members of FairVote probably can’t produce anything useful. Rather, an appropriate critique of the actions and communications of FairVote would address the likely political effect of those actions and communications. It does not really matter whether their hearts are in the right place, if their actions are just the same as those would be of an organization whose purpose is to maintain the US political status quo.
I believe I can understand how a person living in a country that is small and not warlike may prefer to have a relatively democratic system in said country. With a democratic system, the citizens can influence governmental policy and thereby enjoy more control over the circumstances of their own lives. However, the need for democracy in the US has even stronger justification than such need in the less militarized or smaller or poorer countries. Moreover, an only relatively-inclined-toward-democratic system for the US would not serve nearly so well as an extremely democratic system, because the problems that need to be addressed are severe and the political difficulties in doing so are severe and will be so even in the best political structure we could engineer, due to the difficulties of moving public opinion.
The people who claim to have been elected to office in what they call the US government, along with the soldiers who obey their commands, and some contractors they have hired in the name of the US and paid with resources extracted from the ground and diverted from human needs, have caused hundreds of thousands of excess deaths in Iraq via aggressive cross-border shooting and bombing, in violation of the UN charter (a treaty ratified by the US Senate and therefore the law of the land according to the Constitution), and in violation of the moral principles articulated by the powers that set up the Nürnberger Trials. No doubt, for every one of those deaths, there have been many injuries falling short of causing death, no doubt many of those injuries painful and debilitating. There has been significant destruction of infrastructure and other property. The political stability of Iraq has been destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of people have been made refugees as a result of US foreign policy.
Although the US aggression against the people of Iraq is particularly heinous and easy to cite, you know that several other countries and their peoples have been and are being victimized by US “officials”, including but not limited to Yemen, Bahrain, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Palestine.
US officials have made torture a national policy. Mr. Cheney openly admits it, and says it was the right thing to do. Mr. Obama said the government and citizens should look to the future and not indict Mr. Cheney, Mr. Yoo, and the others of that administration implicated by the evidence. Moreover, if you run a search on “Obama” and “extraordinary rendition” as terms appearing in the same document on the Web, there are over a hundred thousand hits. So it would seem that Mr. Obama has practiced or ordered “extraordinary rendition”, and we all know that the meaning of that term is snatching people up and sending them to where other people will torture them.
“Democrats” and “Republicans” through their hold on government power continue to keep a number of people under false imprisonment, with no possibility to obtain the writ of habeas corpus, in some piece of land that they lease in Cuba, in contradiction to all notions of human decency as well as the US Constitution not to mention British legal tradition going back in some sense almost to Magna Carta. When the kidnap victims go on hunger strike for justice, Mr. Obama and his employees feed them through their noses with tubes that they jam in.
I could go on and on about the way injustice grows every day in the US, what with the prison-industrial complex, spying on citizens in violation of the spirit of the Fourteenth Amendment, police brutality, the TPP negotiations, and on and on.
On top of all that, and probably more importantly, if you can believe I could be about to say something is more important than the extreme matters I already referred to above, the US “officials” fail to take anywhere near the actions appropriate to respond to the emergency of severe and racing global warming, a change that may well spell the end of humanity in a few decades, when I for one would prefer that humanity would last for thousands of years if such a duration can be engineered.
My point is that if the world is to receive relief from the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, some broad mass of people have to wrest control of the machinery of the state from those who are currently running it, those running it being a relatively small group of people who by and large live and operate in conflict of interest against what said machinery should be doing, which is promoting peace and prosperity and the survival of the human kind.
Please consider the decision tree of an hypothetical human individual who, let us say, happens to command sufficient wealth and privilege to be able to choose whether to live inside the borders of the US or outside. Suppose this individual is concerned about the fate of the world and its people. Suppose this individual is willing and able to spend time on political matters. Then what should this person do?
I should think that the chance of contributing to the necessary policy changes would be higher while living inside the US.
But how much chance is there for even a citizen/resident to influence governmental policy? By definition, if there is no democracy, there is no such chance, except via the intermediate step of installing democracy, which of course an individual can’t do alone, but can try to participate in along with others in a pro-democratic movement.
That’s why I care about voting systems.
Mr. Boyko, you write that even with Approval Voting, there is little chance for candidates for office who don’t come from the Democratic or Republican Party (I’m paraphrasing) to win. Do you even want such candidates to have a chance? If what you want is to maybe make the elections a little fairer as between members of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, but preserve the status quo in regard to the lock on power held by those parties, you would naturally have a motivation to try to convince me, and your and my other readers, that what I want can’t be won, where what I want is a multiparty or a nonpartisan political system for the US so that the torturers and fascists will no longer be able to use two-party control to maintain overall control.
I do appreciate the intellectual courage you show in mentioning that Approval Voting takes away the “spoiler” phenomenon, that it takes away the strategic motivation for a voter to betray her favorite candidates (again paraphrasing). However you go on to assert the opinion that even with a change to Approval Voting, “third” parties still won’t have a chance. How can you be so sure, given that you and I don’t have the experience of seeing how the electorate reacts after they have had the experience of Approval Voting for a while? And when they have heard debates open more than two candidates? I say give it a chance and see what happens. Maybe some of us “third” partiers and independents can work our way up in public opinion and in the debate over policies, and can beat some of you Repugnicrats (I note that on your ‘blog, you admit to being a Democrat). Are you aware of the poll done in a district in New York where voters were asked how they’d vote given several voting systems? The race seemed two-way, but it wasn’t Obama-Romney. It was Obama-Stein! This even when the respondents were by and large unfamiliar with the voting systems; they had to be explained to them on the spot. What would happen in an official election using one of the improved voting systems, and what would happen several elections later, when the implications of the voting system have taken root in the minds of the voters? A level playing field is necessary for democracy. Here’s a link to more information on the New York poll: http://www.electology.org/interview-with-tj-frawls-2 .
Mr. Boyko, you mention the benefits of proportional representation (PR) and you argue that there is some tension between my position in favor of Approval Voting and the likelihood of obtaining the democratic benefits of PR. And I do agree that those benefits would be valuable where PR can be applied, which is legislatures such as the US House and no doubt the houses of delegates of many States as well as city councils, county boards, etc. (As Clay Shentrup already pointed out to you via Twitter, elections to the Senate are staggered. I think convincing US citizens to give up the benefits of the staggering would be a very hard sell. So with those considerations I think we have to see the the filling of each Senate seat as pretty much inherently a single-winner election.)
Leaving the single-winner elections in the US unreformed would have severe consequences. Consider in particular the power wielded by the President of the United States. She can have anyone snatched off the street, bundled up, shipped off, and tortured. She can, and he does, order bombing runs targeting arbitrary persons for death, without indictment, trial, verdict, or sentence. If a moral outcome is to be possible, and an outcome that permits the long-term survival of the human race, then the US citizens must acquire control of the election process that fills the Presidency.
Moreover, let me inform you that Approval ballots can be tallied for PR. The first step is to interpret the Approval ballots as Range ballots assigning a score of unity for the case of approval and zero for the case of disapproval. Then tally according to Reweighted Range Voting (RRV). There are some variations in the algorithms described for that tallying, for dealing with write-in candidates, but my favorite variant would just say that candidates not mentioned on a ballot get a zero. I publish code for this algorithm at http://ideone.com/lJokdO starting at line 249.
Note that like the PR system you favor, RRV (even based on Approval ballots) does not mention parties.
STV when reduced to its single-winner subset of cases becomes IRV, which as Mr. Shentrup has pointed out in a posting on YouTube, does not defeat the two-party system. So to me, that casts suspicion on STV. If it fails in a one-winner case, maybe it is somewhat crippled when there are only two winners? Three? I don’t know. But RRV when reduced to the single-winner subset just becomes Range Voting, of which we know the good characteristics.
So I think I have brought arguments here to justify a suggestion that if we are going to be both clever and moral, we should promote variants of Range Voting both for the single-winner cases and for PR. For most simplicity of explanation by us reformers and ease of understanding by the voters, I suggest that those variants should be Approval Voting for the single-winner cases and Approval ballots followed by RRV tallying for PR.