Friday, January 6, 2012

Ron Paul and majoritarian democracy

If you're like me you're tired of the Ron Paul talk. Hell, I'm tired of the entire GOP nomination process. I just don't care since I don't have a horse in the race. But the Paul talk won't go away on the blogs so I wanted to address it again. The fractured nature of the support and dislike for Paul highlights one of the fundamental consequences of the nature of our system of gov't, one that has benefits and problems.

The US is a majoritarian democracy. We elect people by seeing who gets a majority of the vote. In order to get a majority of the vote in a country as large as ours, you need a ton of people voting for you. This is why political parties were formed. You need a national organization that can bring in the number of people you need to get elected. And there have only been two parties at a time for most of our country's history because it's really difficult for a third party to get enough people to vote for it in order to win. A third party just drags support away from one of both of the other parties, but ends up hurting one more than another. That or one party sees an opportunity to get that support so it changes it's stances.

The problem with this is that you get each party trying to define it's position on issues in as broad a way as it can while still being different enough to distinguish itself from the other party. With the current Republican candidates, most of them agree on most of the issues. The same was true with the Democrats in 2008. However, Ron Paul has serious disagreements with many of those issue positions. But he agrees more with Reps than he does Dems. And he realizes that he has practically no chance to be president unless he joins one of those parties. Thus he is a Republican.

Americans like to complain about partisanship and the problems with parties. But when it comes to voting the vast majority of them vote for one of those parties. That's because they understand that a candidate from one of those parties will win. You can vote for Ralph Nader because you don't like both parties or because he best represents your ideals. But he has basically no chance of winning.

So let's say Paul beats the odds and is the Republican nominee. If you are like me and your ideals are kind of split between Obama and Paul you have three options. Vote Obama, even though you disagree with some serious things he's done. Vote Paul, even though you worry he will follow through on the issues you disagree with him on. Or vote independent, even though whoever that person is has practically no chance at winning.

I've gone the independent route before. And even then it's ideologically unfulfilling because odds are you are still going to disagree with something that person supports. I was happy with my vote for Obama for longer than I was my vote for Nader in 2004. So in 2012 I'll be left with either voting for Obama or some independent. I'll probably just vote independent since Obama won't win TN anyway and I can do it to protest Obama's crappy policies. But that's the equivalent of farting in the wind because you just aren't going to get enough people to agree to vote for the same non-party affiliated person as you want. So for all the Glenn Greenwalds out there, you're screwed until we get a proportional representation system.

One caveat. Paul is popular enough that if he were to run as an independent against Romney and Obama he could make things very difficult for both, though probably more for Romney. But like I said, the two parties would make an effort to draw support away from Paul and back to them by making concessions. This is the more efficient way of getting change than waiting on a proportional representation system. But it needs a unique candidate like Paul and lots of money. And it needs to stay active after the election in order to keep the winner honest. That's a ton to ask. But aside from changing things from within the party, it's probably the best bet.

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