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October 27, 2004

Comments

Do not be alarmed. Matthew Yglesias is suffering from a bout of contrarianism for its own sake. This happens from time to time; it's a bit like Nick Kristof taking a break from his courageous coverage of Darfur every few weeks to phone in a lousy column on U.S. politics. We recommend plenty of fluids and a good night's sleep, and continued monitoring of the patient's condition. Should symptoms worsen to Kaussian or Easterbrookian proportions, please consult with us immediately.

The tea leaves on this one say 'unsuccessful attempt at humor', what with all the gratuitous misspelling and stray exclamation points.

Not to take the wind out of a mighty fine post about the benefits of diluting the power of individual wills.

To say that you should subvert the system when you think it is giving the wrong answer is to fail to understand the virtue of having the system in the first place. If you believe you have the right answer, you should attempt to persuade people.

How did that work out in Germany?

Just wondering.

Assuming you are right and subverting democracy to get your desired outcome doesn't lead to good self-criticism.

doesn't lead to good self-criticism? You're being too kind. Such a theory is antithetical to the whole construct of the founding fathers.

Like it or not, Matt, we have government by majority rule, subject to some well established rules. If you don't like it, MY, go start your own damn country.

Our country has made a decision to elect a president by the electoral college as determined by the popular vote in each state, personally I think it is the worst system there is (except for all the others).

If Bush wins, I'll give him hell - but I'll recognize him as my president.

Sebastion, this is the first time I can remember reading a post of yours and agreeign with every single word that you said. Thanks.

As a geek of my acquaintance observed, the real problem with American democracy is that the beta version was installed and is still in use...

But I think the real problem right now is what Matthew says that you didn't quote:

Where a question of principle does enter into play, I think, is that there are several Republican operatives who have clearly violated the law already who are not being investigated or prosecuted by state governments whose machinery is in GOP hands.

I should add, following Anna in Cairo's good example: I hope Matthew is joking when he says he's okay with one-sided voter intimidation, because I thoroughly agree with what you said: "Which is why Republicans and Democrats should not try to cheat, even though most of us are convinced that we are right."

Such a theory is antithetical to the whole construct of the founding fathers.

Like it or not, Matt, we have government by majority rule, subject to some well established rules. If you don't like it, MY, go start your own damn country.

That is just hilarious. The founding fathers, resting in their graves in their own damn country, are quite amused, being of course law abiding citizens and "well established rule"-followers and all.

felixrayman: That is just hilarious. The founding fathers, resting in their graves in their own damn country, are quite amused, being of course law abiding citizens and "well established rule"-followers and all.

Look, felix, we have this system. Every four years the citizens of this great country go and vote for a president. You might think that most of the voters are idiots, that their vote should not count as much as yours (or mine for that matter - really, sometimes I wonder, too) but that is the way it goes. But nevertheless I'm willing to abide by the decision of my fellow citizens.

The only sense in which I can condone MY's remarks is that I would prefer, in some vague way, that citizens who didn't have a basic grasp of the issues not vote. Beyond that, I'm entirely in agreement with Sebastian's post.

Guys, look at the first line
Will Wilkinson, continuing his contrarian scolding of Democratic love of democratic principles, asks "Could it be that the sort of person likely to be "intimidated" out of voting isn't in general the sort of person who you want to be voting?"

I imagine MY is, like almost everyone I know, just plumb out of outrage. Sarcasm is a more than adequate replacement.

The irony is that the unhinged far left has scared itself so thoroughly swinging at the evil corporations it fears will pollute the process that they have themselves polluted the process. Having the New York Times and CBS News campaigning for Kerry, pounding distortion after distortion and outright misrepresenting 'facts' to the electorate is sinful. Our citizens live under the impression that these institutions have some sort of sacred vow to be honest and protect their flock from dishonest politicians. When in actuality these populist entities are doing the king making. Much has been said over the last two hundred years how strong our republic structure is. This election will shake it to it's foundation. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Much of the world carrion waits gleefully to pick at the carcass. And won't it be doubly ironic that France will emerge as the leader of the new Muslim world. Dumb like foxes.

Having the New York Times and CBS News campaigning for Kerry, pounding distortion after distortion and outright misrepresenting 'facts' to the electorate is sinful.

But having Fox News and Sinclair campaign for Bush and lie to the electorate is just fine?

Blogbuds, I see distortions and lies and misrepresentation of facts on both sides (that's the media for you): but media outlets supporting Bush do far more distorting facts, outright lying, and misrepresentation, because they have so little truth to depend on. What can they say, truthfully, about Bush's accomplishments? Very little. They attack Kerry instead.

This election will shake it to it's foundation.

no it won't. really. it's just another election.

It's very gratifying that conservatives are mindful of the moral positions of their brethern on the left. But that MY post was actually both a defense and criticism of this year's Republican election strategy. He's saying don't get bent out of shape that Republicans are playing hardball politics - the politics, BTW, that are played in every city, town, village and township (not to mention union meeting and corporate board) throughout this great land of ours. Then he points out that some are taking it too far and breaking the law. He's against that. I don't know if Sebastian is naive or if he just wants Dems to meet a higher standard than Repubs but MY is simply being realistic.

Sebastian - For the first time you've written a post where I can agree with every word. If I might add a bit, a good part of the essence of democracy can be summed up in four words - "I could be wrong". After all, if I knew for sure that my beliefs would provide the maximum benefit for all, then why not make me a dictator? Even if I'm absolutely convinced that I am right, it's essential that I act as if I could be wrong, at least enough to let others argue for and work for their own answers. This is one of those rare cases where the process is more important than the immediate results. I'm a Kerry supporter, but I'd rather see Bush win honestly than Kerry win through voter intimidation. (And if I were a Bush supporter, the converse would be true.)

Matt talks about the instrumental value of democracy, but doesn't acknowledge that the instrumental value is not the immediate selection of the best candidate, but the long term effect of the process, that debate & self-criticism Sebastian speaks of. I'm hoping Matt's post is a joke or a deliberate attempt to provoke a response through being outrageous, but he hasn't posted any updates to indicate that yet.

Jes, I toggle back and forth between Fox News and MSNBC. In fact, during the debates I watched MSNBC because I like Chris Matthews and Tim Russert. But I can't stand Keith Olbermann. I don't see where the news programs on Fox are skewed to the right close to the level of CBS's unabashed campaign for Kerry. Does Fox News Channel have biased shows, sure it does. I watch Brit Hume and John Gibson, but can't stand Hannity and O'Reilly. Jes, you are so vehemently one sided, your views don't carry much weight. I could take just about any issue and make your arguement for you. Kerry calls his crowd pandering nuances. Most of your positions are just plain contrary. And don't worry about Sinclair. The unhinged left fringe will crush them into whimpering globs of snot for even thinking about standing up to the MSM. No contest.

Sebastian makes a number of fine points about the broader contribution that democracy makes to a social order. However, a purely instrumental approach arrives at a similar result.

The objective of elections is to produce a result that has broad legitimacy. If we weren't aware of the importance of "legtimacy" before this year, surely Iraq has taught us that.

Electoral process shennanigans, whether prior to or after the vote, erode that legitimacy, as we saw in 2000 with the number of Gore supporters continuing to dispute, in their hearts though not on the street, the legitimacy of the Supreme Court's verdict. So taking even an purely instrumental approach, voter intimidation and other methods of interfering with the voting and counting processes are destructive.

BTW, MY was either aiming at humor or being cranky.

Jes, you are so vehemently one sided, your views don't carry much weight.

*raises eyebrow*

I could say the same about you, Blogbuds.

"The Wisdom of Crowds" The stock market is a bi-polar system, with producers of economic information testing communication strategies on consumers of that information, to the net marginal benefit of the producers. CNBC has a 9-1 buy/sell recommendation ratio, because the producers want to be the ones that lead the selling, with a head start in information.

Like the economic markets, the political markets presume a producer/consumer model, with the consumers providing positive feedback on successful communication strategies.

Any movement at the base where consumers become producers of political information will of course appear destructive, anarchic, subversive, and possibly illegal.
But MLK's illegal march in Selma answered by Bull Connor's violent overreaction provided suppressed political information nationwide that led to the civil rights acts. Voter suppression and the ground-level reaction to it will not destroy the system, but invigorate it. Democracy does not only happen at the ballot box. And if you believe in the wisdom of crowds, you don't worry about losing control of them.

It is one of the unfortunate aspects of democracy that, occasionally, one's honorable fellow citizens will elect a total bonehead. It's part of the process. Deal with it. Ideally, the system is set up so that one person can't really do that much damage. (Separation of powers, anyone?)

The important thing is the *process.* After all, the bonehead will be up for election in a few years, and, ideally, he can't do that much irreversable damage.

The threat is where those in power use that power to subvert the election process itself. We definately need some new laws -- in particular, there need to be strict limits on the Commisioner of Elections and staff to ensure that the office is nonpartisan. Having the Commissioner be one candidate's election co- chair, as in Florida, is ridiculous.

Two examples: the 1850s, with close elections, a political system failing to address the problems, political violence, followed by the founding of the Republican party, the civil war, etc.

b) 1875-80; followed by Chester Arthur, LaFollette, TR in NY, and the general reform movement

Well, either Matt was being sarcastic (which, given the post, seems to me a non-negligible possibility) or he's just plain wrong.

It's too late this year, but if the predictions of long lines in Ohio prove out, here's my solution: charge a $100 fee per challenge to any voter's eligibility, refunded if the challenge is sustained on substantive grounds. (That is, if the person has knowingly violated the elections laws, not just submitted a form on paper of the wrong thickness).

Republicans like "loser pays" and getting rid of frivolous suits, right?

I agree with much of what Sebastian wrote, and think Yglesias' comments are simply wrong.

To add to what others have written, let me say that the "intimidating the other side is OK" argument leads ultimately to the destruction of democracy. First of all, it reduces participation, thereby threatening the legitimacy of the results. This legitimacy isitself an important aspect of democracy, as nadezhda says.

More important, let's remember that the party in power usually has more tools for intimidation available than the opposition. (I'm not trying to get into a discussion of events in this election, just making a general statement). So if intimidation is legitimate then it will become increasingly hard to vote the incumbents out.

The power of incumbency to tilt the rules in its favor is already a problem in the US. Legitimizing intimidation tactics will only make it worse.

From the best-of-intentions dept:

Early voting has been in effect in much of Florida this election. It's too early to say whether this will turn out to be a good idea or not, but the enactment of this policy has been less than perfect. On Election Day, no signs, buttons, or vocal lobbying of any sort is allowed inside of a wide radius of the polling place. IIRC, it's something like 100 feet. This ban was not emplaced for early voting, however, with the end result that voters are having to run a gauntlet of political supporters.

From the sounds of this, it appears that people from both the D and R parties are responsible. I don't care who it is, this kind of crap has to stop.

jes "I could say the same about you, Blogbuds."

I knew you'd say that.

Off immediate topic:

I have a tendency to respect free markets (I'm not religious about it, but I think free markets provide a good default value which should be strongly disturbed only in extreme cases)

I would just like to say that I think this is an extremely wise statement, and I agree with it entirely (though I would probably add to the end ", or cases where negative consequences of market-based actions are not felt sufficiently immediately by the actor to affect current behavior.")

RE: intimidation, I think the word is highly overused. If asking for proof of identification counts as intimidation, the word becomes nearly valueless.

Quick question. Do the Democrats here oppose the idea of verifying that a voter is a citizen? If not, why does you party oppose it?

I'm disqualified as a non-Democrat, but to add fuel, I'm pretty sure there is no documentary requirement for citizenship. There is no legal requirement for a state ID card, and your birth certificate, while useful, does not have to be carried around with you.

I like it that way.

Not a Democrat either, but it is hard to see the libertarian wing of the Republican Party actively supporting a legal requirement for a citizen's ID card, isn't it? Is that what you're calling for, Sebastian? Or what else do you have in mind? Clearly all voters would have to have their citizenship checked before they could be allowed to vote, no exceptions, and this might well cause lengthy delays at the polling stations, unless it was as simple as a photo ID card that all US citizens were legally required to have.

A legally-required photo ID card is not something I'd support, and I don't consider myself to be a libertarian.

"Clearly all voters would have to have their citizenship checked before they could be allowed to vote, no exceptions, and this might well cause lengthy delays at the polling stations, unless it was as simple as a photo ID card that all US citizens were legally required to have."

Could the citizenship not be verified during the registration process? Isn't asking for a picture ID when voting once every other year a bit different from asking people to carry an ID with them at all times? Isn't having non-citizens vote every bit as damaging to the integrity of vote counting as intimidating people out of a vote? If I intimidate you out of a vote isn't it precisely the same as if I cheated to get an extra vote? Is letting people vote for dead people somehow ok?

If allowing people to vote for dead people is bad, and allowing non-citizens to vote is cheating, how do we guard against it without identification proof?

Could the citizenship not be verified during the registration process?

Sure. Though I think you would still find Republicans (some Republicans)trying to argue that some people still had to prove they were who they said they were at the polling station.

Isn't asking for a picture ID when voting once every other year a bit different from asking people to carry an ID with them at all times?

I think that once you grant the right of the government to require you to have a photo ID, that right will expand to fill the space available.

Look at the difficulty it can cause trying to get aboard a plane without a photo ID now. I don't have a driver's license, I do have a passport: I use my passport when asked for a photo ID, and that's fine. But I voluntarily chose to have a passport, just as I voluntarily chose not to have a driver's license. I do not want to ever be in a situation where someone can treat me as a criminal because I do not have photo ID.

Isn't having non-citizens vote every bit as damaging to the integrity of vote counting as intimidating people out of a vote?

I'd say that depends. There are non-citizens in the US who have lived in the US for thirty years or more. They have children who are citizens. Some of them have served in the US military. They have paid taxes, paid Social Security, worked hard, contributed a lot. Someone with that history and connection to the US doesn't have the legal right to vote, and I'm not saying they should have the legal right to vote when they are not legally citizens: but I am saying that I think it's a lesser outrage if they do cast a vote than it is when (some) Republicans routinely intimidate everyone who they think looks like a non-citizen because some of them might not be.

I'm not a Dem either, but I'm playing one in this election. I assume that the reason the party per se opposes it is that they feel there's a net benefit accruing to them that way -- I'm not so naive as to think it's about civil liberties. I'm not really comfortable with that, but I've got bigger fish to fry and also plenty of other reasons for not registering as a Dem even in the current (manifestly dire) circumstances...

FWIW I'm firmly in the state's rights camp on this. There are circumstances under which I'm required to show proof of residency, citizenship, etc or forego certain privileges. I have to live with that. If CA demands a picture ID to let me vote and I don't want to do that then I have to decide whether to move to NV. If the MO lege decided to choose electors directly then yes, I'd make a fuss and holler even though I have no intention of living there, because offhand I believe democracy to be inherently worthwhile. But I'd be willing to lose that battle gracefully.

Call me conservative, but I don't see that anything in the constitution, not even equal protection, justifies any other approach. And I don't think this merits an amendment.

BTW what's wrong with letting people vote for dead people? Am I missing something here?

Ah, the perils of a double-negative. "routinely intimidate everyone who they think looks like a non-citizen because some of them might be."

BTW what's wrong with letting people vote for dead people?

Hey, it happens from time to time; notably in Missouri. But I think whoever said that meant that it's problematic having people who are dead able to cast a vote. I know, I know, discrimanatory toward the undead. But you have to draw the line somewhere.

But I think whoever said that meant that it's problematic having people who are dead able to cast a vote.

Note to self: attempt to answer questions first by thinking about them, then by asking out loud ;-)

Personally, I think that dead citizens should have every right to cast a vote, as long as they can do so under their own power.

I agree, kenB, and I'd like to see it the first time that happens. Having the dead vote absentee, though...you can see the problem there, I trust.

Well, technically that's a problem with absentee ballots rather than with dead voters -- there's no proof that any absentee ballot was actually filled out by the signatory. But I will allow that there's some justification in being rather more skeptical of such ballots coming from dead people.

Personally, I think that dead citizens should have every right to cast a vote, as long as they can do so under their own power.

I'm starting a campaign against discrimination against the undead in America.

Just as soon as I can find my right hand, which seems to have fallen off.

I think that once you grant the right of the government to require you to have a photo ID, that right will expand to fill the space available.

Hmmm, the concern over that type of thing sounds familiar. But that's another thread for another day.

BTW, I'm having ACL replacement surgery on Tues. Since its an allograft (cadaver* replacement) will I get to vote twice?

*Assuming the former owner was a citizen.

crionna, I don't think there will be time for your new ligament to register in its new location.

Reg Shoe: I'm starting a campaign against discrimination against the undead in America.

Lookit, folks! The Terry Pratchett thread is leaking!

And what about the computer spirits? Shouldn't they be allowed to vote? (Bush killed the last of the wood sprites dontcha know...) ;)

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