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Change my view: The spoiler effect is one of the biggest problems in US politics

 
 
Reply Fri 4 Mar, 2016 04:18 am
Breaking out some off-topic discussion I got into here into its own thread for everyone to opine on: http://able2know.org/topic/310323-2#post-6138274

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In a first-past-the-post voting system, there is a pernicious "spoiler effect" that strongly tends toward two-party rule due to the need for strategic voting. This results in more cases of voting for candidates you do not want merely to counter the other dominant party in the two-party deadlock.

This also produces a lot of political gridlock/stability. Gridlock (bad) because good changes are harder to effect and stable (good) because bad ones are.

But ultimately it is mathematically more likely to produce political discontent. The average voter will be less happy with the results.

Here is a great video that illustrates the problem inherent to our voting system:



Other systems are not perfect but there is a category of them called alternative vote, instant-runoff, or ranked voting where a basic difference is made to the ballots. You can vote for your candidates in order of preference.

So instead of having to plug your nose and make your one vote strategically you can vote what you really want and also list alternatives should your first choice prove unviable. Since you get to declare you fall-back choices you aren't stuck with making one strategic vote.

It solves a significant problem where like-minded people are divided by multiple similar candidates. You just rate them in order of your preference and if your first choice doesn't win you still vote for your next choice. This way you don't get the situation where the majority of the population prefer a particular political direction but are divided by multiple candidates that leads to their most objectionable option being elected.

Here is a simple explanation of the alternative vote/instant runoff method:



Implementing it in America would mean getting rid of the electoral college, which has its own pros and cons (I see overwhelming cons and no practical pros but there are advantages in theory) but while there are legitimate criticism to make to removing this institution there are also clear and obvious advantages and I prefer a more direct form of democracy where our votes each matter as much as anyone else and where our interests are more accurately represented in the voting process.

What say you? Anyone want to change my view on alternative voting in America?
 
dlowan
 
  3  
Reply Fri 4 Mar, 2016 05:11 am
@Robert Gentel,
Sadly, no fight to put up. We have a preferential system of some sort in most or all states.....including a fiendishly complex Hare something one in Tasmania...and federally.

I think it generally works out better....but I don't think it makes voters a lot happier. I think disgruntlement in democracies is pretty endemic. At present there's grumbling that the majority of voters are too dumb to work out the ginormous ballot papers.

When voters are REALLY pissed off you get bizarre micro parties getting up which cause some initial chaos. They seem to get tamed or explode with satisfyingly loud bangs after a bit. That could be an argument.

But frankly I think US politics need a bomb. Though you could argue that a country with a new prime minister every couple of months of late is in no position to say anything at all.
Lash
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Mar, 2016 05:40 am
I agree completely. The two party system leads Americans to defend horrible behavior by politicians because they don't want to "give ammunition" to the "other side" instead of holding all pols to high standards.

The result is politicians who get away with far too much and a weary, complicit populace.

0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  3  
Reply Fri 4 Mar, 2016 07:17 am
@Robert Gentel,
I watched that video during the last US presidential election. It really explains the mathematical weakness of the US voting system well. I always wondered why we ended up with a two party system. Now I know. Thx.
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Robert Gentel
 
  2  
Reply Fri 4 Mar, 2016 11:55 am
@dlowan,
dlowan wrote:
I think it generally works out better....but I don't think it makes voters a lot happier. I think disgruntlement in democracies is pretty endemic.


It definitely won't magically make people happy but mathematically it is a system that more often gives people the results they want.

Of course that doesn't do anything to solve miswanting and governance and you still aren't going to have people agree on direction so many will be unhappy, but it is mathematically fewer than it would be otherwise.

Quote:
When voters are REALLY pissed off you get bizarre micro parties getting up which cause some initial chaos. They seem to get tamed or explode with satisfyingly loud bangs after a bit. That could be an argument.


Both for and against really, there is a tradeoff. By not having a system that is rigged for a two-party result you end up with more political viability for the fringe. That is a good and a bad thing depending on circumstances.

So the benefit of America's system is that it is harder for such parties to gain traction, but that is also a downside, it is harder for change to gain traction and we are stuck with the two parties we got.

Quote:
But frankly I think US politics need a bomb. Though you could argue that a country with a new prime minister every couple of months of late is in no position to say anything at all.


That is a feature I don't like about Australian politics (same with Israel's politics). I wouldn't go about electing a president in the US based on the congressional party results. I would just keep that its separate own election and not tie it to party representation there.
dlowan
 
  2  
Reply Fri 4 Mar, 2016 03:33 pm
@Robert Gentel,
The thing I really hate about US politics is that you have to be seriously rich to be President though.

I quite like being able to get rid of leaders in a general way. It means truly awful ones can be replaced.


It's gone troppo lately, though. It's gotten like a Jacobean Revenge Tragedy round here. I think it will be self limiting as I don't think voters will tolerate it for long. I think it's the ugliest I've seen Australian politics. But that's not what the thread is about.
Leadfoot
 
  2  
Reply Fri 4 Mar, 2016 03:45 pm
@Robert Gentel,
I've always thought the alternative vote system you described makes much more sense.

I'm sure it would be fought against tooth and nail by the two main parties but I would love to hear them try and defend the current system. I don't see any 'pro' arguments for it at all.
InfraBlue
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Mar, 2016 04:27 pm
mark
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Mar, 2016 08:36 pm
@dlowan,
dlowan wrote:
The thing I really hate about US politics is that you have to be seriously rich to be President though.


That is part of most democracy, but it is exaggerated in the US by its scale and system. Given how hard it is to make inroads for new parties you really need to have big money behind you or you are just going to waste your campaign.

Quote:
It's gone troppo lately, though. It's gotten like a Jacobean Revenge Tragedy round here. I think it will be self limiting as I don't think voters will tolerate it for long. I think it's the ugliest I've seen Australian politics. But that's not what the thread is about.


Yeah but I think the worst of Australian politics is not the alternative vote, or the proportional representation, its that the lawmakers choose the PM and the PM has to maintain enough support in that body to stay in charge. With constant wrangling between parties to get the majority needed (I may be describing Israel's system a bit more than Australia, as I know it better and am not fully aware of all the dissimilarities).

The alternative voting system really doesn't have to change anything else about the political system other than the balloting, for example it could be implemented in the US and even keep all the other institutions like the electoral college etc.

The only real downsides to alternative votes off the top of my head that are both significant and legitimate are that the ballots are more complex (can be made simple but these can also get daft real fast) and that some actually prefer systems that maintain the status quo (so basically one man's meat is another man's poison, I find the entrenched status quo systems toxic, other might find it reassuringly stabilising).
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Mar, 2016 08:38 pm
@Leadfoot,
Leadfoot wrote:
I''m sure it would be fought against tooth and nail by the two main parties but I would love to hear them try and defend the current system. I don't see any 'pro' arguments for it at all.


To play devil's advocate, the main pro for the current system is increases political stability (i.e. less volatility). This is definitely desirable to some degree, there are political systems using some of the mechanisms I advocate that are often nearly dysfunctional due to the rate of volatility (party in power constantly changing).

Depending on how one feels about the status quo this is a good thing or a bad thing.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Mar, 2016 09:01 pm
@Robert Gentel,
This is a side discussion, so I won't say much, but the PM more needs to maintain the goodwill of the electorate than the party. It's a dialectic, of course, but unless the PM is seriously pissing off the party, as both Rudd and Abbott did, they tend to be OK while the electorate supports them.

What's happening now I think is that politicians have become much more pusillanimous in the face of falling polls, so they panic and depose a leader...the immediacy of polls has an effect here. It's a plus and a minus I think. I'm not fussed by not directly electing the PM.

You really don't have to be rich to get elected here at all. Even starting a new party doesn't take personal wealth. It's bloody hard work fundraising though.
Lilkanyon
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Mar, 2016 11:50 pm
I cant see another system that can work any better except maybe Canada. I know little of their politics, and if a Canadian is here to expand on my understanding, but they have two parties too, for the most part. The difference is their PM is always with the majority vote, so he can actually get things done. I have not studied Canadian politics so forgive my ignorance. But the American system, for all its ugliness, is all I can see. Cracks are developing.
America has this arrogant view that, through learning from the mistakes of the forefathers, their history, that we developed a perfect democracy from the start. Nothing has really changed in over 200 years. Admendments ect, but the basic system is still the same.
Now we have a divide. If you look at the US map, most of the middle and south is red. It consists of rural people, farmers, and lets face it, bigots and racists.
Most of the big cities are blue. They are more diverse and also more populated.
Now the GOP likes to say because most of the US falls into "red", just because they own more land, they are majority. But their views only reflect a very small population of people.
As the cities get larger and larger, blue (dems) will continue to gain more and more traction and reds will get more and more hostile. It is a system that will ultimately break down. But it is animal nature. Lionesses are not provided with a multitude of males to choose from. The one or two that challenge and win, get the prize. I think the video was spot on in its animalistic example, if only to neutralize the lesson.
True, at the start 80% had a different idea, but everyone knows the saying, "you cant have everything all the time..."
What America has thrived on was compromise...since our start. Only since Obama has that completely broken down. I do not blame him for this. I blame the GOP and their inability to be flexible in times of change. To not challenge their constituency to move into the 21st century. To remind them there is no returning to the 1950's when white men ruled the country. Those days are OVER!
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Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Sat 5 Mar, 2016 10:30 am
@dlowan,
dlowan wrote:
This is a side discussion, so I won't say much, but the PM more needs to maintain the goodwill of the electorate than the party. It's a dialectic, of course, but unless the PM is seriously pissing off the party, as both Rudd and Abbott did, they tend to be OK while the electorate supports them.

What's happening now I think is that politicians have become much more pusillanimous in the face of falling polls, so they panic and depose a leader...the immediacy of polls has an effect here. It's a plus and a minus I think. I'm not fussed by not directly electing the PM.


I definitely don't favor that system, I don't think it should be that easy to remove the PM. I think their terms should be set and impeachment required to remove them.

I'm not a fan of having the lawmakers choose the president/pm in general.

Quote:
You really don't have to be rich to get elected here at all. Even starting a new party doesn't take personal wealth. It's bloody hard work fundraising though.


Is that just a matter of scale? Being a smaller country and all? If you need to fundraise then being rich is obviously still an advantage. But perhaps the barrier to entry is smaller because the population is?
Walter Hinteler
 
  2  
Reply Sat 5 Mar, 2016 11:12 am
@Robert Gentel,
Robert Gentel wrote:
Quote:
You really don't have to be rich to get elected here at all. Even starting a new party doesn't take personal wealth. It's bloody hard work fundraising though.


Is that just a matter of scale? Being a smaller country and all? If you need to fundraise then being rich is obviously still an advantage. But perhaps the barrier to entry is smaller because the population is?
Might be so - there isn't any example in other (smaller) countries.

Here, in Germany, it's a job like others, with similar risks: out of those not re-elected in the last general elections, 15% were still jobless aber half a year, and 20% got less than 30,000 €/year (average for Germany was 40,000 €/year.)

The Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany ("PM") is elected by a majority of the members of the Bundestag (lower chamber of the parliament).
The removal of a Chancellor is only possible when the majority of the Bundestag members agrees on a successor, who is then immediately sworn in as new Federal Chancellor (konstruktives Misstrauensvotum ["constructive motion of no confidence"]).

Our president is elected in a secret ballot by the Bundesversammlung ("Federal Convention"/"Federal Assembly"). I think that she/he will be elected in a general election in ... some decades.
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