Tag Archives: presidential elections

The Good News and the Bad News for the Next Four Years

“Well hey, Phil Ochs! You got a song for us?”

Barack Obama wins the election.  Dynamite.  So there’s good news and bad news.  Which do you want first?  Okay, I’ll give you the good news first.

The Good News

1. This election marked the spread of sensible voting on various ballot measures that appeared alongside elections for federal offices.  First, the states of Maryland and Maine passed marriage equality laws by popular ballot, while Minnesotans defeated a ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage.  Washington also reaffirmed its same-sex marriage laws.

Second, Washington and Colorado (but not Oregon) legalized recreational use and small amounts of possession of marijuana while taxing them heavily.  This should reduce state-level arrests of non-violent drug users and avoid clogging the courts and prisons with nonsense.  However, the Drug Enforcement Agency is likely to crack down in response – bureaucracy abhors reason.  Sorry!  I forgot that this is supposed to be the Good News. read more »

Voting for the Lesser Evil is Irrational

It’s the tie color that makes the difference. The only difference.

Presidential election season means pretty much half of all the voters are asking, “Do I really have to vote for that guy?”  Libertarians and Tea Partiers have no desire to vote for Mitt Romney, and liberals, socialists, and Occupiers don’t want to have to vote for Obama.  Reluctant voters are scolded that if they don’t vote for one of the major party candidates, then the other guy will win; and make no mistake, he’ll destroy America.  Of course, America has already been mostly destroyed, and the two major parties are some of the main culprits.  In any case, the idea that you should set aside your own political preferences to vote for one of two cartoonish villains is known as “the lesser evil argument”. read more »

“Shall Rome Stand Under One Man’s Awe?” (Part II)

Cantonal Assembly in Switzerland

Last week, we discussed how “presidential systems”, such as the one we have in the United States, suffers from defects that promote political irrationality and ultimately a cult of personality (like these people pledging allegiance to Obama).  To be clear, people are thoroughly able to develop rational and consistent political views.  However, the absence of a deliberative context results in a lack of good, relevant, and organized information and the inability of the public to hold presidents accountable.  This in turn results in presidents who cannot be punished for their misdeeds, because we don’t know when they need to be punished, and because there are a horde of partisans to protect him.  Thus, presidential systems may have a tendency towards the accumulation of executive power beyond the rule of law.

Whether that’s true or not, all but the party faithful can agree that we’re sick of the almost naked farce of democracy that US presidential elections represent.

In any case, we’re all about solutions at Democracy in Principle!  Democratic solutions!  Let’s take a look, keeping in mind what the current system is missing: deliberation, information, and feedback. read more »

“Shall Rome Stand Under One Man’s Awe?” (Part I)

“The Death of Julius Caesar” by Jean-Leon Gerome

Election time!  And that means the two political parties had their conventions for nominating their presidential candidates this past month.  These conventions are feasts of public reason and policy deliberation.  Just kidding!  They were pure political spectacle, the television equivalent of speeches from balconies.  Instead of public deliberation among party delegates to formulate policy for the Executive Branch, party officials mobilize delegates for their own purposes.  Party oligarchy was especially blatant this year.  At the Republican National Convention, Ron Paul delegates were shut out.  Democratic officials inserted language about God and Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at the Democratic National Convention, over the noisy objections of the delegates.

Of course, these events were overshadowed by Clint Eastwood arguing with an empty chair that apparently swears at him and Bill Clinton’s speech.  That everyone seemed to treat Bill Clinton as an elder statesman was odd, because during his presidency he was treated as a sort of sex-clown who implemented Reaganite policies while being called a ‘socialist’.

Speakers avoided discussing anything much of substance at the DNC, with a party platform devoid of what excited people from 2008.  This shouldn’t be surprising, considering Obama’s record of failure in the past four years.  Obama killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen suspected of terrorism on the basis of his radical Islamic beliefs, without a trial, in an extrajudicial execution that is usually seen as abhorrent if it were undertaken by another nation’s executive.  Obama also didn’t close down Guantanamo Bay, or end torture, and signed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 requires the military to hold people in detention, including American citizens, accused of supporting terrorism.  But Democrats will yell at you if you bring it up.  Criticizing Obama at this time would be ‘inappropriate’, as centrists will scold.

So how did Mr. Hope-and-Change turn into Mr. Flying-Robot-Murder – are those just his true colors?  Why do Democratic partisans defend Obama despite disapproving of his actions (if they do)?  And this doesn’t just go for Democrats; Republicans largely don’t seem to like Mitt Romney, who bought his candidacy, but partisans will stand up for him and are mobilized to vote for him.

If we look to explain political behavior as a matter of character and personal disposition, then we will always be confused.  These are not problems whose root is in personal character or national culture, but the social practices and institutions that organize us.  It is the “presidential system”, in which the entire nation is mobilized to elect a single person to an independent executive branch, which fosters the accumulation of executive power and the power-worship of partisans.  Moving beyond personality politics and reigning in the out-of-control executive have the same solution of replacing the presidency with a more democratic option. read more »