We’ve got to break out of the binary

I’m not enthusiastic about getting a slap in the face in November, but it beats getting a chainsaw to the crotch, for sure.

Now waiting for all of us to realize that we’re being herded into this duality to accept our punishment when maybe there’s a third way that doesn’t involve either slapping or chainsaws. We just have to figure out how to get there.

The sad thing is that faced with what should be an obvious choice, there are lots of people who will welcome the chainsaw.


  1. says

    They could have risked Bob Dole or Mitt Romney being elected after Clinton’s or Obama’s disappointing first terms and it would have been bad but overall survivable, but I honestly don’t think your country can make it through another four years of this.

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    Meanwhile, the Green Party seems to be in unusual company:
    Republican Tries Again to get Greens Back on Montana Ballot

    The Green Party’s removal by court order followed revelations that the state Republican Party bankrolled the $100,000 signature-gathering effort

    So, if anyone thought this anti-vax, anti-science cesspool was a viable third way, know that it is being used by Republicans in an attempt to divide their opponents.

    See other interesting articles about the Greens.
    Wisconsin Supreme Court orders no absentee ballots be mailed until Green Party presidential candidate’s status decided
    The Wisconsin SC is dominated by Republicans.

  3. Sonja says

    That’s easy. When we elect a Democratic President, we also need to elect a Democratic House and Senate. If within that Democratic majority, we also have a majority of progressives, even better. Also, we can’t forget to vote two years later and lose those majorities. It’s math.

  4. Ravi Venkataraman says

    While there are differences between the Democrats and the Republicans, the poster shown in the article is not an effective way of showing them. The poster is simply saying, “There are differences because I say so.” And it is trying to say that, for example, since apples and oranges are not the same, therefore the effects of a Democratic victory and Republican victory are not the same. While it is trivially true that the Democrats are not the Republicans (or that an apple is not an orange), it could also be true that in the same way that apples and oranges are fruits, the policies of a Democratic President and a Republican President could be the same because they are both beholden to the same corporate interests.

    Please note that I am not advocating voting for Trump, but am merely pointing out that the image shown is insufficient to demonstrate that there are significant differences between the two contenders for President.

    This poster will not convince anybody who is undecided. You need stronger arguments to convince the undecideds, otherwise this is simply preaching to the choir.

  5. PaulBC says

    The difference was already obvious in 2016. For that matter, the difference was pretty stark in 1992 (and even if you leave Ross Perot out of the mix). I have no idea why the same people with a strong preference between sucrose and high fructose corn syrup are convinced that Republicans and Democrats are identical (or, actually wings of the super-secret “Republicrat” party doing their best to appear to despise each other while working for the same goals).

  6. PaulBC says

    The binary frame was carefully and deliberately constructed. Both parties need to be crushed, republicans first.

    No question. However, the “leftists in my life” seem very keen on dismantling the Democratic party first before moving on to Republicans.

  7. PaulBC says

    The poster is simply saying, “There are differences because I say so.”

    I think it is saying “You’d have to be willfully blind not to notice.”

  8. David Frost says

    The binary isn’t “carefully constructed” in this case–it’s a natural outgrowth of first past the post voting systems and a single executive elected by a national vote. If we had a different voting system, we’d get different results. If you want multiparty systems, you need a voting system that makes it possible to win seats with less votes (such as proportional voting) and have people vote parties, not people.

  9. crocswsocks says

    If only they actually took a chainsaw to the nuts, then all the Trump people would be sterilized

  10. Artor says

    I’m generally unimpressed by the Democratic party, but anyone who thinks they are the same as Republicans needs to have their Progressive card pulled, and their head examined.

  11. Artor says

    Ravi @4
    Is it really necessary for a cartoon to illuminate the specific differences? If the reader is not already aware, then they are particularly dim or obtuse, and probably can’t be helped. And undecided voters? How many do you think there are of those? I struggle to imagine someone who is on the fence, and might vote either way at this point. I’m guessing you don’t live in the US, but the differences are pretty stark and undeniable, except for the hard-core Trump supporters who have made an art form out of denying reality.

  12. PaulBC says

    …I feel like adding that the biggest propounders I know of “Republicrat theory” were as horrified as I was that Trump was elected in 2016. The difference is that they insisted on voting for someone other than Hillary Clinton while effectively resigning themselves to the thought that she’d win. And I really don’t get this.

    I do not have a problem if someone votes for Jill Stein either because they want and actually expect her to win somehow, or literally do not believe that there is any significant distinction to be made between Clinton and Trump. These are honest (if mind-boggling) political views. What gets me angry are people who actually preferred that Hillary Clinton would win and also preferred that people like me did the voting for her so they could maintain their political purity. As I sometimes say (though I would not at this point): you’ve convinced me. Democrats and Republicans are identical. This time I’ll avoid the “milquetoast” alternative and vote for a real Republican.

  13. lotharloo says

    To be honest, I am more worried about republican voters electing a competent fascist in 2024. I don’t think Green party votes are large enough matter.

  14. Akira MacKenzie says

    At this stage I’ve given up on trying the petulant children who refuse . Even invoking the potential multi-generational-damage caused by a Ted Cruz or a Tom Cotton being placed in the SCOTUS isn’t enough to sway them. (“Why should I think that Biden won’t nominate a Cruz or Cotton? Huh?”)


  15. Akira MacKenzie says

    PaulBC @ 16

    The difference is that they insisted on voting for someone other than Hillary Clinton while effectively resigning themselves to the thought that she’d win. And I really don’t get this.

    Because they bought into the comforting lie that the American electorate is rational and that the openly stupid, greedy, bigoted, Trump couldn’t possibly win. They underestimated just how racist, sexist, and crypto-fascist a large proportion of America is and thought the mainstream Dems and the center would vastly overwhelm the Republicans while they could stay at home and sit on their precious “principles.”

    They were wrong. They were wrong, and far too many of them still refuse to admit it.

  16. PaulBC says

    @18 The idea that both parties are working in collusion is maybe not quite as nuts as QAnon, but it certainly has the same conspiracy theoretic appeal to it. If I “know” that Biden would be perfectly happy with Tom Cotton on SCOTUS, then I am privy to deep counterintuitive wisdom. If you think that’s ludicrous, it just proves how naive you are.

    From my perspective, Republicans obviously hate Democrats, and the reasons they claim to hate Democrats actually match pretty well with corroborating evidence. They don’t like being told they need to appreciate diversity, keep church and state separate, regulate the most egregious polluters, provide at least some chance for everyone to have access to healthcare, etc. Actually, they get apoplectic if you suggest (as a certain FLOTUS once did) that they ought to encourage their kids to eat healthy food and exercise.

    It’s a big power play, and it is asymmetric, because Democrats are willing (far too willing) to compromise while Republicans have domination as their aim (“what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable” as JFK said in a different context). Neither side is my favorite group of people, but one consistently disappoints me whereas the other terrifies me. To the extent that Democrats further the aim of Republicans, it is not because there is a secret “Republicrat” conspiracy but because Democrats are wimps ever hoping against hope for the possibility of compromise.

  17. PaulBC says


    Because they bought into the comforting lie that the American electorate is rational and that the openly stupid, greedy, bigoted, Trump couldn’t possibly win.

    It suggests a very different understanding from mine as to what elections are for. But what do I know? A friend of a facebook friend recently bragged of having not voted for a major party presidential candidate since 1972. Apparently George McGovern was too much of a sell-out for them.

    And without trying to fully understand the purpose of something I would call a “symbolic” or “vanity” vote, I assert with great confidence that Republicans don’t do this. They vote to win even if they’re not personally sold on the candidate, and that is why they get their awful people into political office all over the country. And actually some Democratic voting blocs, such as Black voters show the same level of discipline in aggregate. Unfortunately there aren’t enough of them, and their votes are suppressed in many of the places where they could make the most difference.

  18. mrquotidian says

    I plan on casting my irrelevant ballot for the presidency (I vote in CA), but I really feel such disgust at the Dems, it’s going to be even harder than it was for Hillary. For the first time in my life I actually am starting to understand the decision to not vote for the president… I’m still going to do it, but I feel like I’m starting like I can empathize with leftist nonvoters.

    I agree with #4 Ravi Venkataraman that this cartoon, whatever its intentions, is not going to help convince those who feel dejected by the choices at the top of the ticket. Badgering people who may in good faith feel that they can’t vote for Biden will not win not win him any adherents… It is a really poor tactic IMO. For me, the main reason to vote for Biden is to preserve the current state of the supreme court. We may still be headed for complete, unavoidable disaster, but maybe we can slow the approach for a generation or two.

    I get that failing to cast a vote against Trump (especially in swing states) is a sort of like cutting off the nose to spite the face, but I can understand the anger that might make people do it. And I’m not as disappointed in them as I am with the Democratic party.

  19. F.O. says

    I understand that people are really pissed against the two-party system and first-past-the-post voting, I agree it is bad, but please understand that fixing that will not accomplish much.

    Plenty of democracies with better voting systems than the US are in crisis and struggle with ineffective politicians who represent only rich people and surging extreme right.

  20. tacitus says

    The Democratic Party is a lot more than just the DNC politicos and career politicians in Washington. It’s thousands of state and local elected officials and tens of thousands of volunteers who support progressive causes around the country and are fighting to stem the tide the encroaching fascistic regressive religious and conspiracy theory driven policies enabled by Trump and his apologists in Congress and is rapidly becoming embedded into the Republican Party psyche.

    And if there is anything that should be obvious from the last 30 years of America politics, it’s that the current two party system cannot be reformed from the outside. The system is wired to turn any significant third party candidate support from one side into a thumping victory for the other — just a few thousand votes in handful of swing states can turn a three million vote advantage into resounding defeat.

    The only way to reform the system is from the inside. The Tea Party Movement, born out of racist grievances and resentment, managed to stage a coup within the Republican apparatus and parlayed their support into primarying a bunch of incumbents in safe districts, resulting in sixty strong Tea Party Caucus in Congress at its height, several of whom were elevated to the Republican leadership team, including House Majority Whip, and laid the groundwork for the nomination and eventual election of Donald Trump in 2016, just eight short years after the Tea Party was formed.

    Much of this was achieved in the face of direct opposition from the Republican Party apparatus, who were initially appalled by the typical Tea Party candidate, until they bowed to the inevitable and sought to subsume and control the movement for their own purposes, as ineffective as that was.

    Loath as I am to suggest that progressives take a leaf out of the Tea Party play book, it’s hard to deny their success at bending the Republican Party’s will, if not exactly breaking it. Of course, the Tea Party had little interest in reining in American corporatism, and the corporatists in the GOP have still been able to advance their own interests as a result, but they had the right idea when it came to fighting the system from the inside rather than forming a new third party that would, at best, split the conservative vote. And it’s not as though conservative Republican voters weren’t tempted to ditch the Republican Party altogether at the time.

    And given the increasing structural disadvantages the Democratic Party faces in terms of the Electoral College, gerrymandering, and the Senate elections, it is the only party that is open to any sort of reform of the electoral system for the foreseeable future. Progressives need a seat at that table, and the only way that’s even remotely possible is if we take on the Democratic establishment from within.

    This won’t be easy — the establishment won’t give up on their corporate donors without a long and protracted fight, and some battles will be lost along the way, but it’s the only realistic chance we have. There is already a lot of momentum on our side among the voting public — support for national healthcare, the reining-in of corporate power, bolstering the welfare system, and environment reforms, and Trump, with the enthusiastic support of the Republican Party has brought us much closer to the point of no return.

  21. Aaron says


    Characterizing all Trump voters as “racist, sexist, and crypto-fascist” is the same generalization that keeps the Dems losing contests. For all his shit (he is a very terrible person, I will not quibble), his messaging speaks directly to anxieties people have about the world that is crumbling around them, and that crumbling is a highly bipartisan effort (remember how much of a majority the Dems had during the bailouts of the 2008 financial crisis?). The Democrats, as a party, dismiss all that as ignorant “populism”, as if they, in their technocratic splendor, can save Americans from themselves, when they objectively have not been doing that.

    Yes, I agree that, in the process of believing that Trump is working for your best interests, you have to ignore, rationalize, or believe in a lot of dog whistling and openly fascist bullshit. But why is Trump the only one who’s even putting out a message for those voters? Why is the party who dismisses Biden as a radical socialist (if only!) also the only party who actually legitimately tried to reach out to socialists during its national convention? Republicans, and Trump, actually get that they need to speak to voters’ anxieties to get them to turn out. Democrats think they can just point at how terrible they are and let that carry the argument. It’s bullshit, and nobody should feel justified in hectoring someone who legitimately cannot see a material difference in their lives one way or another if they check D over R.

  22. F.O. says

    I would be very interested in talking about what a viable third way would be.

    For a long time, I thought that the “third way” would be to re-conquer the democratic party (and politics in general) from below, ie starting with all local elections and bit by bit reform the whole hierarchy.

    I still think that if you identify as a liberal, want to try and reform capitalism and representative democracy, that’s the most promising option.

    With the way the world is going however, I got more and more radicalised.
    I don’t think democracy is compatible with the concentration of power, in particular in the media, that capitalism requires and enables.
    I don’t think the planet has the time to reform the political hierarchy from below.

    I think we can vote for not-fascism, and that alone makes it worth voting, but we can’t vote to reverse climate change.
    More often than not, voting doesn’t get the goods (You should still vote because fascism bad.)

    So for me the more viable “third way” would be to build communities of mutual aid, whether it is unionising with your colleagues and organising a strike or set up a food bank with your neighbours… It really doesn’t matter what you do.

    What matters is that we stop thinking like individuals and start organising with others and exploiting our force multiplier.

    I know it’s vague and it is still a long shot and I have no delusion that’s a viable strategy, and I’m very open to different suggestions.

  23. PaulBC says

    this cartoon, whatever its intentions, is not going to help convince those who feel dejected by the choices at the top of the ticket. Badgering people who may in good faith feel that they can’t vote for Biden will not win not win him any adherents… It is a really poor tactic IMO.

    I despair of any tactics that will work. There was already an existential risk in 2016. Anyone who ignored that and sat out the election or voted for a 3rd party candidate in a swing state is probably unreachable in 2020. If they finally see that simply hanging on to some shreds is a worthwhile goal, then they’ll have to discover this for themselves.

    Mostly, I think a cartoon like this one (like most political messaging) is intended to affirm the beliefs of those inclined to believe already. I liked it. I would not imagine using it to persuade anyone. (And now imagine a Republican seeing it. They’d think you’re from Mars. As far as they’re concerned, Mitt Romney is a liberal and Biden might as well be Fidel Castro.)

  24. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 25

    Characterizing all Trump voters as “racist, sexist, and crypto-fascist” is the same generalization that keeps the Dems losing contests.

    First of all, why do you assume that any significant number of Trump voters would have voted for Clinton if she hadn’t called them what they fucking were?

    Secondly: Oh boo-fucking-hoo! My heart bleeds for the hurt feelings of illiterate, redneck swing-state trash who’s one and only allegiance to the Democratic party is based keeping their obsolete, environmentally-destructive “workin’ class hero’ jobs afloat.

    Tell me, to win back the esteem of Trump-voters which positions will the Dems have to throw under the bus? Racial equality? Feminism? LGBTQ rights? Climate change? Reproductive rights? Church/State separation? How far do we have to roll society back to make to make these scum–and I assume, yourself–happy with the prospect of voting Democratic?

    Well fuck that strategy, fuck Joe/Jane Beercan. and fuck you too. There are things in this world more important than easing the “economic anxiety” of right-wing scum who try to excuse their bigotry with by playing the “Blue Collar Union Worker” Card.

  25. PaulBC says


    anxieties people have about the world that is crumbling around them

    Trump speaks to one very specific “crumbling” anxiety, and it is the fear (felt deeply by many white Americans who are sincerely convinced they’re not racists and want you to know this) of losing their longtime status as the “real” American who is not at all bigoted and indeed manifests their benevolence through forbearance towards other groups of “not quite” Americans such as Black, Latinx, and Asian Americans. They’ll put up with any amount of “diversity” as long as it is “diversity” against them as the default background of white uniformity.

    It’s an effective message. Since it’s diametrically opposed to my interest in seeing the US blossom into a pluralistic and globally aware society, it is sadly not one I want to see any Democrat using (and by the way, some still were at least as recently as the 1990s). So what message do we have? Healthcare? Economic insecurity? These are great messages, but I’m afraid they don’t really tug at primal fear in the same way. “What if I break my leg and can’t pay the bill? Eh, better not break a leg.” vs “What if the Deep Ones are allowed to use Innsmouth as a foothold into the America I know from my childhood? OMG, I need a hero to save me!”

    I just think that we are outmatched on even the kinds of populist messages we can use. I also suspect that if you try to tell many “heartland” Americans that you’ll get them healthcare, better worker’s rights, clean water, etc. but they will have to accept a pluralistic society in return, that is real non-starter. Sorry, I am probably too far out of this discussion to make any sense. I do not have the kind of economic insecurity that would make a message like Sanders’s resonate with me (though I get it in principle). I also think that the only kind of populism the Democratic party can apply effectively is not very likely to be useful on many white voters, most of whom you’re better off ceding to Trumpism and cutting loose. (I am still pissed off at Hillary Clinton for literally betraying and laughing at the rust belt, but I also think there is somewhat limited return on investment in that region at this point.)

  26. patricklinnen says

    And how long would it take for Joe “political parties are all on the take” Average decide that the third party is also on the corporate payroll and start clamoring for a forth party to break the ‘status quo?

  27. stroppy says

    Through some combination of passive aggression, ignorance, gullibility, meanness, and/or corruption, encouraging acceptance of a Trump win makes you complicit in the obvious evil he represents. Of course you can’t say that out loud in some circles.

    Learned helplessness sucks indeed, which is why propagandists promote it. But hey, f you enjoy kissing propagandist butt, I can’t say that you don’t; just don’t bother claiming that you know how to think for yourself.

    BTW, false equivalence is a logical fallacy, and I might add just plain lazy.

    Word to watch, ‘Bothsiderism’:

  28. says

    Characterizing all Trump voters as “racist, sexist, and crypto-fascist” is the same generalization that keeps the Dems losing contests.

    True, there’S the racists, sexist, and crypto fascists, and there’s the people who are ok with racists, sexists and crypto fascists.
    Or as I call them: The people who put Jews on the trains to Auschwitz and the people who made sure the trains ran on time.

  29. kome says


    However, the “leftists in my life” seem very keen on dismantling the Democratic party first before moving on to Republicans.

    I suspect it’s because some people either see the Democratic party as easier to fix than the Republican party, because it hasn’t fallen as far past the moral event horizon, or because they see the Democratic party as their house and they would rather channel their efforts into cleaning their house before trying to clean someone else’s.

    In all honesty, I’ve not heard much of the “both sides are the same” arguments except from the “both sides are the same, therefore vote Republican” right-wing extremists who point to anything wrong with the Democratic part as justification for voting for the Republican party doing the same thing but worse. I’m not saying it’s not out there, but I don’t come across it.
    At worst, staunch progressives critique the Democratic party for being very messed up – strongly beholden to corporate money, for example – and then the content and complacent centrists and moderates in the party caricature and strawman that critique as “they’re saying both sides are the same!” This cartoon is very much in that vein. It is the rare person who genuinely believes the two parties are the same – pretty much just conspiracy theorists who think both parties are beholden to whatever secret cabal really runs the world. But, that strawman is an easy way to dismiss all critique of the Democratic party and all the despondency felt by people who are feeling (rightly) abandoned by the Democratic party and no longer want to enable and reinforce the very same behavior that has resulted in their being abandoned in the first place. It’s an easy way to gaslight victims who are hurting, to save the comfort from the already pretty comfortable.
    When the most consistent message that the Democratic party can campaign on is “at least we’re not the literal Nazis that the Republicans are increasingly becoming”, perhaps more people should be outraged and actively championing fixing the Democratic party instead of trying to bully people who no longer want to kick the can down the road to the next election. Every election except one in my adult life has had the Democratic party telling me “this election is too serious, we need to focus now on defeating the Republicans before we should bother trying to fix the problems within the Democratic party.” The one exception was 2008, when Obama’s campaigned abandoned that message in favor of “yes we can.” Giving people a reason to vote for a candidate seems to be very successful, and it’s weird to see the Democratic party and their supporters show such contempt for that strategy now.

    People who look like me are, and have been for a few years now, being thrown into concentration camps, even some of us who are in fact US citizens (not that it’s right when it happens to non-citizen asylum-seekers, but it gives lie to the idea that the camps exist only for the purposes of immigration control). The two major party candidates boil down to (a) the guy who’s excited about those concentration camps kidnapping children and “losing” them in the system and (b) the guy who was vice president during an administration that deported the record number of immigrants and asylum-seekers. Why the heck would anyone, except the most privileged-ass white people who only see politics as a team sport, think that I should fall in line with this system when any and every attempt to give us a good option instead of a less-bad option has been met with derision and hostility from people who turn around and say out of the other side of their mouth that they’re my ally? Why should I play ball when the two major parties see people like me as “get them out of my sight” and differ primarily as to the brutality of their methods?

    There is no good time to fix the massive problems with the Democratic party. We should start now anyway. And right now, that means letting them know, in no uncertain terms, they cannot simply take our votes for granted simply because the Republican party is worse. That means putting pressure on the current candidate to champion policies to protect people, and not mouth off about how he wants to give more money to law enforcement while the nation is experiencing massive protests about law enforcement executing random citizens for being black. That means demanding the candidate and the party fight for us, and not simply fight against the other team. At the very least, it means stop attacking people who are trying to pressure the DNC to maybe adopt something that looks at least left-of-center, for a change. Fixing the DNC may mean dismantling it, but maybe not every call to fix the DNC is, in fact, a call to dismantle it. And it is very important to know the difference.

  30. says

    One good way to improve politics is to vote on the state level for people who will reform the voting system to remove the systematic advantage to the two major parties.

    Having Rank Choice Voting would reduce the hold of the two parties, lessen the spoiler effect, and empower voters because they won’t be wasting their vote.

    Here is one campaign in Massachusetts:


  31. PaulBC says


    I guess it all depends on who you talk to. I remember being dumbfounded by serious speculation among my facebook “friends” (actually a few relatives and friends of friends) that there would be collusion to replace Trump with Mitt Romney as the Republican candidate and elect him with cooperation from the “neolibs.” Look, I am just an unfrozen caveman Democrat but even I know that Republicans circa 2020 outside of Utah viscerally hate Romney. Moreover, many of them really love Trump and in any case are in no hurry to move away from him. I also know that most of my fellow “neolib” Democrats wouldn’t vote for Romney either, though we may say nice things about him when he votes in opposition to Trump. I mean, the idea is such pure fantasy that I cannot even figure out how people come up with it.

    Do Democrats have anything to offer you personally? Beats me. I mean I don’t know your situation and I will take your word for it. I am a Democrat. I cut my teeth losing elections (as a 7 year old distributing flyers for McGovern in fact). When we actually won a few, I thought that was pretty cool. Moral victories are fine, but I am a simple man, and I prefer the ordinary kind of victory. And so do the f**king Republicans, which is why I suspect they often win elections.

    I suspect it’s because some people either see the Democratic party as easier to fix than the Republican party,

    Though the plans seem less about “fixing” that actually undermining the ability of the party to succeed. By the point at which Bernie Sanders himself had started endorsing Hillary Clinton in 2016, it might be a good time to lay off the retweets and shares about “emails” and literally fake news like this https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/fbi-agent-murder-suicide/ which I got from my sister in law days before the election.

    (Nerd alert, but here I go) It’s as if I’m writing an alternative version of The Hunger Games where Katniss clues in a little too early that President Coin is actually a very bad person and realizes it would be “easier” to “fix” (or destroy) District 13 from within than to work with them to fight the capital. That would be a much shorter series I think.

    I am not suggesting that Democrats have a great deal to offer. I am mostly just expressing my extremely weak influence on a system that vastly exceeds me in power and I am doing it for survival, nothing else.

  32. PaulBC says


    And I actually did consider an approach in 2016, which is for progressives to go all in for Hillary Clinton, get her elected, and then say “Look you owe us one.” and hold her feet to the first for progressive issues that she would not have otherwise endorsed. Republicans use this tactic all the time, and it works. That is a possible way to “fix” the Democratic party. Breaking out of solidarity or even undermining an election is a way to break the party. There is no good time for the former, I agree, and there is no excuse at all for the latter unless your primary goal is to destroy, not fix.

  33. raven says

    ….anxieties people have about the world that is crumbling around them

    Most of those anxieties were created and fed by the GOP, the party they keep voting for.

    The GOP is pro-corporate, a tool of the 1% oligarchy, and this causes more and more economic inequality.
    The GOP is also pro-global warming and anti-science.
    So right now, we have a serious hurricane season plus historic wildfires in the west.
    These climate natural disasters do go well with the out of control Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to huge GOP incompetence, that has killed 196,000 Americans and maimed a lot more than that.

    I heard a saying long ago, from a magic book they claim to follow, that is applicable.
    As you sow, so shall you reap.

    Being GOP means never, ever having to take responsibility for their actions.

  34. DanDare says

    Changing the electoral system would help a bit.
    But crystallising the issues and then going to meet your fellow humans face to face and talk about that would help more. And not just those that agree, although you can get together and discipline vote with those.
    Better education on thinking skill, both in reason and perceptual scan is good, and some of that also comes about by getting out there and talking things through in real life.
    The internet is not the best medium for that.

  35. consciousness razor says

    Democracy (fixing our fucked up electoral system) should be near the top of the list of priorities, next to the other major issues like climate change and so on. Socialism too: rich people can’t have all the power anymore, no matter which flavor of rich person they happen to be. That is also necessary to have a real democracy, so they go together quite well.

    I will now write the word “duh” so everybody can relax about me stating the obvious: duh.

    Democratic socialism then. That’s what we needed and will continue to need. If Biden loses, it will be the conservatives/neoliberals who’ve been fighting that within the party who are most responsible for the outcome. And if he does win, then when the Dems fail to deliver (which is a near certainty), they will also be responsible. If you pin it on the Greens or the Russians or whoever the fuck, then it’s time to get your head out of your ass.

  36. PaulBC says

    @39 I promise not to expend any effort trying to pin blame no matter what happens. Honestly, I am just trying to figure out if I need an escape plan of some sort.

  37. nomdeplume says

    America’s now almost totally dysfunctional electoral system is a major problem. But I grow impatient with the “plague on both their houses” progressives. Anyone who isn’t aware that the electing of Reagan, GW Bush, and Trump instead of their respective opponents made a huge negative difference to America and the world is simply naive and foolish.

  38. oddie says

    If we had rank choice voting this country would be a much better place. Also shitting on people is 100% the way to get them to see the folly in voting 3rd party. Just call them stupid, works every time…

  39. PaulBC says

    oddie@42 I will never get anyone to see the “folly” of 3rd party voting if indeed folly it is. After all, we all have the right to vote as we see fit. That’s why it’s your vote rather than people like me showing up and making the decision for you. So yeah, vote for Jill Stein, Ralph Nader, Kanye West, Pee-wee Herman, whatever.

    My only quandary is that if Trump is still in office by February or so, he’s going to start dropping people out of helicopters. True, we can argue over the precise month and precise method of extrajudicial execution. He might even start before the 2nd inaugural. I’m not sure why I think he’d wait. I’m just putting my wager out there early on the lucky chance that I got something right about the scariest period in US history I’ve ever lived through. But given that SCOTUS and half the Senate sees fit to let Trump get away with everything else, there’s no reason to assume they’ll draw the line when he finally realizes he can get away with so more than petulant tweets against his “enemies” and is tired of just waiting around to cheer killings by self-styled “militias” and police.

    So… I know I’m a feckless “mainstream” Democrat, but to me it’s a fairly compelling pitch: vote for Biden if you don’t want American citizens dropped out of helicopters. Biden was never my favorite. I just feel pretty secure in the belief that his will be a no-helicopter-drop presidency (at least of US citizens).

    I know, this smacks of “lesser of two evilism.” I get that. So please, go vote your conscience and never, ever compromise. It would break my heart if you did.

    (That, by the way, though it sums up my actual feelings on the matter is not something I think would dissuade 3rd party voters either. Nor Trump voters, the worst of whom have been salivating over the prospect of helicopter drops for years. But there it is. In 2016 I could actually imagine my words could make a difference. Now I’m just numb. Have a nice day.)

  40. consciousness razor says

    I just feel pretty secure in the belief that his will be a no-helicopter-drop presidency (at least of US citizens).

    I don’t know. Isn’t that a bit radical? How about we play it safe with a Mayor Pete type of plan? “Helicopter drops for all who want them”

  41. John Morales says


    Just call them stupid, works every time…

    You imagine calling them clever will work? Calling them average will work?


    Also shitting on people is 100% the way to get them to see the folly in voting 3rd party.

    But shitting on people is 100% the way to get them to see the folly of shitting on people, apparently.

    (Self-reflexiveness is not your strong suit, is it?)

  42. consciousness razor says

    I mean, I’m told that Mayor Pete has already declared victory for himself, so that’s probably where the focus should be anyway.

  43. consciousness razor says

    You imagine calling them clever will work? Calling them average will work?

    I don’t think a politician needs to call people things. We already know what we are, and our interests have to do with whether or not said politician should get a particular job.

    What we need are serious policies that will actually help us and won’t just cater to the wealthy. It’s a good indication that they won’t do this, when they look down us or talk to us like we’re children. But I could put up with their ignorant horseshit, if they were actually willing to deliver the goods.

  44. John Morales says


    What we need are serious policies that will actually help us and won’t just cater to the wealthy.

    Some people are wealthy, so they’re presumably not part of the ‘us’ in that sentence.

    Thing is, some people vote against their own self-interest, for various reasons.
    Generally stupid reasons, but reasons nonetheless.

    In the last USA election, those who imagined Trump would get their coal jobs back, or their car jobs, or that he would ‘drain the swamp’ (!), or that he was apolitical, or that he would run Government as a business (i.e. ‘profitably’), etc. come to mind.

    These days, those excuses don’t fly — his nature and his administration are known to be what they are. Which is to say, the set of people for whom it would be beneficial to have Trump win a second term is very much not the ‘us’ to whom you refer.

    So, for people outside that set to vote for him (or to not vote against him) is perverse, indeed, it’s stupid. Yet many of them will do so.

    I don’t think a politician needs to call people things.

    I’m pretty sure oddie was referring to commenters here, not to pollys.

  45. consciousness razor says

    Some people are wealthy, so they’re presumably not part of the ‘us’ in that sentence.

    Indeed, I was speaking for myself. The majority of other people are also not wealthy. If the people are going to rule, then those are most of the people.

    These days, those excuses don’t fly — his nature and his administration are known to be what they are. Which is to say, the set of people for whom it would be beneficial to have Trump win a second term is very much not the ‘us’ to whom you refer.

    I was talking about what’s needed to help ordinary, non-wealthy people.

    That has nothing to do with anyone being duped by Trump’s bullshit. Or if some sincerely think the generic conservative pro-gun, pro-imperialism, anti-choice, white supremacist, theocratic agenda is better, then they think that. But they’re wrong. Obviously wrong.

    I’m pretty sure oddie was referring to commenters here, not to pollys.

    The problem remains, because politicians and their bootlicking goons do the same shit. If the people here just do it out of the goodness of their own hearts, rather than a big cut of the profits, then they’re in a similar position to your Trump voters above, are they not?

  46. John Morales says


    That [the benefit to the hoi polloi] has nothing to do with anyone being duped by Trump’s bullshit.

    It’s a more general claim, sure. Riffing, you know?
    Thing is, first time around those people might have just been naive, not stupid. Second time?

    (“Fool me once…”)

  47. PaulBC says

    Thing is, first time around those people might have just been naive, not stupid. Second time?

    Given that so many are sticking with Trump, maybe he is giving them exactly what they want.

    Anyone who owns a boat they can sink in Lake Travis may not be phenomenally wealthy, but they’re probably not hurting. It has never been about wealth. It’s about preserving status.

  48. PaulBC says

    @51 Granted for the really wealthy, it is about wealth because they know any Republican will reliably cut taxes and deregulate business, but this is not a large fraction of the voters, just the donor class. My point is that the voters aren’t really suckers. The boat paraders would probably do about as well under any president, but they know what kind of president they want. Trumpies who are truly needy are a different case, but I honestly don’t see a way to reach them, since for every policy I can think of that would benefit them, there is a “poison pill” they’d reject on “values” grounds. They just have a very different vision of America. Let them vote for exactly what they want. They appear to be very happy with Trumpism.

  49. ORigel says

    We won’t get another viable option. If we want a viable third option, we have to start voting in, shall we say, Democratic Left Party, members in local elections. Then state elections, followed by Senate elections. Only then can a Third Party make a successful Presidential bid. It will take many years, which is why I’d rather hijack the Democratic Party.

  50. patricklinnen says

    Leaving this as a reminder ; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow%27s_impossibility_theorem

    Arrow’s paradox is an impossibility theorem stating that when voters have three or more distinct alternatives (options), no ranked voting electoral system can convert the ranked preferences of individuals into a community-wide (complete and transitive) ranking while also meeting a specified set of criteria: unrestricted domain, non-dictatorship, Pareto efficiency, and independence of irrelevant alternatives.

    A bit further down on the page

    Various theorists have suggested weakening the IIA criterion as a way out of the paradox. Proponents of ranked voting methods contend that the IIA is an unreasonably strong criterion. It is the one breached in most useful electoral systems. Advocates of this position point out that failure of the standard IIA criterion is trivially implied by the possibility of cyclic preferences. If voters cast ballots as follows:

    1 vote for A > B > C
    1 vote for B > C > A
    1 vote for C > A > B

    then the pairwise majority preference of the group is that A wins over B, B wins over C, and C wins over A: these yield rock-paper-scissors preferences for any pairwise comparison. In this circumstance, any aggregation rule that satisfies the very basic majoritarian requirement that a candidate who receives a majority of votes must win the election, will fail the IIA criterion, if social preference is required to be transitive (or acyclic). To see this, suppose that such a rule satisfies IIA. Since majority preferences are respected, the society prefers A to B (two votes for A > B and one for B > A), B to C, and C to A. Thus a cycle is generated, which contradicts the assumption that social preference is transitive.

    So, what Arrow’s theorem really shows is that any majority-wins electoral system is a non-trivial game, and that game theory should be used to predict the outcome of most voting mechanisms.[12] This could be seen as a discouraging result, because a game need not have efficient equilibria; e.g., a ballot could result in an alternative nobody really wanted in the first place, yet everybody voted for.

  51. patricklinnen says

    Getting Ranked elections to replace FPP is done the same way getting a viable third party together. Start locally, and work up.

    pretending that one can jump immediately to the general election and get results is holding up a billboard saying, “I have no interest in arguing in good faith, wake me up only for Presidential elections”

  52. PaulBC says

    I’m in favor of ranked choice, but there’s only so much you can do. All government is coercive, including democracy, because there are always people whose interests are not represented in prevailing policies. The most you can hope is that they “consent” to be governed in a certain way, which at the very bare minimum ought to be the point of an election: the formal agreement to accept the results.

    But this is obviously not good enough, and if society is polarized to the point at which a significant group of people feels like they’re subject to tyranny (as opposed to policies that aren’t exactly their cup of tea but they’ll acquiesce to), that nation is just not going to last long.

    I am pointing out a problem, not proposing a solution, but if there is a solution, it might be a better sense of overall civic engagement rather than changes to the mechanism of elections. We are so far away from both of these, that I don’t know what to say. The electoral college and “winner take all” by state stays in place not because it has any justification, but because those who benefit will hold onto it tenaciously, and as long as they benefit, they will have the power to do so.

    We’ve still had better outcomes even with the existing system. Were we all happier under Eisenhower? My parents were Stevenson voters and I wasn’t alive to know, but I assume they liked him more than Nixon. On the other hand, if you were Black in the 50s, probably it wouldn’t have mattered that much which one of them was president. Also, Eisenhower’s share of the popular vote was enough that it’s hard to imagine him losing under any system.

    Right now, I really doubt any electoral system, even if feasible to introduce, would make that much of a difference. Some percentage of the population will always believe themselves oppressed even if in the extreme hypothetical case that everyone is actually treated equally.