Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Follow-up: Disenfranchisement and the U.S. election(s)

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Two further items on disenfranchisement:

  1. I have repeatedly heard claims of a pact, of some sort, whereby some states want to ignore the respective state-wide popular vote in favor of the nation-wide popular vote when choosing their electors.

    This, if implemented, would be a gross disenfranchisement of the respective state’s population.

    Moreover, it would be constitutionally problematic in at least two regards: Firstly, it does away with the need to amend the constitution, thereby avoiding various checks-and-balances and violating the rights of the states and the people to have a say in how the constitution develops.* Secondly, it is contrary to the intentions of how the president should be elected. While this approach might (or might not) technically be within the considerable leeway given to the states in choosing electors, it is certainly against the spirit of the states of the federation electing who should be the “CEO” of the federation.**

    *Note the similar problem with judicial activism and the attitude that a small group of justices should be allowed to bend and alter the constitution without adhering to the prescribed manner—which was prescribed for a good reason.

    **Generally, the implementation of the U.S. as a federation appears to have grown weaker and weaker over time, with a considerable risk that it will soon be reduced to a single monolithic state and fifty ceremonial “states”.

  2. The sad truth is that elections (absent cheating …) are won by whoever manages to convince the greater part of the dumb masses. While I am not in a position to make a true quantification, I suspect that not even one-in-ten makes a truly informed and intelligent decision on how to vote, while well over half are driven mostly by emotions, egoism, and/or cheap propaganda, and while the remainder do try to vote reasonably but lack the information and intelligence to do so. The main difference between modern elections and the Roman panem et circenses is that modern politics is better at creating the impression of “serious” elections—what happens below the surface is not that different. Actually, there is one other important difference: a Roman politician, in my impression, bribed the people out of his own pocket, while the modern politician bribes with the tax-payers’ money.

    Indeed, it is striking how close to 50–50 elections tend to be, irrespective of the participants. If objective and informed choices were made, then 80–20 and 90–10 elections would be quite common; instead, 60–40 is considered a land-slide.*

    *I caution that while the rarity of 80–20 elections is an indicator of poor decisions, their presence is not a proof of good decisions; moreover, that it is important to look at aggregates, as e.g. a single 51–49 decision could result from the candidates coincidentally being almost equally good.

    The result is that the minority of voters whose votes really should count, those who understand how society, economics, and politics work, know their history, are highly intelligent, try to make rational decisions, can think critically, etc., stand a disproportionate risk that their votes do not matter. Say that (optimistically) these “good” voters cast 10 % of the overall votes, and that they go 8–2 (resp. 80–20) for candidate A over candidate B. This gives candidate A a leg up of 6 % of the overall vote, and all candidate B has to do is to win the dumb-masses 48–42 (roughly, 53.33–46.67, when scaled from 90 to 100) + one vote. Drop the optimistic 10 % to 1 % and even a near unanimous preference for one of the candidates is unlikely to matter.

Written by michaeleriksson

November 30, 2020 at 6:55 am

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