"That you may ruminate"

…On Craig Ferguson’s Mistake.

Posted by Steve on November 3, 2008

A few Mondays ago, Jeff (look under “I Know These People” over on the right) made me aware of this monologue by Craig Ferguson, which I like and largely agree with.

Except for one thing, which I disagree with strongly enough to mention it here. Right around the 8:20 mark, when he says, “We have two patriotic candidates.”

Two? No. We have more than two. Where I live (Virginia), we have at least 6 (I don’t know if there’s any officially-recognized* write-in candidates), with 6 candidates for Vice President as well. They are, listed in their order on the sample ballot:

  1. Democratic Party electors for Barack Obama and Joe Biden
  2. Republican Party electors for John McCain and Sarah Palin
  3. Independent Green Party electors for Chuck Baldwin and Darrell L. Castle
  4. Libertarian Party electors for Bob Barr and Wayne A. Root
  5. Green Party electors for Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente
  6. Independent Party electors for Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez

Those 4 you don’t hear anything about, they deserve some mention too. I know they won’t win tomorrow. I know their candidacies were futile, and I know why. I learned about Duverger’s Law in 10th grade. I know it’s a set of structural defects in the (predominant) U.S. election rules that causes it. Which is strange, since in another area, the U.S. has given the world what is, quite possibly, the single largest application of the greatest vote system yet put into place by humanity: Borda count. Also known as, “The College Football Polls.”

Let’s be clear: I don’t exactly like that the polls exist (congratulations to reigning National Champions Appalachian State), and I really really don’t like the actual votes or the reasons the voters give for them (with the exception of Greg Archuleta, who had a moment of clarity back in January of 2007). But as far as an electoral system goes – the way the ballot’s structured, and most importantly, the way the votes are counted, there’s nothing better in practice.

We all know how it works: ranked votes, with each ranking worth a few less points than the one before it. Voter gets alloted a number of these “point bundles” to pass out, and can use as few or as many of them as they want. Then, add up the points, and whoever’s got the most wins. I don’t know of a better system that’s been put into practice in any elections – and I include Single Transferrable Vote (which I’ve voted in favor of, when it was on a referendum – it’s a very close second) in that.

But, alas, we’re stuck with the first-past-the-post system, which completely lacks any redeeming quality. It allows (really, more like ensures) wasted votes and a spoiler effect, and it’s an utter flop when it comes to the single most important criterion for judging a voting system: the Condorcet loser criterion.

Am I suggesting that Bob Barr or Cynthia McKinney would have a real shot at the Presidency of the United States if the electoral system weren’t screwed up (Set aside arguments over whether or not the Electoral College is a good system. Only two states, Maine and Nebraska, are giving out their electoral votes in anything that can fairly be called a legitimate manner)? Absolutely not. I lived a long time in Georgia while both of them were in the House, and even if one believes that Barr’s conversion to libertarianism is legit (it may well be), I don’t think either of them should be trusted with high office. But I do think it would be one hell of a lot better for America if tomorrow we all got a ballot that read something like this:

Candidates for President: Assign at least a first-place vote and up to a fifth-place vote for:
Barack Obama, Progressive Democratic Party
John McCain, National Republican Party
Mike Huckabee, American Republican Party
Hillary Clinton, Democratic Liberty Party
John Edwards, Christian Democratic Party
Ron Paul, Conservative Liberty Party of America
Ralph Nader, Independent
Directional Michigan, Mid-American Conference

.

Alas, it is not to be.

On the plus side, I researched all the local school board candidates and was unable to find a single reference to creationism, so the worst-case scenario with those votes ain’t too bad.

Happy voting.

*I’m assuming the Minnesota practice of requiring people to file paperwork officially declaring their write-in candidacy (and designating the names of their electors, if being written-in for President) in order for write-in votes with their name to be counted is also the Virginia practice.

P.S.: You know, party rules may prohibit it, but there’s no Constitutional requirement and I doubt there’s a Federal Statutory requirement that a Presidential candidate have a running mate, or that a Vice-Presidential candidate be tied to a Presidential candidate, or that you vote for a joint ticket. Not that I actually expect anyone to cast a vote for, say, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin – but I’m pretty sure they could. For that matter, you could announce your candidacy for Vice President even before the first primary was held. I think.

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One Response to “…On Craig Ferguson’s Mistake.”

  1. […] …On Craig Ferguson’s Mistake. […]

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