Justin Amash Leaves GOP with BothSides Op-ed

The Republican Party is ruining the country. But so are the Democrats?

A Republican Congressman known only for his opposition to Donald Trump has announced that he’s leaving the Republican Party—because both parties suck.

He starts off well:

When my dad was 16, America welcomed him as a Palestinian refugee. It wasn’t easy moving to a new country, but it was the greatest blessing of his life.

Throughout my childhood, my dad would remind my brothers and me of the challenges he faced before coming here and how fortunate we were to be Americans. In this country, he told us, everyone has an opportunity to succeed regardless of background.

Growing up, I thought a lot about the brilliance of America. Our country’s founders established a constitutional republic uniquely dedicated to securing the rights of the people. In fact, they designed a political system so ordered around liberty that, in succeeding generations, the Constitution itself would strike back against the biases and blind spots of its authors.

My parents, both immigrants, were Republicans. I supported Republican candidates throughout my early adult life and then successfully ran for office as a Republican. The Republican Party, I believed, stood for limited government, economic freedom and individual liberty — principles that had made the American Dream possible for my family.

In recent years, though, I’ve become disenchanted with party politics and frightened by what I see from it. The two-party system has evolved into an existential threat to American principles and institutions.

—WaPo, “Justin Amash: Our politics is in a partisan death spiral. That’s why I’m leaving the GOP.

[Insert needle screeching off a turntable sound here.]

Look, there’s plenty of criticism to be made of both of the major US political parties and of the polarization that has increasingly characterized the system over the last quarter century or so. But, c’mon. The existential threat to American principles and institutions come from President Trump in particular but also from Republican Congressman, Senators, and Supreme Court justices who have enabled him. It’s the party that Amash and I have both left that’s the danger to the Republic, not our two-party system.

Certainly, if one’s driving concern is America’s being welcoming to refugees and immigrants more generally, the change has come from the GOP, not the Democrats. While a handful of more extreme members of that party are effectively open border advocates, their policy preferences make it much easier for future Amashes to pursue the American dream. Amash’s erstwhile party . . . not so much.

Amash tries to persuade us otherwise:

George Washington was so concerned as he watched political parties take shape in America that he dedicated much of his farewell address to warning that partisanship, although “inseparable from our nature,” was the people’s “worst enemy.” He observed that it was “the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”

Washington said of partisanship, in one of America’s most prescient addresses: “The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty. …

“It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”

True to Washington’s fears, Americans have allowed government officials, under assertions of expediency and party unity, to ignore the most basic tenets of our constitutional order: separation of powers, federalism and the rule of law. The result has been the consolidation of political power and the near disintegration of representative democracy.

The set of claims in that last paragraphs is squishy and hard to evaluate. But the general trend toward consolidation of power at the national level happened well before Amash, only 39 years of age, was born. Indeed, since they were in evidence by the 1940s if not the 1920s, they predate Amash’s father as well.

These are consequences of a mind-set among the political class that loyalty to party is more important than serving the American people or protecting our governing institutions. The parties value winning for its own sake, and at whatever cost. Instead of acting as an independent branch of government and serving as a check on the executive branch, congressional leaders of both parties expect the House and Senate to act in obedience or opposition to the president and their colleagues on a partisan basis.

Remind me which party spent the entirety of the two terms of the opposition-party President seeking to deny him a single vote on any bill? Who held a Supreme Court seat vacant for well over a year in hopes an intervening election would allow their party to steal it?

In this hyperpartisan environment, congressional leaders use every tool to compel party members to stick with the team, dangling chairmanships, committee assignments, bill sponsorships, endorsements and campaign resources.

Okay, that’s indeed a bipartisan phenomenon. It, too, however, has been in effect since well before Amash was born.

As donors recognize the growing power of party leaders, they supply these officials with ever-increasing funds, which, in turn, further tightens their grip on power.

Actually, party leaders are less powerful than they were decades ago. But, yes, donors have become more powerful as laws seeking to restrain the influence of money on politics have been struck down by the courts. Specifically, by Republican appointees to those courts.

The founders envisioned Congress as a deliberative body in which outcomes are discovered. We are fast approaching the point, however, where Congress exists as little more than a formality to legitimize outcomes dictated by the president, the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader.

With little genuine debate on policy happening in Congress, party leaders distract and divide the public by exploiting wedge issues and waging pointless messaging wars. These strategies fuel mistrust and anger, leading millions of people to take to social media to express contempt for their political opponents, with the media magnifying the most extreme voices. This all combines to reinforce the us-vs.-them, party-first mind-set of government officials.

So, again, Amash has hit on a genuine shift in American politics. The reasons for it are complicated, including a gradual purifying of the two parties such that almost all moderate-conservative Democrats are now Republicans and all moderate-liberal Republicans are now Democrats. And while bothsides reall do engage in all these practices, they were arguably pioneered by . . . checks notes . . . Newt Gingrich and Congressional Republicans in 1994. When Amash was barely a teenager.

Modern politics is trapped in a partisan death spiral, but there is an escape.

Most Americans are not rigidly partisan and do not feel well represented by either of the two major parties. In fact, the parties have become more partisan in part because they are catering to fewer people, as Americans are rejecting party affiliation in record numbers.

These same independent-minded Americans, however, tend to be less politically engaged than Red Team and Blue Team activists. Many avoid politics to focus on their own lives, while others don’t want to get into the muck with the radical partisans.

But we owe it to future generations to stand up for our constitutional republic so that Americans may continue to live free for centuries to come. Preserving liberty means telling the Republican Party and the Democratic Party that we’ll no longer let them play their partisan game at our expense.

Today, I am declaring my independence and leaving the Republican Party. No matter your circumstance, I’m asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us. I’m asking you to believe that we can do better than this two-party system — and to work toward it. If we continue to take America for granted, we will lose it.

So, I’m more-or-less okay with this.

As I wrote recently, while I’m functionally a Democrat these days, having voted for Democrats in general elections in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 and almost certain to vote for the party’s candidate in 2020 to defeat Donald Trump, I don’t consider myself a member of the party. While I’ve certainly moved left on some issues over the years, I’m still much more temperamentally conservative than the Democratic leadership. I’m enthusiastic about restoring sanity and a respect for process and the rule of law to the White House, but not necessarily large parts of the Democratic platform.

But here’s the thing: pretending that the Democrats and Republicans are indistinguishably bad at the moment is dangerous. Amash himself has come out in support of impeaching President Trump. Our erstwhile party is backing him to the hilt, not only making removing him from office impossible but actively working to ensure he remains in office through January 20, 2025.*

Yes, our polarized system is bad for America. Yes, we should seek more moderate alternatives and restore a spirit of seeing those who disagree with us politically as fellow citizens and not enemies. But, no, the blame isn’t evenly spread. One of the parties is geometrically worse right now and it must be defeated at the ballot box.

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*Correction: I originally had this as 2024.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. DrDaveT says:

    The Republican Party, I believed, stood for limited government, economic freedom and individual liberty — principles that had made the American Dream possible for my family.

    Well, there’s your problem, Justin. If you start with a false premise, you can derive all kinds of nonsense. There are at least four errors in that one sentence.

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  2. From the tone of his Op-Ed and his recent comments about the President, I don’t think Amash would disagree with the idea that the GOP, which is now basically the Trump Party, is uniquely bad at this point in time. However, I’m not sure where the somewhat critical response is coming from.

    Much like me, Amash would obviously not be a good fit in the Democratic Party because of his libertarian beliefs. I suppose he could affiliate with the Libertarian Party (and this could be the beginning of the process that leads him to seek the LP Presidential nomination next year) but that party is basically a nonentity filled with people who know nothing about actually winning elections (which is why its most successful candidates at the national and state levels have been former Republicans.)

    Therefore, a political declaration of independence and basically becoming a political independent is his only viable option whether he intends to run for his House seat or for some other office.

    Welcome to the “Independent” category Congressman, you’ll no doubt be criticized for not becoming a Yellow Dog Democrat or something, but take my advice and don’t read the comments.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I don’t think Amash would disagree with the idea that the GOP, which is now basically the Trump Party, is uniquely bad at this point in time. However, I’m not sure where the somewhat critical response is coming from.

    Because his op-ed denies that the GOP is uniquely bad. The entire thing is a pretense that it’s the system, not Trump, McConnell, and company that are destroying the country.

    Much like me, Amash would obviously not be a good fit in the Democratic Party because of his libertarian beliefs.

    Likewise, I’m not a good fit for the Democratic Party. But, effectively, Amash is going to either work to keep Trump in office or he’s going to work for the Democrats. There are zero other alternatives.

    You and I live in Virginia, which will almost certainly go for the Democrat in 2020 regardless of what we do. If you vote Libertarian or write in Bill Buckley, you’re not going to enable Trump other than sending a weaker signal about your repudiation of him.

    But Amash is from Michigan. It contributed its 16 Electors to Trump in 2016 by the narrowest of margins: 47.5% to 47.3%. Amash doesn’t need to declare himself a Democrat. But he should be urging Michiganders to vote Democrat in 2020 to oust Trump. Unless he actually thinks Trump–who he thinks is a criminal—is really no worse than any of the Democrats running to replace him.

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  4. @James Joyner:

    I don’t want to relitigate an argument that has already taken up over 100 comments on another post. I’ve said what I have to say on the issue already, but expecting someone like myself or Amash to say they will vote for the Democratic nominee a year before we know who the nominee will be is unreasonable and, quite honestly, just a bit silly. I also reject the argument that not voting for Trump somehow becomes voting for Trump unless you vote for what could end up being an unqualified Democrat who holds views out of step with the voters in places like Michigan that they need to win back if they’re going win in 2020.

    I can’t speak for Amash, although if he runs in 2020 I will support him, but as I’ve said before if Democats want my vote, they’ll have to earn it. There’s really nothing more left to say on the matter.

    I am sure this comment, and my previous one, will get many down votes but that’s just another reflection of the hyperpartisanship that Amash andI are both talking about.

    As for his points about both parties being out of touch with most of America, that seems to me to be demonstrably clear. Most Americans are not hyperpartisan Republicans or Democrats, and yet it is the hyperpartisans, who typically come from the political extremes, who are increasingly grabing control of both parties.

    I’d also note that Democrats spent the better part of the past 30-plus years attacking every Republican nominee from Reagan to Romney as being part of the “extreme right.” Those arguments were nonsense, but when it came time that there really was a GOP nominee who embodied everything they’d said before there complaints were largely discounted thanks to 30 years of being the boy who cried wolf. Republicans are responsible for nominating Trump, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean Democrats don’t bear some responsibility in all of this.

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  5. Teve says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    attacking every Republican nominee from Reagan to Romney as being part of the “extreme right.”

    Romney wasn’t “severely conservative”? Those lying Democrats! They told me he was.

    I think it was them who told me.

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  6. Kylopod says:

    Citing George Washington to justify an anti-partisan stance is one of the most tired old arguments in the book. Washington–and the Framers more generally–didn’t like the idea of parties, but that’s only because the USA was the first democratic country in the modern world, and they had no frame of reference against which to judge it except constitutional monarchies like England.

    By now, it’s clear that parties are one of the essential features of democracy. Literally every democracy in the world has them, and the only countries that lack them or that have just one party are authoritarian. Of course many countries have more than just two competitive parties, and it’s a legitimate criticism of the US’s system that it’s so rigidly committed to two parties. But the idea that having no parties at all is something worth striving for is not only unrealistic, it’s counter-productive.

    Despite the occasional elected official who identifies as an independent, such as Bernie Sanders or Angus King, there’s no viable path to that becoming a standard feature of our system. And let’s face it: Amash’s move may have as much to do with trying to win reelection as it does with principle, since he faces a primary challenge if he runs as a Republican. In other words, it’s similar to what Joe Lieberman did in 2006, except Amash is preempting the situation so that he doesn’t suffer a humiliating primary defeat.

    In my experience people who pretend to swear off partisan politics are nearly impossible to convince. No matter what evidence you bring of the imbalance and asymmetry between the two parties, they just dismiss you as a mindless cheerleader for your “team.” People have trouble seeing reason when they are addicted to the image of being the most reasonable person in the room.

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  7. @Teve:

    And you are proof of exactly what I’m talking about.

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  8. Solomon Kleinsmith says:

    “But here’s the thing: pretending that the Democrats and Republicans are indistinguishably bad at the moment is dangerous.”

    That’s not what Amash said, and pretending he is is patently dishonest.

    Doug is right. Your reply is off-base, and the idea that people should vote for a terrible party, just because there is an even more terrible party, shows a huge disconnect from reality.

    As unusual as it may be in politics, some of us actually have principles that we don’t throw away for political expediency, and all Democrats have to do to earn votes is – EARN VOTES. Instead, most of them seem dead set on doing the opposite, while expecting people they attack and blame for their problems to vote for them, even though they clearly don’t have any interest in representing us.

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  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Today, I am declaring my independence and leaving the Republican Party. No matter your circumstance, I’m asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us. I’m asking you to believe that we can do better than this two-party system — and to work toward it. If we continue to take America for granted, we will lose it.

    I want my magic pony too!

    As has been explained by the estimable Dr Taylor, we have a 2 party system because of the constitution. Get used to it, that ain’t changing. His simple minded call for a rejection of “partisan loyalties” is a recipe for an ever larger contingent of the American electorate to disassociate themselves from our political system by just checking out entirely. “Why bother? My vote doesn’t count.” Leaving a party can put pressure on a party to change but I have seen precious little movement towards the center by the GOP because of Conservatives leaving the GOP. If anything they are going even further to the right because the party is being reduced to the radicals who are in favor of anything the leadership does to own the “Libtards” in their quest for power. This trend began back in the 70s, and and has become only more strident as the years have passed. While DEMs have drifted leftward over those same years there is no comparison between where the 2 parties have ended up. As of right now, the DEMs are the centrist party. Maybe not center enough for you, not enough for me on a few issues (not many tho, I tend to be on the left on most issues) but far more centrist than the GOP.

    For the record, “I don’t belong to an organized political party, I’m a Democrat.”*

    *Will Rogers in case your brain farts.

    charts via Kevin Drum

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  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Solomon Kleinsmith:

    Instead, most of them seem dead set on doing the opposite, while expecting people they attack and blame for their problems to vote for them, even though they clearly don’t have any interest in representing us.

    You mean you, because they are doing a far better job of representing me than my current GOP US rep or either of my GOP US senators, or any of my GOP state representatives etc. etc.

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  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Teve: Huh, it was Republicans who told me he was.

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  12. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    [E]xpecting someone like myself or Amash to say they will vote for the Democratic nominee a year before we know who the nominee will be is unreasonable and, quite honestly, just a bit silly.

    But the Democratic nominee will almost certainly be either Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, or Kamala Harris. That’s the list. I can categorically say that I prefer all of them infinitely to Donald Trump because they’re sane, decent human beings and he is not.

    I also reject the argument that not voting for Trump somehow becomes voting for Trump unless you vote for what could end up being an unqualified Democrat who holds views out of step with the voters in places like Michigan that they need to win back if they’re going win in 2020.

    I think Democrats would be smart to nominate a candidate whose views are in touch with places like Michigan. But, frankly, they did that in 2016. Michigan voted for Bill Clinton (twice), Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama (twice). In what world was Hillary Clinton that far removed ideologically from any of them?

    Regardless, unless the Democrats nominate Kim Jong Un—they’re not, by the way—who is it that’s going to be less qualified or hold views more out of step with your own than Donald Trump?

    Now, I get it if your view of your vote is simply that you will only cast it for candidates who are, say, 87% in agreement with your ideological preferences or higher. I just see it as a binary choice between the Democratic and Republican nominee and cast my ballot for the one of those two I’d prefer. Quite often, as in 2016 and 2012 and 2008, I did so with little enthusiasm because I had signficant misgivings about Clinton, Romney, and McCain (and especially Palin). But American elections are binary, not aspirational.

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  13. Teve says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Surely not. 🙂 😛 😀

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  14. James Joyner says:

    @Solomon Kleinsmith:

    That’s not what Amash said, and pretending he is is patently dishonest.

    It’s EXACTLY what Amash said. My post quotes every single word of his op-ed. He’s leaving the Republican Party, not because it’s evil and supporting the worst President in the history of the nation, but because the two-party system is broken.

    Your reply is off-base, and the idea that people should vote for a terrible party, just because there is an even more terrible party, shows a huge disconnect from reality.

    No. It’s the essence of reality.

    I loathe Donald Trump. But I’d vote for him in a minute if the alternative were Adolf Hitler.

    I really, really disdain Hillary Clinton. But I nonetheless voted for her over Trump. In a big-boy world, you chose between available alternatives, not a fantasy in which your preferred candidate is running.

    As I noted at the time, I could see voting for a third-party candidate under the right circumstances. If I lived in Utah or Alabama, I might have voted for Evan McMullan. But, if you live in a swing state, you should choose between one of the two candidates who can actually win. Withholding your vote from a candidate you strongly prefer to the other because they’re not ideologically pure is tantamount to a vote for the other candidate because, math.

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  15. @James Joyner:

    the Democratic nominee will almost certainly be either Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, or Kamala Harris.

    I’ve already said that I could see myself voting for Biden. As for the other two, Elizabeth Warren’s policy ideas and her views on the proper role of the Federal Government are far too out of place for me to say I could vote for her unless I believed that she really didn’t mean what she says, but I’m pretty sure she does. I’d apply the same criticism to Harris, with the addition that, as I have said, I have concerns about her views on civil liberties issues based on her record as a prosecutor and Attorney General and the comments she has made recently about her intent to use Executve Orders to get what she wants if Congress doesn’t give it to her, which of course it won’t even if Democrats manage to hold the House and regain control of the Senate. No, neither of them are as bad as Trump but that doesn’t mean I’m willing to give them support other than encouraging people to vote for anyone except Trump. |

    who is it that’s going to be less qualified or hold views more out of step with your own than Donald Trump?

    I’ve already said I won’t be voting for Trump and, as I’ve said, I reject the notion that not voting for Trump isn’t good enough unless I vote for another candidate that I also fundamentally object to for one of the reasons stated above.

    I think that’s all there is for me to say about this. Like I said, we’ve already seen this discussion take up a long comment thread on another post here, and an even longer one on my Facebook page. I encourage people to respond to the original post as they see fit but I’m not going to get involved in another round of the commentariat playing “let’s pile on Doug until he agrees with us.”

    Besides, It’s a holiday. Don’t we all have better things to do?

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  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Don’t we all have better things to do?

    BBBBQ! (Beer, Brats, and Bar B Q)

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  17. rachel says:

    It takes two to make a marriage work, but only one to make it fail.

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  18. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    neither of them are as bad as Trump but that doesn’t mean I’m willing to give them support other than encouraging people to vote for anyone except Trump.

    But there are no not-Trump choices in that scenario other than Harris/Warren.

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  19. Andy says:

    But here’s the thing: pretending that the Democrats and Republicans are indistinguishably bad at the moment is dangerous.

    No one (that I know of) is saying they are “indistinguishably” bad. No one is saying they are the “same.” That characterization is frequently made and is almost never accurate.

    And, personally, as I’ve argued for years, I think both parties are very bad, for many of the reasons that Amash cites (none of which are new). Saying that both are bad is not saying they are the same. And, as I’ve noted many times before, currently the Republicans are worse (or at least Trump is) – ie. not “the same” or “indistinguishable.”

    I completely agree with Amash that both parties have become more narrow and actually represent smaller slices of the American electorate than the big tent parties of the past. I’ve made that argument many times myself and it’s a conclusion that’s supported by the evidentiary record. Additionally, voting for a sub-optimal candidate in the past was not as bad a choice as it is today because we still had a spoils system thanks to earmarks and representatives had other ways of representing their constituents other than ideological litmus tests.

    And the simple fact of the matter is that an increasing number of people are put in the position of not desiring either of the choices they are given. And this is where you and others come in and make various (unconvincing in my view) arguments that voting affirmatively for the lesser evil against the greater evil is always the only choice, that to do anything else is immoral, that personal political principles are irrelevant, and that the strategic calculations must trump all other considerations.

    I also don’t want to rehash the recent 200 comment thread, but I do have a question – how does this end? How does your insistence to always vote for the perceived lesser evil reform the system or otherwise get us better and more representative candidates? At what point do the rest of us who don’t want to blindly follow your lesser-evil voting strategy get to vote our own principles instead of yours?

    Because it seems to me that the current system is not self-reforming. People have been telling me to support the lesser-evil for all of my adult life and yet our politics are demonstrably worse. Every election cycle the lesser-evil clarion call grows less convincing as our political culture continues to auger in.

    But the Democratic nominee will almost certainly be either Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, or Kamala Harris.

    “Almost certainly” in your opinion is not certainly in reality. At this point in the 2016 election cycle Trump was, IIRC, under 5% and still a laughingstock for most people.

    What is your rush? Why are you so insistent that we all must decide – right now – to support candidate X before we know who X is? There is zero utility or purpose in deciding now. I’m not even bothering to research the currently two-dozen possibilities for X – I’m going to wait until the field gets pared down. And few candidates have yet to speak sufficiently about my primary policy concern for the office – foreign policy.

    As I noted at the end of the last thread to Steven, this is a conversation we should be having in a year.

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  20. James Joyner says:

    @Andy:

    How does your insistence to always vote for the perceived lesser evil reform the system or otherwise get us better and more representative candidates? At what point do the rest of us who don’t want to blindly follow your lesser-evil voting strategy get to vote our own principles instead of yours?

    At that point when we adopt a new Constitution that doesn’t award elections to the plurality winner in a binary system. Which, admittedly, will almost certainly not happen.

    But how does voting for third-party candidates, few of whom are actually qualified to be President and none of whom have any shot of getting elected, reform the system? The office still goes to the winner of the binary race between Democrats and Republicans—but in an election decided without the voice of the “principled” voters being heard?

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  21. James Joyner says:

    @Andy:

    “Almost certainly” in your opinion is not certainly in reality. At this point in the 2016 election cycle Trump was, IIRC, under 5% and still a laughingstock for most people.

    At this point in 2015, Trump had just entered the race. He became the frontrunner on July 20–16 days later—and never lost the lead. But the Democratic race is further ahead now because the debates kicked off a week ago.

    What is your rush? Why are you so insistent that we all must decide – right now – to support candidate X before we know who X is? There is zero utility or purpose in deciding now.

    Because, if your position is about principle, it should be easy to state that re-electing Donald Trump is simply unacceptable because he’s shown himself to be uniquely unsuited to the Presidency.

    It’s simply inconceivable that someone not currently running is going to be the Democratic nominee given how our system works. There’s an argument, I suppose, that Tulsi Gabbard or Marianne Williamson are so unpredictable that you’d prefer Trump. But they’re not going to get the nomination and we all know that.

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  22. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Besides, It’s a holiday. Don’t we all have better things to do?

    Apparently not!

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  23. Andy says:

    @James Joyner:

    Our system also makes a vote for the GoP candidate in California equally worthless as a third party vote. Are we supposed to tell those GoP voters they must vote Democrat instead?

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  24. Kathy says:

    Dr. Novella at Neurologica came up with a good piece on Pseudodemocracy today.

    Money quote:

    The spirit of friendly ideological competition within a common American democratic framework is giving way to what feels for many people like an existential struggle against an enemy – an enemy that many people feel is “evil.”

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Most Americans are not hyperpartisan Republicans or Democrats, and yet it is the hyperpartisans, who typically come from the political extremes, who are increasingly grabing control of both parties.

    That’s perfectly true. But, for the time being, Democratic hyperpartisan types are far more decent than their counterparts on the Republican party. As I’ve noted before, they lean far more towards inclusion and equality.

    Which is not to say all Democratic positions on issues are 100% right and all GOP one are 100% wrong. And when hyperpartisans wield power, there’s no compromise outside the party.

    It gets worse. One party might hold one position on a given issue, and they’ll drop it as if it were a red-hot ball of lead if the other party champions it. Or one party will demonize the other party’s position, then sanitize it when they adopt it. To a large extent, policy is becoming not about what to do, but about who proposes it.

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  25. James Joyner says:

    @Andy:

    Our system also makes a vote for the GoP candidate in California equally worthless as a third party vote. Are we supposed to tell those GoP voters they must vote Democrat instead?

    As noted multiple times in the thread, I think there’s a case for strategic voting in slam-dunk states. Massive numbers of California Republicans voting for Evan McMullin rather than Trump in 2016 would have sent a powerful signal that, while they’re not Democrats, Trump was anathema. But a Michigan or Pennsylvania voter in 2016 who voted for McMullin or Gary Johnson made it that much easier for Trump to win.

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  26. Barry says:

    I refrained from commenting on the previous post about joining the Democratic Party, and I’ll put it here:

    There is no restoration possible. The GOP has spent decades getting to this point, and won’t change without a solid decade of losses, which won’t happen in the USA political system.

    If the Democratic Party succeeds in taking the trifecta in 2020, this will be like the UK winning the Battle of Britain. It’s the end of the major GOP offensive, and certainly a good thing for humanity, but it will be the start of a long, bloody and grueling stuggle, not the end.

    We’ve got to actually get things done, on the barest Senate majority (likely with the VP casting tie-breaking votes on a regular basis), and with the GOP ignoring any and all norms, customs, rules and laws.

    Then we’ve got to take back some state governments and impose actual democracy on them, breaking the GOP’s voter suppression powers.

    This is a generational war, and most of the people here will not live to see victory – if we win.

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  27. Kit says:

    If one looks at the current Republican party and feels merely unhappy, then one can weigh up principles vs. expediency. If, however, one looks at the current Republican party and sees an existential threat, then voting anything other than Democrat across the board is foolish.

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  28. Andy says:

    @James Joyner:

    The office still goes to the winner of the binary race between Democrats and Republicans—but in an election decided without the voice of the “principled” voters being heard?

    Honestly, I’ve never understood the argument that one should always ignore personal political values in favor of voting for someone who can theoretically “win” even if that candidate is anathema to those values. I frankly find it to be a completely cynical way to decide one’s vote and indicative of someone having no real principles at all. But clearly I’m in the minority with that view.

    Personally, I am perfectly fine acting based on principle when the effort is futile. That includes voting, but also most other aspects of my life.

    Because, if your position is about principle, it should be easy to state that re-electing Donald Trump is simply unacceptable because he’s shown himself to be uniquely unsuited to the Presidency.

    My position is based on my political principles, not yours. There are Democratic candidates that I do not think are fit for office and that I cannot vote for regardless of what I, or anyone else, thinks about Trump. Therefore, I am not going to commit to any Democrat until I know who the actual candidate is.

    Ok, I’m heading out to enjoy the holiday and can’t respond to any replies probably until tomorrow. Hope you all have a happy and fun Independence Day!

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  29. James Joyner says:

    @Kit:

    If one looks at the current Republican party and feels merely unhappy, then one can weigh up principles vs. expediency. If, however, one looks at the current Republican party and sees an existential threat, then voting anything other than Democrat across the board is foolish.

    That’s where I am at this point. In 2016, when I finally issued a tepid endorsement of Clinton, I allowed that we should still vote for sane, old-style Republicans for Congress because we should signal that we’re not Democrats, simply rejecting Trump-style Republicanism. But even NeverTrump Republicans like Mitt Romney wind up voting with Trump most of the time just because of how the system works (here, I’m in agreement with Amash). Plus, Romney is a vote for Mitch McConnell to remain Majority Leader. So, we have to replace Republicans with Democrats in the short term and hope that a sane Republican Party can emerge from the ashes.

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  30. @Kathy:

    Democratic hyperpartisan types are far more decent than their counterparts

    Based on how I have been treated in my comments back and forth with some of those Democratic hyperpartisan types, I must empahtically disagree. For them, nothing short of 100% agreement is acceptable. Well, they aren’t going to get that from me, so……….. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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  31. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Actually the guy who did the most to torch Romney in 2012 was not a Democrat but Newt Gingrich. His team produced the “When Romney Came to Town” video that no Democrat would have dared to create.

    Spare me the nonsense about inaccurate descriptions of Republican leaders as ultra-right-wing. Maybe Romney is a moderate but he was damn well going to say whatever the ultra-right-wing wanted to hear and then some more on top of that, so what’s the difference? Every other Republican leader did the exact same thing.

    The Republican base has moved farther right because they were kept hopped up on the culture war meth until their addiction overwhelmed them and they backed Trump. Jonah Goldberg wrote a book comparing liberals and fascists because the rubes just ate that stuff up and he loved the royalty cheques. He had no problem with the Ann Coulter business model that so outrages him now. And now he’s a “principled” anti-Trumper.

    Republicans should look deep into what passes for their souls if they want to atone for what they’ve inflicted on this country for almost 40 years.

    I note that Doug and James are interacting a lot in this thread. Am I the only one who thinks they sound a bit defensive?

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  32. Barry says:

    @Barry: I will add – if you are a decent former Republican, then you are an exile. There was a revolution back home which forced you out, and it would take another, more powerful one, to allow you to return home.

    In the fullness of time, that may yet happen – for your children or grandchildren.

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  33. michael reynolds says:

    It doesn’t take two sides to start a war, just one. The GOP started this war with ‘abortion is murder’ and the union of the GOP and white evangelical Christianity.

    Much like the secessionists in 1860, these are extremists pushing an ideology that simply does not fit with the times, and they’ve left themselves no room for a walk-back. This won’t end until the GOP does. Ceterum censeo GOP esse delendam.

    Very seldom do we have conflicts between saints and demons, no side is pure, but neither is there any moral equivalency between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. One party is feckless, confused and given to overreach; the other party is evil.

    In a war of survival you pick a side, you fight, and when it’s all over, you can recast sides and parties. But this is 1942, Pearl Harbor has been attacked, the ‘good guys’ aren’t plaster saints or geniuses, but they are head and shoulders above the other side. So yes, it is time for libertarians to stop playing Switzerland and start fighting to defend democracy. Does that mean @Doug and @James have to join the party? No, but it does mean if they are men of character they need to fight like Democrats. And that may mean compromising small principles for larger ones. Which, BTW, is the same advice I have for far-left Democrats: not the time to hear about your quibbles, we’re at war.

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  34. steve says:

    I can’t see voting Democrat across the board. If you know your local candidates you likely know that some are better quality people than others. I would rather have a decent person of good quality in place rather than a sleazy, difficult personality who is from the party I prefer. Besides, at the local level ideology usually doesn’t weigh as heavy (although when it does it can be awful).

    Long term, I dont think you can automatically give your vote to the Dems, or whichever party is less bad at the moment, as they then have no motivation to provide a good quality candidate, ie someone who appeals to more than the extremes of the party who decide primaries. In the short term I think, I hope, that Trump is uniquely awful so he needs to be voted out. (The POTUS candidate from the GOP after Trump will tell us a lot about the party.)

    Steve

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  35. Kathy says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Let’s just say no one on the Democratic side, especially here, is calling for censoring you, calling you an enemy of the American people, or saying you’re not a real American.

    That may not be a high standard of decency, but comparatively it is more decent than the GOP feels like managing to do.

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  36. Jen says:

    The exact problem with the 2-party system is people picking up their toys and going home (i.e. becoming independents) rather than sticking around and being either moderating or dissenting voices. It’s precisely this phenomenon that has led us to this point.

    For me, it doesn’t matter if I don’t 100% agree with virtually any Democrat who gets the nomination–I know that whomever it is won’t be able to get their ideas through the entire process without modification. Therefore, saying “I don’t like Warren’s ideas” really doesn’t fly with me because anyone with an OUNCE of common sense and political acumen knows darn well she won’t be able to enact all of it as proposed on her (very thorough) website. Hell, Pres. Obama had a majority in both Houses for his first two years and the amount of wrangling he had to do to get one of his signature issues through was significant.

    What each of the Democrats offer to me, save Sanders, is the use of a grown-up, indoor voice and a clear understanding that we absolutely must get back to institutional norms. This half-assed, fly-by-the-seat-of-pants nonsense that we’ve been subjected to cannot go on. Our standing in the world slips every day.

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  37. Tyrell says:

    It is certainly refreshing and encouraging to hear a politician quote General Washington. How appropriate on the fourth of July. In this day and age, we see misguided individuals disparage and denigrate the founding fathers. Now they are going after Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence. Some people said that would never happen. The things that Washington warned against are happening.
    “The result has been the consolidation of political power and the near disintegration of representative democracy.” I will drink one to that. We need to reduce the powerful fourth part of government: the Federal bureaucracy that answers to no one. A lot of powers need to be returned to the states.
    Is Amash hinting at a third party? That would appeal to a lot of people, especially after seeing these “debates”.
    As I have said, don’t be surprised if some unannounced, highly popular person announces they are running and blows all of these candidates out of the water.

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  38. @Kathy:

    If they aren’t going to respect the fact that I disagree with them, and in several instances it has been made clear that some of them don’t, then the difference of degree is not relevant.

    In any case, I really ought to pull away from this thread before I get drawn into another argument.

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  39. Scott F. says:

    But, yes, donors have become more powerful as laws seeking to restrain the influence of money on politics have been struck down by the courts. Specifically, by Republican appointees to those courts.

    This point by you is a bit buried in the rest of your post, James, but it’s the heart of the matter isn’t it? The system is broken, because the donor class and lobbyists call the shots. Only one party is calling this out as a threat to democracy.

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  40. Solomon Kleinsmith says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I’m not speaking for others. If you’re a liberal or progressive, then so long as you’re okay with how corrupt and dishonest they are, the Democratic Party may well represent you. They don’t represent the rest of us.

    That’s true whether you choose to support them anyway, or not.

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  41. gVOR08 says:

    @steve: A few decades ago I used to say that there were no liberal or conservative positions on picking up the trash. Then there were. Conservatives went so far right that trash collection was no longer seen as a city responsibility.

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  42. MarkedMan says:

    I don’t feel the same way as Doug and Andy, but Their point is legitimate. From my reading, it’s not that they don’t understand the arguments from the other side, it’s that they don’t find them sufficient. Repeating them just one more time is not going to change their minds

    Those of you who are regular readers know that I think Doug is dead wrong about Libertarianism. But, putting that aside, it is what Doug believes. It’s important to him at a fundamental level. And in all these years Doug has given no indication that his beliefs are just window dressing for racism and misanthropy (ex: the Pauls). In fact, very definitely the opposite. So, putting on my “Doug hat” what we are saying to him is “You believe it important that the country adopt more libertarian principles, but WE feel these other things are more important. We don’t think your method of change will ever be effective (voting for the most libertarian candidate available) but we don’t have any alternative to offer. Nonetheless, abandon it because of our reasoning.”

    (Apologies, Doug, if I got this wrong.)

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  43. James Joyner says:

    @steve:

    If you know your local candidates you likely know that some are better quality people than others. I would rather have a decent person of good quality in place rather than a sleazy, difficult personality who is from the party I prefer. Besides, at the local level ideology usually doesn’t weigh as heavy (although when it does it can be awful).

    There may be states and localities where the Republican Party is worth voting for in state and local elections. At the Congressional level, though, a vote for a Republican is a vote for Mitch McConnell and whoever emerges as the leader of the GOP faction in the House. And, frankly, in most states and localities, a Republican vote is a vote for voter suppression to make it harder for Democratic-leaning minorities to participate in our democracy.

    @Scott F.: One of the ways I’m still a small-c conservative is that I think SCOTUS has by-and-large gotten the money in politics, gerrymandering, and citizenship question on the Census* questions right even though they result in policy outcomes that I find abhorrent.

    —–
    *Four Republican Justices voted to allow the question despite obvious lies about why it was included. The Chief Justice rightly stopped short of that but would have allowed it, despite it being incontrovertible that it would illegally undercount Latinos, had the administration offered even a slightly plausible pretext.

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  44. MarkedMan says:

    I was curious about Amash. I’m certainly glad that he dumped the GOO but given his ultra-eighth wing nature I was surprised. But the revelation that he is of Palestinian descent and his father was a refugee clears things up. The stereotype of conservatives is they can only understand others when the bad thing is also happening to their own family. With the Republican Party being anti-middle easterner, anti-Palestinian and anti-refugee, I imagine overhearing his tea party brethren talking about such things gave him the necessary perspective.

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  45. Solomon Kleinsmith says:

    @James Joyner:

    Objectively false. You’re lying about what Amash said, to build a straw man to argue against.

    Your vote is yours to spend how you wish, but if you are so blind that you can’t see why people wont throw their principles away to support politicians they believe would be bad for the country, you are just as blind as the people Washington warned about, and you’re helping the Republicans in the process.

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  46. Kathy says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I think that’s largely the Cheeto factor. If there was a president Rubio or Bush the Third, Democrats would want to oust him, but could endure 4 more years. I don’t think anyone outside the GOP, and hopefully soon outside the GOP base, wants to endure 4 more years of Dennison.

    I realize the import of anyone’s vote depends on what state they vote in. That is, outside of a swing state, your vote pretty much is either irrelevant or superfluous. Nevertheless, a commitment to oust Trump by any menas necessary, even if it mean voting the Warren/Sanders ticket, looks more effective for achieving the overarching purpose.

    So, I would like to see you, and everyone, commit to any Democrat the primary/caucus process spits out. But that’s not a realistic expectation.

    You do have point in saying a Democrat would have to earn your vote. It’s what I’ve been saying that people more removed from politics need a Democrat they can vote for, rather than voting to oust Trump. Even if that won’t fly with the Democratic base.

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  47. Kathy,

    That is simply not true based on my observations of politics over the past 40 years or more. Democrats demonized every Republican from Reagan to Romney. They made commercials showing Paul Ryan pushing an old lady in a wheelchair off a cliff. They’d be saying the same things about a President Rubio, Kasich, or Bush that they do about Trump. The difference with Trump is that, finally, it’s true. The problem is that after four decades of saying the same thing about every Republican out there they sounded like the boy who cried wolf when it came time to actually cry wolf. It’s no wonder that voters in places like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania didn’t believe them.

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  48. Solomon Kleinsmith says:

    @James Joyner:

    Again you show that you have no legs to stand on, and just make things up to argue with while running away from the truth:

    “Withholding your vote from a candidate you strongly prefer to the other because they’re not ideologically pure is tantamount to a vote for the other candidate because, math.”

    I don’t believe in ideology in the first place, and would never support or vote for anyone who chased anything resembling ideological purity, or really any other kind of purity. You’re the one defending voting for someone like that, should they get the Democratic nomination, not me,

    If there is someone I even prefer mildly, I’d vote for them – most of the Democrats aren’t even close to that measure, but… you know… you haven’t let the truth get in the way yet, so you might as well lie some more.

    Or – perhaps actually start responding honestly to what Amash said, among others. Novel idea.

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  49. Scott F. says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Vote how you want, but you should stay on the firmer ground of ideological principle and drop the whole “it’s the Democrats who are being mean” angle.

    The metaphor of the last 40 years isn’t “the boy who cried wolf,” but rather “the frog in boiling water.” It is undoubtedly true (and I think you yourself have written) that Trumpism has been an expectable outcome of the trajectory of Republicanism over the last decades. If independents and libertarians had listened to Democratic claims regarding the radicalism of Reagan, Gingrich or Ryan, maybe we wouldn’t be where we are now.

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  50. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:

    One of the ways I’m still a small-c conservative is that I think SCOTUS has by-and-large gotten the money in politics, gerrymandering, and citizenship question on the Census* questions right even though they result in policy outcomes that I find abhorrent.

    You must be more comfortable with abhorrent policy than I, because I just don’t get this.

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  51. Teve says:

    @Scott F.: Yup. Trump isn’t an aberration, he’s an apotheosis.

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  52. James Joyner says:

    @Scott F.: I just think the Supreme Court should defer to the elected branches when they’re acting within their historical lanes. State legislatures have near plenary authority over districting. Spending money on campaigns is clearly speech is modern politics. Asking questions on a Census that we’re routinely asked in previous Censuses isn’t illegal.

    The problem is that we’re trying to make a system designed for 1787 work in a completely different America.

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  53. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Doug: Ah, did the Democrats hurt Paul Ryan’s feewings when they made that ad? Did it give him an owey in his heart? Ah, that’s too bad. Because it was true, wasn’t it? Health care policy to replace Obamacare, anyone?

    Republicans slagged Democrats for being pro-terrorist, pro-communist, pro-stinky-feet, pro-baby-killing, need I go on? You have a very selective memory, Doug.

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  54. @Doug Mataconis:

    I’d also note that Democrats spent the better part of the past 30-plus years attacking every Republican nominee from Reagan to Romney as being part of the “extreme right.”

    And Republicans have criticized the Dems as being on the extreme left. So, what else is new?

    As I tried to note on FB, I do not understand how this observation has any bearing on 2020. Trump is Trump regardless of what Democrats said about Bob Dole or Mitt Romney.

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  55. @Doug Mataconis:

    Welcome to the “Independent” category Congressman, you’ll no doubt be criticized for not becoming a Yellow Dog Democrat or something, but take my advice and don’t read the comments.

    And yet, there is no independent route to defeating Trump.

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  56. @Kylopod:

    Citing George Washington to justify an anti-partisan stance is one of the most tired old arguments in the book. Washington–and the Framers more generally–didn’t like the idea of parties, but that’s only because the USA was the first democratic country in the modern world, and they had no frame of reference against which to judge it except constitutional monarchies like England.

    Yup.

    It sounds good, but it really has no relevance to the world as we live it.

    And your observation about the centrality of parties in global democracy is spot on.

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  57. @OzarkHillbilly:

    As has been explained by the estimable Dr Taylor, we have a 2 party system because of the constitution.

    Well, not the Constitution, per se (save the Electoral College), but rather than electoral rules that date from the Foundning.

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  58. @Andy:

    How does your insistence to always vote for the perceived lesser evil reform the system or otherwise get us better and more representative candidates? At what point do the rest of us who don’t want to blindly follow your lesser-evil voting strategy get to vote our own principles instead of yours?

    What you are describing is reality. That is the part of these conversations that I don’t get–you are arguing with reality. The reality of 2020 is that they choices for who will be president will be Trump and the Democrat.

    There will be no viable third party option.

    The third party vote will be largely ignored–it will have no signalling function.

    And while I really dislike the “lesser of two evils” framing, I will say that the lesser of two evils is still less evil.

    (And look, you know I want a wholly different system, but that is a whole other conversation).

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  59. @Steven L. Taylor:

    What about those of us who reject the idea of “strategic voting” and consider it more important to view voting as a projection of personal values? In that case, who “wins” and “loses” doesn’t really matter so much and trying to persuade someone to vote a certain way because the candidate of their choice isn’t going to win is basically a pointless act.

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  60. @Steven L. Taylor:

    We’ve had this discussion before. I’m not going to vote for the Giant Douche just because they’re somewhat better than the Turd Sandwich. (Obligatory South Park reference)

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  61. @Andy:

    Honestly, I’ve never understood the argument that one should always ignore personal political values in favor of voting for someone who can theoretically “win” even if that candidate is anathema to those values. I frankly find it to be a completely cynical way to decide one’s vote and indicative of someone having no real principles at all. But clearly I’m in the minority with that view.

    I understand the position. You see your vote as a pure expression of preference. I get that, in that abstract.

    I would counter that your vote is your very small share of popular sovereignty. It efficacy is linked to its ability to collectively work with others. A drop, by itself, is nothing. A drop joined with tens of thousands (or millions) or other drops is a flood.

    Such is democracy. How will you contribute your drop?

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  62. @Steven L. Taylor:

    The point is that Democrats spent 40 years demonizing Republicans (a/k/a crying wolf when there was no wolf) so when it actually mattered it isn’t surprising people didn’t listen to them

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  63. @Not the IT Dept.:

    Yes both sides have engaged in this behavior. That is why I reject the hyperpartisanship of the left and the right.

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  64. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    That is simply not true based on my observations of politics over the past 40 years or more. Democrats demonized every Republican from Reagan to Romney.

    And Repubs demonized Clinton and Obama, not to mention what they said about Ted Kennedy and say about Nancy Pelosi. That is simply the nature of our political system. Every President except Washington, was promoted by a party or at minimum an organized faction around an ideology. And the name calling was just as bad, if not worse, in the 19th century as it now.

    There is much reminiscing for the civil politics from F. Roosevelt through Kennedy, but that was the result of the crisis and turmoil of that age.

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  65. @Tyrell:

    It is certainly refreshing and encouraging to hear a politician quote General Washington.

    He is actually quoting President Washington.

    (Given the militarization of politics, today specifically, I think this distinction is very important).

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  66. @Tyrell:

    As I have said, don’t be surprised if some unannounced, highly popular person announces they are running and blows all of these candidates out of the water.

    I will not be surprised. I will be SHOCKED.

    History dictates such an outcome is practically an impossibility.

    Look at Trump: as much an aberration as he is, if he had run as a third party candidate in 2016, he would have lost miserably.

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  67. @Solomon Kleinsmith:

    You’re lying about what Amash said

    He quotes Amash in full.

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  68. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:

    But what’s the recourse when the elected branches are bought by the donor class?

    Yes, the system we have is not designed for the times. But, I see only two routes to a system better suited to the times.

    1). Use the system to reform the system. This requires diminishing the power of big money over the government – as these interests are the only ones benefiting (in spades) from the current model – so that the elected branches can be populated with people who would lead us away from the donor favoring model.
    2). Let the system crash and start over. This may happen whether we want it to or not, but it seems to me the path where the most people get the most hurt. And the hurt would redound mostly to the poor.

    Citizens United was a decision by SCOTUS that overturned an effort by the legislative branch to curb the power of money in politics. It made #2 more likely than otherwise.

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  69. @Doug Mataconis:

    Democrats demonized every Republican from Reagan to Romney.

    Again: what does this matter in terms of evaluating Trump in 2020?

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  70. Scott F. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Rather all independent routes favor re-electing and further emboldening Trump. Give NeverTrumpers a place to put their vote that isn’t the Democrat and we re-elect Trump and return control of the Senate to the GOP.

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  71. Teve says:

    @Sleeping Dog: when Newt Gingrich passed around a list of words for Republicans to call Democrats like un-American and traitor and liar and my favorite “sick” and Republicans said that Hillary was a lesbian who killed Vince Foster, and Obama was a black panther dictator who palled around with terrorists and hated America and Bill and Hillary had over a hundred people murdered in Arkansas, and Chelsea Clinton was “the family dog” and Moochelle was a “tranny”, they just meant it in like a funsy just-playing-around way 🙂 🙂 🙂

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  72. @Doug Mataconis:

    What about those of us who reject the idea of “strategic voting” and consider it more important to view voting as a projection of personal values? In that case, who “wins” and “loses” doesn’t really matter so much and trying to persuade someone to vote a certain way because the candidate of their choice isn’t going to win is basically a pointless act.

    You can reject the notion, that’s your right. It doesn’t change the math, or the outcome.

    Again: there were almost certainly enough people in 2016 who eschewed strategic voting in MI, PA and WI to have prevented Trump from winning, and yet who very likely regret their votes.

    I know this is the case in Florida in 2000.

    It is also all contextual. As I note in the post I linked to–sometimes voting third party as a signal or to put pressure on the main parties makes sense.

    Trump, to me at least, utterly changes that calculus.

    I, myself, tend to be a strategic voter. Maybe it is because I am so steeped in the way the rules work that I see that as the most relevant way to participate.

    I can be a bit of a idealistic about democracy, but ultimately have a strong realist component to my thinking.

    I am not saying that you can’t do you. Have at. I just find all of your understandable ranting about Trump to be hollowed out to a degree because you aren’t willing to deploy your vote in as decisive a way as possible to oust him. BTW: I think it is fair for me to say so since you spend so much time here, on FB, an on Twitter publicly giving your political opinion (and specifically about Trump).

    (And I feel that arguing with you in fair, because you put your ideas out into the public space).

    To give an illustration: if after all of my ranting about electoral rules I declared, publicly, that I would not support electoral reforms that would give me a substantial part of what I had long argued in favor of, but wasn’t my exact match, you (0r anyone else) would well within your rights to call me out on my position.

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  73. @Steven L. Taylor:

    It is simply an observation on my part to explain, in part, why Trump got elected in the first place.

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  74. @Doug Mataconis:

    The point is that Democrats spent 40 years demonizing Republicans (a/k/a crying wolf when there was no wolf) so when it actually mattered it isn’t surprising people didn’t listen to them

    But that doesn’t excuse you, or anyone paying attention, from giving an honest evaluation of Trump in the now.

    (And, again, both parties and their partisans have been saying ridiculous things about each other from the beginning of time. So what? Jefferson and Hamilton said all kinds of ridiculous things about one another, and yet we hold them in high esteem).

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  75. @Steven L. Taylor:

    The flaw in your argument is that it assumes that “the math” is all that matters. It only matters to people willing to compromise their principles.

    And I’ll just close by repeating a question Andy asked in this thread and another one. What is with the obsession some people have with trying, quite badly, to persuade persons such as him and myself that we must vote for a Democratic nominee whose identity we won’t know for another 12 months? Arguing that I “have to” vote for a candidate when I don’t know who that candidate is makes no sense to me.

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  76. @Doug Mataconis:

    It is simply an observation on my part to explain, in part, why Trump got elected in the first place.

    But I think you are trying to be too clever to divert from the immediate conversation. I might be willing to accept the argument you are making about 2016. It has no relevance to the strategic voting question for 2020.

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  77. @Doug Mataconis:

    The flaw in your argument is that it assumes that “the math” is all that matters.

    The math only matters if who wins the election matters.

    If it doesn’t matter who wins, why even have the election? (Certainly there is no point to talking about it).

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  78. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Solomon Kleinsmith:

    Doug is right. Your reply is off-base, and the idea that people should vote for a terrible party, just because there is an even more terrible party, shows a huge disconnect from reality.

    I feel really bad about what I’m going to do, but I have to assume that English is not your native language. I do this because it appears that in the statement above, you are advocating for selecting the greater evil over a lesser one and implying that to not do so represents a distorted understanding of real life.

    In the following paragraph, you explain that you’ve been guided in rejecting the “terrible party” for the “even more terrible one” because your principles demand it. You need to take your moral compass in for repairs. It’s out of adjustment.

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  79. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Doug: “That is why I reject the hyperpartisanship of the left and the right.”

    Oh, baloney. I really think you don’t read your own posts sometimes.

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  80. @Doug Mataconis:

    Arguing that I “have to” vote for a candidate when I don’t know who that candidate is makes no sense to me.

    I am definitely not arguing that you (or anyone else) have to do anything.

    On the broad level, I am putting forth a position about 2020 and then general notion of the way in which our system creates choices and leads to strategic considerations

    To you, because we are compadres in this commentary world, and because you share your views daily, which I take as an invitation to discourse, I say directly: if Trump is as bad as you say on a daily basis, then some consideration to strategic voting should be undertaken,

    I do accept that VA is likely to go Dem, so your vote likely doesn’t matter.

    But to be clear: I am not telling anyone what to do. I am making my case for my position, which is what a site like this is for.

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  81. @Not the IT Dept.:

    I do, and I also read the comment threads, where the hyperpartisanship of the left is on regular display.

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  82. Scott F. says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    What about those of us who reject the idea of “strategic voting” and consider it more important to view voting as a projection of personal values?

    Thank you for this, Doug, as this quote does much to explain to me where you are coming from, if indeed projecting your personal values is paramount to you.

    Projecting your values is about how others see you and how you see yourself, so it’s not hard to see how compromise is anathema. Projecting your values, though, has nothing to do with furthering your values. Furthering your values in a society is dirtier work.

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  83. @Steven L. Taylor:

    I wasn’t addressing the “strategic voting question.” And in any case, as I said in another comment above, I generally reject that idea. People are free to vote however they see fit. And if they choose to vote for someone other than the Democratic nominee, whoever that is, then the argument that they are really voting for Trump is utterly disingenuous.

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  84. @Doug Mataconis:

    People are free to vote however they see fit.

    I have never said otherwise.

    And if they choose to vote for someone other than the Democratic nominee, whoever that is, then the argument that they are really voting for Trump is utterly disingenuous.

    I counter this argument with Jill Stein voters and others in 2016 in three key states.

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  85. @Doug Mataconis:

    utterly disingenuous.

    Seriously, you have every right to vote as you like, but please stop pretending like the collective choices made by third party voters don’t have potential real world consequences.

    There are, without a doubt, Nader voters in Florida in 2000 who wish they had voted Gore and not Bush (and to be clear, this isn’t my personal preferences: I vote for Bush in 2000),

    And the odds are quite high that there are third party voters across those three states whose second choice was HRC not DJT.

    I get the notion of voting purely one’s conscience. But don’t pretend like such choices don’t have consequences in some elections.

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  86. @Doug Mataconis:

    I wasn’t addressing the “strategic voting question.”

    This whole conservation is about strategic voting.

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  87. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kit: The excuse appears to be that the Republican party is not the existential threat, only Trump.

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  88. Kylopod says:

    @Scott F.:

    Give NeverTrumpers a place to put their vote that isn’t the Democrat and we re-elect Trump and return control of the Senate to the GOP.

    The GOP already control the Senate.

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  89. Steven,

    And I am dissenting from the view that “strategic voting” is the only appropriate way to vote.

    Also my comment is meant to address the argument that the 2020 election is different because Trump is X. My point is that Democrats have made that argument about every Republican since at least Reagan. After 40 years it has taken on a “boy who cried wolf” character, and they can blame themselves for that.

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  90. @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am fully aware of those consequences and if Democrats want to win in 2020 they should take the views of Never Trumpers in my position into account if they want to get our vote. They aren’t going to get it just by saying the name “Trump” and expecting us to dutifully get in line like lemmings jumping off a cliff

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  91. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    What about those of us who reject the idea of “strategic voting” and consider it more important to view voting as a projection of personal values? In that case, who “wins” and “loses” doesn’t really matter so much and trying to persuade someone to vote a certain way because the candidate of their choice isn’t going to win is basically a pointless act.

    When I realized that my personal values were not going to be reflected in the choices that the process provided, I stopped voting. If the system is based on a binary choice and the 2 choices available are unsatisfying, the options are to “hold one’s nose” and vote or not choose at all. Disguising “not choose” in the form of voting third party as though that “sends a message” is self-deceptive.

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  92. Kylopod says:

    @James Joyner:

    You and I live in Virginia, which will almost certainly go for the Democrat in 2020 regardless of what we do.

    Here lies one of the problems with the argument that “I live in a safely blue/red state and therefore I’m free to vote my conscience.” I bet there were Stein or Johnson voters in WI or MI who felt that way. While I do consider it unlikely that VA will vote for Trump in 2020, it’s not impossible, and I don’t think the state has quite crossed the threshold that Dems can take it for granted. (One thing that definitely could cause it to happen is a centrist third-party candidate like Howard Schultz or Mark Cuban.) I sort of get it if you live in, say, California or Tennessee. But once you start bringing up states that only went to Clinton by a few points (with a home-state Senator on the ticket, to boot), you’re already playing with fire.

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  93. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve:

    …they just meant it in like a funsy just-playing-around way.

    Ironically enough, at the top levels of the system, this is probably true. Down where we live, not as much, but still “don’t hate the playah, hate the game.”

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  94. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Doug: “..if Democrats want to win in 2020 they should take the views of Never Trumpers in my position into account if they want to get our vote.”

    Why? If Never-Trumpers were such a big deal, they could have prevented Trump from getting the nomination in the first place, right? What possible clout do Never-Trumpers have that they are a hot property electorally? This is just vanity on your part.

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  95. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    And if they choose to vote for someone other than the Democratic nominee, whoever that is, then the argument that they are really voting for Trump is utterly disingenuous.

    I refuse to believe that you are either a) this innumerate or b) naive about the nature of binary choices. I certainly don’t believe that you are both.

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  96. @The abyss that is the soul of cracker:

    I understand both and stand by my previous statements. If Democrats want my vote they will either have to earn it or convince me to vote for their as yet unknown nominee without falling back on the “lesser of two evils” or “strategic voting” arguments.

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  97. @Not the IT Dept.:

    Because they supposedly want to win the election?

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  98. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The flaw in your argument is that it assumes that “the math” is all that matters. It only matters to people willing to compromise their principles.

    Doug, I acknowledge that you are taking a position in accordance with your principles.

    The rest of us are espousing our principles as well. Principals like all men are created equal, that we need to be led by decent people, that we shouldn’t be demonizing immigrants and people of color. That we shouldn’t be led by idiot, narcissistic racist con men. That saving lives takes precedence over pretty much everything else.

    The reason we keep pushing you is that your expression of your principles indicates that you value opposition to Elizabeth Warren’s views on social welfare, taxes and corporate regulation over opposition to Trump’s racism, concentration camps and opposition to free speech.

    We all know you don’t disagree with the above assessment of who Trump is so if you are being honest and your principles would allow you to take actions that would increase the chance that Trump will remain in office, than I don’t think much of your morality or principles. I genuinely am sorry to be so harsh but claiming that it is someone else’s fault for alienating you in the past or currently by being “hyper-partisans” doesn’t excuse your own moral decisions. You don’t get to avoid the responsibility of making your own decisions because “they were mean”.

    Do you disagree that Trump is different from both past Presidents and all the major candidates? That is all that matters – not whether partisans also believe it or that they have been hyperventilating in the past. If you think his Presidency is tolerable or rpeferable to Warrens, say that and own it. Don’t blame others.

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  99. Not the IT Dept. says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    You’re ducking the question. Are there enough Never-Trumpers to matter to any party in a general election? There weren’t enough of them to stop Trump in the primaries, why think they have the numbers to do anything now?

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  100. @SKI:

    I agree with you which is why I will not be voting for Trump.

    Beyond that I refuse to commit to voting for anyone when we are a year and a half away from Election Day.

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  101. Gustopher says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The problem is that after four decades of saying the same thing about every Republican out there they sounded like the boy who cried wolf when it came time to actually cry wolf.

    Ah, the story of the boy who called wolf, where the townspeople saw that there really was a wolf, and spitefully refused to help because he had lied so many times before, and the wolf ate the boy, and the sheep, and then the townspeople starved to death with no sheep.

    One of my favorite stories.

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  102. @Not the IT Dept.:

    I don’t know but it strikes me that the Democrats need every vote they can get if they’re going to win.

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  103. Gustopher says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    What about those of us who reject the idea of “strategic voting” and consider it more important to view voting as a projection of personal values? In that case, who “wins” and “loses” doesn’t really matter so much and trying to persuade someone to vote a certain way because the candidate of their choice isn’t going to win is basically a pointless act.

    I get this, and I almost even believe in it. I waffle between “choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil” and “choosing between the lesser of two evils is choosing less evil”. Ultimately, I think it depends on how much less evil.

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  104. @Doug Mataconis:

    if Democrats want to win in 2020 they should take the views of Never Trumpers in my position into account if they want to get our vote

    The most effective way for you to let the Dems know whom you prefer in Nov is to vote in the VA Democratic primary.

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  105. @Doug Mataconis:

    I don’t know but it strikes me that the Democrats need every vote they can get if they’re going to win.

    Which, BTW, is my whole argument for strategic voting. You are making my case 😉

    And yes, I know you are putting the onus on the Dems rather than on yourself. But the bottom line is: what is better for the US, Trump or a progressive Democrat?

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  106. @Not the IT Dept.:

    Are there enough Never-Trumpers to matter to any party in a general election?

    Potentially, in some jurisdictions.

    But, of course, their numbers are too small to expect them to drive the Democratic party’s nomination–especially since it is not some singular choice, but a giant collective action of its own.

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  107. @Gustopher:

    “choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil”

    I think the best retort to that cliche is this cliche: the perfect is the enemy of the good.

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  108. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis: And yet….

    Only you are responsible for your own actions.

    To paraphrase something from j’twitter: We used to ask why the good Germans didn’t do anything when there was still time. Now we have to ask what we will do now.

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  109. @SKI:

    I will sleep just fine, thank you. And the Nazi analogies do not make your argument credible, they have quite the opposite effect actually.

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  110. @Steven L. Taylor:

    Except you are putting the burden on people like me to commit to voting for an unknown Democrat, which I will not do.

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  111. @Steven L. Taylor:

    The most effective way for you to let the Dems know whom you prefer in Nov is to vote in the VA Democratic primary.

    I might but my thought about primary voting has always been that if I cannot commit to supporting the nominee regardless of whether or not they are the candidate I chose then I shouldn’t participate in what is, in the end, an internal matter in a political party that I don’t identify with at all.

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  112. @Doug Mataconis:

    Except you are putting the burden on people like me to commit to voting for an unknown Democrat, which I will not do.

    No, what I am asking you specifically to do is to shake off the notion that Warren (or some “progressive”) is actually worse than Trump.

    To people like you I am trying to get them to think about the what the real choice is in Nov 2020.

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  113. @Steven L. Taylor:

    I did not say that.

    I did say she’s not acceptable to me and not good enough for me to vote for.

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  114. @Doug Mataconis:

    I might but my thought about primary voting has always been that if I cannot commit to supporting the nominee regardless of whether or not they are the candidate I chose then I shouldn’t participate in what is, in the end, an internal matter in a political party that I don’t identify with at all.

    I would argue that this is utterly incorrect.

    The avenue exists for you to have a say. Take it.

    If you prefer Biden to Warrren, say so in the only way that matters: by voting in the primary–especially if your position is that the Dems ougth to take your position into account when fielding a candidate.

    And it isn’t a private matter, it is conducted by the state.

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  115. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Well, yeah. But I’ve come to the conclusion that he doesn’t really care, he’s just trolling y’all.

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  116. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    I’m sure you will sleep just fine because you have the privilege not to worry about it or to have the cultural memory of what it means when people are singled out as scapegoats. When they aren’t acknowledged as equals but given names like “vermin” and “parasites” and “globalists” and see that same thing happening again. When hate crimes are on the rise and are tacitly encouraged by the White House and their supporters. When the press are labeled the enemy of the people.

    There are lots of historical comparisons. And while no one should be claiming that death camps are planned or right around the corner or particularly likely but that isn’t the freaking test. Their behavior isn’t ok because they aren’t aiming at genocide.

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  117. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @SKI: You should have gone with the old 60s adage:

    If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

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  118. Not the IT Dept. says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “…the Democrats need every vote they can get if they’re going to win.”

    I completely agree. And wasting time crafting something to appeal to NTers might just lose them more disaffected Democrat votes and therefore is not worth the trouble.

    Steven: I agree up to a point re particular areas, but what I’m aiming at is Doug’s apparent belief that it’s up to the Democrats to come to him because something, something, something, whatever. He’s putting far too high a value on his support.

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  119. Jen says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The flaw in your argument is that it assumes that “the math” is all that matters. It only matters to people willing to compromise their principles.

    This is completely an unfair and unwarranted statement, akin to the exact type of generalization and demonization you are castigating Democrats for engaging in.

    “The math” matters to people who want to see Trump out, and in doing so, restore principles that they hold dear. “The math” matters to me precisely because I don’t think 4 more years of Trump is something this nation could weather without severe problems. He is addled and utterly incompetent and the GOP are enabling him instead of doing anything–ANYTHING–to rein him in.

    “The math” matters to me because I don’t want RBG replaced by a Federalist Society reactionary.
    “The math” matters to me because I think our international reputation is in shreds, and at some point, that’s going to haunt us.
    “The math” matters to me because our economy is going to go into a recession at some point, and the person currently in charge has been trying to find a way to politicize the Federal Reserve.

    And on, and on. Bottom line, the math matters to me precisely because I have principles.

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  120. @Not the IT Dept.:

    Actually I seem to be the only one here who realizes that my vote is only one vote and that it isn’t going to decide the election.

    Therefore, whether I vote for the Democratic nominee, the LP nominee, or nobody doesn’t matter and I’m free to make whatever choice I wish. It’s the rest of you who seem to think it’s a matter of national security that I vote for a Democratic nominee whose identity I won’t know for 12 months.

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  121. @Jen:

    Then give me a reason to vote for an unknown Democrat that doesn’t make reference to “strategic voting” or the “lesser of two evils” fallacy.

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  122. Teve says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: the aphorism warns us to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    Maybe Xuěhuā was the ancient Chinese word for snowflake 😛 😛

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  123. @The abyss that is the soul of cracker:

    I care, which is why I won’t commit to voting for an unknown Democrat.

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  124. @Doug Mataconis:

    I might

    BTW: let me acknowledge this–as I skipped over it above.

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  125. @Doug Mataconis:

    I seem to be the only one here who realizes that my vote is only one vote and that it isn’t going to decide the election.

    I utterly acknowledge that.

    That part that you won’t acknowledge is that collectively, people who are taking your position, matter and can have consequences to the election.

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  126. @Teve: That was my point, of course.

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  127. @Doug Mataconis:

    “strategic voting” or the “lesser of two evils” fallacy.

    Those aren’t fallacies. Because you reject the premises in question doesn’t make them fallacies.

    I think your purity over practical outcomes position is incorrect, but I don’t think it fallacious.

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  128. @Steven L. Taylor: And perhaps not even “incorrect” but, rather, “inefficacious”

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  129. @Steven L. Taylor:

    That part that you won’t acknowledge is that collectively, people who are taking your position, matter and can have consequences to the election.

    I only have one vote, though, and it is highly unlikely that anyone is going to be persuaded to vote one way or another based on how I vote or who I endorse. This is one reason I generally don’t write posts urging people to vote for candidates. First of all it’s presumptuous on my part. Second, because I don’t have that kind of influence. Therefore, the only vote I have any control over is my own.

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  130. @Doug Mataconis: Life is full of collective action problems.

    If throw litter out the car window, it is unlikely to have a massive effect on the local ecology. If lots of us throw trash out of the car window, we have a huge mess.

    If don’t leave tips, one waiter has a slilghtly lower income that day. If we a lot of stop tipping, then a lot of wait staff aren’t going to be able to pay their bills.

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  131. @Steven L. Taylor: Indeed, a lot of choices we make are about the broader implications, not just how it affects me.

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  132. Teve says:

    a lot of choices we make are about the broader implications, not just how it affects me.

    if Ayn Rand were here you’d get an earful for that, Mister. 🙂

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  133. @Teve: No doubt.

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  134. But, of course, I find Rand’s philosophy to be bankrupt 😉

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  135. Gustopher says:

    It amuses me that people think they can argue practicality with an over-40 Libertarian, over a year before things become a practical concern.

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  136. @Gustopher: Any public debate is not just about the two persons engaged.

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  137. Gustopher says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I only have one vote, though, and it is highly unlikely that anyone is going to be persuaded to vote one way or another based on how I vote or who I endorse.

    Honestly, you might get two or three. Still not enough to sway an election.

    It seems odd to write for a political blog, espouse a reasonably consistent set of beliefs, and then not take the final step of applying those beliefs saying “I’m voting for X because of Y. I don’t normally advocate voting for the lesser of two evils, except in the direst circumstances, and this is/isn’t an exception because Z.” But, hey, you do you.

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  138. Gustopher says:

    @Gustopher: Still not enough to sway an election on its own, I mean. Obviously if you do it and then one other person does it… well, just reference the appropriate part of “Alice’s Restaurant.”

    Well, off to have the traditional 4th of July tacos. It wouldn’t be America without tacos.

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  139. @Gustopher: Hooray for tacos!

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  140. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner:

    One of the ways I’m still a small-c conservative is that I think SCOTUS has by-and-large gotten the money in politics, gerrymandering, and citizenship question on the Census* questions right even though they result in policy outcomes that I find abhorrent.

    As one who tries to be a pragmatist, I find this, “Well, if the Constitution turns out to be a suicide pact, so be it.” kind of disturbing.

    I’ll note in passing that Hacker and Pierson observe corporate money started to be a big thing in the mid 70s, which does seem to be about when things started to turn south.

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  141. Andy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    What you are describing is reality. That is the part of these conversations that I don’t get–you are arguing with reality. The reality of 2020 is that they choices for who will be president will be Trump and the Democrat.

    On the contrary, I’m not arguing with reality. I actually do understand how our system works.

    What I’m saying is that we have different values when it comes to how to allocate our votes. To use your term, we have different rank-ordered political preferences.

    Let me explain a bit further. As you and James have explained it, this is how I see your rank-ordered preference:
    1. Oppose Trump.
    2. Only vote for a candidate that can win
    3. All other considerations

    If this is largely accurate (and please tell me if it isn’t), then the logic of your position makes perfect sense. But, in moving down the ranks you will never get past #2 because criteria #1 and #2 leave no other option but to vote for any Democrat.

    My rank-ordered preference is much different:
    1. Eliminate any candidate that is clearly not fit for or is otherwise unqualified for the job regardless of agreement on policy preferences. (Usually, this comes down to the person’s judgment, character, and general governing philosophy.)
    2. Eliminated candidates who are anathema to my most important policy concerns
    3a. If more than one candidate remains after step 2, then choose based on rank-order of policies.
    Major party candidates get graded on a curve (ie. I’m more likely to pick them).
    3b. If all available candidates are eliminated in Step 2, then consider a strategic vote. Depending on circumstances this could be a vote for a “lesser evils” major party candidate, a pure protest third party vote, or not voting at all (I have not done this last option in any national election).

    So, at this point, it is impossible for me to complete my rank-ordered steps because Trump is the only confirmed candidate at this point. Regardless, he is eliminated in Step 1 for the same reasons I eliminated him from consideration in 2016.

    While I can see the logic in your hierarchy (assuming I understand it correctly), I don’t understand why anyone would rank their own political preferences/philosophy so low as to be an irrelevant consideration when it comes to vote choice.

    There will be no viable third party option.

    Yes, I know. The difference is that fact is only relevant to me in specific circumstances when it comes to voting, but it is relevant to you in all circumstances – in fact, it appears to be a non-negotiable precondition. When you talk about consequences, I’m sure you realize that this condition also has consequences.

    The third party vote will be largely ignored–it will have no signalling function.

    There is no signaling function IMO.

    First off, any Democrat that’s likely to win will not welcome #nevertrumpers like James or Doug into the fold, much less a true independent like myself. We would have no consideration or input into policy. James can talk all he wants about having small c conservative political values, but no Democrat he votes for will give one single eff about them. Whatever Democrat he votes for will take the power he has affirmatively given them and use it to their own ends.
    And neither will

    Secondly, the evidence that voting “against” the GoP will signal to them and spur change seems very weak to me if not altogether nonexistent. After all, if someone is willing to vote for a socialist instead of the GoP, then how much of a conservative can they really be? That will be their argument.

    Additionally, there are the structural issues you’ve discussed before – no one controls the party, there are no party bosses who can hear the signal, go into a smokey room, and select a better candidate next time. Rather, any signal would have to be heard and acted upon by whatever faction of primary voters controls the GoP next time. Assuming those remain the Trump faction next time I doubt they will look kindly on what they will see as a betrayal by #nevertrumpers. They will act similarly to how progressives act to defections of Blue Dogs – good riddance and let’s primary any that remain. The only real hope is that more moderate voices will start voting in primaries.

    And while I really dislike the “lesser of two evils” framing, I will say that the lesser of two evils is still less evil.

    And that’s fine. But some of us have minimum standards. And if you have minimum standards, a lesser-evils calculus cannot rule the day in all cases. I wonder if you and James have some floor that you will not go below, or is it really true that you would accept literally anyone but Trump in office?

    (And look, you know I want a wholly different system, but that is a whole other conversation).

    As do I – on that, we are in agreement.

    I’m heading out again for festivities – I’ve read your new posts (they are good for focusing the debate) and will respond later.

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  142. @Gustopher:

    It seems odd to write for a political blog, espouse a reasonably consistent set of beliefs, and then not take the final step of applying those beliefs saying “I’m voting for X because of Y. I don’t normally advocate voting for the lesser of two evils, except in the direst circumstances, and this is/isn’t an exception because Z.” But, hey, you do you.

    That may be the way some political bloggers operate, it’s not how I operate. I don’t want to become like the partisan bloggers on the left and the right who basically turn their writing into constant advocacy for their candidate(s) and against the candidate(s) they oppose. For the most part, the ones that do end up being horrible writers who write boring posts about the same thing over and over again.

    Second, while I do have political values and principles I try to remain as objective as I can when I do write. I couldn’t do that if I dedicated myself to being an advocate for specific candidates.

    Third, I doubt my endorsement of any candidate would count for much so its not worth turning into a partisan hack.

    Fourth and finally, I am more interested in the mechanics of politics, how elections are proceeding, and other issues than I am in becoming a partisan hack advocating for politicians that I really don’t respect anyway.

    Now it really is time for adult beverages, too much food, and blowing crap up in the neighbors backyard so I won’t be back until tomorrow morning.

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  143. SenyorDave says:

    Trump and his people put into place a policy that intentionally put children into cages, and treated them in ways that were not fit for human beings. And then went to court to defend the policy. Trump is an existential threat.

    Biden, Harris, Warren and Sanders are leading the polls right now. Other than Sanders I’m fine with them, and I would crawl on broken glass to vote for Sanders against Trump (and I live in MD, bluest of blue states).

    Elizabeth Warren is my favorite, she’s a progressive, and she understands finance better than any candidate in recent memory (she is one of the leading experts in bankruptcy law in the country and was the chair of Congressional Oversight Committee on the Tarp program).

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  144. @Doug Mataconis:

    I am more interested in the mechanics of politics, how elections are proceeding, and other issues than I am in becoming a partisan hack advocating for politicians that I really don’t respect anyway.

    Look, I get the reticence about advocacy. While I clearly have positions on a number of things, I don’t think of myself as an advocate, pe se. (I don’t think I have ever directly endorsed a candidate–although I have surely implied it).

    But, as one who reads your FB feed in particular, it seems to me that endorse and advocate things all the time.

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  145. Barry says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “If Democrats want my vote they will either have to earn it or convince me to vote for their as yet unknown nominee without falling back on the “lesser of two evils” or “strategic voting” arguments.”

    Doug, I don’t mean to be harsh, but 2016 is on the phone for you….

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  146. Teve says:

    @SenyorDave:

    Elizabeth Warren is my favorite, she’s a progressive, and she understands finance better than any candidate in recent memory (she is one of the leading experts in bankruptcy law in the country and was the chair of Congressional Oversight Committee on the Tarp program).

    yeah but does she understand finance as good as Republicans like Arthur Laffer? He just got the presidential Medal of Freedom, you know.

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  147. @Barry:

    I didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 and I encouraged people who lived in swing states to vote for Clinton, so it’s not my responsibility.

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  148. James Joyner says:

    @Scott F.: Congress has been trying to rein in donor influence since 1974 without much success. Because government is increasingly powerful in our lives, especially the economy, there’s ever-increasing incentive to lobby it. Every attempt to regulate it has created perverse responses that actually made the problem worse (SuperPACs, dark money, etc.). The long-running bit on the old Colbert Report with former FEC commissioner Trevor Potter was both hilarious and instructive on this score.

    At the same time, going back to at least Buckley v Valeo (1976), the Supreme Court has, correctly in my view, questioned whether Congress has the right to limit the spending of money in political campaigns. Given how modern elections are run, the ability to buy television time was effectively “speech.”

    For all the hubbub about Citizens United, I’m not sure it has much mattered. See the Vox explainer “It’s time for liberals to get over Citizens United.” The tl;dr verison: the overwhelming amount of money in politics predates Citizens United. That case is only about the marginal question of how much corporations can spend. The Sheldon Adelsons and Koch Brothers of the world could spend what they wanted on advertising long before Citizens United.

    Beyond that, Trump’s surprise victory in 2016—and to a much lesser extent, the mini-boomlet for Pete Buttigieg this cycle—demonstrates that television advertising may no longer be that important. The Internet, social media, podcasts, etc. are all about memes and virality. Those in turn spawn “earned” media.

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  149. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Up Next on OTB:

    Privileged white guys argue over whether the dead toddlers at the border died in concentration camps or in detention facilities.

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  150. gVOR08 says:

    I’m old, James. I’m so old I took Civics in high school. I was taught “freedom of speech’ meant I could say what I wanted and the government couldn’t come after me for it. Unless, of course, I shouted “Fire!” in a crowded theater or advocated against the draft in WWI. Nobody said it meant that if I was rich I could secretly hire every crier in town and drown out everybody else.

    “Citizens United” is a perfectly fine shorthand for the whole complicated mess, just as “Koch” is a shorthand for Koch, Friess, the Mercers, Adelson, and all the rest, including seemingly hundreds of mega car dealers.

    The standard conservative response to everything is, “Well, that’s just how things are, nothing can be done.” The effects of money go way beyond TV ads for prez. Do we really have to just roll over for the destruction of small d democracy in America?

    It’s only going to get worse. Read Piketty.

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  151. James Joyner says:

    @gVOR08:

    Nobody said it meant that if I was rich I could secretly hire every crier in town and drown out everybody else.

    But, of course, you can! You can also buy the Washington Post, the New York Times, or one of the major broadcast outlets and get your voice out in a way none of the rest of us can.

    It’s only going to get worse. Read Piketty.

    We’ve seen the rise of populist movements pretty much everywhere over the last few years and they seem to be driving the train. The problem is that the policy responses thus far haven’t been particularly helpful.

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  152. Barry says:

    @James Joyner: “And, frankly, in most states and localities, a Republican vote is a vote for voter suppression to make it harder for Democratic-leaning minorities to participate in our democracy.”

    Or Majorities. I believe that right now, a majority Democratic vote in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio would still lead to a majority GOP legislature. At this point representative democracy is broken in these states. Georgia had a fraudulent election, and I’d bet good money that most Confederate states do, as well.

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  153. Barry says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “They made commercials showing Paul Ryan pushing an old lady in a wheelchair off a cliff. ”

    Ryan was a 100% Randian fraud who piously – well, mouthed pieties – while cutting taxes on the rich and spending on everybody else. The man had no redeeming features at all.

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