20 Million Votes

Many groups on the, at least self described, left have been touting their membership figures this year. They have been playing a game of lies, damned lies, and statistics. Yes, your organization went from 10000 to 30000. But the proper way to phrase that isn’t 300% GROWTH!!!!!!!! Its that you now have 1/100 of 1% of population, and twice as large a percent of the voters, on your side. That’s not nothing, but its pretty close.

Due to the fractured and partisan nature of politics today you aren’t going to build your own organization, starting from that scale, into something nationally significant. Or even state wide significant depending on the state. What you need to do is organize with other small home brewed groups. Let’s pick an example. The DSA. The DSA recently had a convention, it got little coverage. Not because the media is biased against it, though it is, but because it was insignificant. At least in the sense of national media coverage. But its okay. There is hope.

What should the DSA do to increase their significance rapidly? Federate. Unions are a great example. The AFL-CIO once wielded great power, especially compared to its constituent unions. There are plenty of groups out there for the DSA to federate with. The Green Party, the Working Families party, the various socialist and communist parties. With proper organization these groups can focus on their similarities and put aside their differences. They can work together on things like money in politics that they all hate, they can make a large push for voting and election reform and further collaborate on the single issue groups focused around this issue. They can even work with groups like the Libertarians.

The next question is HOW to organize this federation. The answer in the modern age is clear. It can be done online. Its cheap, its relatively easy to put infrastructure in place, and you can coordinate across the nation as well as the political spectrum. Online and open source discussion boards and websites with a little of the most useful features of various social media sites thrown in is not beyond the reach of even medium or small interest groups. Furthermore these structures can support whatever level of structural vs social connectivity is desired by each individual group. As I discussed in my previous post, the level of customization is mostly without limit.

Now we reach the point where I explain the title of the post. 20 million votes. That is a threshold of political significant. That gives you approximately 14% of the electorate. That’s enough to make major parties take notice. To give you credibility and a chance to run a referendum election to enact voting reform. 20 million well organized and committed voters, and ideally volunteers, is enough to win.

With a properly structured online organizing hub which respect constituent group autonomy, you can fight the media, and the money, and the monopoly, and win. Once you have that many voters you gain so many potential options unavailable to tiny groups. In subsequent posts I’ll explain some of the actions you can perform if you can get even half your supporters to get involved in an event. Technology opens so many doors. You can put out a message that the media, as a capitalist entity desiring engagement from consumers, can’t ignore.

Federalizing Activism: How To Build A More Coordinated Powerful Movement

Oceans of ink have been spilled on the fractured, infighting, self-destructive nature of the “left” in politics. In the old days organization with similar but competing groups was difficult. Consider the impossibility of getting various left groups to cooperatively fund a TV network. The power struggles over prime time slots and so forth would be immense. What would we devote our funding for investigative reporting on? Cops killing citizens, voting reform, corporate dirt? Impossible. However with the advent of the internet these issues are easy to resolve.

The most critical and important tool for achieving the best political results for the average citizen is a cooperative activist social media network. Using the US federal system as inspiration we can create a network that is fair and open and which does not require significant financial cost, thus preventing wealthier groups from gaining political power through the power of the purse.

The ideal basis for political organization is not 140 characters and DMs ala Twitter, nor is it profiles and news feeds ala Facebook. Its the good old fashioned internet discussion board. Discussion boards have a set of features extensive enough to enable truly effective organization. Firstly they can easily be decentralized. Unlike facebook and twitter which have a single verified/official indicated discussion boards have long supported various permissions and member groups complete with varied visual identifiers. They also support subsections with many levels of division.

There is also very tested and mature support for integration of more un-targeted social media platforms. Modern open source forums allow you to log in with your facebook or twitter or potentially even reddit credentials. This helps lower the bar for any public access sections of your discussion forums.

I’ll give an example of some potential member groups of a collective leftist forum. Say you have a number of pro-election reform groups, a number of civil rights groups, and a number of third parties. Maybe you have a selection of various unions and some healthcare or minimum wage advocates. You’d have an umbrella forum for each of these groups and then you could assign them each a set of sub forums. Using comprehensive forum permission systems they would each have the ability to moderate their own section of the forums at their discretion. Much like a federal government each constituent group would have a broad array of powers over their own area/membership. You’d probably want some sort of system to overrule this local administration on a broadly popular basis. For instance if their was a concern of racism and 70% of all voting members agreed, you could impose some moderation as a condition of membership. Ideally it would take a very high percentage majority to overrule local control. Maybe even 80% instead of 70%.

Another important value for having various group memberships and tiers of verification is private messaging. On Twitter you either have public DMs or follower only DMs. In a more structured environment you can have much more granular control. If your primary or only interest is voting reform, you could set your public DMs to only be accessible to people in voting reform related member groups. Meanwhile you could allow individuals to DM you based on a list or set anyone above some tier of authority access. For instance organization founding members or something.

When you control your own custom website its also possible to incorporate valuable features at your own discretion, you can enable RSS, you could have Twitter feeds and newsgroups and user groups defined by users.

Another critical aspect of being in control of your own infrastructure is flexibility. You can assign sub forums for particular political candidates and campaigns, you can have sub forums for say, developing open source organizing software and apps, and for doing various events. Facebook does have decent event options but the limit of Facebook is their insistence on having only one account and only using accounts with your real name. Having a custom events system is the better option.

Having a centralized location but not a centrally controlled system is very beneficial to organizing political coalitions. Superior technology based organization is the future of politics. Early adapters, as demonstrated not only by Sanders and Obama, but also by foreign politicians like Modi, have a substantial amount to gain. It is my sincere hope that my political side manages to take advantage of this. I’ll be writing some future posts about other innovative ways to use technology for organizing and events in the future.

The 4Ps: Why Policy Is Not the Definitive Factor Washington Insiders Believe It Is

There are four primary attributes that determine the support a politician gets. These four factors are Party, Personality, Priority, and Policy. The most over-hyped of these attributes is Policy. Hillary Clinton absolutely annihilated by Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump on having a detailed list of policies, at least in certain areas. However she barely beat out one and lost to another. This was because she totally failed to consider the other three attributes.

I assign the number of voters primarily concerned with each attribute in the following way: 40% for Party, 25% for Priority, 20% for Personality, and 15% for Policy. In the Democratic Primary the split more or less went like this:

  • Party| 30% for Hillary, 10% for Sanders
  • Priority| 15% for Sanders, 10% for Hillary
  • Personality 15% for Sanders, 5% for Hillary
  • Policy| 10% for Hillary, 5% for Sanders

Hillary came out ahead with 55% of the votes. This is the same % she got in the primary. The majority of her share came from Party with 30%/55%. She won 3/1. Next she won 2 to 1 in Policy. She lost 3 to 1 in Personality and she lost 3 to 2 in Priority. Luckily for her the share of votes she won 3 to 1 was worth 3x as much as the share Sanders won 3 to 1. An even split in party puts Sanders in her 55/45 position. Evening out Personality only gets her a 5% swap.

The split in the general election was more like this:

  • Party| 20% for Hillary, 20% for Trump
  • Priority| 14% for Trump, 11% for Hillary
  • Personality| 13% for Trump, 7% for Hillary
  • Policy| 13% for Hillary, 2% for Trump

That equals out to their actual totals with Hillary 2% in the lead. The secret is that contrary to popular belief, there isn’t a 40% floor for each Party totaling out to 80% of the vote, with the rest of the vote based on Policy quality. The share for Party only appears to be so large because Priority often parallels Party in our 2 party system and since Policy is often pretty equal that looks like an even split. In general one candidates runs on Personality, and one candidate runs on Policy while Priority is pretty even. Priority only tilts when one candidate, like Trump or Sanders, runs away from the centrist party line.

Obama vs Romney or Obama vs Clinton are good examples of Personality vs Policy. Romney and Clinton were both easily more qualified and able to understand Policy. Lest you doubt me, Obama gave an interview to boost Hillary while officially staying neutral saying he made some mistakes in his promises and that her pragmatism was often more realist than his empty idealism. Say that Party and Priority split their voters pretty evenly. Obama rode Personality to victory, something like 15% to 5% vs Romney and Clinton while losing Policy 5% to 10% vs both. That put him at 20/20 Party, 12.5/12.5 Priority, and then 15/5 Personality and 5/10 Policy. So 52.5 vs 47.5 against both. Sanders was week against Clinton on Party by a landslide so he lost the primary. But had he got to the general he could have hit Trump something like this:

  • Party| 20 for Sanders, 20 for Trump
  • Priority| 15 for Sanders, 10 for Trump
  • Personality| 10 for Sanders, 10 for Trump
  • Policy| 9 for Sanders, 6 for Trump

Sanders comes up 54, Trump comes up 46. This is a different coalition from Obama whose races against Romney/McCain went something like this:

  • Party| 20 for Obama, 20 for McCain
  • Priority| 14.5 for Obama, 10.5 for McCain
  • Personality| 12 for Obama, 8 for McCain
  • Policy| 7 for Obama, 8 for McCain

That totaled out to 53.5 for Obama, 46.5 for McCain.

  • Party| 20 for Obama, 20 for Romney
  • Priority| 14 for Obama, 11 for Romney
  • Personality| 13 for Obama, 7 for Romney
  • Policy| 6 for Obama, 9 for Romney

That totaled out to 52.0 Obama, 48.0 for Romney.

Trump scores better on Personality and worse on Policy than either of his predecessors whether vs Sanders or Clinton. McCain, combined with Palin, scored better on Personality than Romney/Ryan, who are basically similar politicians, but worse on Priority. Sanders and Obama have similar Personality scores and relatively similar Policy scores. Sanders loses to Obama on Policy a bit but gets a boost on Priority.

Many people wonder why Clinton does so poorly compared to Obama and why Sanders and Trump have such good scores against her compared to what we’d expect Obama to have to deal with. She’s so qualified. But she loses out on Personality and Priority enough to more than make up for it. She lost to Obama on Personality but she squelched Sanders with her Party power. That advantage however failed to translate into a general election where the other 3 categories are more relevant. Party aligned voters basically don’t count in the general election because the candidate is irrelevant to them once you move out of the primaries.

An 11 point lead on Policy is impressive but when you are losing 3 on Priority and 6 on Personality and your voters are disproportionately urban and therefore weak electorally, even such a colossal level of qualification can’t save it for you. Hillary Clinton was perhaps the most qualified presidential candidate in history, only really lacking executive experience, and the voters collectively asked her: “So what?”

Dynamic Democracy: The True Purpose Of Third Parties

The vast majority of people seem to fail to understand the purpose of third parties. Most people seem to think that if we had a system which empowered minor or third parties we’d have a medium size far left party, maybe the Green Party and perhaps the Tea Party would be an actual party for the far right. This is not correct. You wouldn’t have 4 parties in a proper system. You’d have something like 14. Our political system would much more obviously be a 3d shape rather then a left/right spectrum.

The most obvious example is the Sanders Clinton divide. You would likely have a business focused party made up of the center-left with a focus on diversity and free trade. You’d then have a Sanders style party focused on diversity and democratic socialism. You may even have a specific black and/or brown and/or other minority parties with general leftist focus but also dealing with unique minority issues. For instance a center-left, pro immigration, pro free trade, Spanish as a second official language party. You’d have similar diversity on the right. You’d also likely have a white working class anti-immigration, pro-protectionism party. Probably two of them, one socially and fiscally conservative and one of a more socialist bent minus the diversity aspect of a Sanders style social democratic party.

Third parties also have another critical contribution to more Democratic and diverse politics. The right to exit. The Right To Exit is a critical right in a fair society. The original Right To Exit meant the right to leave the sphere of influence of organized nations in order to set up a society that was more in line with your beliefs. This right was pivotal in the founding of America. Politically and religiously persecuted peoples as well as the poor and downtrodden participated in an exodus from many Germanic countries, mostly England, the Netherlands, as well as from France and Spain. These people founded the 13 colonies as well as many French colonies like those in Acadia, St. Louis, and New Orleans.

In modern times we have to settle for the political version of the Right To Exit. The possibility of leaving a disappointing major party and forming a new party or joining a minor party that has an equal chance to become politically significant. In our current political system, both because of first past the post, and single representative constituencies, we do not have this right. The first and most critical step to reforming and therefore restoring politics as a tool to serve citizens and not corporations, is to enable a political system that does not structurally reject multi-party politics.

There is a very powerful rhetorical weapon that we can use to expose the anti-democratic nature of both our two party system and the two parties themselves which unite to thwart equal representation which I will discuss in a subsequent post. There are also several effective reforms to empower citizens to restore balance and fairness to our political system. We are not eternally condemned to a corrupt and stagnant political system.

Political Reform Options: More Democratic Voting Methods

The voting system used in most of America and most of England and most western countries in general is a plurality voting system. Whoever gets the largest number of votes, where each voter must select a single option, wins. This system is undemocratic, enforces two party politics, and forces things like tactical voting on voters. There are a number of vastly superior systems which make it easier for voters to get their ideal result if possible.

The first and simplest change is called runoff voting. Essentially every candidate is on the ballot. After the results come in a second vote is held with the two top candidates. Whoever gets the most votes wins. This system is not ideal because it encourages tactical voting. If there are 4 options and 2 each get 30% and 2 each get 20% but the two 20% candidates are the second choice for most of each other’s voters we have a non ideal result.

The second least radical option is ranked choice voting or instant runoff voting. Other names include alternative voting and transferable voting. Each voter ranks every candidate. In a series of rounds the candidate with the least 1st choice votes is eliminated and their voters’ second choice becomes their first choice. This is both less time consuming, as there is only one election, and slightly more democratic, since it eliminates candidates one at a time, so a third place candidate could win which is impossible in runoff/primary voting, than the previous method but it still has failures.

The next system is approval voting. Here you vote for any number of candidates. Each vote has equal weight. The candidate with the highest approval wins. This voting system has a problem in that it is vulnerable to tactical voting. You may choose to not vote for your second choice candidate because it could cause your first choice to lose. If supporters of your first choice vote for your second choice and your first choice they could inadvertently help your candidate at the expense of theirs.

Another system is known as range voting. Here voters give a value to each option. Values are then added up and whoever has the highest value wins. There is some strategy here. You should rank your least liked at 0 and most at MAX. You should be careful ranking other candidates too high, though.

All of these systems have some failure modes if parties are organized enough. For instance elimination methods can be manipulated by getting a specific candidate out first. The ideal system would elect the candidate who would create the most net happiness among the entire voting population.

Here is an area where multi representative constituencies can help. In combination with some voting systems these make tactical voting almost impossible. You want to max out your support to your preferred candidates exactly in order. Worst case is that your second choice gets the third seat and your third choice gets the second seat or something. But you are unlikely to prevent your top choices from getting seats by rating candidates sincerely.

Political Reform Options: Multi Representative Constituencies

One of the two most critical areas of potential political reform is single representative constituencies. This system drives people out of the political process by making them feel like their vote doesn’t matter. If a constituency is something like 60% one way, 30% another, and 10% another, why even show up? Multi representative constituencies solve this problem very effectively.

In a multi representative constituency you only need to be in the top 3/4/5 to be elected. If one person has the support of a large majority of voters it doesn’t matter because there are other slots. If you have 60% of the vote and 5 positions, you get 3 reps. But other people can still have reps. In a single rep constituency where you have 60% of the vote, another party has 30% and another party has 10%, you can drop to 45% of the vote and as long as the 10% party is gaining some of that vote share you still win. In a multi rep constituency if you drop from 60 to 45 you drop from 3 to 2 reps. Similarly, running up the majority allows a party to increase its representation. You cannot really gerrymander multi rep constituencies.

Multi rep constituencies are also corrosive to first past the post or plurality voting systems by default. And they encourage an increase in the number of parties as well. They even allow new parties to easily access the space. You aren’t going to split the vote because the vote already gets split.

The basic multi rep constituency would work best with something like ranked choice or favoribility voting. Once you hit the threshhold percentage your remaining votes would be spread to their second choice or under a points system you could simply tally up the points each candidate got. The top X scorers would get the seats.

How Americans Misunderstand The Power Of Early America

The success of America and Brtain before it is often cited as a strong argument for benefits of capitalism. Most people totally miss the real difference between America and other nations. It wasn’t the power of free enterprise that made America powerful. It was the relatively flat social strata. America had a society in which there was a much smaller distance between creating value through ideas and hard work. Now, over 200 years later, companies compete far more on using money to make money, rather than producing something new and useful and making money off of a physical product.

Wealth disparities are far more harmful to the advancement of society than any sort of disincentive to create due to taxes. The vast majority of people who created not only revolutionary technologies but also more mundane efficiency increases did not do so with the goal of producing maximum profit. Unlike the current era where many very smart and economically advantaged people enter into banking and finance or go to business school after determining that those places offer the best place to make fast money, the majority of the people who built iconic American companies created something they felt would benefit society, not themselves.

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, John Romero, John Carmack, Richard Garriot, Raph Koster, and other major icons of the computer age created incredible products because that was their passion, not because of a naked desire for wealth. The first program language compiler was created by Rear Admiral Grace Hopper and she didn’t do it because she wanted to become rich. Nikola Tesla also invented brilliant products because he enjoyed doing so. He never looked at what products were making the most money and tried to get in on the gold rush.

Redistribution of wealth does not damage the economy. High taxes may cause businesses to move because they are negatives for individuals but a relatively level starting point for all citizens provides utility to the society as a whole. On a societal level giving 10000 people 1 million dollars provides a larger net benefit than giving 1 person 10 billion dollars or 100 people 100 million. Motives for creation and invention exist well beyond pure greed and furthermore rewards that don’t require the slow centralization of capital exist. These rewards can come in many forms including social and prestige based forms.

This issue also relates to the primary topic of this site, how and why to implement political reform. Having competition among political ideologies and parties, which requires a relatively level starting point that will be provided by proper political reform, has the same benefits as vigorous competition between businesses, competition most effectively generated by allowing for a more even economic playing field. As an example, the way that Uber, and other wealthy capital funded companies, subsidize early prices to amass market share is very anti-competitive and anti-efficiency. Spend money on a better service, not forcing out competition through a war of financial attrition.