The Lesser

Sometime people who read my site ask for advice. I guess that’s redundant–obviously anyone who asks me for advice would have to be a reader, as anyone who has met me in real life would know better.

Long time reader here... I'm in SC and an pretty much an independent in terms of politics. I chose not to vote in the Republican primary as all of them turn my stomach and will vote in this Saturday's Democratic primary instead. I am thinking of my vote as more of a vote against Hillary than a vote for anyone. What are your thoughts in terms of this and who do you think is the lesser of two evils: Edwards or Obama? I am leaning towards Edwards, the bajillionaire attorney suckling on the teet of Big Tobacco vs Obama. Anyway, I actually find your insight on politics more understandable, interesting, and insightful than the most pundits. So if you could spare a moment and share your thoughts, that'd be great. :)

Warm regards,


My reply:


The conservative argument against taxes, in a nutshell, is this: it is fairer and more efficient if people are allowed to keep their own money to spend on those things they know they need, rather than to require them to hand it over to a Government to spend on what it thinks the citizenry needs. Given what you've told me, i would encourage you to vote for Obama for essentially the same reason.

Of the remaining Democratic candidates, Edwards is, in my opinion, the most suited for the presidency. But if the last few weeks have shown us anything, it's (a) Edwards is not going to win, and (b) he's not going to drop out going to drop out on Wednesday, January 30th, you heard it here first. So why is remaining in the race at all. Many (including myself) think it's to become a kingmaker, of sorts; if neither Clinton or Obama collect enough delegates to win the nomination (a majority), Edwards could offer his accumulated delegates to one of them in exchange for something he wants: the vice-presidency, the inclusion of one of his signature issues into their platform, or the like.

Now, if you really like Edwards or the issues he fights for, then voting for him still makes sense, as it might result in his going to the White House as Veep, or having his signature issues adopted by whomever becomes the eventual nominee. But if your goal is simply to ensure that Hillary doesn't get the nod, then it's obvious to me that you should vote for Obama. After all, any votes (and, by extension, delegates) that go to Edwards could wind up in Hillary's ledger eventually, if Edwards brokers a deal with her at some point, drops out and endorses her, etc.

I'm glossing over a lot, here (like the fact that Edwards can't simply "give" his delegates to someone else), but the gist of it is this: you can "spend" your vote on Obama, or you can give it to Edwards and run the risk that he might "spend" it on a candidate you don't really want.


At least I was conscientious enough to send my advice today, after South Carolina primary, to make it unactionable.

By the way, I’m completely sympathetic to the idea that people ought to be able to vote for whomever they choose, even for someone (like Edwards) who seemingly doesn’t have a hope of winning. I agree! People ought to be able to do that! But the point is largely academic until this nation implements instant runoff voting, something I would love to see in my lifetime.

18 thoughts on “The Lesser

  1. Australia uses ‘instant runoff voting’ (we call it ‘preference voting’, and combine it with making voting compulsory to uphold the bastions of democracy), but all it leads to is super-centerist governments and oppositions that look exactly like each other and make a grab for the marginal/swinging voters.

    I like the American one for sheer entertainment value. Of course, there’s no way I’d replace our system with the American one, but entertainment! :D

  2. When there are > 2 candidates, there are a variety of methods to determine a winner aside from instant runoff or the plurality thing we have now. They all have different strengths and weaknesses, and you can concoct data that would allow for completely different winners dependent only on which method you use.

    Can you imagine a newscast that describes the mathematics of why a particular candidate won one of these elections? Or how long a hand recount would take?

    (google “condorcet” or “borda” for links and to waste hours reading wikipedia)

  3. I think people who believe that it’s a waste of your vote if you voted for the loser are idiots. The only intelligent thing to do is to vote for the person you sincerely believe will do the best job and let the chips fall where they may. As long as the media can hypnotize you into only voting for their anointed candidate, there can never be progress or change.

  4. There is a rumor out there that Edwards might encourage his delegates to support Obama. There is another rumor, entirely unrelated of course, that President Obama may pick Edwards as Attorney General.

  5. The people who believe it’s a waste of your vote if you voted for the loser are people who have actually LEARNED the Nader Lesson. Those who have not will continue to waste their votes and get the ‘greater’ of two evils when the time comes.

    Until the voting system is changed, you must work with the system you have, rather than vote according to a system you don’t have. If this is not obvious, you probably aren’t qualified to be voting.

  6. I just hope President Obama picks Bill Richardson for either SecState or Veep. Preferrably SecState. We need somebody with the skills and credibility to repair our relations abroad. I think we really need about 10 or 20 Richardsons to get that done, though. :(

  7. Suckling on the teet (sic) of big tobacco?

    What was your correspondent smoking? I know, I know, everybody hates lawyers until they need one, but Jesus, that’s a big fuckin pile of stupid.

  8. I agree that Obama is the likely winner and Edwards will probably make a play to throw his support to Obama. I think Obama has the best shot against the Republican nominee.

    I am bothered by the Betsey’s view of the Republicans however. True, most of the “front-runners” offer more of the same, but it cannot be ignored that Ron Paul is not in that camp. Of any candidate, Republican or Democrat, none exhibit the inherent knowledge of economics that Dr. Paul does. If you really think any candidate has a better economic plan (and giving money to Americans [borrowed from the Chinese because we can’t afford to give the money from our deficit and war-spending] to then buy Chinese-produced goods to stimulate the economy is not a good plan) then by all means vote for that candidate.
    If you want a sound economic plan that will actually get the US back on track to being a credible world currency, I challenge you to find (and back up with credible sources) a better plan. Party lines need to be thrown out and the right candidate for the US to get back on track is Ron Paul.

    Paul vs Obama would be a great race!

    My 2 cents…

  9. You should have just encouraged the woman to strap a pipe-bomb to her torso and attend a Huckabee rally. It would rid the world of a few more sanctimonious degenerate, gay hustler fucking, anti-gay marriage advocates who enjoy defending child rapists (the Catholic clergy), mealy-mouthed billionaires (Romney), and crazy people (Ron Paul). Seriously, the world is sick of these Christ-groveling shit-eaters. Either commit suicide or get Raptured already. Leave the people who love life and reason and joy alone.

  10. Ron Paul is not just a Libertarian (not a Republican at all), but he’s an *extreme* Libertarian – the ultra-naive kind that doesn’t seem to understand human nature, or that many of the things he wants to get rid of were created to solve a problem in the first place.

    The shovel that is Libertarianism is great for getting rid of the top layer of dirt, but once you get down to the dinosaur bones, you need a brush and a dental pick, or you’ll do nothing but damage in your zeal. He might make a good Treasury Secretary, so he wouldn’t be the one making the final decisions. Same reason why I think McCain would make a great SecDef.

    Back to Ron Paul – he fits into the statement I’ve made elsewhere, all the GOP candidates this time around are either war hawks or religious nutbags (or both). Ron Paul says Evolution “doesn’t work for him.” This is a problem, though not the reason I couldn’t vote for him (the extreme Libertarianism is the main objection I have to him).

  11. Well, in NZ we call it Single Transferrable Vote, but I like the drainwater imagery better.

    FWIW we’ve been using MMP (mixed member proportional representation) for the last 10 years. You vote for an individual candidate to represent your area, and vote separately for the party you want to represent you in government. The total proportions of party reps in government are dictated by the second vote; after the area winners, the remaining seats are topped up from party lists.

    A direct result of introducing this system was that we went from having a two-party government to an eight-party one. Unfortunately, despite the best intentions of the voters, 100% of govt representatives have been politicians.

    I admit, everything I know about American politics, I learned off the West Wing. I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that the prez & the veep don’t even have to like each other.

  12. Heather,
    In the early days there was no Pres&Veep ticket. The Veep was simply the runner up in the Presidential contest, so they almost always didn’t like each other.

    “Leave the people who love life and reason and joy alone.” Irony surrenders, as they say.

  13. Jeremy,

    Nothing would give me greater joy than to see Christian fundamentalists turn their viscera into Jackson Pollock paintings, preferably in their own gay-hating churches. Fuck the lot of ’em.

  14. Speaking of you giving advice (are reviews inherently advice? I think so), thanks for the tip on The Time-Traveler’s Wife. It’s freakin’ awesome! That’s going to be my review on my site: it’s freakin’ awesome!

  15. Tumbleweed, there was no Nader lesson. That is a total myth. Those who have examined the polls and the vote carefully, such as Sam Smith at the Progressive Review, have concluded that in several key states, a) Nader took more votes away from Bush than he did from Gore, and b) that a majority of those voting for Nader would not have voted at all had he not been in the race.

  16. But if the last few weeks have shown us anything, it’s (a) Edwards is not going to win, and (b) he’s not going to drop out, either … not for a while, at any rate.

    I guess I shouldn’t ask you who’s going to win the Super Bowl on Sunday;-)

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