Pete makes $500

In looking at the blog history it would seem this is becoming the Pete Buttigieg fan blog but I assure you its not.. Its just that he is capturing the zeitgeist right now and I’m pretty excited about it because he’s one of the few candidates I really like in this race so far.

By capturing the zeitgeist, I mean that he is gaining traction every single day and everybody seems to be talking about him and when he talks to interviewers he blows them away. Every Single Time. It’s fairly incredible.

The most recent interview (a great one) was with with Mehdi Hasan on the Deconstructed podcast. I urge you to give it a listen.

Anyway, all this energy has ignited his fundraising (which, weather you like it or not is a great way to tell who is making headway) and they just blew away their March 31 goal of $500,000 which is a big deal. They are hiring new staff and building a lot of institutional foundations. I urge you to drop him a few dollars if you can.

Anyway I just want to reinforce to you how crazy it is that we show support for candidates by giving them money. At high dollar levels (for rich people and businesses) this makes complete sense since their money buys them access (read : bribery). But at our level it essentially means: “I want this person to be president and I want to help them get there so I’m throwing them a few of my hard earned dollars”. Think for a second how crazy that is. That our voting system is so messed up that we can’t expect the best candidate to win on their own so we are putting up our own money to help them. Why do we do this??

Mayor Pete

Nobody so far has captured any kind of real energy this election cycle than Mayor Pete Buttigieg. This guy is pretty incredible. As an example, just read this interview with the Washington Post from the other day and tell me that he doesn’t make you feel like “oh, this guy knows what’s up and I have total faith in his leadership”.

The sad thing is that even though everyone I speak to totally loves him, none of them think he can win.

It seems to me that mostly they feel this way because he’s not got name recognition or because he’s gay and America isn’t ready for a gay president or because he hasn’t raised a lot of money or because he’s a small town mayor and not a Governor or Congressman.

I say all those reasons are stupid and short sighted. If the Trump election taught us anything its that people can beat odds as long as their message resonates with people and Buttigieg _resonates_ with everyone who hears him speak.

I will say that he is at a significant disadvantage when you consider the way we vote. I will continue to say this over and over again until you become outraged enough to speak out about the evils of plurality voting yourself when talking with others about this election. Of course if you haven’t read about it, see my post here.

Warren Town Hall

So I watched the Elizabeth Warren Town Hall last night on CNN. Here’s the deal.

I thought it was ok. Nothing special, but just ok. I really like Warren and I think she would make a fine president and I agree very much with many of her views and her plans. However, there is something odd about her that I can’t put my finger on yet. I think it has to do with genuineness. There is something kooky about how she comes off.

First off, know this: I firmly believe she is a genuine person and she believes in what she’s saying. But still, she seems like she’s trying to get across her points and all her interactions with the people asking questions are just stepping off points to get to where she wants to be. It’s like she’s a politician, even though I trust her.

This was demonstrated perfectly with her “I’m gonna go get a beer” moment. I mean, I think it was genuine? Maybe? I don’t know. But if it was staged, why do it? She doesn’t need to pretend to be a regular person because she already is. What’s going on here?

Like I said, I love her and I’d love to see her win, but I feel she needs to just drop the act and be herself because she’s coming off fake. It this is the way she is (also possible) then its a bit kooky and I need to get on board with it I suppose.

As an aside, one thing she talked about yesterday was the repeal of the Electoral College. This is a great idea and something I’ve been begging for for quite some time. Interestingly, it’s not very hard (relatively) to do since it doesn’t actually require a constitutional amendment. There is an effort underway that has currently passed in 13 states including New York and California (in PA where I live the bill is stuck in committee and has been for a 2 years now). The effort is called “The National Popular Vote interstate compact” and the way it works is simple. States pass a bill saying that if a point comes where enough states (equaling 270 electoral votes) pass bills, then they all will immediately switch to allocating their electoral college electors based on the proportional vote tally of the popular vote. This is because the constitution allows the states to determine how to allocate their electors.

So, if you want to know more you should head to the NPV website here.

PSM episode

I dig the Pod Save America podcast and listen to it often but sometimes its not as substantive as I’d like to be. The latest episode “I’M GONNA REGRET THIS SPEECH.” is not that. In fact it’s the opposite. After some discussion about the batshit crazy CPAC speech by the Donald, they dig into 2020 and talk about polling, issues and voting and elections in a really interesting way. It’s totally worth a listen if you’re into this kind of stuff.

 

You can’t always get what you want

I’d like to start this post with a quick detour into voting systems. And by that, I mean, the systems we use to count our votes to determine who wins. There is an _amazing_ book that should be required reading for all voters called Gaming The Vote. This book goes into a bit of history and demonstrates why the current way we count votes is completely terrible and often leads to results that do not reflect the will of the voters. The central thesis is that when you have more than two candidates in an election, the plurality system (she who gets the most votes wins) totally breaks down in many un-obvious ways.

One of those ways is that candidates can get elected with a small percentage of the vote total. Think about that one factor. There are 4 candidates and you love A, B is ok, C is eh but you hate D. In fact, the D candidate is pretty different than A-C in what they believe and A-C are pretty interchangeable to a large group of voters. (eg. D voters hate candidates A-C and A-C voters hate D).

The totals end up 30% A, 19% B, 17% C and 34% D. Is it right that D wins with only 34% approval? If the people who voted for B and C knew D would win and A had the best shot they would have gladly voted for A and thus A would have clearly won. If you think about it as A-C vs D (which is kind of is when you consider the platforms of the candidates) it’s clear.

The above problem not only shows you how shitty the results can differ from the real will of the people they also demonstrate another problem with plurality voting: strategic voting. People start to cloud their decisions by thinking about who actually can win the election rather than who they want to win the election. You can probably see a ton of examples in the past where this was an issue and imagine a ton more where it will be an issue.

I won’t get deeper into this, but this kind of stuff, to me, is extremely fascinating and the subject of many, many studies. What I will tell you is that while the studies often suggest differing solutions _all_ of the studies say that our current system is the worst. Two of the most popular systems that I’ve heard about are Approval Voting and Ranked Choice.

Approval Voting is beautiful in its simplicity. It requires (almost) no changes to machines or the math. When you go to vote, you vote for all of the candidates you approve of. So in the example above if you were an A, B or C voter, you’d vote for all 3. If you were a D voter, you’d vote for D alone. At the end, whoever gets the most votes will be the winner. Just take a second to think about how incredible this system is. Its so clean and elegant, it’s the system (last I checked) that the International Society of Mathematicians uses to pick their officers.

The other system that I like a little less is called Ranked Choice. The reason I don’t like it as much is because it’s a bit more complicated and I think that may turn off some voters and voter turn out is low enough. However, it’s gaining some traction (I think it was used in Maine in the last election) so I am totally for it. In this system you rank your choices when you vote (eg. A, C, B, D) and they use a bit of math to compute who wins based on runoffs: If no one has 51%, they drop the lowest vote getter and reallocate their votes based on their rankings and then recompute then repeat if necessary. This system again is _way_ more representative of the will of the people. I think this Radiolab episode (which I heard 2-3 months ago) talks about an election in Ireland that uses this system.

Ok. So where am I going with all of this?

The way we choose our presidential nominee is terribly unfair and will not reflect the will of the people.

This is not only based on the voting system (see above) but also on the fact that we do primaries on different dates and also a bit on the fact that our elections are not publicly funded (maybe we dig into this another time).

So, assuming that we had our primaries on the same day, what would happen is that the field would be incorrectly split up based (mostly) on ideological leanings, on the ways the candidates are different and also the same.

In very broad strokes:

by Economic beliefs : (Bernie and Warren) vs. (Kamala and Gillibrand) vs. Booker vs. Klobuchar

which would mean that the election would be between Cory and Amy since the others would split each others votes.

by Sex: (Bernie and Booker) vs. (Kamala, Gillibrand, Warren, Klobuchar)

so this would come down to Bernie v. Booker.

etc.

Of course its a lot more complicated when you come up with different venn diagrams and put them all together, but I feel that the election will be decided in these ways. This is how Trump became the nominee. He was so different than the rest of the field that they all split up the opposition to him in every primary. Will this happen if Joe Biden joins the race?

The moral to this story is that I feel that unless we change the way we vote in America, we will never get the candidate we all are happy with. And that’s sad because in every election, such a candidate does exist.