Other articles

  1. Duopoly (or why I'm not voting for Obama)

    2008 07 04 democracy


    Let me ask you a question: Do you think that the two-party system is good for the United States?

    I find it very difficult to engage in debates about national politics because the average citizen has so little influence over these matters. I think that it's much more worthwhile to get informed about and involved in local politics, because that's where someone like me can actually have influence.

    Nevertheless my own answer to the question is that it's probably not a good thing. There's this high-dimensional landscape of issues that people care and have different ideas about - reproductive rights, gun control, immigration, education, social programs, the size of government, taxation, the list goes on and on. Yet that gets projected down to this one dimensional line with just "Left" and "Right" with optional "far" and "center" prefixes.

    And, sadly, the common consensus is that on election day you have only two possible boxes to check. A single decision. One bit. 0 or 1.

    The Democrats and Republicans are playing a small concessions type of game. They sort of shuffle around slightly to appeal to enough of those voters who aren't already automatically voting for them. If you only vote for one or the other, they have no reason to change - they already have your vote.

    Voters in safe rarely contested states, have the unique opportunity to vote their conscience without fear ((Electoral College: bug or feature?)). When I twittered about Obama's support for the FISA Compromise, Philip, a disappointed California voter replied: "our voting system forces us to vote strategically and i'll be voting obama ." This doesn't make any sense to me! Obama will carry California. Democrats almost automatically get California ((The only way the Democrats might not get California is if Arnold runs as VP for a moderate Republican, and that just is not happening this year.)) .

    So why give in? You're not happy with the Democratic candidate ((There are more reasons to not be happy)), the candidate who will carry California regardless of how you vote, yet you still feel unable to voice your disapproval in the electoral arena. David wrote: "I'm not going to throw away my vote on the green party," but aren't you just throwing away your vote to the democrats, instead?

    The role of third parties is to emphasize new and different ideas, to bring folks who've given up hope back to the table, and to make the major parties shift in MEANINGFUL ways. Here are some great YouTube clips on the role of third parties in the US: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five.

    If you still have doubts about voting for a third party candidate and/or you live in a swing state - consider the votepact.org proposal: find a fellow kindred heart on the other side of the political spectrum who's also unhappy with the candidate on their side, and together vote for a third party (fill out your absentees together over coffee).

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  2. The practical and the ideological

    2007 03 15 democracy


    An Unreasonable Man To start off with the latter: on Friday, after dinner with Robert and Julia at Zachary's, we went to a screening of An Unreasonable Man - which filled the gap in my knowledge of Ralph Nader between Unsafe at Any Speed / Nader's Raiders and the 2000 election. Fascinating balanced documentary. You can still see it this week, but it'll only be around the theatres a short while.

    The practical: After getting lunch with Robert and Jon on Saturday, I got the chance to hear recent UCSB alum Logan Green talk about Zimride, this new cool webapp he's just put together. Carpooling made easy and safe. Here's what it looks like:

    zimride - carpooling made easy

    Zimride integrates with facebook, so you actually get to know something about your potential drivers/hitchers, and they might even end up being someone you know! Moreover, you can advertise your ride via those facebook stalker feeds.

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  3. Todd Chretien, Greens, Choice Voting

    2006 10 18 democracy


    Sentence long update on life: I'm at Berkeley studying Vision Science now.

    I've started getting involved with the (currently small) Campus Greens organization (which meets Mondays at 7:10 in 200 Wheeler).

    So today I heard Todd Chretien, Green senatorial candidate speak to a group of about 30 as part of the ASUC Speaker Series. Todd titled his talk "Why Students Should Never, Ever Vote for the Democrats," which I think is somewhat unfortunate. Todd has an eloquent platform and I share a lot of the same views, but I also think that the title incites the type of reaction that eliminates any possibility for reasonable discussion or discourse.

    I think that people don't want to listen to you if you insult them, or just say something shocking - the novelty (if any) quickly wears off (it's taken me a while to figure this out, but I think I learned the difficulty in trying to actively engage those who support the Democrats when talking (ranting?) to Janet on the streets of Brussels over the summer).

    I think that we need more boring nitty-gritty politics, because no one will hand over the helm to people with big ideas (even if they are the right ideas). The big picture is important, but it has to be negotiated with real, tangible, local progress.

    Todd gave a short run through of his top three issues ( war in Iraq, education, the two party system), and then opened it up for Q & A. In answering the questions, he covered a lot of ground in both domestic and foreign policy, but I felt like it was a discussion of issues larger than those someone who admitted he had no chance of winning could hope to influence....

    So as the last question for the night, after expressing these sentiments I asked what we could do locally, that's within our power, mentioning current choice voting efforts in Davis and Oakland. Unfortunately, Todd stuck to his anti-war protest-in-the-streets approach (even taking an outlandish pot shot at proportional representation by mentioning something about Hitler getting elected).

    Most of my life I, too, have been a big ideas person, but I can't say I've accomplished much with them, which is why I'm trying something new...

    By the way, Kenji and Philip, you continued work on important matters has been really inspiring.Here's my letter to the editor regarding choice voting that never got printed in the Davis Enterprise:

    Until I came to UC Davis, I had never realized that there could be different voting systems. Choice voting is a way of reaching a majority (greater than 50%) consensus.

    Choice voting allows everyone to vote their conscience without the fear of having your vote "wasted." After the polls close, if your top-ranked candidate, Alice, has the least amount of votes, she is eliminated and your vote transfers to your next choice, Bob, in your order of preference. This process ("instant run-off") continues until candidates reach enough votes to be elected (the threshold). This consensus building mechanism ensures that the elected officials will represent the greatest possible proportion of the voters.

    Contrast this with the current system: candidate Mallory and Minnie, representing a minority of the population could get elected when multiple similar candidates (Alice, Bob, Chris, and Debra) representing the viewpoints of the majority of the population split the vote between one other.

    This would not happen under choice voting, because when Alice is eliminated, those votes would go to the next choices of her supporters. This would provide more votes for the remaining majority candidates, ensuring that one of them gets elected.

    I encourage Davis voters to vote yes on Measure L this November so that the City can continue looking into this effective system.

    Paul Ivanov UC Davis Class of 2005

    (cute choice voting promotional video)

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