Monday, August 1, 2016

My Vote Counts, Part 1: Game Changers

As I said last time, voting for the lesser evil can actually make sense in an election decided by the popular vote or even the U.S. Presidential election if you live in a state that could go either way. To understand why it's unlikely that solid states are going to suddenly go to the other candidate, imagine you live in a state where 100 people normally vote. We'll call it Centuria. Unless it splits its electoral votes like Nebraska and Maine do, Centuria's electoral votes are going to go to the party that gets the most votes. 51 of Centuria's voters always vote Republican, 40 of them always vote Democrat, and the remaining 9 are Independents who could go either way and sometimes vote for a third party. Even if every single Independent sides with the Democrats, the Republicans still win Centuria's electoral votes. There are only three things that can change this: Republicans voting for the Democratic candidate or third party, Republicans not showing up to vote, or an influx of new Democratic voters to the polls.

In the 2016 election, there's a chance of defection on both sides, since both parties have nominated incredibly unpopular candidates. Most of these defectors, however, will likely go to third parties rather than the other mainstream party. Democrats aren't going to vote for a nutjob like Trump and Republicans have been told for 25 years that Hillary Clinton is Satan incarnate. If anything, the Republicans probably have a psychological edge when it comes to retaining the votes of possible defectors now that most of the GOP establishment has (however reluctantly) backed Trump. Authoritarian-leaning voters aren't going to defy Daddy, no matter how wrong he is.

A lot of voters will also likely stay home, but that once again gives the GOP the edge. The Democrats are almost guaranteed a win if there's good voter turnout, but a lot of Democrats just can't be bothered to vote unless they're excited or inspired or otherwise made to feel special, which is why the Republicans inevitably take control of Congress in those boring old midterm elections when there aren't enough people posting about politics on Facebook for it to seem worth doing. After all, what's the point of wasting your time in the voting booth if you can't be smug about it later? The GOP base, on the other hand, votes in every election, probably because they're so old and white and economically stable that even a slight variation on their daily routine is exciting. Or maybe it's the little flag sticker. Right-wingers love the shit out of some flags.

I don't think either party can expect a lot of new voters this year, either. The Democrats probably have a slight advantage in this area thanks to Bernie Sanders, but not a very big one. Many of his supporters were third-party voters who would have made an exception for him and will now go back to "throwing away their vote" now that Clinton has the nomination. Clinton might have had a shot at getting some votes from the first-time voters Sanders mobilized, but between the conspiracy theories about voter fraud, the actual collusion between the Clinton campaign and the DNC revealed by the Wikileaks emails, and the open contempt Clinton showed for Sanders supporters by giving Wasserman-Shultz a campaign position before she was out of the DNC parking lot, I don't expect a statistically significant number of those people to show up to the polls for her.

So yeah, the chances of a game-changer that makes states flip are low, so it's a safe bet that voting will follow typical patterns in November. Solid states are probably going to stay solid, but some states are more solid than others, so knowing how your state's electoral history can help you determine exactly how meaningless your vote will be in November and whether your vote for the lesser evil will actually help keep the greater evil out of office. If it doesn't, voting for the lesser evil just makes it seem like people like evil. Next time, I'll look at the states where your vote is almost completely meaningless.

I'm less evil than either of this year's candidates, so vote for me (with cash) on Patreon!

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