31 August 2012

Math and Elections

by Frank Turk

OK – the first Party Convention is over; the second is coming, and a lot of people are going off the deep end as usual.  Since I live in the deep end, and am comfortable here, I have the first of several posts about thinking about the election which I hope you find at least thought-provoking.  This one doesn’t include any Bible verses, so for those of you who are hoping Jesus will tell you who to vote for, and therefore tell others they are going to hell for voting against, you will have to look elsewhere (at least for today). Also: this is not really what we usually do at TeamPyro, but because it is part of a series on thinking about politics and this election I am writing, we will start with the merely-pragmatic.

Last before starting: this is not an endorsement of Mitt Romney.  This is an examination of one claim by one group of people regarding what they say they believe about voting in this election.

So there’s a lot of hysteria about voting for Mitt Romney right now, especially from two different kinds of conservatives.  One kind can’t vote for a Mormon.  The other kind can’t vote for a politician in the real world who, frankly, doesn’t agree with them on every jot and tittle – and supposedly on at least one major political issue.  If you are one of these people, this post is probably not for you.  I will deal with you later.

There is one class of voter this post is for, and that’s the voter who isn’t a huge fan of Romney, and is not a fan of Obama, and wants to vote for anyone else more attuned to their stated political beliefs – for example, Ron Paul, or perhaps Pat Robertson, or perhaps Sara Palin – someone farther to the right with better Bona Fides than Romney.  But they know, in their heart, that this vote is a vote of conscience and not a vote which will actually cause that man to be put into office.  So when they are confronted by the objection, “A vote for [other] is a vote for Obama,” they ask the astute question, “Pray tell: why isn’t it a vote for Romney?”  DJP has dealt with this 4 years ago, but I have something it seems most people have not considered.

Math, my dear friend: Math.

First: objectively, let’s say we have more than 2 candidates (let’s say 3, but it could be 7), and in the choices A, B, or C one votes for “C”, it should be said that a vote for “C” is in fact a vote against both “A” and “B”.  There’s no question about that – plainly, the vote is objectively “Not A” and “Not B” but “C”.  The problem is that this only assumes that the natural bias of the system would render all choices of equal weight, and a protest vote for “C” against “A” and “B” would have the same effect against “A” as it will against “B”.

Now: what do I mean by a “natural bias”?  I mean this:
Political party         Registered members
Democrat (BLUE)         43.1 million
Republican (RED)        30.7 million
Constitution             0.367 million
Libertarian              0.278 million
Green                    0.246 million
Independent  24.0 Million

(source: procon.org) 
The natural bias in the electorate, not accounting for partisan enthusiasm or lack thereof, is that the “BLUE” side will get 43.7% of the votes (assuming party loyalty), “RED” side will get 31.1 % of the votes, about 2% will vote for a radical candidate, and there will be 24.3% up for grabs.  In a world where, as some are supposing, the major candidates are just about the same sort of elected official, there’s no reason to believe that the “I” votes won’t be split in half – so the final result of this election would be roughly 55-43 BLUE victory.

The natural tendency, given the base inclination of the registered voters, is to skew BLUE.

Now: think about this.  What has to happen for the election to skew RED is some combination of the following:

  • Suppressed BLUE voter turnout (“suppressed” meaning the voters don’t show up – not that they are imprisoned or threatened to stay away from the polls.  Don't be like that.)
  • BLUE turnout swinging to RED (meaning: moderates make a pragmatic choice to select away from base party affiliation)
  • Independent voters overwhelmingly turning to RED candidate vs. BLUE candidate (like: Reagan)

Only these outcomes influence the RED benefit positively, mathematically.  Or put another way: only these outcomes negatively influence the BLUE benefit.

There are no scenarios where RED-side voters (such as Constitution and Libertarian) voting either for a non-major party candidate or sitting out benefits RED and not BLUE.  RED-side voters must vote RED because they are in the registered minority. If they expect ever to get an outcome on the RED side in the general election, they have to vote for the likely winner on the RED side.

Therefore: So what?

1. Do whatever you think is best in the primaries.  I think you should vote as far to the side of the spectrum you favor as you can stomach in the primaries.  You should pull your party as far to your way of thinking in the *internal* decision-making process as you think you and your like-minded friends can do it.

2. You have to accept that if our republican form of government is a legitimate form of government, you are never going to get everything you want – even in your own party.  And you have to accept that, frankly, that’s a good thing – because you are a sinner just like that tax collector over there.  Literally.

3. Once the primaries are settled, you have to do the math.  That is: you have to vote for someone with a mathematical likelihood of winning if you really want to affect change.  By that, I mean this: historically, there is no way in the clear blue sky that you will ever get a BLUE-side candidate who will get less than 43% of the vote.  It simply will not happen.  That means your candidate, to actually affect change, has to get a minimum of 44% of the vote to win.  Given the numbers above, that means all the Indie voters, and more than half the registered “BLUE” voters.  If your alternative candidate cannot get that many votes – and I propose to you that it doesn’t matter who he is: he can’t get them – then you have to ask yourself: do I affect any change by voting for the mathematically-guaranteed loser?

4. Relating to the question asked, above, this is exactly how a vote against Obama but not for Romney ensures Obama’s victory: mathematically, Obama has a winning plurality of core voters, and no one else does.  Seriously: if the electorate splits by registration saturation, BLUE wins the plurality.  When you cast your vote, you need to vote remembering that if you cast a vote which creates a plurality, you are spinning the result toward the party with the inherent plurality-winning base.

1, 3 and 4 are simple mathematical realities; 2 is a political reality – that is, accepting the rules by which the game is played.

Hope that helps.  More next Wednesday.


Larry said...

The Bible teaches that God puts the powers in place and He can take them out. Right - God is sovereign, people vote and let's say that Romney wins just exactly how does that work? I think we know the answer!!!

Frank Turk said...

There is such a thing as ordinary means. We have to refuse to be HyperCalvinists. We have to accept the warning in James 1-2, that a faith which does nothing in the real world is no faith at all.

Andrew Lindsey said...

I'm glad that when centuri0n's repeat comment was deleted, the Pyros also deleted my last comment, so that I did not appear to be a random idiot, when I was going for 'obnoxious idiot.' :)

R.C. said...

Frank, your math assumes, at least in my case, at least one thing that just isn't true. Though I have never voted Democrat or Republican in a presidential race, and though I have voted every election since eligible, mine is not a "protest vote." I'm not voting to send a message. I'm voting to express my will. That's what the word "vote" means. My will is that the state would protect all unborn babies. Therefore neither party is "closer" to me since neither party is committed to this, and both explicitly say so. In short, I'm not on some spectrum. I wouldn't vote for the Republican under any circumstance short of being committed to protecting all unborn children. I wouldn't vote for the Democrat short of being committed to protecting all unborn children. So my non-Romney vote is no more a pro-Obama vote than my non-Obama vote is a pro-Romney vote. Thank you though for the thoughtful article and I look forward to the rest.

Linda said...

Frank, I didn't know that this type of error in my thinking was hyperCalvinist.. Thanks for putting a name on it since I have been struggling with this area in my own life-James 1-2 when it comes to God's Sovereignty and my response to HIM by faith

Bill said...

Frank, a question, not a provoke...does it ever enter your calculus that you will give an account someday of the liberty you've been given to vote and ultimately for whom you've voted? Thought provoking post, thanks.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Great analysis, I haven't seen it analyzed in quite this way before.

Whenever someone I meet says they are voting for a unelectable , I always ask the person who they would vote for if they weren't voting for Ron Paul, Gary Johnson etc. If they say "I'd vote for Obama," then I say nothing to them; if they say "I'd vote for Romney," then I point out that they are helping elect BO.

Nash Equilibrium said...

R. C.,
Yet the Republican platform that says "no abortion, even in cases of incest and rape," is constantly being harped on by the media as reasons why the GOP is filled with Neanderthals.
Hard to imagine the Democratic platform even saying what the GOP platform says, isn't it? So there is a difference between the parties.

Unknown said...

I wondered how long it would take for this blog to jump the shark after Phil left. Now I guess we know.

I love your groundless accusation of HyperCalvinism for recognizing that our job is not to be pragmatists, but to do what we are convinced is right.

As they say Frank - inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument.

Frank Turk said...


With the utmost respect for you personally, that reasoning is at least 3 things:

3. Utterly without regard to the argument presented in this post. You can express your vote as an act of worship, or as an act of rage, or as anything else in the range of your own self-assessment of motives -- that doesn't change the math. Calling a wasted vote a virtue because you said so is post-modern at best. This post is about the simple math of how any candidate will win a plurality of votes when more than 2 candidates are considered.

2. Mostly without any consideration for what the alternatives to RED and BLUE really represent -- which are in all cases, types and degrees of anarchy. Don't think so? The level of organization they can sustain without violence or splitting ought to clue you in to this one (but that is for a future post).

1. Somewhat juvenile -- but it's mitigated by the number of people in the small circle of believers in this way of thinking who have convinced each other of how high-minded it is to be free-willed. Tossing your vote out the window (see above: math) is not an expression of "your will" unless "your will" is a will to be intentionally thwarted, intentionally overcome by the status quo. You can't change anything when you are constantly defeated in such a way that you are also ignored by those who, frankly, you ought to be seeking to gain attention from.

Frank Turk said...

Linda: the HyperCalvinist trusts God's sovereignty without regard to ordinary means. The key example, of course, is evangelism: the HC thinks evangelism is unnecessary because God is sovereign in election and regeneration; he ignores that God sovereignly has decreed that the proclamation of His Word is the ordinary means for calling in the elect and regenerating them.

Of course, James in the epistle never calls it HyperCalvinism: he calls it faithlessness to declare faith and do nothing about it -- and the killer is that while his prime example is Abraham's offering Isaac, the secondary example is Rahab hiding the spies -- which is, among other things, a political act.

DJP said...

Frank: absolutely dead serious, as good as the post is, this comment is so deft, contentful, solid and on-target that you could almost replace the post with it and move the post to a comment. I'll feature it at HT.

Really, no exaggeration: masterful.

And I countered One-Star Hater with my 5, even if (but not) only for that comment.

Linda said...

Oh no Frank (horrors) I don't do that!!I've shared the Gospel many times and take such great joy in doing so. I'm not a hyper-calvinist except when it comes to things like voting and God setting up Kings and bringing them down.
But I still fail to see how James 1-2 applies to such matters as voting.

Frank Turk said...


It absolutely does and must enter into it -- which is why voting in such a way to allow an outcome which is categorically-worse (without, of course, getting your hands dirty by actually voting for the outcome but convincing yourself that you have voted against it and you are clean before God) ought to matter to more people.

Let's say that the majors you are worried about are abortion, fiscal responsibility, and education -- all noble endeavors, but of varying moral value (I think they are listed highest to lowest). Let's be really clear: what we have today is as bad as it has ever been -- and in the next 4 years 1 or 2 supreme court justices will likely retire, so it could conceivably improve or stay the same; it could also get worse on at least 2 of those fronts as the current administration continues on its current path. The primary alternative is to vote for the other party, the other candidate(s) (various offices), in order to make the change presented -- even if it is not all the change either necessary or even prudent. In that scenario, maybe fiscal and education are unchanged but abortion is constrained from expansion.

In that scenario, you have not made things best: you have made things better. And let's face it: you are not Christ. You cannot make things best. You only hope is to make things better when we are speaking of moral actions.

Your choice -- to do nothing, or vote for the candidate/party that cannot win -- is simply choosing to walk away from the problem so that your conscience can be said to be clear. The account you give for this is, "Yes, Jesus: I understood what I was doing, which was keeping my hands clean while effecting nothing at all."

Linda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Linda said...

"the secondary example is Rahab hiding the spies -- which is, among other things, a political act."

Humm, now (that's) something to ponder on for me today

You always seem to jog my mind

Nash Equilibrium said...

"As they say Frank - inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument."

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" - Emerson

R.C. said...

Right back at you on the respect side, though I find your response puzzling. I don't mind you concluding, and perhaps this is all you are saying and I missed it, that voting third party is not voting. I don't believe that, but I understand it. I do mind, and again, maybe I missed your point, the assumption that when my vote goes third party it is taken out of the Republican party. Is that not what your math implies? Finally, there needs to be a corollary on that whole, "first one to call the other a Nazi loses" law that replaces Nazi with postmodern. There was clearly more rhetoric than reason in your reply.

DJP said...

Worse than that, Frank, such a person must tell Jesus "what I was doing was keeping my hands clean while effecting nothing at all, and while piously lobbing bricks at everybody who actually was doing something."

R.C. said...

Nash, Here's what puzzles me. How is it that when both major parties agree that the state ought to protect the "right" of some mothers to murder their own children as a difference between the parties? If the R's said "We will protect a woman's right to murder her baby on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays" and the D's reply, "Evil Neandrathals! We will protect their "right" to do so Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays" would you tout this a difference between the parties?

Frank Turk said...


You and the one-star hater are my favorite people on the internet. Your convictions run so deep that you sign your name to them, and the world come what may.

oh, waitasec ...

Frank Turk said...

R.C. --

What I can't fathom is how you think that's any kind of a rational argument based on facts. You have morally-equivocated the murder of 1 baby with the murder of 200 babies -- literally, based on the number of abortions. In your view, accomplishing the end of 199 abortions is a null accomplishment and in fact a sinful accomplishment.

I am sure Jesus will say, "good job, thou good and faithful voter, who never saved anyone from abortion because you were voting to save all of them."

Breaking from the Pack said...


I believe you forgot one very important detail. That detail is that we do not elect a President by majority vote but by the Electoral College. Due to this fact, I believe on needs to take into account whether or not you live in a battleground state. If you live in a battleground state, a vote for anyone other than red may very well be a vote for blue. However, if you live in California or Texas, there is no way blue will lose California and there is no way red will lose Texas. If you live in a state that will absolutely be blue or red, I feel you are more free to vote your conscience without any concern that your vote will be a vote for red or blue. In states already decided, your vote will simply be a vote for not blue and not red.

DJP said...

...because somehow "moral mandate" was removed from the dictionaries one second prior to posting.

Frank Turk said...

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’

Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?

DJP said...

All right folks, thanks for coming, be sure to tip the waiters, and drive safely on your way home.

...because, to anyone who reads the post, the post Frank links to, this last Frank comment and the comment I highlighted — that's it.

Frank Turk said...

Breaking FTP:

Actually in CA, the breakout is:

RED = 44%
BLUE = 35%
IND = 18%

The math is exactly the same. Your sense of the math is different.

R.C. said...

Jesus left the 99 to go rescue the one. Don't think the story would have changed had there been 199. A certain baby, conceived by rape, fell among abortionists. Republicans left him to die for the sake of the 199. These too died when the "pro-life" Republicans controlled the Senate, the House and the White House. People kept voting for them. And no one helped. I am not equivocating 1 and 199. I am affirming that human life is human life, however conceived. Those who call the exceptions position pro-life are the equivocators.

Rachel said...

Frank- thank you for this. I thought that it made sense to vote for someone who has a chance at being elected but the ‘this guy is morally better even if he doesn’t have a chance’ argument was tempting. The math has certainly helped solidify how I make the choice of who to vote for. No matter how wonderful the moral motivations for my decisions are, voting for someone who has absolutely no chance of winning is in effect doing nothing. Or worse, helping out the person who I really don’t want to be in office. I guess I need to consider the issues candidates take a stance on and the repercussions of voting for them.
Math is helpful.

Rational νεόφυτος said...

"A vote against Obama but not for Romney ensures Obama’s victory..." Some people I know just don't get this simple concept, considering how the system is really all about two candidates (and the occasional, silly, Ross Perot).
And as much as I don't want to vote for a cultist rino, it's a lesser of two evils thing of him, or the Molech-worshipper-in-chief.

Frank Turk said...

RC --

At this point, I think you're just trying to see if you can make me cork off. I know how entertaining that can be, but I'm not going there today.

Here's how Matthew presents that parable:

10 See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

The 99 are not left to die; they are left "on the mountain" -- which is a safe place. Calvin says those 99 are "in his possession," not left in danger.

Luke says it this way:

4 What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’

Calvin's comment is that those left "in the open country" are on a "continued and uninterrupted course of righteousness." to say that Christ abandons them to death unless he can also save the one is, frankly, beneath anyone who is serious about using this passage for moral guidance.

Frank Turk said...

Also critical, so that I am not misunderstood as saying the one in 199 is not worth saving:

Every human life is sacred. The slogans which minimize this are utterly false, utterly deceptive, utterly blanched from any human kindness of parently instinct -- let alone real moral courage.

Because this is true, being so holy that you will see to it that 200 babies will die because you cannot save all of them is equally callous. It is, frankly, the abortionists logic transposed. He wants to make society holy and pure; you want to make you holy and pure -- without regard to the actual babies dying. In his view, if they all can't be in the politically-accepted class, they can die -- it's a fair swap. In the other view, if they all can't be saved, at least one has preserved his own personally holiness -- it's a fair swap.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Let me say it as plainly as possible:
Right now, outlawing abortion altogether is impossible. If you don't help to defeat Barack Obama, he will appoint SC judges who will make outlawing abortion even more impossible. Instead you will toss your vote out the window for the sake of making yourself feel better, and more unborn children will die as a result.

And you are doing it because you don't want to choose between the lesser of two evils, but instead you are going to choose the lesser of three evils (your third-party candidate, Mr. Notachance).

Nash Equilibrium said...

oh and please don't make Frank cork off, as he is a menace who must be stopped.

joel said...

The only reason I would not vote for Romney is if I wanted to destroy the Republican party and replace it with a party that hopefully would have conservative values at its core. How is this for a reason not to vote Republican?

Andrew Lindsey said...


The party platform does not allow for exceptions and endorses a personhood amendment.

It is only through a unified govt. that that platform would have a chance to be put into place.

Though Romney may not agree with the platform, there is no chance that he will veto a law in accordance with that platform, less he entirely alienate himself from his party platform.

The difference between the platforms could not be more clear; we should vote the platform even more than the person.

R.C. said...

Alright gents. While I have no high blood pressure meds for Frank, I too don't want to push him over the edge. Since my arguments are postmodern and cork tempting I'll keep them to myself here. I'll go back to my baby killing and Obama electing and doing nothing.

OFelixCulpa said...


Your argument is, I think, much better than Dan's, but I can't agree with you. If it really has come to the point where we don't, for all intents and purposes, have the freedom to vote for anything except what is put forward by the approved establishment parties, how are our elections any different than those which were held in the USSR? If what you are saying is true, then I would have to conclude that the supposed privilege we have to choose our leaders is completely meaningless.

The answer your question at the end of point 3 ("How do I effect any change by voting for the mathematically-guaranteed loser?") is not that difficult. Voting is our only way of communicating with the parties. A vote for what the GOP is pushing communicates that we agree and want more of the same. A vote not for the GOP signals that we want something else (something like what the third-party candidate we vote for says).

It seems that you are obstinately refusing to acknowledge the obvious point that third party candidates (and those who vote for them) generally don't do what they do for the sole purpose of winning elections. They can do good even when they don't win.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Politics is "the art of the possible." Joel, RC, and Felix: You all seem to be forgetting this fact. Implications of this fact:
- If the Republican party dismantled itself and replaced it with a monolithically conservative party, then it would start losing elections. (That's why it hasn't done that).
- the place where you get to vote your conscience is (as Frank noted in his article) the primaries. If the voting populace ever gets to the point where there are enough true conservative voters to make a true conservative the nominee, then you'll get your wish. But until then, no party is going to make itself unelectable in order to satisfy people in the party who don't represent a majority of the voters.

MTHudson said...

I think my first comment swam off into the aether. Pardon me if it shows up later and renders this comment partially redundant.

If you accept Frank's math, this becomes an interesting question:

In the parable of the talents, would "I refused to do business with the major merchants in the marketplace because I couldn't endorse all of their business practices." be a substantially better answer for having no return on the master's talents than "I know you are a hard man, reaping where you do not sow."?

Thanks for the post, Frank.

joel said...

"If the Republican party dismantled itself and replaced it with a monolithically conservative party, then it would start losing elections. (That's why it hasn't done that)."

Nash- you seem to have a perfectly traditional understanding of how government works, or in least how it is supposed to work. For you to assert that if it would result in winning elections the Republican party already would have dismantled itself and coalesced as a conservative party is not anymore logical than saying that if it meant winning this upcoming presidential election the party would have chosen a strong conservative as its nominee. I don't really think you believe that.

Frank Turk said...


You ignore my "so what" #1 -- and I don't blame you because, frankly, more than 50% of Americans ignore #1. The first "so what" in my post is that you have to participate with gusto in the primary process -- which means you have to belong to a political party and not just duck your head in the morally-warm sand of independence. It means to participate, and you risk losing the argument for the sake of improving the argument -- and then finally winning some of your objectives.

You know: 4 years ago, Paul Ryan was utterly untenable as anything but what he was -- because of the cultural environment we were in. But now he's a stellar VP candidate who can offer real reform -- and he's hard-core pro life. That happened because people in the RED party got serious about being in the RED party and participating in the process. The other side of that coin is that there is also a limit to the influence that wing of the party is going to get to influence -- because they are not a majority, and they are also not ever going to be a unanimous voting block.

My advice is actually: vote according to the math this fall to get what you really would prefer, and then join the system rather than merely howling at it.

Frank Turk said...


It's too bad what you want is permanently able to be achieved -- by your own admission. What will you do now besides call the rest of us names in order to feel better about your pessimism?

Frank Turk said...

Just to say it out loud:

Goodness of God? No comments

Vote in the election you are dealt? COMMENTS!

joel said...

The sad ugliness of pessimism Frank is that people don't want to recover from it. It can be as addictive as any other drug of which I am aware.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Frank - it's a good sign. The goodness of God leaves nothing to dispute!

Nash Equilibrium said...

Joel - political parties are marketing organizations that evolve as the populace evolves. You seem to think that unless they dissolve themselves, they cannot change. Perhaps your black and white way of viewing things in general explains some of this perspective, but if you consider that the Democratic party 150 years ago was the party of Jim Crow and slavery, maybe you'll start to see that your view of the world doesn't reflect reality.

Yes, the Republican party would change into a truly conservative party if what you would define as "truly conservative" could garner enough votes. That's why the GOP nominee was the liberally-prone McCain four years ago, and why the more conservatively prone Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney are marketable enough this time to get the nomination.

I'm a libertarian for the most part (not on abortion, though) but I vote for the lesser of two evils, rather than the lesser of three evils (as you apparently do), in order to effect change in the direction that I want, even if it isn't as far as I want the change to go. It's still directionally more correct than BO's direction.

Bill said...

Please let me know if I have this right. There are many factors that go into deciding whom to vote for this election to include abortion, homosexual marriage, the economy, possible SCOTUS nominees, etc. The factor that seems to trump all others is math, i.e. electability (aka what the polls say). While a third party candidate may score extremely high on what you think a biblical leader might look like, don’t waste your vote by voting your conscience because he/she can’t win. Could this be construed as asking people to modify their convictions (so at least things go slightly less south than if you really did vote your convictions)? BTW, don’t trot out the “pastor in chief” canard please. Lastly, is there ever a reason to vote third party?

joel said...

Down deep at the bottom of my pessimistic, black and white and somewhat twisted view of reality is I believe a legitimate concern. As Frank pointed out things are worse now than they ever before have been. Worse enough in fact that they might alter Frank's otherwise sound arguments and logic. What if Romney is not enough to turn back the tide but only to diminish it. What if what is required, not just desired, is a strong conservative government. I think that many people, myself included, have been doing our best to reform the Republican party from within for a long time and it doesn't, in my pessimistic view, seem to be moving in the right direction. This is the only reason I am toying with the idea of something I have never done before. I am toying with the idea of for the first time in my life not voting for the most electable (best we can get) nominee. It seems that I am faced with two options: voting for Romney knowing that he will only slightly decrease the speed with which we are headed for the cliff, or try and shoot for a more radical reform that is almost certainly doomed to failure.

Nash Equilibrium said...

The first step toward getting further from the cliff is to stop driving toward it quite so fast. Then afterward, you can worry about stopping, turning around, and finally driving in the other direction. Right now we are driving at breakneck speed toward the cliff. Do you want to start the slowing down process, or do you want to put the person back in the driver's seat who has had the pedal to the metal for four years?

joel said...

Who is looking at things black and white now?

Nash Equilibrium said...


I don't think anyone here is modifying their convictions, they are modifying their actions to bring about directional change, not absolute change (which is unachievable).

Your "lesser of three evils" candidate already had their chance to win, and lost, because this country has a two-party system and they didn't secure the endorsement of either of those parties. In other words, face reality. Math is real, as Frank emphasized.

Your choice (and everyone else's) is between whether to be an ideologue who has no (positive) influence on the outcome, or to be effective.

Like most of us, I know lots of third party voters. I'm not saying this is true of you or of all but for the most part they are what one would call cranks, the same people who believe that the government staged 9/11, that we did the moon landing in a Hollywood studio, that childhood vaccinations cause autism, and so on. Looking at the judgement of such people has never given me a warm feeling about the wisdom of third party voting. But that's strictly a confirming factor in my mind, not the meat of the argument against it.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Joel - that depends on the circumstances, if you catch my drift. Nice try though.

Jeremiah Greenwell said...

"What if Romney is not enough to turn back the tide but only to diminish it? What if what is required, not just desired, is a strong conservative government?"

Uhm, Joel, I have biblically solid news for you; no one will ever completely turn the tide for America. There's only one army and one nation that will stand in that day, I don't see the great old US of A anywhere in scripture as it.

Stop looking for salvation in politics; it's not there to save you or the world, it is only there to diminish and restrain evil. You can have your day trying to establish a messiah for the nation, I'm just looking for someone who actually hopes to have a chance of improving things, even if only slightly.

...And my cat would be a better president than him.

Tom Chantry said...

Don’t take this the wrong way, Frank, but this thread demonstrates the difficulty of discussing politics from the position of biblical ethics. I don’t mean it’s impossible, and I don’t assume it’s a bad thing, but it’s difficult.

The reason is that we have to translate from biblical situations to our own, and there is no direct correspondence. In the days of the New Testament, for instance, there were only two types of people in the world: Caesar and everybody else. The Bible has a lot to say about how Caesar ought to rule. (Be just and righteous, uphold good and suppress evil.) It also has a lot to say to everybody else about how they ought to live under that rule. (Submit to those in authority over you, right up to the point where they require you to obey man rather than God. At that point, refuse.)

Now, we can translate that into our world to a certain extent. It means, if you are a judge hearing a case, that you must never create or uphold a precedent which legitimizes the murder of children. It means, as a subject to the governing authorities, that you should respect the worst of judges, but that you must never yourself perform or contract for an abortion.

However, what the Bible does not anticipate (I didn’t say God didn’t see it coming; look up “anticipate” - third definition)
was a circumstance in which everyone else would collectively determine who gets to be Caesar. In that circumstance, we all share a tiny sliver of Caesar’s authority - so tiny that we are all more everybody else than we are Caesar. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore that sliver; we must think in terms of using our vote to uphold good and suppress evil.

The heart of this debate is that it isn’t always easy figuring out how that responsibility works out in an ever-changing modern political climate.

Understand, though, Frank didn’t address this post to Mitt Romney, or to Justice Roberts, for that matter. He addressed it to a bunch of everybody elses who happen to hold tiny slivers of Caesarial power. If Frank had said to someone entrusted with our authority, “It’s OK with me (and with God) that you’re in favor of murdering one out of every two-hundred ‘unwanted’ babies,” then I would be the first to pillory him for that statement.

It isn’t what he said. He said, in essence, “Understand what your sliver is good for. If you try to use it in concert with a few dozen of your close, jaded friends, then you throw it away, and you fail, because evil prevails. On the other hand, if you use your sliver together with several million other sliver-holding everybodies, you just might suppress evil to some extent.

That strikes me as a pretty careful application of biblical ethics to the circumstances in which we actually find ourselves. Remember, when Clint said last night “You own this country,” he didn’t mean “you” - singular. He meant you along with 250 million other guys, and you’ve all got the same miniscule atom of power.

At the same time, this demonstrates pretty well why I believe politics fall under Christian Liberty. Frank’s right, I’m sure of that, but if someone is going to get it wrong, I won’t view him as an evil man because of it. There is freedom to interpret these things differently.

Jeremiah Greenwell said...

I mean 'the current one.'*

Nash Equilibrium said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nash Equilibrium said...

True, and your cat wouldn't eat dogs, either, which would be another plus vs. the current one.

Now I want to see Frank write an article on Math and Election

Frank Turk said...

| Please let me know if I have this right.

You seem like an honest fellow, Bill. Shoot.

| There are many factors that go into
| deciding whom to vote for this election to
| include abortion, homosexual marriage, the
| economy, possible SCOTUS nominees,
| etc.

We agree. So far, so good.

| The factor that seems to trump all
| others is math, i.e. electability (aka what the
| polls say).

I think perhaps, you didn’t read my post, Bill. You cannot find the word “electability” in my post. It is not implied. What is overtly stated is that if the voting goes the way it will naturally go, it’s possible for a RED-side candidate to win in a 2-man race; it is not MATHEMATICALLY possible for a BLUE-side candidate to win in a 3-man race – unless the unthinkable happens, like a mass defection from the center-left.

Since your hypothetical candidate is not going to be centrist (see: your list of issues), how likely is that, really?

Knowing this – and this is easily known; my nephew in 1st grade can do this math – how exactly is voting 3rd party actually causing the worst candidate to lose?

| While a third party candidate
| may score extremely high on what you think
| a biblical leader might look like, ...

Aha! First: you have no idea what I think “a biblical leader” might look like (I’ll wager; I’ll wait until you read my post on that). Second: I’ll bet your definition of a “biblical leader” is mistaken. Third: I’ll bet your first choice from the humans living today is not everything you are here cracking him up to be. But: you might surprise me.

| ... don’t waste
| your vote by voting your conscience
| because he/she can’t win.

OH! So close! See: in your view of this, you see casting your vote for a perfect candidate as being the extent of your moral obligation. That is: if we have choices A, B and C, and “C” is the best man for the job, “B” is bad, and “A” is worst, and you vote for “C”, you have won this round of putting your faith to work.

It’s actually a pretty funny view of the thing, the more I mull it over. See: if we changed this thing just a little and said, “if we have choices ‘murder my own child and his friend’, ‘save one of them from drowning since I am the only hope for one of them,’ and ‘Give a lecture on water safety so that no one ever drowns again,’ and you choose for ‘C’,” we see right away how utterly incoherent the act of conscience argument is. There is no question: “C” is the most utterly-innocuous activity you can participate in. It is utterly worth-while both in motive and in implemention. The problem? It ignores the problems expressed in “A” and “B”. It is big-picture thinking gone complete haywire, not only missing the trees, and the forest, but the continent they are all residing on.

| Could this be
| construed as asking people to modify their
| convictions (so at least things go slightly
| less south than if you really did vote your
| convictions)?

Nope. It means making a choice like any adult will make any other choice. If my choices are “murder my family in a car wreck,” “budget and save so that I can make repairs in the correct interval,” or “I must buy a new car when this one any needs repairs,” of course the last one gets you shiny-clean and new, but it is both unrealistic and unsustainable. You choose the reasonable, attainable alternative to negligent harm.

It means selecting from the attainable and sustainable options. It also means acting like any decent manager or engineer acts: setting goals which sustain continuous improvement.

| BTW, don’t trot out the
| “pastor in chief” canard please.

I’m not the one trotting out the “Biblical Leader” card. I haven’t even mentioned such a thing yet. But oddly: you did.

| Lastly, is
| there ever a reason to vote third party?

Since you asked it that way: No.

Think about a better way to ask that question – like: “What would a third party need to become a viable alternative to the two major parties?”

Frank Turk said...



Brian said...

Since the math shows that Libertarians represent such a small number, when BLUE wins this election are you going to blame it on those who supported there own party or on the fact that the Republicans put forward the very worst possible candidate that they could find (basically a democrat in republican clothes). Bottom line, I see no difference between the two candidate's RECORDS (not their rhetoric, since Mitt is only scratching evangelical ears). This election is not even the "lesser of two evils", it's more like Evil in RED tie or Evil in a BLUE one. No matter which way you do that math, we lose.

Frank Turk said...


I think I did write a post on "Math and Election".

Just sayin'.

Frank Turk said...


You really see no value in Romney turning the budget of both the Olympics and Massachusetts around from red to black?

You really don't see any value in a fellow who issued 800 vetoes of spending appropriations to a democratic legislature in MA?

No value in a guy who has proven himself as a leader in the private sector?

Really? None?

Who would you rather see in his place?

Nash Equilibrium said...

Touche, Frank. I see it there right at the end of the article, in the sense I meant election!

Bill O'Neill said...

Loving this post and comment string. I'm more comfortable with math now than before as a basis for helping me to see thank I must repent of sleeping through the primary (where I could have done something with my point of view.)

My massive struggle is the deleterious impact Mormonism will have on an already pathetic evangelicalism in American Christiandom. Obama and his universalism is likewise harmful but a wink and a nod to anything remotely Christian. The Glenn Beck factor is, after reading this, a primary election matter.

Regardless, the church has the opportunity to step up in either circumstance. And SCOTUS is the most important _political_ matter in November.

Frank Turk said...

Bill O'Neill:

The question of how this main-streams Mormonism is an interesting question which I hope to address in a future post.

To the rest:

I am AFK for the weekend, and therefore can't monitor the meta. I am shuttin' 'er down.