Category Archives: Voting

Lost in Translation

Politicians are by and large disingenuous peddlers of envy, fear, and blame. Once having convinced their customer (the voter) to swallow that message they then proceed to sell them the cure: hope. And naturally they are the only ones that can turn that hope into a reality. The formula is simple: You: Things are not as I would like them to be in my life or I’m afraid of what the future will bring, Politician: This is not your fault, it is caused by [insert despised group du jour], you are not in control of your life, they are. You: Wow, I feel so much better now knowing that I’m actually a victim and bear no responsibility for my life, finally someone has given me hope that things will improve. The Politician: Yes they will improve, but I need you to help me make that happen for you, only I can save you from those that are keeping you down. If you grant me unlimited authority over your life not only will I fix your problems but I will presume such a grant of authority entitles me to force others who happen to live near you to succumb to our will.
The most successful candidate is the one who effectively deliver that formulaic message. To be clear, one can be elected without following this approach. But as soon as someone sets up this model, they are virtually guaranteed to come out on top. Witness both Trump and Sanders, two politicians who are deftly employing this message. Trump peddles fear of “aliens” coming here to steal our jobs lower our wages and put people out of work. His message is rooted in the idea that basically anyone who is not American is causing America to not be “great” anymore but he’ll fix that and make American great again. Yes, because tariffs, price controls, embargoes and all manner of trade protectionism have worked so well in the past at improving the American economy (Smoot-Hawley Tariff anyone?) Price controls do nothing but enrich the few at the expense of the many.
And Sanders – he lays the blame for every societal ill at the doorstep of the evil 1%, or 5%, or 10% who are of course causing everyone else to be poor by hoarding all the money. Even though the math doesn’t work, he continues to insist that if only we raise taxes and make them pay “their fair share” that will fix everything. He decries high tuition rates and insists “free” tuition will fix that problem – ignoring the fact that tuition rates have increased at a rate 5x the rate of inflation over a time frame exactly mirroring when the federal government increased its support of higher education through grants and loans. Colleges increased tuition in the wake of a wave of “free” government money. What do you imagine will happen to tuition when a tidal wave of money enters the system? No, I’m sure no one will raise tuition if Bernie’s plan went into effect.
In the final analysis Trump and Sanders and everyone else are all the same. Their messages may differ in substance on a few minor points, but the structure of the message is uniform. They all propose to initiate violence against those that disagree with them (since if they agreed they would of course willingly do what was asked) in order to force them to comply with their ideas. Both sides obfuscate the violence behind a curtain of euphemisms. When you see words like “should”, “impose”, “must”, and “ask” uttered by a politician simply substitute those words for the phrase “send men with guns to threaten them until [they do as we desire]”.
So here’s a Bernie quote, “We’re going to impose a tax on Wall Street speculation” becomes “We’re going to send men with guns to threaten traders to hand over money if they engage in Wall Street speculation.” And Trump “[For] every car … that comes across the border, we’re going to charge you a 35-percent tax” becomes “[For] every car… that comes across the border, we’re going to send men with guns to force you to hand over money otherwise other men with guns won’t allow the cars to cross this imaginary line in the dirt.”
They are all the same. Anyone who supports the State as a means to improving their position in society vis-a-vis politicians supports the idea that violence or the threat of violence against peaceful people who disagree with us is a legitimate way to accomplish social or political goals. Oh wait, that’s also the definition of terrorism.

Constructive comments are welcomed to this paper or at Follow me at @gregtmorin

The Silent Majority

If one is a believer in the democracy and voting, then this demands at a minimum a respect for the concept of a quorum, that is, a minimum level of participation of those members (citizens) eligible to vote. Although the US constitution does not provide any specific requirements for a quorum with regards to voting by citizens, it does provide some insight into the minds of the founding fathers with respect to the importance of voter participation. Specifically, the 12th Amendment states that a quorum of at least two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives should be present if they are called upon to decide a presidential election (when the electoral college produces a tie). Given that voter turnout has never exceeded 67% in a presidential election it could be argued that none of our elected representatives are “legitimate”. Voter turnout in presidential election years hovers around 60% and 40% in off years. Therefore, 40-60% of the population found all options so distasteful they chose to abstain from casting a ballot. In other words, at last at the national or state level, no elected official has ever received majority support of those citizens eligible to vote. This inconvenient truth is ignored for the simple fact that were it respected it would be impossible for those “in power” to govern at any level greater than city council (and even that is in question). To truly respect the wishes of those not voting requires either providing a NOTA option on all ballots or to assume a tally of a vote for NOTA for each person not voting (NOTA= None Of The Above).

To the apathetic voter then I say take heed of the power you hold. If those of you who do not vote do so because you believe it won’t make a difference, then the fact that your constituency is 60% of the population should tell you otherwise. If you are tired of the status quo of the left and right wings of the officially sanctioned State Party – the party that stays in power no matter who “wins”, then seize this opportunity and vote Libertarian this election. Now I could write a book about why Libertarians are the better choice, but honestly, how could it be any worse? The two party duopoly has given us nothing but a soul crushing welfare-warfare state liberally sprinkled with either economic or civil rights violations. At least the libertarians are ideologically in alignment with the majority of Americans. That is to say, when people are polled on issues rather than candidates, they overwhelming choose libertarian positions (“I can’t believe this is instant coffee!”) Yes libertarians are the Folgers of politics. Try them, you’ll be surprised how much you like them.

In Georgia we have several libertarians running at the state level: Andrew Hunt for Governor, Amanda Swafford for Senate, Ted Metz for Insurance Commissioner. Some have tried to pin the “spoiler” label on them claiming that since no libertarian has ever won a high level office they have no chance and thus should not even bother. That’s a great message – if it’s never been done before then that means it can’t be done. Of course an actual election “spoiler” is someone who draws votes away from one or more candidates and thus alters the outcome of the election. But, since Georgia employs a run-off system it is mathematically impossible for additional candidates to play the role of spoiler; the top two vote getters (assuming no one got more than 50%) compete head to head in a run off. Some have said that third party candidates just waste public money by forcing expensive run-off elections. Well whose fault is that? Citizens exercising their constitutional right to run for elected office or lazy legislatures that refuse to implement Instant Runoff Voting. IRV not only eliminates additional costs with run off elections but it also negates the distasteful practice of “strategic” voting found in plurality voting. Such strategic voting only serves to further marginalize third party candidates so it’s hardly surprising why Republicans or Democrats would never promote such a system.

So to all of those in Georgia that have sat on the sidelines, now is your opportunity to send a message to our oligopolic status quo rulers: vote Libertarian and show the country that the “impossible” is possible. Vote Folgers.

The Voting Games

We are now less than two months from Election Day and the usual furor over voting has moved from low simmer to boil. Wisconsin’s voter ID law was reinstated last week setting off the usual liberal chorus about limiting votes. And in our own back yard, Georgia Republicans are chiming in to their own refrain about too much voting. It seems Dekalb County will now have Sunday voting. The Republicans have taken a perplexingly tone-deaf stance on this issue. Their oppositional argument amounts to: Sunday voting enables more minorities to vote, minorities don’t vote Republican, so this is bad. If the Republicans had any kind of political savvy they would come out in full support of Sunday voting and in fact should one-up the Democrats by supporting Saturday voting as well. It may come as a shock to some, but most people work on Tuesday (the traditional voting day). Perhaps, just perhaps, voting should occur on the day (or days) that maximizes the availability of the majority of the population. If Republicans truly are the friend of business they purport to be, then they would support weekend voting since weekday voting is invariably disruptive to business operations.

On one thing though the Republicans have a point (although not the one they intended nor the one they are being skewered for). Georgia Senator Fran Millar stated “I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters.” He is of course using the term “educated” in the sense of specific knowledge about the candidates or issues even though his opponents would like to frame his comment to imply minorities voters are simply “uneducated” in a broader sense.

I agree with Senator Millar – the voters should know whom they are voting for and why – and toward that end I propose that in order to be compliant with state law regarding campaigning near a polling place, that all notations of party affiliation be stricken from the ballot during a general election. That means no more “D” or “R” or even “I” (incumbent) next to names. These notations are a form of campaigning insofar as it achieves the same effect that campaigning would: the transmission of information to the voter about a candidate, even if in broad terms. If a voter cannot be bothered to know the name of their candidate, then they truly have no business voting. Such voters are muddling the process with noise and diminishing the voice of those that did take the time to become educated. Imagine the outcome of a vote on the best baseball player if 70% of the people voting know absolutely nothing about baseball? How valid do you imagine those results would be?

With respect to Voter ID laws I have never understood the controversy. In every other organization that uses voting as a means of decision making (clubs, unions, corporations, etc) no one would ever think of allowing someone to vote without first validating that they are indeed a member of said group. Why does this generally accepted principal vanish when it comes to voting in elections of the state? If you are a “member” (i.e. citizen) of the state, then show your membership card (this by the way is the only legitimate place a state can ask its citizens for ID). Why are some so concerned with the rights of others that those others apparently hold in low regard (seeing as how they can’t be bothered to exert even the minimal effort needed to obtain a voter ID card)?

Some argue that little evidence exists of voter fraud involving non-citizens or double voting so why bother checking ID. That argument is specious; it’s parallel would be the operation of a business with unlocked doors and no cashiers because that business determined its shoplifting problem exists only to the extent they occasionally happen to witness someone shoplifting. As the Russians say, “trust, but verify.”

So maybe we can reach consensus here, if we can agree that only citizens should vote, then it follows that once proving one’s citizenship, the form, manner, timing or location of said vote casting is immaterial.

Speech, Money and Means

Elections, campaigning, voting; these are all creatures of the state. To the extent the state itself is illegitimate, it is wasted effort to debate the legitimacy of internal rules of an illegitimate entity (a bit like arguing over the moral distinction between thieves that pick locks vs those that break down doors). So discussions concerning whether the government should limit political donations to this amount or that amount is entirely academic; there is no right or wrong answer given the larger context that compelling all to accept the outcome of an election is the true affront to individual rights (that is, the right to choose with whom one will associate).

With that said, however, I would like to touch on a common philosophical misconception that has been reignited with the recent Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. FEC. In this decision the Supreme Court struck down limits on total donation amounts to candidates and political committees (while retaining certain other limits). The predictable knee-jerk response then ensued from the progressive media outlets: Unrestricted giving means our democracy is for sale! More money in politics means only the well-funded candidates will win elections! Money is not speech! Ok, stop right there. The first two assertions are at least plausible (although plenty of examples abound where the more well-funded candidate lost), however denying the essential connection that money and speech have is to engage in intellectual dishonesty

What does the right to free speech entail? (Before I continue, for clarity’s sake “speech” is shorthand to describe any action that externalizes the thoughts or ideas of an individual). Does free speech mean we should be able to speak for free? No. It means that it is impermissible for anyone (which includes government) to aggressively interfere with an individual’s exercise of speech (assuming the speaker has not voluntarily agreed to limit that right under contract). Conversely it does not obligate anyone to assist an individual in his speech efforts. That is, speech is a negative right. If one wishes to spread their speech more efficiently, they may employ their own means (money, printing press, radio station, etc.) or they may ask others to assist them in their effort by providing them with those same means.

Speech is a means to an end. That is to say, we exercise speech in order to achieve some end. Means themselves often require other means to achieve them. For example, I buy gas (means) to use my car (means) to drive to work (means) to earn money (means) in order to buy food (means) to keep me alive (end). In a campaign the candidate’s end is to make the public aware of his candidacy and persuade them to cast their vote for him. This is done through speech from the candidate to the public. Speech is most efficiently disseminated using tools (print, radio, TV, etc) and those tools can often only be obtained via monetary trade. So, perhaps money is not literally speech in the same way that gasoline is not literally food, but in both cases the former is a direct link in the causal chain of means to achieve the latter end. To deny the significance of money as it relates to speech is to deny the legitimacy of utilizing any means to achieve some end.

For those concerned with the possible distorting effects of money in politics I would suggest ending the fixation on limiting money and rather focus instead on what the money is buying: power. If we commit to limiting the power of government over our lives, we will find the appeal of purchasing such impaired power likewise diminished.

The times they are a changin’

There is nothing quite like a Supreme Court decision to add fuel to the fire of politicized hyperbole. One example: the recent US Supreme Court decision regarding the Voting Rights Act set aside just a single section (Section 4) as no longer applicable as written – but the “sky is falling” remarks of those opposing the decision would have us believe the entire bill was voided AND that from now on the KKK would be in charge of voter registration. “Return to Jim Crow!” – “Rampant disenfranchisement!” Give me a break. All the court did was say that perhaps after 50 YEARS, just perhaps, there have been some changes in the hearts and minds of the citizenry in those states it was originally targeted at. To argue, as opponents are, that racism is just as prevalent today as it was 50 years ago is to willfully ignore not only all the gains minorities have made in the last 50 years but likewise the fact that we’ve added two new generations of non-racists since that time. Why do you think “gay rights” are more widely accepted today? Changing attitudes? Hardly. It’s just demographics. The prejudices of the old die with them. Is racism wiped out? No, of course not. But to suggest that there has been ZERO improvement is an equally absurd assertion.

If one truly believes in the anti-discriminatory role of the VRA then one should have been concerned that Section 4 focused solely on historical regions of discrimination while turning a blind eye elsewhere. Not only does it use stale data, it uses stale methods. To the extent racism does exist, it is no longer overt, it has grown subtle.  The methods used to root it out must change so that it can be identified. The rescission of Section 4 now provides Congress the opportunity to establish new criteria better suited to rooting out actual voter discrimination rather than imagined discrimination. If the disease is evolving then one’s treatment method must evolve with it.

“Oh but you’re wrong, as soon as this passed Texas moved to reintroduce a voter ID law!” I’m sorry; I have never understood this knee-jerk response that Voter ID = Discrimination. How is it that merely requesting proof that one actually has the right to vote can be construed as nothing other than a blatant attempt at discrimination? Is it not possible, just perhaps, that a border state, such as Texas, which possesses a large portion of non-citizen immigrants, would want to ensure that non-citizen immigrants are not voting (since in most cases all you need is a pulse to get registered to vote)? The most commonly requested ID is a driver’s license, but for some reason this is decried as creating an unreasonable hurdle for most minorities. Really, so the vast majority of minorities do not drive? To suggest that voter ID laws disproportionately harm minorities is to imply that driver’s license regulations disproportionately bar minorities from driving. If that is the case then it seems there should be more outrage over this horrible discrimination keeping our roadways nearly minority free.

Do voter ID laws create an impediment to voting? Sure they do… in the exact same way that the fact that the polling place is not in my living room creates an impediment to my voting. I have to expend effort in getting in my car and driving to the polling place. But it is minimal effort. In the same way, being requested to show some sort of ID before one may vote is not an insurmountable obstacle. It might take some minimal effort but it is doable. It’s not like you have to prove you can run a marathon before you can vote. If you can’t pass the tiny hurdle of obtaining the requested ID then apparently voting is just not all that important to you. So, please stop with the crocodile tears about how “voter ID” disenfranchises voters. If you are truly concerned with voter discrimination then use this opportunity the Supreme Court has handed the country and encourage Congress to fix Section 4 of the VRA so that it is relevant to the world we live in today, not the one we lived in 50 years ago.