The Liberty School

The voting compromise

I’m sick of the “that candidate just doesn’t have a chance” meme. So I’m going to discredit it.

Often times people tell me that my preferred candidate can’t win, that people have to unite on someone they agree with 70%-80% of the time for the sake of beating someone they agree with only 10% of the time. Well, let’s play a numbers game.

Let’s say there are 50 voters who generally agree with each other. Five decide to vote for the underdog candidate. Of the other 45, 20 of them – less than half – say that they are going to support the establishment candidate because the other guy just can’t win, even though they agree with that candidate far more. Winning, they say, is more important than the ideal candidate (many would argue about what the precise definition of winning is, and that you can never win if you compromise). Remember now, this is less than half of the remaining voters.

At this point, the establishment candidate wins 45-5. Anyone see where I’m going with this? If you do, you’re either an uncompromising voter, or you’ve been cured already. If not, keep reading.

A second scenario has the aforementioned 20 voters having a bit more faith and following the first five in voting for the person they support the most, avoiding a compromise. Suddenly we are at a 25-25 tie. And there goes that argument, one-fell-swoop.

Now many people will claim that it’s not that simple; that the dynamics brought on by such things as closed primaries make it easier for the base of a party to select a candidate that is too far outside the mainstream. This, of course, is said only by people who are not part of said base, and disagree with you anyway.


Filed under: Politics

2 Responses

  1. Rick Sincere says:

    Your example seems to have limited utility, as it applies only in two-way races. What is the calculus for a race with three or more candidates?

    • frashure says:

      Good question.

      I was actually applying this to three-way general elections (though I suppose it could apply to four-way races in which each ‘side’ had its own division) though the math may only show two candidates. This is because I was focusing on division of one side only; ie. mainstream Republicans vs more tea party-esque conservatives, libertarians who may be urged to support a Republican as ‘the only chance of winning.’ My assumption is that people who are faced with the issue of a voting compromise are generally inclined to be more strongly attached to an ideology (progressives, tea party conservatives, libertarians) and aren’t likely to consider all of the candidates in the field anyway.

      Your question does have me revisiting the issue of primaries in which there are more than two candidates, however. As well, I now feel as though I failed to adequately address the dilemma of keeping the worst candidate out of office as opposed to having the best candidate win.

      This is why feedback is valuable. Thank you!

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