The System is Rigged — So Change the System!

The U.S. election system is rigged against third parties. With Plurality Voting most third party candidates suffer the Lesser of Two Evils Dilemma. I have found a couple of loopholes. (Read the book!) But there may be an easier solution: change the system.

That’s right: easier!

Changing the Constitution is hard, so I’m not suggesting that we can easily fix Presidential elections. But states and localities have control of elections further down the ticket, and history shows that states and localities are open alternative voting systems.

Furthermore, election reform is a transpartisan issue. Here, libertarians, progressives, greens, good government types, conspiracy theorists, mainstream media, etc. can work together.

In fact, there is momentum happening right now — for the wrong reform. Maine has enacted a Ranked Choice method (specifically Instant Runoff) for future elections.

I could tell you in great depth why I think Ranked Choice is the wrong reform, but I won’t (for now). Instead, I wish to show you. Over at my older quiz2d site, I have created poll for the 2020 Presidential primaries using multiple voting systems: Plurality, Approval, Range, Ranked Choice, and Range with Runoff. Give it a try yourself. Notice the complexity of Ranked Choice: both for filling in the ballot and for viewing the results.

In the future I will post deeper arguments. For now let reality do the talking. Take the poll and encourage others to do the same.

An Easy Plan of Action

The time for lobbying is not yet. To change the system we need more people to understand the problems with Plurality and to fully understand the alternatives. My online poll is a start.

A good next phase is to encourage people to try alternatives in smaller groups: social clubs, fraternities, sororities, church groups, school clubs, corporate boards, etc.

To some degree we already use Range Voting in these situations. A voice vote is a Range vote. Loudness is a measure of passion. Not just head count.

Perhaps the simplest reform would be to replace Robert’s Complicated and Easily Gameable Rules of “Order” with Approval Voting when people want to amend a motion. One way to kill or pervert a motion is to quickly offer an amendment. Debate can run longer on the amendment than the motion itself. This happens frequently at Libertarian Party conventions.

One particularly dirty trick is to offer an amendment to make the main motion worse in hopes of killing it. We have some bad laws on the books from times when this dirty trick backfired.

Approval Voting makes it possible to debate and vote on multiple versions of a motion in parallel. Just have a vote on all the versions, allowing people to vote Yea on as many versions as they approve of. The version with the most Yeas wins. (Or Nay wins if none of the versions get a majority.)

If this is not good enough, Range Voting would be the next step. This works well in a small group, like a committee even without electronic tallying. I first experienced Range Voting when I was on the Libertarian Party’s Strategic Planning Team. It worked well. This says a lot, since the LP leadership is nearly as good at gaming parliamentary rules as the U.S. Senate.

For a bigger group, electronic counting would be the next step. If I had the time and/or the money to pay some developers, I’d write a web/phone app that clubs could use for electronic voting at conventions and other largish meetings. Better yet would be a free software project so clubs could own their databases. (A shared service concentrates power. Mmmmmmmm, power…)

When enough people have seen the benefits of better voting systems in practice, taking it up to the government level will be fairly easy.

Free Liberal or Eco-Conservative?

Free Liberal or Eco-Conservative? That is the question.

The Democrats are descending into socialism. The Republicans are flirting with fascism. Congress has become a dysfunctional food fight. These are dangerous times for civility and democracy. We need an alternative and fast.

Some of my longtime friends say we need to revive the original meaning of Liberal. Recently, a member of the Holistic Politics discussion group suggested a Free Liberal Party. The idea has merit; I bought the freeliberal.org domain years ago for this possibility. I have a book fermenting in the back of my brain on the subject of mixing classical liberal economics with reducing inequality.

On the other hand, there are quite a few Never Trumpers in the Republican Establishment. They are politically homeless, but still powerful and knowledgeable on the inner workings of government. They need new allies in order to regain real power. Trump and the ghost of the Reform Party took away their blue collar allies.

A conservative version of the Green Party might work. Once upon a time the Republican Party was the part for environmentalists. Recall Theodore Roosevelt. Think of the old conservation societies that conserved nature for hunting purposes. Think of country clubs, long the biggest users of electric vehicles. An Eco Conservative alliance is very natural.

And without such an alliance, conservatives may become an endangered species. The political Right has depended on the old folks vote, on people who will be dead before global warming become a real problem. The younger generations have reason to be concerned about the future, whether we are talking carbon dioxide buildup or chronic fiscal deficits.

So, Which Should it Be?

Though I bought the freeliberal.org domain years ago, and once helped distribute a free newspaper called The Free Liberal, I grow leery of the Liberal brand. I have learned the hard way that words have very sticky connotations. While the truly educated and those from across The Pond know the original meaning of Liberal, for the masses, the word connotes Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, an alphabet soup of government programs, and agonizing quantities of bureaucratic paperwork. And for egalitarians in the potential target market, the word is said with a snarl, with the prefix “neo.”

I think an Upper Left coalition would do better with a different name. I have one in mind that is a bit ugly, but has clear connotations.

Of course Eco-Conservative is also problematic. Conservatives don’t like Eco- and cool young people instinctively flinch at “Conservative.” So I wouldn’t use this name either — except as a generic placeholder. (I have a much better name in mind, but haven’t bought the domains yet.)

Which Coalition?

The better question is: Which coalition?

Historically, I had pleasant experiences pitching the freedom-equality alliance idea. During my Asheville days I spent many a pleasant hour quaffing beers with progressives who considered the Clintons to be right wingers. I have written articles for lefty sites like Oped News with decent responses. The aforementioned Free Liberal was well received in the lefty coffee shops we distributed it to.

But those where the days when the far Left was against Hate and into Consciousness and yoga. Today, the far Left is into actively hating “Hate,” and they study Modern Indignation Studies instead of advanced anger management. The mavens in the movement see the danger of a liberalitarian alliance and are responding viciously with a wide assortment of strawman attacks and name calling worthy of The Donald.

I have become less hopeful on the prospect of building a new Upper Left coalition.

But I could be wrong. Maybe the Democrats are due for a split. Maybe a Never Bernie faction will walk out as the Cultural Marxists take over their party. Being a heterosexual white male Democrat is becoming as awkward as being a black Republican. I could envision the remainder of the New Democrats (people like Bill Clinton and Al Gore) walking out and joining a new coalition if the identity politics faction gets yet more traction.

Then again, I could see Al Gore joining an Eco-Conservative alliance. He was rather conservative back in the day.

The ugliness I see coming from the Left today is what I used to get from many conservatives. Upon hearing certain libertarian positions, I got variations of “You just want to smoke weed” or “You toke, therefore you are stupid.”

Today, many conservatives are much cooler with the idea of drug legalization. And now it is the Right, including the Christian Right, that is on the defensive and is thus in favor of freedom of speech and association. The environmental bits are a harder sell.

But I suspect much of the global warming denial on the Right is more teamism than natural inclination. Let the oil companies and the anti-intellectuals keep the Republican Party, there many tens of millions of people from the original Republican base who are ripe for an Eco-Conservative message, with a bit of reasonable libertarianism mixed in. leaning.

Go back almost century, and recall the demographics and sense of life of the Republicans of the day. The Republicans were the blue bloods, the mainline Protestants, the prosperous city dwellers, the preservationists, the classical music listeners — the sort of people who watch PBS and listen to NPR today. They were also the party of the well educated, not the party of science denial.

They were also the anti racist party. The first nonwhite in the presidential succession was a Republican (Charles Curtis, Vice President under Hoover).

They were also the party of peace back in the 20s. Recall the Kellogg Briand Pact.

That Grand Old Party is long gone. Today’s Republican Party is a mix of Know-Nothings and Southern Democrats.

There is plenty to build on besides the Never Trumpers. Many in the original Republican base left long before The Donald came on the scene.

Admitting my Personal Biases

When I was on vacation a week ago, I weighed the tradeoffs between Upper Left and Eco Conservative while listening to the waves. I got lots of plusses and minuses when contemplating Upper Left. I got nearly all plusses when weighing the possibility of an Eco Conservative alliance.

But I was factoring in personal factors as well as overall viability.

  • My first exposure to libertarian ideas was the Narnia books by C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis was a free will Christian, an ethical hedonist, and deeply appreciated nature as God created it.
  • I am a Christian. There is an anti-Christian vibe in the Libertarian Party that I expect would carry over to a party based on any variant of the word Liberal, or even themed on equality.
  • I am a cis gendered white male who pegs out the WASP meter. Some of my ancestors arrived in Virginia in the early 1600s. My great great grandfather was a friend of Robert E. Lee. In the taxonomies of today’s lefty identity politics, I am an a priori supervillain.
  • I am a nerd with a sense of humor. Odds of getting into trouble with today’s egalitarians is 100%, even when I am trying to help.
  • I am a father, a homeschooler, a scientist, and a consumer of organic foods when available. I am very much a member of the Eco-Conservative target market.
  • While I frequently curse what government regulations have done to automobiles and appliances, I also love tinkering with eco-technology.

So yes, my personal biases affect my inclination.

Which is why I’d like to hear from others. Which alliance do you consider more viable? More useful?¬† Please comment below or on the Facebook discussion board.

The Book is Out!!

Roughly 114,000 words, this is a real book, even if it is only available for Kindle. (This is about three times the size of the version of the Plan on the web.) Get it here.

Draft Preface for My New Book

The U.S. political system is broken. The Democrats and Republicans have stopped talking to each other. Our legislatures lurch from one party rule by Democrats to one party rule by Republicans. We could really use a new political party, one capable of winning enough seats in Congress so that no party has a majority. Then our legislators would have to talk to each other instead of at each other.

Congress has a horrible approval rating overall, yet individual Congresshumans get re-elected as a matter of course. Our incumbents need some real competition in November to keep them honest and connected to The People. A viable third party — or several — would be very helpful.

The pendulum swings between red tape and environmental neglect, high crime and overflowing prisons, budget busting new programs and budget busting tax cuts for the rich, sloth-inducing welfare programs and mean-spirited benefit cuts. Who can we vote for to get a balanced budget? Who will give us environmental protection using sound economic principles? Who will simplify the tax code without more giveaways to the super rich than they even want? We need a new political party.

So why don’t we have a viable third party in this country? Why do new parties regularly fail to get off the ground? Why are we limited to zombie third parties that are too radical to win elections?

The answer: The U.S. political system is rigged against third parties. The Two Party System is built into the way we count votes.

But here is the good news: I have found a loophole. Two loopholes, actually. It took two decades to find them; two decades of exasperating argument, arduous effort, expensive experimentation, and humbling defeat to find these loopholes.

You can find these loopholes simply by reading this book, an effort thousands of dollars and hours cheaper. (Maybe I should charge more…) Exploit the loopholes within and you have a chance at creating a viable third party.

A chance.

Politics is a competitive game. You still need to play it well in order to win some races. The rest of this book contains a large collection of wisdom to help you do just that. I played the third party game for a quarter century, and got to pick the brains of many an experienced activist, including quite a few national chairmen. I have some lessons for you that you can learn the hard way, or learn from a book…

A Quick Political Resume

My claim is audacious. Perhaps some credentials are in order.

I played the third party game for a quarter century from many positions: solo activist to party meeting regular, obedient volunteer to local leader, callow radical to heretical reformer. I have planted signs, dropped literature, knocked on doors, worked booths, chaired a campaign, chaired a county party, and launched a PAC. I have done experiments, written polling software, and designed outreach literature. I have served on several national committees, and towards the end led a reform effort that caused a rewrite of the national platform. (Look up “Portland Plank Massacre of 2006.”) And along the way I had the privilege of discussing ideas and strategies with a wide variety of experienced activists.

All this was within the Libertarian Party, but don’t let that stop you if you aren’t a libertarian. This book is meant to be a general purpose guide. I want to see some third party Representatives in Congress even if they are members of a party I disagree with. (That said, many of the examples in this book do come from my Libertarian Party experiences.)

I also have a bigger hope. Since I left the Libertarian Party a decade ago, my own views have drifted considerably from true libertarianism. Though I still love liberty, I am game for certain active environmental and egalitarian measures. I am hoping some of you reading this book will succeed in creating a party I can enthusiastically join.

What’s Inside

This book is divided into seven parts, with multiple chapters in each:

  1. Political Science and Third Parties. Herein lies the Secret Sauce, the two loopholes that allow third party success despite some political science theorems that indicate otherwise. Heed the information here and you have a chance at success. Ignore the constraints, and failure is almost guaranteed — unless you start with a charismatic billionaire celebrity candidate.
  2. Branding and Positioning. Put on a well-tailored suit, have a three martini lunch, and light up some cigarettes; it’s time to go into Madison Avenue mode. Here we look at several possible market positionings that take advantage of the loopholes found in Part 1. What kind of people are likely to be an early adopter for your party? How do you reach them economically? How do you craft a brand that appeals to both your early adopters and future swing voters? Many possible party names are revealed. Feel free to commandeer one if you are serious. Or use the examples to inspire your own brand.
  3. A Strategic Framework for Third Parties. To truly succeed, you need be to between ten to a hundred times better than existing third parties. I’ll show you how this is theoretically reasonable using a bottleneck analysis. And we’ll explore ways to measure which bottleneck is the tightest.
  4. Lessons Learned in the Libertarian Party. High level strategy is all well and good, but the basic nuts and bolts of lower level strategy and tactics are still extremely important. Some things you can readily learn by trial and error. Other lessons require millions of dollars of experimentation. Fortunately for you, the Libertarian Party already spent the millions of dollars. I’ll give you a large collection of useful tips I picked up working with them. (The LP has a wealth of the nuts and bolts wisdom within. The party struggles because its base refuses to heed the lessons of Part 1 as a matter of principle.)
  5. Persuasion, Mindset, and Political Platforms. A quick sampling of persuasion “magic”, and suggestions on where it works and where you need to actually resort to rational argument. This is followed by tips on the art of crafting a viable platform and general outreach messages.
  6. Intent vs. Effect. Are you a progressive who likes to subsidize the rich? A conservative who likes breaking up families and increasing crime? A free market capitalist who looks forward to hyperinflation or another great depression? A libertarian who looks forward to war and dictatorship? An environmentalist who likes SUVs? If so, you can skip this part. Otherwise, read carefully to avoid mistakes common among political thinkers from all over the map. And you can find some creative solutions waiting for a new party to make them happen.
  7. Starting from Scratch. Some parting thoughts on how to get off the ground when you are starting with just a few people and extremely limited resources.

Promises and Caveats

If you are truly serious about starting a new political party, this guide can save you a great deal of time, money, sweat, and heartbreak.

  • The principles and examples in Part 1 and Part 2 can make the difference between creating yet another zombie political party, and creating a party that has a future of winning partisan elections.
  • The strategic insights and case studies in Parts 3-5 can save your party thousands of dollars in the early stages, and millions of dollars later on.
  • Should you actually succeed, the ideas in Part 6 can save the country trillions of dollars in counterproductive policies.

So how can you get all this at such a low, low price??

Answer: I cut some corners. This is a self-published book. Editing is limited.

  • This book does not conform to Egbert Quillfellow’s Anal Retentive Guide to Academic Style.
  • Capitalization conventions are archaic and inconsistent. Microsoft Word does not approve.
  • Citations are often imprecise or to secondary sources.
  • Some of the ideas are merely introduced. Further reading is required.
  • There is humor within. If you recently time traveled here from the Victorian Era, have a degree in Modern Indignation Studies, or devoutly believe that this country is secretly run by a coalition of Jewish bankers and lizard men, I will offend you.
  • There are at least three significant errors within. It is left as an exercise for the reader to find them.

Acknowledgments

The principles within follow readily for the philosophically trained thinker who starts with the correct a priori assumptions…NOT!!

True wisdom comes from a mix of reason and lots of expensive Trial and Error. The dedicated activists and donors within the Libertarian Party put in the millions of dollars and many thousands of hours trying out ideas in the field. Even where I criticize their current strategies, they deserve credit: it takes trying out ideas — while doing enough other things right — to find out what doesn’t work. Many thanks to Libertarians across the country with whom I have had the chance to argue strategy in person and online over the years. This includes ye radicals who disapprove of this book and my actions leading up to it. (Though I have left the Libertarian fold, I’d love to see ye elect 50 Libertarians to the House of Representatives. But are you willing to make the necessary adjustments?)

Special thanks to the Libertarian Party affiliates in Northern Virginia and Buncombe County North, Carolina. Thanks for the real world experience and for making my experiments possible. And thanks for the good times.

As for the ideas in Part 6, thanks need to go out to a very wide array of people. They are the result of testing ideas in recreational debate with people all over the political map: liberals, socialists, Republicans, gun activists, environmentalists, hippies, Democrats, Libertarians, and more. Ye forced me to reconsider ideas and hit the books many times — though sometimes a few years after certain discussions…

And finally, thanks to my family for patience while I wrote this book.

New Facebook Group Created

The number of inquiries about starting a new political party has been huge this year. (I wonder why?) I’ve begun to realize that I have become the bottleneck in this process.

So I’ve created a new tool for those interested in doing something active to connect and discuss their ideas: a new Holistic Politics Facebook group. ¬†Unlike the page, the group allows all members to create posts. I’m going to be light in the administration. As long as you are reasonably polite, on topic, not selling aphrodisiacs, and/or advocating illegal activities, you can post away.

And “on topic” is not limited to starting a party. The group is for discussing anything related to what is on the Holistic Politics site.


That said, there are downsides to Facebook groups. They are too much oriented by timeline vs. thread for my taste. Realtime conversation can be a real time sink. Drilling down to see old comments is annoying. Facebook’s whack-a-mole interface fatigues me.

So I intend to set up an old school forum on the site as well. This may take me a while.