Saturday, May 7, 2016

Abstention in a Clinton vs. Trump election

Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.  That's the choice.  That leaves the Sanders crowd and the "Never Trump" crowd in a tough spot.  Interestingly, some Sanders supporters are still in denial about Clinton's inevitable nomination, spurred by Bernie's own delusions, but I deal in facts, so let's talk about who abstains in a race between Hillary and The Donald.

Sanders supporters insist that Clinton is too compromised, too close to "Wall Street," and basically just Republican-lite anyway.  "Bernie or bust."  The neverTrumpers, well, he's Donald Trump.  They just can't bring themselves to vote for Tony Clifton, I mean, Donald Trump.

That brings us to abstention.  Is it rational for these voters to abstain, or vote for a third-party candidate, which is effectively abstention anyway?

I bet you expect me to blather about how everyone needs to vote because of civic responsibility and democratic legitimacy and blah, blah, blah.  I'm not.  It's not rational to vote!  If the "Bernie or bust" crowd and the neverTrumpers abstain from the general election, then they are being more rational than you poor saps who waste your time at the polls.

Math time!  Voting is costly.  The cost isn't big, but it isn't zero.  It takes time, and a tiny bit of effort.  And, hey, we're 'mer'cans!  How much is the cost?  Let's call it C.

Then there's the benefit.  Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are... not the same.  Even if you hate both, you would be at least slightly less unhappy with one as president than the other.  Let's call that reduction in misery "B."

So, you vote if C < B, right?  Not so fast!  You don't matter.  There are more than 300 million people in this country.  If you don't vote, the outcome is the same.  Even in the absurdly close 2000 presidential election, the final margin for Bush in the official tally for Florida was 537 votes.  If one of those Bush supporters had stayed home, Bush still would have been President, having taken Florida by a margin of 536 rather than 537.  If one more Gore supporter had bothered to show up and vote, again 536 rather than 537.  You don't matter.

Or, rather, the probability that your vote will swing the outcome of an election is lower than the probability that you will be hit by a bus and killed on the way to the polling place.  So vote.  Or don't.  I don't care since I'm not paying your funeral bill.

So, the "Bernie or bust" crowd and the neverTrumpers would be rational to abstain.


That's about the probability of swinging the outcome.  There is something else lurking in the math.  How big is B?  How different are Hillary and The Donald?  This is where the abstainers' logic falls apart.  If you are a neverTrumper because you don't trust Donald to govern as a conservative, is there a higher probability of conservative governance with Trump or Hillary?  That should be a no-brainer.

If you are a Berniac who sees Hillary as so compromised that she is no different from Trump on policy, here's your problem.

What's the difference between being $50,000 in debt on your credit card, and having no debt with $20,000 in savings?  Big, right?

Not to Warren Buffett.  That dude is seriously rich.  From his perspective, both circumstances make you a pauper.  Get it now?  If you are far enough from the ideological center of the country, then any two candidates even remotely close to being considered "mainstream" will look indistinguishable, even if they are on the far ends of mainstream from each other.

If you're just a straight-up pinko-commie, it isn't that Hillary and Trump are the same.  It's that you're too extreme to have any sense of perspective.

So, Berniacs and neverTrumpers would be rational to abstain.  But if it's because they think Clinton and Trump are the same, well, um, no.


  1. Here's what is a rational choice not to support HRC

    HRC's election will not advance the progressive movement as much as Trump's will.

    Trump will be such a disaster as President that in 4 years anyone will be preferable, and due to their defeat in 2016 with HRC, the Dems will be much more open to a liberal along the Lines of Bernie.

    Perhaps Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii or Keith Ellison of Minnesota, both strong Bernie supporters, will be able to stand on Bernie's shoulders and sweep into the WH on a Progressive wave.

  2. In addition to today's post, I would say that Keith Ellison has about as much chance of making it to the White House as Vermin Supreme. Ellison is muslim. Remember all of the ridiculous claims that Obama is secretly muslim? Well, imagine if he really were... This isn't like JFK.