I do remember the year 2000. One of the games that accompanied the Gore-Bush presidential elections was the swapping of the votes between different leftists. A Ralph Nader voter in a swing state was viewed as damaging for Gore. So a Gore voter in a different state found him, promised to vote for Nader instead, and the Nader fan had the duty to vote for Gore, after all.
In that way, Gore was supposed to win the swing states where every vote mattered. On the other hand, Nader got the same number of votes in the whole U.S. You may remember that these groups of leftists ultimately didn't succeed, Gore lost, and Nader became pretty much irrelevant, too. But could they have succeeded? Hasn't the vote-swapping worked in the opposite direction than they intended?
Scott Aaronson celebrates this "wonderful" idea in 2016, too. Gore has been replaced by Hillary and Nader has been replaced by candidates such as Jill Stein.
Once people like Aaronson take over a country, they become secretaries responsible for the logistics – deciding e.g. how to get the deplorables to a Gulag with a limited number of buses etc.
There are several fundamental flaws in this whole way of thinking:
- This trading of the votes is just borderline legal and people who participate do run the risk of prosecution.
- Vote-swapping is not quite ethical, at least according to some people, and this fact leads to extra damages for the left in the election results that Aaronson et al. foolishly or arrogantly overlook.
- The vote-swapping commitments cannot be verified in a way that would be legal. The whole scheme incorrectly assumes that both sides of the "trade" are at the same frequency and can trust each other.
- Some people may generalize the vote-swapping and switch to real sales of their votes for money or material goods which is surely illegal.
- The exchange rate of the swapped votes is almost certainly incorrectly calculated and a compensation for that defect would be illegal.
- Vote-swapping is really not how democracy should work. People should pick their best candidates and those – rather than the voters – should negotiate before and after the elections.
- Focus on similar technicalities affecting a small number of votes shows that some partly dirty tricks are more important for the participants than their careful and impartial analysis of or debate on the issues and values.
As I wrote, the vote-swapping has been labeled legal by a court. But you know, it was surely a subtle matter because the straight sales and purchases of the votes are illegal. They're illegal for a good reason. The country doesn't want the whole power over the system to be bought by a rich person, let alone interests connected to some foreign entities etc.
Because the decision of the court was non-trivial – the vote-swapping "right" is surely not any fundamental right in any sense – you should always be worried that because of some technicality, what you're doing will be found illegal and you will be fined or arrested.
Disputable ethics is seen by others
Even if the vote-swapping exercises are labeled legal, they are surely viewed as morally problematic by many people, including the people who are just thinking hard whether they will vote for The Donald or a non-Donald.
Many of these undecided voters will notice – and are already noticing – that the anti-Trump activists are involved in vote-swapping which will look like a dirty deal from their viewpoint. And this feeling may very well push them to the Trump side because the Trump camp doesn't seem to be involved in similar dirty tricks.
As a result, the existence of the vote-swapping may very well lead to a bigger support for Trump than what he would otherwise have. It's totally plausible that similar dirty tricks actually helped George W. Bush to win the 2000 elections.
This is a (not so) hidden expense that the fans of the vote-swapping are overlooking or at least not taking into account. Overlooking some important costs (or benefits) is a frequent fallacy of the leftists who commit it many times a day.
They often see or want to see just one side. It's great to switch from coal plants to wind turbines, some of them say, completely ignoring the extra costs connected with the wind energy that make it unequivocal that it's a bad idea to switch from coal or nukes to wind, at least at this moment.
Similarly, climate alarmists are overlooking the fertilization effect of increasing CO2 concentration – that is far greater than the hypothetical "damages" caused by CO2 through a warmer climate.
More generally, leftists love to regulate everything, force you to fill extra forms and do many things like that and these nasty jerks just don't give a damn about the consequences, poor citizens who have to find out what to do with the extra forms, how to earn the extra money to pay the extra taxes, and so on. They only see one side – the side that is linked to "their pockets". Most leftists are parasites who are trying to suck as much blood out of the system as possible (through redistribution, taxes, fees for renewable energy, you name it) – out of the productive animal called a nation – and they don't really care about the well-being of the animal. They only care about their own well-being.
So when people like me who have lived in a totalitarian society for years tell the Americans that the current U.S. progressives think (and want to act) in the same way and may be much more dangerous for the very Western system than the communists were decades ago, not everyone believes me. But the more dirty tricks similar to vote-swapping are taking place, the more people will believe me that I am right and that the threat posed by the leftists should be assertively neutralized.
This is a technicality. But it matters. The ballots are secret and you can't really take a picture of your voting and show it to third parties. For that reason, the two sides of the vote-swapping contract have to trust one another. This is problematic because their interests are sufficiently different.
People like Aaronson always assume that everyone except for the "basket of deplorables who are already awaiting their bus to Auschwitz or a Gulag" has exactly the same priorities as he has. Aaronson et al. are already mentally living in a "1984" society. So he thinks that it's just some random fluctuation that makes people prefer Jill Stein over Hillary.
But it's not a random fluctuation. People who prefer Jill Stein over Hillary in a swing state probably have a good (from their viewpoint) reason to do so. They differ from Hillary's voters – and they may even sometimes think in a way that is closer to average Trump voters. They may very well vote for Jill Stein even if they formally sign a vote-swapping contract. The point is that this decision to vote for Jill Stein anyway is legal. In other words, the vote-swapping deal can be in no way legally enforced. Any attempt to enforce such a deal is illegal!
Similarly and even more clearly, Jill Stein's voters simply cannot trust Hillary's voters. You can't really trust anyone who supports Hillary, especially not Hillary herself. These individuals are lying 24 hours a day and 365 or 366 days a year. If they tell you that they are as healthy as ever, they may easily suffer from pneumonia at the same moment. It's bizarre to make deals with them that rely on their "honor". You wouldn't give them the responsibility over the toilet paper in your restroom and a vote may be a more important thing than one roll of the toilet paper.
Different compensations for votes
I was absolutely shocked to see a comment by Moshe Rozali, a string theorist whom I know and who lives in Canada:
Maybe we can extend that beyond vote swapping: I’m in Canada so cannot vote for the more exotic candidates, but I promise that in exchange for a vote for the sane candidate I will write a paper arguing that spacetime is discrete at the Planck scale, or engage in a passionate argument (making up the rules as needed) on whether we live in a simulation, or even whether reality is really real (that last one will really have to be for a close swing state).If I understand well, Moshe Rozali offers to write crackpot papers that he knows to be rubbish if it helps to subtract one vote from Donald Trump. Are you serious, Moshe? Sorry but if you wrote this comment seriously, then you are not a scientist with the scientific integrity but – if I have to stick to a highly polite and diplomatic vocabulary – a worthless piece of corrupt šit. If some average people were selling their vote, the price would be some $10 a vote (the social democrats were buying gypsy votes in Czechia for $2 some decade ago). Is $10 how much you value what should be your scientific integrity?
Also, as Scott Aaronson has been capable of telling you, such a deal – a crackpot paper for a vote – is definitely illegal. Regardless of the knowledge of the laws which may be complex, I am terribly disappointed that you don't see that what you propose is totally immoral. A scientist simply cannot sell his integrity in this way – not for money and not for votes.
Moshe, I always wanted to "subtract" people like you from the dishonest left-wing vermin that has polluted much of the Academia. But I may have been completely wrong. Everyone who fails to fight against this terrible pandemics fails because he or she lacks the morality.
The normal counting assumed that one Nader/Stein vote has the same value as one Gore/Hillary vote. If there were a free market, it would certainly not be the case. There's no reason for this "same price" of two things in an absolutely asymmetric situation.
I believe that that Nader or Stein votes are significantly more valuable than the Hillary votes because they're more scarce. After all, a Nader/Stein voter who "transfers" his Nader/Stein vote to a different state isn't helping his candidate at all – because it's just the overall federal count that matters for these hopeless candidates.
On the other hand, the Gore/Hillary voter would benefit. Now, would it still be legal to exchange a Stein vote for 2 Hillary votes in a different state? It would surely be illegal to exchange it for 1 Hillary vote and a bottle of wine.
In democracy, politicians and not voters negotiate
Elections should measure how many people choose this politician or another as their #1 candidate – while all considerations about the future (including the ability of the candidate to win and make a difference) are taken into account. Such elections produce some results and the politicians who get some mandate must deal with the result. They may create coalitions, trade favors with other politicians etc. They may also create coalitions before the polls. But voters have clear options and it's assumed that each voter expresses his or her own opinions. That's how things should normally work, how the democratic system was designed.
If you insert a whole new layer of trading to the stage of elections, you are challenging the assumption that there exists a "right answer" concerning the support for various candidates or parties. Because some votes were transferred from one state to another, the results in individual states no longer reflect the actual opinions in that state. You admit that the result may be affected by many variables and those variables are allowed to be adjusted by various schemes.
But once they may be adjusted, voters are de facto trading their votes for material benefits, too. You know, for a member of a "class" etc., having one candidate in the White House may literally be more pleasant financially – which is sometimes or often if not mostly the reason that makes the people vote in one way or another. So exchanging the vote may be viewed as an exchange of some material goods, anyway. Vote-swapping is just a case of barter trade.
I have already expressed the same point from different angles. But I chose a separate entry because what I want to say in this section is that democracy should measure the opinions of the voters in some least corrupt and accurate way and vote-swapping makes the things more corrupt or less accurate and more "buyable", whether or not judges say that it is legal.
Energy should be focused on careful analyses and improvements of the policies, not on the technology of power and elaborate tricks to fool or beat a part of your own nation
That also brings me to the final point.
Aaronson et al. would be better humans and better citizens if they spent at least a tiny fraction of their time not by dirty anti-Trump tricks but by listening to someone who understands politics better than they do, and even Trump is surely an example, learning as much as they can, and trying to think about these matters rationally. Dan Richardson was more or less the only commenter on Aaronson's blog who wanted make the other folks think more carefully about the topics – e.g. what Obama has done in foreign policy and whether the Americans should really want this process to continue.
I have already mentioned a similar point but now I will use different words. Elections are a process in which a large animal – a nation – is deciding what is best for it. Different organs may provide different answers but they should still think as a "whole" of some sort. To do so, the organs have to carefully answer the question "what we, the nation or the animal, actually are?". And that decision may be hard because you need to figure out how to make the rest of your nation – the animal – live happily and productively for you and for the whole animal – the nation.
Extremists such as the Aaronson leftists don't do this work because their primary identity is to be a part of an organ or a parasite that sits on the nation and sucks its blood. Aaronson et al. don't think what is actually good for the animal – a difficult question – because what they're actually obliged to care about is just the amount of blood being sucked from the animal according to a fixed pre-determined algorithm.
Thankfully, they don't represent the majority of the electorate.