Tuesday, October 2, 2012

On Third Parties

One thing that long time readers here may have noticed is my tendency to take online tests. I suppose there's a deep-seated psychological need that this habit serves, and most times I wouldn't recommend readers indulge in it themselves. There are occasional exceptions, however, because the results are interesting beyond the score.

Plus, in the case of this test, there are no right or wrong answers. At least, there are no right and wrong answers for the test takers. In this case, it's the test makers who we should be evaluating.

The test is at a site called ISideWith, and its purpose is to help a voter evaluate which parties and candidates he sides with most on a variety of issues. In my case, I think the results for the presidential race are instructive:

[click on the image to enlarge]
Image credit: Screenshot of ISideWith results for Cujo359 by Cujo359.

Of course some of the questions are rather simplistic ("Should the U.S. continue to support Israel? (Yes/No)"), but the result doesn't differ too much from my own perception, at least if you evaluate Barack Obama on the the basis of what he's said, rather than what he's actually done as President. In the latter case, which is the one I think is relevant, he'd be down in Virgil Goode/Mitch Romney territory. Looking at the results page for Obama's positions versus mine, I see there are at least four questions where the survey assumed agreement, but where there is actually none. On the issues we supposedly disagree on, one was due to a mistake on my part (I think), because the survey thinks I'm "pro-life" (perhaps it is possible for a test taker to give the wrong answer), and one where the "disagreement" is one of a small degree - I think that in addition to automatic weapons, there should be more requirement for gun owners to demonstrate competence with their weapons and mental stability before they're allowed to carry them or keep them in their homes.

Still, the result shows why I'm voting third party this year. Even the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, with whom I disagree profoundly on economic policy, manages to be more palatable on paper than the President does. He's way more palatable than Romney is, once again on paper.

And let's assume for a moment that I agree with Barack Obama's actual positions on issues more than, say, Virgil Goode's or Mitt Romney's, as measured and toted up by an online test. Does that really mean that his policy on civil liberties and domestic surveillance, which is abysmal, is somehow better than Romney's? Not a chance. There are some fundamentals in American government, and when a President fails at them for reasons that run counter to what progressives believe, then progressives should be among the ones making him pay with his job. That's good politics, despite what you may read in some hysterical quarters (see NOTE). From my perspective, his policies on civil liberties and economics are almost indistinguishable from Romney's, and those are about the two most important issues right now from my perspective.

In short, weighting matters.

This is why voting third party isn't a wasted vote. If none of the major party candidates agree with me as much as nearly all of the third party candidates, then some serious political realignment is in order. That's not going to happen by voting the same people into office who have been screwing up all along.

NOTE 1: That link leads to a takedown of that hysterical argument, not the argument itself. I think it's better to reward people who write intelligent things with links and the resulting page hits, rather than rewarding the fools they're trying to counteract.

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