PSM episode

I dig the Pod Save America podcast and listen to it often but sometimes its not as substantive as I’d like to be. The latest episode “I’M GONNA REGRET THIS SPEECH.” is not that. In fact it’s the opposite. After some discussion about the batshit crazy CPAC speech by the Donald, they dig into 2020 and talk about polling, issues and voting and elections in a really interesting way. It’s totally worth a listen if you’re into this kind of stuff.


2020 Power Rankings

I think I’m going to try and do this once and while…

Here is a list of the candidates in order of how I think they are doing in general. It’s not who I like, but who seems to have momentum.

  1. Harris : She came out super strong with a great announcement, had a CNN town hall right away (and killed it) and has had little or no negative press happening. I’m impressed with how smooth her operation is and campaigns running smooth is what it’s all about.
  2. Bernie : Bernie started off raising over $4M in his first day. That is incredible and more than double the 1.5 that Kamala raised on her first day. And Bernie has continued that streak by raising $10M in his first week from almost 360k thousand donors. But here’s something incredible : almost 40% of those donors were _new_ donors! I rank Bernie #2 because he’s suffering from a bunch of backlash from haters and nay sayers.
  3. Amy : Klobuchar started off with a killer announcement in the snow and even though she has a big time centrist viewpoint, she seems to be maintaining her momentum even with negative stories about the way she treats staff, etc.
  4. Warren : Elizabeth Warren is doing an amazing job selling her views and they sound super refreshing and pragmatic. The issue with her candidacy is that like Bernie in 2016, the media is almost completely ignoring her campaign and it’s making me crazy. If they would cover her, she would be #1 in my list.
  5. Gillibrand : Is Kristen Gillibrand a candidate? I mean, she declared but I haven’t heard a thing about her campaign in the media anywhere.
  6. Booker : Like Gillibrand I haven’t heard a thing about Cory Booker. Also, I think with the exception of Bernie, this election is about the women and most voters are not going to vote for a man.
  7. Gabbard : Tulsi is getting killed. Her anti-interventionist platform (which I love) is being demolished by pretty much everyone and her campaign seems to be nonexistent.
  8. Everyone else : there are a lot of others but right now they don’t warrant much mention.

Listen to Warren

I know I just wrote about Elizabeth Warren but I had to drop this little tidbit. If you want to get to know her a bit better, do listen to her interview on Pod Save America last week. It was pretty incredible. What I loved about it most was that she articulated pretty much everything I care about and in a very rational, thoughtful way. She really is becoming the candidate that I am looking for. Of course we need to keep digging into others and thinking about this, but she is very much in the lead in my book.

You can’t always get what you want

I’d like to start this post with a quick detour into voting systems. And by that, I mean, the systems we use to count our votes to determine who wins. There is an _amazing_ book that should be required reading for all voters called Gaming The Vote. This book goes into a bit of history and demonstrates why the current way we count votes is completely terrible and often leads to results that do not reflect the will of the voters. The central thesis is that when you have more than two candidates in an election, the plurality system (she who gets the most votes wins) totally breaks down in many un-obvious ways.

One of those ways is that candidates can get elected with a small percentage of the vote total. Think about that one factor. There are 4 candidates and you love A, B is ok, C is eh but you hate D. In fact, the D candidate is pretty different than A-C in what they believe and A-C are pretty interchangeable to a large group of voters. (eg. D voters hate candidates A-C and A-C voters hate D).

The totals end up 30% A, 19% B, 17% C and 34% D. Is it right that D wins with only 34% approval? If the people who voted for B and C knew D would win and A had the best shot they would have gladly voted for A and thus A would have clearly won. If you think about it as A-C vs D (which is kind of is when you consider the platforms of the candidates) it’s clear.

The above problem not only shows you how shitty the results can differ from the real will of the people they also demonstrate another problem with plurality voting: strategic voting. People start to cloud their decisions by thinking about who actually can win the election rather than who they want to win the election. You can probably see a ton of examples in the past where this was an issue and imagine a ton more where it will be an issue.

I won’t get deeper into this, but this kind of stuff, to me, is extremely fascinating and the subject of many, many studies. What I will tell you is that while the studies often suggest differing solutions _all_ of the studies say that our current system is the worst. Two of the most popular systems that I’ve heard about are Approval Voting and Ranked Choice.

Approval Voting is beautiful in its simplicity. It requires (almost) no changes to machines or the math. When you go to vote, you vote for all of the candidates you approve of. So in the example above if you were an A, B or C voter, you’d vote for all 3. If you were a D voter, you’d vote for D alone. At the end, whoever gets the most votes will be the winner. Just take a second to think about how incredible this system is. Its so clean and elegant, it’s the system (last I checked) that the International Society of Mathematicians uses to pick their officers.

The other system that I like a little less is called Ranked Choice. The reason I don’t like it as much is because it’s a bit more complicated and I think that may turn off some voters and voter turn out is low enough. However, it’s gaining some traction (I think it was used in Maine in the last election) so I am totally for it. In this system you rank your choices when you vote (eg. A, C, B, D) and they use a bit of math to compute who wins based on runoffs: If no one has 51%, they drop the lowest vote getter and reallocate their votes based on their rankings and then recompute then repeat if necessary. This system again is _way_ more representative of the will of the people. I think this Radiolab episode (which I heard 2-3 months ago) talks about an election in Ireland that uses this system.

Ok. So where am I going with all of this?

The way we choose our presidential nominee is terribly unfair and will not reflect the will of the people.

This is not only based on the voting system (see above) but also on the fact that we do primaries on different dates and also a bit on the fact that our elections are not publicly funded (maybe we dig into this another time).

So, assuming that we had our primaries on the same day, what would happen is that the field would be incorrectly split up based (mostly) on ideological leanings, on the ways the candidates are different and also the same.

In very broad strokes:

by Economic beliefs : (Bernie and Warren) vs. (Kamala and Gillibrand) vs. Booker vs. Klobuchar

which would mean that the election would be between Cory and Amy since the others would split each others votes.

by Sex: (Bernie and Booker) vs. (Kamala, Gillibrand, Warren, Klobuchar)

so this would come down to Bernie v. Booker.


Of course its a lot more complicated when you come up with different venn diagrams and put them all together, but I feel that the election will be decided in these ways. This is how Trump became the nominee. He was so different than the rest of the field that they all split up the opposition to him in every primary. Will this happen if Joe Biden joins the race?

The moral to this story is that I feel that unless we change the way we vote in America, we will never get the candidate we all are happy with. And that’s sad because in every election, such a candidate does exist.

So Much to Write About

Things I need to write:

  1. More about Elizabeth Warren since I think she’s a super candidate
  2. A scorecard about where all the candidates seem to be right now in my mind
  3. A bit of discussion about the Klobuchar Town Hall on CNN
  4. Discussion about voting in general and how we pick candidates
  5. Bernie has entered the race!

Stay tuned.. I think #2 is next

Who is Tulsi Gabbard

I really want to learn more about TulsI Gabbard. She was the first candidate that I was interested in when she joined the race and she’s struggling to get any traction with the big names like Harris and Warren.

I went to her webpage for more info and there wasn’t much of substance there (other than some nice photos and a decent ‘about‘ section). What I’m looking for is her platform. I want to know what she believes in, how she stands on the issues, etc. Nothing yet. So I’ll wait a bit on that.

Maybe it would be useful to dig into who gives her money. I have been using to look up things. For her 2018 Congressional election she got money from mostly benign sources as far as I can tell from a quick look. This includes a decent amount from independent donors. OpenSecrets did a nice article recently digging in a bit more deeply that shows that she got some money from the defense industry. What does this mean? We will need to dig into her support of their agenda.

I found a couple nice ways to check voting records. My favorite is called Ballotpedia which gives voting as well as a ton of other useful info  (including her platform from the 2018 election). One issue is that it only has the 115th congress for now but I urge you to dig into her page which is here. (Note on foreign affairs she wasn’t a total hawk). This site actually does a really nice job of summarizing a politicians political life.

The second voting record site is Votesmart. This has more up to date info including her vote for us to pull out of support for SA in Yemen.

The Debates

We’ve a long way to go until we start seeing debates but you can imagine how crazy it’s going to be when we see 25 people on the stage debating the issues.

The Democratic Party is starting to release details about how they will decide who is getting on the stage and it seems that they will be using polling results _and_ interestingly enough, the number of small donor donations. Not the value, but the number. So that means if you want to see your candidate on the debate stage you need to “vote” with your pocketbook and donate $1 or so.. It will make a difference! I’m going to donate to all the people I want to see debating.. I hope my spam folder doesn’t blow up!

Lets Run For President

I’ve kind of fallen in love with Ballotpedia. There is a TON of info there. One thing that I came across that I found pretty incredible is this chart:

Screenshot 2019-02-16 17.24.16

What does that tell you? Just look at that!!

This should tell you all you need to know about the Trump presidency. He is WILDLY unpopular. Unpopular enough for pretty much everyone to feel they need to jump in and take him down.

Of course you can read it another way: People feel “shit, if he can do it, so can I”.

What do you think?

Sen. Cory Booker


I’ve followed Sen. Booker off and on for a long time now; ever since he was an outspoken Mayor of Tony Sopranos stomping ground (Newark). Most recently I was extremely impressed with how he conducted himself in the Kavanaugh hearings–Especially during his “Spartacus moment” where he risked a lot of retribution and potentially the loss of his Senate seat just to fight for something he really believed in.

This man has beliefs and this man seems to be ready to fight for them. I am super impressed with him on the surface. We shall see how he matches up against my beliefs as we get further along in this process however.

One issue to look into is that I’ve heard that he takes a lot of money from big pharma. This is interesting and I’m not sure where that info is coming from since when I look at who gives money to him, it all looks pretty normal to me. That will require some digging.

Note: I keep saying that I’m going to dig into these candidates and I know I haven’t really done that yet, but I plan to.. Promise!