Thursday, May 08, 2008

Best Comment Yet

Of all the comments on all the posts on my blog, I think my favorite so far is:

"If the point of the Democratic primary were simply to pick the most electable candidate, then maybe they should offer up a group of candidates and only let *non*-democrats vote in their primaries. :-)"

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense, provided that "Democrats" are defined as voters who consistently vote for the democratic candidate. Whoever they nominate will get the votes of the Democrats, so it doesn't matter, from the standpoint of electability, which candidate Democrats prefer. The important question is which Democratic candidate the non-Democrats are most willing to vote for.

All of which reminds me of the "yellow dog Democrat" story. From Wikipedia, quoting Irvin S. Cobb:


“the most devastating retort I ever did hear. It was delivered by Theodore Hallam, a battered-looking, hard-hitting, hard-drinking, little Irish lawyer, and an ex-member of Morgan's Rangers — and that for nearly half a century qualified a man for social and political distinction anywhere in the border South and particularly in Kentucky. Despite a high, strident voice, Hallam was perhaps the greatest natural orator in a state of natural orators and had a tongue pointed with a darting, instantaneous wit.”

“Hallam lived in Covington, where Goebel likewise lived, and as a comrade in war and an ally in peace of Colonel Sanford, the Conservative whom Goebel pistoled to death, he hated Goebel mightily. Having bolted when Goebel seized the gubernatorial nomination by craft and device — and at the last moment, by open violence — Hallam promptly took the stump against him and went about over the troubled commonwealth joyously sowing dragons' teeth and poison ivy.

The seceding wing of the party picked on Hallam to open its fight, and chose the town of Bowling Green as a fitting place for the firing of the first gun, Bowling Green being a town where the rebellion inside the ranks was widespread and vehement. But Goebel had his adherents there, too.

I could fairly smell trouble cooking on that simmering-hot August afternoon when Hallam rose up in the jammed courthouse to begin his speech. Hardly had he started when a local bravo, himself a most handy person in a rough-and-tumble argument, stood upon the seat of his chair, towering high above the heads of those about him.

"I allow I want to ask you a question!" he demanded in a tone like the roar of one of Bashan's bulls.

One-third of the crowd yelled: "Go ahead, Black jack!" The other two-thirds yelled: "Throw him out!" and a few enthusiastic spirits suggested the advisability of destroying the gentleman utterly, and started reaching for the armpit or the hip pocket, as the case might be. Despite the heat all hands were wearing their alpaca or their seersucker coats which, if you knew our sturdy yeomanry in those parlous days, was a bad sign.

With a wave of his hand Hallam stilled the tumult.

"Let it be understood now and hereafter, that this is to be no joint debate," he said in that high-pitched shrill voice of his. "My friends have arranged for the use of this building and I intend to be the only speaker. But it is a tenet of our faith that in a Democratic gathering no man who calls himself a Democrat shall be denied the right to be heard. If the gentleman will be content to ask his question, whatever it is, and abide by my answer to it, I am willing that he should speak."

"That suits me," clarioned the interrupter. "My question is this: Didn't you say at the Louisville convention not four weeks ago that if the Democrats of Kentucky, in convention assembled, nominated a yaller dog for governor you would vote for him?"

"I did," said Hallam calmly.

"Well, then," whooped the heckler, eager now to press his seeming advantage, "in the face of that statement, why do you now repudiate the nominee of that convention, the Honorable William Goebel?"

For his part Hallam waited for perfect quiet and at length got it.

"I admit," he stated blandly, "that I said then what I now repeat, namely, that when the Democratic party of Kentucky, in convention assembled, sees fit in its wisdom to nominate a yaller dog for the governorship of this great state, I will support him — but lower than that ye shall not drag me!"


montestruc said...

I love it!!

yaller dog!!

Michael Anissimov said...

Wouldn't work. They'd just deliberately vote for the less electable candidate... if the Dems caught on to that, they'd intentionally vote equally for both.

Scott said...

What Michael said. Go Hillary.

Scott said...

Of course, in that case the Dems should just nominate whoever the non-Dems don't vote for. In which case the non-Dems should switch their votes and vote for who is most electable. And so on.

Here it becomes a typical game theory problem. Is there a Nash equilibrium?

Anonymous said...

Two party politics is just an exercise in iterated prisoner's dilemma. I think it can also explain Duverger's Law.

Will said...

Scott: there is no pure strategy Nash Equilibrium, but there will be a mixed strategy... randomize your voting so that the other party is indifferent to which candidate they pick. Which precisely defeats the purpose of a primary.

We need a new voting system, plain and simple, preferably something based on the Condorcet criterion. Runoff voting isn't terrible, but is more vulnerable to strategic voting (see France).

Raphfrk said...

Go for approval voting. It is simple and just requires removing the no-overvote rule.

It allows a 3rd party supporter to vote for his favourite and also the best of the top 2. Thus, there is no spoiler.

Andrew said...

David wrote: "The important question is which Democratic candidate the non-Democrats are most willing to vote for."

Wow, seriously? It only takes 3.5 years to forget GWB's surprising "victory" in 2004?

Let's review it again. GWB had a small amount of the "swing" vote. If voter turnout had been uniform among groups, he would have lost in a landslide. However, by greatly boosting turnout among republicans, he won the election.

If your voter base fails to show up, it doesn't matter what swing voters do.