______ _ ___ ___
| ___ \ | | | \/ |
| |_/ /_ _ _ __ __| | ___ _ __ | . . | ___
| __/ _` | '__/ _` |/ _ \| '_ \ | |\/| |/ _ \
| | | (_| | | | (_| | (_) | | | | | | | | __/_
\_| \__,_|_| \__,_|\___/|_| |_| \_| |_/\___( )
______ _ _____ _____ _ _ _
| ___ \ | | |_ _| |_ _| | (_) | |
| |_/ /_ _| |_ | | | | | |__ _ _ __ | | __
| ___ \ | | | __| | | | | | '_ \| | '_ \| |/ /
| |_/ / |_| | |_ _| |_ | | | | | | | | | | <
\____/ \__,_|\__| \___/ \_/ |_| |_|_|_| |_|_|\_\
| \ | |
| \| | _____ _____ _ __ __ _ _ __ ___ _ __ ___
| . ` |/ _ \ \ /\ / / __| '_ \ / _` | '_ \ / _ \ '__/ __|
| |\ | __/\ V V /\__ \ |_) | (_| | |_) | __/ | \__ \
\_| \_/\___| \_/\_/ |___/ .__/ \__,_| .__/ \___|_| |___/
| | | |
___ _ ___ ___ _
/ _ \ | | | \/ | (_)
/ /_\ \_ __ __| | | . . | __ _ __ _ __ _ _____ _ __ ___ ___
| _ | '_ \ / _` | | |\/| |/ _` |/ _` |/ _` |_ / | '_ \ / _ \/ __|
| | | | | | | (_| | | | | | (_| | (_| | (_| |/ /| | | | | __/\__ \
\_| |_/_| |_|\__,_| \_| |_/\__,_|\__, |\__,_/___|_|_| |_|\___||___/
_____ _ _ _____ ______
| _ | | | | | |_ _| | _ \
| | | |_ _ __ _| |__ | |_ | | ___ | | | |___
| | | | | | |/ _` | '_ \| __| | |/ _ \ | | | / _ \
\ \_/ / |_| | (_| | | | | |_ | | (_) | | |/ / (_) |
\___/ \__,_|\__, |_| |_|\__| \_/\___/ |___/ \___/
______ _ _ _____ _ _
| ___ \ | | | | / __ \ | (_)
| |_/ /__ _ _ __ | | _____ __| |______| / \/ |__ ___ _ ___ ___
| // _` | '_ \| |/ / _ \/ _` |______| | | '_ \ / _ \| |/ __/ _ \
| |\ \ (_| | | | | < __/ (_| | | \__/\ | | | (_) | | (_| __/
\_| \_\__,_|_| |_|_|\_\___|\__,_| \____/_| |_|\___/|_|\___\___|
______ _ _
| ___ \ | | |
| |_/ /__ | | |___
| __/ _ \| | / __|
| | | (_) | | \__ \
We aren’t going to get anywhere in this country until newspapers and magazines start titillating us with hot, hardcore ranked-choice polling to get us revved up and exploring what we actually want.
I like some things about politics, but only the messed-up and insidious parts. Politics is undignified and its aesthetic merits are paltry and non-nutritive. Sometimes the slogans are intriguing: vote yourself a farm, black is beautiful, eat the rich, every man a king, lips that touch liquor must never touch mine. On the other hand, the personalities involved are usually stock characters out of commedia dell'arte who can be reduced to motivating vices almost as soon as you lay eyeballs on them. Supposedly, political power is "the ultimate aphrodisiac," but I have never wanted to fuck any politician no matter how powerful they might be or how much their values might supposedly align with mine.
Power as "sex potion" vis-à-vis politics is gas station energy pills for boring shitheads.
In fact, I am uniformly unimpressed with almost everyone who has any kind of clear political identification that they are able to articulate. Left, right, reaction... center-right, far-left, purge…the blame lies with the first French Republic for eternally forcing us to talk about politics like it is Dance Dance Revolution.
Yet it is our laziness as political consumers that keeps us from testing whether such dichotomies are merely ridiculous or are actively weapons for killing fun ideas. We do not generally think about political organization in terms of pragmatic adherence to negotiated policies that might advance all of our dark interests as one Dread Horde of the Broken and Damned. It is hard to say to what extent virtual reality “position” metaphors have turned the cafeteria psychodrama of “where am I gonna sit at Robespierre’s nasty old National Convention” into something even worse, where we calculate tribe in terms of intensity of belief along a weird invisible power meter, politics as breathalyzer, politics as dive bar love tester.
If only our metaphors for democracy came more from the pirate ships where our kind of capitalist republic has its roots (fuck yer ancient Greeks) and less from France’s ergot-fueled gentleman’s nightmare. Because we definitely have plunder to divide and we desperately need to elect a captain whom we trust not to kill us all in our sleep by blowing up the goddamn ship and escaping to Macao in a rowboat.
Perhaps, however, the solution to moving beyond these “false choices” does lie sunken in the very same historical septic tank where our current linguistic dilemma first festered and grew. Even the French revolutionaries who had to choose between turning left or right at lunch every day were worried about what a binary system might mean for future political calculus. You know this already, but in 1785, the Marquis de Condorcet published a work called an “Essay on the Application of Analysis to the Probability of Decisions Given by the Majority of Voices” that suggested a more generous kind of voting system. He was concerned about less obvious problems with respect to voting than merely choosing a winner, such as how to fully invest a leader with the General Will...not with more power, but with enough mystical soul energy to keep a nation from eating itself. To make this magic happen, he proposed a method now called ranked-choice voting (or sometimes Condorcet voting). For Condorcet, it was more important to find the choice that everyone could get down with spiiiiirrrrrriiiitttuaaaallly, through the mystical merging of math and blood-magic binding spells. Finding the one person who commanded a temporary simple majority was not good enough.
In ranked-choice voting, voters rank candidates in order from best to worst, in contrast to simply choosing one among many to be Your Everything. This means that the person who wins is not necessarily the person who gets the most first choice votes: it is the person who has the best overall stats against every possible contender. Condorcet wanted to create an alternative to the polarizing nature of discourse that was leading to deadly and unproductive animosity between charming jerks of the 18th century. O shit, he said: actual “power to the people” looks a lot like a complicated algorithm to derive percentages from a series of decision trees.
Ranked-choice voting forces voters to consider how they feel about each possible candidate in relation to every other candidate, telling a little story about all these people, like a thematic apperception test that the army might give you to see if you can be trusted with secrets. In ranked-choice, you don't want hardcore narrow support...you want broad support. You can win a divisive election if you are everybody's second-place pick.
Is ranked-choice voting better? It is obviously and uncontroversially better. It is precisely and scientifically one million times better than sitting down in front of a paper and punching a little hole in a card that says “AS FAR AS HISTORY IS CONCERNED, LET IT BE KNOWN FOREVER THAT I AM ALL THE WAY ON SEXUAL FIRE FOR REPUBLICANS” if you are only voting for Republicans because of one issue, if you merely just want lower taxes this cycle because you are a high-born Doctor of Commodities with skin as white and translucent as a summer roll.
Every single political scientist will strategically sip their coffee and look the other way to avoid answering you…maybe even giving you a valedictory “well, yeah, sure, but so what”…if you ever rationally mention that we live in a pretty messed up world because our voting system inevitably results in a skewed and indefensible binary, a false dichotomy between “change” and “strength.” It isn’t even a question: psephologists uniformly agree that getting to a “Condorcet winner” is what every election ought to achieve. In fact, voting systems are ranked by these vote-studyin’ mandarins in terms of their “Condorcet efficiency.”
However, since we are all sitting in armchairs drinking hand-warmed brandy here, let me also say that despite what you may hear from commenters in reddit threads, eliminating what is irritatingly and bluffly known as “first-past-the-post” voting systems by autocratic fiat and instituting a ranked-choice electoral system, with proportional parliamentary representation, would be a fucking disaster. It would have to be done at gunpoint, first of all. Anybody who did this with guns and fights would deserve to have their severed heads held up for the children and the knitting ladies to admire.
We aren’t used to it. There would be mass chaos. Our system would adjust badly. In the interim, milquetoast dudes from the Midwest would run the goddamn game.
However, and let me just refill my glass here, that doesn’t mean that we should give up. Fuck no!
I think there is a pornographic solution. I think we should be pressuring our fourth and fifth estate to get us ready for “a better way,” and I think they can do this while making some cash for themselves by showing us the crazy shit that only middle-aged weirdos are into. I think there is a market for hardcore polls. We should be demanding access to debauched, non-binary, ranked-choice polls on the internet, in magazines, in newspapers, and on television. Ranked-choice polling ought to be available at every drug store and newsstand. You ought to be able to do ranked-choice Google searches late at night, alone, when you have had a little bit to drink and you are in a certain mood.
The standard poll that I find the most interesting is not the one where they ask you who you are going to vote for. The poll I love is the one where they ask you who you expect to win. The “who do you think will win” poll has fascinating chemically-inseparable information: it is a meta-poll that asks everybody who takes part to think about the country as a whole, to think about what people they know are saying, to think about how united the opposition might be, to wonder whether or not their candidate is actually likable to others. It also asks respondents to think strategically...do you answer honestly or do you lie to help inflate expectations?
It is a poll that cracks people open and makes them have transgressive political fantasies instead of calcifying them further into boring and predictable support for one party or another.
Additionally, it is an important statistic that serves as a check on voting irregularities: if an outcome deviates wildly from the expected result, one might expect unrest. On the other hand, if the expected result is insanely lopsided, as might occur under a dictatorship, one might question the robustness and vibrancy of the supposed democracy. One might question the technological apparatus that results in elected officials.
I also like this poll because it tells us how stable we can expect society to be after the results of an election. To the extent that the “who do you think will win” poll matches the actual outcome, we can expect that people will not be taking all their OxyContin at once and sealing up yellow-plus-blue-equals-green freezer bags over their heads in the garages of their sad suburban homes.
As hot as I find this particular poll, I think ranked-choice polling would be even filthier.
Currently, we only really spend money doing up-or-down polls between the two likeliest candidates. This is because modern vanilla polling norms serve the journalists trying to figure out who will win.
These norms also serve the political parties trying to figure out who will win so they can figure out where to channel their resources and which demographics to target. It is best for them if the polls reflect the way we actually choose elected officials instead of indulging in some depraved fantasy.
But these regular old “general election” polls don’t show us who we like the best as a whole using data from both sides and they don’t show us which candidates we like even though we don’t want them to win "the most." These polls show us who will win in a fight, nothing more, and so they keep the fight going.
There is a very good chance that ranked-choice poll numbers would not reflect the actual outcome of elections. Personally, I would love to see more politicians going into office knowing they do not have much support from the American people as a result of knowing their ranked-choice poll numbers. Our elections reflect a specific system's logic and therefore attract specific kinds of candidates.
If enough people are angry that ranked-choice polls don’t reflect our election results we might see more honest media campaigns, as politicians might come to believe that it is in their interest not to merely win, but to be somewhat acceptable to their enemies. We might see candidates breaking their own backs bending over to be nice to each other.
If I was president of Hustler Magazine, I would invest in some really fucked-up ranked-choice polling and I would put it out there every month for perverts.
Pardon me, but I really do believe that politics takes advantage of people’s innate biological propensities toward cleanliness, love, and novelty and then corrupts these primal human urges, channeling thwarted joy into dubious ends that hurt us all. I think one way to fuck that up would be to introduce a little ranked-choice voting pornography into our culture of binaries to get people wondering about what they might be missing in their desperate and angry little lives.
(c) Miracle Jones 2016