Feedback from yesterday’s post was interesting. It definitely taught me that we all don’t share identical social media feeds and screenshots would help a lot. Also have to keep the writing in these posts tight when trying make a narrow argument, lest the asides get taken as the main point. There isn’t much to debate about, people said reasonable things generally and the dispute would be about degree of link to what I actually said and intended to say. Ultimately, poor writing on my part if the way it hits people is very far from my intention. That's on me, not them.
Some folks said voting was a civic responsibility and seemed to imply that responsibility should extend to engaging nonvoters (maybe I am reading into this last part). I would have to hear more about that. Not well read enough for that mere statement to mean anything to me.
I am here to talk about what I found to be a novel defense of Vote Blue, No Matter Who that came as a reaction to yesterday’s post. I thought it worth passing along.
I stated yesterday that a vote mattering is the odds it proves pivotal in the election (causing a tie or breaking a tie). There is reasonable consensus that this number approaches zero. A more nuanced way to think about voting via political science is the following:
People choose to vote based on the probability their vote is pivotal, their direct utility from voting (civic duty, social network pressure) and the costs of voting (be they psychological or economic transaction costs). So, if someone is going to vote the direct utility of voting has to outweigh the costs because the probability of being pivotal is not adding anything.
Here are the two main studies that establish that social pressure works:
Taking those insights, the defense of Vote Blue, No Matter Who as a social media talking point:
1. Social pressure from peers about voting is a pivotal factor in getting people to vote. Also, one of the cheapest ways to impact things.
2. Voting becomes habitual, once people do it once they are more likely to do it in the future across many elections
3. Boosting turnout helps Democrats’ chance of victory.
4. The average Democratic candidate is better than the average GOP candidate for the purposes of mitigating harm regardless of the election in question.
5. Thus, pressuring people from nonvoters into habitual voters is likely to improve the chances Democrats win over time which is good because they do less harm than GOP candidates. The mantra “Shut up about voting” would forfeit the above.
This is certainly a more coherent case for voting backed up by social science than I was aware of yesterday. Here are some clarifications.
What is “social pressure”
Highlights from the articles:
“Exposing a person’s voting record to his or her neighbors turns out to be an order of magnitude more effective than conventional pieces of partisan or nonpartisan direct mail”
“Personal, unhurried appeals are usually far superior to impersonal, mechanical and rushed communications (Gerber and Green 2000).”
The field experiments communicated to voters one of four options:
A. Do your civic duty
B. You are being studied, but the results are going to be confidential/no one will know if you voted or not.
C. We’ll tell other people who live in your house whether you voted or not.
D. We will tell your neighbors if you voted or not.
B, C and D all increase the social pressure. D had the biggest impact on getting people to vote.
All to say, internet randoms talking at each other probably doesn’t do anything. The person has to be in your network/a social leader to make social pressure work. I would say the social media posts I see are a mixed bag. Some are earnest/targeted at a peer. A good chunk is just shouting into the void/sharing polarizing stories or drivel from blue checkmarks .
Biden is as bad or worse than Trump
These arguments likely fall flat in the final estimation. Don’t get me wrong, Biden sucks. It is just very difficult to suck more than Trump. A Biden administration would save more lives (while still doing bad things) than a Trump administration. I am open to arguments on these fronts, but it seems like a high bar to clear.
For instance, you could say I am not going to vote, the Democrats will eventually lose enough elections and they will change course much closer to my policy/candidate preferences. How likely is that to work out? Unclear. Are there spillover effects from propagating notions that disengage and disaffect people? There does seem to be backing for such a notion.
It branches into a murky conversation about structural change that is beyond my current scope.
Biden is a rapist and that’s a d-rule
I find this argument to be eminently reasonable. What percentage of No Biden voters holds this particular view is unclear. The above framework is mainly geared toward Bernie supporters who don’t want to vote for neoliberal shills.
I did ask for someone’s response to this position and a summary is:
a. You don’t vote for people as people.
b. You vote for the candidate who has the least distance between their position and your ideal policy standpoint.
c. You are making a strategic choice to reduce harm
That is not the most inspiring slogan for a candidate. Wouldn’t want to put it on a sticker. It does, however, bolster the idea that Biden is going to need some extra turnout juice from social pressure to mitigate adverse enthusiasm gap concerns.
I do not like either major national party. Neither of them endorses a politics with which I personally identify. We need new organizations.
However, for what it’s worth, when faced with a choice in November about which party will do less harm, I will formally submit my opinion on the matter, and it will be that Democrats do less harm (we have a Democratic governor in Kentucky who won by like 5,000 votes who is mitigating the hell out of harm right now despite not being a full blown comrade).
Will I vote for Biden despite the accusations of sexual assault? Probably not. I live in Kentucky so my vote on that matter does nothing. I want other people to vote for Biden (mainly in PA, WI and MI and a couple other states) for harm reduction (but maybe someone will flip me on that). I am going to need some more thoughtful takes on the matter because I am not there yet and Biden probably needs all the help he can get.
I am Lincoln, retired debate coach . This site's purpose is to post my ramblings about policy debate.