Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The hunter and the bear

I argue a lot on Fark, and typically, political arguments are of the form "Candidate A doesn't believe in X, so you are an idiot if you vote for him." Of course, this completely ignores who you should vote for. I finally wrote the following:

These threads are a bit like a religious argument between a Mormon and a Muslim. Sure, it's easy for one side to poke holes in the wacky beliefs of the other, but only when their own beliefs aren't subject to the same scrutiny.

Which is probably why a lot of people seem to be against everything and for nothing. There are relatively few arguments like "I believe Ron Paul is mistaken in the role of the Federal government in universal health care, which is why I support John Edwards," while there are plenty saying "Ron Paul is a racist homophobe, and if you vote for him you are an idiot."

There is a joke about two hunting guides walking in a forest. On the other side of the canyon they see a grizzly bear stand up on it hind legs, sniff the wind, then take off running toward them. The first guide looks around the scrubby pines in vain for a tree to climb, while the second grabs a pair of running shoes from his backpack and starts to hurriedly put them on.
"Why are you doing that? You can't outrun a bear!" The first guide exclaims.
"I don't have to outrun the bear," the other replies. "I just have to outrun you."

Likewise, Representative Paul is far from a perfect candidate, but he doesn't have to be perfect, he just has to be better than the others -- as President, not king, or emperor, or whatever, but as a chief executive that must defer in certain matters to the Congress, the Court, the various states, or to the citizens of the United States.

There is plenty of time between now and election day, and there is a very good chance I may change my mind in the interim, either by some policy statement of Paul's, or by another candidate really impressing me, but at this point I don't trust any of the other Republicans to keep us out of unnecessary wars, and I prefer some form of divided government to offset the Congress, rather than a Democratic rubberstamp. With Paul, it would be like divided government no matter which party held Congress, and that situation works for me.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Ron Paul -- spamming or swarming?

I wrote this (as "anonymous") on the Elephant Biz blog, and I thought I'd put it here as well, since it's a brief synopsis of what I think about the accusations that Ron Paul supporters are "spamming" online polls:
Are the same people voting in multiple polls? Probably. Are they voting multiple times in the same poll? Probably not -- or at least, not any more than supporters for other candidates. Checking the IP address, using cookies, and validating e-mail addresses would prevent the vast majority of that from happening.

Thus, I don't think "spamming" is the correct word, though "swarming" might be. While it can be annoying for websites that prefer other candidates, it does show how excited some people are about the election. Rather than ban a particular candidate, I think other candidates should differentiate themselves from the pack in order to generate the same excitement -- people tend to root for the underdog, and a person standing for his convictions in the face of widespread opposition is attractive to many. For example, John McCain impressed me with his principled stand against torture, especially since he was the only person on the stage to have endured it (granted, he lost most of that goodwill with his stand on immigration, but that's another subject).

Finally, the Republican Party has to decide whether their platform is a big tent or a pup tent. If they can't defend their views against a person in their own party, how will they fare in the general election? The Iraq issue isn't going to go away between now and Novemeber 2008.

For me, "spamming" means a small group of people voting over and over in the same poll, while swarming means a larger group of people who vote in many (most? all?) of the polls they see, but only once per poll. The latter might annoy some people, but it's no more unethical than if Gallup and Pew called the same person on the same subject, and they answered both times. "I'm sorry, I already answered that question for a Gallup poll, so I can't answer it here" seems a little excessive.

My suggestion for other candidates (as mentioned above) is to find an important position where you disagree with the majority of your compatriots, and give a firm, reasoned defense of that position. It will help differentiate you from the rest of the pack, and generate excitement with those who agree with your position. Saying "Me, too!" and "I'd do that -- twice as much!" doesn't give anyone a reason to vote for you over anyone else in the race.