Every major publication and public figure endorses a candidate for President, so why not this blog? Instead of explaining the virtues of one candidate or the flaws of another, I’m going to offer an alternative: who you should vote for depends on where you live.
First, let me give some background.
The airwaves are full of supposed “experts” analyzing the latest polls and offering insights into what they mean, but over the last four years, Nate Silver has emerged as the most highly regarded in the field. He made his reputation on the 2008 Presidential election, where he correctly predicted 49 of the 50 states (he missed Indiana where Obama won by 1%) and also picked all 35 Senate winners. He was subsequently named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential people of 2009. Silver parlayed that success into a blogging gig for my local paper (The New York Times). However, he’s not without his detractors. As Ezra Klein puts it, “Silver’s model is, at this point, little more than a sophisticated form of poll aggregation.”
This election will either cement him as a modern day oracle or be the very public end of his political forecasting career. Some context – he currently predicts Obama as having an 86% chance to win, while CNN shows the candidates at a dead even 49-49. That said, I’ve based my numbers on his own because at the end of the day, if he’s good enough for the grey lady, he’s good enough for me.
Back to my endorsement. Normally I would have just said to vote for the candidate that wants to end all of our wars (drug war included), is against torture, etc. But then you would say, “voting for a third party candidate is throwing away your vote.” To which I say, if you live any where outside of the key battleground states, your kidding yourself if you think your vote matters.
Don’t believe me? Just take a look at these two maps. On the left we have the tipping points states, showing the likelihood a single state will decide the election. On the right we have the return on investment index, which shows how likely a single person is to decide the election.
(source: 538 blog)
So who should you vote for? Like I said before, it depends on where you live. Most likely it should go like this: Ohio – Vote Romney, Florida – Vote Obama, North Carolina – Vote Romney, Virginia – Vote Obama, Wisconsin – Vote Obama, Colorado – Vote Obama, Iowa – Vote Romney, Nevada – Vote Romney, New Hampshire – Vote Romney.
There’s a couple other scenarios where the result could be the same, but this seems like the safest bet. If you live in any of the other forty-one states, use a site like I Side With to determine which candidate you are most aligned with in principle and vote for that person, because if you want to talk about “throwing your vote away,” that’s what you’ve done by deciding to live in a non-battleground state. Like John Adams said, “Always stand on principle….even if you stand alone.” Here’s a quick reference guide to the other four tie scenarios (I used #3, this is out of the most likely 512 election outcomes).
Why would we want a tie? So people will realize how archaic the electoral college system has become. This way we can finally have a national discourse on abolishing the antiquated electoral system. It disenfranchises millions and ensures that a few thousand people in a handful of random places pick the President.
Sure, the defenders are going to say that if we have another situation like in 1872 when the person we elect president dies (Horace Greeley) before the electors actually meet, then we have a system whereby the electors can just pick someone else (in that case Ulysses S. Grant). It’s not like that’s the scenario people base their opinions of the VP candidates or anything. For the more rational people out there, surely a straight up popular vote seems more reasonable? As Rainn Wilson tweeted today, “Over 6 Billion was spent on 2012 political campaigns telling us how good they are with money & debt.” Seriously people, this is the best we can do?
But I digress, because at the end of the day, how much does the president really matter? NPR had a great segment on this a while back (available on iTunes). As statistician J.C. Bradbury remarked:
“I think people think that the President is a benevolent despot determining our fortunes when in reality I think the President is just sitting in the co-pilot seat of a plane that’s already on auto-pilot.”
All kidding aside, at the end of the day, if we say we believe in democracy, voting does matter. Get out and vote. Google has a great tool to figure out your polling place if you don’t already know it.