Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Paul LePage is Maine's next governor

Republican Paul LePage has won the gubernatorial election in Maine and it's time to make some predictions.

Even with the GOP in the governor seat and in control of the state legislature for the first time since 1964, I don't expect too many cuts to spending. To make my prediction disprovable, I'll say say the yearly budget will not go down by more than 8 percent in the next four years. It will be great if they manage to keep it from increasing, as I expect they will, and I do expect some impact on red tape and business taxes, but I don't see this election as a complete revolution in Maine.

Don't get me wrong, I think there is some great potential for progress here, but I don't want to make the same mistake the rapid Obama supporters made and set my hopes too high.

It's awkward to see Facebook posts from my lefty friends talk about this election as the end of the world. It's downright annoying, however, to see people write that LePage shouldn't serve because he did not get a majority of the vote. LePage got 38 percent, independent Eliot Cutler got 37 percent and Democrat Libby Mitchell got 19 percent.

I've read a few times that Cutler would win if only we used run-off elections to have voters pick between the final two candidates. This principled stance was made after the results were in, of course. While there are valid proponents of run-off elections, the Johnny-come-latelies just look like sore losers. It's also questionable what the results would have been.

Changing the rules means the players would change their strategies. Imagine a soccer game where a kick misses the goal by a foot. The kicker declares, "If only the goal was moved further to the left, I'd have made it." What he forgets is that the goalie would have moved to the side too, as well as the other defending players, and the kicker may not have kicked from the same spot.

With a run-off election, more candidates would have entered the race, and more voters would have supported unlikely candidates. The primaries would have been different as well, if they still mattered. It's possible that Cutler voters would have split into different factions and Libby Mitchell or some unknown candidate would be in Cutler's spot in the run-off..

It's silly to lose a game and then declare you only lost because you weren't playing a different game, one with new rules that happen to help you.


  1. Yes - but where do you stand on IRV/RCV in general?

    I've always supported it and I certainly plan on riding the momentum of the "johnny-come-latelies" in my activism.


    For the record - this lefty isn't terribly scared of a LePage Blaine House.

  2. I think getting a plurality of votes is just as valid as a majority. It strikes me as a fetish to say someone needs a majority to win.

    I understand all third-party supporters want them as it will supposedly help them get elected, but I think the GOP and dems are paper tigers because anyone can join and just nail their primary.

    The downside of the primary system is you have to go away from the middle to win, then to the middle to win the big election. However, the complicated mess of Instant Runoff Voting doesn't even garuntee a majority:

  3. I'd have to say that i'm very sketpical of Rank-choice voting. It violates "One Man-One vote" which is the bedrock on which the system rests. In short, it seems..... Oooogie

  4. I hope you're wrong about the decrease in spending...

  5. Call it a fetish if you like, but IRV does make me more comfortable. It's less about getting a majority - which in and of itself is not necessarily praiseworthy, as you say - but it rather makes it easier to foster compromise in an election.

    The glitches highlighted in the video are indicative of the fact that IRV is a system that's still in its infancy (toddlery?) The examples show a reduction in the number of votes counted in each round, which means some ballots were not carried over. I'm not positive, but I suspect that's because the cities used a version of ranked choice that allows you to limit how many ranks you give. For instance, there may be 5 candidates, but you only rank 2 or 3 because you totally disapprove of the others. If you only ranked two and there's a third or fourth runoff - their ballot isn't counted. I don't think this is a problem. If you choose not to vote for a third or fourth rank, it equates not voting.

    In the video, they count the votes a candidate got and show it as a percentage of the total ballots cast - not the total votes in the final round.

    As a third party person myself, I can say that my primary goal is not to ensure that more third party candidates get elected. I don't think it will actually help that much. IRV has - in other countries - still yielded a dual-party system. The difference is the parties are able to coexist more civilly. IRV creates a scenario where it's more dangerous to employ negative campaign tactics because you're likely to alienate potential 2nd rank votes.

    TiG brings up a common objection to IRV which fortunately has been tested in court and failed several times. Judge James Fleming in a Michigan court ruled that:

    "Under the 'M.P.V. System', however, no one person or voter has more than one effective vote for one office. No voter's vote can be counted more than once for the same candidate. In the final analysis, no voter is given greater weight in his or her vote over the vote of another voter, although to understand this does require a conceptual understanding of how the effect of a 'M.P.V. System' is like that of a run-off election. The form of majority preferential voting employed in the City of Ann Arbor's election of its Mayor does not violate the one-man, one-vote mandate nor does it deprive anyone of equal protection rights under the Michigan or United States Constitutions."

    IRV does have kinks - but so does our present electoral system. I think it's worth exploring. I look forward to Portland's experiment with their new IRV elections for Mayor.

  6. Woah woah woah! This is the first I've ever heard of such a voting system and I'm sincerely excited about the idea! Jer, you keep referencing a video. Could you link it to save you the time of explaining what is in it? On the surface, this may be one of the better political ideas I've heard in a very long time.

  7. Abner, I hope you're right and I'm wrong about the changes to spending in Maine. I saw so many starry-eyed liberals have their hopes dashed in 2008 with president Obama and I am determined not to have the same thing happen to me. LePage's economic positions are exactly what I want for Maine, so my concern is that beaucracy will slow down progress.

    The video in question is:

  8. My hope is that if he cuts spending - he does it in a smart manner, as opposed to just cutting funding for the sake of cutting funding. I would start by seeking out and eliminating efficiencies in our gov't.

  9. Agreed with your first paragraph wholeheartedly, Michael. So, I'm a bit confused here. I watched the video (God, that dude could talk a little faster) and am not sure how folks kept getting elected with less than 50%. Looking at the actual results that the narrator displays, the final winner DID, in fact, garner more than 50% of the VALID votes in that round. How is he taking the total from round 1 and comparing it to the results for round 2/3/4? Is he sympathetic to those who didn't bother to continue voting in subsequent rounds? For instance, at 1:42, Derek Johnson wins with 1,233 votes of a total 2,143. Obviously, that is more than 50%. Though, the narrator only claims 49% support. Ummm, what? A little clarification before I fall in love with IRV?

  10. How's everybody on "clean" elections?

  11. I don't see the point. Making the public pay for campaign ads is just rotten to me.

  12. Of course, I disagree. Allowing special interest groups to dish out billions of dollars to convince voters to vote one way or another seems unfair to me.

    If the electorate is split by income demographics between 2 candidates - the one favored by richer people will win simply by being able to propagate more information.

    Adam Smith favored gov't supported education to mitigate the effects of the division of labor on the largest portion of society, the laborers, whose work becomes “confined to a few very simple operations, frequently to one or two.” Unfortunately, people derive their understanding of the world from their everyday experience, which is largely their daily work. This means that:

    “The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations . . . generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become. The torpor of his mind renders him, not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble, or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgment concerning many even of the ordinary duties of private life. Of the great and extensive interests of his country he is altogether incapable of judging; and unless very particular pains have been taken to render him otherwise, he is equally incapable of defending his country in war. The uniformity of his stationary life . . . renders him incapable of exerting his strength with vigour and perseverance, in any other employment than that to which he has been bred. . . . in every improved and civilized society this is the state into which the labouring poor, that is, the great body of the people, must necessarily fall, unless government takes some pains to prevent it.”

    I wouldn't paint such a dank picture of today's citizens - but the effect exists. Citizens are too busy learning the multiple functions of their iPads, distracted by general social obligations - not to mention struggling in a recession to remain competitive. They're going to rely upon generalized, easy to understand sources of information to determine their vote (if they vote at all) and that's going to be the 30 second sound bites on TV or the half page mailers delivered to their door.

    Adam Smith favored public education - but education, as I've said before is a life long process and doesn't end at the arbitrary age of 18 and certainly continues as one is LEARNING about candidates and the issues we face as a society. I think clean elections help foster an environment where citizens are able to make objective, logical decisions as oppose to being strung along by ad hominem ad nauseum.

    Money does buy many elections. If it didn't, organizations wouldn't be shelling out millions of dollars to out-advertise the opponent. This election was particularly wasteful. I agree that free enterprise can be a lot more efficient than gov't solutions - but honestly, I think publicly funded elections would cost less and result in the election of better candidates - candidates who wouldn't have to spend most (yes, most) of their time raising funds and appealing to special interest groups.

  13. I don't think anyone would have donated their money to political causes if they thought the ads were innefective, but I have to say I think I'm typical in my generation when I say most of the talk of the election I heard was on Facebook and in social settings. I didn't see a single ad on the television, although I did hear some radio ones and read the mailers I got.

    I'm sure you've noticed that young people in this state have an allergy to voting GOP. It doesn't matter what ads you put out, or even what the issues are. They are going to vote partisan. After Obama managed to raise all that money through private donations despite claiming to help the poor at the expense of the rich, don't you think its time to question the idea that elections go towards the politican who promises to help the rich? Superfreakonomics argued that the candidate who looks like they will win attracts more campaign donations, so the cause and effect are backwards when we say the winner spent the most.

  14. Well, youth tend to have lower voter turnouts anyways. Most of the people I know at my age didn't vote. Most of those that did actually voted for LePage, but that part could be unique to me. I do get the impression that the young vote more liberal.

    I'm not quite ready to question the idea that politicians win if they promise to support the rich. Obama is negotiating extensions of Bush's tax cuts. His health care policy essentially forces citizens to buy from private insurance companies. He's done little to end the wars abroad (we're totally still in Iraq), helping to feed the military industry. He's also delivered bailouts as Bush has.