In all my years of watching politics in the US, never have I seen a presidential election generate such overwhelmingly negative emotions. Everyone hates Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or, increasingly, both of them. This is creating a severe psychological problem for many people: they want to tell their friends and the world that Clinton is mentally unstable and a crook, but they are conflicted because they realize that by so doing they would be supporting Trump. Or they want to tell everyone what a vulgar, narcissistic, egotistical blowhard Trump is, but they are conflicted because they realize that by so doing they would be supporting Clinton. Some are abandoning the two-party duopoly in favor of minor parties, ready to vote for Jill Stein the Green or Gary Johnson the Libertarian, but are conflicted because voting for Stein would take votes away from Clinton the crook and thus support Trump the blowhard, while voting for Johnson would take votes away from Trump the blowhard and thus support Clinton the crook. There is just no winning! Or is there?
There is a long list of arguments for voting against either of the major candidates, some of them seemingly valid. At the top of the list of the seemingly valid ones are that Clinton is corrupt and a warmonger, while Trump is inexperienced and socially divisive. But there is hardly a single valid reason to be found anywhere why someone would want to vote for either them. Some have argued that Trump is less likely to cause World War III, because his instincts are those of a businessman, and he is primarily interested in making money, not war; but Clinton likes money just as much as Trump—just look at her gigantic private slush fund known as the Clinton Foundation! On the other hand, perhaps Trump will like the idea of peace only until the moment he is elected, at which point it will be explained to him that the US empire is an extortion racket, and that breaking legs (a.k.a. war) is how it comes up with the ink. And then he will like war just as much as Clinton does. None of this makes it easy for a lover of liberty and peace to vote for either one of them in good conscience.
I heard Jill Stein say that people should be able to vote their conscience. Yes, let’s concede that voting against your conscience is probably bad for your soul, if not your pocketbook. But this makes it sound as if the voting booth were a confessional rather than what it is—an apparatus by which people can assert their very limited political power. But do you have any political power, or are American elections just a game of manipulation in which you lose no matter how you vote? A 2014 study, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page conclusively showed how the preferences of average citizens matter not a whit, while those of moneyed elites and interest groups certainly do. Thus, the question as to whether you are the winner or the loser in the game of US electoral politics is easily answered: if you are a multibillionaire and a captain of industry, then you might win; if you are an average citizen, then the chances of you winning are precisely zero.
Given that you are going to lose, how should you play? Should you behave like a Furious Sheep, obeying all the signals fed to you by the candidates, their organizations and the political commentators in the mass media? Should you do your part to hand the largest possible victory to those who are manipulating the political process to their advantage? Or should you withhold cooperation to the largest extent possible and try to unmask them and neutralize their efforts at political manipulation?
Sure, there are some cheap thrills to be had for the Furious Sheep—endorphins from jumping up and down while waving mass-produced signs and shouting slogans pre-approved by campaign committees. But if you are the sort of person who likes to have an independent thought now and again, what you are probably looking for are three things:
• avoid psychological damage from having to observe and participate in this absurd and degrading spectacle;
• experience the delicious thrill of watching this system fail and those behind it lose face; and
• regain some amount of faith in the possibility of a future for your children and grandchildren that might involve something actually resembling some sort of democracy rather than a humiliating, sordid, rigged game.
Before we can play, we have to understand what variety of game this is in technical terms. There are many different kinds of games: games of strength (tug-of-war), games of skill (fencing) and games of strategy (backgammon). This one is a game of strength, fought using large bags of money, but it can be turned into a game of strategy by the weaker side, not to win but to deny victory to the other side.
Most of us are brought up with the nice idea that games should be fair. In a fair game both sides have a chance at victory, and there is normally a winner and a loser, or, failing that, a tie. But fair games represent only a subset of games, while the rest—the vast majority—are unfair. Here, we are talking about a specific type of unfair game in which your side always loses. But does that mean that the other side must always win? Not at all! There are two possible outcomes: “you lose—they win” and “you lose—they lose.”
Now, if you, being neither a multibillionaire nor a captain of industry, are facing the prospect of spending the rest of your life on the losing side, which outcome should you wish for? Of course, you should want the other side to lose too! The reason: if those on the other side start losing, then they will abandon this game and resort to some other means of securing an unfair victory. In the case of the game of American electoral politics, this would pierce the veil of faux-democracy, generating a level of public outrage that might make the restoration of real democracy at least theoretically possible.
So, how do you change the outcome from “you lose—they win” to “you lose—they lose”?
The first question to answer is whether you should bother voting at all, and the answer is, Yes, you should vote. If you don’t vote, then you abandon the playing field to the Furious Sheep who, being most easily manipulated, will hand an easy victory to the other side. And so the remaining question is, How should you vote to make the other side lose? This should not be regarded as a matter of personal choice; no need to concern yourself with who is the “lesser evil,” or which candidate made which meaningless promises. You will not be casting a vote for someone; you will be casting a vote against the entire process. Think of yourself as a soldier who volunteered in defense of liberty: you will simply be carrying out your orders. The charge has been laid by someone else; your mission, should you wish to accept it, is to light the fuse and walk away. This should at once motivate you to go and vote and make the voting process easy and stress-free. You are going to show up, subvert the dominant paradigm, and go watch the fireworks.
Next, you have to understand the way the electoral game is played. It is played with money—very large sums of money—with votes being quite secondary. In mathematical terms, money is the independent variable and votes are the dependent variable, but the relationship between money and votes is nonlinear and time-variant. In the opening round, the moneyed interests throw huge sums of money at both of the major parties—not because elections have to be, by their nature, ridiculously expensive, but to erect an insurmountable barrier to entry for average citizens. But the final decision is made on a relatively thin margin of victory, in order to make the electoral process appear genuine rather than staged, and to generate excitement. After all, if the moneyed interests just threw all their money at their favorite candidate, making that candidate’s victory a foregone conclusion, that wouldn’t look sufficiently democratic. And so they use large sums to separate themselves from you the great unwashed, but much smaller sums to tip the scales.
When calculating how to tip the scales, the political experts employed by the moneyed interests rely on information on party affiliation, polling data and historical voting patterns. To change the outcome from a “lose-win” to a “lose-lose,” you need to invalidate all three of these:
• The proper choice of party affiliation is “none,” which, for some bizarre reason, is commonly labeled as “independent,” (and watch out for American Independent Party, which is a minor right-wing party in California that has successfully trolled people into joining it by mistake). Be that as it may; let the Furious Sheep call themselves the “dependent” ones. In any case, the two major parties are dying, and the number of non-party members is now almost the same as the number of Democrats and Republicans put together.
• When responding to a poll, the category you should always opt for is “undecided,” up to and including the moment when you walk into the voting booth. When questioned about your stands on various issues, you need to remember that the interest in your opinion is disingenuous: your stand on issues matters not a whit (see study above) except as part of an effort to herd you, a Furious Sheep, into a particular political paddock. Therefore, when talking to pollsters, be vaguely on both sides of every issue while stressing that it plays no role in your decision-making. Should you be asked what does matter to you, concentrate on such issues as the candidates’ body language, fashion sense and demeanor. Doing so will effectively short-circuit any attempt to manipulate you using your purely fictional ability to influence public policy. You cannot be for or against a candidate being forthright and well-spoken; nor is there a litmus test for comportment or fashion sense. Politicians are supposed to be able to herd Furious Sheep by making promises they have no intention of keeping. But what if the voters (wise to the fact that their opinions no longer matter) suddenly start demanding better posture, more graceful hand gestures, a more melodious tone of voice and a sprightlier step? Calamity! What was supposed to be a fake but tidy ideological battleground with fictional but clearly delineated front lines suddenly turns into a macabre beauty pageant held on a uniform field of liquefied mud.
• The final step is to invalidate historical voting patterns. Here, the perfectly obvious solution is to vote randomly. Random voting will produce not random but chaotic results, invalidating the notion that the electoral process is about party platforms, policies, issues or popular mandates. More importantly, it will invalidate the process by which votes are purchased, in effect getting money out of politics. You just have to remember to bring a penny into the voting booth with you. Here is a flowchart that explains how you should decide who to vote for once you are standing in the voting booth holding a penny:
If you want to be an activist, bring a pocketful of pennies and hand them out to people while standing in line at the polling place. You won’t need to convince that many people to produce the intended effect. Remember, in order to maintain the appearance of a democratic process, the artificial, financially induced margin of victory is kept quite thin, and even a small amount of added randomness is enough to wipe it out. Point out the word “liberty” prominently embossed on each penny. Briefly explain what a Furious Sheep is, and how the exercise of liberty is the exact opposite of being a Furious Sheep. Then explain to them how the pennies are to be used: the first flip of the penny determines whether you are voting for the left or the right; the second—whether you are voting for the major or the minor candidate. Be sure to mention that this is a sure-fire way to get money out of politics. Try the line “This penny can’t be bought.” Don’t argue or debate; rattle off your “elevator speech,” hand over the penny and move on. The last detail everyone needs to remember is how to respond to exit polls, in order to deprive the other side of any understanding of what has just happened. When asked how you voted, say: “I voted by secret ballot.”
Then you can go home, turn on the idiot box and watch a fun spectacle featuring the gnashing of teeth, the rending of garments and the scattering of ashes upon talking heads. You won’t get to see the behind-the-scenes rancor and the recriminations among the moneyed elites, but you can imagine just how furious they will be, having had their billions of dollars defeated by a few handfuls of pennies.
You might think that random voting, with each candidate getting an equal share of the votes, would be perfectly predictable, making it possible to secure a victory by hacking a few voting machines. But this would never be the case in the real world, because not everyone will vote randomly. You might then think that it would still be possible to manipulate the nonrandom voters into voting a certain way. But how can anyone predict who will vote randomly and who won’t? And if every vote is, in essence, purchased, how would someone go about buying random votes, or figuring out which candidate such a purchase would favor? In this situation, buying votes would only serve to further confuse the outcome. Thus, the effect of added randomness on the outcome will not be random; it will be chaotic.
And that, my fellow Americans, is how you can change a “you lose—they win” outcome to a more just and equitable “you lose—they lose” in this particular game of strategy.