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Voting, Parties, and Political Games.

Voting, Parties, and Political Games.

This is a collection of theories I have based on my own personal observations of political dynamics and online discussions. It's not based on any one book. It's application of game theory, systems theory and a little bit of natural selection to politics (mostly US politics) by someone with not much knowledge of either game or systems theory. So take it as you will. With that disclaimer out of the way, here are Blaster's 5 laws of politics

1. Elections and referendums are games people agree to play in order to make decisions without resorting to violence.

The games have agreed-upon rules, and the large-scale agreement to play by those rules is the foundation of civilized government. These rules form a basis for sharing power and resolving conflicts without resorting to violence. Note that these political games exist within the context of deeper laws such as market forces, nature, and foreign threats. These forces exist as threat points or motivators and can greatly influence the behavior of participating factions, but aren't a part of the political system itself.

2. The sole purpose of a political party is to win.

Parties aim to win elections and rerendums to effect policy changes.

Political Parties can fill many roles but the reason they exist is to win political games, that's it. It's easy to get distracted by ideologies, since most political parties do use ideology as a means to gather support. But it's always safe to consider those ideologies a means to an end, where the party is concerned. Factions within the party may have ideologies, but even the minority parties in parliamentary systems don't agree on everything.

Any attempt to understand political parties in terms of ideology first is doomed to fail, because that's not what the system selects for.

3. The primary way political parties win elections is by convincing voters to vote with your party.

Seems obvious, but I have to state it. This is what political parties do. Political parties pool the resources of their members and then use propaganda, the media, campaigning, and their public record of accomplishments to acquire and maintain the needed voter support. Voters have to be persuaded in sufficiently large numbers to defeat the opposition parties in time for the next election.

4. The political game is played over long periods of time, though sometimes changes can happen quickly.

I cannot emphasize this enough. The rules of the electoral college game mean that political parties have to win support on a state-by-state basis. That support has to be there in every single election. Whether that support exists due to loyalty earned by previous performance, or by active campaigning during the current election cycle, it still had to be earned at some point. Just because your state might not see active campaigning during an election year doesn't mean that the political parties haven't ever done things to serve the interests of those states.

But just because some things stay the same for a long time, doesn't mean they can't change suddenly when circumstances change. Long time Democrat states such as New York could swing the other way in a single election cycle if the situation changed dramatically enough to sway large numbers of voters at the last minute. Although a given candidate during a given election might make strategic decisions to ignore states they feel are either "safe" or "unwinnable," such decisions do have an inherent risk. Given infinite funds and organization, you'd always campaign to win every state.

5. Modern systems are enormous. This is why your vote feels worthless.

125 million voters cast ballots in the 2012 United States presidential election. Meanwhile, the entire population of the United States in 1780 was 2.7 million, and most of them did not vote. The simple fact is that in a country with hundreds of millions of people, your one puny little vote is like a fart in the wind. There is no way to change that. Sure, special interests are a huge problem. The media's failure to uphold the ethics of their trade is an even bigger problem. There's plenty of evidence of politicians ignoring what voters seem to want. But the main reason it seems like your vote does not matter is because it's such a tiny part of the whole picture. The meaning of that vote is you giving a political party your tiny millionth of a percent of voting power, so that together with all the other tiny voters, your party can win the election. That's the only way this system really works.

But still, votes are the chips in the electoral game. That's how democracy works. Without votes, the system breaks down, the game changes. So votes, as a whole, are important to the system, no matter how insignificant your own personal vote might be. So the system will pressure you to vote, you'll feel that pressure from the political parties who want your vote to get their candidate in office. Or, if they think you might vote against them they might try to discourage you from voting. Again, most of the behavior of political parties (not necessarily individual politicians) can be explained in terms of winning elections.

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