Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Free-Market Case against Donald Trump

Are you one of the millions of Americans who don't like Trump, but feel obligated to vote for him to stop Hillary? I completely understand and sympathize with this point of view, even if I don't currently share it.

But let me present to you some facts to consider before you sully your hands only to wash them clean on November 9th.

Hillary Clinton has led Donald Trump in the average of polls throughout the 2016 campaign. The best Trump has been able to do is pull close to a tie, which he did at the end of July and again in late September. Clinton leads now by a margin of almost seven points. There is still time for the race to tighten, but I'm skeptical Trump could bring it close enough to be in striking distance on November 8th considering the sexual assault allegations that have recently arisen. Given where the polls are now nationally and in the individual states, data journalism site FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton an 86% chance of winning the presidency.

In other words, Clinton is almost certain to win whether you vote for Trump or not.

Also, keep in mind the "tipping point" theory of swing states - that since states tend to move together with the polls, only the state that provides the winning 270th electoral vote really matters. In other words, if Texas turns blue on election night, that would be great for Clinton but it probably means that she already has Ohio, Florida, etc. in the bag and is winning in a landslide (fascinating concept - I highly recommend the article at the link). The chart to the left shows how likely each state is to be the tipping point state in this election based on recent polling. Most states have less than a 1% chance of being the tipping point, including yours (statistically speaking). ;) 

If you do not live in one of the plausible tipping point states, your vote is highly unlikely to affect the outcome of the race.

Free Advice

My take -- if the polls still look like this on Election Day, or if the race between Clinton and Trump is not close in your state at that time, forget strategic voting and just vote for whoever you would actually want to be president.

Recently I've been thinking about the "free-market case" against Donald Trump. No, I don't think Trump is necessarily bad for free markets (though some of his trade talk is troubling). Rather, what I'm referring to is the law of supply and demand that you may or may not have learned about in Economics 101. It applies in politics too. Here it is in a nutshell: if we, the voters, "demand" a certain type of politician by casting our votes for them, the supply of such politicians will increase.

Voting for Trump may save us from four years of Hillary, but it won't save us from four years of Trump if he wins. And if Trump loses by only a point or so, he may run again in 2020! Oh, the horror! Even if he doesn't, another populist demagogue may sense an opportunity and come out of the woodwork. (Not to mention that if it is close, Trump may make good on his "rigged" talk and incite some kind of uprising - I hope this is a wildly improbable scenario but it's hard to say for sure the way Trump talks.)

That's why I'm hoping that if Trump loses, he is defeated roundly and convincingly, leaving no door ajar, no breathing room, no hope for anyone of his ilk to rise again.

Instead, if you vote for someone ethical and decent who shares your views, perhaps you'll encourage such people to throw their hat in the ring and next election we'll have a better selection.

This logic also applies to third-party candidates and to Clinton herself. If you don't like Clinton but just think she is better than Trump, don't vote for her unless the race is close and you feel the need to vote strategically. If you don't think a third-party candidate is qualified or fit to be president, don't vote for them - if you do, they could be back next election, with more resources and emboldened by the support they received.

There are many reasons to vote or not to vote for a particular candidate, and supply and demand is not the supreme law of voting ethics. But it is one more factor for you to consider as you cast your ballot in just over two weeks.

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