President Bloomberg? How Bloomberg Could Win — With Slightly Different Voting Rules

Could Michael Bloomberg actually win? Or should he spend his billions on fixing our broken electoral system instead?

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York City mayor, is reportedly considering spending up to $1 billion of his own money to run for president. But could he actually win? Or would he be better off spending that money to revamp our electoral system — giving independent candidates like himself a better chance to win next time around?


For Bloomberg to win the 270 electoral seats needed to become president, he would need to receive all of the electoral votes in major "Democratic" states (such as New York and California) and "Republican" states (such as Texas and Georgia), essentially "stealing" those electoral votes from the Democratic and Republican nominees (in this case, let’s say Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump). Keep in mind that most states choose to apportion all of their electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes. (The exceptions are Maine and Nebraska, which choose to apportion theirs relative to the popular vote — so if Bloomberg got one-third of the popular vote, he would get one-third of the electors.) So, in order to win the presidency, Bloomberg would have to receive more popular votes than Sanders or Trump in states such as New York, California, Texas, and Georgia. Even with a billion dollar budget, this seems highly unlikely.

So what is Bloomberg thinking? He is likely hoping that his entry into the race will mean that no candidate wins enough electoral votes to become president (which is possible if Bloomberg actually "wins" at least one state), thereby sending the decision directly to the House of Representatives, who, according to the 12th Amendment, must follow an elaborate and complex set of rules to select a winner (this has happened once before, when the House chose John Quincy Adams over William H. Crawford and Henry Clay in 1825). Is Bloomberg delusional, or might the House, divided by the prospects of having to decide between Sanders and Trump, ultimately choose Bloomberg as the best "compromise" candidate?

It doesn’t have to be this way. If Bloomberg believes that his vision more accurately represents “The Will of the People” than either Sanders’ or Trump’s, he should put his money where his mouth is and push to change our electoral system so that he — or a future candidate he wants to bankroll — can win fair and square. This does not mean a Constitutional amendment to get rid of the Electoral College. It also does not mean a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and reinstate campaign finance reform. Constitutional amendments are hard; that is why there are only 27 of them. Instead, on a state-by-state basis, Bloomberg can push to institute Approval Voting — where voters are permitted to vote for (“approve” of) as many candidates on the ballot as they wish. In that way, voters who loved Sanders and liked Bloomberg could vote for both, effectively registering their support of both candidates over Trump. Likewise, a voter who loved Trump and liked Bloomberg could vote for both as a hedge against a Sanders presidency. Either way, in Approval Voting, the candidate with the broadest overall support wins.

Think of the state of New York: Right now, all of its 29 electoral votes go to the plurality winner (that is, the candidate who receives the most popular votes); but imagine if, instead, they went to the approval winner (the one who receives the most approval votes)? A popular third-party or independent candidate would stand a serious chance of "winning" the state, and thereby receiving all of its electoral votes. If Bloomberg were to be the approval winner of major states such as New York, California, Texas, and Georgia, he would be able to make a serious case to both the House and the American people that he was the rightful president.

Instead of spending a billion dollars on a pipe dream under the existing rules, Bloomberg would be better off using his money to advocate for real change — pushing major states to use Approval Voting to apportion their electoral votes and thereby giving himself and other candidates he "approves of" a real chance of becoming president.

About the Author:

Eric Sanders is a writer, producer, and director who has also served as a Board Member of the non-partisan 501(c)3 organization The Center for Election Science (http://www.electology.org), the world’s pre-eminent think tank studying voting systems in order to improve democracy. More about Eric at http://www.funintrouble.com.

Note:

Approval Voting is perfectly legal, so if you want to post a comment about how it violates “one person, one vote,” please read this (http://electology.org/approval-voting) first and save yourself some time.

References:

Bloomberg’s Decision to Run - http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2016/01/25/bloomberg-possible-presidential-bid

Electoral Map - http://www.270towin.com

12th Amendment - http://electoralcollegehistory.com/electoral/crs-congress.asp

Images:

Bernie Sanders

Michael Bloomberg

Donald Trump

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Sure, Epicureans focused on seeking pleasure – but they also did so much more.

Antonio Masiello/Getty Images
Culture & Religion

'The pursuit of Happiness' is a famous phrase in a famous document, the United States Declaration of Independence (1776). But few know that its author was inspired by an ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus. Thomas Jefferson considered himself an Epicurean. He probably found the phrase in John Locke, who, like Thomas Hobbes, David Hume and Adam Smith, had also been influenced by Epicurus.

Nowadays, educated English-speaking urbanites might call you an epicure if you complain to a waiter about over-salted soup, and stoical if you don't. In the popular mind, an epicure fine-tunes pleasure, consuming beautifully, while a stoic lives a life of virtue, pleasure sublimated for good. But this doesn't do justice to Epicurus, who came closest of all the ancient philosophers to understanding the challenges of modern secular life.

Epicureanism competed with Stoicism to dominate Greek and Roman culture. Born in 341 BCE, only six years after Plato's death, Epicurus came of age at a good time to achieve influence. He was 18 when Alexander the Great died at the tail end of classical Greece – identified through its collection of independent city-states – and the emergence of the dynastic rule that spread across the Persian Empire. Zeno, who founded Stoicism in Cyprus and later taught it in Athens, lived during the same period. Later, the Roman Stoic Seneca both critiqued Epicurus and quoted him favourably.

Today, these two great contesting philosophies of ancient times have been reduced to attitudes about comfort and pleasure – will you send back the soup or not? That very misunderstanding tells me that Epicurean ideas won, hands down, though bowdlerised, without the full logic of the philosophy. Epicureans were concerned with how people felt. The Stoics focused on a hierarchy of value. If the Stoics had won, stoical would now mean noble and an epicure would be trivial.

Epicureans did focus on seeking pleasure – but they did so much more. They talked as much about reducing pain – and even more about being rational. They were interested in intelligent living, an idea that has evolved in our day to mean knowledgeable consumption. But equating knowing what will make you happiest with knowing the best wine means Epicurus is misunderstood.

The rationality he wedded to democracy relied on science. We now know Epicurus mainly through a poem, De rerum natura, or 'On the Nature of Things', a 7,400 line exposition by the Roman philosopher Lucretius, who lived c250 years after Epicurus. The poem was circulated only among a small number of people of letters until it was said to be rediscovered in the 15th century, when it radically challenged Christianity.

Its principles read as astonishingly modern, down to the physics. In six books, Lucretius states that everything is made of invisible particles, space and time are infinite, nature is an endless experiment, human society began as a battle to survive, there is no afterlife, religions are cruel delusions, and the universe has no clear purpose. The world is material – with a smidgen of free will. How should we live? Rationally, by dropping illusion. False ideas largely make us unhappy. If we minimise the pain they cause, we maximise our pleasure.

Secular moderns are so Epicurean that we might not hear this thunderclap. He didn't stress perfectionism or fine discriminations in pleasure – sending back the soup. He understood what the Buddhists call samsara, the suffering of endless craving. Pleasures are poisoned when we require that they do not end. So, for example, it is natural to enjoy sex, but sex will make you unhappy if you hope to possess your lover for all time.

Epicurus also seems uncannily modern in his attitude to parenting. Children are likely to bring at least as much pain as pleasure, he noted, so you might want to skip it. Modern couples who choose to be 'child-free' fit within the largely Epicurean culture we have today. Does it make sense to tell people to pursue their happiness and then expect them to take on decades of responsibility for other humans? Well, maybe, if you seek meaning. Our idea of meaning is something like the virtue embraced by the Stoics, who claimed it would bring you happiness.

Both the Stoics and the Epicureans understood that some good things are better than others. Thus you necessarily run into choices, and the need to forgo one good to protect or gain another. When you make those choices wisely, you'll be happier. But the Stoics think you'll be acting in line with a grand plan by a just grand designer, and the Epicureans don't.

As secular moderns, we pursue short-term happiness and achieve deeper pleasure in work well done. We seek the esteem of peers. It all makes sense in the light of science, which has documented that happiness for most of us arises from social ties – not the perfect rose garden or a closet of haute couture. Epicurus would not only appreciate the science, but was a big fan of friendship.

The Stoics and Epicureans diverge when it comes to politics. Epicurus thought politics brought only frustration. The Stoics believed that you should engage in politics as virtuously as you can. Here in the US where I live, half the country refrains from voting in non-presidential years, which seems Epicurean at heart.

Yet Epicurus was a democrat. In a garden on the outskirts of Athens, he set up a school scandalously open to women and slaves – a practice that his contemporaries saw as proof of his depravity. When Jefferson advocated education for American slaves, he might have had Epicurus in mind.

I imagine Epicurus would see far more consumption than necessary in my own American life and too little self-discipline. Above all, he wanted us to take responsibility for our choices. Here he is in his Letter to Menoeceus:

For it is not drinking bouts and continuous partying and enjoying boys and women, or consuming fish and the other dainties of an extravagant table, which produce the pleasant life, but sober calculation which searches out the reasons for every choice and avoidance and drives out the opinions which are the source of the greatest turmoil for men's souls.

Do you see the 'pursuit of happiness' as a tough research project and kick yourself when you're glum? You're Epicurean. We think of the Stoics as tougher, but they provided the comfort of faith. Accept your fate, they said. Epicurus said: It's a mess. Be smarter than the rest of them. How modern can you get?Aeon counter – do not remove

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons. Read the original article.


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