I've decided to form a political party in the United States with the sole purpose of voting against all incumbents whenever certain benchmarks of government performance are not met. For example, if the United States drives over the fiscal cliff without a deal, that would trigger a vote against all incumbents for national office. But if a budget deal is reached, and other benchmarks of basic competence are also achieved, members of the Anti-Incumbent Party would be encouraged to vote for anyone they liked.

The fiscal cliff is the most glaring example of a broken government. But I'm sure we could come up with other benchmarks for performance that are equally non-partisan. The Anti-Incumbent Party would only insist that the government make decisions that are backed by data and some degree of intellectual integrity. We won't micromanage beyond that level. If the government makes timely decisions and clearly explains its reasoning, that's all we ask. We're looking for basic competence in the system, not specific outcomes.

We probably only need about ten percent of current voters to join the Anti-Incumbent Party to control the outcome of most elections. That seems fairly doable at the moment because most voters agree that the current system isn't working. And let's agree that the Anti-Incumbent Party will only exist as a psychological phenomenon and not a legal entity. That cuts down on a lot of paperwork and expense. To be a member of the Anti-Incumbent Party you simply have to want in. That's it. You can even continue to be a member of whatever other party you are in. The Anti-Incumbent Party doesn't mind your dual membership because we won't be holding any primaries or conventions.

We probably need a website. The site would be designed to solicit opinions and manage voting on the benchmarks of competence. The top five most popular benchmarks will become the platform and change as often as circumstances require.

In our current system, we vote for individual candidates based on what we perceive as their competence. But we don't get a chance to vote for the team of elected officials that form our government. The Anti-Incumbent party allows voters to actively manage the government's collective team performance. No matter how awesome the individual politicians might be, if they work poorly as a team, they need to be rotated out so we can try a new team.

Imagine how bad professional sports would be if coaches of losing teams couldn't make major lineup changes between seasons. Keep in mind that most losing teams are packed with world-class athletes. Sometimes great individuals just don't work well together.

I Googled "Anti-Incumbent Party" to see if someone already started such a thing and discovered a Super PAC dedicated to anti-incumbency. That seems like a step in the right direction. But I think we still need an Anti-Incumbent Party to get more traction.

The main stumbling block to this idea is that voters don't like to waste votes. The Anti-Incumbency Party only works if it attracts enough supporters to influence elections. So I suggest building the website and collecting names for the party on a provisional basis. Members would not be expected to voting against incumbents until there were enough party members to make a difference. That way no one wastes a vote until The Anti-Incumbent Party reaches a critical mass and starts voting as a group.

Do you think you could vote against your preferred party (Democrat or Republican) if you really liked your candidates' positions but the government as a whole wasn't working well as a team?

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Jan 1, 2013
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Dec 28, 2012
This doesn't apply to your American Two-party system, but in the last Alberta provincial election there was an organization called ChangeAlberta than kept a list of the candidates in each district with the best chance of defeating the incembant. This allowed people to vote strategically where it mattered, and protest vote where it didn't. Overall it worked a little, but not too much, because people were so afraid of the rising tea-party equivalent that the incembant looked pretty good in comparison.

spelling intentional to beat filter
Dec 28, 2012
Late for the party again, sorry, but the biggest problem with all this anti-incumbency talk is that most people are anti-incumbent for everyone else EXCEPT their own representative. Just check the polls - people have a very low opinion of Congress in general but a much better opinion of their own representative. So, people will gladly join this so-called party, if it can get everyone else EXCEPT their representative out of office. See the hypocrisy here? I hope? That's why it will never fly. When people turn against their own representatives (and I don't mean after some ridiculous scandal which most are probably guilty of but have yet to be found out), then you can count me in, but pigs will fly and Hell, Michigan will never freeze over before that day arrives.
Dec 27, 2012
You have stumbled upon the idea that has been preached in NJ by the NJ 101.5 talkshow host Jim Gerhart - GRIP - Get Rid of Incumbent Polititions, there are even a few websites: http://gripgov.com/ http://votegripnj.org/ the idea they have is people are too settled in fighting for their re-election to fight for what needs to be done, by virtually guaranteeing them that they will all be 1 term, then politics wont be a career, but people who want to actually make a change.
Dec 26, 2012
Are we talking the general election or primaries, here? There are plenty of Republican incumbents that need to be replaced by another Republican.

When it comes to the general election, as far as congress goes, do we count incumbency individually or by the party in power overall? For that matter, do we count incumbency by the party in power in Washington overall? In the election two months ago, the incumbency was Democrat control of the White House and Senate and Republican control of the House. So the anti-incumbent platform votes for Republicans in all offices, or Republicans for President and Senate but Democrats for the House?

The big problem in Washington is that the party you don't like is completely incompetent, but the party you do like is still only half competent, with a lot of incompetent individuals in it.
Dec 26, 2012
Meh. Our government largely sucks because the American people have a huge ideological split, and it's close enough to 50-50 that half of all people voted into office actively work against the other half. We have two hate-locked opposing forces butting heads over everything and mostly biding their time until one or the other has supreme power. You're arguing that an anti-incumbent party could flip-flop the balance of power one way or another. I'm not sure that's any kind of solution.

I've long advocated for ranked voting (instant runoff voting, alternate voting) and I still think it's the best way out of our political messes. We should redefine our voting system so that it maximizes different political parties and diverse political goals. No one party would ever hope to control two legislative branches and the presidency, so these monopoly tactics (railroad pet legislation that most people hate / block until we're in control / reverse past laws when we're back on top) wouldn't be possible. Politics would be defined by compromise, instead of this perpetual self-defeating tug-of-war.
Dec 26, 2012
A few problems with your AIP.

1. Let's say that for the sake of argument at least some of the sitting members of congress are willing to do the right thing. Hard data suggests throwing the baby out with the bath water is a bad idea, and your wife isn't going to be very happy about it either. While naming names is an easy thing to correct, it does mean more work.

2. Two rational people can look at a data set and have two different opinions on what to do with it, especially if it is a softer science. Politics isn't math, for better or worse.

3. You need to get a high turnout of people who just want a working government at any cost or else you'll wind up with a republican AIP and a democrat AIP, meaning you are back at square one. Frankly there's probably a lot of people out there who'd rather have a non-functioning government than a functioning one going in the wrong direction... if the bus isn't going to take you anywhere near where you want, it doesn't really matter if it's working or not.

In the end, I'm probably one who wouldn't join the AIP. If the other side must win elections, I'd prefer leaving them a government that's incapable of allowing them to reach whatever goals they might have because that's actually a better scenario than them getting a fully functioning government that they can use to full effect to implement their "bad" ideas. Trying to keep things general here.

In fact I think we should have a GIMP - a Government Incompetence Maintenance Party. It's chief goal is to make things so chaotic that no matter who wins, no matter what passes, and no matter if one party controls all three branches, all government will be totally incompetent and nothing will ever be able to get done at a national level.
Dec 26, 2012
My problem with simple anti-incumbency or any basic down-with-government pitch is that they generally don't have plans for filling the vacuum -- or if they do, they're deliberately quiet or misleading about it.

As Aesop said when defending a known grafter, it's a bad idea to bat away a bunch of fat mosquitos if it just makes room for skinny ones with more capacity. And the current problem isn't just fresh crooks -- It's amateurs, incompetents and near-traitors with narrow, f-everything-else agendas.

If you want one more comparison, it's trusting your health to the sleazeball book peddler in the infomercials solely because he's not part of the flawed Medical Establishment.
Dec 25, 2012
I guess you haven't heard Warren Buffet's plan. Here's what he said, only half-jokingly, in an interview on CNBC: "I could end the deficit in five minutes. You just pass a law that says that any time there's a deficit of more than three percent of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election."

Now, that's an even better plan than an anti-incumbent party, don't you think? A similar law might be that the house of Congress that refuses to pass a budget (as you'll recall, the Senate hasn't passed a budget in more than three years, even though they are constitutionally obligated to do so) would lose all pay, benefits and retirement. They could continue to serve, but would have to do so for free.

The only problem is that Congress would never pass such a law in the first place. When the Republicans ran the House of Representatives under Newt Gingrich, they did pass some watered-down versions of this type of thinking - for example, they removed the exemption Congress gives itself from having to follow the laws they pass. But when the Democrats took back control and reinstated the exemption.

I'm not saying Republicans are blameless. During the Bush the younger years, when the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, they tried to be Democrat light and spent money just like the Democrats. What they didn't realize was that you don't win elections by being Democrat light - you just lose your justification for being an alternative.

As far as the anti-incumbent party idea goes, it's doomed to failure. Most people think that Congress bites the donkey ear, but that THEIR member of Congress is just peachy-keen. So while they'd be glad to vote out YOUR member of Congress, they'd almost never be willing to vote out THEIR member of Congress. All politics, as they say, is local.

Right now, the problem we have is spending, but the press seems intent on focusing only on taxation. The simple truth is that there is no amount of taxation that could ever get us out of the hole our politicians have happily dug for us. President Obama now wants Congress to turn over the decisions for spending to him by removing the debt ceiling limit. The estimates are that by the time he leaves office the national debt will exceed $20 trillion dollars, which is about 125% of our GDP.

So you need to figure out how to get people to understand the problem and then demand Congress and the president do something about it. When that happens, you might have some shot at getting people to vote out their own member of Congress. But most people prefer to pretend that there isn't any problem, and smile as they march happily off the economic cliff.
Dec 25, 2012
>The fiscal cliff is the most glaring example of a broken government.

[citation needed]. It's tax increases along with spending cuts. Sounds like good-old austerity to me. Maybe it's exactly what this country needs? We're 16 trillion in debt, and if you include future liabilities, it's 80 trillion. You could tax everyone at 100%, and confiscate the net worth of all billionaires, and not even come close to paying it off.
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 25, 2012
>if the United States drives over the fiscal cliff without a deal, that would trigger a vote against all incumbents for national office.

What happens when the challengers realise their best route to being elected is just to mindlessly block everything the incumbents try to do?

You'll have either created an automatic government-breaking merry go round where everybody devotes their time to obstructing incumbents, all of whom cycle out every election, having achieved nothing (best case), or a foolproof system for making sure obstructionists (in either party) never lose power while people who want to help (in either party) are relegated to literally unelectable doormats/gofers for the incumbents (worst case).

>The Anti-Incumbent Party would only insist that the government make decisions that are backed by data and some degree of intellectual integrity.

If people could be trusted to make decisions based on objective intellectual integrity/sound reasoning, and not partisan nonsense/corruption (either as politicians or especially voters), we wouldn't be having any political problems.

>The Anti-Incumbent Party would only insist that the government make decisions that are backed by data and some degree of intellectual integrity.

I thought you just said it would insist that the government not make major mistakes, on pain of every single incumbent being fired, regardless of their role in helping/hurting the situation (or the challengers' role)?

>That seems fairly doable at the moment because most voters agree that the current system isn't working.

The "current system" that isn't working is largely criticised, as I understand it, either as being "two parties in name only" while consistently serving the same powerful interests no matter who's king of the castle at any moment - or as being too partisan/divided, unable to work together.

Giving untested, reckless challengers a foolproof way to yank themselves into the post of "figurehead" by sabotaging whoever's currently in charge is a near-perfect way to worsen both situations.

>Do you think you could vote against your preferred party (Democrat or Republican) if you really liked your candidates' positions but the government as a whole wasn't working well as a team?

No, because it would make "sabotage him so people will vote against him" an even more effective strategy than it already is.

I think "vote rationally" is really all we need from this plan.
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Dec 25, 2012
I would NEVER vote for *any* candidate who was anti-choice, anti-gay rights, anti-science (i.e. evangelical nutcase christian). I am unhappy with the Dems not facing reality when it comes to spending, but quite honestly, the repubs are worse when it comes to total fiscal responsibility.
Dec 25, 2012

I am quite certain that, had Gore won in 2000, we wouldn't have blown our money over the past ten years on tax cuts and increased medicare spending, we wouldn't have had stem cell research curtailed and theres a good chance we would have stayed out of Iraq. If McCain had been elected in 2008 Im quite certain we wouldn't have Obamacare, the government trying to force university health plans to cover abortion and our stimulus packages over the past four years would have had less government spending and more tax cuts. Perhaps not the kind of differences you're looking for between Democrats and Republicans but still substantial.

And note that in spite of the media Im not blaming Bush for the Great Recession.
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 24, 2012
The best "benchmark" would be term limits. Anything else is needlessly complicated.

The longer congresspeople are in office the more captured they are by special interests and thus the more corrupt and incapable of uncompromised action. The idea that the longer a politician has been in office the more knowledge & wisdom they garner has proven to be so patently false as to be risible.

Throw them *all* out on schedule. It can not be any worse.
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 24, 2012
In a two-party system where a sufficiently-large minority has the power to obstruct the majority from doing their job, a strong Anti-Incumbent Party would be an *incentive* for the minority party to obstruct government from doing their job so that, in the next election, the current majority party will be voted out and replaced with the current minority party. It gets even worse when you realize that not every political position is up for election that year.

We need to look at things from a technocratic perspective and get rid of the congresscritters that are bad at their jobs, or worse, have decided that their job is to prevent the system from functioning. But firing everyone because a few people are making everyone's life difficult isn't the way to do it. Hell, the whole "Fiscal Cliff" crisis is an example of why it won't work in the first place--it's exactly the same kind of Sword of Damocles hanging over the head of Congress, with the same intent of forcing Congress to do their damn job and compromise, but instead of working together and solving the problem so they'll all be safe the minority party is just trying to stall for time and position themselves so the sword will fall on the majority party.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 24, 2012
I think that AIP membership would be more appealing to those supportive of one of the major parties than of the other (assuming AIP joiners already tend to support whichever major party is more rational; individual readers are free to decide which party that is). If so, then the net effect of AIP action would be to weaken that major party, which is arguably the one that tends toward making more rational decisions.
Further, I suspect that the AIP would have more effect on - that is, tend to weed out - those politicians that are middle-of-the-road, willing-to-compromise types (since the far right and far left voters are probably less inclined to join the AIP).
Bottom line, I think that this is one of the least practical suggestions for improving the system that I have heard. But I mean that in a kind and loving way.
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 24, 2012
For me it would depend on my incumbent's own voting record. (And my standards of performance are probably different from yours -- by my standards government's job is to cut back its spending and its laws to something closer to what they were when the US was still a free country.)
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Dec 24, 2012

How dare you suggest I listen to my Congressman with an open mind? :)

Seriously though, I usually check his positions after I've already made up my mind. And I like how forcefully he tends to support things that matter to me. Now, he does have several other causes that are important to him that don't rub me either way, so it's not like he's my clone. But I wouldn't vote against him without a far better reason than mere dissatisfaction with the system.

As for you and Obama, well, I guess you've got your own issues. But I'd thank you not to presume they're the same as mine.
Dec 24, 2012

the main difference between the democrat and republican politician is the reception they receive from the media. if you base your voting on gut tolerance you are basically giving your media your vote.

please dont pretend bush and obama are really and truly different. they are just different brands of the same stuff. Obama is a little extra helping with different branding, thats it.

They dont behave as tho they have divergent core values.

Yet your stomach tolerates one easier than the other. telling admission.
Dec 24, 2012

If you find a politician has "exactly" the same views as you that would be a statistical anomaly. What is more likely the case is that you allowed this snake to enter your "in-group" psychologically and you give him a chance to explain every stance he has with an "open mind" and he successfully hacks your moist robot computer.

Politicians constantly use mind hacking "software" to "influence" voters.

As I've said before I disagree with Obama on every single campaign issue (except 1 which he conveniently did not keep about free trade) but I listened to him with an open mind for about 45 minutes on the O'Reilly factor back in 2008. After the show I felt like Obama was an alright guy and our differences didnt matter and we should let him take over the country (presidency).

Politicians are mind hackers. The suave ones are masters of the art. This is why Ron Paul is so easily marginalized. His hacking game sucks.

What Obama did to me thru words was a cathartic experience for me. Since then Ive spent some time studying hypnosis and mind control. I never hear soundbites where he isnt employing those arts. Now I refuse to listen to him speak. I will listen to another paraphrasing him or read a transcript but thats it.

I suspect Sara Palin is along those same lines, she is just smeared for her inexperience while Obama was branded as new clean for his.
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