I'm Loyal to Nothing Except the Dream

There is much I take for granted in my life, and the normal functioning of American government is one of those things. In my 46 years, I've lived under nine different presidents. The first I remember is Carter. I've voted in every presidential election since 1992, but I do not consider myself a Democrat, or a Republican. I vote based on leadership – above all, leadership – and issues.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://blog.codinghorror.com/im-loyal-to-nothing-except-the-dream/

Well said, Jeff. And to all the people who will complain, objecting to a tech-blog having the audacity to annoy them with politics, think on just how annoyed and horrified Jeff must be to speak out here.

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How do you feel about a reform of the American voting system, given the fact that a lot of Americans didn’t go voting in the first place?

For example, in my country (Belgium), voting is obligatory. Every Belgian who is at least 18 years old is required by law to show up at the voting booth. You are not required to bring out a vote (you can leave the voting booth and turn in the voting paper without actually selecting someone), but you are required to show up. Also, our elections are on a sunday, as most people are available then (don’t need to go to work or school).

Do you think this election would have given you a different president if the US had a similar voting system as ours?


Inspiring post. I have a feeling that after reading this article there might be some other areas that concerned hackers can contribute:

Direct link: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/big-data-cambridge-analytica-brexit-trump

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An excellent suggestion. What are the repercussions of not voting though? A tax penalty?

If you’d reform the voting system, truely reform it. Do away with the Electoral College and First-Past-The-Post voting. Have every citizen vote directly and have something like instant-runoff voting to determine who wins.


Great post.

I think the voting system is flawed (as it is in the UK, where I’m from). A massive percentage of voters vote, without any real knowledge of the party/person they are voting for. I would like to see two things:

  • A method of getting more people to vote (perhaps the mandatory method, as used in Belgium
  • A very low barrier to voting (e.g. 3 very simple multiple choice questions which would determine whether or not the voter has a basic knowledge of one or more of the key election points/discussions)
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As it is, with FPTP in place, a third political party is essentially unfeasible, because you need to vote strategically to try to elect the least-worst alternative, because if it doesn’t seem like this better option would be the clear winner, the split vote would mean that the worst alternative would gain a big lead.

Similar here in Australia. Voting isn’t a right, it’s a bloody responsibility!

Surprisingly the ‘informal’ vote rate, or the votes where people rock up and draw a giant dick on the ballot rather than vote properly are fairly low (around 5%).

$20 fines for those who don’t vote, more details of the Australian system can be found over at the AEC. I’m pretty sure our government would be totally cool if you wanted to copy it.


You can get fined for it, although the fines are not that high. But for now, it seems that most people don’t want to risk it and they just go voting.

I don’t see why anyone would object here. It’s his blog after all.

I did object to Joel’s post on meta, because it rather seemed like hijacking a convenient place on the internet to turn it into a personal platform. The issue is valid, but the place (to my mind) wasn’t, thin end of the wedge etc… Additionally, if it had been anyone else I suspect it would have been immediately closed as off topic.

I’m not really convinced by forcing people to vote. People should vote because they care enough to vote. I think if Trump gets lots more people properly interested in politics, that’s a positive outcome right there.

This is mostly theoretical for me, I’m quite glad to be on the other side of the Atlantic :slight_smile:


Your article brought two links to mind.

First is this nice comic by SMBC: http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/an-important-distinction I think this hits the nail right on the head.

The second is this article:

Disclaimer: I’m not an American, I’m a Latvian, but in this article I saw a lot of parallels with my own homeland. And I can pretty much see this being true all over the world. It seems that everyone agrees that Trump is only a symptom, and the real problems are deeper. I think that this urban-rural divide is one of them, and perhaps one of the hardest too. I’ve no idea how to fix it, but I think that we should at least start to talk about it.

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You would be thrilled with McCain or Romney, but you did not vote for them. Sane republican candidate had no chance, so all the people who are not liberals had no voice. So populist comes along, and beats media in their own game. Duh.
Non partisan, you say? How did you vote? That’s what counts. Proclaiming yourself non partisan when you always vote one party? That what partisan means, it’s the definition.

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Mr Atwood, please do not spread fake news about my country. I realize that fake news is something new to Americans. I was born in socialist country therefore I know very well what is propaganda. You should be really suspicious of what you read in mainstream media. Washington Post is well know of presenting opinions of Anne Applebaum about Poland, spouse of former Minister of Foreign Affairs, from a party which lost last elections.

You have to watch this video showing a victim of police brutality. Then check yourself how american free and independent media described 17 December 2016 protests in Poland. I wonder if they reported that the only victim of these protests Wojciech Diduszko, shown in the video as bitten to unconsciousness, is spouse of leftist journalist.


I’ve always enjoyed your technical blogs, but over the last few years these have disappeared to be replaced by a less than subtle preachiness on both political and moral topics.

It’s your blog and you can write about anything you like. However, if I wanted left wing tripe laid out in this article, I could follow any number of publications you’ve advertised here which at least provide a much higher degree of journalistic quality.

Enjoy your new found political and moral consciousness. For me, time to find another technical writer who actually writes about technology.


I don’t see why anyone would object here. It’s his blog after all.

Trust me: they will. They already are:

Well said Jeff, and well done for moving to action - posts like these give me hope that sanity might just prevail in the end. I’m not American, but these policies and the division being sown affect us all, not to mention other important issues that incredibly have disappeared off the radar such as climate change denial and the clampdown on the press.

I believe it’s important for all of us to take a stand in whatever way we can now or face a dark chapter in history over the next few years. So while I can’t vote in your elections I will make my voice heard in any way I can, including joining local protests and keeping this discussion going with my friends and family all over the world, including those in America.

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I have have been voting precisely as long as Jeff, and also fall somewhere between the 2 major parties. One thing I began doing in the mid-1990’s was supporting multiple candidates, one each from the Democrat and Republican parties, as well as a candidate from one of the independent parties.

My goals in doing this allow me to choose and support:

  • my preferred candidate,
  • a candidate that I could “live with” from the major opposing party,
  • the growth of a third party that adopts the best of each party’s platform

In doing this, I’ve noticed a few interesting things:

  • it’s very hard to find good, unbiased news articles on any subject to even adequately support reasonable decision-making,
  • I generally have a better understanding of what each party’s platform actually is,
  • I can help give the better candidate from the opposite party a fair run for the election
  • I now have a basis to be more understanding and supportive of others’ viewpoints,
  • friends, family, co-workers, trolls, etc find it difficult to grasp that I’m not exclusively committed to the ideals of a single party

The latest election was characterized as a vote against election, wildly different from the tradition of voting for your candidate of choice. This happened because the candidates from both parties were pretty equally and wholly undesirable to a significant portion of the population. This leaves (and has left) our country in a situation in which nobody really wins, especially the people, and we continue with an all-or-nothing political party system.

Taking an interest in which candidate(s) from the opposing party are viable along the way, rather than blindly demonizing them, would (ideally) give us a more desirable pool of candidates in the final election. How different would this election be if the Democrat Party candidate was Bernie Sanders or the Republican Party candidate was Ted Cruz, for example? Pick any alternative candidate from either side, and imagine what the difference would be today.

Maybe a good candidate that didn’t make it to/through the primaries because of funding might be a better choice for the country. There were a few interesting pre-primary candidates, such as Larry Lessig, Rand Paul, etc. And giving support to independent candidates can help minimize the either/or media coverage and voting situation.

Intentionally supporting good candidates from other parties leaves us with good alternatives at the election. Let’s commit to tone down the party rhetoric, have thoughtful discussions amongst ourselves, and choose candidates from each party that can truly represent us. Once we do that, then let’s see where we end up. It can’t be any worse than where we find ourselves right now.


Trump is a symptom and not the disease.

On the wall

  • Had the US actually enforced its laws, we wouldn’t have millions of illegal immigrants here, but it was good for business so it was overlooked.
  • I don’t think it will be effective.

On the populist movement

  • Free trade is great in theory, but in practice it also has plenty of negative consequences. Displaced middle-age+ manufacturing workers will never make the same wage they did at their previous jobs and generally speaking we a people don’t give a shit. When I was 18 I was offered a job at a GM supplier’s plant - I turned it down to go to college to become a software engineer. In hindsight, at least for the intermediate term it was a good decision. The plant closed in 2007. A cousin of mine who worked there committed suicide not long after he was laid off. Another acquaintance worked at an IBM plant in NY State for more than 30 years before being offered a “buyout” promising healthcare for life. IBM of course backed out of that promise a few years later. Big business doesn’t care about you, and they’d be happy to hire an H-1B to save a few dollars. Beyond that they’re happy to offshore work (which in my experience doesn’t work out well.)

You can paper over stories like this all you like (and there are literally millions of them,) but denying that people who voted for Trump had valid reasons in their minds for doing so would be mistaking the symptom for the disease.

Both democrats and republicans share the responsibility for the situation we are currently in. Why don’t we have congressional term limits? Why do we allow bribery (sorry “lobbying”)? Why do both sides take extreme positions and vilify the other side such that there’s no way either side will reach across the “aisle” to compromise? The Democratic and Republican parties are two sides of the same coin. Neither care about the American dream, only their next campaign contribution (::cough:: bribe.) To me the American dream is not only freedom, justice and equality, it’s the security to know that if you’re willing to work hard, that you’ll be able to find work. The hard-working middle-class have lost this security and it’s another contributing factor as to why we have Trump as president.

On Trump’s recent ban
A country cannot afford to be politically correct when it comes to its security. Entering a country as a visitor is a privilege. My parents came here as immigrants (from Europe.) It’s unfortunate that many innocent and well-intentioned people will be caught in the cross-fire of this order. But how do we resolve our good intentions of letting immigrants/refugees in, with the fact that a small minority of extremist muslims wish us harm? One only needs to look at Europe’s recent terrorist attacks in 2015/2016 to understand why people are afraid. I don’t condone this action because I don’t think it will be effective, but it will give many people a (false) sense of security.

You may not like his policies, but for once we have someone in office that holds himself accountable to doing what he said he would do on the campaign trail. Maybe career-politicians will take heed and actually keep their promises in the future.


Sorry but you’re spreading false information. Non-voting people represent quite a big proportion in Belgium, depending on the level of the election. It sometimes went up to 20%. In addition, although it is technically mandatory to vote, no fines of any kind are collected anymore. I haven’t been voting for the past 15 years and never had any issue with that, it was even made kinda official through press articles.
Also, I’m not sure I would make an example out of the politics in Belgium. “Mandatory” vote doesn’t prevent anything, including the possibility of a totally incompetent government.

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According to the numbers I have, it’s about 15% of the people didn’t go voting, which means 85% did bother to go. This is still a lot higher compared to the numbers in the US.

And yes, I will always vote because I believe it matters.

Besides, you are missing my point. I was talking about the fact that our country ensures that the people who want to vote, can go cast their vote. Whatever you want to do with that opportunity is up to you.