Negative Vote Blocs vs. Positive Vote Blocs – which could prove more disruptive in the near future?

This is a legacy post, originally posted at, here, on 9/25/2015

A few short years ago, a viable positive vote bloc web-based application was available at (Votizen was acquired by, and all of it’s stellar functionality and assets have since gone AWOL, AFAICT.) Hopefully*, within the next few months (optimistically assuming sufficient support ‘appears’), a negative vote bloc, web-based application will be available, along the lines of the “Voter’s Revenge” application that I have defined. (See here, here, and here.)

Many years ago, in my training for a stint as a waiter at Bennigan’s, we were told that customers (“guests”) were 6x as likely to complain to others about a bad meal as to report a good meal. (I actually don’t remember the exact figure – maybe it was 8x, e.g. – but a comment by Ron Sellers at this reference indicates a similar figure in the banking industry.)

In the news business, the saying is “if it bleeds, it leads”.

Heck, I remember my college years, the common complaints about the food, which I thought was rather good. (Aside from the frozen fresh carrots and celery. Refrigeration would have worked just fineā€¦.. Bad food was what I experienced during grad school at Rice University.) Not long after I graduated college, I read about my college’s dining service winning “best in the nation”.

The point is, there is many lines of evidence and inference (some personal), that people are more motivated to interact with others, or to at least pay attention, in reaction to a negative experience, than to a positive one (real, or imagined, as in the case of my college dining fare).

And so, it’s an easy guess that a negative vote bloc application (e.g., my Voter’s Revenge project, which is at the design stage), has more disruptive potential, at least in the near term.

Another consideration is the starting point of activist/reformist forces, in the here and now. That is to say, given how appallingly weak reformist groups are in the United States (
), with attendant low levels of manpower and $dollars$, and with things having already degenerated to the point that the US is more of a plutocracy than a democracy, which vote bloc approach – the positive or the negative – is more doable?

Well, the answer to which is more doable is easy to answer. If your voting bloc wants a candidate that they support near 100%, they will first have to find such a candidate. Secondly, they will have to fund such a candidate, at least minimally. Well, suppose you have a 4,000 member voting bloc in the poorest district of Mississipi. To come up with, say, $100 each, is prohibitively expensive. Even if your vote bloc raises as reasonable sum of money, their 4,000 votes for their ideal candidate hardly guarantees victory.

However, if there’s already another candidate in the primary, that the voting bloc doesn’t particularly care for, either, but who has, say, 60% of the support that the incumbent does, they can still vote for the challenger, thus casting punitive votes against the incumbent. And it will cost them nothing.** Furthermore, their 4,000 votes may be sufficient to put the challenger over the top – or at least give the incumbent a “come to Jesus” movement with respect to redline issues that motivate the negative vote bloc.

In short, reformist’s barrier to entry (as well as subsequent hurdles) to throw a monkey wrench into the well-oiled electoral machinery of the Democratic and Republic parties, is generally much lower than to get a reformist candidate elected instead of an incumbent. I wish it were true that reformist forces had been productively recruiting and plotting, these past 2 or 3 decades, such that we could, in 2015, have passed into a more advanced phase of getting highly reformist candidates elected. But, clearly we haven’t.

Finally, I’d like to point out that positive and negative vote blocs are synergistic. For one thing, positive vote blocs will likely be ignored outside the election cycle. A negative vote bloc, however, will likely be about as active during an election cycle as outside that cycle. Vote blocs need to recruit, recruit, recruit to be effective, and that is a hard or even impossible accomplishment for a positive vote bloc, outside the election cycle. (Outside the election cycle, people won’t even know what alternative candidates are going to be available.) For another thing, the question will naturally arise “Well, if we have the political muscle to throw the incumbent out of office, how much extra effort is required to get a much better replacement elected?” Finally, cooperative behavior in a negative vote bloc, outside the election season, will acquaint many locals with each other, and familiarize them with each other’s talents and civic work ethic. Such familiarity will grease the skids for developing a ground game for positive candidate promotion.

And, of course, if citizens are first drawn into positive voting blocs, they are prime candidates for recruiting into negative voting blocs.

* Based on my prior experience asking for help and support with pro-democracy projects, my expectations are actually rather low. However, I’m not going to allow that to prevent my schizophrenically being optimistic!
** Executing a punitive voting strategy demands following through for multiple election cycles, clearly. If we assume, a priori, that a challenger is equally likely to be worse or better than an incumbent, and meanwhile your voting bloc is too weak to promote their own “wonderful” challenger, the odds of ushering in a lemon into office is pretty high, early on during execution of this strategy.

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