The Rationalist Papers (1): intelligent analysis for voters who still need to decide

For the next six weeks, this blog will be different. Welcome to The Rationalist Papers: a space with daily posts dedicated to helping voters — especially conservatives, undecideds, and third-party voters — to make the difficult decision about how to vote in the US 2020 Presidential Election.

If you come here for writing advice, please bear with me. The daily writing posts will return after the election. For now, I feel called to apply my analytical skills to something more urgent.

Readers: Who are the Rational Papers aimed at?

Polls consistently show between 7% and 10% of voters who do not say they are voting for either Trump or Biden. These voters may hold the key to who America chooses in 2020. This group is my audience.

These voters are making a difficult choice in 2020. This includes conservatives who are losing faith in Donald Trump but are not yet in the the Joe Biden camp. It includes moderates who have not yet decided which candidate is best. It also includes voters who are considering voting for third-party candidates like Libertarian Jo Jorgensen. I know, from comments on past posts, that all of these types of folks read this blog.

It is my intention to create a safe space for people like you to think about the election. Unlike liberal social media, no one here will be insulting and denigrating you for your past votes or your conservative views. We will stick to facts and analysis. I will delete disrespectful and hateful comments.

Anyone who reads this space regularly knows I sympathize more with Democrats than Republicans, but I’m disappointed in both and consider myself a moderate. For president, I have voted for Democrats including Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and Republicans including John B. Anderson. For governor of Massachusetts, I have voted for Republicans Mitt Romney, Charlie Baker, and William Weld, and Democrats including Mike Dukakis and and Deval Patrick. I have edited political op-eds for a moderate writer and cowritten op-eds for the Boston Globe.

All that is my way of saying, if you’re not a liberal, you’ll get a fair treatment here, with room to think.

If you are already a confirmed Trump voter, perhaps these papers will cause you to think a bit. If you are a confirmed Biden voter, you may find these arguments helpful for your undecided friends. But this is not your cheering section. My primary audience remains those who are still deciding.

Objective: Make you think

My objective is simple: take you out of the echo chamber and get you to think about voting.

My focus is on the long term. What would another four years of Trump do for (or to) the country? What would four years of Biden do? How will this choice affect our economic strength, our public health (including the pandemic), and the state of politics in our country? How will it change the way government operates, and the policies it pursues?

I have little interest in what outrageous thing Trump or Biden said yesterday. This is not a decision about one statement. It’s about the future of the most consequential nation in the world — at least for now.

Action: Change your vote

I have a clear reason for doing this. I want you to vote for Joe Biden. I will not be hiding that. While my analysis will be rational, it will not be unbiased.

If you are considering voting for Trump, I want you to rethink that.

If you are considering not voting, I want you to rethink that, too.

If you are voting third-party, I also want you to rethink that.

My hypothesis is that voters in this situation are feeling some combination of (1) uneasiness about Trump, (2) fear of voting for a Democrat, possibly for the first time, and (3) disgust with the whole process that generated these choices. I understand your pain. We will think things through respectfully, citing as many actual facts as possible, and debunking lies and distortions.

If you believe this is not possible, ask yourself, why you are so jaded? We used to discuss politics like respectful human beings. I intend to do so once again. Give me a chance.

This blog has over 3000 subscribers and generates approximately 2000 views per day. I feel duty bound to help those people make a smart decision.

Impression: You are talking with a thinker

At the end of this process, you’ll vote (or not vote) for somebody. But I hope you’ll remain grateful to me for attempting to shed more light than heat on this process.

I ask you for one favor: subscribe

Unlike Trump and Biden, I won’t ask you for money or insult your intelligence with insipid emails. I won’t annoy you. I’ll attempt to inform you.

If you feel you have an open mind, subscribe. You’ll get a daily serving of food for thought. And it just might help you make a smarter decision.

I look forward to our dialogue.

Feel free to post comments. However, I will delete comments that insult or demean other commenters or groups or state supposed facts without evidence. Vacuous cheerleading and catcalling is also prohibited; this is not a sporting event. No one persuades anyone by creating a hostile environment.

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  1. Josh,
    I applaud you for this. Here in Canada many of us are very concerned. Your country is near and dear to us. We have been “partners” for a long time through thick and thin. Your efforts will help voters to think through a challenging and complex situation. Thank you!

  2. ” if you’re not a liberal, you’ll get a fair treatment here,” – this inadvertently (?I hope) implies that if you are a liberal, you might not. Having seen what some conservatives erroneously believe about liberals (for example, that we want abortion on demand, for any reason, from conception up to birth), I hope that you might give some space to un-demonizing us liberals as part of encouraging a rational discussion. I love your blog, I know some undecided people and supporters of the current administration, and I will be sharing this post!

  3. I enjoy your comments. While you can talk rationally on Rationalist papers, real challenge is how to address irrational. As Dr. Airiely has pointed out in his book Pradictably Irrational, we are to a large extent irrational.

  4. I applaud this effort, Josh, and wish the Biden campaign spent just a little time understanding your target audience and how to better communicate why its candidate is a better choice for America. Here’s hoping these high paid consultants will discover WOBS before it’s too late.

  5. Hi, Josh. I voted for an independent socialist on 92 followed by Ross Perot in 96, Ralph Nader in 2000 & 2004, Barack Obama in 2008, Jill Stein in 2012 & 2016, and I am currently voting for Howie Hawkins. I believe in independent political action.
    I see Joe Biden as a return to the pre-Trump “normal” & status quo. It was 40 plus years of status quo policies & politics that produced Trump. Trump is a scumbag, con man, and oppprtunist, but he tapped into something. 40 years of downsizing, offshoring, union busting, stagnant wages with rising cost of living, and the dominance of Corporate America (wall street, big banks etc) has left the middle class barely being able to tread water while the working class/working poor have been drowning this whole time.
    His brand of populism tapped into all of the above (he duped folks into believing change will happen under his watch) as well as finding scapegoats (illegal immigrants) for peoples problems, which he has coupled with rabid hatred of the other.
    If all Biden is going to do is return us to the status quo & “normal”, the next right-wing populist is going to make Trump look like Bernie. I fell for hope & change that never happened in ’08. I don’t see myself being fooled again.
    I follow this blog and your posts encourage me to think critically about my writing and the world around. I will give your words over the next 6 weeks or so a fair hearing. I am open.

  6. A respected friend suggested I subscribe, so I’ll do it. Everyone who can think understands there are two sides to any story. We may not agree with the other side, but I believe it is healthy and useful to respect their right to have a different perspective. As now deceased Supreme Court member and close friend of RBG Antonin Scalia said, and I paraphrase here => Critiques of other positions should be on the position, not the person. I hope your blog will keep this mind as it’d be consistent with your statement that you consider yourself a moderate. I’m a little apprehensive going in given your objective of trying to persuade readers to vote for “your guy”. I much prefer discussions which identify what’s important to any given reader and then match those priorities with the candidate who shares those ideals. I look forward to hearing your perspective and will leave you with one exercise that I know has helped me appreciate the other side of any argument. This administration has been in control of two government branches for just under 4 years. No one likes everything any US President or Congressional Member does because it’s impossible to agree with someone, even those you love, on everything. However, honest people acknowledge that everyone does some things they appreciate. In this case, that are good for Americans and America. The exercise is make a list of just 5 policies the Trump Administration has enacted that you feel appreciative of. Here’s one example most American workers are grateful occurred – Terms of the 25 year old NAFTA agreement were updated and replaced with USMCA – Took effect July 1, 2020.