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The Democrats’ Monty Hall Problem

Decisions, decisions.  Democrats have a tough choice this year and most of us are scared to death to make a wrong move. We have to choose between a booby prize of Romney or a booby prize of Obama.  Is there a third choice?  Yes. Let me show you why it is better not to go with a sure thing:

Ok, so how does this apply to 2012?  Well, you already have a door.  You don’t know whether it is the same old Obama for four more years or the big prize that the Democratic party has yet to offer you.  Let’s imagine that the prize is a.) the Democrats start to vigorously act like Democrats on the economic front and reject austerity or b.) Obama gets serious about dialing back all of the unitary executive crap or c.) Obama tells the religious misogynist homophobes to kiss his ass and makes genuine and effective efforts to curtail their recent advances or d.) the party sees the writing on the walls and tells Obama to step down for a better candidate. (This could happen.  As we have seen before, primary results are fungible. It’s what happens at the convention that counts.) Whatever it is that you think would be a gigantic, event changing prize that would make you feel proud to be a Democrat is hidden behind one of those doors.

The host opens door #3 and tells you that if you had chosen that door, you would have gotten a goat.  The goat’s name is Mitt.

Then the host tells you that the prize, whatever it is to you, is behind one of the other doors.  There’s a pretty good chance (66%) that at the beginning of this game you had the door with the goat named Barack behind it but you know that you absolutely do not want to be stuck with a goat.  The host offers you a choice.  Do you want to swap the door you have, whatever it is, for what is behind door #2?  All you have to do is reject the door you have.

The crowd at this point becomes unhelpful.  “Stay!, you moron.  Don’t take any chances.  What’s the matter with you?  Do you want to lose this game?!?”

“Ummm…”, you say, hesitating.  So much pressure.

Then, the host says, “I’ll give you $500 if you stay with the door you have.”  Ahhh, now he’s haggling.

“I don’t know, Monty.  I think I might want to swap…”

“I’ll give you $1000 if you stay with the door you have.”

This is what the LGBT bloc did last week.  It got the host to fork over a sweetener.  But note that they didn’t get a prize because Obama said he is content to let the states make their own discrimination laws regardless of his personal feelings.  They just got a cheap tchotchke compared to whatever the prize they really want is.  They may still be stuck with the goat because they didn’t tell the host that they were firm about swapping.

The crowd is getting really loud and obnoxious and the noise is making it hard for you to think.

What do you do?

The answer is, you increase your chances of winning substantially if you reject the sure thing, and swap it for the unknown door, whatever it turns out to be.

This was a test that we failed in 2008.  We did not make the host bargain and we didn’t say, “Screw it, I’m a good Democratic base.  I deserve something better than what I’m being offered.”

In fact, we acted like a conservative Republican would act.  We took a sure thing after May 2008 and did not challenge the host.  We didn’t make him haggle with us and so we got nothing.  And this year, we know from four years of bitter experience that getting a goat sucks.

So, if you don’t like your choices this year, and I know that there is a lot of discontent about Obama, don’t act like a conservative who is afraid to choose and likes things black and white.  Act like a brave, open minded liberal and choose uncertainty.  Hold out for what you deserve and make them haggle with you.  You can win this.

The election isn’t over.  It’s just beginning and if you accept what you think is inevitable and do nothing, you will lose.

So, what are you going to do? Stay or swap?

Still not convinced?  You’re not alone.  Even some Nobel prize winners and mathematicians failed to see the logic of it at first.  So here’s how it works out if you do the experiment:

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