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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:

26 Responses

  1. And however good our odds are if we switch doors on the show — they’re almost infinitely better if we ANNOUNCE we’re switching doors this election.

    Presumably the goats are set behind their doors on the show ….

    But, in real life all the doors can be both switched around and totally replaced. NOTHING is set.

    It’s funny though … the people yelling the loudest for Hope & Change seem to be terrified by it.

    • There’s still time to make this happen. The convention isn’t until September 3. That’s late, presumably to save money for the general. There are almost 4 months to tell the Democrats that we reject the door we have but we really have to mean it.
      BTW, I don’t want either goat but at least with the other door revealed, I know what we’re up against.

    • Those who have already decided in their hearts to apply the Monty Hall strategy do indeed make that strategy even stronger if they tell
      the relevant DemParty activists all about it. But only if they really already mean it.

      I am currently torn between voting Monty Hall and voting Revenge. Will I vote Third Party in hopes of “something”, or will I vote Romney to get revenge on the Obamacrats and to raise my chances of denying the “More Effective Evil” from getting a second term to get all Nixon-goes-to-China on Social Security with? Decisions decisions.

  2. In 2008 the Host chose the door for us and we got the booby prize. Many of us showed our appreciation by voting Third Party or for John McCain. It didn’t make a difference then because the republicans got the blame for the financial meltdown plus everybody was under the spell of the media hype for Obama.

    This time around polls are showing Mittens and Obie in a MOE tie in some states, why else the shout out to the GLBT community?

    The higher Mittster’s numbers the further Left Obama will go, thing is will he act like a Democrat if re-elected?


    Looks like Third Party/write in time, I wonder if the machine will accept Terry Dactyl?

  3. RD & Katiebird, I admire your optimism. I really do. I’m a confirmed pessimist who’s always convinced there’s no hope, but — and I think this is important — that still NO reason to knuckle under to a false choice.

    There are so many parallels to abuse situations, it just floors me. The whole cycle of get-used-to-it, where-ya-gonna-go, other-guys-will-beat-you-up-worse, I’m-sorry-honey-here’s-a-bunch-of-roses. In real abuse situations we’re all clear that the only solution is to leave.

    The same is true here. It doesn’t matter what the outcome is. It doesn’t matter if there’s no chance. What matters is not participating in your own abuse.

    It does not matter if that hands this particular election to Romney. This election (I think) we’re going to get a corporate stooge, no matter what. But if enough people refuse to be herded by the host, regardless what happens now, then in the next election we might have an actual choice.

    If people let themselves be bamboozled into compliance, we’ll get corporate stooges now AND forever.

    (I know everybody here knows all this. I just can’t stop myself. The whole issue of so many people not seeing this makes me crazy.)

    • Hey, I’m only an idea rat. It’s up to you to put it into action. If the only thing that’s holding you back is that you think I’m too optimistic then you’ve already bought into their narrative and they’ve won.
      You might as well emigrate to New Zealand.

      When it comes right down to it, what other choice do you have *other* than to reject the “choice” they have given you? That’s right, you don’t have any other choice. That’s not optimism, that’s reality. All you have to do is convince other people. And I haven’t met one single person who genuinely wants Obama. Not one. You may have met some bots or people who are resigned to him. But he doesn’t have any friends anymore. We’re all just trying to figure a way out of this mess. The way out is to reject him. Do not worry that you will be throwing the race to Romney. I guarantee that if Obama starts really sinking in the polls, something will happen.

      Someone needs to tell Obama…

      • I’m not sure I was clear. What I was trying to say was, absolutely, reject their stupid “choices” which are no choices. My only point was that you don’t even have to believe it’ll work (for some value of “work”) to make it the only thing to do.

        • If we can convince enough people, it will work. In 2008, just suggesting such a thing got me thrown off of countless blogrolls and never linked to again. Um, that kind exile of the infidels is going to make us lose again. But I can almost understand where people were coming from in 2008. Obama was an unknown commodity, which is one of the reasons I chose to reject him and why so many people rejected Hillary. If you’ve been in politics, sooner or later, you’re going to accumulate a history of taking stands that some people do not like, even if on the whole of it, you’re a really good politician. Politicians who keep their opinions nebulous and their votes nearly devoid of any meaningful information should be avoided like the plague. So, ok, maybe my background in science, and I suspect, your background in science made us a lot more wary about Obama. We needed more data and when more data was not forthcoming, it started to feel like someone was not being honest. We might have been outliers.

          But there are zero excuses this time around. You know exactly what you’re going to get with Obama and we know that if pressured, he can be made to mouth words to the effect that he agrees with your point of view even if they are stingy words and sound like they were strangled out of him. So to not apply pressure, as much or more than he can take, and here’s the critical part, ignore all of his surrogates who say we are being mean and distracting during an election year, to NOT do that would be an egregious violation of our responsibilities to uphold our own values.

          I’m sure not everyone will see it that way but I think those people are either a.) bots b.) professional party loyalists c.) taking money or d.) shameful cowards. The burden of proof is on them to show me I’m wrong about them.

  4. The way to convince people that this is true is to increase the number of options and it then becomes obvious.

    Imagine Monty has 1,000,000 doors. You pick one. Monty then tells you that of the 999,999 doors you didn’t pick, the first 999,998 are definitely duds. Do you want to switch now? Hell Yeah!

  5. We may take a step backwards to go forwards, or The Mitt might be better than The One. Either way, it’s time to swap.

    • No, Mitt will not be better. He may be worse but probably, he’ll just be more of the same.
      You can’t win this game by voting for Republicans.
      This requires cool logic.

  6. If Obama loses to Romney, maybe the democrats will learn to respect the wisdom of the voters in the future. Maybe aging has beens like
    ted Kennedy and John Kerry will not decide they have the right to play king maker for their own self important reasons.

  7. Thank you so much for this, Riverdaughter. I finally had a chance to watch both videos and they’re FABULOUS! And it’s so obvious once you know the key. Unless the prizes are scrambled after the ‘reveal’ the odds don’t change. Wow. We used to argue this all the time when we were kids. And I never thought to ask my dad. The statistician.

    • Unless the prizes are scrambled after the ‘reveal’ the odds don’t change.


  8. I made my choice in 2008 when I threw my support to the Green party. I think that’s our best option, to threaten to vote Green party and dig in your heels about it, saying why. If enough Democrats threaten to vote Green party the Democratic party will start shifting back to the FDR Democratic party. It also puts cracks in the mainstream media image about so called moderate independents….

  9. American politics is not a game of Monty Hall. It’s a game of poker. Very different odds. Very different strategies.

  10. Not Monty Hall. 3 card Monty. There is no good door.

    On FB, I replied in one exchange “None of the above”. So I was told “But you will have one of the above. Don’t you want a little say in which one?” I replied that the only reason I’ll have one of the above is that the people who help bring out the present disaster won’t try something different now. I won’t follow them in the ditch now anymore than I did in 2008.

    • Not Monty Hall. 3 card Monty. There is no good door.

      There’s a certain amount of truth in this…this type of situation (“no good door”) has happened three times previously in American politics: 1783-1787 (end of Articles of Confederation period), 1850-1860 (secession crisis) and 1929-1932 (Great Depression). The current period (2004-2016?) is the fourth appearance of this situation. The political system is characterized by complete gridlock, so there doesn’t seem to be any good door to choose from. In the previous three cases, the gridlock was broken through election of a president (Washington, Lincoln, FDR) who essentially acted largely as a dictator and thus was able to take the country in a completely different direction. This recurrent political cycle is called anacyclosis.

      15 or 20 years, there was some serious discussion about allowing individual states to add “NOTA” as a ballot line. It may be time for another go at it.

  11. nobama! nomittens! third party for me!

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