Is Voting for Santorum Below a Voter’s Reservation Value?

An able negotiator knows that a crucial step in entering any negotiation is understanding when to break off negotiations i.e., knowing your BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement). To discover your BATNA, you must first determine your reservation value. Your reservation value is the lowest value at which you would consider the negotiation worthwhile. Once you have determined your reservation value you must  establish all possible alternatives to the negotiation. Finally, at any point during the negotiation, you can compare your reservation value to your possible alternatives and readily determine your best alternative, or your BATNA.

These are among the basic principles of negotiation, but they are not limited to negotiation. These are principles that can be applied to most decisions we face, from important, to less important decisions.

We are currently in the midst of an exciting contest for the Republican nomination for the Presidential Candidate to face off against incumbent President, Barrack Obama. Recently, voters in Iowa came out strongly in favor of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. I would like to explore why people voted for Santorum, and was it really better than their BATNA, using the principles laid above.

The first question is why cast a vote at a primary/caucus. I suppose that people vote because they want to participate in choosing the candidate who will represent their party in the general election and ultimately, serve as President. The second question is why vote for a specific candidate. This is a more difficult question because there is broad range of possibilities. Voters may believe that the candidate’s beliefs and opinions are most closely aligned with the voters’ own beliefs and opinions and because they would prefer a kindred spirit running the country, they will vote for that candidate. Other voters may not have strong feelings about the hot topic issues and instead looks for leadership qualities befitting a Head of State. Hopefully, most voters recognize that these considerations should not be considered in a vacuum, because a candidates opinions and leadership qualities, are both vitally important.

Following the principles of negotiation, I will attempt to demonstrate why voting for Santorum is  indefensible.  In this illustration, voting will take the place of sitting at the negotiating table. A voter must know his/her BATNA and so must first determine his/her reservation value. In voting in a primary, one could argue that there is no reservation value for voting, because there is no possible negative outcome for voting for the candidate of the voter’s choosing, in the way that remaining at the negotiating table can lead to agreeing to a deal detrimental to negotiator. Thus, there is no need to discover other alternatives or even the best alternative, because there is simply no point at which the voter will not vote (this discussion is not factoring in the de minimis costs of casting a vote such as time).

However, this analysis is fundamentally incorrect. There is a possible negative outcome for a voter who votes for an unelectable candidate such as Rick Santorum (of course if a republican voter’s second choice after Santorum is Obama, then the following discussion does not apply, but I do not believe that such a voter exists). A voter’s reservation value should include an analysis of the unelectability of the candidate. The voter must factor in the importance having a candidate from his/her own party win the election. Thus, the reservation value for voting for a specific candidate, must at the very least be the point at which a candidate will have a chance at winning the general election. Voting for an unelectable candidate is not only a waste of time and utility, but  also should be understood to be outside a voter’s ZOPA, or Zone Of Possible Agreement, and thus below the voter’s reservation value, and the voter’s BATNA would either be not voting, or voting for the most tolerable electable candidate.

Voting for Santorum in the hope that he will represent the Republican Party in the upcoming presidential election against Obama should be recognized as below any Republican voter’s reservation value of having a Republican in office. His stances on banning contraception gay marriage may have support from the far right, but will alienate the all important moderate republicans and independents and render him utterly unelectable. Voting for Santorum is akin to voting for Obama.


International Weapons Negotiation

Photo credit: MTSU
Photo credit: MTSU

Hello Dedicated Readers,

In case somehow you have not heard the news, I will inform you of the recent events in Geneva.

In brief, States from across the globe gathered in Geneva to negotiate a multi-lateral international agreement regarding Cluster Munitions. The basic mechanism of Cluster Munitions is that a large bomb containing many smaller munitions is dropped or launched on an area. These smaller munitions spread out over a large area and are intended to explode on impact. One of the problem presented by Cluster Munitions is that too often, these smaller munitions do not explode on impact and remain in place for years. They are hidden killers, picked up by children mistaking them for toys, stepped on by unsuspecting farmers. To prevent further civilian killings States attempted to add a Protocol to the Convention of Conventional Weapons (CCW) to regulate Cluster Munitions.

For further background information, this agreement was negotiated in the backdrop of the already existing Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), which absolutely bans the use of Cluster Munitions, but is not signed by the major user states. Many states feared that a weak agreement in the CCW would undermine the gains realized by the CCM. In the end the CCW proposal failed to gain the necessary consensus and died there.

For a more detailed analysis on these exciting events by actual participants and fellow HLS students, here is a blog post written by Anna Crowe and Nicolette Boehland for the HRP blog found here

Diplomats from more than 100 countries are currently engaged in heated deliberations in Geneva over a proposed protocol, put forward by the United States and others, that would allow the use of certain cluster munitions indefinitely.  The International Human Rights Clinic has joined a group of nongovernmental organizations in arguing against the proposal, which would threaten the impact of an existing international treaty that protects civilians by absolutely banning the weapons.

If adopted, the proposed protocol would directly compete with the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a treaty that seeks to eliminate the devastating effects of cluster munitions on civilians.  More than 108 countries have signed on to that convention, which went into force August 2010, and 66 states are full parties, bound by all its provisions.  The convention prohibits use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions and obliges states to provide assistance to victims of past use.

The United States, which is not a party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, has led the charge for the new protocol over the last week at the Review Conference of the Convention for Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva.  The protocol would be attached to the CCW framework convention, an umbrella treaty with protocols governing specific types of weapons.  Protocol supporters argue that certain major stockpilers and users of cluster munitions who are not currently party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions might join this proposed protocol because it is not a complete ban.

But the Clinic argued in a paper distributed to delegates last week that the new protocol would constitute an unprecedented step backwards in terms of international humanitarian law.  The international community has never adopted a treaty that provides weaker protections for civilians from armed conflict than a treaty already in force.

Furthermore, adoption of the proposed protocol would water down the stigmatization of cluster munitions by permitting future use.  Though the proposed protocol would ban cluster munitions produced prior to 1980, it would allow states to continue to use some other models of cluster munitions for 12 years and some forever.  The proposed treaty also contains weak and inadequate provisions regarding stockpiling destruction and victim assistance.

The Clinic strongly believes that, much like antipersonnel landmines, cluster munitions cause an unacceptable level of harm to civilians.  Because they release dozens or hundreds of explosive submunitions across a large area, civilian casualties are virtually guaranteed when cluster munitions are used in populated areas, as they often have been.  In addition, the submunitions frequently fail to explode on impact, leaving explosive remnants that can kill and injure civilians months or years after a conflict has ended.

A team from the Clinic traveled to Geneva this week as part of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) delegation.  The Clinic has a longstanding partnership with HRW on weapons issues; Senior Clinical Instructor Bonnie Docherty is also a senior researcher in HRW’s Arms Division.  We, along with Robert Yoskowitz, JD ’13, are working under her supervision at the CCW conference this week.

During the conference, we have provided real-time legal analysis of each new draft protocol text.  We have also written articles for the regular CCW Newsproduced by the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC), a coalition of NGOs, including HRW, that campaigns to ban cluster munitions and that helped create the CCM.  The Coalition is lobbying hard this week to prevent the proposed protocol from moving forward.

In order for the CCW conference to adopt a new protocol on cluster munitions, there must be consensus—and there is clearly no consensus yet.  There are still two days of negotiations left, however.  The atmosphere is tense, but hopes are high for a good outcome.

Nicolette Boehland, JD ’13, and Anna Crowe, LLM ’12, are members of the Clinic’s Cluster Munitions team.