Disclaimer: To avoid harmful polarization of important topics, this post is written in a non-partisan manner, and I’d encourage comments to be written with this in mind. 

US presidential elections are surprisingly tractable

  1. US presidential elections are often extremely close. 
    1. Biden won the last election by 42,918 combined votes in three swing states. Trump won the election before that by 77,744 votes. 537 votes in Florida decided the 2000 election. 
  2. There’s a good chance the 2024 election will be very close too.
    1. Trump leads national polling by around 1% nationally, and polls are tighter than they were the last two elections. If polls were perfectly accurate (which of course, they aren’t), the tipping point state would be Pennsylvania or Michigan, which are currently at +1-2% for Trump. 
  3. There is still low-hanging fruit. Estimates for how effectively top RCT-tested interventions to generate net swing-state votes this election range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per vote. Top non-RCT-able interventions are likely even better. Many potentially useful strategies have not been sufficiently explored. Some examples: 
    1. mobilizing US citizens abroad (who vote at a ~10x lower rate than citizens in the country), or swing-state university students (perhaps through a walk-out-of-classes-to-the-polls demonstration). 
    2. There is no easily-searchable resource on how to best contribute to the election. (Look up the best ways to contribute to the election online – the answers are not very helpful.) 
    3. Anecdotally, people with little political background have been able to generate many ideas that haven’t been tried and were received positively by experts.
  4. Many top organizations in the space are only a few years old, which suggests they have room to grow and that more opportunities haven’t been picked.
  5. Incentives push talent away from political work
    1. Jobs in political campaigns are cyclical/temporary, very demanding, poorly compensated, and offer uncertain career capital (i.e. low rewards for working on losing campaigns). 
    2. How many of your most talented friends work in electoral politics?
  6. The election is more tractable than a lot of other work: Feedback loops are more measurable and concrete, and the theory of change fairly straightforward. Many other efforts that significant resources have gone into have little positive impact to show for them (though of course ex-ante a lot of these efforts seemed very reasonable to prioritize) - e.g. efforts around OpenAI, longtermist branding, certain AI safety research directions, and more.   

Much more important than other elections 

This election seems unusually important for several reasons (though people always say this):

  • There’s arguably a decent chance that very critical decisions about transformative AI will be made in 2025-2028. The role of governments might be especially important for AI if other prominent (state and lab) actors cannot be trusted. Biden's administration issued a landmark executive order on AI in October 2023. Trump has vowed to repeal it on Day One
  • Compared to other governments, the US government is unusually influential. The US government spent over $6 trillion in the 2023 fiscal year, and makes key decisions involving billions of dollars each year for issues like global development, animal welfare, climate change, and international conflicts.
  • Critics argue that Trump and his allies are unique in their response to the 2020 election, plans to fill the government with tens of thousands of vetted loyalists, and in how people who have worked with Trump have described him. On the other side, Biden’s critics point to his age (81 years, four years older than Trump), his response to the Israel-Hamas War, and inflation during his term as reasons for concern. 


The election is in just about 5 months (election day is Nov. 5). And the actual time that remains for many of the most effective opportunities is likely just the next few months. 

Research shows that last-minute fundraising and mobilization tends to be much less effective than earlier efforts. Late in a race, there’s little to no time for organizations to build new programs and staff capacity, build high-trust relationships with voters, reserve ads at cheaper rates, or experiment on and scale new tactics.

Many people I’ve talked to (both inside and outside the community) think the election is a huge deal. Extremely few of them are actually making it a priority, let alone working on it. 

The urgency of the election also means it’s neglected over time, and that its impact on your time is time-boxed. The election will likely come with many irreversible consequences - another way in which it is unique. 

Questions worth considering

  1. How important is this election likely to be compared to past and future ones (especially in light of TAI timelines)? 
  2. We have uncertainty about the 2024 election. But we’ve seen the outcomes of the 2016 and 2020 elections. Given how close and consequential they were, did members of this community spend appropriate resources on them? If not, how likely is it that the community makes similar mistakes this cycle by default?
  3. How much impact is possible if everyone in a similar reference class to you made the same decision as you about how much effort to put into this election? 
    1. It's also worth considering the social proof that you prioritizing the election would provide to others considering doing the same. 

Getting Involved

Even if focusing on the election ends up being a mistake, it’s one that only eats up less than half a year of your time. Many of the best ways to contribute are confidential for tactical reasons. If you’re interested in getting involved, DM me and I can follow up. 


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Re: your suggestion to mobilize different groups, I suspect that's still motivated (at least in part) by doing something you can measure. Demobilization, turning opposition voters towards either "protest votes" or abstention, might be cheaper, easier, and more effective.   

Biden and Trump could hold a joint press conference to announce that they are retiring from politics until human rejuvenation is technically possible