Ranked-Choice Voting And Strengthening Our Democracy

My husband, James, grew up in Maine, so we follow news from there regularly. One of the continuous themes we talk about is the use of ranked-choice voting in the Pine Tree State. Years ago, I frowned on the concept as it appeared to have the effect of undermining political parties. But the more I read and ponder this method of voting, I must admit there is some appeal to be found.

One of the reasons I questioned ranked voting was the notion that what ailed our political culture could be addressed with a procedural change in the balloting process. It has always been my contention that the sham of redistricting and the volume of campaign money, and how it is used, is far more of an issue needing corrective measures.

I arrive at this issue today as a column written by Mona Charen landed in front of me from the Bangor Daily News. Since the dawn of the Tea Party types, and certainly, since 2015 when Donald Trump took to an escalator, I have often thought about ways our democracy needs to strengthen its foundations. How our politics must break away from the deeply corrosive nature, and at times utterly bizarre course it has taken.

Charen writes powerfully and persuasively with reasons we should talk about ranked voting.

The party duopoly empowers the most extreme voters and leaves the vast middle unrepresented and feeling that in general elections they must choose the lesser of two evils. As Katherine Gehl, founder of the Institute for Political Innovation, notes, about 10 percent of voters (those who vote in primaries) determine the outcome of 83 percent of congressional races. And because primary voters tend to be more ideological and extreme than others, candidates pander to them to get elected and then to remain in office. The term “primary” became a verb only in the last decade or so, as the power of the party zealots became a cudgel to use against any member who even considered compromising with the other party.

Not only does the ranked-choice system disempower party extremists, it also discourages candidates from savage personal attacks, the persistence of which arguably keeps some fine people out of politics altogether. Candidates are less likely to attack one another if they hope to be the second choice of the other person’s voters.

The two-party system has not proven to be a solid foundation for democracy. Time to disarm the crazies.

I have strongly noted on CP my disdain for members of congress being placed in a primary for the simple reason they had the audacity to reach across the aisle and try to work with a member of the other party. Yet, that happens. As I noted on this blog in 2012. I much acknowledge Cheren’s point that strident-minded partisans pick the candidate in a primary, and I might add that when winning the general, the result tilts the legislative chamber to more partisan ends.

Ask conservative Republican U.S. Senator Bennett how his election in 2010 fared after he dared to venture into working partnerships with Democrats on the issues that impacted the nation. He lost his seat, in part for working with ‘the other side’.

But I differ with Charen when she believes that ranked voting will wither the extremists. As we are all too aware much of the campaigning is not done by the candidates presenting themselves to the town square for debates and conversations, but rather through television and also harsh, unrelenting ideologically-composed political action committees. Those entities are not going away.

This brings this post back to one of my main contentions that money must be reigned in and strictly ordered in how it can be used in campaigns. I very well understand that I am whistling in the wind, but the political culture all around us underscores that we are in much need of solutions to strengthen our democracy.

As such, I applaud Mona Charen for adding a reasoned voice to the discussion.

And so it goes.

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