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This post addresses some questions readers asked in a previous one.
Today a majority of Americans are
thoroughly fed up with both major parties, with the Republicans even more than with the
Democrats. Yet these toxic
dinosaurs run no risk at all of ceasing to be the two big players in American
politics, as they have been since the Civil War. The plurality voting rules in this country are the reason
why. When whoever gets the most
votes wins, which is what plurality voting is, if you vote for a third party
closer to your position, the main party farthest from your position gains because
that vote would otherwise have gone – if you vote at all – to the other
party. Majority vote with instant run-off changes this dynamic at a
deep and lasting level.
With majority vote rules for
elections a vote for Nader or
anyone else will not help your opposition politically in any sense. If one of the two main parties gets a
majority, the outcome compared with a plurality election will be the same. But if no one gets a majority, then (to
simplify but not distort) instant run off rules count voters’ second choices as
well. This means
1. A candidate may need other party
voters to win. In order to get
them he or she has to treat the issues they raise explicitly and would be well
advised not to trash their candidate. As a result issues will be discussed that
normally would not get discussed.
2. Other party supporters will be
encouraged to vote their real preferences, and make the main party candidate a
second choice. In doing so we will
rapidly see that third parties have a lot more support that currently seems
to be the case. This is because under current rules I may prefer Greens or
Libertarians or something, but never vote for them because I don’t want to help
the other main party. Both
Republicans and Democrats have lost who absent the third party would have won.
This, by the way, is why I almost never vote a third party even though I LOATHE
the main parties although I did vote for the fraud Obama. Given the alternative I still would have voted Democratic – but against McCain not for Obama. I primarily vote
3. Because they have a chance, third parties will attract
candidates who are in it for more than ego and warm tingly feelings of
self-righteousness. We will get a pool of more competent candidates. This will
make them more effective in attacking the positions of main parties.
4. Over time ‘third parties’ will
get more strongly established in the public eye, win elections, and provide
genuine competition to the corporatists.
Given current levels of disgust with corporations, banks, and the main
parties it might not take much time.
5. Given the current financial
situation in many states, majority vote elections will also be cheaper. Currently most states help finance
party primary elections. Primaries
were established because we have a two party oligarchy and it is only through
primaries that much democracy exists in the US at all. But when many parties exist they can
pay for their own primaries if they want them. The financial savings would not be negligible.
Here in California as best I can
tell a primary costs about $70
million. Let the parties pay for one if they want one.
The Bigger Picture
A genuine multi party system will be democratic in a way a two party oligarchic oligopoly is not. Currently Americans can not vote for candidates who support issues the public has supported for a long time, whether the public option or getting out of Afghanistan and Iraq or many other positions far more humane than the travesty of corruption calling itself American democracy can currently address.
Many parties will cause the oligarchs the same problems as many states. The banks ad corporations have been the biggest forces for political centralization, free market fools to the contrary. That is because the powerful can more easily control a single point of power that requires money to access than they can a multiplicity of points where fewer resources are needed.
A multi-party system will ensure that Americans have a decent range of political parties to vote for without thereby helping the party they like least. Banksters and corporations cannot buy everyone off because some parties will exist in explicit opposition to them. We will have a choice. This does not mean utopia, but it means decent people will have a chance to vote for decent policies that are put forth in good faith by politicians far more committed to implementing them.
Some people worry about crooked
elections. I do as well. In my opinion 2000 was a fraud and 2004
was probably also stolen. What
prevents that kind of stuff is an aroused citizenry. An aroused citizenry with many parties having a stake in
honest elections will be a better check on Republican (or Democratic) fraud than anything else.
When imported Republican thugs
invaded and disrupted vote counting in Florida in 2000 our history might be much
different if they had been met by patriotic Americans defending the democratic
process. Third parties engage more
serious citizens, on balance, and might have given us that protection. Democrats certainly did not.
If majority vote rules were
established in even one state, the resurgence of alternatives would encourage
and states with no initiative will be slower, but with enough popular pressure
even they will fall in line as state legislators did on ratifying the popular
election of Senators, which took power away from them. Even better, if these rules worked in
states, there would be pressure for even the election of the president to be by
popular vote. But that is a long
way off at present.