Saturday, September 22, 2007

Does the current state of most Democrats demand less idealism, or MORE?

I was going to post these comments on the comments thread to Blue Girl’s “Better Democrats, Please” post, but first recognized they were getting long, and then decided I felt they were too important to relegate to a comment thread.

Here’s my take on my willingness to vote third-party in 2004, and again in 2008, or in future midterm elections, even should I live in a swing state like Ohio:

Is it a “test of ideological purity” to say that I won’t vote for candidates that support remaining in Iraq, or a political party, too?

Sorry, but that fact (especially my mentioning Greens “too often”) was one of the two reasons I got banned from Daily Kos — proudly banned, I’ll ad.

BG makes my point exactly, but with a different conclusion: the older I get, the more I see there’s too much at stake for half measures on a number of issues. I voted against Kerry, and for David Cobb, not only over the Iraq War itself, but, the imperialism-lite of too many Democrats. (It's too bad Kevin Drum didn't tackle this issue at Political Animal in his otherwise excellent post about the “foreign policy establishment.”

To me, the “we gotta support the Democrats in the end” exemplifies not just what’s wrong with current Democrats/Democratic Party, but what’s wrong with the deep structure of U.S. politics.

First, to look at the Democrats.

Where’s a bill for federal public financing of Congressional campaigns, including reasonable provisions for financing third-party campaigns? Before the midterm elections, a federal Congressional campaign finance bill, but one that would squeeze out third parties, was rumored to be in the mix. I found it appalling that such a thing would even be considered under the guise of campaign reform.

Where, at state or federal levels, are Democratic supports for things like Instant Runoff Voting? Nonexistent, that’s where.

At an even deeper level, and even more idealistic one, though, I’m convinced our Constitution itself needs reform. Not at the edges, though, right at the center.

The only real way for third parties to have a chance in the American process, AND the only way to adapt the speed of the American government to the nuclear/computer age, is to move in the direction of parliamentary democracy.

I heartily recommend David Lazare’s “Frozen Republic” as the best writing I’ve seen on this subject. (Reviewed by me on Amazon.)

Short of that, though, I won’t hold my breath on either Democrats or Republicans doing anything at all at the federal level, and precious little at the state level, to make it easier for third parties to get more of a purchase on the political process.

Beyond that, I hope that as I get older, I become less apologetic for being idealistic.

Update: Clay, first of all, I’ve read about alternatives to IRV. IRV is the best-known one, though, so I used it as representative as alternative to first-past-the-post single-member, single-vote electoral districts that prevail across the U.S. at anything above the municipal level.

Second, the fact is, ALL alternatives to straight voting have some disadvantages. (Clay is right about some of IRV’s problems, but there are other alternatives besides his, too.) Mathematical word-problem type illustrations have shown that. Sorry, no URL of direct comparisons; it’s been years since I read a side-by-side comparison of all the alternatives. That said, I’ll give you Wiki links for single transferable vote (a method I like more than what Clay proposes, but which would probably require change in federal law), preferential voting in general (which includes both IRV and the STV I like, and voting systems in general, including Clay’s range voting.

I favor the Single Transferable Vote over Clay’s range voting because I’d like to see the U.S. House elected in part from a German-style national list, which would of itself move the country in a more parliamentary direction. (Of course, this would require constitutional amendment.)

As for which alternative to straight voting is the best, I’m non-committal at this time.

I would consider a partial use of proportional representation, such as the German Bundestag having a majority of single-member seats (whether we would use plurality voting, as it does, range voting, IRV, or something else) combined with a “national list” elected by proportional voting. Such a national list, in fact, would be one of the things to help move us more toward a quasi-parliamentary government emphasizing more national, versus, federal features to boot.