(As usual, this post first appeared as a Facebook status.)
If the social media response to this week’s firehose of horrible SCOTUS news is any indication, the wounds from the 2016 Democratic primary are still raw. Democratic party loyalists still lash out at “Bernie Bros,” Green Party voters, and abstainers, while the disaffected Left continues to place the blame exclusively on the party bosses. It’s really not pride or stubbornness on either side. The party-liners and the left-wingers just see things differently. The dialogue has been on repeat for years and I think each side knows where the other stands. Party-liners believe every individual is morally obligated to reduce harm by voting against the worst candidate, period. Left-wingers take a more systems-level approach and note that repeated lesser-evilism has lurched our entire politics to the right, resulting over time in great violence to the very populations Democrats hope to defend. Each side has a point. Neither has been particularly inclined to hear the other out, and two years later I don’t see that changing.
It’s because we just have a few real divergences, and at deep levels. Success as a coalition requires the bravery to agree to disagree. Endlessly mud-wrestling on the visible tip of the iceberg of our differences is a waste of fucking time, while our enemies sail on by.
2016 brought calamitous results that none of us wanted and few of us foresaw. But the only surefire way to seal the deal on the clusterfuck that was 2016 would be to refuse to learn from the failure and to refuse to change. This is a post about how to stop fighting, and win.
Our system, featuring an electoral college tailored to appease slaveholders and a first-past-the-post primary system that guarantees vote splitting, is built to fail. It was designed by people who do not share our values, it pits us against each other, and it guarantees anti-democratic results. If your main complaint with 2000 is Nader voters in Florida and not then-Governor Jeb Bush and SCOTUS, and your main complaint with 2016 is Stein voters in Michigan and not the electoral college – for your own sake reconsider.
Liberals and leftists aren’t always on the same side, but we can reshape the field to our shared advantage. No matter which side you’re on, if you don’t want to see another result like 2016, then I think you should support these next steps:
-Abolish the Electoral College. Actually, hack the Electoral College. The EC is in the Constitution, but states are free to allocate their electors as they choose. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is one solution. 12 states are already on board, and when enough states representing a majority of the Electoral College sign on, they will all pass laws agreeing to allocate 100% of their state’s electors to the winner of the nationwide popular vote. This doesn’t require a constitutional amendment. It doesn’t even require an act of US Congress. Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million votes.
-Ranked Choice Voting. Maine put it in place statewide in 2016 and will try it out this year. Many American cities, international panels, and other decision-making bodies use this system. Voters rank their candidates in order of preference, and if no first-choice candidate wins a clean majority in the first round, losers are eliminated and a series of instant run-offs are triggered. This stops vote splitting. If you believe Stein voters cost Clinton the win and that all Stein voters had Clinton as a second choice, then under this system Clinton would be President, without anyone having to “hold their nose.” This also helps minor parties advance their message without the stigma of vote splitting.
-Abolish the Commission on Presidential Debates. This is a private entity jointly run by the DNC and RNC, set up in the 80’s. They set the rules for who appears on corporate broadcast presidential debates, rules designed to effectively exclude minor parties. We don’t need this entity at all. A huge point of bitterness among third party voters is our candidates’ exclusion from the mainstream debate. This is supposed to be a democracy. People deserve to learn about their options. Don’t defend this garbage gate-keeper.
-Lower the bar for ballot access. Third parties devote almost all their resources to getting on the ballot at all. This attracts a certain kind of principled lost-causer. Green Party is full of gadflies. If you want minor parties to act more like major parties, then let them play by the same rules.
This doesn’t even get to other electoral reforms like public financing, reversing Citizens United, automatic registration, mandatory voting, and local election consolidation. But the bullet points above are my honest offering for how the left and the center can, if not always agree, at least play on the same side again. Solidarity across difference. That’s coalition politics.