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Reblogged:RCV: Quench One Fire, Start Another?

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At RealClear Politics, Benjamin Reilly and Rachel Hutchinson note that ranked choice voting (RCV) could have averted the ongoing dumpster fire that is the GOP House Speaker contest.

This is an interesting point that will surely be lost on the Trumpists in the GOP caucus who architected this problem long ago with a rule change as a condition of voting for former speaker Kevin McCarthy: One of its selling points -- at least for any voter disenchanted with each party's hard line -- is that it favors candidates who appeal to the broadest swath of voters:
Image by Tomruen, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
Here's the problem: After decades of laser-focused partisan gerrymandering and increased "sorting" of Americans into politically uniform communities (think rural red areas or liberal blue ones), over 90% of seats in the House of Representatives are so one-sided that the election is effectively decided in party primaries.

And in most states, candidates don't even need to win a majority in their own party primary. Candidates routinely win crowded primaries with way less than 50% of the vote by attacking their opponents and revving up a narrow (and often extreme) base.

Matt Gaetz, who nearly caused a government shutdown just two weeks ago before re-focusing his efforts on removing then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, first won his deep-red seat with just 36% of the vote in a crowded, low-turnout summer GOP primary. Almost two-thirds of Republican voters wanted someone else.

A shift to RCV primaries would flip the incentives for politicians like Gaetz. With RCV, candidates need the support of a majority of voters to win, something that's difficult to do by just pandering (and governing) to the extremes. Gov. Glenn Youngkin -- a conservative able to appeal to moderate voters -- won this way when Virginia's Republican primaries switched to RCV in 2021. [bold added]
As I have stated before, I have a generally positive view of RCV, but have not considered it enough to give a definite opinion for or against it. But let me hand it to the authors for using the antics of the kind of idiots it would get rid of in the short term to make a case for it.

The biggest reservation about RCV that comes to my mind is that, like term limits, it strikes me as a kind of band-aid solution for a deeper problem that could even backfire: Namely, too many American voters do not truly appreciate limited government.

Indeed, most voters are not just ignorant, but have been dulled by decades of welfare statism and pressure group warfare to the point that they basically sell their votes at election time.

The end result might be that, yes, the Matt Gaetzes and Rashida Tlaibs get eliminated from Congress, but eventually get replaced by smoother operators who can nonconfrontationally pass very bad legislation that "everybody" likes.

Consider this thought experiment: Imagine George Washington winning a modern election -- or Glenn Youngkin winning one during revolutionary times -- even with RCV. I can't, because the electorate has changed so much.

Gridlock is not necessarily a bad thing, and the ease of achieving it, such as by Checks and Balances, was built into our system of government by the Founders for good reason.

As much as I detest most politicians these days, they do at least get in each other's way. That alone tempers any enthusiasm I currently feel for RCV.

-- CAV

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