Tease for two

By David Hines
Published June 21st 2007 in Renew America

Have you stopped beating your spouse? Yes or no? No other response is acceptable.

Would you like being told that you must have a car, and must choose between a Ford and a Chevy? Or that you must profess a religion, and your only two choices are Jainism and Zoroastrianism?

If so, you must love the election process.

If our government is to be truly representative, instant runoff voting (IRV) is a must. A choice between the absurd and the ridiculous is no sane means of determining national policy.

For those unfamiliar with it, instant runoff voting (IRV) involves casting not one vote for an office, but rather listing one's first choice, second, etc. If your first choice is the lowest vote getter, your second choice gets your vote. The process continues. eliminating the next lowest vote getter, until a candidate attains a majority.

Proponents say it eliminates the presumed necessity of voting for the lesser of two evils. You can vote for who you really want without the sense that you are wasting your vote. The evil one can be your second or third choice, and the eviler one your fourth or fifth — just ahead of the Communist Party candidate. Worthwhile candidates who are unbacked by the major parties would stand some chance of being elected. Independent candidates would no longer be accused of drawing votes away from others of similar outlook.

Opponents would have a few objections. Those voters who couldn't figure out a butterfly ballot might be confused by a continuum of options. But do we really expect informed decisions from people totally devoid of analytical ability, as well as of the initiative to ask for assistance? Extra processing power would be required. But the federal government is mandating changes to elections anyway; what's one more — one that allows the people to genuinely express their will? The election results in some districts could be delayed a little. But it is unlikely to match the delay in the 2000 presidential election.

Only a great public outcry would provide the impetus for IRV. Incumbents and their parties will not take the initiative on such a change. Major-party candidates could no longer get votes by insisting that the other guy is worse. Winners could no longer claim without justification that they got a mandate from the voters; unless they won on the first round, without recourse to the elimination process, the lack of mandate would be evident.

American life is not a matter of either/or; black/white; yes/no. Humans are not binary beings. There are subtle shades of opinion; these go unexpressed on election day. Only the loser rehashes the subtleties; the winner claims massive support for his entire agenda.

The winner of a general election is chosen by a bit over half the voters. He was selected in the primary by over half his party — in some states. Thus far, we've ascertained that the selection can be determined by less than a third of the electorate. Of that minority, many held their noses when they pulled the lever for the lesser of two evils.

How representative can such a winner truly be? Most likely, he ran in the primaries as an ideological radical, and in the general election as a moderate; he shall spend his time in office mollifying the opposition. Small wonder the process requires nose plugs. He represents neither his base nor the olfactorily-obstructed voter.

To obtain a real consensus of public will, a plurality of choices is necessary. The discerning shopper who rejects the two unacceptable options ought not to be made irrelevant. The good should not be artificially made the enemy of the best, and vice versa.

Where IRV has been tried, it has been immensely popular. It has no downside — except to the entrenched kingmakers in the two major parties, whose interests are not primarily those of the American people, nor those of the party base. Their interest is in the power that comes with oligarchy. A false and constrained choice is no choice at all.

The current set of options is not worthy of, nor conducive to, a free people — whether spouse beaters or former spouse beaters.

Born in a mill town, David Hines has seen work as a furniture mover, computer programmer/analyst, and professional musician. Observation of politics began as a toddler, since the polls were in his parents' store. He developed a keen interest in history when permitted some independent study time in junior high school.

With a wide range of interests, he is accused by friends of possessing more useless information than any other of their acquaintance. He has officially studied music and psychology, and unofficially nearly everything else. Like many a Mensa member, he can usually be found hip deep in books. Detractors can blame the thin air of the Rockies, where he once lived, for the dearth of brain cells.