In France, the political center united to defeat a right-wing extremist. But that can’t happen here. Our political system prevents it. So after Trump, get ready for Bernie. After him get ready for another Trump, then another Bernie…
In a spectacular NY Times Op-Ed, White Nationalism Gets Thumped, David Leonhardt write about the French election:
White nationalism lost in France yesterday, and it lost big. Marine Le Pen, the far-right presidential candidate, won only 34 percent of votes in her two-way race against Emmanuel Macron, who will soon be France’s president. Le Pen went so far as to lie about the Holocaust during her campaign, Julia Ioffe reminds us, so Roger Cohen calls Macron’s victory “an important demonstration that reason and coherence still matter in politics.” Yet Macron’s victory is also a depressing reminder of the state of conservative politics in the United States (because) in France, the center-right and center-left united to oppose Le Pen’s extremism. The United States also had an extremist presidential candidate — one who mocked the disabled, retweeted neo-Nazis, called Mexicans rapists, promised to ban Muslims from the country and bragged about molesting women. He won the presidency, thanks to overwhelming support from the Republican Party. Not only that, but several prominent Republicans, including Trump, then publicly rooted for a Le Pen win in France. Steve King and Dana Rohrabacher, two members of Congress, visited Le Pen during the campaign to discuss, in King’s words, their “shared values.”
What makes it so depressing is that fact that in a multi-party system like the one in France — one that has runoff elections — it is possible for the center-left and center-right to unite. With the political system we have in the United States, it can’t happen.
Something the Founding Fathers never knew, but for which there is ample proof in a political science these days, is that winner-take-all elections inevitably and invariably lead to a two-party system — one in which 3rd party candidates can never emerge victorious, and in which it is impossible to elect a centrist candidate.
Our system is made even worse by the fact of primaries — which are necessary to ensure that someone gets a majority, so a winner is elected. (If two Democrats and two Republicans ran, and each got 25% of the vote then, lacking any capacity for runoff elections, no one would win the election — and we have no way to resolve that dilemma.)
So we have primaries. But those only exacerbate an already problematic system in which we lurch back and forth like a drunken sailor from left, to right and back again with each election. Only now, the staggering is getting larger with each step. So the right mobilized, and we wound up electing a Donald Trump. In response, the left is mobilizing. Watch a Bernie Sanders emerge. Followed by another Trump, etc.
The fact is that society’s a political leanings follow a typical bell curve. There is 10% slice in the middle that are the independents. One side are people who lean left. The largest block are “centrists”, but they don’t outweigh all of the other people on the left, who run the gamut out to the extreme left on the edge. The same picture occurs in reverse, on the right:
Now, in France, that large block of left-leaning centrists united with the block of right-leaning centrist to elect a centrist candidate — the kind that any good democratic system invariably elects. But that can’t happen here. Lacking Instant Runoff elections, or any other kind of Runoff system, the left side gets together and nominates someone who is towards the center of their group. That person will be definitely left of center. Similarly on the right.
Now comes the election. Independents have a choice of someone well to the left of center, or someone well to the right. Whoever gets elected, the next election cycle will tend to run other way, and that party will spend most of its time trying to undo what the other party did, and put their own changes again — only to have them torn down yet again, when the election cycle runs the other way. So our elections always look like the proverbial two-hump camel:
There are many things we could do to solve the problem, as described in Political Reforms America NEEDs. Those reforms include Instant Runoff elections and the elimination of primaries. But the problem is that the existing power structures won’t allow that kind of change. Why would they? The changes would only weaken their strength, which they feel they need to combat the other side!
Lacking any reasonable chance of changing the system directly, we must therefore circumvent the existing power structures. We can do that by establishing a Voting Advice System that uses social media to share voting advice. The first result of that system will be to make money irrelevant to elections. That change, in turn, will eventually allow men and women of good heart and good will to be elected, without being affiliated with either of the major parties.
Once those people are in place in sufficient numbers, true reform becomes possible.
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