Back to the future: ‘nonpartisan’ proportional representation

Yesterday, I received an email from the Open Primaries organization. It included the following words. What’s interesting is the suggestion that proportional representation (PR) be designed to cater to independents. Independent-politics reformers typically oppose PR, and PR supporters typically have party proportionality in mind.

There is an accelerating conversation about electoral reform happening. Proportional representation, ranked choice voting, nonpartisan and open primaries, nonpartisan redistricting (and more) are all hot topics.

We’re particularly interested in conversations, campaigns and activities that bridge the gap between structural reform and rising independence. For reform to be maximally effective it needs to be grounded completely in where the American people are and where they are headed.

And they are going independent!

Chapter 3 of More Parties or No Parties documents a similar fusion at the height of the Progressive Era. It didn’t end well!

Interwar Fabians on ‘instant runoff’

The following is from a 1924 pamphlet on electoral reform by the Fabian Society. The context involves the Labour Party replacing the Liberals as the UK’s main opposition to the Conservatives. The pamphlet itself is about proportional representation, but this excerpt is from a section called “The Alternative Vote.” It is interesting to compare the attendant circumstances with some that now obtain in American nominating primaries.

The method is suggested as a safeguard against minority seats. It is true that the successful candidate would be able to boast of a mathematical majority as proof of his representative quality. But this mathematical majority would not be a majority in the English political sense of the word, i.e., a majority of positive supporters [emphasis in original]. The candidate would be returned partly by the votes given to him to keep other candidates, considered as less desirable, out; and this is no morally decent basis for a Representative Assembly. Moreover, as it is likely that within 15 years the Liberal Party will be electorally defunct, we shall then be troubled with fewer of such multiple-candidate contests. It would be the height of political unwisdom to introduce a new and vicious element into the constitution to counteract a temporary ill.

Missouri, Nevada, and the fate of the Republic

Three things strike me now about American national politics. One is the importance of the Senate for blocking policy change. Another is the Senate’s narrow partisan division. Then there are Missouri and Nevada, where the ranked-choice movement now heads.

This post suggests that one way to save the Republic — by which I mean create a Senate that can block policy change, should the next few elections not go very well — is to get Democratic voters to help elect anti-populist Republicans in key states.

In turn, that could require state Democratic parties to stand down in the respective elections — basically what we have seen in Alaska.

I am not saying that this strategy is good or bad. Nor am I commenting on long-term implications for democratic practice. It may be that there is no other choice.