Minority Rule Is Not A Democracy
Ranked-Choice Voting could put an end to voting for the lesser of two evils.
In the middle of a pandemic, we are more divided than ever. There are still protests around the nation. There is still a river of hostility rolling through the nation. We are still talking about police brutality just as we have been doing for the last decade. We are still witnessing enormous transfers of wealth from the middle class and poor, to the wealthy. We are still talking about voting rights, voter intimidation, gerrymandering, and safe seats. We are still talking about issues that have been with us 10 and 20 years ago.
The reason change is so hard to find, to enact, and to pass, is that we are ruled by a minority. We are fond of calling America a democracy. It’s not. It’s an oligarchy. Oligarchy literally means, “rule by the few”.
We are divided because we are ruled by the few who actually wield the power. We are ruled by the few, by design. All the hostility, turmoil, and division we see in the country now — that’s a feature, not a bug. If I was wealthy, I think I’d want the people fighting each other so that they wouldn’t notice me, living high on the hog in my gated community.
The system we have now gave us Donald Trump as president and Joe Biden as the challenger in this election year. Neither one of them are very much liked by the majority of Americans. They are stinkers. They are not even agents of change. No matter what Trump says, when he leaves, America will still be a divided nation. Even if Joe Biden wins, he will not unite the nation. Both of them are the choices provide to us by a small ruling class that has figured out how to game the system for their own benefit. I don’t expect any meaningful change from either of them.
But there is hope. There is a national experiment underway in Maine. Maine is going to run their elections for House, Senate, and the White House with ranked-choice voting. This means that there will be no wasted votes. Every vote will count for someone until the person with the most votes wins. How exactly does ranked-choice voting work? According to Ballotpedia:
A ranked-choice voting system (RCV) is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.
Who doesn’t want ranked-choice voting? Looks like Republicans in Maine were willing to take their battle RCV to the United States Supreme Court. Minority rule seems to be quite popular with Republicans. According to the SCOTUS Blog:
Maine Republicans came to the Supreme Court on Oct. 2, asking the justices to enter an order barring the state from using ranked-choice voting. The state’s constitution, they argued, “requires the challenged legislation to remain suspended until a successful” referendum is put up for a vote. Breyer denied the Republicans’ request, clearing the way for the state to use ranked-choice voting in November.
Oh, this is delicious! Republicans, the pretended agents of change, were hoping their “originalist” judges would stop ranked-choice voting in its tracks in the fair state of Maine. They would not. It wasn‘t even close.
So now we get to watch what happens in Maine. We get to see if there is a real change in the winds for that one jurisdiction tucked up and away in the northeast United States. We might see Susan Collins, the “centrist” Republican, swept away as all votes are counted and counted for someone, to go to someone else besides the incumbent.
There are many things to like about ranked-choice voting, but the thing that I like the most about RCV is that no vote is wasted. You rank the candidates from lowest to highest. Then if the person with the most votes doesn’t get 50% the bottom candidate with the fewest votes is dropped, and the 2nd ranked choice is counted towards the remaining candidates. This process is repeated until one candidate has 50% or more of the votes. This is true majority rule.
The problem with the current system is that the majority is not represented or very poorly represented by the winner of the election. RCV requires candidates to appeal to a broader population and political orientation.
When people are not represented in legislatures and executive offices, you get extremist candidates, negative campaigns, riots, and protests. If your interests are not heard because they are diminished by a powerful minority, you begin to look at your options. You go to the courts, but the courts only interpret the laws. You go to the executive branch, but they only execute the laws, and we all know that whoever runs the executive branch is going to execute the laws the way they see fit. Then you go back to your legislature only to find out that they’ve been paid off to protect the duopolies and monopolies that are farming you for your money. We need a government that serves the greater good, not private interests.
To effect real change, we must be willing to change the current voting system and try something else. We must continue the path that the Founding Fathers were on. They were trying to effect a new system that would better distribute political power. It would have been nice if they didn’t try to copy what they learned from Britain so much. Getting rid of the royalty was a step in the right direction. Choosing a system that consistently leads to two major parties as it did in England at the time, was probably all they knew how to do. But we can do better.
So I’ll be watching how ranked-choice voting works out in the places that use RCV. I’ll be checking to see if a new system of voting actually leaves a lasting impression in the places that use it. We will see if RCV unseats Susan Collins. We will see if elected officials become more moderate over time. We will see how several states vote on laws that would implement RCV. We will see if conservatives start passing amendments to insert the word, “plurality” in their constitutions.
Whatever we’re doing now, it’s not working. The will of the majority of the people will not be subverted for too long. That majority demographic of Millennials is growing up, mostly liberal and they’re ready for change. Let’s hope they pick up the scent of Ranked-Choice Voting.