Last night sucked. We're playing against a deck that's stacked by Koch millions, and so even the most inspiring organization on our side sometimes just isn't enough. And too much of the Democratic power structure is satisfied to tepidly play it "safe" (or worse) while the foundations of a good life - unions, democracy, the Bill of Rights, our economy, and our very atmosphere - are under attack.
This game isn't working. And so I don't know about you, but I'm ready to change the game. So: how could we change the system so 30 million dollars (chump change for billionaires) can't outweigh all our grassroots efforts?
Some answers to that are common knowledge. If we could change campaign finance - overturning Citizens United or getting public financing - we'd be fighting a fair fight we could win. But how are we supposed to do that, when you can be sure that Koch and Fox will be fighting dirty against that at every step? Or, we could just wait 10 or 15 years for enough old white men to die off. But if you take our problems seriously, on democracy, the econmy, or the environment, you know that that's time we don't have to spare.
So this diary is about another solution. One you probably haven't thought as much about. Voting reform. The voting system we have - plurality voting or "vote for one" - reduces every election to effectively two options. That's makes an ideal situation for billionaires to buy the election with negative advertising. There's a reason that the Walker campaign was relentlessly negative; that's how money wins.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Join me past the popcorn to find out how it can change.
Plurality voting artificially restricts your voting power. Since your vote can only count for one person, you'd better cast it for one of the two frontrunners unless you don't mind wasting it on a symbolic gesture. And since everybody knows that, the two established parties have a monopoly on power. They don't have to actually do well themselves; all they need is to splatter enough mud on the other side so that 51% of the voters think they're the lesser evil.
There are many ways to reform this, but I'm going to focus here on two: Approval Voting and SODA voting.
Approval voting just means, count all the votes. If somebody votes for two candidate, or three, or more, don't throw that vote away; count it. It's perfectly fair: each voter has exactly the same chance to vote yea or nay on each candidate. And it means an end to the two-party duopoly. There would still be two frontrunners, but if you supported a third option, you could vote for that AND for one of the frontrunners. This freedom would mean that options outside of the first two could show their true level of support. And splattering mud on your top opponent wouldn't work, because there would be others ready to take his place.
But this diary is about how we could have beaten Walker. And as good as Approval Voting is, I'm afraid that it probably wouldn't have been enough. Yes, there could have been several real options to supplant Walker, and that might have peeled off a few percent from Walker's support. But in a polarized situation like last night, most of the voters had already chosen sides, and adding options wouldn't really have changed that. And unfortunately, while most anti-Walker voters would have voted for anyone-but-Walker, there would always be a few who'd split their vote for only one of the opponents, thus weakening the united power of the opposition.
So that's where Simple Optionally-Delegated Approval - SODA voting - comes in. Like approval, you can vote for as many candidates as you want. But you also have another option. Voting for just one candidate "delegates" your vote to that candidate, effectively letting them add further approvals to your ballot. That way, after the votes are tallied, losing candidates can "pool" their votes to elect a compromise winner. There are safeguards to make sure that candidates respect the will of the original voters; they must predeclare which other candidates they'd favor more or less, and if the voter doesn't agree with the predeclared preferences of their favorite, there's a "do not delegate" checkbox which keeps that vote from being shared with anybody but the explicitly-marked favorite.
How could SODA voting have beaten Walker? Imagine that there had been 5 or 6 candidates on the ballot. Walker, two or three Democrats of various stripes, a Libertarian, perhaps a Green, and perhaps a moderate Republican. (Yes, there are still such things as moderate Republicans, just not in office because they never win anymore). The Democrats and Green would prefer anybody but Walker; the Libertarian and other Republcan might prefer Walker as a second choice, or they might put a moderate Democrat as their second preference. Voting would still be polarized, but Walker wouldn't pull 50%. A few of last night's Walker voters who were just anti-Barret because of the negative advertising would vote for other Dems; many more of them would vote for the Libertarian or the other Republican. So when the votes were all tallied, the non-Walker candidates would have a majority. They'd realize that their predeclared preferences allowed them to pool their votes for one of them - perhaps the Libertarian, perhaps the non-Walker Republican, or perhaps a centrist Democrat. And Walker's extremism would be over.
As a progressive, I wouldn't see that as the ideal result. There would be no heroic progressive win in that situation. But as someone who supports democracy, I couldn't argue with it. Moderation would have triumphed over extremism.
This game isn't fair. Giving up isn't an option. So we have to change the rules. Campaign finance reform is one way to do that; voting reform is another. Those two ideas aren't in competition; we can fight for both, and any victories we win on either front will make the rest of the fight easier. And voting reform gives us a rare chance for cross-partisan solidarity with the grass roots on the right. I'm not asking anyone to give up the struggles their involved in; I'm just arguing that it's important to also be working on reforming democracy itself.
Thank you for your attention.