In an oped piece in today’s New York Times, columnist Thomas Friedman calls for the formation of a new moderate third party and some form of ranked choice voting across the nation to “break the oligopoly of our two party system.” It’s notable that Friedman is calling for these two things. He is perhaps the most well-known pundit to advocate an alternative voting system, and it is extremely rare for a pundit like him to even talk about the reality of the two party system, let alone call for its destruction. Read the whole thing here.
How best to promote these hybrid ideas? Break the oligopoly of our two-party system. Diamond suggests two innovations. First, let every state emulate California’s recent grass-roots initiative that took away the power to design Congressional districts from the state legislature and put it in the hands of an independent, politically neutral, Citizens Redistricting Commission. It will go to work after the 2010 census and reshape California’s Congressional districts for the 2012 elections. Henceforth, districts in California will not be designed to be automatically Democratic or Republican — so more of them will be competitive, so more candidates will only be electable if they appeal to the center, not just cater to one party.
Second, get states to adopt “alternative voting.” One reason independent, third-party, centrist candidates can’t get elected is because if, in a three-person race, a Democrat votes for an independent, and the independent loses, the Democrat fears his vote will have actually helped the Republican win, or vice versa. Alternative voting allows you to rank the independent candidate your No. 1 choice, and the Democrat or Republican No. 2. Therefore, if the independent does not win, your vote is immediately transferred to your second choice, say, the Democrat. Therefore, you have no fear that in voting for an independent you might help elect your real nightmare — the Republican. Nothing has held back the growth of independent, centrist candidates more, said Diamond, “than the fear that if you vote for one of them you will be wasting your vote. Alternative voting, which Australia has, can overcome that.”