Thomas Friedman calls for a moderate third party and instant runoff voting, in so many words

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.”

31 thoughts on “Thomas Friedman calls for a moderate third party and instant runoff voting, in so many words

  1. Dear .......... Thinkers

    think that we are waaaaaaaaaaay undecided
    on top two only voting, but we sure have
    our doubts.

    Promoting non Democans and non Republicrats AND “alternative voting.” Hmmmmmmmmm

    AOK class, let’s join little Dickie Nixon, and sing out “Counter Productive!”

  2. Libertarian Constitutionalist

    Gee, another call for a “radically centerist” third party. Despite any calls for IRV or approval or range or condorcet voting alternatives what ever happened to a principled political party not just an “extremely moderate” one? Oh wait… I forgot… principles are just NOT PC!

  3. d.eris

    The word ‘principle has lost all meaning and attraction because Democrats and Republicans have been using it for so long to describe themselves that it has been thoroughly discredited.

  4. Ross Levin Post author

    I don’t like Friedman, but at least he’s advocating for some worthwhile electoral reform. It’s great that the idea is getting out there.

  5. d.eris

    That’s what I was thinking too, but then I wondered whether the fact that Friedman was making these points will cause them to be rejected by a great many people.

  6. Ross Levin

    He’s been pretty effective in getting ideas and words into the echo chamber, as much as I don’t like the man. I’m pretty sure he coined “great recession” and given that he pretty much changes his opinion based on political tides, this is a good sign.

  7. Michael Seebeck

    Someone needs to get Friedman out of New York and out here to CA to see what really went on before he spouts off.

    Prop 11 is a sham or a redistricting effort, leaving thrid parties and independents out in the minority cold while pating mere lip service to non-partisanship. You’ll see it in action later this year when the so-called equally-divided districts are exposed as a myth. Had Friedman actually read the initiative or understood how it works, he’d be singing a different tune.

    As for the rest, a moderate party who favors grassroots activism and IRV can be found at

  8. Dear .......... Thinkers

    think that Mike Seebeck is mucho correcto
    [except for the potentially party killing IRV]!

    ALL of the members of the Don Lake/ Citizens
    For A Better Veterans Home cabal have been
    REJECTED for the redistricting committee.

    “Not long enough at this address”

    “Not long enough with current party”

    [………. hope you get the idea!]

    “a moderate party who favors grassroots activism and IRV can be found at

    [Oh like (Bruce) Wayne ‘Kill a Commie/ Muslim For Christ’ Root ??????? Like the solo peace party act of George ‘Duh’ Phillies ???????? Like bleary eyed stoner Steve Kubby ????????? Israel First Jewish Nazi Bruce ‘USS Liberty’ CohenPardon me for not being impressed —— Lake]

  9. Ross Levin Post author

    Michael, do you really think it will be that bad? It seems like, even though it’s flawed, it could be an improvement over having the legislature do it.

  10. Trent Hill

    I’m actually more in favor of a proportional representation system, such as parliaments usually use.

  11. Dear .......... Thinkers

    The sinking USA Amerikkka:

    Funny Money with no central bank

    Major [decaying] industrial w/o metric

    Printed signage instead of graphics

    DoD which is any thing but

    Electorial College

    Congress instead of parliament[s]

    Bets of down fall before 2100 ??????

    Don Lake, with tears on the key board!

  12. Ross Levin Post author

    Yeah, Trent, I’m not sure about what system I’d like to see, I’m just saying it’s good to have someone this prominent saying that ANY alternative voting system is a good choice.

  13. Dave Schwab

    Good old Thomas Friedman, Mr. “we need a green party, but not the Green Party that we already have”. I would wholeheartedly support him taking a sabbatical to organize a radically moderate party, if it would get him to write a series of articles on how our entire electoral system is broken, from ballot access to the electoral college.

    I’ve long been an IRV fanboy. Now that I’ve convinced Thomas Friedman, I think I’ll become a proportional representation fanboy.

    IRV is much better than first-past-the-post for electing a single winner, but single-winner elections always have wasted votes, or votes that elect no one. So if we keep electing congress in single-winner elections, even with IRV, that still means millions of wasted votes, albeit less than with first-past-the-post. With proportional representation, every vote will count; even if you vote for the conservative party from San Francisco, or the progressive party from Colorado Springs, your vote still helps to give you representation.

  14. Steve

    Trent has a good idea, I’d love to see a proportional representation system tried on a state level. I lived in Israel where they have that system along with the lowest threshold of entry to a national parliament in the western world. The political/media establishment hated it because their “radical centerists” couldn’t “get things done” but virtually everyone could point to someone in Knesset who represented them.

    My only concern in the US is that after every election we would have a Democrat-Republican “grand coalition” governing, but at least mid-major parties would get chances to air their views.

  15. Michael Seebeck

    Ross @10,

    Yes, I do. True reform wouldx remove all partisan politics and politcal party influence from the situation, and Prop 11 not only doesn’t do that, but it bends over backwards to accomodate the major parties with its 5 D, 5 R, 4 DTS/3rd with a 9-person majority to do anything. It practically begs for collusion by the major parties, which is why the mess we have came about from the deal cut in 2000–which led to this situation in the first place.

    Frankly, the smarter way to do it in a bicameral legislative system like we have is to get back to the pre-17th amendment system and then implements it all the way down, such that every level is bicameral except municipal, every lower house is popularly elected, and every upper house is appointed by the government level directly below it. In the state Senate, that means the Senators are appointed by the counties.

    That still leaves a gerrymandering problem for the lower houses, true, and the only way to solve that is get the partisanship out of it. Frankly, if they made it all DTS people, or independents, it would be much better. An at-large system doesn’t make a lot of sense beyond the local level.

  16. Michael Seebeck

    Also, upon further consideration, a proportional representation system for the lower houses, presuming the proportion would be set correctly, would be an improvement there as well.

  17. Adrian

    There was a policy study done in California a few years ago to determine the effects of replacing the Assembly with a proportionally-represented body. And the State Senate would be elected normally – by regional district. It was a very plausible idea.
    If I dig it up, I’ll let you guys know.

  18. 17th Amendment Fan

    Seabeck has proven himself to be a fascist pig for not supporting the greatest amendment in the world, the 17th amendment. Allowing senators to not be popularly elected, would be a big step towards dictatorship and fascism. Shame shame shame.

  19. Adrian

    @20: I’m going to take it you’re a troll. You are on a third party news blog that is heavily biased towards libertarians, after all.

  20. Melty

    @8 Michael
    The LP is not a party that favors IRV. There was a time in the mid-zeros that the LP endorsed IRV in its platform, but that was rejected at the national convention in 2006, and the Party has not officially supported it since.

    @14 Dave
    IRV is no improvement over Plurality Voting.

    As for proportional representation, that’s great for filling boards of appointees, but outside of that I think it’s not particularily desirable.

  21. Melty

    got ample GP folk here too, including on this thread . . . and CP, . . . it’s not really “heavily biased”

  22. Steve

    @ 21 – I only wish the major parties felt the need to pander to fringe parties like us here in America. Or maybe give us something of value rather than just pandering.

  23. Green Party fan

    We have excellent State Green Parties across the country.

    As for the national Green Party leadership, it gets better, and stronger every day.

    The key to Green Party success in America and around the globe is inclusion, openess, and loading the ballot with Green Party candidates.

    Act today!!

    Go get on the ballot as a Green Party candidate today…wherever you are…

  24. paulie

    third party news blog that is heavily biased towards libertarians

    No, we’re not.

    It just happens to be that libertarians show up more.

    If that were to change, that would be fine.

  25. Adrian

    No, we’re not.

    With all due respect, yes you are. I am not suggesting there is a problem with that; this is a blog after all and because most of the contributors here are sympathetic to libertarian causes, of course that is what will be represented. But please, let’s be a little bit more realistic.

  26. paulie


    I make an effort to cover all the parties and independents. I also make an effort to get a range of IPR writers and commenters from different perspectives and not to state my opinions in the body of the posts. IPR writer(s) who have been unable to do so have been kicked out.

    Yes, the founders of the site were libertarians, the current editor is a libertarian Republican, and I as the writer with the most articles and comments in site history am also an LP member. However, to the extent that there is still any “LP bias” here, it’s only because people from other alt parties have chosen not to comment as much, have not asked to sign up as writers, and/or have turned down our requests to become writers and/or have not posted as many articles once they did become IPR writers.

    I’ve done everything I can to change that, but there is only so much I can do.

    I do want to make it clear that non-libertarian perspectives are absolutely welcome in the comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *