Captain Jack is on the ballot
by Steve Timmer
Nov 9, 2014, 7:30 PM

For those of you II

I don’t like ranked choice voting. I suggested a couple of days ago that RCV, as it is known to its pals, might well have elected Dan Severson Secretary of State. I think there is an excellent chance it would have.

On the heels of the election, the executive director of FairVote Minnesota issued a press release saying, If you’re sick of elections like the one we just had, ranked choice voting is the answer. Here’s the press release:

Fair Vote press release by Steve Timmer

I’m sorry, but this is such baloney. Here again are the opening grafs:

Thank goodness THAT’S over.

In bitter contrast to last year’s positive, substantive, Ranked Choice Voting municipal election in Minneapolis—a textbook example of what civic engagement can and should be—this year’s election cycle has been brutal.

These past few months we’ve endured the worst politics has to offer: outrageously negative campaigning, ideological polarization, arguments about third-party “spoilers” and “wasted votes.” Not to mention the voter disinterest and cynicism this all engenders.

Referring to last year’s mayoral election in Minneapolis as “positive” and “substantive” ought to send you screaming for the exits. Not to mention leaving a smoking crater where FairVote Minnesota’s credibility used to be.

The only “substantive” thing in that campaign was a headlong rush to claim the pole position in the destruction of the public school system which, apparently none of the candidates noticed, isn’t even the mayor’s brief. I heard almost no discussion, that I can recall anyway, about the city’s budget, property taxes, infrastructure priorities, etc. It was an entirely vacuous affair.

There was also plenty of negative campaigning, too, conducted by surrogates and activists in whispering campaigns.

In the press release, FairVote Minnesota wails about Steve Simon’s “thin plurality.” He won with a little over 47% of the vote. After seemingly endless rounds of RCV, Betsy Hodges was elected mayor with — wait for it — 48%.

Last year, about election time, as a matter of fact, LeftMN website sidekick Tony Petrangelo (who, along with Jesse Ross, make the whole thing tick) wrote a story that pretty well destroyed just about every talking point that FairVote Minnesota has ever had. You really need to read it. But in addition to referring that story to you, I want to deconstruct a few of the things that FairVote said in the release.

First, and perhaps most important, FairVote’s assertion that RCV would eliminate the negative campaign messaging is utter nonsense. Let me amend that: complete utter nonsense.

You probably noticed that, with the exception of some flop sweat desperation by Jeff Johnson in the closing days of the campaign, the candidates in most races ran pretty positive campaigns. Kind of vapid sometimes, but generally positive. All of the bile and vitriol came from the independent expenditure groups: the Minnesota Action Network, the Minnesota Jobs Coalition, the National Rifle Association and other associated gun suckers, anti-choice groups, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, and, as God is my witness, the Minnesota Association of Automobile Dealers.

Parenthetically, on the left, there was the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, but they’re amateurs in the negative campaign department compared to the denizens on the right mentioned above. The Alliance is very good at what it does, but it lacks a certain, oh, I don’t know, thuggishness, maybe.

Clearly, the very best thing that FairVote Minnesota could do to help reduce negative campaigning would be to redirect its efforts to urge the passage of a bill like SF1915 or HF1944 concerning electioneering communications and the disclosure of the providers of the money behind the negative communications. (I will be writing more about electioneering and disclosure in coming days.)

Since the outside groups are making “independent” expenditures, the candidates couldn’t stop them if they wanted to. Many do, actually, in both parties.

But truly, anyone who thinks RCV is the answer to this is a naif; it is silly to think that Norm Coleman, Gina Countryman, or Ben Golnik would do anything differently because of RCV.

Nobody bothers to message against the Greens or the Independents. Which brings us to the real and essential purpose of RCV: the support of third parties. In the press release, FairVote Minnesota betrays its view on this:

Sadly, for those who long for the diversity of viewpoints and ideas that “third” parties can bring, the news is bleak too: the Independence Party lost major-party status, and the Green Party failed to secure it.

Sadly, indeed. We can mourn for the person whose sense of moral rectitude won’t let him chose a major party candidate as a first choice, but who still wants his vote to count. Well, maybe you can, but I can’t.

The two party system pulls people and candidates towards consensus, at least over the longer term. And this is a good thing. Politics is not for the I’m going to pick my ball and go home types. If we had a parliamentary system of government where the government grows out of the legislative majority, third parties and coalitions they are part of make much more sense than they do here in the United States, or Minnesota.

Here, they are just spoilers: exhibits A and B are Ross Perot and Ralph Nader.

Let’s close with the, um, closing from the FairVote Minnesota press release:

Please don’t hesitate to contact with us questions about RCV and its capacity to transform democracy for the better—in Minnesota and beyond.

Right out of Toy Story.

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