Add influential New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman to the growing chorus of voices – across all political perspectives – who see ranked choice voting as a solution to the extreme partisanship and tribalism infecting our politics.
In a column last week addressing the Alabama U.S. Senate race between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore (won narrowly by Jones), Friedman fretted that far too many voters were ready to cast their ballot for Moore, a “credibly accused child molester,” simply because he was a Republican.
“When people are ready to let someone babysit the country – whom they wouldn’t let babysit their kids – you know some raw cultural/tribal emotions are playing out, not actual politics,” the Pulitzer Prize-winner observed.
But while our political system once managed to create leaders who could transcend divisions and unite Americans, Friedman argues that it has now become stacked against that possibility. Nothing will change, he concludes, quoting the Stanford professor Larry Diamond, without serious structural change.
Friedman – and Diamond – point to the Maine election adopting Ranked Choice Voting in November 2016 as a bellwether moment.
As Friedman writes:
"Many Maine voters, after a series of nutty gubernatorial elections, grew fed up with how their state was being torn apart by tribal politics and was becoming dysfunctional. “They knew they needed bridging politicians,” says Diamond, but the low-turnout primary system of both parties disproportionately favored candidates with strong ideological bents, not bridge builders. “It was very hard for moderates to surface in the system, let alone win.
“A grass-roots effort is now underway in Maine to gather enough signatures for a June referendum to require all primaries for state offices and Congress to use rank-choice voting, where you vote your first choice and your second-choice candidate. That way, if you want, you can vote for a third-party candidate first and then for a Republican or a Democrat second. It not only gives third-party candidates more of a chance, but it also forces Republicans and Democrats to move closer to the center to make sure they pick up every possible second vote.”
Friedman suggests, correctly, that it would “super-empower” the great majority of voters who are not at the extremes. “What do we have to lose?” he asks.
You can read the column here.