We have reached a new extent of crippling extremism in this country. It's a significant driver of voter cynicism. Our system is broken, it's increasingly polarized, and it will not get better on its own," observed Stanford Hoover Institute Senior Fellow Larry Diamond during an information-packed conversation sponsored by FairVote Minnesota, Nichols Kaster PLLP and Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., on Friday, December 2. While bluntly detailing current democracy problems which he blames on lack of civic education, growing cynicism, social media, and deep and entrenched economic divides, among other issues Mr. Diamond also shared his thoughts on positive solutions for moving our country forward.
Ranked Choice Voting is a way to reform our polarized democracy. Any state legislator who stands in its way is blocking reform and will pay a heavy price at election time, he predicted. Mr. Diamond spoke to a capacity crowd at the Minneapolis-based law firm of Nilan, Johnson, Lewis, P.A., which hosted the event. Partner Don Lewis welcomed guests and shared Mr. Diamonds extensive professional background, including his authorship of eight books on democracy in the United States and globally. Star Tribune editorialist and good government expert Lori Sturdevant moderated the lively discussion. She kicked off the dialogue by noting, Voters want a lot more out of their democracy than what theyre getting! The truth of that observation was underscored by new research featured in the New York Times (and soon to be published in its entirety in the Journal of Democracy) showing that an overwhelming majority of young adults in six of the worlds leading democracies including the United States, Great Britain and Australia do not believe living in a democracy is essential.
Despite his many concerning observations, Mr. Diamond also provided inspiration for those working to reform our distressed democracy. Ironically, he said since the problem of polarization is increasingly obvious and dire, it is providing a strong platform for making a case for reform. Maines recent statewide adoption of RCV is another reason for optimism.
He also pointed out that there are 17 other states where voters can circulate referendums for statewide RCV today. And that Australia provides a strong case study for how RCV could work in the United States with our current main two-party system. RCV has not undermined or eviscerated the main two parties in Australia, Mr. Diamond said. He and others in attendance commented on the civilizing influence that RCV often has on campaigns. Ranked Choice Voting creates a more fluid situation and forces each candidate to appeal to a broader segment of the population, Mr. Diamond noted.
Of course, the best barometer of a democracys health is the number of citizens who vote. With Ranked Choice Voting, Mr. Diamond predicted another positive outcome:
FairVote Minnesota is on the forefront of this commonsense, meaningful reform. To learn how you can help in your community, please visit www.fairvotemn.org. Click here to see more highlights from the 12/2/16 program with Larry Diamond and Lori Sturdevant.