Donald Trump is right. (Bet you didnt expect to read that in this column.) The odd-couple bromance cooked up last weekend between Trumps GOP presidential rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich only served to make both look weak.
Ill pile on: An alliance of pure political convenience between two candidates on the opposite ends of the Republican philosophical spectrum was a betrayal of the voters who for reasons of principle admire either Cruz or Kasich but not both.
Yet Ill admit to a twinge of sympathy for the #NeverTrump GOP crowd. To date, their scheming to stop the self-anointed presumptive nominee has flopped but not because their disgust with Trump is not widely shared. To the contrary: Polls this month have consistently found upward of two-thirds of the total American electorate, and 2 out of 5 self-identified Republicans, holding an unfavorable opinion of the business/reality show mogul.
Why havent those negative judgments translated into more national convention delegates for someone whose initials arent DJT? Here, Trump has it wrong, Ill claim. Its not because his opponents are weak or lame or lyin.
Rather, its because GOP primary and caucus elections and Democratic ones in situations with more than two candidates on the ballot are not sufficiently (small-d) democratic. They dont allow a majority of voters to coalesce and express its will. To be sure, the candidate with the most votes has won but thats plurality rule, not majority rule.
I recently played my favorite political parlor game What If? with Minnesotas ranked-choice voting maven, Jeanne Massey of FairVote Minnesota. What if the Republican Party had opted for a ranked ballot at precinct caucuses and primaries this year? How might the outcome be different?
A candidate like Marco Rubio would have absolutely been a stronger winner, Massey said. Rubio, the Florida senator who led Minnesotas precinct caucus balloting, appeared to be the second- or third-choice candidate of many early-state voters who cast ballots for the likes of Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich and Rand Paul, she said. If those voters had been allowed to express their second and third choices, and if those choices had been registered after their first choices fell far short, Rubio rather than Cruz might have emerged as Trumps main rival.
Trump still would have garnered a lot of first-choice votes, Massey continued. But if he had little support beyond that base as many of us in the punditry biz claimed a few months ago ranked-choice voting would have put that weakness on display.
Of course, Trumps support might have been shown to be deeper than his critics wanted to believe. Numeric proof of that support might have altered the #NeverTrump strategies, or revealed their futility earlier.
Who would have jumped in? Who would have stayed in contention longer? How would the tone of the campaign changed? Those are questions with which to play your own parlor game.
For political-party leaders particularly Republicans a post-2016 review of presidential nominating rules wont be a game. Just as the mayhem in Chicago in 1968 propelled major reform in the Democratic Party (heres a hat tip to Minnesotas Don Fraser), the Year of Trump is bound to unleash more enthusiasm for procedural change than the Grand Old Party has seen in decades.
When the inevitable Republican reform commission gets to work next year, ranked-choice voting in primaries and at caucuses ought to be up for consideration. So said one of the nations leading political scientists, Larry Diamond of Stanford University, at a March 7 appearance at the University of Minnesotas Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
With ranked-choice voting, wed see a big correction in the polarizing trend in American politics, Diamond said. Independent candidates would be more likely to run and occasionally win, and independent voters would be more satisfied with the choices available to them on the ballot, he argued.
Weber told me last week that hes not exactly ready to sign up with FairVote Minnesota. But he acknowledged an interest in ranked-choice votings potential to give American democracy a needed shot in the arm.
Theres not one way of doing democracy, Weber said, citing his experience as vice chair of the National Endowment for Democracy. We cant take it for granted that the way we do it is the only way, or the best way. Its time to at least start experimenting with other ways that people can express their preferences.
After initial successes in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesotas ranked-choice voting movement hit a speed bump last fall when voters rejected it in Duluth. Its facing stiffening opposition from the DFL and GOP establishments people who have been the beneficiaries of plurality rule.
But the movement is rolling elsewhere. This fall, voters in Maine will decide whether to adopt ranked-choice voting in state elections. Theyll be watched closely by political folk who remember the Louis Brandeis line about states serving as laboratories of democracy.