Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Change is Hard

Instant-Runoff Voting

I highly support a couple of measures to reform elections in this country. The first reform would be to use instant-runoff voting (IVR) in all federal elections. Obviously, this would need to be implemented at the state level, but it would still be beneficial in pieces. For those who are unfamiliar IVR consists of ranking the candidates you prefer in order. So, a Naderite in 2000 may have voted (1. Nader, 2. Gore). When Nader was determined to be the lowest vote getter he would be removed from consideration and the vote would go to Gore. This would have similarly worked for tea party Republicans in NY-23 last November. IVR would help eliminate the need to vote for the lesser of two evils. Voters could vote idealistically without helping their political enemies.

The Role of the Senate

The latest developments with the healthcare reform (HCR) and the future hopes of climate change legislation have led many to think about the role of the senate in the US legislative system. Whenever I've complained about the undemocratic nature of the senate in the past others have been quick to note that the senate was designed to be undemocratic. This is obviously true, but I don't understand how that is a good thing. Before forming a single united nation all the states were considered sovereign. The small states understandably did not want to give up power thus leading to the Connecticut Compromise creating our bicameral legislature with an undemocratic senate. This was not a reasoned philosophical compromise, but a pragmatic one necessary to bring the small states in. Obviously, it's not practical to dissolve the senate due to constitutional constraints, but we should seek to minimize the power of the undemocratic aspects of the senate, namely the filibuster.

Matthew Yglesias has written a lot about this (here, here, and here) and I generally agree with him. I think the senate should agree to abolish the filibuster beginning with the 115th Congress in 2017. All senators would face reelection before then and a potential Obama 2nd term would be complete. Our current system does not allow our legislature to effectively respond to crises or the will of the people. HCR and global warming legislation are just two examples. Democratic legislators were overwhelming elected in 2006 and 2008, but they are still unable to fully overcome Republican obstruction. Republicans likewise complained in after the elections in 2002 and 2004 that things like social security "reform" could not make it past Democratic filibusters. I think it is better to have a system that sometimes responds too dramatically to crises, but with the ability to quickly improve or scale back policies than having a system where dramatic actions are nearly impossible.


I started this blog to share my ideas on politics, religion, energy and the environment. Coherent dissent is welcome and encouraged.