[EM] Re: Median Voter Theorem and the 50-50 Nation

Rob Brown rob at karmatics.com
Wed Aug 4 17:18:51 PDT 2004

<Dr.Ernie> writes:
> I appreciate your perspective, but I'm not quite sure what exactly we 
> disagree about.  If I remember correctly, we were talking about parties 
> per so, not the electorate.  Thus, there's at least three issues 
> involved, and I'm not sure which one(s) you're commenting on.  More 
> precisely, my position is that:

> a) Plurality encourages the dominance of two parties; Condorcet would 
> make it easier for third parties to emerge

Hi Ernie (and sorry everyone for the double post...I thought the Gmane thing 
had eaten my first attempt),

Yeah, I agree.  But maybe I would shade it a little differently: plurality 
strongly causes parties to form, and (less strongly) tends to cause two of 
those parties to dominate.  

Is that basically the same thing?

> b) Closed primaries encourage the nomination of extremist candidates; 
> open (or no) primaries would encourage parties to nominate more 
> centrist candidates

Makes sense.  Although I think that it is possible that even with closed 
primaries, they will strategically pick a more centrist candidate to increase 
the chances of him/her being elected.

> c) No matter what, parties will continue to exist, and current parties 
> will tend to be defined by their existing ideologies.  To create a new 
> centrist party (or fully takeover an existing one) requires a new 
> centrist ideology.

Well, parties may continue to exist, but their #1 reason for existing (giving 
candidates a strategic advantage by avoiding vote splitting) will disappear if 
we had a better system.  Other reasons for parties, such as concentrating 
their efforts and money on a single candidate (etc) will still be there, sure, 
but the parties won't have nearly the power.  They would also have no choice 
but to rally around a much more centrist candidate (if they actually wanted 
their candidate elected), which would in turn pull the party ideology toward 
the center.

I also believe there would be far fewer average citizens who would consider 
themselves to be associated with one party or the other.  And as the elected 
candidates go more and more toward the center, so would the electorate.
> In those terms, my best guess is I'm talking mostly about (c), while 
> you're recommending (a) as a solution for (b). Which is why I at least 
> am confused -- perhaps now you are too. 
> Now, I agree it is an open question whether (a) and (b) will 
> automatically solve (c).  I guess it depends on what you mean by 
> "automatically".  At the very least, you can bet that the current 
> ideological patrons of the existing parties will not give up without a 
> fight, and I at least believe we need to fight them with both 
> ideological and methodological weapons.

Give up?  No.  They just wouldn't be electable, and that makes all the 
difference, in my opinion.  People like John McCain would be, though.  If a 
centrist like McCain was president now, and centrist people dominated 
congress...it would be very different, as you wouldn't have half the people 
angry that their candidate didn't win.
> > If you were to fix this problem (by having a condorcet type election 
> > for all
> > elections including for votes within congress), people's views and 
> > opinions
> > and preferences are far more likely to fall along a bell curve, rather 
> > than
> > the current curve which has two humps.
> Certainly, but how would those views be expressed?  Without parties? 
> Within the existing parties?  Or a new third party? And how would that 
> party define itself?

Well, I think my comments above sort of cover that.  Yes, parties would still 
probably exist, but probably less so at the local level.  There just isn't 
nearly as much of a need for them.

> Currently, most political dialogue (at least in the U.S.) is defined 
> relative to conservatism and liberalism.

And why is that?  In the US, the terms have evolved in the last couple 
centuries to align closely with the two main parties, and have practically 
become code words for "republican leaning" or "democrat leaning".  
Conservative vs. liberal will always be a meaningful concept ( 
http://www.lasersol.com/progress/lib_con.html ), but it shouldn't be thought 
of as the only two "sides" with regards to political issues and candidates.

>This especially true of 
> traditional centrists, who define themselves by their rejection of 
> those two extremes.   We "radical centrists" (think John McCain) are 
> trying to articulate new positive principles for political 
> decision-making, rather than merely reacting negatively to the existing 
> ones.

Well I definitely like the concept of radical centrism.  I just think there is 
one and only path to it, and that is replacing plurality voting with something 


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