[EM] irv and the politics of electoral reform.

Juho Laatu juho4880 at yahoo.co.uk
Thu Jun 27 07:17:40 PDT 2013

On 26.6.2013, at 22.48, David L Wetzell wrote:

> This is in response to an earlier post by Juho where he speculates that IRV is the preferred reform by politicians in the two major parties who want to accommodate change that does the least harm to the status quo.  I think it's useful to consider the ideas of "the politics of electoral reform" by Alan Renwick, as reviewed by Patrick Dunleavy.  Renwick breaks "electoral reforms" into two categories, "‘majority elite imposition" and "elite-mass interactions".  The first is a faux reform pushed by the elites to increase their control.  The latter is a reform pushed by the masses on the elites whereby both sides accommodate each other some to give way to a new political equilibrium with a different system for the circulation of the elites.  

This sounds like a tug of war between elite and masses. Makes sense.

(Maybe the elite wins the tug of war when it gets rid of democracy, and the masses win when they get rid of the elite. The democratic ideal seems to be to seek a balance where the rope is loose and the power is as close to the masses as they can steer the system.)

> I think the "reform" in the US that wins the majority elite imposition prize is "top two primary".  It certainly "improves" on fptp the least of all possible "reforms" and removes a lot of important voices in the final round.  

Yes, top two primary would be a simpler modification. Its dynamics differ somewhat from the dynamics of IRV. I'm not sure which one would defend status quo better in a typical two-party environment.

> I see IRV as an "elite mass interaction".  It doesn't end the tendency to a two-party dominated system, but it does change the nature of that two-party dominated system so that both must hew more to the center and new ideas or frames for wedge-issues can be brought up by outsiders.  

In traditional two-party countries this kind of electoral reforms may have far reaching influences. One should be ready to discuss also possible changes in other areas of the political system that is typically built around the basic idea of having two alternating parties in power, or alternating presidents / governments from one of the two leading parties. Or maybe the target is just to open up the possibility of electing sometimes independents or representatives of small parties, just to remind the big parties that they must listen to the voters and not just keep running their own (maybe hidden) agenda and rely on winning 50% of the elections forever anyway. That would be a "two-party system with reminders". I guess this is close to what you meant.

Transition from FPTP towards IRV looks like a typical "elite mass interaction" since that modification increases the power of the masses, and works against the status quo that the elite is expected to maintain.

> I also see that FairVote's proposed upgrade of "top two primary" to that a "top four primary" is essentially trying to coopt the momentum such a false reform has gotten for disingenuous reasons so that it'd actually be useful.  It also "solves" some of the problems with IRV by limiting the number of candidates in  the final election to four.  There are only 41 ways to rank up to 3 of four candidates and so it'd be feasible to sort ballots into these forty-one categories at the precinct level.  
> This fits with my proposal to rally around IRV and then if or when IRV proves dysfunctional, using IRV to proffer alts to IRV.  If we make IRV+ "American forms of PR" in "more local elections" the progressive-centrist consensus for reform then it'll pave the way for further experiements down the road that'll give some of the ideas this list focuses a lot on more opportunities.

In politics one must be prepared to make lots of compromises. That means that if a reform will be made, it will probably be very different from the first (mathematically clean) proposals, and therefore maybe not very pretty. This means that one should have a clear understanding on what direction one wants to take, and accept all reasonable steps in that direction.


> dlw
> dlw
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