The Economist welcomes your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful of other readers. Review our comments policy.
You must be logged in to post a comment. Log in to your account.Don't have an account? Register
Don't count the Democrats out for 2018! They usually find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
I think Trump has a pretty good chance of maintaining the current overwhelming advantage of the GOP for the following reasons:
1 - His base is very happy with the tariffs, getting North Korea to the table, he's still trying hard for the wall, and to kick out every illegal immigrant
2 - The economy is doing great (how genuine/fake it is will only be evident much after the elections)
3 - This Muller investigation has faded from people's consciousness (and in any case most of his base is semi-literate and very simple to influence)
4 - The Democrats are still under the thumb of the DNC. We have a 100-year old Feinstein who should have retired long ago but insists on leading the troops (using a wheelchair I guess). Just like Hillary got crowned rather than nominated. And we all paid for it in the general election.
5 - The Democrats has STILL NOT LEARNED that the top agenda of most voters is jobs (NOT gay marriage, etc.). Both parties have eagerly shipped off millions of jobs from the country and Trump appears (rightly or wrongly) to be the ONLY person doing something about it.
I fear the Democrats will get trounced for these reasons :(
There is surely also another aspect of 'anti-Trump enthusiasm': namely, the way in which, in the last Presidential election, the Sanders campaign, and feminist aspects of the Clinton campaign, gave a 'liberal crusade' aspect to what the Democrats were offering, which I'd have thought likely to put off moderate Republicans and middle-of-the-roaders who found Trump terrible. I am not a US citizen, but was resident in the US for many years. Had I become a citizen, I would have been in a real quandary, as it seemed as if the choice was between two kinds of populism - Trump's on the one side, and something with such strong feminist and silly socialist resonances on the other - to neither of which I'd have wished to offer any kind of support.
'Dana Rohrabacher has held his seat in Orange County for almost 30 increasingly scandal-plagued years. '
Wouldn't it be helpful to name at least one of these scandals? I hadn't heard of anything myself and he was my onetime congressman. I even had a 30 min plus conversation with him at one point, congenial and principled is what I came away from the meeting, even though I disagreed with him on a few policies discussed. Even a google search of 'Dana Rohrabacher Scandal' delivered no scandal that I could find, and he's in the middle of a heated election! This seems an attempt to smear a sitting congressman without needing to provide anything to substantiate it.
Try googling Dana Rohrbacher and Russia and read up. No, it has nothing to do with the pumpkin scandal. Rohrbacher has long been on the Russian payroll.
If the "jungle" system leads to the election of a few centrist, moderate Californian Republicans, that may eventually be more helpful to overcome Trumpian tribalism than increasing the number of Democrats. The world will be thankful for it.
The problem with this 'jungle' system represents the failure of the effort trying to circumvent the limit set by Arrow's theorem in social choice theory. The fact is that it is insurmountable, otherwise it will not be called 'theorem'.
One way to mitigate the failure is to be honest about democracy, and ditch the facade of the faked 'majority rule'. Instead, settle for the 'plurality rule' and reduce the length of appointment accordingly. For example, if 100 votes are split between three candidates 33, 33, 34, then give the seat to the last one and reduce the term to 1 year, or shorter.
If we're going to consider changes to the electoral process, then a much simpler and more effective place to start is to replace plurality voting with a method that can handle more than two candidates. I'd prefer Approval Voting, but even IRV is better than how we do it now.
The Approval Voting in reality is an 'Acceptable Voting', voter's level of approval is not taking into account. The IRV method (city of san francisco uses irv for the current mayoral election with related dramas) has the problem that lower choice has the same weight as the higher choice for each voter.
A better method might be for each voter to grant certain fraction of vote to chosen candidates. The problem there is voter's lower level of arithmetic proficiency, which actually is the reason that I find it appealing: those who cannot count automatically disqualified as a voter ... :-)
The fear is that in districts where Democrats hold a slight edge in total voters, several Democrats could more or less evenly split, say, 52% of the vote, while two Republicans split 48%.
An aspect of the open primary system that the author overlooks is the massive increase in "no party preference" (i.e. independent) registrations. To the point that today they outnumber Republican registrations. So a more likely split would be Democrats 45%, Republicans 25%, independents 28%. Even a "Republican" district is likely to be more like Republicans 35%, independents 35%, Democrats 30%.
As a result, who gets the independent voters' votes will be critical.
That would be fine if the turnout for primary elections matched the turnout for general elections. Sadly, most independent voters do not vote until the general.
Most voters, of any kind, do not vote in the primaries. Which is sad, I agree.
The drop-off may not be quite as large for those registered with a party. But it's close enough for independents to make a difference.
I live in San Diego and at least here, no one calls them "jungle primaries". The current system is very popular with us, especially with San Diego being such a moderate city. The parties hate it, thus all the negative articles which I have a feeling is how your columnist came to his/her conclusion.
The current system in California resembles more European presidential elections where the first around is about selecting the two going to the second round. On the other hand lack of discipline in Democratic California can lead to two Republicans in the final round in some districts. I guess that voters need more experience with the new system.
Yes, this is like a European system with a run-off election. But in Europe people turn out for the first round at least as much as for the second round, and these votes are only a few weeks apart. They are 6 months apart in the US, with only a fractional turn out of enthusiasts for the first round, even in California. I also note that in France, parties are increasingly opting for party primaries (open to members only, I believe) long before the first round. California's system is a jumbled mix of the European and American systems; the results so far are unedifying. Louisiana's system with a run-off a few weeks after the November election if no candidate achieves 50% is more like Europe, but doesn't seem to reduce polarization.
It is difficult to reduce polarization regardless of the electoral system when the whole society is polarized. Unfortunately, this is expected to get even worse with current population trends.
California is an ideological mess; open primaries save it from itself. It needs as governor a man like Rohrabacher
California is an ideological mess; open primaries save them from themselves.
Since when are open primaries called "jungle" primaries? They ensure that candidates have to face the full electorate at every stage of the electoral process. Activists hate them because they reward moderation and are less susceptible to manipulation by fringe candidates.
I live in California and like the primary system. The parties shouldn't rely in publicly funded elections to sort-out their candidates, especially since the second-biggest registration group in California is "No Party Preference".
The jungle system would work best if combined with ranked preferences rather than just a simple vote. Or better yet, do away with the jungle system (allow parties to use primaries to select their candidate), and use ranked preferences for all elections. Ranked preferences is a better way to ensure the participation of moderate candidates.
Ranked preferences was used in the Canadian Federal Conservative Party Leadership race. It took 12 ballots to get to a winner with 50% +1. There were 12 candidates. It usually leads to a a moderate candidate winning.
I am aware of the system, which has multiple votes at a convention rather than a ranked list, but the outcome is the same.
While American these days, I am Burlington1965 to your Oakville1969.
I'd agree that something like "single transferable vote" is needed to fix the bug in the current system.
I'm not sure the primary rules are to blame here. The author assumes there are only a fixed number of Democrats and Republicans to split the vote . . . no independents and no people who shift from one side to the other. California may not be the best part of the country in which to find moderation. In other places, where voters are fairly annoyed at both parties, choosing the top two (or three) finishers might provide some better options on election day.