Charen: How to Disarm the Mad | News, Sports, Work


There is probably no easy cure for the Marjorie Taylor Greene phenomenon. She is a disgusting clown, whose presence on the national stage has brought nothing but degradation – except the insult she made us when she denounced Nancy Pelosi’s “Gazpacho police”.

And she has a lot of company. Her colleagues at Home include Paul Gosar and Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert and Louie Gohmert and, sigh, many others. And even among members who probably know the difference between a Nazi secret police and a summer soup, there are alarming figures that are close to extremists. For example, there are more GOP congressmen who voted not to certify the 2020 election than there are Republicans who voted for a resolution in support of NATO.

Democrats are not immune to the virus of extremism either. While the Democratic Party has not lost its stance on the way the Republican Party has, it is distorted by its zealots. In the 2020 presidential primary, for example, progressive activists pushed candidates to impose a moratorium on evictions, lift private health insurance, and ban fracking, among other demands. These issues were not at the top of the minds of average Democrats, let alone average voters.

In the pre-internet age, our stable political parties seemed to be the shield of stability. But this has not been the case for some time. Instead of forming, directing and disciplining their members, these institutions have become empty shells. Unable to control fundraising due to rising small dollars, online contributions, and even stripped of the once coveted power to set legislation, the parties, as Yuval Levin has argued, are mere soap operas. that allow members to display their personal brands. .

The party duopoly empowers the most extreme voters and leaves the broad masses unrepresented and with the feeling that in general elections they must choose the lesser of two evils. As Katherine Gehl, founder of the Institute for Political Innovation, notes, about 10% of voters (those who vote in primaries) determine the outcome of 83% of races in Congress. And because primary voters tend to be more ideological and extreme than others, candidates are pampered to get elected and then stay in office. The term “primary” only became a verb in the last decade or so, as the power of party zealots became a cup to be used against any member who even thought of compromising with the other party.

There is another factor that worsens the balance towards extremism, at least among Republicans (Democrats have different rules), and this is the winning system that gets everything in the presidential election. In 2016, Donald Trump lost Iowa and then won New Hampshire with 35% of the vote. A solid majority, 57%, was split among the other five candidates.

So are we doomed to be at the mercy of the insane and the wicked? It is possible, but again, one reform that seems to be gaining traction is by-elections (also known as run-off elections).

It is already the law in Alaska and Maine for state, congressional and presidential contests and has been passed by more than 20 cities. In Virginia, the Republican Party used an electoral system ranked to elect its candidate for governor in 2021, with the result that Glenn Youngkin and not Amanda Chase (“Trump in heels”) secured the nomination. In New York City, predictions that the city’s 5.6 million voters would find the ranking system confusing were unfulfilled. Turnout was on the rise compared to the last contested mayoral election and 95% of voters said the system was easy. There were no differences between ethnic groups in terms of system and the winner was a moderate former police officer.

There are many different approaches to randomly selected voting and experimentation will determine which is best. But even with the small sample we have, we can judge that the incentives look better. Among the three GOP senators who voted to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson in the Supreme Court, only one is to be re-elected in 2022 – Lisa Murkowski from Alaska. Murkowski can maintain the confirmation rate of the other side’s qualified candidate and not be afraid of a primary Trumpist challenger, because Alaska now holds an open primary election in which anyone from any party can participate. The four candidates who get the most votes advance to the general election. Voters list their choices. If a candidate gets over 50%, he or she is the winner. If not, the last candidate on the ballot is knocked out and the second ballot is distributed, and so on until someone has the majority.

Not only does the system of ranked elections devalue party extremists; he also discourages candidates from savage personal attacks, the persistence of which undoubtedly keeps some good people out of politics.

The bipartisan system has not proven to be a solid foundation for democracy. Time to disarm the crazy.

Mona Charen is the policy editor for The Bulwark and the host of the “Beg to Differ” podcast. Her most recent book is “Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Contact with Science, Love, and Common Sense.”


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