Category Archives: Elections

Instant Runoff Voting at the Oscars

Every once in a while, there are glimmers of hope for American democracy.

I’ve been complaining for the last few weeks to anyone who will listen that the increase from 5 Best Picture Nominees to 10 is a bad move, because it will increase the randomness — for lack of a better word — of the winner. When you have 10 choices, I argued, then a movie could theoretically win with 11% of the vote. In other words, the Best Picture of the Year could be a film that 89% of voters didn’t consider to be the best picture of the year.

Happily, I was wrong! The Academy is using a fantastic voting strategy called instant runoff voting (a.k.a. Ranked Choice Voting). IRV lets you rank your preferences, so that if your first choice is eliminated, your vote goes to the second or third choices, if they are still in contention.

Voting-reform nerds love IRV because it means you can register a preference for a candidate without “throwing your vote away” on a long-shot. If we had IRV in the 2000 presidential elections, for example, one could vote for Ralph Nader as #1 and Al Gore as #2. If Nader didn’t garner enough votes to qualify, the ballots that listed Gore in the second slot would be added to his totals.

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SotU – Good Speech, Bad Policy

Following up on my own post from yesterday, here’re my quick thoughts on the President’s State of the Union address last night.

  1. In general, I thought the speech was solid — rhetorically, not a masterpiece, but it accomplished what it needed to.  I was most impressed by the President’s solid instinct to generally avoid the rhetorical cliches that too frequently pepper our political discourse; early in the address, I thought to myself “he’s giving someone else’s speech”, but then he moved past it.  Good job.
  2. I was disappointed by the lack of focus on infrastructure investment.  $8bb for trains in Florida and California is great, but that will about pay for the environmental studies, and not much else.
  3. Likewise, I was disappointed by the promise to cut spending starting in 2011 (with the exception of defense spending, of course — I mean, how could we POSSIBLY feel safe with fewer F-22s?).  I’ll do Paul Krugman’s work for him and say again that SPENDING CUTS IN A RECESSION ARE THE WRONG ANSWER!!!  [There, I used 3 “!”s, so you know I mean it.]
  4. Last, I though the “guilt-trip-them-into-submission” approach to dealing with health care and the loss of the Senate supermajority was novel, but, yeah, when pigs fly. it’s sad how deeply cynical the GOP has become, but there it is.

As a special bonus, I’d like to offer a shiny new Sacajawea dollar to anyone who cares to produce a MST3K-style voiceover to Bob McDonnell’s GOP response.  I pretty much tuned this out after the “Sportscenter” reference.  Matski’s official fiance didn’t appreciate me, in my best North Carolina accent, trying my own soundtrack, so I need some help.   Here’s the line I started with: “He watches Sportscenter too! He must be a good man jus’ like me!” Really, Republicans?  Really?  America desperately needs a functioning opposition party that, you know, like, has ideas and stuff.  If you must have a sports reference, the GOPs current approach is something like “let’s show up at the field and just not play – that way, it won’t really be a forfeit, but we can’t lose the game either!”

So, all in all, a good speech, although I’m concerned at some of the specifics.  Probably most of them are throwaways anyway, so I won’t worry about it too much.

Health care at the brink, Democracy on the precipice

Nate Silver puts Martha Coakley’s chances at winning today at about 25%.

We’re well past the point where we can deny that access to basic health care is a basic human right in an industrialized country. Further, the failure to pass health care reform will demonstrate the extent to which our country is beholden to an obfuscating minority; the tyranny of the few over the good of the many.

It’s no given that a Coakley loss will mean the failure of health care reform efforts, but it certainly doesn’t make it any easier.

There are dark clouds gathering today. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed.

Vote McGinn

I’m still a bit shattered by the results of the mayoral race.  Nickels was a sophisticated, cosmopolitan leader who understood growth and what that means for Seattle.  Was he perfect?  Not at all.

Nonetheless, Democracy (in this case, the torch’n’pitchfork “any bum but this one” variety) works its magic, and we’ll have a new mayor come next year — which is too bad, if you’re a fan of transportation and big infrastructure investments.  Warts and all, Nickels has been the Transportation Mayor, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s at least a little bit scared about What Comes Next.

So it falls to us, the electorate of Seattle, to figure out which brand of new will be less bad when it comes to transportation.  While the worst that could be said of Nickels might have been that he was a little too fond of mega-projects, both Joe Mallahan and Michael McGinn have serious flaws when it comes to their support for progressive transportation policy.

McGinn is notably anti-tunnel (I think he missed the point of Nickels’ support for a tunnel; namely, you HAVE to build the surface option to get to the tunnel, which you punt 15 to 20 years into the future … meaning it never gets built).  Heck, the man staked his entire campaign on it.  Beyond that, I’m not sure McGinn really has much grasp on transportation.  His campaign website makes some vague promises to “eliminate overcrowded buses”, but to me that’s kind of like Nickels promising that it’ll never snow again.

Mallahan, for his part, offers far more specifics.  You can read them here, but I’ll summarize: screw Paul Allen and other developers.   Mallahan sounds terrifyingly like the “Lesser Seattle” group that torpedoed every modern development in Seattle until they finally couldn’t deep six the light rail.   He’s anti-streetcar, anti-Mercer Project.  He’s pro-tunnel.  He’s pro-bike.

McGinn’s lack of specifics are troubling, but at least he seems to be pro-growth.  I say “seems to be”.  It’ll be interesting to see how the candidates do for themselves in the weeks ahead.

And, if nothing else, at least the City Council gets it.  Look forward to the era of the weak mayor, Seattle.

Not That I Particularly Like Senators, But I Do Find Myself Wondering

When we four humble bloggers are on the verge of retirement* in 30-40 years, will the conventional wisdom regarding national elections be “well, Governor Smith has a lot of neat ideas, but we must keep in mind that the American electorate hasn’t elected a governor to the presidency since George W. Bush in 2000?”

*Yeah, I know. We’ll also be asking one another “What was retirement again?”

That’s all you got?

Further proof that Americans did the right thing on November 4 comes from the most recent Al-Qaida vid.  Master of the Caveman-in-Chief’s privy chamber calls Obama names (and not nice ones):

In al-Qaida’s first response to Obama’s victory, al-Zawahri .,.. called the president-elect—along with secretaries of state Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice—”house negroes.”

Speaking in Arabic, al-Zawahri uses the term “abeed al-beit,” which literally translates as “house slaves.” But al-Qaida supplied English subtitles of his speech that included the translation as “house negroes.”

Proving that they’ve learned nothing about how NOT to destroy social capital from their adversary George W. Bush during the last seven years of struggle, Al-Qaida manages to alienate just about everything but the rocks with this one. 

And yet again it’s interesting to note how closely the rhetoric of the American right mirrors that of religious radicals everywhere.  Much like Americans who think Bush and Palin would be a dream ticket, al-Zawahri either doesn’t grasp the historical significance of Obama’s election, or feels completely threatened by it.

We won’t have Mitt Romney to kick around anymore

Look who just took himself out of the race in 2012.  Mitt Romney writes:

Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check.

Actually, the title of piece says it all —

Let Detroit Go Bankrupt

If this weren’t an op-ed, I might blame the editor for the attention-grabbing headline. But this must certainly be Mitt’s own work. Re: that presidency thing, thanks for playing, Mitt.

In all seriousness, I still haven’t made up my mind if I support a Detroit bailout or not. Assuming the companies are eligible for restructuring under Chapter 11, I agree with Romney that tough love is in the long-term best interest of the American auto industry and its workforce. But if it must be Chapter 7 (an idea which — upon reflection — seems more and more ludicrous to me), then it’s a different story.