With the great number of candidates vying for the role of Democratic presidential candidate in the primary, it seems that the Democratic PartyTM is doing what it can to give each of them a voice, but unfortunately, it doesn’t do enough to give the people a voice. After selecting Hillary Podham Clinton as their candidate in 2016, Democratic PartyTM chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said that the group was a private corporation and could select whomever its wanted. Regardless of what citizens who have identified themselves as Democrats have wanted, the Democratic PartyTM has always been ready to eschew democracy in favor of privatized rule.
Many already realize that if the establishment wants Joe Biden to be the Democratic presidential candidate, that is the way that it will be. Following the supposed logic of playing it safe, recent polls show that Joe Biden is indeed the favored front-runner. Using a system based on the republican ideology of winner-take-all competitiveness, it stands to reason that people would seek out the best bet for winning the White House. However, if the system were more collaborative, would people respond the same?
While it has gotten some attention over the last few years, and has even been successfully used in federal elections in Maine, as well as elections in San Francisco, Santa Fe, and Minneapolis, the concept of using ranked-choice voting for Democratic presidential primaries has not been suitably entertained. However, as our understanding of democracy grows, it may very well be that this procedure could be the answer we have been looking for.
As a quick recap, ranked-choice voting allows citizens to select more than one candidate. Should their first selection not get enough support from the populace, their second choice candidate would receive their support, unless that candidate also failed to get enough support from the voting populace. In that case, their third choice would get their support.
In the current Democratic presidential primary, while many Americans may wish to see an outsider like Marianne Williamson or Andrew Yang take on the outsider currently inhabiting the Oval Office, because they are only given one choice, many will be inclined to select the safest choice. Given Joe Biden’s history in the Oval Office, he seems to be the safest bet, regardless of whether or not he is actually a good representative of the people. While many might appreciate the more progressive plans offered by Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, or the outside-the-box thinking of Williamson or Yang, our current winner-take-all scenario does not empower citizens to fully consider those possibilities. Rather, it subjects them to the limitations of the Democratic PartyTM organization and its continued support of the status quo.
Although Bernie Sanders and other candidates have discussed ranked-choice voting in the past, it does not seem that there is much political will to start this trend within the confines of organization thats should be its greatest proponent. Unfortunately, as an organization with its own political well, the Democratic PartyTM may not, in fact, benefit from the practice. For although the Democratic PartyTM has hijacked the word, true democratic activities, where the people of the United States are actually given power to more adequately select their candidates, would take power from the organization.
Ultimately, should we ever truly wish to enact a working democracy, we will need to give more credence to the concerns of the Founding Fathers, and do away with political parties altogether. We should understand why John Adams dreaded “a division of the Republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader and converting measures in opposition to each other… as the greatest political evil under our Constitution,” and why George Washington warned of allowing political parties, “to become potent engines by which… unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.” But for the time being, we are left with the dog and pony show that is Democratic presidential primary.
At a time when many fear the implementation of an actual democracy due to concerns over “mob rule”, and many others feel helpless under the oligarchy which gives them no voice, we may be hard-pressed to actually implement something as radical as ranked-choice voting. Until then, all any of us can do is watch the dog and pony show, participate where we are allowed, and utilize whatever residual hope we may have in actually making America great.
For although the current commander-in-chief may beat his chest over America’s greatness in military size and Gross Domestic Product, what historically made America truly great was the revival of the idea of democracy and the innovations that have sprung from it. Would that we could continue in those innovations, and continue striving to make this a more perfect union as technology and information advances, we may actually be able to make America great again. But in the meantime, we merely seem to be reveling in limitations.