It's looking like it's going to be Trump v Hillary in November. I can't recall being more 'blah' about a presidential election in my entire life. Since I can't really get behind any of the candidates, I thought I would bitch about a fundamental flaw in our electoral process is (apologies to anyone who thought this post was going to actually be interesting).
I remember listening to a Ralph Nader interview on the night of the 2000 presidential elections. Nader was, to put it mildly, getting creamed, with way less than 3% of the vote. The show's host was asking him a question along the lines of, "why are you doing even worse than we thought you would?" With a totally straight face, Nader blamed Democrats for siphoning votes off to the left and Republicans for siphoning votes to his right. He strongly implied he would have won otherwise. He was totally serious and, if we're being honest, he wasn't totally wrong.
I'm probably the only person who remembers this otherwise inconsequential interview, mainly because Nader's answer got me thinking. Specifically, it made me realize that we have a system designed to elect a leader that half of the country is basically guaranteed to hate.
Barring a few isolated periods in history (looking at you, Bull Moose Party), the United States has traditionally relied on a system of two diametrically opposed parties which achieves stability by virtue of the dual pulls from politically opposite directions. This has worked out pretty well in a general sense, but it's certainly not perfect, least of all for the core constituencies of each party. I imagine these diehard democrats and republicans exist in a state of perpetual unhappiness, living forever in a moderate world where their desires and reality are never fully reconciled.
Watching the interplay between dissatisfied conservatives/liberals and the icky quality of the remaining candidate field has led me to the following observations:
Trump and Sanders are the same kind of guy. Both of them are more radical alternatives to mainline stalwarts.
The relative success of "alternative" candidates can be attributed to dissatisfaction with the political party system. This is common to both reds and blues. Both groups believe that electing a leader who is even more "them" will somehow create meaningful change.
This is the exact opposite of a helpful response. Electing two fringe candidates for a presidential election guarantees we elect a candidate whose main attribute is not being as shitty as the other guy. Even in modern times (oh, the halcyon days of McCain/Obama) where moderate candidates were viable, we elected a person 45% of the country immediately dislikes. This cuts both ways - imagine how amazingly difficult the commander-in-chief's job will be for the winner of a Trump vs. Sanders general election.
There's one inescapable conclusion here: We are going about selecting general election candidates very, very badly, and its mostly the fault of our state-by-state primary system. Rather than whittling down our presidential selection from a large number of candidates, individual parties select a Godzilla vs. King Kong-style match-up of nominees selected by highly polarized core party members.
There's a strong argument for why we should adopt a different candidate selection system: Ideally, we want a candidate that a majority of people are at least OK with. If the political spectrum could be quantified, this hypothetical candidate would be at the 50th percentile, loved by moderates, liked/respected by partisans, and tolerated by all but a few. This is, realistically, the best we're ever gonna do.
Here's one way that might look: Do away with party primaries. Take the top ten candidates, then do rounds of elections (for the general population) that progressively whittle away fringe candidates. An election between the final two would ideally be the final differentiation between a SLIGHTLY more liberal or conservative candidate (as opposed to the current all-or-nothing system; see lazy powerpoint below).
This would stop so many bad things. Right now, there are millions of people who are not at all passionate about Hillary Clinton but will vote for her just so Trump doesn't win. And I'm sure there are equal numbers of republicans who will do basically the same thing. I ask you - does the current system make anyone happy?
There's one final benefit this type of full-spectrum system could bring: Instead of simply "rallying the base" to get the nomination, a non-binary system allows for increased sensitivity to the mood of the country. To use an example to illustrate how this is a good thing: when the SATs switched to computerized testing, they added an adaptive learning algorithm that changed the difficulty of questions based on whether you answered the previous question correctly. After ten questions, the program knew your general skill level. After twenty questions, it has a better idea. By the time you reach the final question, the machine is simply determining whether you are the 83rd or 84th percentile. Whether you answered the final question is hardly disastrous. To compare this to politics, our current system is a two-question test where both answers are probably wrong.
Noah's Inner Monologue
Scribblings of a man who can barely operate an idiotproof website.