The RNC’s Autopsy report wants to do away with caucuses and conventions, replacing them with regional primaries. But I’ll propose a different reform that will make candidate selection more interesting, whether in a caucus or a primary.
A Word About The Autopsy
The idea of compacting the primary season and eliminating caucuses has some merit, but also a lot of downside. On the plus side are splashier events to showcase the party, fewer Tuesdays littered with politics, and, believe it or not, some economies as candidates can focus on one geographical region at a time. On the downside are some scary issues, like eliminating insurgent candidates, cutting out activists and grassroots, and favoring candidates with huge war chests. In short, the system would favor Establishment candidates.
FreedomWorks and other grassroots groups are furious over the the recommendations. They see the report as an attempt to eliminate the grassroots from the process, letting big money candidates favored by the Establishment to run the table quickly.
But I think a more basic problem with the presidential candidate selection system is the way we vote. I mean, aren’t you sick of seeing grassroots voters split their votes among three or four or six candidates allowing the Establishment’s candidates to skate through?
What If We Had To Vote On Every Candidate?
Instead of choosing one person from a field of six, eight, twelve candidates, why not vote for each pair of candidate in a head-to-head race?
Yes, each voter will need to punch more chads or touch more buttons, but each decision should be very quick. Here’s what it might look like, using some presumed candidates for 2016.
Let’s assume these are the candidates in the Missouri primary in 2016:
- Rand Paul
- Marco Rubio
- Chris Christie
- Paul Ryan
- Ted Cruz
- Bobby Jindal
Under the current system, voters select one candidate and move onto the next race. But under the Condorcet method, each voter would vote for each pair:
- Paul vs. Rubio
- Paul vs. Christie
- Paul vs. Ryan
- Paul vs. Cruz
- Paul vs. Jindal
- Rubio vs. Christie
- Rubio vs. Ryan
- Rubio vs. Cruz
- Rubio vs. Jindal
- Christie vs. Ryan
- Christie vs. Cruz
- Christie vs. Jindal
- Ryan vs. Cruz
- Ryan vs. Jindal
- Cruz vs. Jindal
I realize that I just turned one vote into 15 votes, but I’ve also forced the voter to actually think about each possible pairing. Additionally, voters will actually stack rank the candidates, which could be invaluable information for VP selection. And it really won’t take much longer to get through the list.
A Condorcet Sample Scorecard
The Condorcet winner would be the candidate with the lowest maximum votes against. In a precinct with 200 votes cast, here’s how the scorecard might look:
Jindal wins with the lowest maximum votes against. In other words, Jindal is unacceptable to the smallest number of voters. Put another way, Jindal has the lowest negatives when actually comes to voting.
Rand Paul came in second, followed by Rubio, Ryan, Cruz, and Christie.
(For the record, I just made up these numbers. They don’t reflect my expectations of an actual vote.)
Condorcet Voting Gives Insurgents A Chance
This voting method would allow the RNC to impose its regional primary format while negating some of the advantage of big money. Think about it.
Suppose the RNC favorite is Chris Christie. He goes into the primaries with lots of cash and buys lots of ad time. He has the highest name recognition by far.
In our current system, people walk in, scan the ballot, see the name they recognize, and punch it.
In the Condorcet system, they can’t do that. They actually have to look at each name and compare Christie to every other candidate. Since most voters are low-information voters compared to the readers of this blog, this may be the first time they realize a person they like is even on the ballot.
And because the winner is the candidate with the lowest votes against in any match-up, Christie is likely to rack up a high votes against total in at least one of the match-ups.
This gives insurgents a chance because name recognition alone isn’t enough to run the table.
Best Of All, Condorcet Eliminates The Problem Of Divided Votes
Do you really think Romney would have won the nomination if we added up the voters who didn't want him?
No. Romney won because conservatives (of various stripes) split their votes across a range of preferable candidates. In most of the early primaries, Romney never got above 30 percent. Romney was nobody’s second choice, but no other one candidate was anybody’s first.
In the Condorcet method, you get to vote for all your preferred candidates. Plus, as in the example above, you get to vote against Chris Christie five times in one day!
The Condorcet Method Spices Things Up
Besides leveling the playing field and forcing voters to actually consider the pairings, the Condorcet method would breathe new life into the system.
Sure, some will balk at the extra votes to cast. Many people hate to think. But we really don’t want them voting, anyway. Not in a primary. Caucuses weed out the casual voters because of the time and energy commitment. Primaries make voting too easy.
By making voting a little harder, you’re going to favor the true base of the party and discourage the casual or cross-over voter from messing things up.
Injecting a little thought into the voting process will make primaries a big more like caucuses, punishing candidates with high negatives, and rewarding candidates to appeal to the the broader base, not necessarily the broader electorate.
I say let’s give this a try in 2016. What do you think?