Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Fusion voting and political competition: and a way to make third parties relevant in the US

The US political system (and in reality, the UK and Canada) is set up for two parties, not a multi-party system led by a majority coalition, which is more typical in European countries.  In Europe, while it can take decades, it's possible for third parties to grow to the point where they can lead governments ("How Germany's Green Party Keeps Winning,"NPR).

Shaped by capitalism and the concept of market forces and competition, many people argue that cities dominated by one political party "need competition."

While they didn't mention this specifically, the Post's recent editorial, "Businesses need predictability to thrive. That's not happening in DC," about the over-taxing approach to business on the part of DC's elected officials is a short step from that kind of argument, and sheds light on why the paper so often endorses candidates with strong ties to the business community.

In our two party system, that means the answer is Republicans in local government, to counter overly progressive tendencies in center cities.

Just like Howard Schultz finds a presidential candidacy a tough slog because his message of social liberalism and conservative finances especially low taxes doesn't resonate with much of the electorate, progressive-leaning cities aren't likely to vote for a traditional Republican message, although there are examples of "Republican" mayors doing some interesting and progressive stuff, albeit mostly around infrastructure, in cities like St. Petersburg, Florida (Rick Baker), Oklahoma City (Mick Cornett), and Carmel, Indiana (Jim Brainard).

It's possible to add political competition within of two parties 

But recently, both with the election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York City and the almost success of the Green Party in provincial elections in Prince Edward Island, Canada earlier this week--they led in polling but on Election Day they garnered 9 seats, losing to the Progressive Conservatives who won 12 seats, while the Liberal Party ended up with 6 seats--I am thinking that maybe the solution, or at least a step forward, is to add New York State's "fusion voting" approach to the mix.

What AOC's election made me realize that we can create a typology of districts, and work to elect particularly left candidates from those districts where this is possible--and in fact, that has been the case for years, where many of the Democratic Party's most progressive Representatives came from such districts in states like California and New York.  AOC just pushes this a bit more leftward, and is more focused on organizing and media at least now, than people like Henry Waxman or Ted Weiss, who got into the nitty-gritty of legislation and oversight.

Fusion voting as an alternative

Fusion voting is a system of multiple parties, and candidates can run for election with more than one party affiliation.

Historically, fusion voting was an important way for the Populist and Socialist Parties to stay relevant and influence the issue space, which is why most State Legislatures outlawed the practice.  Now just a handful of states allow for it.

In New York, fusion voting would be a more formalized way of taking the "Democratic Socialist" message out to those districts where they have a good shot at winning.  Still, many interests would rather it go away (Is fusion voting going to be eliminated?," City & State New York).

New York is still dominated by Republicans and Democrats.  But there are multiple and smaller third or minor "parties" that participate in the election system.  We can think of them as "caucuses" (or professionally speaking, "practice groups") focused around a particular set of principles.

In New York there are many: Conservative as opposed to Republican; Working Families which is more left; Greens; Libertarians; etc.

Fusion voting would provide a way for cities that are dominated by one party to add "competition" in a way that's meaningful.

And at the state level, for the Green Party.

But it's probably not a way to add more conservative voices in progressive settings

But for entities like the Washington Post or Seattle Times looking for more conservative voices to be represented in local government in Washington, DC and on the Seattle City Council respectively, this won't satisfy them, because in progressive areas, it's a way to empower an even more progressive agenda.

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