Sunday, June 8, 2008

An inkling of future mugwumpery

The other day I happened to find some notes I wrote in July 1994 where I use the word mugwump.
mugwump (good word to use to describe independent thinkers in parties, moving back and forth)
It was in the context of my writing on For A Truly General Form of Election for The Minnesota Libertarian.

Here's the context...
**** 12 jul 94 ****

Changing the Primary to a Runoff Election

Under this system, the primary election would select two candidates, regardless of party, to compete in the general election. One ballot would list candidates from all parties at the primary election; the top two vote-getters would go on to the general election. The major political parties would endorse only one candidate; that candidate would carry the party's label on the ballot. Others vying for the position would have to organize and attain a substantial number of signatures to get on the primary ballot. They would be listed on the ballot with some oparty designation other than DFL or IR.

This idea is proposed as a way to increase political participation. It could provide a direct connection between the work of the caucus and the results at the primary. Plus, candidates who do not win the major political party endorsement would have to organize political support just to get on the ballot. It could encourage greater primary election participation because of the wider range of candidates on the ballot.

It is also seen as a way to better define the role of a party member and make the work of party activists more meaningful. It would reward the work of the party activists who, after a deliberative process, would be able to place their candidate on the ballot with their party endorsement.

Opponents say the existing primary system works well as a check and balance with the parties' candidate endorsements. They fear that some of the advantages of our two-party system would be lost under the new arrangement. For instance, in this system the potential for two Democratic gubernatorial candidates running against one another in the general election is very real. (Only one could bear the DFL label; the other could not be DFL, even though his/her ideology and positions could be closely aligned with Democratic principles.) Presenting voters with two candidates of similar ideology distorts the reasons for having competitive elections in the first place. In this case, voters won't be given a real choice of plans and policies. They would have to choose a candidate based on differences in nuance instead of differences in values and policy positions.

Minority groups could have cause for concern in that run-off elections could lead to under-representation of minorities in public offices.

Another concern is that the new system would encourage intra-party dissension and the formation of new political parties as splinter groups form around candidates who lose the endorsement. The preponderance of many smaller, active parties could lead to a dysfunctional multi-party system where public officials are elected with only small pluralities. Contributing to this trend of a factional, multi-party system is the effect of allowing voters to vote for a candidate of one party for one party for one position and a candidate of another party for other positions.
Citizens League (1991) - The Party Caucus: An Inquiry, pp 26-27

[CRB: An idea that occured to me reading this is as follows:

The primary election would be as described above except for ...
  • The primary would allow the candidates to throw their votes behind another candidate receiving a larger number of votes.

  • The first two candidates to reach a tally of 1/3 of the votes each, or the two with the highest tally after a defined (short) period (including a presentation), become the two to compete in the general election, although write-ins should be allowed even in the general election.

  • There shall be a public presentation of the pre-recorded arguments of each candidate, proportioned in time to the percentage of votes in the primary, before this post-primary tallying.

  • There shall be a public presentation of the pre-recorded arguments of both general election candidates equally proportioned in time, or alternatively, if mutually consented to, a public debate between the two candidates before the general election.]

[CRB (14 jul 94): flowing vs. still party, standing, stagnant, fresh, stale, stirring

Title of article: 'GO ON, CREATE A STIR.' or 'LET'S CREATE A STIR'
- There shall be a public voting of all candidates in ascending order of tally, except for those receiving less than a given percentage of the vote, say one percent, with an equal time limit on all, say a quarter-minute, with no commentary.

General Primary Election vs. Closed Primary Elections

mugwump (good word to use to describe independent thinkers in parties, moving back and forth)]

[CRB: * 17 jul 94 * term to use: party 'incrustation' (see W 1974) and 'party gridlock' and 'party entrenchment'

'freeflowing' democratic electorate as a basis for the classical republican offices of one, few, and many

'freeflowing political conversation and party organization']


**** 21 jul 94 ****

a general primary for all the people and all the parties
biplurality election

let the people together choose two major candidates through fresh parties with equal status

rather than having to divisively choose them through stagnant parties with special status

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