Where Progressives and Establishment Dems Can (and Should) Collaborate


Ask most establishment Dems — you know, the Ready for Hillary crowd — and they’ll tell you it was those third-party voters who cost Hillary the election.

Progressives see it differently (I’ll stop there).

But what if all those Stein voters (truth is, there weren’t that many) could have had their votes count for Clinton just in case Stein didn’t out poll Clinton? Well, we’d know for sure those Stein voters didn’t cost Clinton the election, right? Less hand wringing, right? Truer results, right?

Truth is, I’m not sure that can be done in Presidential races, but it can in all others.

It’s called ranked voting. Or sometimes automatic runoff. The idea is simple. If no candidate from a field of more than 2 gets over 50% of the vote, the last place candidate is eliminated and the second choice of his/her voters becomes their votes. And so on, until a candidate gets over 50%.

The state of Maine just passed a ballot initiative to make ranked voting a reality.

This should be the beginning of a movement.

And Arizona should be next. We, progressives and establishment Dems, should be able to come together on this.

Let’s do it!


  1. Let’s make this happen Bob. We also need to work on abolishing the electoral college. Thanks for your blog!

  2. One other thing while I think ranked voting is a good idea to enact immediately at the state level it doesn’t work at the President level unless all states also use it. Therefore you would have to do what the National Popular Vote movement is doing and pass it with a trigger that says it does not take place for President unless all states have it. Or say that the candidate whose electors are selected can vote their conscience to ensure a good Democracy. (That would make them kingmakers in close elections. Advantages, disadvantages would need to be discussed.)

    • There’s no reason why any state can’t use an alternative voting system for the purpose of allocating electoral votes within that respective states – Article II of the U.S. Constitution gives states full power to determine who will serve as the state’s electors. While it might make less relevant or informative the national popular vote totals, those already have no impact on realized outcomes.

      The national interstate popular vote compact is different in that it is an agreement between states to allocate their electors in accordance with the national popular vote. The two might, in some respects, be contradictory, but I see no reason why either one cannot exist on its own.

  3. Except, it won’t happen because Establishment Dems won’t push for it.

    For all the Democratic Party being up-in-arms about the ‘spoiler effect’ (itself a bigoted term, as though third-party candidates are stealing votes that ‘rightfully’ belong to a major-party one), not one state under Democratic control (and there were several) implemented an alternative voting mechanism after the 2000 election, and I doubt any will do so in this cycle (although Maine did by citizen initiative).

    Hell, the House Democrats here in AZ voted against implementing approval voting for local elections in 2013 (HB 2518, 51st session), presumably because they were hoping to make the Libertarians and Republicans split votes and decided to vote in their political interest instead of the best interests of the state & the voters.

    So, good luck, I support this (although I have some issues with the IRV algorithm as the specific choice), but historical experience suggests that Establishment Dems will fight it tooth-and-nail.

    • I don’t think we disagree, but we may be using the same term, Establishment Dems, to refer to different things.

      First, you’re correct that it has to happen by initiative.

      Second, if by Establishment Dems you’re referring to the power brokers, you’re entirely correct. But I was thinking more of the loyal voters who vote for every D served up to them if they get a mailer from the DNC or DCCC to get on board. Those types might be more motivated by what they see as the “Nader” problem than by the long-term effect that ranked voting would have on the dominance of the two major parties.

      • Yes, I was using the term ‘Establishment Dems’ as parlance for elected officials from the centrist/globalist/neoliberal (whatever you want to call it) wing.

        The question is, though, who leads the effort? I wouldn’t mind doing it myself, but I clearly don’t have the outreach or base to collect anywhere near the 300,000 or so votes it will take to get some alternative voting system on the ballot in 2018, given I couldn’t even get 10,000 votes in my own campaign.

  4. The final advantage of ranked voting is that negative ads won’t work. You have to give people a reason to vote FOR you not against the other guy.

    • That’s more a consequence of a multi-party system than any voting system in particular. Negative ads work well when there are only two candidates, since attacking your opponent is equivalent to bolstering oneself. If you have multiple opponents, negative ads have to be split that many different ways.

    • That is interesting. Negative ads have most definitely gotten out of control.

      But what I’m still seeing in this is the money. Who would have money to buy the ads? Right now it is major party (establishment) candidates.

      How do you level the playing field?

      • One thing at a time. We can’t get rid of a Citizen’s United without control of the Senate and the House and a Supreme Court that agrees. We’re stuck with big money in elections.

  5. “Ask most establishment Dems — you know, the Ready for Hillary crowd — and they’ll tell you it was those third-party voters who cost Hillary the election.”

    Does.Not.Fly. But, of course, it is one way for them to propagandize the party faithful and assign blame rather than accept responsibility for what they just did to this country.

    Without going into great detail here, I feel compelled to illuminate a couple of related points. issues. First, I just looked this up on ibtimes.com: “Between Hillary for America, her campaign’s main arm, and outside groups like Super PACs, Clinton raised $687.2 million and expended $609.1 million.”

    Yes, that is a lot of money. That kind of money really should buy the best of everything in the world of political campaigning. Therefore, it would be reasonable to expect that they would understand just about everything related to presidential elections including the fact that third party candidates are an INTEGRAL part of these elections AND they will win a relatively small percentage of the votes.

    If the Democratic establishment wants to talk about the voter suppression strategy used by the GOP or SCOTUS gutting the VRA, that’s different. Those are very legitimate arguments. But when a voter shows up at the polls and votes for the candidate of his choice and that candidate happens to be third party, well, that’s how democracy works. A good strategist understands this and God knows that in today’s world there is a mountain of easily accessible information about elections and how people are voting. No excuse is accepted. Jill Stein did not rob Hillary of her crown.

    • Liza, there’s a corollary to the third-party / wasted vote debate that I think is more interesting. Think of all those voters who listened to the “don’t waste your vote” crowd and voted for HRC (or Trump). They would be free to vote their conscience, with the major party candidate they prefer as their second choice. At some point, then, the third-party candidate can become the one who makes it to the automatic runoff.

      • “At some point, then, the third-party candidate can become the one who makes it to the automatic runoff.”

        It’s early, my brain might not be working. I do not understand how this might happen when third parties get such a relatively small percentage of the vote. It sounds as though you are assuming that their percentage would essentially skyrocket when folks start voting their conscience?

        • No, what I’m assuming is that they won’t have a downside to voting their conscience. They can do so knowing that if there are not enough others of like mind, their vote still will count because their second choice will become their vote.

    • On the subject of ranked voting, I’ve never thought about it. It might sound good from an academic perspective, but in the real world it seems like it would more often than not insure victory for the establishment candidate. Where in this country are third party candidates, independents, etc…actually winning elections in significant numbers? Right now it is an aberration. Doesn’t that seem to indicate that the third party candidate’s percentage would more often than not just be rolled up into the major party candidate’s percentage?

      I suppose that this might work if elections were truly competitive. But once you get past the local level, elections cost big money to win and that mean the backing of a major party.

      Have I missed anything?

    • I might add, just as another observation, that Bernie Sanders was very wise to support Hillary so enthusiastically after she was nominted. If he had not done so, the Democratic establishment would be after him now with torches and pitchforks. They might anyhow in their search for a scapegoat.

    • Another observation here, this time about the Democratic establishment.

      They will die hard, to be sure, and they are going to fight for their survival. But now is the time for progressives to act, to make demands, to initiate the rebirth of the Democratic party.

      Bernie Sanders has nominated Keith Ellison to be the DNC chair. That is a good start.

      But right now we are in the unfortunate position of having to fight for some very basic human rights for our fellow citizens who happen to be black, Muslim, Native American, etc…Now is the time to reform the Democratic party and not appease the Democratic establishment in any way whatsoever. I’m not interested in their propaganda or their scapegoating or even their pretending to care about anything other than themselves. Wasn’t it their blind determination to give Hillary her “inevitable” run for the presidency that started this debacle? They might perhaps be beholden to the House of Clinton but the rest of us are not. The sooner we collectively realize that the old ways must go, the sooner we will take back our government and move forward. And we should damn well hope and pray it isn’t already too late.

    • Harry Reid, establishment Democrat extraordinaire, speaks:

      Reid Statement on the Election of Donald Trump
      November 11, 2016 | Press Releases
      Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid released the following statement about the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States:


      Yes, Harry, we are in deep s!!t. And we must move forward. Hopefully, without you. Pass the torch, it won’t kill you.

      • Democratic establishment leaders….remember this?

        WEDNESDAY, MAR 30, 2016 01:15 AM -0700
        10 ways the Democratic primary has been rigged from the start

        “After Sanders’ sweeping win in New Hampshire, the DNC went into hyper drive to break his momentum, starting in the next voting state Nevada.

        Concerned Sanders would win Nevada, Sen. Harry Reid, the former Senate Majority Leader and most powerful elected official in Nevada, as it later emerged, arranged a plan with owners of Las Vegas casinos, where many caucuses were being held, and other employers, to ensure Clinton would win. The Nevada caucuses were then rigged with massive voting irregularities such as casino owners orchestrating which workers would be allowed to vote and, in clear intimidation, openly monitoring how they voted.”


        Harry, sit down. Just sit down.

      • You are mistaken to blame Reid. He wanted Elizabeth Warren to run and tried actively to convince her to do that. He carried Nevada. He Knew both Sanders and Clinton were weak candidates. But remember among all the recriminations it is still the Electoral College that lost it for us, again. Clinton WON the popular vote. If we were in any other Democratic country she would be elected.

        As for ranked voting it DOES give 3rd parties a better chance. In particular under the current circumstances where people often feel they have to decide viability of a candidate before voting. Let’s say Bernie ran as a third party candidate under a ranked voting system. My guess is that more first votes would go to him than Clinton. But more second votes would go to him and more votes overall to both of them. more Republican first votes would go to Trump but more second votes would go to Johnson. But there would not be enough to elect Trump no matter what and we would have Pres. Sanders. That’s how it works. The ranked order voting would eliminate Stein first, her votes would go to Bernie, then Johnson, his votes would mostly go to Trump, then Clinton would be eliminated and her votes would go to Bernie then it would be Trump vs Bernie and he would win. Also more people would vote instead of staying home because their votes didn’t count. The advantage for Republicans is the same thing could happen with s moderate Republican voice, for example if Kasich ran as an independent. He would likely have a huge cross over appeal. And with more second place votes than Trump and some appeal to Democrats he might gain enough votes to get elected.

        • First, regardless of what Harry Reid thought, Bernie Sanders was not a weak candidate. Was Elizabeth Warren better? We have no way of knowing. She certainly showed a lack of courage by not supporting Bernie and saving her endorsement for Hillary Clinton the Inevitable Winner when her beliefs and values are seemingly more in alignment with Bernie’s. And she is not a particularly good speaker, she has no humor and no charisma. Take her away from her supporters and put her in front of a national audience and she just doesn’t take down the house. I actually believe that Hillary had a similar problem.
          The oratory skills of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama factored heavily into their appeal. Bernie Sanders did well and attracted thousands of people to his rallies because he had a powerful message and his speaking skills were sufficient to deliver it effectively.

          As for the popular vote versus the electoral vote, I go back to what I said at 7:28 AM. If people want to get rid of the electoral college then they should work to that end. But in 2016, the electoral college exists and that is how the final result is determined. Again, Hillary had more than sufficient funding to hire the best campaign strategists in the world. These people are paid to know the system that they are working within and to develop a winning strategy for their candidate within that system.

          On ranked voting, I have to give that more thought. But guessing at the possible outcomes doesn’t do it for me. I am too left-brained.

          • Warren would have been an extraordinarily good candidate. But with all the recriminations we have to realize that Democrats in general are conducting themselves in the election as though they are going after a normal Republican, not a lying, cheating, scumbag, WHO WILL SAY ANYTHING TO GET ELECTED. This man is evil and there is nothing redeeming about him. He will throw us pennies so that we will feel obliged to him while we live in squalor. The Republican Party is enabling an abuser and in many cases is JUST as abusive as he is. How do you fight that? That is really the big question. Because if your opponent doesn’t follow the rules and you do you will lose. Unfortunately since we have moved beyond the old days of stuffing ballot boxes we haven’t got the same bag of dirty tricks available. And please give me a break but a few mails between staffers just doesn’t cut it!

          • ” as though they are going after a normal Republican, not a lying, cheating, scumbag, WHO WILL SAY ANYTHING TO GET ELECTED.”

            Your message left me confused a little, TS. What was it that Trump said that got him elected? What I read here for several months is that Trump’s message of exclusion and hatred was not a winning strategy. Was this when he was lying? If so, does that mean we don’t have to worry because he didn’t mean anything he said? And what about Trump cheating? I must have missed that somewhere along the way. When did he cheat?

            “Because if your opponent doesn’t follow the rules and you do you will lose.”

            What rules did Trumpot follow? I must have missed that also and I am surprised it wasn’t spoken of in this Blog forum. AzBM is usually right on top of any cheating or rule breaking going on.

            “Unfortunately since we have moved beyond the old days of stuffing ballot boxes we haven’t got the same bag of dirty tricks available.”

            No matter how I try and read that, it sounds like you are saying that democrats have traditionally cheated at elections, but your bag of dirty tricks ran a little dry this year. Am I reading that correctly? Are you saying democrats traditionally cheat at elections? That’s pretty amazing if you are…

            “And please give me a break but a few mails between staffers just doesn’t cut it!”

            I agree! I don’t think Hillary was done in by the e-Mails. Her supporters continued to support her despite the e-mails.

          • The content of the few (thousands of ) emails may have been damaging and could have cost Hillary some voters but probably not the election. One really has to be a news junkie to follow stories like that.

            I’ve also been reading that “top aides” in the Clinton campaign are blaming FBI director James Comey for their loss.

            I always believed that the DNC played a very dangerous game and that Hillary was the wrong candidate for the times and the increasingly diverse electorate. I won’t repeat myself as to why. But I also believed until Tuesday night that she would squeak out a victory and now I am totally unprepared for what is ahead.

            In my observation of Trump what I see first is that he is a white supremacist, and yes, I associate that with evil. And even if I were a swing voter, I could never have gotten past that.

            But if I were a laid off factory worker in the Midwest trying to pay bills and working at Wal-mart and one or two other places, would I have listened to Trump and the quick fix he’s talking about? Would I have put my family first and just overlooked all of his flaws? Perhaps this is how people become one issue voters and register as “unaffiliated”.

            We can’t win elections without asking these questions. Who are the voters and what do they need? We can’t just scream “white supremacist” and “misogynist” and “rapist” and expect the whole country to fall in line because we own the moral high ground, in our opinion.

            This was the worst election of my lifetime and Trump is the worst candidate ever. Yet, he won. And after thinking about this for the past couple of days, I realize that it is far more complex than good vs. evil.

          • “We can’t just scream “white supremacist” and “misogynist” and “rapist” and expect the whole country to fall in line because we own the moral high ground, in our opinion.

            This was the worst election of my lifetime and Trump is the worst candidate ever. Yet, he won. And after thinking about this for the past couple of days, I realize that it is far more complex than good vs. evil.”

            Liza, these two comments are some of the most concise statements that speak of rational thinking about the election that I have read so far. These statements represent an honest introspection void of political bias. Kudos to you for thinking clearly so soon after the election.

    • According to the graphs I have seen, not many. Maybe 1 % of voters who were likely to vote Republican went for him, most of his votes came from voters who otherwise would have voted Democrat.

  6. In other words, Bob, people wind up voting for multiple candidates in a ranked order, correct? If so, how could we ever make that work? A significant percentage of voters have problems choosing only ONE candidate, much less multiples.

    • Steve, ranked voting, also called an Australian ballot, has been used for decades to determine the winners of the Hugo Awards for Science Fiction literature at the World Science Fiction Convention each year. It’s not that hard. People put a 1 next to their first choice a 2 next to their second choice and so forth. I think most people could easily rank vote the candidates. They might even find it easier because they wouldn’t have to try and decide whether a candidate was viable first. I’m game for it.

      • Let me rephrase the term Australian ballot can refer to two things, a secret ballot, which we already have, and the ranked choice ballot otherwise called an instant run off ballot which is what we are discussing. Australian ballot is the term for this used in science fiction literature circles because it was used in Australia.

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