Today’s WaPo has an interesting article on the use of instant-runoff voting in San Francisco (þ: PoliBlog). While IRV isn’t exactly perfect, I think it’s better by a mile than plurality voting in multicandidate elections, leaving aside the argument over whether we should have multicandidate elections—which is in essence a debate over whether or not the meaningful policy space is unidimensional.
James Joyner comments on this op-ed by Duke political scientist Peter Feaver in today’s WaPo. I think both are correct to lament the politicization of the military, although I think three decades of Democratic Party antipathy, in rhetoric and deeds, toward the U.S. armed forces as an institution are largely responsible for that politicization, rather than any pro-miltary efforts by the Republicans.
More to the point, I wonder if this partisanship is part of the reason why the needs of servicemen and servicewomen, and their dependents, are overlooked by policymakers. It is often observed that African-American voters benefit very little from their overwhelming affiliation with the Democrats—swing voters, generally middle-class folk with 2.5 kids and a dog, get far more attention from both parties—and I think a similar dynamic keeps miltary families lagging in pay and benefits and crowded in substandard on-base housing. If more of the Democratic-leaning rank and file voted, I suspect Democrats and Republicans would do more to take care of the people who defend this country and their families.
I have nothing substantive to add to the discussion, but I will take this opportunity to quote David Bowie in a blog-post title, and to relate an anecdote from my college days.
Back in college, I and several friends had ourselves listed in the Memphis phone directory with joke names. I was listed as “Opus, P.”; my friend Neil was listed as “Stranger, T. Phantom”; my friend Steve was listed as “Zeppelin, Led”; and my roommate Alex was listed as “Guevara, Che.” I suppose my joke name and Neil’s were too obscure to garner any recognition from the general public, but Steve did receive several late-night phone calls from drunk, outraged rednecks, and Alex did receive quite a bit of Spanish-language junk mail addressed to “Che Guevara.”
UPDATE: Reid at Moteworthy wonders whether Steve was the "Zeppelin, Led" he used to crank call back in high school. It's the right time frame (early 90s), but wrong city. Unless Reid was making long-distance crank calls to Memphis.
As mentioned earlier, Green Party presidential nominee David Cobb appeared at Millsaps for about an hour; he spoke for about 20 minutes, then let audience members ask him questions for the remainder of the time. There was some local TV media in attendance from channels 3 and 13, at least.
I’ll have to say that even though Cobb’s political beliefs are quite opposed to mine in many ways, he’s a very effective speaker, and I think his personal story of growing up as a poor white kid on the Gulf Shore in Texas resonates well with audiences. Of course, he said a bunch of outlandish things (and I think his economic analysis of raising the minimum wage to a “living wage” is frankly laughable, and his “the Iraq War was for oil” analysis is far too simplistic), but I think he also talked with sophistication and depth about a lot of social and political issues—in fact, his discussion of voting reforms (proportional representation and IRV) was about the best I’ve ever seen or heard.
He also had some interesting things to say (in response to a question from me) about his ongoing semi-partnership with Michael Badnarik on the campaign trail; even though the LP and Greens differ on a lot of issues, I think it’s interesting that they both have worked together to achieve common goals—something you’d never see two major-party political candidates do. One thing I’d have been interested in seeing him talk about was how Ralph Nader’s candidacy was affecting his—how do you manage a campaign with another candidate with better name recognition doing essentially the same riff?
Anyway, while I have to say I found a lot of Cobb’s material worthy of eye-rolling, I enjoyed hearing him speak and I think a lot of Americans would be well-served to listen to what he and folks like Badnarik have to say; it’s certainly a breath of fresh air after the canned inanity of Kerry-Bush, and like Cobb said, a lot of the ideas we take for granted today in American politics (good or bad) came from minor parties and their supporters before they were “cool.”