“No Labels director doubles down on 3rd-party ticket after New Hampshire”

The Hill reports. It seems pretty definite that No Labels will enter the race, assuming they can find a candidate they consider suitable. The report quotes their national director as saying “if America wants another choice, we’re gonna offer it to them.” It also makes clear that they are still courting Nikki Haley after her New Hampshire defeat, which showed her winning independents but not Republicans (a record divergence according to Steve Kornacki’s data). She continues to say no thanks and may well stick with that position if she wants a future in the Republican Party (as Chuck Todd and Jonathan Martin discussed on a recent podcast).

But when is the media going to devote even a bit of attention to the fact that the inability of Nikki Haley or any No Labels candidate to be anything other than a spoiler is a function of existing election law and not the preferences of the voters? Take the exact same set of voter preferences and process them through a different set of election laws, and the No Labels (or equivalent centrist third-party) candidate would win the election, not Trump or Biden. And arguably the set of election laws that would cause the No Labels candidate to win (ones that are consistent with Condorcet’s principles, for those who know that reference) would be the fairest way to determine the preferences of the electorate treating each voter’s preferences among all three candidates equally.

Americans generally don’t have any understanding of this key point–that election results are a path-dependent function of which election procedures are employed and not just the preferences that the voters express through those procedures. Americans are not taught this in school but it is something that they need to understand in order to know how they can most effectively exercise their popular sovereignty in a system of republican self-government. Because this is not taught as part of civics education, it’s necessary for the media to educate the public about this. The time for doing this is now, when the current process is unfolding and many Americans are dissatisfied with the choices that the existing procedures are giving them. Moreover, once No Labels fields a candidate, assuming that it does, the media will need to educate the public on why the No Labels candidate can’t win–and can only be a spoiler–because of specific rules of the existing electoral system. We can anticipate some discussion of the fact that Ranked Choice Voting, as used in Maine and Alaska, would eliminate the spoiler problem. But there needs to be discussion also of the point that alternate forms of RCV (plus other electoral systems that do not require ranked-choice ballots) would not only solve the spoiler problem but would also elect the candidate whom a majority of voters prefer to each other candidate on the general election ballot.

Meanwhile, the best thing that the No Label candidate can do will be to exit the race once it’s clear that their campaign can only serve as a spoiler under the current system and, as part of existing with the help from the media, call for an ongoing effort at electoral reform to adopt a system that will actually enable a majority of voters to elect the candidate whom they most prefer.

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