Since writing the new Common Ground Democracy column “Collapse of Border Bill Proves Need for Electoral Reform,” I now see Paul Kane’s column this morning providing further evidence that partisan primaries are preventing congressional Republicans from governing in the national interest:
“Another Lankford supporter, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), admitted Tuesday that many Republicans — particularly lower-profile senators from very conservative states — feared facing a far-right challenge in the primary season that will soon begin, with many states still open for challengers to file against incumbents.”
“Both Rounds and Tillis say Lankford’s deal, with actual limits on asylum seekers at the border and adjustments to how parole would work for migrants, would be better border policy. But those GOP senators in the ideological middle of the conference were too afraid to vote for something that so many vocal opponents, including Trump, had already been sabotaging on conservative news outlets.”
Kane goes back a decade to the collapse of a previous effort at congressional immigration reform:
“But House Republicans backed away from the legislation because so many of their rank-and-file — many of whom privately said the proposal would have been a good law — were too afraid to vote for it, worried about what would happen to them in a primary.“
The ultimate point of Kane’s column is that Senate Republicans have now essentially become the equivalent of House Republicans, as my Common Ground Democracy observed, quoting Senator Murphy (as does Kane). Indeed, the title of Kane’s column is “Senate Republicans retreating into the same ungovernable chaos as House GOP.”
I think there can be no doubt whatsoever that Alaska’s new electoral system, with its nonpartisan primaries, would change an incumbent’s calculus about whether or not to support a bill of this nature. An incumbent could be confident to survive the nonpartisan primary, earning one of the four spots on the general election ballot–where the incumbent would need to convince enough voters across the entire electorate, and not just in the partisan primary, to prevail.
Even better would be the use of a Condorcet-consistent version of Ranked Choice Voting in the context of Alaska’s “top 4” system (like the Total Vote Runoff variation on Alaska’s “instant runoff” procedure that Eric Maskin and I have proposed), as Condorcet-consistent electoral methods reward the kind of compromise that the Lankford-Murphy-Sinema border bill reflects.
But either way, in light of this week’s fiasco over the bill’s failure, can there be any reasonable argument against the necessity of replacing partisan primaries with some sort of system based on the Alaska model or a variant of it?