Aug 30, 2023Liked by Steven Hill

Interesting and incisive essay. Thanks! I would like to see a debate on this issue between a devout advocate and Prof. Allen. (In fact, I'd like to moderate: I'm certainly willing to be convinced by either side!)

Also, I do think the piece suffers a bit from the back-and-forth it exhibits between whether fusion is a meritorious idea and whether it's saleable or people like it or have liked it in the past (in spite of its actual merits). While both of those are obviously crucial factors I think it's important not to conflate them in an essay of this type (not that Prof. Allen does so, but, in places, he seems to invite his readers to do so.

In any case, thanks again for this timely piece!

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I am not a professor, but I appreciate the critique! I was hoping to invite my readers to largely form their own opinions on fusion’s merit. As you say, the merit of an idea and it’s feasibility ought to be held distinct- and in this case, that’s exactly the point. Whether or not party centric reform could theoretically help our democracy work better doesn’t much matter if the public is unlikely to get behind it.

I think this is an issue we run into a lot in democratic reform. Direct democracy is incredibly popular, yet when it is removed from a context that empowers voters to become informed on the issues, it is frequently destructive. Similarly, closed list PR systems have advantages yet are unlikely to ever be popular in a country as distrustful of institutions as the US.

The trick, I think, is finding reforms that walk the middle way between actual benefit and political viability. RCV and STV both walk that line admirably.

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This is a perceptive and persuasive article pointing out the false dichotomy between party-centric and candidate-centric reform. Although I was somewhat familiar with proportional representation and ranked choice voting, I was less familiar with the workings and historical context of fusion voting. This article was a great help in understanding fusion voting.

No doubt there is more than a single reason for our current political situation, but the almost total dominance of our two major parties over almost all political activity is surely one of them. I'm old enough to recall a time when the two-party system worked reasonably well, provided an inclusive playing field for legitimate and mutually respected - but different - perspectives on major issues. Few then would decide their vote solely by the R or D next to their ballot choices. Clearly that time has past, as is starkly underscored by the fact - noted by Allen here - that only 19% approve of Congress, but 98% of Congressional incumbents are reelected.

Political parties are still useful but have become too powerful. Party-centric reform such as fusion voting does not address this problem as this article makes clear. Proportional representation along with ranked choice voting does least partially address this problem.

Political parties are like any group or even individuals. Rarely do they give up power willingly, which makes it understandable why political parties prefer more party-centric reform rather than reform such as PR-RCV. Both parties often mask their real concern by giving reasons for their reluctance: too confusing to voters, too complicated to tabulate, too experimental, favors one party or the other too much. Their real concern is possible loss of control over the political playing field.

Again, Seamus Allen has given us an excellent review, with much historical context, of current election reform possibilities. We need parties, just less powerful, less pervasive parties. We need proportional representation and ranked choice voting.

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