Friday, October 22, 2010

Bragging on My Home State

In more than one place I have seen articles bemoaning the quality of political discourse and the caliber of candidates in some places. People deign to say they feel sorry for Nevada or Delaware or California. And hey, maybe so. If I had to choose between a partisan technician and kant-spewing kook, I'd be pissed.

I mention this as a prelude to a big chest thump for my home state of Massachusetts. I watched an hourlong governor's debate between incumbent dem Deval Patrick, GOP challenger Charlie Baker, and possible spoiler also rans Tim Cahill (ex-dem independent) and Jill Stein(green party I think).

What I saw was 4 very capable and well-informed people. Their hearts seemed to be in the right place, they had a good understanding of the issues, they made good points. And I came away thinking that wow, we are pretty lucky as a state that get that caliber of candidates. Leaving aside the ugly polluting and muddying TV commercials by interest groups on all sides, democracy seems alive and well here.

Another interesting note? This debate and this race shows the conceivable problems we might face should the major parties atrophy to the point where it's common to see a 3, 4, 5 candidate race. Even if 2 or 3 of the candidates are only polling +5 single digits, the final outcome could end up seeming sort of random. The ultimate winner seems like so m uch less of a clear winner, at least in my eyes.

 I definitely like the idea of a future where more candidates who are neither democrats nor republicans can truly influence the ongoing debate and get elected to important offices. But at the same time, I think we'd be well served if the election systems evolved so that the final round of voting involves only the top two choices. But if we do that, I think the last 2 rounds of voting should be close together.

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