Break the Duopoly: Electoral Fusion

It is likely not coincidental that the decline of fusion voting can be tied to the rise of the one-party state. In the latest of a series of posts on necessary political reform at Attack of the Machine Elves, Maikeru provides a detailed article in favor of electoral fusion:
Fusion balloting, which is also referred to as cross-endorsement or open ballot voting, refers to the practice of allowing multiple political parties to nominate the same candidate for the same office. This cross-endorsement can open up several possibilities for minor parties operating within the constraints of a political system like ours here in America, in which two parties are dominant: these minor parties might, for example, choose to cross-endorse candidates nominated by one of the two major parties, or to cross-nominate each other's candidates, or to run their own candidates without any cross-endorsements, depending on what their political and strategic priorities are. At present, fusion balloting doesn't affect most voters because it's only allowed in eight states: Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Mississippi, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, and Vermont.
Maikeru concludes that electoral fusion will aid progressive political activism:
If we are to achieve the goal of a truly open and representative political system, we must work to inflict a one-two punch on the Republican/Democratic duopoly by seeking liberalized ballot access laws that make the ballot more accessible to minor parties, and laws allowing multiple-line fusion balloting in order to help minor parties achieve political relevance. Cross-endorsement will encourage the formation and growth of third parties by encouraging their support among people who might otherwise be inclined to either cast a pragmatic vote for one of the two major parties, or just not cast a vote. It will help to energize voters who are currently disengaged from the American political process. And for those of us who are progressives, it will give us an important tool to shift the Democratic Party and the American political dialogue in our direction, and finally achieve some of the change that, up till now, our elected Democrats have been paying mere lip service to.
However, though the emphasis here is on the advantage the proposed reform would provide to progressives seeking to shift the emphasis of Democratic Party policy positions, it should be noted that electoral fusion may equally serve the aims of activists across the ideological spectrum. For instance, last year in upstate New York, conservatives and tea party activists did not have to settle for the false choice between a Republican and a Democrat in the special election for NY's 23rd congressional seat, since the Conservative Party was assured a place on the ballot; in NYC, on the other hand, the Independence Party's ballot line has consistently provided (now) Independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg with his margin of victory. Political reforms that weaken the power of the Democratic-Republican duopoly on elected office strengthen representative government by empowering the people over and against the professional political class.


Samuel Wilson said...

As a New Yorker I must point out that cross-endorsement can only benefit independents if they commit themselves to vigilance against inflitration by the major parties. As I've written before, cross-endorsement has earned the Working Families party a ballot line, but at the local level (e.g. Rensselaer County) the WFP has been extremely vulnerable to takeover by Republicans. If the object of cross-endorsement is to win a ballot line, my advice is, "Use it or lose it."

Maikeru said...

Thanks for linking to my article. While I write from a progressive perspective, you're absolutely right that electoral fusion is potentially useful to activists regardless of their political philosophy. And even though I personally disagree with some of the political beliefs of conservatives and libertarians, I nonetheless think that we're better off with a political system that accurately reflects the beliefs of voters from across the political continuum. Too many Republican and Democratic loyalists focus too much of their effort on political gamesmanship at the expense of building a base of genuine support for their policy positions and the ideology behind them, and this I think is reflected in the ongoing degradation of political discourse in this country.

d.eris said...

Darn. Just left a long comment that got eaten apparently. To recap:

Sam, your point holds in non-fusion states too, where major party operatives infiltrate weak third party and independent groups.

Maikeru, no problem, it's a great series thus far. Coming off of Sam's point, if the duopolists won't hesitate to hijack third party and independent ballot lines, they obviously won't think twice about derailing our discourse either. To undermine a legitimate call for reform, all it takes is to frame it through the standard issue partisan prism.