Hypocrisy of Supporting the Most Extreme Candidate in the Other Party.

Vote to Prune the Political Field of Extremists

I am dismayed by reports that Democrats worked successfully to promote the candidacy of the an extreme right wing candidate in the Maryland Republican primary race for governor. Can it be the case that these folks believe that the only way they can get an odiously left-wing Democrat elected is by having an even more odiously right-wing Republican as their opponent?

The Centrist Independent Voter recommends that Democrats and Republicans cross party lines, where it is permitted, to vote for more centrist candidates. The intent of this strategy is to increase the likelihood that the general election will present voters with acceptable, if not always ideal choices. For more on this issue, visit the strategy discussion on the Candidates page of this web site.

Sadly, what seems to be emerging is the opposite strategy, where Democratic funds and voters are being directed to elect the most extreme candidates in the Republican primaries. The tactic actually has a name, it is called the “Pied Piper” strategy. It was also, reportedly, used by Gov. J.B. Pritzger (D), in Illinois, to promote the candidacy of a weaker, more right-wing Republican candidate in the Republican primary. In Pennsylvania, Democrats helped push state Sen. Doug Mastriano, an avid Trump supporter, to victory in the Republican primary for governor.

In the up-coming August 2nd primary, in Arizona, Democrats are working to support another Trump endorsed candidate, Kari Lake, against the establishment backed candidate Karrin Taylor Robson.

I am unaware of the same tactic being adopted by Republicans. If Republicans are also using this tactic, I find it equally hypocritical. Please let me know, through the comment section below, if you know of other examples of either party promoting extremist opposition candidates.

How can Democratic or Republican loyalists decry the extremism of the other party while working to make the other party’s candidates as extreme as possible?

Apart from the hypocrisy, support for the other party’s most extreme candidate is a dangerous strategy. Candidates fall ill, scandals happen, and the electoral mood shifts. It does not take much imagination to see these weak opposition candidates sometimes winning. Remember, many Democrats, including Hillary Clinton’s staff in a memo to the DNC, cheered Trump and other far right candidates, in 2015, because they thought them unelectable.

How to Discourage this Strategy

This dangerous strategy of promoting your opposition’s most extreme candidate works best in plurality primaries, i.e. ones which do not require a runoff to determine a winner by a majority. The best protection against this strategy is a ranked choice primary, with an instant runoff. The Centrist Independent Voter favors this approach for a number of reasons. To learn more about it visit our policy position on Voting Rights and Reforms.

Instant Runoff Elections/Ranked Choice Voting

I was pleased to see a couple of young people campaigning for ranked choice voting at a local arts festival. Ranked choice voting (RCV), sometimes called “instant runoff elections,” is probably the biggest institutional change that could move American politics toward the center.

The other two key changes needed are to replace partisan primaries with RCV and to replace partisan redistricting with non-partisan commissions. The Centrist Independent Voter promotes all of these changes in it’s policy position on Voting Rights and Reforms.

What is Ranked Choice Voting?

For those not familiar with the concept of RCV, it allows voters to rank a series of candidates from first to last. The initial votes are tabulated, and if no candidate wins a majority of first place votes, the candidate with the lowest number of first place votes is eliminated from the race. The ballots that were cast for the eliminated candidate for first place are then updated to reflect their second choice as their first choice. The eliminated candidate is removed from all other ballots and a similar updating process takes place. The votes are then re-tabulated in this manner until a single candidate receives a majority of the first place votes. RCV allows voters to express approval for candidates who are not front runners, without fear that their vote will be “wasted.”

When combined with a single non-partisan primary, or no primary at all, RCV eliminates the tendency of the party primary system to push the political process toward the extremes. There are a number of variants on this process. Some involve having an open, non-partisan primary in which the top 5 candidates then participate in a RCV general election. This may mean in some heavily Republican or Democratic districts that all of the general election candidates will be Republicans or Democrats. The saving grace is that since all voters will be choosing between them, the most centrist of these candidates is likely to be selected.

Ranked Choice Voting is Gaining in Popularity

According to FairVote: ”As of April 2022, 55 cities, counties, and states are projected to use RCV for all voters in their next election. These jurisdictions are home to approximately 10 million voters, and include 2 states, 1 county, and 52 cities. Military and overseas voters cast RCV ballots in federal runoff elections in 6 states.” It is noteworthy that that number is up from 43 jurisdictions in the most recent elections.

Is Ranked Choice Voting a Practical Solution?

Ranked choice voting can and has been accomplished at the local and state level without constitutional amendments or the cooperation of the courts. Apart from simply voting for the the most centrist candidates available, supporting RCV is the most practical thing that a Centrist Independent voter can do to move American politics toward the center. Go to FairVote to see if your state is considering Ranked Choice Voting.

If you have a chance to question a political candidate, at any level, your first question ought to be: Do you support Ranked Choice Voting?