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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Better Ballot SC Rally for Instant Runoff Voting

1/23/23 State Capital Steps, Columbia SC.

Joe Oddo speech transcript…

Thomas Jefferson once said “A little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.” I don’t think he meant getting to this place - where confrontation and paralysis have become divided government’s natural state. 

Deep polarization of the parties has made it harder to achieve bipartisan agreement. This is not the republic that our forefathers envisioned. Polarization is not new. What was once intra-party disagreement has morphed into tribalism. What was once cross-party coalitions are now dangerous levels of stalemate and dysfunction.

The upcoming debt ceiling fight is the perfect example. Nothing but a strange booby trap, the debt ceiling severs Congress’s decision to spend money, from its decision to pay its bills. Getting rid of it would bombproof the government’s operations against political disaster. Debt ceiling bills have always been used to embarrass the other side. It’s like leaving a cocked gun for reckless legislators to hold their country hostage until they get what they want. That just wasn’t how things were done in American politics before.

Norms of cooperation and deference have given way to crises, paralysis, and polarization. Political actors have to be responsive to the conflict amplifying media. Instead of routine bickering, media-hungry politicians thrive on a full-blown crises. It’s theater at its worst. There are other ways legislators can express their views, gain leverage, and grandstand that don’t threaten to tank the economy.

Political scholars have identified two basic norms that have been destroyed: mutual toleration, or the understanding that competing parties accept one another as legitimate rivals; and forbearance, resisting the temptation to use temporary legislative control to maximum partisan advantage. We see it right here in this state house. Gerrymandering provided the majority the opportunity to draw districts where 72 of 124 seats did not even have a major party challenger. And power, of course, begets power. The majority party intends to pass even more partisan measures that will cripple our schools, restrict voting, and threaten women’s rights.

Modern polarization is rooted in the civil rights era. One Party chose to embrace racial equality. The other Party provided a home to white backlash. Political scientists Ornstein and Mann see a party seizing on its majority to:

-- become ideologically extreme;

-- contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime;

-- scornful of compromise;

-- unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and

-- dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition, all but declaring war on the government.

So-called smaller government conservatives sell out for a ‘win at all costs’ methodology. An identity group under threat, they promise their loyal voters protection and victories. In turn, their followers follow them to hell and back. Overspending and big government concerns are brushed aside as long as they’re fighting against illegal immigration and pushing back against the left.

Because white conservatives realize they are in a narrow, rapidly diminishing majority, they uniformly select a boogieman: the Left. They pour out one-liners that speak volumes of what they oppose: ObamaCare, Hillary, Critical Race Theory, Woke Culture. Notice none of these state what they are for.

So we are here to remind this supermajority that the people are watching. We are gathered here to offer a resolution to our troubled political structure. We seek to build a coalition that brings together groups with dissimilar – even opposing – views on many issues. We don’t want to coalesce just with our friends, but with our adversaries. An effective coalition in defense of American democracy requires that unnatural allies - moderates and progressives - forge alliances with business executives, religious leaders, and Red-state Republicans. Business leaders have good reasons to oppose unstable, rule-breaking politicians who threaten to tank the global economy.

Let’s begin a dialogue about ranked-choice voting, voters could choose their favorite candidates in order. The least popular candidate would be eliminated, and her voters would see their second choice counted. So even if your favorite candidate loses, your vote still counts. You don’t have to live in a swing district for your vote to matter.

RCV creates more positive discourse among candidates who tend to form alliances with their adversaries rather than throw mud. Their appeal to voters, “hey, if you can’t pick me first, pick me second.”

Many people actually thought that a victory of extreme polarization would rescue democracy. Even after a shock of orange hair, a cardiovascular system and a twitter account, the weakened, but still effective checks and balances provided soft guardrails of democracy. These guardrails barely held during the presidency of the wannabe autocrat despite his attempts to weaponize the courts, usurp the media and rewrite the rules of politics to tilt the field against opponents.

Democracy is a shared enterprise. Its fate depends on all of us. Politicians don’t lead. They follow. I invite you to join our Better Ballot coalition. When outside forces demand change, then and only then do politicians get down to business of making changes.

Get involved in your community. Take Action Against Apathy. Run for office. Stop wasting your vote on a political system stuck in quicksand. Demand accountability!


10:25 am edt          Comments

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