So here we are again, attempting to heal from another brutal and divisive election which was fought amongst Democrats. The March 5 Democratic primary in St. Louis was another example how the two-party system with winner-takes-all voting is not only hurting our city but destroying democracy. St. Louis needs Ranked Choice Voting now.
There was no spoiler candidate in the Board of Alderman president election. With three experienced politicians, St. Louis was a microcosm of what is happening on a national level. The DNC is having an identity crisis. This was seen in the BOA president candidates during the Action STL debate.
Reed described himself as a conservative Democrat, Nasheed described herself as a pragmatic Democrat, and Green is a Democratic Socialist. The differences between these descriptions are pivotal into understanding how they govern. Because of these differences, the chances of them unifying are slim.
St. Louis is a city of Democrats. We have not had a Republican mayor since 1949. Our last Republican BOA president was in 1975. The Board of Aldermen has had majority of Democrats since 1951. And, as of 2015, all 28 wards are represented by Democrats.
The Republican Party continues to be the party of big business, deregulation, and trickle-down economics that lead on every initiative to suppress the political and voting power of people. The Democratic Party continues to invite all of those who disagree with Republicans. However, new invitees will have limited voice or have to fight vigorously through established, conservative Democrats who continue to fail their constituents and lose elections. Third parties and independents still don’t have a fighting chance.
St. Louis Democrats are experiencing an identity crisis. In August 2018, we chose between Bob McCulloch and Wesley Bell, both Democrats, for St. Louis County prosecutor attorney. In November 2018 during her campaign for re-election, Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill described herself as a “champion in the middle.” This is what some would call Democrat-Lite. The problem is that if Republicans want a Republican, they will just elect a Republican and not a Democrat by name only.
The national political realm is already set ablaze with a crowded field of Democratic candidates for U.S. president with Bernie Sanders reclaiming his spot as a contender. Bernie has yet to say if he will put on the temporary badge of a Democrat just for the election. But the truth is Bernie does not need the DNC; the DNC needs him, along with his millions of supporters and the record-breaking $10 million his organization raised.
With no change in the electoral process, cities like St. Louis will continue to sabotage progressive and pragmatic candidates. It is time to implement Ranked Choice Voting (RCV).
“With RCV, voters can rank candidates as in order of choice. Candidates do best when they attract a strong core of first-choice support while also reaching out for second and third choices,” according to FairVote.org.
“When used as an ‘instant runoff’ to elect a single candidate like a mayor or a governor, RCV helps elect a candidate that better reflects the support of a majority of voters. When used as a form of fair-representation voting to elect more than one candidate like a city council, state legislature or even Congress, RCV helps to more fairly represent the full spectrum of voters.”
President John Adams, wrote in Oct 1780, “There is nothing I dread so much, as a division of the Republic into two great Parties, each arranged under its Leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension is to be dreaded as the greatest political Evil, under our Constitution.”
St. Louis and the DNC can find their identities and defeat a great political evil with Ranked Choice Voting.
DeMarco K. Davidson is an organizer for Metropolitan Congregations United and works with participating churches to strategize in addressing social issues, including breaking the school-to-prison pipeline.