Do you remember Prof. Lani Guinier? She was President Clinton's nominee for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in April 1993. She was run out of Washington on a rail for, among other things, suggesting that some parts of our electoral systems do not produce fair results.
I am reminded of her now as I look at what our last election has wrought. Two candidates, neither the favorite of much of their party, both demonized by much of the other party, leaving a huge gap in the middle where no one feels well served or particularly confident that our best interests will be served by those in Washington.
And what are the kinds of things Prof. Guinier might suggest? She might suggest cumulative or proportional voting systems, like we see in corporate or school boards. These try to ensure everyone has a say.
For instance, it might make sense that a State with 57% Democrats and 43% Republicans would have one Democrat and one Republican Senator. If we elected both Senators at the same time, and gave everyone two votes that they could put on whomever they want - even both on the same person - we'd be much more likely to have one Senator from each party. As it is now, the Democrats in a State like this can often run roughshod over their Republican counterparts, and vice versa. The idea here is that, with a fairer system, everyone could, and maybe even should, have their man, or woman, in the Senate.
But I'd like to take it down to the party level. I think both parties have been drawn to their poles, and I think this is unhealthy. And I think one, or the other, or both could go over the edge, and go the way of the Whig party.
And I'd like to propose a fix, if either party has the will, or confidence, to implement it. It might also be a great draw for the center party that comes to replace one of our poles. The fix is to have open primaries; restrict candidacy to party members with a certain seniority, but let everyone weigh in. I think it's got a good chance to pull candidates to the middle, and leave us all with candidates in our general elections we'd have less trouble voting for.
I know it's a stretch, and it might be too late to pull our current parties in from the edges, but it could work to cement the center position of the party that will rise there.
I don't know enough about Prof. Guinier to know what she'd think about this proposal, but I like to hope that the party open enough to let her and a white supremacist help select its candidate would be open enough to at least ponder and debate her ideas for a fairer electoral system.