2020 ballots measures can begin to dismantle America’s political duopoly
Last week, as Congress escalated its battle against Big Tech companies by filing a federal anti-trust lawsuit, one of America’s most prominent sharks bit back in retaliation by pointing out the obvious and the ironic.
“The duopoly I would shut down in a nanosecond,” entrepreneur Mark Cuban posed to his eight million Twitter followers, are the Democratic and Republican Parties, alleging that taken “together, they are the definition of anti-competitive collusion that has been successful in shutting out competition in a manner detrimental to the American people.”
The “Shark Tank” star is on the money. And many Americans have caught on.
Gallup’s most recent measurement puts the public’s disapproval of the legislative branch at an astonishing 80 percent. National antipathy towards Congress is not a new phenomenon; it’s been nearly 20 years since the legislative branch scored an approval rating above 50 percent.
Since then, Americans have become better educated about the bipartisan tools and tactics deployed by the two parties to maintain their robust duopoly. They’ve learned about gerrymandering – the process by which politicians choose their constituents by drawing the districts most favorable to their own parties – and have watched their leaders resist efforts to have independent commissions draw districts, a notion that consistently earns massive approval from the voters.
We’ve grasped the difference between open and closed primary elections, and understand the incentive for the two parties to lock independents and 3rd party voters out of these critical, taxpayer financed elections. We’ve seen members of Congress reflexively oppose the notion of term limits, and have even watched in awe as elected officials worked to overturn successful citizen-led ballot efforts to make elections more competitive through the adoption of ranked-choice voting.
Besides the presidential election and races for the U.S. Senate and House, there are several reform opportunities on the ballot in many states and cities that will significantly strike back against the duopoly.
Ranked-choice voting is on the ballot in Massachusetts, as well as a handful of cities in California, Colorado and Minnesota. A vote for Measure 1 in Virginia would amend the state’s constitution to create an independent, transparent redistricting commission to draw district lines; meanwhile reformers are mobilizing in Missouri to support a “No” vote on Measure 3, which would prevent state politicians from overturning anti-gerrymandering efforts passed in 2018. In Florida, a vote in support of Amendment 3 would open primaries in statewide elections, allowing Floridians to cast meaningful votes, regardless of their political affiliation.
The most comprehensive reform package of 2020 will be on ballots across the Last Frontier, where Alaskan voters have the opportunity to support the trifecta of ranked-choice voting, a ban on dark money and open primaries in their elections by supporting Ballot Measure 2.
The effect created by the passage of these ballot measures will be felt far outside the boundaries of their respective cities and states. The momentum created by these victories would galvanize grassroots activists, spawning further reform efforts in communities across the country. Perhaps it will encourage a new generation of reform candidates to step forward to rebuild our government from the inside, or even sway a few incumbents to break ranks in support of a constituency who demands a more effective, accountable government. Imagine that.
On November 3, millions of voters, unified by a shared vision for a better politics and government, can seize the opportunity to create change when they cast their ballots.
Jared Alper is the founder of Common Sense Strategies Group, a political strategist focusing on democracy and government reform.
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