A post on NPR’s All Songs Considered blog has me thinking about things I used to love (or, at the very least, like) but don’t anymore. The NPR post speaks specifically of bands, and I’ll start with that.
U2. This is a tough one for me, because I really like U2’s music. But I have a tough time getting too excited about their latest releases. I guess that No Line On The Horizon just left me… wanting. Wanting the band to be less ponderous, sounding more fresh. They always release a single that suggests a turn toward something new and different (e.g. “Vertigo” or “Put On Your Boots”), but the rest of the album sounds like the same-‘ol, post Achtung Baby U2. They’ve done well by this formula – I really like All That You Can’t Leave Behind and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb – but they seem to be coasting along these days. And the new songs I’ve heard from their current tour don’t suggest anything new coming along anytime soon.
But the real point of my bringing up this post is to discuss something else where my support used to be somewhat strong, but has since waned:
Instant-Runoff Voting. I once was a believer in IRV. I even thought that it had a place within a PAC I helped form here in DC, to be used for endorsement of candidates – though even then, I was a bit skeptical about its merit. My biggest problem with IRV is the false sense of support it can create for the victor. I think that IRV (in a modified form, but still IRV) was suggested for the PAC because, under more traditional voting systems, the group seldom came to enough consensus to endorse candidates and initiatives in local politics. So IRV was a means to bring about endorsement more-or-less for the sake of endorsement, even if the bulk of the membership was divided.
Since IRV became the law of the PAC, endorsements have been handed out in many races. But these endorsements are often hollow. The IRV system can be played via political gamesmanship (e.g. not ranking all candidates, instead ranking just one and selecting “no endorsement” as the other option – a valid tactic, but one that can force a particular outcome). When the system is played, the outcome is seldom one of consensus; rather, it’s one the divides membership, dilutes support for the endorsed candidate, and makes the PAC and the endorsed look weak.
This folly was brought to the fore in my mind today by a post at Greater Greater Washington that suggested that IRV could be a solution to the quandary posed by the upcoming special (and open) election to fill the At-Large Council seat vacated by Kwame Brown. An IRV poll was part of the post, and wouldn’t you know it: supporters of two leading candidates embarked in the same political gamesmanship that makes IRV farcical in endorsement processes. Any “victory” in this flawed poll (it also allowed unlimited casting of votes by individuals, which is a flaw in the polling software used) is a hollow as an IRV victory would be in a real-world election.
Are current election models perfect? No. But IRV is not a great solution, either, and has the likelihood to produce hollow victories for candidates who will enjoy little real-world support.
So IRV, it was an interesting relationship, but I think that the promise of instant results and guaranteed compromise outcomes doesn’t really work in most real-world situations.