Monday, February 09, 2015

Make your Surprised Face!

Reformers make a problem worse; deny the empirical results of their reforms.

//“New academic research, published Sunday by the California Journal of Politics & Policy, found that voters were just as apt to support candidates representing the same partisan poles as they were before the election rules changed — that is, if they even bothered voting,” the report continued.

According to research published by the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, the new rules have not resulted in a dramatic increase in crossover voters. Fewer than 6 percent of Democrats and less than 8 percent of Republicans reportedly supported a candidate from the opposing party in the 2012 state Assembly races. Those partisans who were shut out of the general election when two Democrats or two Republicans advanced to the general election tended just to stay home on Election Day. The hapless theorists who suggested that a top-two primary system would draw in the disinterested voter were dismayed to learn that this voter continues to cling stubbornly to his disinterest. The 2014 primary in California only saw a quarter of the state’s registered voters turn out, the lowest in the state’s history.

“Proponents of the ballot measure didn’t necessarily mislead people,” Barabak concludes. “But they seem to have invested more hope than merited in the virtues of their transformative surgery.”

While this reporter correctly chides the reformers for their undue faith in their own ability to remake the American electoral system, he diagnoses the problem incorrectly. Barabak avers that this reform must “overcome” both “widespread ignorance” and “apathy among California voters” in order to be successful. This self-flattering expression of fealty to an erroneous shibboleth is precisely what gave birth to this misguided reform in the first place. Barabak had just concluded observing that voters were less apathetic in a pre-reform era and that their supposed “ignorance,” exemplified apparently in their desire to support candidates occupying the fringes of political thought, was unchanged as a result of this reform. If anything, this phenomenon was exacerbated as candidates vying for seats in partisan districts shunned unnecessary moderation in order to appeal to a smaller, more ideologically homogenous electorate.

In short, the result of California’s reforms was the precise opposite of their desired effect.

What Americans need today more than elaborate reforms concocted by academicians possessed of an absurd and meritless self-regard are more policy makers with a sense of humility and posterity. Too often, assured of their own value, the reformers overpromise and under deliver. It is with disturbing regularity that the reformer’s dream turns into a nightmare for those subjected to their whims.//

If only we could have fewer do-gooders.


Toby said...

"There again, progress for progress's sake must be discouraged, for our tried and tested traditions often require no tinkering."

Toby said...

Reformers have led us to far worse changes to voting rights and procedures in this country. You really should be blogging about absolute do-gooder junk like the 13th, 15th, 17th, 19th, 24th and 26th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Talk about reformers mucking things up.

If we only we could have fewer do-gooders, or to paraphrase Shakespeare, "first kill all the do-gooders."

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