Divisiveness is all I've ever known
I am a millennial, born to a family split in half by partisans, only to marry into another also torn by party affiliation. Especially after recent election cycles, it’s been tragically painful to watch households, neighbors, and friends driven apart because of the ideological tribalism instilled by our two-party politics.
Americans are feeling increasingly hopeless in their ability to influence the future of their communities.
|For most of my life, I had resigned to this very powerlessness: a belief that there was little I could do to address the polarization, negativity, and stagnancy that characterizes our political system. I’m not alone in allowing my frustrations to lead me down a path of cynicism towards government and apathy in elections. Despite living in a country that provides citizen many ways to participate in decision-making and government affairs, Americans are feeling increasingly hopeless in their ability to influence the future of their communities. Our fights for crucial legislation and policy change lead nowhere, resulting in less civic engagement and growing complacency that locks America into its current state of conflict.
Fortunately, I've had the opportunity to meet with many passionate and motivated elected officials and local leaders who are clearly doing their best to improve our communities. Their effort and drive demonstrate that it isn’t by lack of hardworking, selfless representatives that we suffer from partisan gridlock. Rather, the very structure of our elections is arranged to drive a wedge between us.
It's important to point out, though, that America’s political system isn’t broken. In fact, it’s behaving exactly as it’s designed to do. And this very institution has become the major barrier to solving nearly every challenge out great nation faces.
How does compassion fit?
Compassion is an emotional response to suffering and involves an authentic desire to help. Empathy is deeply embedded in our human nature, enabling us to survive as a species. More importantly, it’s a contagious behavior. When we experience or witness compassionate behavior, we’re more likely to act compassionately ourselves. Thus, the human spirit often shines after disaster strikes and our typical responses are marked by heroic compassion for one another.
When we are severely lacking compassion, how do we find solutions to our biggest problems? How do we foster empathy within an inherently cutthroat process that is perceived as hollow, bitter, and adversarial? How do we heal our nation’s divide when our election process is designed to pit us against each other?
How do we heal our nation’s divide when our election process is designed to pit us against each other?
An effective and accountable government can only be born from a truly free, fair, and representative election process. It’s hard to convince people that the very future of our nation depends on the mechanics of our election system. It doesn't strike an emotional chord as so many other hot-button issues do. Election science isn't a "sexy" topic. Yet we must understand how the very rules by which we elect our leaders are at the root cause of the problem.
Our outdated plurality voting system is widely described as the worst way to administer a democratic election. It incentivizes division, stifles innovation, and inhibits new candidates from running. As a result, our elections sorely lack the political competition needed to drive parties to deliver solutions, instead of slogans. Candidates are currently rewarded for appealing to a strong base of partisan voters, rather than aiming to represent all of their constituents. Partisan hostilities also reveal a critical lack of compassion in politics. A quick glance at social media or cable news makes it clear that tearing down opponents is easier and more effective than demonstrating the merits of one's own policies and practices.
Our elections lack the political competition and human compassion needed to drive parties to deliver solutions.
We can fix this!
We can fix this. One simple change to the way we vote can drastically improve our political system. Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is a simple, commonsense upgrade to the way vote that will foster greater political competition and human compassion in elections.
One small change to the ballot will allow voters to rank candidates in order of their preference, thereby giving voters greater power and expression when they head to the polls. Candidates only win elections by receiving the majority of votes (>50%). Thus, politicians would need the broadest support possible, rather than that of a vocal or wealthy minority and would be rewarded for focusing the discourse on issues and showing willingness to compromise. Negative campaigning would also be curbed, given that candidates would likely need the second or third choice votes of their opponent's primary supporters. Instead of investing money in mudslinging ads, candidates who build coalitions through positive and inclusive campaign tactics are more likely to win.
Rank the Vote Kentucky envisions a future in which citizens have greater command of their lives through better voter expression and improved representation.
Remember: compassion is contagious.
But compassion needs the right environment to thrive. It needs leaders to exemplify it and a political system that rewards it.
When we vote, we believe that electing the best representatives leads to the best outcomes. However, no matter who runs for office, candidates are incentivized by the rules of the election "game". At the moment, these rules reward ruthless and uncompromising partisanship.
Rank the Vote Kentucky envisions a future in which citizens have greater command of their lives through better voter expression and improved representation. Giving ballots more weight in politics is a critical step towards reducing widespread political disenchantment and improving civic engagement in the democratic process.
I am joined by a passionate team that is committed to bringing RCV to the state of Kentucky. RCV will help foster a sense of compassion for our fellow Americans and spark an era of reunification.
I invite you to join us as we choose to take back control of our lives and the future of our home state. Every individual can offer talents, expertise, and experience that can be harnessed for public benefit. Act as if what you do matters – because it does.
Ken Carpenter is the Executive Director of Rank the Vote Kentucky (RTVKY). He’s not very fond of his official title because “it tends to imply a hierarchy of wisdom, experience, and knowledge.” His focus is on keeping the organization true to its aims and facilitating the efforts of a committed team of passionate volunteers. “As far as I am concerned, my role is to serve the members of our organization, and more importantly, to serve Kentucky voters.”
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