Debate Magazine

Why Pro-Israel Domestic Liberals Have a Sophie's Choice

Posted on the 15 March 2015 by Mikelumish @IsraelThrives
Sar Shalom
While much of the core Israel-supporting community leans to the right on domestic issues as well as on foreign affairs and much of the community is less concerned about domestic issues, there remains a portion of the pro-Israel community that is solidly committed to a domestic agenda that leans to the left of the spectrum. For such voters, the choice between an Obama-like Democrat and whoever can win a Republican primary represents a choice of on one hand sacrificing not one or two domestic priorities, but one's entire domestic priority-set, and on the other hand selling out Israel. Without getting into the mechanics of the intra-party struggles that result in the Democrats being well-represented by those who swallow the Palestinian narrative hook, line and sinker, or why the Republicans are uniformly dismissive of nearly every liberal domestic priority, I would like to suggest two changes that, if enacted, would change the choices available to pro-Israel domestic liberals.
The first change would be to eliminate plurality voting. It might seem that voting methods are irrelevant to Israel's prospects in the American government, but a counterfactual would demonstrate why this is mistaken. Suppose that in 2004, Democrat Joseph Lieberman had decided to disregard the choice of the Democratic primary electorate and run in the general election for president, what would have been the result? Simply put, he would have taken some votes from Bush and some votes from Kerry with the result that neither Bush nor Kerry would have gotten 50% of the vote, but Bush likely would have won as first past the post. If Bush wound up winning with less than 50% of the vote, Lieberman would have been branded as a spoiler.
That last line is entirely due to plurality voting under which any voter who voted for Lieberman would have forfeited his or her right to express a preference between Kerry and Bush. Consider as an alternative voting method in which voters rate all candidates on the ballot on a scale of negative 10 to positive 10 with the winner determined either by averaging the voters' ratings or through a series of pairwise contests among all the candidates. Under such a voting method, all voters would have been able to express a preference between Bush and Kerry as well as a preference for Lieberman in relation to both of them, with any voter's vote for Kerry over Bush or vice versa having the exact same effect whether that voter rated Lieberman highest among the group, in the middle, or lowest.
Returning to the concerns of the pro-Israel community today, replacing plurality voting with either score or pairwise-ranked voting would have two effects that would benefit pro-Israel domestic liberals. One is that a pro-Israel Democrat would be free to disregard the results of a Democratic primary and the other being that a Republican challenging the dictates of CPAC would be free to disregard the results of a Republican primary. Breaking apart the electorate, pro-Israel domestic conservatives (PI/DCs) would vote PI/DCs above pro-Israel domestic liberals (PI/DLs) above anti-Israel domestic liberals (AI/DLs); AI/DLs would vote AI/DLs above PI/DLs about PI/DCs while PI/DLs would vote PI/DLs above both and split their next choice votes between AI/DLs and PI/DCs. While in theory, this arrangement would give anti-Israel domestic conservatives a greater voice that they currently have, they currently constitute a small enough part of the electorate that we do not need to be concerned. The result is that a PI/DL, instead of having to cobble a majority of liberals to win a Democratic primary or somehow win a Republican primary, could win by building a coalition of PI/DLs and PI/DCs against the AI/DLs and a coalition of PI/DLs and AI/DLs against the PI/DCs.
A second change to ameliorate the choices facing pro-Israel domestic liberals would be to fill the chairmanships of a subset of congressional committees by national election instead of just giving them to whoever's in line from the party that is in the majority in each chamber. The subset I propose is Judiciary, Foreign Affairs, and Ways and Means/Finance. The result of doing so would be that pro-Israel domestic liberal voters could go to the polls and know that when they cast their votes for chair of the Judiciary and Ways and Means/Finance committees that no matter how anti-Israel a candidate is for the position, putting that candidate there would not help him or her advance that position. Similarly a voter could cast a vote for chair of Foreign Affairs and know that no matter how reactionary the candidate is on domestic issue, becoming Foreign Affairs Chair would not help that candidate throttle a single item of the domestic liberal agenda.

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