RTÉ inadvertently explains how PR:STV should be, not how it is #GE2020

FOREWORD : In this post I give my reservations of the PR:STV method of holding elections. Please don’t take them as my discouraging you from voting!!!! It’s the most important thing you can do!!!!! However flawed the method any vote is better than no vote!!!!

Ahead of today’s General Election vote, RTÉ did one of their “Montrose-splain” videos, using schoolchildren to illustrate how the PR:STV system works. Production-wise, it is excellent. Information-wise, I feel it is misleading.

First, just in case there is any doubt, I am entirely in favour of proportional representation voting. The “first past the post” system the UK insists on using isn’t just archaic, nor is it just mathematically flawed; it is downright unethical.

But PR is far from a single entity in itself. And the one used in Ireland, the “single transferable vote”, is so complicated that I reckon as many adults would need the above refresher course as much as children would. Unfortunately, to create their simplified example in the video, RTÉ have both left out and glossed over some of the method’s most undemocratic aspects.

First and foremost, in the example above, there are only two seats on offer, and the “parties” are each running just the one candidate. This means that you cannot have the practices we see today, where the bigger parties run two or more candidates in a constituency and “manage” their voters in an effort to get more than one over the line.

I remember watching some RTÉ election day punditry in years gone by when Willie O’Dea was being interviewed from his Limerick constituency. He topped the poll by a whopping majority, yet rather than be congratulated by his fellow party member Dermot Ahern who was in the studio, the former Foreign Minister gave out to him for not manipulating his loyal voters to make sure a second FF candidate also got a seat.

People should be able to vote for the candidate they want – it’s not rocket science, although as far as election methods go, PR:STV does a decent enough impression and it is totally unnecessary.

For me, the practise of parties running multiple candidates in the same constituency is almost as undemocratic as first past the post. The principal benefit of PR is meant to derive from the fact that voters choose an alternative ideology to their first one, yet with our brand of STV, most of those who vote FF or FG with their first pick will tend to also use it for their second. And to those who say “What if a they don’t like any of the other candidates?” I give this simple answer : “You are free not to offer a second preference”.

All of which means that RTÉ’s truncated scenario is actually more ideal. Two, possibly three, seats should be the maximum in any area. So rather than having 39 constituencies many with 4 or 5 to produce 155 TDs, why not have all 2- and 3- seat ones in around 50 (with a stipulation that no party may run more than one member in each) to produce around 150 TDs or less?

Well it’s not as though my post is going to change the process, but I do believe it should be up for debate. I sense a degree of smugness from general opinion that our system is democratic while the British one is not and if that’s the consensus, and I reckon it should be challenged for two reasons : 1) Do we have to judge everything we do by comparing it to what they do?, and 2) while no method of voting is 100% ideal, I think we can do better than our current brand of PR:STV.

One final point – I really, really want someone to explain to me why I’m wrong, and no doubt someone can. I thought someone was going to make a cogent defense in a twitter thread yesterday but they stopped replying. JLP

Whenever the DNC screws up, Bernie gets burned…

SO glad I was able to get this vid online – I strayed over the 10 minute mark so Instagram wouldn’t take it!!! Might switch to YouTube completely in future…

UPDATE THURSDAY – below you’ll find a couple of sources which show I’m not alone in my opinion…(phew!)

As of 5 pm EST on Wednesday, Buttigieg and Sanders are tied with 11 delegates apiece. And declaring that the great centrist hope has won something is something that corporate media are clearly eager to do—even in an exceedingly close race in which, rather famously, not all the votes have been counted yet.

How Corporate Media Make Pete Look Like He’s Winning
Jim Naurekas – FAIR.org

#IrishMediaWatch #GE20 : RTE 9oc News Wed 15.01.20

Mr Varadkar said he was very concerned about the case of a man who was seriously injured after the tent he was sleeping in was removed from the banks of the Grand Canal by an industrial vehicle. 

Housing issue dominates first day of election campaign
Paul Cunningham RTÉ.ie

Now that #GE20 is underway I’m planning to keep an eye on the national media outlets to see how they are covering the campaign trail, just to see how balanced the coverage is. For this first installment I have to say things were better than I expected.

On RTÉ’s Nine O’clock news Wednesday, the election featured third in their running order although the piece was related to the second story, about a homeless man who was badly injured by an industrial vehicle which was cleaning a canal area and apparently didn’t know the man was still in his makeshift tent.

This provided a segué into their election coverage as Leo Varadkar was questioned about it on the campaign trail, and in his remarks he suggested a statement from the Lord Mayor of Dublin was appropriate. In response, Micheál Martin accused the Taoiseach of politicising the tragedy since the Mayor is currently from Fianna Fáil.

After watching the quotes from the two men I thought “this is typical – on a classic progressive issue here’s the two Civil War parties finding a way to argue over anything BUT the search for real solutions.”. But to be a little fair to our national broadcaster, for this topic they did at least broaden the scope of opinion.

We also heard from Labour leader Brendan Howlin, who outlined his party’s plans to allocate actual money to address the problem of homelessness by way of improved social housing. The problem with that, of course, is that it’s all very well saying what you;d do if your party held a majority in the Dáil, but the odds of that are slim and none.

Eamonn Ryan of the Greens also chimed in, saying that this was a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Finally Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Féin appeared more interested in having a pop at RTÉ (re exclusion from debates, something I’d agree with her on if that were the topic) rather than comment on the situation at hand, although it is very possible that the clip was selectively edited.

So no progressive opinion in this piece, although Independent Councillor Anthony Flynn was interviewed for his opinion on the unfortunate homeless man.

VERDICT

As far as I’m concerned, any kind of election coverage that looks for opinion beyond the “Big Two” parties is an achievement by the Irish corporate media. I’ll give them 6 out of 10 for this piece – I wonder will anyone score higher between now and February 8? JLP

What is meant by “People want to keep their healthcare plans” (video rant)

One thing I left out from the above rant was something that was pointed out by Bernie Sanders in a previous debate that’s worth noting…many of the ads during the breaks at these debates are FOR the health insurance companies, and they are specifically designed to malign Medicare For All. Slight conflict of interest for the likes of CNN, yes? JLP

The “discussions” about a date for #GE20 took longer than the campaign will

Saturday, February 8. Just a few weeks for the Republic to discuss the issues of the day and vote for representatives in what will be the 33rd Dáil. Absolutely shocking.

Traditionally it is the sitting Taoiseach who gets to set the date, and I have no problem with this. But let’s be clear on what has actually happened in recent weeks – Leo Varadkar was consulting heavily with the so-called leader of the opposition Micheál Martin over the timing of the election.

Why? Because they have been in a virtual coalition government, that’s why. The official terminology is “confidence and supply” but the reality is that by abstaining on votes for legislation, Fianna Fáil have effectively been supporting Varadkar’s agenda. Now we are suddenly expected to see them as rivals yet again, while those who are actually offering a real alternative to the electorate are left on the outside.

Then there’s our system of voting on these shores. In my opinion, the “PR:STV” method we employ, while it includes the words “proportional representation” in its title and thus creates the illusion of being inclusive, is actually anything but.

In my opinion, offering voters the opportunity to choose a second option* does appear democratic, UNTIL you realise that most constituencies have the leading parties running multiple candidates. If you voted Fianna Fáil number 1, chances are you will also vote them number 2 if you have the chance. So, much like the infamous “first past the post” system used in the UK, the non-establishment parties are generally shut out.

What I would prefer is for something like a merger between the two systems. Currently there are 158 seats. Rather than 3-, 4- and 5- seat constituencies, I would have 158 x 1 seat ones (actually I’d prefer fewer TDs, maybe 150 or less). THEN we can use a simple PR method of voting where there is infinitely less confusion over counts, surpluses and transfers, plus we know for sure that over 50% of voters chose the winner. And to be clear – although I favour progressive candidates, should we employ this method and the FF/FG duopoly still prevailed, I could hardly complain about it, could I.

Anyway, that is of course more of a technical matter – what lies ahead right now is a shortened election campaign, with the ridiculous posters already going up on lamp posts within 24 hours of the announcement being made.

I’m going to do my best to follow the “campaign trail” as best as I can over the coming weeks and see what kind of promises these people will be making (if any) plus how the Irish media is covering it all. JLP

* – yes I know we can also vote for 3,4 and 5 etc but seriously, how critical are those choices when it comes to your ballot being counted?

And so the predictable corporate media takedown of Bernie Sanders begins…

We saw it with David Norris here in Ireland in 2011, when the Irish mainstream media took a letter of clemency the progressive candidate wrote 10 years previously as an excuse to associate his name with the word “pedophilia” on virtually a daily basis until he withdrew from the campaign.

It happened to Jeremy Corbyn from the moment he became the Leader of the Labour Party in 2015, with the tactics remaining more or less the same (although much of the attacks came from within his own party) although you can replace the word “pedophilia” with “Antisemitism” and it contributed greatly to an embarrassing election defeat last December

Now with Bernie Sanders showing himself to be leading the polls in Iowa, CNN is doing it to him, just a day before the last Democratic debate before the first caucus takes place.

The stakes were high when Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren met at Warren’s apartment in Washington, DC, one evening in December 2018. The longtime friends knew that they could soon be running against each other for president. The two agreed that if they ultimately faced each other as presidential candidates, they should remain civil and avoid attacking one another, so as not to hurt the progressive movement. They also discussed how to best take on President Donald Trump, and Warren laid out two main reasons she believed she would be a strong candidate: She could make a robust argument about the economy and earn broad support from female voters. Sanders responded that he did not believe a woman could win.

Bernie Sanders told Elizabeth Warren in private 2018 meeting that a woman can’t win, sources say
MJ Lee, CNN.com

The key words in the above quote are in the headline – “sources say”. To be fair to CNN, they at least tack them on, although being at the end, they could well be ignored. There is certainly nothing in the opening passage of the article itself to suggest that they are second (third? fourth?) hand reports of a private conversation.

As you can see, MJ Lee categorically states at the end of the quote : “Sanders responded that he did not believe a woman could win.”

They do include a response from Sanders himself, albeit halfway down the page :

“It’s sad that, three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren’t in the room are lying about what happened. What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could. Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016.”

They do walk it back slightly today, quoting Warren herself who claims : ‘I thought a woman could win; he disagreed‘. An important distinction, yes? That immediately throws into question how this exchange was interpreted. HOW did he show his disagreement, Senator Warren? Did he actually say “I disagree”? Did he actually say something along the lines of “I do not believe a woman can win”? Or, as I suspect, did he happen to be shaking his head right after you said “I think a woman can win”? That COULD suggest disagreement, but it could also suggest he was shaking his head while forming his thoughts. We don’t know.

Whatever the strategically planted attempts to be ‘fair’, there is no doubt that the overwhelming slant of these articles is that there is a suggestion that “misogynist” is to Sanders as “antisemite” supposedly was to Corbyn (you hear nothing about it now he has said he’s stepping down as leader) and “pedophile” supposedly was to Norris (he’s still a Senator!).

The Young Turks, who are Bernie backers, offer this take on the story :

All of this leads me to believe that Bernie shouldn’t be the nominee, but only because I fear that if that were the case, the US corporate media would then consider Trump the lesser of two “evils” and continue to give the president’s rhetoric infinite free air time much as they did in 2016.

Since I primarily want that orange moron out of the White House, and it seems that the Democrat darling is Joe Biden, I would probably be supportive although I reckon it would be a smart move to nominate Warren as his VP, while publicly promising to adopt some of the progressive platform in the first term as a sweetener.

I would be satisfied with such an arrangement, although my ideal choice would have to be Bernie. It’s just a shame that the only reason not to have a Progressive government is that the corporations wouldn’t be agreeable. Even if it’s not in my lifetime, I hope a day will come whereby their objections won’t matter. JLP