07 November 2017

Election day in Saint Paul

In Saint Paul, sensibly, we have a ranked-choice voting system, whereby you select different candidates for first, second, third places and so on up to six. It’s a system which seems almost Platonically-oriented, actually. Almost. I don’t think Plato would approve of democracy even in this form. But all the same: ranked-choice voting is hierarchical: you list your votes in order of preference, and can therefore rank the candidates by their merits. It’s also structured so that each of the parts of your soul (the nous, the thumos and the epithumia) can each cast a vote in its proper place.

As to how I voted?
  1. Elizabeth Dickinson. My first-choice ‘head’ vote went to GPMN candidate Ms Dickinson, for the reason that I was able to have a long and relatively good discussion with her a couple of days ago about a broad variety of topics, and get a good feeling for where her interests and passions lie. We talked about jobs, education, development projects, renewable energy and community policing. On the jobs-and-renewable-energy front, she seems fairly convinced that ‘green jobs’ are the way to go and wants to make sure that Saint Paul is in the lead in the wind and solar power sector, which is well and good. But it’s clear she also cares a great deal about both the police and the communities they serve, and has given a lot of thought and effort to the issue already – going on ride-alongs, talking with policemen and community leaders, getting a feeling for where they each stand. She wants to implement community policing policies similar to those which have met with success in Providence, which I think is key to ensuring police safety, keeping police accountable and combating racial prejudice among police. Also, as a GPMN-endorsed candidate, a vote for Dickinson is a good way to keep the DFL accountable and to break its iron grip on the state, and that’s something I personally value.

  2. Tom Goldstein. The former treasurer at my daughter’s public school. My ‘heart’ vote went to a DFL candidate, yes, but a DFL candidate in the Wellstone vein. He gets under the skin of the state party élite – as evidenced by his high-profile opposition to big sports-industry boondoggles and the fact that his detractors in the DFL slam him as a ‘contrarian’. (I dearly love such contrarians. See why he’s my thumos vote?) I like his insistence on measures for government transparency and Jane Jacobs approach to city planning. I’ll be honest, though, I don’t know what he really means when he says ‘small business’. Also, I was a little bit queasy about his retro nineties technophilia and ‘broadband to the masses’ approach. But in his own way he’s (attempting to) stand up for the little guy, and that’s something I respect.

  3. Dai Thao. My ‘gut’ vote – that is to say, my blatant, œconomically self-interested vote – went to Dai Thao, who is an honest-to-God, working-class, union-backed representative of the left wing of the DFL. He can be trusted to promote policies and social programmes that will make my and my wife’s lives easier. Like my wife, he’s an immigrant from Asia. He’s a family man, a man of faith and a father of five. He knows the real everyday struggles that poor parents face raising their kids.
Not too great an importance should be attached to this listing, of course. Like I said, I don’t believe the philosopher would be happy with democracy even in a hierarchical form like this one; too many would still be tempted to vote with their passions. And it should be apparent that I would have reasons to be happy with any of the above candidates being elected mayor, albeit different reasons for each. There seems to be something of a lesson in the fact that, on the whole, local candidates seem to be far more palatable, far more human, than the candidates who seem drawn to run for higher levels of government.

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