In Defense of Proportional Representation

Patashnik responds to Byron York:

The effects York identifies–the protracted campaign and the possibility of a popular-vote winner losing the delegate count–are real enough. But this isn’t an indictment of proportional delegate allocation. The campaign is so protracted mainly because of the existence of superdelegates: If there were only pledged delegates to worry about, the contest would already be over, and would functionally have been over in February. The remedy here would be simply to get rid of superdelegates. What’s more, if the concern is that things are dragging on too long (I’m not all that worried about this, but others are), the party could simply require states to hold their contests by, say, the end of April.

I don’t really agree agree with such conclusions as getting rid of superdelegates and caucuses, but fundamentally I do agree that proportionality is superior to winner-take-all in primaries. Considering that primaries are often crowded, at least early, and that winners win with relatively small numbers, winner take all is a good way to get yourself a bad candidate. And the truth is that the Republicans don’t really do winner take all across the board either. Most of their states allocate delegates by district, with winner take all at that level, and then have additional state level delegates just like Democrats, only all going to the winner of the state. A handful of states are truly winner take all, in a system that was mostly rigged to try to win the race for Rudy (and eventually building John McCain a wide delegate margin). But that works against the point of primaries, which is to find the party’s best candidate for a general election.

And besides, proportionality isn’t really to blame for the prolonged fight. Proportionality included, the primaries of 1992, 2000, and 2004 still came to relatively quick ends, the difference is that this year the trailing candidate will simply not acknowledge defeat.