Left May Split Vermont Senate Vote

Dean wants Sanders to help negotiate peace between Progs and Dems (AP)

Former Gov. Howard Dean, now the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Tuesday night he is hoping that U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders can help persuade potential Progressive Party candidates to stay out of next year’s races for the U.S. House and lieutenant governor. “We all recognize that Bernie does not have the power to tell anybody who can and cannot run for office,†said Dean. “But if we are going to work together, we should work together across the board.â€

Dean’s comments came in a telephone interview in which the former governor made it clear he has not yet endorsed Sanders’ bid for the U.S. Senate. “Bernie is going to be an extremely strong candidate, but I think it is a little premature for me to endorse him right this minute,†said Dean.


Dean and some state Democrats believe that if the Democrats agree not to run a big-name candidate for the U.S. Senate – and thus avoid splitting the vote with Sanders – that the Progressives – a party that Sanders helped to form but is not a member of – should stay out of some of the other races.

Fascinating. Such is the way with third parties in a first-past-the-post system: it guarantees a split in votes. Since a plurality is sufficient to win, it’s not inconceivable that a Republican candidate who would be the third choice of most Vermont votes could take the seat.

Imagine the following hypothetical outcome:

    Republican – 33%
    Progressive – 32%
    Democrat – 30%
    Libertarian – 5%

Even though the parties of the Left would have garnered 62% of the vote and the parties of the Right only 38% (and that’s assigning all of the Libertarian votes to the “Right,” a rather dubious call), the Republican candidate would take the seat.

Story via McQ

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kent says:

    “Winner-take-all” does have the beneficial effect of providing a strong incentive to build consensus.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Kent: Yep. That’s the main rationale for it, really. It’s problematic, as my fictitious example illustrates, from a “fairness” standpoint. But almost all systems that have proportional representation wind up in either extreme chaos or with the tail wagging the dog. Having two rather bland “catch-all” parties is a fair trade, methinks.

  3. Mark says:

    A lot like what I saw in the U.K. election results on CSPAN: the conservative won the plurality in the precinct, but the combined Labour/Lib Democrat vote was substantially more than what the winner got.

  4. wavemaker says:

    Watch for a local businessman named Richard Tarrant — if he gets into this, he has the opportunnity to attract republicans and progressives alike. Smart, attractive and very rich. Founder of IDX Corporation, now publicly-owned, with headquarters in Burlington VT and plants around the world.

  5. Your scenario is unrealistic. In 2004 the Vermont vote for US House was Sanders 67.5%, Republican 24.4%, Democratic 7.1%, Liberty Union 1.0%. No Democrat running against Sanders would get anywhere near 32%.

  6. James Joyner says:

    Richard: Fair point, since Sanders’ House seat is an at-large one and thus comparable to a Senate election. It wouldn’t hold true, though, for a popular Member in a multi-district state.