How not to pick a president: Splintering primaries help extreme candidates like Trump; ranked choice rewards centrists

Chris Christie’s running. So’s Mike Pence. And former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. And Sen. Tim Scott, and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and, in case you haven’t heard, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. And — oops, we almost forgot — a guy named Donald J. Trump, who was just a dishonest New York City real estate promoter before he became the 45th president of the United States (and the 10th president to lose his reelection bid).

This is not 2016, when Trump benefited from an overstuffed primary field that included Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Chris Christie (yep, him again) and Ted Cruz. The entertaining guy with a flair for ginning up the base and saying the outrageous things got just enough votes to take state after state. Trump is now the 15,000-pound elephant in the field, the broad favorite of Republican voters. DeSantis has a sizable following, too, but — at least in this early stage — that’s where the list of serious contenders seems to end.

Still, it would be far better if the primaries, which start early next year, used ranked-choice vote-counting systems so that anti-Trump Republicans don’t effectively throw their votes away by splitting them among a half dozen or more candidates. Under RCV, a voter could put Scott first, Haley second, Christie third, Scott fourth, DeSantis fifth and leave Trump off the ballot entirely. The consensus not-Trump would be effectively elevated. All responsible Republicans and Americans should wish dearly for that to happen, given that in four years in office, the former president perfected the art of self-dealing and made a hash of domestic and foreign policy, then capped it off by fomenting a violent insurrection.

The state GOP primaries are a hodgepodge; some are winner-take-all, meaning the candidate who gets the most votes captures all the delegates. Some are proportional, and some are mixed. However you slice it, a betting man at this point would be wise to wager Trump will become the nominee. For a third straight time, God help us.