It doesn't guarantee a consensus, but it's certainly not a cheat code to put extreme or polarizing candidates over the top
Australia has been using preferential voting (i.e. ranked choice voting) for decades. It tends to moderate politics. It also means voters don’t have to um and err over whether to vote for who they want or against who they really don’t. Australia is generally very policy successful, so there’s that. We also have compulsory voting which also tends to moderate politics, as there is no mileage in driving people away from the polls.
Sorry, Noah - missed this one.
It's obviously possible to take the same set of ballot papers (same set of preferences) as in NY or the AK-AL special and apply any of the many Condorcet methods, rather than RC-IRV. Notwithstanding King Cotton's nonsense, it seems likely to me that a Condorcet method would have given Begich the win. No idea about the NY mayoral primary. (n.b. I certainly prefer RC-IRV to FPTP, but exactly for reasons like the AK-AL special, I'd prefer any of the nearly interchangeable Condorcet methods).
OTOH, given a populace which cannot apparently even grasp RC-IRV (certainly the voters in Maine seem to have no trouble understanding RC-IRV), Condorcet is a Bridge Too Far, I get it.