According to a New York Times/CBS poll, 80% of Americans are repulsed by the current election cycle. Me too. I’m repulsed by Trump, I’m repulsed that people hate Hillary so irrationally, and frankly, I’m repulsed that the Democrats made her the standard-bearer knowing that she’s the most divisive candidate they could have possibly nominated. And finally, I’m repulsed by the fact that these are the only two viable choices.
You can move your lips all you want about Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, but they’re viable like Donald Duck is sexy. We have a two-party system in this country, and unless we make some major changes to the way Congressional candidates are elected, that will not change. Ever.
Congress is elected using the first-past-the-post system, where every voting district elects one person and everyone else goes home. If 40% like candidate 1, 35% like the second one, and the rest like #3, it doesn’t matter. The voices of voters for 2 and 3 don’t matter; candidate one walks away with the gold. This method of voting causes political entities to coalesce PRIOR to elections so that they stand the best chance of winning. It also quells the voice of voters who really agreed with candidate 2 or 3. That sucks.
Lots of countries use another method: proportional representation. What’s so good about proportional representation? If it were employed statewide in every state, House seats would be allocated on the basis of the total statewide vote. In the example above, 40% of Congressional seats would be from candidate 1’s party, 35% from candidate 2’s, and the rest from candidate 3’s.
Why is this better? Here are a few reasons:
- One party – let’s call them Republicans for the purpose of this exercise – couldn’t gerrymander voting districts that over-represent one party and under-represent others.
- Smaller parties with specific interests would have a voice in Washington. This means that everyone’s interest would be well-represented. Women who favor women’s rights AND gun rights wouldn’t necessarily have to choose one party over the other. People who were fiscally conservative and socially moderate wouldn’t have to listen to wingnuts like Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee.
- At the same time, fringe parties could have their fringe candidates without imposing their will upon 1/2 the population.
- Parties would have to coalesce AFTER elections, enlisting the support of other parties to create majority rule. This vastly reduces the possibility of dogmatic, unilateral decision-making in government.
- And with multiple parties, it would be more difficult (but not impossible) to mislead American voters without having other parties call them out for their lies and deceptions.
All good, right? The bad news is that this form of representation would make government less stable if, say, a small party decided to back out of a coalition and support the other side. This could mean that smaller parties could have more power, but they couldn’t consolidate power so easily, as they’ve done today.
Does this mean that we’ll start loving politics and politicians? No. Does it mean that politicians will be more likely to represent our interests above “the party?” I think so. The only problem is that all the states would have to volunteer to change the way that Congress is elected, or we’d need to pass an amendment to the Constitution. And nobody in power wants to give it up, so you can imagine how hard it would be to get that through Congress, let alone the states.
But we have to do something, and I think this is the something we have to do. The place to start is by bugging your politicians. Email your Congressional representative, your senator and the president. Tell your friends. It’s a lot better than sitting here and watching the slow-motion train wreck.
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