Big Al’s best reads – Wed 13 Jun, 2018

By Big Al Remember what Nemorovski said about doing away with the two party system? Here is what The New York Times now says.

US could use an overhaul of its parties and politics


New York Times

There are a bunch of different ways to do democracy. In Western Europe, most countries have proportional representation and a lot of different parties representing voter interests. In this country we’ve gone with a two-party system and winner-take-all elections.

During the middle of the 20th century, it seemed like we’d chosen the right approach. The proportional multiparty system allowed an extremist named Adolf Hitler to rise to power with the initial support of a tiny fraction of Germany’s voters. Both American parties, meanwhile, seemed to bend toward compromise, knowing they had to win over the median voter in order to get to 50.1 percent majorities.

But even then, as Lee Drutman of the think tank New America points out, America really had a four-party system. There were liberal Republicans from places like the Northeast and conservative Republicans from the West. There were liberal Democrats on the coasts and conservative Democrats from the South. The four groups floated into different legislative coalitions depending on the issue and the moment, allowing for flexible bipartisan majorities.

Now the two-party system has rigidified and ossified. The two parties no longer bend to the center. They push to the extremes, where the donor bases and their media propaganda arms are. More and more people feel politically homeless, alienated from both parties and without any say in how the country is run.

Moreover, the whole way of practicing politics has been transformed. Each party imagines that it is one wave election from destroying the other side and gaining total power. Therefore, as Drutman notes, there’s no interest in compromise, just winning and losing, gloating and seething.

Partisans’ chief interest is in proving that the other party is despicable – in ramping up fear, hatred and the negative polarization that is the central feature of contemporary American politics.

The result is that people, especially the young, lose faith in democratic norms altogether. There are more than 6,000 breweries in America, but when it comes to our politics, we get to choose between Soviet Refrigerator Factory A and Soviet Refrigerator Factory B.

The good news is that we don’t have to live with this system. There’s nothing in the Constitution that says there have to be only two parties. There’s nothing in the Constitution about parties at all. There’s not even anything in the Constitution mandating that each congressional district have only one member and be represented by one party. We could have a much fairer and better system with the passage of a law.

The way to do that is through multi-member districts and ranked-choice voting. In populous states, the congressional districts would be bigger, with around three to five members per district. Voters would rank the candidates on the ballot. If no candidate had a majority of first-place votes, then the candidate with the fewest first-place votes would be eliminated. Voters who preferred that candidate would have their second-choice vote counted instead. The process would be repeated until you get your winners.

This system makes it much easier for third and fourth parties to form, because voting for a third party no longer means voting for one with no chance of winning. You get a much more supple representation of the different political tendencies that actually exist in the country.

Follow David Brooks on Twitter: @nytdavidbrooks

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From:: The Korelin Economic Report

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