Proportional representation and the end of political dominance

After watching the antics of both dominant political parties in America for the last 3 years, I’ve arrived at something that seems like an obvious conclusion:

Dominance is mutually exclusive from accountability.

I saw how Hillary Clinton, one of the most powerful women in the world in 2016, was able to throw the Democratic primaries her way. I saw how corrupt she was, and how unwilling the Democratic Party was to hold her accountable.

I have also seen how Donald Trump literally burned the maps on his way to the White House. And still, I see how the Republican Party is unwilling to hold him accountable for any misdeeds. The Kavanaugh hearings still echo in my mind, a memory of how the Republican party would not hold him accountable. Neigh, not even the Democrats in the senate went after him for truly actionable offenses, probably because they might believe it’s hard to find a judge who is not corrupt and who could still be controlled.

I’ve seen dominance at a variety of scales, and from what I can see, the temptation of power over other people makes it hard to hold the dominant one accountable. I have also considered why anyone would seek dominance, and it seems a forgone conclusion that they seek dominance because they want power without accountability.

Both major parties have sought this. The Democrats and the Republicans, both have serious problems with power, just as anyone would. It is a peculiar human failing that one would want the power to dominate others. And what for? Why would I want the power to tell someone else what to do? And why would I want to diminish the power of others so that their power is not equal to mine?

Like some of you reading this, I have spent a long time considering alternatives to our current system of elections. I have seen how our system of elections tends to promote a two-party system. I have also seen how our two parties can conspire to lock every other party out of power. One only has to take note of how supremely difficult it is to get a third-party candidate on the same stage with an establishment party candidate.

I have written emails to the presidential and Utah senatorial debate committees responsible for debates to ask why third parties are not even invited to share the stage with top candidates from both Republicans and Democrats. The easy answer is that they would rather manage the scope of the debate themselves. It should be obvious that neither committee even bothered to respond. That is dominance without accountability.

I believe that if we want to set our country right, we must abandon the two party system. As I have seen in just the debate system for national and senatorial elections, they are not accountable because they believe they have enough power to ignore the ordinary citizens like you and I. A two party system that cannot respect third parties is not accountable to the people.

A two party system is not a system of choice, either. As of January of this year, Democrats can claim around 40% voter registration and Republicans are at around 28%. 29% are independent. I don’t see then, how it is possible for Republicans to dominate the country in state governors seats and statehouses. But they do. Either Democrats are staying home, or someone has figured out the root password for most of the voting machines and election tallying equipment.

It has been well established that our voting machines are notoriously insecure, and that has to be by design of the parties in power. And if the voting machines are insecure, the tallying systems, the servers, the networks, and the like, can’t be far behind. Is this the best that a two party system can do?

Our country is intensely polarized due to the lack of choices on the ballot. 29% of Americans are independents. I was one of them. I still don’t see how either party serves me, but I lean Democrat since I see their policies are better aligned with my philosophies than Republicans. But I want more choices, and our system is not designed to handle more than two choices. I should think that we’re smarter than this.

Several states are offering some alternatives. In Maine, they are using Ranked Choice voting. Here is how it works from the campaign that got it started in Maine:

Ranked choice voting gives you the power to rank candidates from your favorite to your least favorite. On Election Night, all the ballots are counted for voters’ first choices. If one candidate receives an outright majority, he or she wins. If no candidate receives a majority, the candidate with the fewest first choices is eliminated and voters who liked that candidate the best have their ballots instantly counted for their second choice. This process repeats and last-place candidates lose until one candidate reaches a majority and wins. Your vote counts for your second choice only if your first choice has been eliminated.

That is how they vote in Maine, and although I think it offers hope, I think there is still a better system: proportional representation. This, I think, is the only way a third, fourth or fifth party will ever prevail. I’ve heard some people say that two parties is enough. What? We’re not smart enough to handle more than two? Here is how proportional representation works as explained by FairVote.org:

The basic principles underlying proportional representation elections are that all voters deserve representation and that all political groups in society deserve to be represented in our legislatures in proportion to their strength in the electorate. In other words, everyone should have the right to fair representation.

In order to achieve this fair representation, all PR systems have certain basic characteristics — characteristics that set them apart from our current election system. First, they all use multi-member districts. Instead of electing one person in each district, as we do here in the U.S., several people are elected. These multi-member districts may be relatively small, with only three or four members, or they may be larger, with ten or more members.

So lets say that you have a house with 100 members. Instead of one representative for each small district, you create larger districts and put ten representatives in each district. Votes are divided by proportion among candidates on a list. The candidate with the most votes gets a seat. the candidate with the second most votes also gets a seat, and so on until all the seats are filled. This way, minority parties get a say.

But more importantly, no single party can be dominant without accountability. Other points of view will also get a hearing because they have a seat in the house. Therefore, the dominant view will always have their ideas tested by the minority parties. And with minority parties in the house, they will also get a podium on the televised debates, hence free air time that our two dominant parties have enjoyed for decades.

We have had proof for a very long time, that the two party system isn’t working for us. Here is one of my favorite studies on the subject, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens”. It is one of the largest studies on political outcomes ever done. They tested polling against outcomes for more than 1700 issues decided in Congress over 20 years, and guess who won most of the time. Money. From the summary:

“Each of four theoretical traditions in the study of American politics — which can be characterized as theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic-Elite Domination, and two types of interest-group pluralism, Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased Pluralism — offers different predictions about which sets of actors have how much influence over public policy: average citizens; economic elites; and organized interest groups, mass-based or business-oriented. A great deal of empirical research speaks to the policy influence of one or another set of actors, but until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions against each other within a single statistical model. We report on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues. Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.”

Get that? Economic elites and organized groups representing businesses have most of the power. The rest of us have very little independent influence on Congress, and it would follow, our legislatures. I think that explains extreme inequality and polarization in our country very well. The antidote? Proportional representation.

Once someone or some group becomes dominant, they assume that they lack accountability. They assume that they can act with impunity. The most likely response from a majority ruled by a minority, the definition of an oligarchy, is revolution. Proportional representation provides a safety valve that we don’t have now. Proportional representation will get third parties and more, on the ballot. Proportional representation will get those other views on the debate stage, and will probably make the debates more entertaining than The Apprentice ever was.

I have been looking for change for a long time, but didn’t know where to find it. I believe that widespread adoption of proportional representation in these United States would alter the course of our country for the better. With proportional representation, we could finally render Congress dependent on the people alone.

Write on.

Originally published at steemit.com on November 3, 2018.

Written by

Husband, father, worker, philosopher, and observer. Plumbing the depths of consciousness to find the spring of happiness. Write on.

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