Failing duopoly

Neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party serves the interests of the majority of Americans today, and I am referring to more than the longstanding back and forth of marginal control in congress. The array of choices presented to the voting public is sadly limited. To think that the full spectrum of political ideologies present in the American public is expressed in the choice between the slightly evolved views and beliefs of 19th century industrialists and 19th century enlightenment philosophers seems a little ridiculous. This must change. Not what the current parties offer, but what other choices are available must change. No two parties can ever adequately represent the desires and needs of 300 million people. To end this stranglehold on American politics will be very difficult, particularly because none of our current political leaders seem to have any interest in opening up the system to competition. Although a greater variety and number of political parties would solve or help many problems, including corruption, the disconnect between political leaders and the voting public, and voter disinterest, as well as improve the quality of public discourse, this is not my motivation. I want a political party I can identify with and that I can trust to represent my interests (as well as one I can feel comfortable running for office under), and I do not have that option in American politics today. The two parties are so entrenched that not only are they not anxious to change, they will not even allow other voices to be heard. For example, the presidential debates, the ones that are on tv every four years and don't actually constitute a debate, typically have only two participants not because there are only two viable candidates, although this is sadly the case, but because the forum is legally owned jointly by the two major parties and both would have to agree to allow another party to participate. Obviously, this does not often happen.

There is a group out there currently working on a plan to change the way we elect the president. Rather than get rid of the Electoral College, which would require a constitutional amendment, they seek to make it redundant. They are going to all the various state legislatures and attempting to get them to adopt an interstate agreement to award their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote regardless of the outcome in their own state. This plan can work. The states have the right to award their electoral votes however they want, and historically some have simply appointed them without a vote. The agreement would not take effect until a number of states constituting a majority in the electoral college signed on, at which point what the other states do with their own electoral votes doesn't matter. This will, if enacted, fundamentally change presidential elections.

It isn't enough. With this in place, presidential candidates might visit more places, and engage in more meaningful debate, the political dialogue in our country might be enriched, but there will still be only two candidates. The presidential election is not the source of power for the parties; congressional elections are. What I want is for this plan to become redundant itself. I want people to pay very little attention to the vote returns on election night, because I want everyone to already know the outcome. I want the outcome to reliably be that congress will elect the president, because no one candidate achieved a majority, and I want congress to have to find, every time, a compromise because no one party controls enough of congress to push through their own candidate without help from another party.

I have a plan, inspired by, as simple as, and potentially more effective than the plan to elect the president by popular vote. In addition, my plan would end gerrymandering forever. Unfortunately I lack the ability to put my plan into action. I have no means to go to state legislatures and pitch my idea, nor do I have any expectation that they would embrace it if they did hear it.

Without a way to get people into congress a political party will always be a small fringe movement, so congress is what must be opened to what are currently minor parties. The state legislatures have, in addition to their power over their electoral votes, the power to redraw their voting districts more or less at will. Typically this happens only every ten years with the release of new census data and the reapportioning of seats in the House of Representatives that goes with it, but Texas went ahead and redrew the map without that. I haven't heard yet whether the Supreme Court has ruled on the legality of that. That was all that was unusual about the Texas redistricting: when it happened, not how blatant the partisan redistricting was. Take a look at the map of Arizona's congressional districts and give me any other reasonable explanation for district two. Legislatures use this opportunity to solidify their districts, sometimes to maintain the balance of seats while reducing competition within districts, sometimes to attempt to shut out as much of the minority party as possible. This can be ended simply, and to do so would be a great victory for justice and equal representation.

Just get the states to say that all of their districts overlap, occupy the exact same territory, and that the seats they represent will be handed out in proportion to the votes cast, and this partisan redistricting ends forever and minority parties can grow and thrive. Currently a party has to get a majority, or at least the largest minority, in each district to win even a single seat. There might be a million people, enough to merit at least two representatives, across the country who vote, or would vote if they thought there was any point and they had a candidate on the ballot to vote for, for the green party, but since they aren't congregated in one place, they don't win a single seat. This wouldn't be completely solved without getting rid of the states' role in congressional elections, but that cannot happen without a constitutional amendment, and that amendment would never pass. Proportional representation by state is pretty good, and much more doable.

It would only take one state to get it going. Unlike the presidential plot, this one doesn't rely on the actions of any other state. Pressure to copy the first state to do this from voters who want more choices in their own state would help this grow, and states that started doing this after others had already started would benefit from the existence of working third (and fourth and fifth) parties elsewhere. Currently elections have losers. Forget the politicians who failed to get elected; the real losers are the voters whose party lost. In MA, where the majority is democratic, republican votes might as well not be cast. We hear about it most often in relation to the presidential election, but it matters more for the congressional elections. If MA is 60% democratic, why should 100% of its congressmen be democrats? That means that 40% of the people are disenfranchised. That's ridiculous.

Here's the point: I'm neither a democrat nor a republican, and I don't want to be disenfranchised. What benefits me will benefit many other people, and the country as a whole, and I want it. There's plenty of political power to go around; it ought to be spread a little more evenly.

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