Tag Archives: bipartisanship

The Terrible Two Party System, part 3

A Possible Solution

I find the majoritarian aspects of American democracy very objectionable.  If I could have my way, the United States government would lean more towards the consensus model. I consider the American two party system as objectionable because I feel that during election time we as American citizens are only really presented with two platforms that almost look exactly the same.  The mainstream media’s blatant refusal to include third party candidates of any kind proves to me that members of third parties here in America have obtained the status of second-class citizens.  In Ira Glasser’s testimony to the Senate to comment on the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Bill, he argued that much of campaign finance reform legislation is harmful to the rights of third parties (ACLU, 2000). The restrictions on donors to third party candidates violate freedom of speech.  These restrictions suppress open fair and public debate and this simply should not happen in a free and open society such as the United States of America.  The Freedom of Speech should be protected at the maximum and the government should not intervene in it at the minimum.

The one change that I would make would be a constitutional amendment to change our election system from a pluritarian to a proportional representative system for the House of Representatives and every state legislature.  If this were ever to pass, the consequences would have a huge impact on the American power structure.  Third parties would be able to get their voices heard in the government directly.  More importantly, minorities would be able to surpass the current political hierarchies and make their own platforms instead of the Democratic and Republican parties that only desperately do so to get our votes.  Ethnic minorities would no longer be politically subservient.  Many people would argue that this would only divide this nation even further and send us back to days past like in the1960’s when Eldridge Cleaver and the National Black Panther Party for Defense scared the living daylights out of white suburbia.  I do not appreciate this kind of reasoning, not one bit.  To suggest that all black people or all Hispanics would create solely ethnocentric political parties is to continue to stereotype minorities as people who do not have the ability to think outside the box.  It is the exact same logic that many prominent academia and black clergy alike use when they all but accuse African Americans of being slaves to the Democratic Party.  As a matter fact, the Reverend Al Sharpton’s 2004 Presidential campaign disappointed many because he only got 17% of the black vote  (Wickham, 2004). Ethnic minorities and third party members are two perfect examples of American citizens who are systematically excluded from political power and influence.

Truth and Peace,

Rod

Sources:

Wickham, DeWayne.  (2004, March 3) Sharpton’s presidential campaign disappoints.

USA Today, p.13A.

The Terrible Two Party System, part 2

The Means: Contrasts in the Institutions of Both Models

Arend Lijphart explains that there are two dimensions in which we can distinguish the majoritarian institutions and consensus institutions (1999) The two dimensions, the executive-parties and the federal-unitary dimensions, reveal inherent differences between these two approaches to democracies.  The one dimension that I want to focus on is the executive-parties dimension because it deals with variables such as how does a society determine the winner, who has access to the government so that its policies can reflect his or her preferences, and how many people are in control.  The one single factor that is crucial to what type of government a democracy is practiced is the way that the officials are elected.  For example, we can label pre-March/2003 Iraq a dictatorship because Saddam Hussein “won” his elections through uncivil means by way of threats and violence.  We can tell which nation is a majoritarian democracy due to the fact that nearly all of these societies have an electoral process that is a zero-sum game.  A zero-sum game is one in which there is a clear definite winner that wins everything and a loser who definitely win nothing.  To this effect, elections in majoritarian democracies generally tend to be won in terms of pluralities.  Whichever party/ individual wins the election also wins the single-member district without any distribution or sharing of power.

The results in this system lead to disproportional representation; that is, that the majorities are often over represented. (Lipjhart, 1999) Situations can happen in which there is not a clear majority among the electorate but representatives become the majority in parliament, and thereby are able dominate policy without a true majority.  Unlike in a majoritarian society, it is important for as many people as possible to be represented in a consensus democracy.  To virtually ensure the nonexistence of overrepresentation, consensual democracies have election systems that divide districts among parties in proportion to number of votes they receive. (Lijphart, 1999) It is likely that the more winners there are, the more diverse the governing body and the more policy preferences there are going to be represented during the decision-making process. There are many different types of proportional representation but they all have the same goal of ensuring that there is more than one winner.  An incidental consequence of having a proportional representation (PR) election system is that it encourages the presence of multiple parties.  Lijphart (1999) discovered that the nations that had PR also were that the nations with multiparty systems.  The graph below indicates the correlation between electoral disportionality (or overrepresentation) and the number of effective parliamentary parties (Lijphart, 1999, p.169).

This revised version of Lipjhart’s graph indicates that the lower the disportionality, the more effective political parties that there will be: the higher the disproportionality, the fewer the number of effective political parties.   I believe that I would prefer to live in a country where there was a diversity of platforms that are offered.

Sources:

Lijphart, Arend. (1999) Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performances in Thirty-Six Countries. New Haven: Yale University Press.

# Of effective political parties Switzerland

The Netherlands
Norway

Venezuela

Sweden                                                                                                      France

Colombia

Canada

United Kingdom          United States

Botswana

6
5
4
3
2
1
Electoral Disportionality 5 10 15 20 25

The Terrible Two Party System, part 1

The situation:

Today, US politics functions as a single-party  two-party system. Anyone who has read their US history books KNOWS that this was not the case in the first 100 years of this Republic’s existence. Don’t believe me? Check here. There was the smallest glimmer of  hope in the mid-1990s with the rise of Pat Buchanan, Ralph Nader, and Pat Buchanan as third-party candidates. But, the situation remains almost hopeless; even today, Mr. “Change” and “Hope” himself in New Hampshire said that we have two parties in this country. Correction, Mr. President, there are two-parties that maintain a duopoly on the country’s national politics.

Here is a series, circa 2004, which I wrote on  as an Undergrad.

Majoritarianism, the ends:

The term ‘majoritarian’ contains the root word “majority.”  This type of democracy is founded of the political principle of majority rule. Majority rule “[provides] that a majority usually constituted by fifty percent plus one of an organized group [which] will have the power to make decisions binding on the whole”(Webster Dictionary). Democracy is governance by the people.  It is very difficult to determine the people’s will because not everyone agrees with each other.  Majoritarianism takes the easy road in a sense in that it tries to avoid as much conflict as possible by making the decision- making process simpler by allowing a bare majority to dominate policy.  This is why in majoritarian governments more often than not, two clear ideological choices are usually given and the winner is allowed to take all.  Majoritarian democracy in being consistent with its simplification of the decision making process must also allow the majority- ruled governing body to set its agenda forth by having a flexible legislation process with the assurance that there will be an absence of competition for governance.   The most decisive conclusion is not always the best one.
Another way a society could determine how to make decisions would be to make a system of governance, which tried to allow as many citizens as possible into the decision-making process.  Since the people’s will is never easily determined, the more people that are involved in the decision-making process, the better.  A consensus democracy must create as many decision-making bodies as possible so that citizens can have as many options as possible in pushing their preferred policies.  There are many ideological choices given in a consensual democracy.  Since there is not one clear choice, there should not be a clear winner; therefore, a consensus democracy should be one in which a maximum number of winners is determined.  The policy making process should be somewhat inflexible with as much political competition as possible.  Remember, the goal of a consensus democracy is to exclude the fewest people as it possibly can.

Another way a society could determine how to make decisions would be to make a system of governance, which tried to allow as many citizens as possible into the decision-making process.  Since the people’s will is never easily determined, the more people that are involved in the decision-making process, the better.  A consensus democracy must create as many decision-making bodies as possible so that citizens can have as many options as possible in pushing their preferred policies.  There are many ideological choices given in a consensual democracy.  Since there is not one clear choice, there should not be a clear winner; therefore, a consensus democracy should be one in which a maximum number of winners is determined.  The policy making process should be somewhat inflexible with as much political competition as possible.  Remember, the goal of a consensus democracy is to exclude the fewest people as it possibly can.

Truth and Peace,

Rod