Breaking Into The Two-Party System

The United States, thanks to its winner takes all election system, is forever doomed to be in a two-party system. It’s basic game theory. For a 3rd party to become relevant at the national stage, it would have to oust and replace either the Democratic party or the Republican party.

This is no easy feat. The last time a major party was displaced in the American 2-party system was 160 years ago.

The US was first born with the Federalist party and the Republican-Democratic Party. Both parties only lasted about 35 years when they were replaced by the Democratic Party and the National Republican Party (which then merged into the Whig Party after 8 years). The Whig Party only lasted about 20 years until the 1850’s when it fell apart and was replaced by the Republican Party.

The Democrat and Republican parties have dominated the US two-party system ever since.

elephant_donkey_donkeyhoteyIMAGE CREDIT DONKEYHOTEY / FLICKR / CREATIVE COMMONS

But we may have the conditions today where it is possible for a 3rd party to enter the political system and displace one of the big two.

Anti-establishment sentiment is at a peak. Both the Republican and Democratic parties have been losing members in droves for 10 straight years. 43%45% of Americans identify as independents – and those numbers came before the primaries started. Today, we likely have more independents than Democrats and Republicans combined.

The approval rating of Congress has been under 30% for 10 years and is currently at 11%.

We’ve now seen 3 anti-establishment movements in the United States in the past 8 years: the Tea Party, then Occupy, and then Black Lives Matter.

In this presidential election season, averaged across the two parties, anti-establishment/outsider candidates (Trump, Cruz and Sanders) received roughly 65% of all pledged delegates.

The Republican Party was just hijacked by Trump and roughly 40% of the party is refusing to rally around him. On the other side of the aisle, the Democratic Party only barely just defeated the Sanders insurgency, with roughly 33% of Sanders voters currently refusing to ultimately vote for Hillary Clinton.

This is not too different from 1848 when abolitionists abandoned both the Whig and Democratic Parties parties and formed the Republican Party.

The conditions are here today for a 3rd party to emerge.

If it is to be successful, it must be a coalition of disaffected voters from across the political spectrum and run competitive candidates in every district nationwide.

It must bring together the Libertarians and Progressives, as well as, the Tea Party, Black Lives Matter and Occupy movements.

At first glance this may sound like a match made in hell, but actually, all these groups can agree on who their real enemies are: the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, and the mega-rich that control both parties.

So what might this new party’s platform look like?

It would have to have the following 3 core pillars: ending corruption, ending big brother government, and ending the 2-party system. These are all causes that poll extremely well amongst Tea Partiers, Berners, Greens, BLMers, Occupiers, and Libertarians.

More specifically, what this means is ending corporate welfare, the off-shoring of wealth, and tax loopholes for the rich. It means overturning Citizens United and never using Super PACs. It means de-militarizing police forces, ending the drug war, and shutting down government programs used to spy on Americans.

There’s also one more little known cause that should be added to this hypothetical party’s list: proportional party representation.

Each of the sub-groups I’ve named as part of this coalition has an interest in pushing proportional party representation so that it can actually become its own viable political party – electing its own representatives rather than the lesser of two evils.

This wouldn’t have to be a long term alliance. Once they implemented proportional party representation, the party could dissolve, and the various factions could go their separate ways, form their own political parties and actually all gain representatives in a multi-party system. Imagine what Congress might look life if we implemented proportional party representation.

The key is just that people across the political spectrum recognize their shared desires/interests in defeating the Democratic and Republican Parties, destroying corruption, and dismantling big brother government.

So how about it? Are you down take the best of red, white and blue, mix it all up, and #gopurple?

Why Our Democracy is Broken and How to Fix it

With the gun debate making its routine rounds, it’s time to ask how it is possible for 70 percent and 85 percent of Americans respectively to be in favor of having a gun database and doing background checks, and yet, no laws get passed.

Most blame American culture, the NRA, the military-industrial complex, Citizen’s United, gerrymandering, or the media, and though these are related, the real fundamental reason no legislation is getting passed is because we have a winner takes all election system. It is our election system that enables minority groups to overpower the majority. In fact, most of our problems (or our inability to solve them) can be traced back to our winner takes all election system.

As any game theorist will tell you, a winner takes all election system will always produce a two-party political system. The reason is that it takes 50 percent to win an election, so two coalitions of interest groups will form and jockey over that last 1 percent. If you look at U.S. history, we’ve really only had two relevant parties at any one time for nearly 250 years. Only in periods where the two major coalitions are unstable does a third party even enter the picture. Two-party systems tend towards partisanship as the constituent coalitions stabilize, and partisanship is nothing new in the U.S. Partisanship is a big reason why no Republicans will work with Democrats to pass basic gun legislation.

But our election system is doing much more to distort our democracy than just pushing us towards partisanship. Winner takes all election systems actually disenfranchise minority voters and inefficiently represent the voters in the winning coalition. This is because the losing coalition gets no representative. And while the winning coalition gets a representative, that representative focuses on the majority coalition within their party that elected them in the primary. The primaries are just a second round of winner takes all elections that further amplifying these anti-democratic distortions. This is how half of the Republican Party (25 percent of the population) can control the entire party’s activities on gun control, and thus manage to overpower 75 percent of the population.

Now imagine that our election system has been similarly distorting all other political issues on a state and federal level for nearly 250 years. No wonder we have so many unsolved problems.

So before we can talk about fixing any other issues, we need to move to a proportional party representation election system. There are many different kinds of proportional party representation (PPR) systems, but the basic principle is that voters vote for parties, and that parties win seats proportional to the number of votes they get. This means that if a party gets 10 percent of the vote, rather than getting 0 percent of the seats in Congress, it gets 10 percent. Imagine that! Revolutionary!

Imagine what Congress would look like if voters could realistically vote for not just Republicans and Democrats, but also the Tea Party, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, the Constitution Party, or the Socialist Party. They would have no choice but to work together to pass legislation, and different combinations of parties would work together to pass legislation on different issues. In the case of basic gun control, Republicans, freed from the Tea Party, could work with Democrats to pass minor reforms.

This isn’t just the stuff of dreams. This is reality in most democracies around the world. Proportional party representation can be a reality in the U.S. too. We just need to convince 2/3rd of the country to change the constitution.