Improving Representation and the 2 Party System

In my politics class yesterday, we discussed features of America’s political system I had never considered before.

The two most salient points involved single member congressional districts and plurality style elections.

Let’s begin with the first.

Since only one representative is elected to represent a given area, this makes our political process vulnerable to gerrymandering. This is where the district lines on the map are redrawn so that politicians can keep their jobs. While their power may extend over areas larger than their districts, they are only accountable (subject to removal by popular vote) in areas they have pre-determined, areas that support them. This system marginalizes large demographics of the population and robs them of legitimate representation in their government. In short, it is tyrannical.

Now for the second.

Plurality style elections mean the winner takes all. By contrast a proportional election system delegates representation based on percentages, decreasing the extreme partisan power shifts typical of American government. Instead of 51% majorities gaining 100% control, they would only gain 51% control, so to speak.

Imagine if Congress were elected using a proportional election system. Indeed Democrats and Republicans would likely remain the majority seat holders, but this would open the door for Green Party, Libertarian and Socialist candidates to attain seats in Congress and break the duopoly of our 2 party system.

I believe diversity is inherently beneficial, as evidenced by natural evolution it increases competition. Through capitalism we can observe competition increases efficiency. Therefore it’s plausible to imagine a proportionally elected Congress would not only be more representative of the People of our nation, it would also be less prone to partisan gridlock – you know, the kind that has paralyzed it of late and made it incapable of addressing the urgent economic problems of the nation.

Reforms in these areas, to the infrastructure of the system itself, have the greatest potential to change things. Why are these types of unconventional ideas not discussed by the mass media? It is taken for granted that we MUST work within the confines of old traditions, due to the doubtful assumption of their superiority.

As a final note, the study All Over the Map in 2008 shows evidence that public campaign finance increases the diversity of constituents represented by politicians compared to privately financed campaigns that tend to marginalize the least fortunate.

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