The Demise of a Bipartisan Game

October 28, 2004

The two-party system is corroding representative democracy in
the United States. Presidential elections are just around the
corner, and as each of us weigh our values and hopes for the future
of this country, why is it that so many of us must choose to vote
for a leader who is simply “the lesser of the two evils”? Now is
the time to instigate change and do away with the winner-takes-all
electoral system that divides the American public and government

Proportional representation would change this. It would open the
door to political minorities, a door that is currently locked. This
system, which is already being implemented in San Francisco, as
well as in every European region except France and the United
Kingdom, would eliminate an increasingly manipulative electoral
system, as well as introduce new parties to the forefront of
politics so we can again vote for who and what we believe in.

Proportional representation is essentially parties or blocs of
like-minded voters that can win seats in legislative assemblies in
proportion to their share of the popular vote. For example, a group
that wins 10 percent of the popular vote gets 10 percent of the
seats and becomes critically significant. Whereas with
winner-takes-all elections such a percentage is virtually
irrelevant, overrun by the 51 percent of voters who automatically
end up representing them. This new system would allow for a third
party to enter the arena, which would inevitably heighten
democracy. It was in 2000, when Nader’s Green Party candidacy
became crucial to the outcome of the presidential election, that
many people realized how flawed our electoral system really is.
Many Americans consider third party candidates to be “spoilers,”
trapped in a vicious cycle of marginalization that makes potential
supporters feel as though voting for the issues that they truly
support would essentially be sacrificing their vote. Why must we
play this bipartisan voting game?

The two-party system also stalls the implementation of new laws
in the United States, as the presidency and Congress are generally
dominated by different parties. The establishment created is a
deadlock. This has generally been the case since World War II.
Inevitably, bills are continuously vetoed and laws and progressive
reforms dissolve.

Since the dawn of our country, political values have divided us,
but the issues used to be overriding factors in elections. For
example, slavery was a social force greater than party loyalty that
in turn resulted in the eventual split and realignment of parties
all together. Imagine that Kerry was pro-life and Bush was
pro-choice. Would that make you check “Republican” on the ballot
and vote for Bush? For the vast majority of people asked, they said
absolutely not. How can we let party loyalty continue to complicate
the simple issues of humanity and justice? The forefathers of our
country, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, feared
political parties because they thought of them as factions that
were self-centered and driven by ambition to further their own self
interests. Their fear has become our unfortunate reality. Public
opinion polls consistently reveal that large proportions of the
electorate believe that parties do more to confuse issues than
clarify them.

It’s no wonder voter apathy is so high and that at most 50
percent of those eligible have chosen to vote in past presidential
elections. We simply cannot bestow our true beliefs upon this
so-called democracy.

Perhaps another viable solution is to introduce Instant Runoff
Voting (IRV) to the electoral system, which reverses the effect of
the third party “spoiler,” and allows voters to express their views
without having to strategize. This system allows citizens to vote
for both their favorite candidate as well as for the candidate they
would support if their first choice fails. Essentially a “first
choice, second choice, third choice” ballot for the primary
elections. This system, coupled with proportional representation,
is the perfect remedy for our skewed electoral system. Imagine this
system were in place in the 2000 elections. Do you think that Bush
would still be in office?

As you cast your vote on November 2, pay attention to the
strategizing and “if, then” thoughts that pass through your head.
This is not what a democracy should entail. It is long past the
time for change, as we have now arrived in the eye of the political
duopoly that our ancestors feared. Write to your representative, to
the president, to anyone and everyone. Be a voice for change.

The Demise of a Bipartisan Game was published on October 28, 2004 in Editorial

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