Many of us are totally disenchanted with both political parties. They seem to be dominated, even taken over, by their extreme elements. This is true both on the left and the right, but most dominantly on the right. Congress seems to behave as a big ideological contest, where the only mantra is ‘win at all costs’ or ‘my way or no way’. The result is that very little in the way of legislation is getting done. The citizenry feels betrayed. Government seems to be interested only in the wealthy capitalist elite.
The creation of a third party is frequently suggested as a possible way out of this dilemma. The fact is that our constitution defines a government is inherently a two party system. Our President is selected via the electoral college where all the electoral votes in a state go the the winner of a majority of votes. Congress, a two party institution, decides if no candidate receives a majority electoral vote. In the past 3rd parties have been narrowly defined by a dominant single issue. It is an arduous and expensive process to qualify for the ballot in all 50 states. The net of this is that a 3rd party is probably not a viable strategy for our democracy’s dilemma.
A more likely path forward is to focus on making congress less combative and more oriented toward the greater nation’s needs. This could possibly occur with a rise in independent candidates. As parties become increasingly polarized more and more candidates may see an independent candidacy, strongly focused on constituent needs as a winning strategy. It would take only a relatively small cadre of independent to force a sense of compromise, and thereby start a healing process in Congress. This might even force the dominant political parties to seriously redefine themselves as a survival strategy, which would also be healthy for our democracy.
There are other suggestions for attacking our current dilemma. Most attack 2 seeming issues with the current process for selecting Congressional members and the President. One is to get money out of politics. A wealthy person’s vote should not have a heavier weight than a poor man’s vote. Second, change the bias in our system created with ‘majority vote getter takes all’. This includes the electoral college system for the Presidency and the congressional district elections. This may require a constitutional amendment, a very difficult process, but maybe essential to save our democracy. One intriguing idea is to reduce the number of congressional districts by a factor of 3 and elect 3 representatives per district, the top 3 vote getters.
We have ideas, now we need the courage and will to move on them.
Photo by JTuruc