On September 19, 1796, George Washington gave his farewell address. Warning against the dangers of a bipartisan government, he said, “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.”
From the pro-Trump domestic terrorists that stormed the Capitol building last month to the hypocrisy of pro-lifers, anti-vax users, and the deaths of innocent Black citizens by the police and White supremacists, we see this feared republic today. As anticipated, the existential challenge is breaking the framework of government that the Founders established with the Constitution. The problem with United States politics does not derive from one event, but rather the system of binary parties that the country has divided into the Republican Party and the Democratic party.
As politics become more nuanced (given the nation’s increasing diversity, the rising status of marginalized communities, climate change proceeding faster than expected, and China’s continuing economic and political growth), Americans cannot afford such a fractured government.
Additionally, the country continues to change in terms of diversity and frame of mind. In recent years the number of eligible voters has skyrocketed, according to Pew Research Center’s article, “The Changing Racial and Ethnic Composition of the U.S. Electorate,” “from 2000 to 2018, the nation’s eligible voter population grew from 193.4 million to 233.7 million – an increase of 40.3 million. Voters who are Hispanic, Black, Asian or another race or ethnicity accounted for more than three-quarters (76%) of this growth.” Additionally, Standford Social Innovation Review’s article, “Strengthening Democracy by Embracing a Multi-Party System,” provides a survey of Democratic voters in the 2016 presidential election showing that “54 percent of young people backed socialist Bernie Sanders compared to just 26 percent for Hillary Clinton.” In our “first-past-the-post” voting system, all of these people would be forced to confine their vote to one candidate despite having completely different perspectives.
Until the negative, zero-sum, polarized policy that breaks U.S. society is severed from our democracy, no problems can be solved. The best solution is to modify the U.S. political structure to accommodate more parties and trust that the components will rearrange into a functioning system of government.
To fix the voting system, the electoral college has to go. Foreign Policy’s article, “Let a Thousand Parties Bloom,” states that “by any measure of democratic fairness, the Electoral College is awful: The larger your state, the less your vote counts. The less competitive your state, the less anybody cares about your vote. Five times in U.S. history (1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016), it delivered the White House to the popular vote loser.” With a two-party system, however, the electoral college will stay. Getting rid of the college would boost Democratic votes so Republicans will never go for it. New parties would likely form from the breaking apart of current Democratic and Republican parties, meaning that no party would have an advantage.
To create more parties, first-past-the-post elections must stop. The Fair Representation Act, proposed by Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia (Democrat), introduces the idea of combining districts and electing multiple candidates through ranked-choice voting. Each district would send its top five candidates to Washington, increasing the total number of votes in the House of Representatives. “This bill would ensure that every voter has their voice represented in Congress, and make real progress towards bipartisan focus on getting results for the American people.”
Increasing the number of representatives will increase the number of opinions and help push for more parties. When executed properly, this system works. Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland are great examples.
The U.S. Constitution was constructed under the precedent that it may be ratified and amended when fit. As modern America advances, modern problems emerge, which require modern solutions. The two-party system that worked during America’s development in the 18th and 19th centuries no longer properly encompasses the contemporary affairs of the most influential country of the 21st century. By switching to a multiparty system we would promote diverse thinking in our vast and socio diverse country while simultaneously preventing the polarization of our great nation.
“Two-Party System.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., www.britannica.com/topic/two-party-system.
Drutman, Lee. “Let a Thousand Parties Bloom.” Foreign Policy, 19 Oct. 2019, foreignpolicy.com/2019/10/19/us-democracy-two-party-system-replace-multiparty-republican-democrat/.
Drutman, Lee. “America Is Now the Divided Republic the Framers Feared.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 2 Jan. 2020, www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/01/two-party-system-broke-constitution/604213/.
Cheung, George, and George Cheung is program director for the Joyce Foundation’s Democracy Program. He previously directed two nonprofit advocacy organizations and worked in civil rights law enforcement. “Strengthening Democracy by Embracing a Multi-Party System (SSIR).”
Stanford Social Innovation Review: Informing and Inspiring Leaders of Social Change, ssir.org/articles/entry/strengthening_democracy_by_embracing_a_multi_party_system#.
“The Changing Racial and Ethnic Composition of the U.S. Electorate.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 22 Oct. 2020, www.pewresearch.org/2020/09/23/the-changing-racial-and-ethnic-composition-of-the-u-s-electorate/.
“Beyer, House Democrats Introduce Fair Representation Act Following Supreme Court Decision On Gerrymandering.” U.S. Representative Don Beyer, 25 July 2019, beyer.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=4487.