Ending The Two Party System

As we approach elections, I hear more grumbling about the two party system. In general, you get two politicians and neither look good. Intelligent alternative voices are silenced by being excluded from televised debates. That really stings because it keeps us further in the dark about important issues that neither candidate wants to touch.

But when you look overseas at countries that don’t have a two party system, you start to see one of its big advantages: more moderate candidates. I’ve read about elections abroad where there were 5 or more candidates and someone wins with 18% of the vote. How do the other 82% of voters feel? Or, as a friend informed me, the parties coalesce to capture more votes, and after the elections it can take weeks before you know who your president is because you voted in a hastily made party, not an individual.

In a two party system, candidates need to sway the majority of the population, which means more balanced policies that benefit more of the population. Yes, technically with the electoral college you don’t need to win the popular vote, but in general (and lately) you’ll still get about 50% of the country supporting you. This also explains why when the president does poorly after being elected, his approval rating can quickly drop into the 30’s.

So here is my solution. I remind you that I am biased by logic and common sense, so extremes don’t appeal to me. Also that this idea came to me at 4AM, so there may be a fly in the ointment that I haven’t seen yet.

Give citizens more votes. Specifically, allow them to rank the candidates (not vote multiple times for one candidate). This will result in electing politicians that more people agree on instead of polarizing figures that half the country is unhappy with.

If this sounds familiar, you may be a member of the Academy since that’s how their voting works. Here’s the process step by step:

  1. Everyone votes by ranking the candidates starting with their first choice.
  2. Looking at the first choices, if one candidate has more than 50% of the votes, he or she wins.
  3. If not, the person with the fewest votes is removed from all ballots, and the other candidates ranked lower on the ballot are moved up one.
  4. Go to step 2.

This is how a popular but polarizing film like Avatar loses to a widely praised film like The Hurt Locker. While more complex, ranking is something we all understand, and a computer could tally results in seconds. Yes, I’m suggesting we do all computer voting.

In my proposed system, you still have to get on the ballot by getting the support of a reasonable number of voters across the country, so you’re not ranking 100 candidates. However, I think you’ll get more people breaking party lines to run. In particular, I think Ron Paul could have run and possibly won if he went as an independent since politicians with a Libertarian philosophy tend to pull votes from conservatives and liberals alike. Likewise, I think Bob Barr (and certainly Ralph Nader) would have done better as well. And most importantly, all would have been invited to the debates, resulting in more educated choices by voters.

3 thoughts on “Ending The Two Party System”

  1. This sounds really cool. I didn’t know the Academy had that system. I never really thought about it.
    The first and biggest hurdle here would be dumping the Electoral College so we can quit pretending we run the Presidential process based on the people’s voice.
    OR since we trust in this system so much, why not make EVERY election use electors. Right down to town council. That way I can bribe Mrs. Cassadine to vote in my cousin Russell who promised me a personally designated parking spot at the Nookie-Nook strip club.

  2. As I was mentioning off-blog, there is a downside to having 10, 20, 30 plus parties running on the ballot. The vote gets so fragmented that the election is actually pointless; it only serves to pick the 4 or 5 parties that will eventually make a coalition government.

    And if those parties don’t get along, you’ll have something similar to 1970’s Switzerland or the current government in Iraq: no government in sight. They could not agree on how to govern and their countries went without a government for over 6 months. Iraq now holds the record, having surpassed the Swiss.

    Now, having NOT had a government for awhile, it seems like Switzerland can get along very nicely without one. Maybe we could also, here in the USA (shades of the Tea Party movement). Maybe it’s time for the leadership to show some value-added results from all the taxes we pay them .

    But from watching the current Iraqi situation, perhaps some government is better than no government.

  3. I agree that too many candidates will throw things off, but I believe it’s hard enough to get on the ballot that it won’t be flooded. Or they’ll make it harder or put a cap on it. I also think the media will marginalize many candidates, but even if there are 5-10 popular choices that will be better than 2.

    I sure we can’t do without a gov’t, but Libertarians are for a much smaller one. Dave Barry has pointed out how bloated many agencies have gotten and it’s a bit scary. Hmm, maybe now that he’s retired as a columnist we can get him to run.

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