One of our daughters and I were recently speaking about the current state of the American political system. We found broad agreement in the frustration that results from a two-party system with a strong President. It is a system that is no longer used in most First World countries as being a cumbersome system that neither allows good citizen input, nor does it promote cooperation. What do I mean?
Our whole family has lived overseas in more than one country. My wife is tied with one of our daughters for having lived in the most countries in the world. This means that we have actually seen other ways to express democracy at work, both in First World and Third World countries. It must be admitted that the democracy in at least one country does not work well because the local culture is set up for autocratic leadership more than they are for a republican form of government. That does not bother me. Why should people not choose the type of government they desire, provided it is a choice?
As our daughter and I were speaking, we agreed that a parliamentary democracy would probably work better at this point in USA history than the current two-party republican democracy. Why? Well, a parliamentary democracy has a President whose sole job is to represent the unity of the country and perform a limited set of functions. He or she is the parallel of a reigning monarch in a constitutional monarchy (which is yet another type of democracy). The Prime Minister is the real “power behind the throne.”
But, the Prime Minister is a member of the legislature and thus is subject to instant questions from the floor, and has the job to keep the legislature functional. If the legislature is not functional, and/or the Prime Minister loses a vote of confidence, there is no choice but to call elections that are held within 6-8 weeks. This type of change would end gridlock in Congress and would sharply curtail the unceasing political campaigns that beset us. Gridlock means elections, and unless you are sure that your party will increase its share, you are more likely to find a way to cooperate than you are to call elections on principle.
There is a second change that would need to happen. Most parliamentary democracies allow for proportional voting. We tend to have a winner take all system with unceasing election campaigns. This requires so much money to maintain that there is almost no choice but to band together in two super large groupings (Democrats and Republicans) that are always internally fighting because they group together so many disparate folks.
I would refer you to this article to read more detail about proportional voting. Our winner takes all system encourages the political party in power to skew (gerrymander) district boundaries so as to maximize the number of representatives for their party and minimize the number of representatives for the other party. You can see this in the last couple of national elections. The number of Democratic votes in the Presidential elections were more than the number of Republican votes, but the number of Republican representatives are more than the number of Democratic representatives. This is only possible in a winner take all, single representative district system.
In proportional voting, you give up single representative districts. You “pool” districts together to form new super districts for which there can be two or more representatives. This is exactly how the USA Senate now works. A state is essentially a super district that has more than one senator. It is quite possible to have one Republican and one Democratic senator. However, proportional voting takes this one step farther.
In proportional voting, the number of representatives your party gets is proportional to the vote your party gets. Thus, if your party gets 60% of the votes, you get 60% of the representatives. If you get 40% of the vote, you get 40% of the representatives. This means that even if your district majority votes for the other party, you may end up with a representative of your party holding at least one of the seats. Thus, a significant minority in an area will always have someone representing them, even if their party does not have as much voting power as the other party.
I could go on, but read the article on proportional voting. Our daughter and I are to the point of saying that it is time for our country to change over to a parliamentary democracy with proportional voting as the sanest and least costly way to minimize gridlock and maximize the input of disparate groups without the disparate groups having to join into two super-parties. It works for the other First World countries. I believe it can work for us.
p align=”justify”>Note, if you believe in a constitutional monarchy instead of a parliamentary democracy, the two systems are similar enough that provided that proportional voting was part of the package, I would not seriously object. However, I would probably insist that the new King or Queen NOT be from either the Clinton or Bush families. LOL.