The Big Tent Sucks

Watching last month’s general election in Sweden, I was once again treated to the non-majoritarian nature of proportionally-representative election systems like Sweden (although the Feminist Initiative barely missed the 4%). It is not as zero-sum as ours: a total of 8 parties are now represented in the Swedish parliament (Riksdag), encompassing a range of variably-compact ideologies in a variety of portfolios.

I favor proportional representation due to its ability to better reflect the political diversity of the voting population, as well as its ability to let candidates be more honest and thorough about their ideologies.

In this year’s election, the Social Democrats gained the largest vote share and is tasked with forming a coalition that can back the next prime minister and cabinet; possible partners include the Left Party and the Green Party. On the opposite end, the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats gained more seats from the free-market parties of the outgoing Alliance coalition, such as the Moderate Party, Liberal People’s Party, Christian Democrats and Centre Party.

In the United States, potential candidates and their supporters at the federal level would be grouped into just two parties – Democratic and Republican, Blue and Red, Liberal and Conservative, etc.

I contend that the sheer forcing of multiple ideologies together under two roofs is stifling. It forces all of the partisans who may not be predisposed to a whole-hog ideology to adopt such an ideology for the benefit of an unwieldy party unity. As a result, reasonable-minded people may find themselves trapped in an unpopular party because of the words, policies and actions of fellow partisans.

If you need to switch to another party, it shouldn’t have to make the news as some sort of epiphany or “I’ve seen the light” moment, whether it is the Charlie Crists, Lincoln Chafees, Gary Johnsons or Cynthia McKinneys of American politics. The candidate or voter shouldn’t have to feel like some sort of “traitor” for switching or creating new parties.

That’s why I support the Single Transferable Vote. I support having more options in Congress and state legislatures, including more equal representation for the six most-popular parties in the United States: Democratic, Republican, Green, Libertarian, Working Families, and Constitution.

I could see Rand Paul as an LP senator, Bernie Sanders as a WFP senator, at least a quarter of the House Republican caucus being Constitution Party members (including the likes of people like Louie Gohmert), a quarter of the same caucus being LP members (including some of the Tea Party-backed members like Justin Amash), most of the Congressional Progressive Caucus being members of the WFP or Greens, and so on, while center-right or center-left candidates would stick with more uniform, less-problematic Republican or Democratic parties.

Maybe after all the libertarians and socio-conservatives left for their own parties, the GOP would revert back to its image as the “Party of Lincoln”, or even to the pro-civil rights stance of the Radical Republicans of the Reconstruction era, or even to the likes of Eisenhower. I could imagine people like Rob Portman and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen remaining in this incarnation of the GOP.

Maybe after the progressives of the CPC left to join the Working Families Party and Greens, the Democrats would get much more pushback against their acquiescence to pro-MRI policies. Centrists like Dianne Feinstein, Kay Hagan and Harry Reid would still likely remain in this incarnation of the Democratic Party.

Maybe after the far-right Republican Study Group joins the Constitution Party, that party would be marginalized in their socially-far-right politics by the other parties in Congress through a sort of cordon sanitaire.

Any of these possibilities would perhaps prevent people from associating “fright-wing” politics with a plurality of the voting population, and allow voters to make a better distinction between the candidates for whom they would vote, as well as the issues on which they would campaign.

I just want more diversity of party labels to choose from, not this frustrating, debilitating duopoly in which we’ve been stuck for so long. And to have more diverse party choices in our politics, we need to dispense with the idea that anyone has to win a majority to be part of the political process.

We just need to win 4%.

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