winner-take-all v. proportional representation

Third parties don’t work in the USA by design, albeit unintentional.

Some time ago, a friend sent me this article from Common Dreams. The premise is essentially, “Don’t vote Ralph or W will win.” However, what I found most interesting about it was a clear and concise explanation of the whys and wherefores of the differences between the USA representative democracy setup and most of the rest of the free world’s setup. We are a winner-take-all democracy that by its very nature only works in a two-party system. Third parties are almost never moderate, and therefore are likely to be pulling from only one of the two major parties, no matter what Ralph may want you to believe. When the setup is Major Party 1 at 41%, Major Party 2 at 39%, and Third Party leaning towards Major Party 2 at 20%, the Major Party 1 will win, even though they are a minority and do not truly represent a majority of the people. In a proportional representation system, the percentage of votes would translate to the number of seats won by each party, and thus coalitions would have to be formed in order to get a true majority. If the USA changed to this system, more people would feel that their interests are represented in the government and we wouldn’t be worrying about spoilers.

Vote!

Primary elections were held in Kentucky yesterday. I actually got out and voted, which is unusual for my age demographic. Of course, only one person out of the four people for whom I voted won. What amused me most were the primary results for the mayoral race. We don’t have partisan elections for that office. Everyone votes their preference in the primary, and the top two go on to compete for the November elections. I carefully examined each of the candidates before finally choosing the one I wanted to vote for. As it turns out, she was the underdog (and came in last). Of course, I would vote for the underdog, even when I don’t realize I am doing it.