Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Frustrating Math of American Politics

People complain about this new “Common Core” math a lot. It can be confusing. But something that makes even less sense is the way that the founding fathers decided that there would only ever be two approaches to running the country. OK, to be fair they didn’t prescribe a two party system of government, but something called Duverger’s Law makes it inevitable in our system the way it is set up. And, as long as you don’t know any better it is just frustrating, but as soon as you see that there are other democracies with multiple parties and forced consensus and cooperation amongst parties it gets to be infuriating. That is mostly because the way things are now, a very few people have an out of proportional say in who runs things.

Take this year’s primaries as an example:

Trump is getting 37% of primary votes, and when only 17.3% of eligible voters are showing up, means that 6.4 percent of the nation is supporting him. (By contrast, Clinton’s 66% of the 11.7% of voters on the Democratic side mean that 8 in 100 people are on her side. Sanders is getting the other 4%) Another way of breaking it down would be to compare the 7,530,985 people who have cast votes for Trump to the 323 Million people in the US (which includes people ineligible to vote). That gives you the figure of 2.3%. Less than three people out of every 100 support Trump enough to get out and vote for him and his message. (Clinton has 8,640,761 votes, or 2.7%)

So we will be heading into November with a choice between two stinkers who are only there because about 6 in every one hundred people thought that they should be the two we have to choose from.

I for one think it would be a better thing—from policy making to voter turn-out to less ingrained division in the country—if there were dozens of viable parties, even single issue ones, for whom people could cast votes. Of course that would mean that the House of Representatives would ultimately choose the president, but imagine that happening in a House with factions of multiple parties. That would make political dialogue and cooperation so much more vibrant. And for those who would be offended that the President would not be elected directly by the people, remember, they aren’t anyway in our system.

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