Friday, May 11, 2007

One thought experiment, coming up

How much does the American political system discourage the rise of third parties? When a third party gains votes, it actively helps politicians on the opposite end of the spectrum. Bill Clinton beat George Bush with the help of Ross Perot, and George W. Bush squeaked out a victory over Al Gore by a margin in Florida that was much smaller than the number of votes gained by Green Party candidate Ralph Nader. The same effect occurs in Senate and House races. The institutional third-party disadvantage forces politicians with disparate views to gather together in the two big-tent parties, Republican and Democratic. Christianists like James Dobson are grouped together with die-hard libertarians like Ron Paul, and doves like Dennis Kucinich are seated next to uber-hawks like Joe Lieberman. Freed from the constraints of our current system, these people would doubtlessly reorder themselves into a more logical system.

I'd like to conduct a little thought-experiment and imagine what the nation's political landscape would look like if the United States used a system of proportional representation. On Sunday I'll post a prediction of what I think the left wing of the political spectrum would look like, and on Monday I'll post the right side. (Saturday will be reserved for packing and driving home from college- the semester is over!)

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