By Mark Bauer
If you’ve ever had something break—be it engine failure or, God forbid, a fractured bone—it’s often pretty easy to diagnose. One moment it was working, and the next it wasn’t. You also know who to go to in the event something breaks: If it’s your car, you find a mechanic. If it’s your big toe, you find a podiatrist.
In other cases, determining what’s broken is a little less cut and dried. The electoral system in America, for example, is regularly described by democracy reformers as “broken.” But how do they know that? By the looks of things, the system has been working just fine for the last two and a half centuries: People campaign to fill public offices, we vote for who we want to represent us and the winner takes office. Bada bing bada boom! Democracy!
Not so fast, though. While it’s easy to believe we either have a democracy or we do not, there are also varying degrees to whether a society is more representative, or less so. Back to the car analogy. Maybe it’s still driveable, but it’s started making a rough noise while idling and lately you’ve noticed the miles per gallon has plummeted. It might not be “broken,” per se, but something’s off. If you take your car to a mechanic, they might diagnose that the fuel injector is going bad and replace it. Voila! Your rough idle is gone and your MPG has returned to normal levels.
So in the same way, when democracy reformers suggest democracy is broken, they are looking at a set of symptoms to diagnose a problem in the same way a mechanic might diagnose what’s wrong with your car. Briefly, let’s evaluate some of those symptoms.
If you feel like you’re walking on eggshells on social media or at family gatherings when it comes to the topic of politics, that general sense of unease is probably attributable to hyper political polarization. It’s normal for people to disagree on issues; what’s not normal is the widening disparity of beliefs. Increasingly, Americans don’t just disagree on the issues, they are diametrically opposed to one another. We use combative language to describe our political opponents. This kind of politics might feel natural, but it’s not normal.
Lesser of Two Evils
In a healthy democracy, people should feel like they can identify with a political candidate who mostly aligns with their issues. The last decade or so, though, especially for presidential elections, Americans describe voting as having to decide between the lesser of two evils. The reason is because as Americans grow more divided, politicians begin to play to the extremes of their bases. The people caught in the middle of that dearth feel unheard, unseen and unrepresented.
Lack of Political Competition
In a free market, competition helps improve products by providing consumers with a myriad of options. In the United States, the two-party system has created a duopoly that stifles competition to the point that many Americans say that voting for a third-party or independent candidate feels like their vote doesn’t count. That is, they feel like they might as well throw away their vote.
Does the above mentioned democracy sound like one you want to pass on to your kids? If not, people all over the country are having the same realization as you. They want the opportunity to feel like politics are more representative of them and their neighbors; they want their representatives to aspire toward our common good and not to dredge up our worst instincts; and they want to be able to vote their conscience without feeling like they aren’t participating in democracy.
Democracy reformers are working toward different solutions to fix what ails America’s broken electoral system. Rank the Vote is one that believes ranked choice voting could fix a lot of those problems by breaking up the stranglehold that the two-party system has on the electoral process.
To learn more about how ranked choice voting can help fix our broken democracy, visit rankthevote.us.
Mark Bauer is a producer, entrepreneur, day trader and former Independent candidate for Congress in Texas. Previously he spent 10 years as a legal journalist covering the legal market in Texas and regulatory issues in Washington DC.
Mark’s primary interests involve using content and storytelling to help different groups of people better understand one another.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Rank the Vote, its members, supporters, funders, or affiliates.