It’s not really surprising that I’d think that, mind; I see Klein as kind of a squishy centrist’s idea of what a liberal firebrand looks like so I often think he’s wrong about things.
This time he’s wrong about something structurally important.
His piece today is The crisis isn’t too much polarization. It’s too little democracy.
Other than that the crisis is also that a substantial portion of the electorate is undereducated, willfully ignorant and fed a steady diet of factually incorrect propaganda he’s right so far.
He’s not wrong for the first block, either.
This is where he describes how political parties in America manage to remain viable even when they fail to achieve any of the goals they claim to pursue.
And this is true: in America, neither of the two national parties can ever be punished for their failures or their misdeeds, because their voters literally have nowhere else to go. He’s also correct to note that the Republican party is positioned so that it’s really protected.
Then he goes a bit off the rails.
He attributes these problems to two things:
- the Electoral College
- the Senate
And he’s not totally wrong about that: the Electoral College is a fundamentally anti-democratic institution and (if we’re trying to be a single country) the Senate is as well. (For that, see SPQA: Senatus Populusque Americanus.)
But getting rid of either of those (or both) wouldn’t actually solve the problem of two entrenched parties taking up all the political viability and leaving voters nowhere else to turn.
To solve that, you have to switch to proportional representation.
I’ve discussed this before (for example, Bloc Party: Real Representation In Government in the first weeks of this blog).
No system of geographical districts with first-past-the-post elections will ever be able to solve the problem of each district eventually devolving to two overlapping parties taking up all the political space; ever.
To solve that requires abandoning geopgraphical districts and thinking instead of political parties as ideological districts, and allocating seats in the legislature to each party based on its registered membership.
And to solve it for executive positions, which are elected as individuals from the State as a whole, you have to switch to some form of Instant Runoff (or Ranked Choice) Voting (No Spoilers: Ranked Choice Voting).
Obviously, these are issues of interest to me.
All those links to earlier blog entries, for one thing; and those are all just from the first few weeks of the blog. I’ve discussed these issues a lot since then.
Because these problems are fundamental and structural: they’re part of the Constitution, and though they can be fixed with simple changes but they can’t be fixed with small changes.
So, Klein is absolutely right about the problem.
But he’s wrong that doing anything about the Electoral College or the Senate would fix it.
We need a much bigger change in how we think of elections.