The federal government elections are winner takes all, which means the tiniest majority insures the elected party powers, as though everyone voted one way. Many other nations use proportional representation. In those systems if one party gets 75% of the vote, it is awarded 3/4 of the delegates to the governing body, and the minority party or parties gain 1/4 of the representation.
Proportional, or true democratic elections, insure that a small party can join the debate, and not be ignored, because it has no representatives. For example, a national proportional election for Congress might give the Democrats 40% of the representatives, 40% to the Republicans, 7% to the Greens, 4% to the Teas, and 9% to the Coffees.
Under such a system it would be very difficult to gain an absolute majority, which means that more than one party would have to vote on a bill for passage, and this consultation requirement would eliminate caucus domination by either the Republicans or Democrats.
We suffer two national parties, led by politicians who publicly espouse vastly different social values, but both parties also advocate basic economic principles that favor the wealthy class, pander to the lower class, and deny benefits and fair taxation to the middle class.
An example of this singular economic approach is the cry to “reform” Social Security and Medicare. This is only a smokescreen campaign to lower benefits for the middle class, so that no FICA tax be raised, no defense budget will require reduction, and no bevy of political party-loving bureaucrats will be dismissed from unnecessary public administration.
Internationally, many nations have third and fourth or more parties. Some concentrate almost solely on issues like minimum wage, paid leave, universal healthcare and childcare. When you vote for one of them, you vote solely for their pocketbook issues. For some of us, such a choice would be welcome in order to promote a progressive economic agenda. For others, their party of choice might urge more industrialization, shorter prison sentences, public housing expansion, or less social safety net programs.
Acting alone, both of our current political parties have tremendous baggage, when they try to attract votes from the other’s social issue spectrum. It is almst like fraternity or club politics – you get a list of ideas and you must agree to all of them to be a party player.
On one side, the Democrats have lost most of the working class vote, because the party has too many litmus tests. Do you agree that guns should be nearly banned? Do you approve of in-state college tuition for folks who are not even American citizens? And to join the GOP side, do you believe that we should have mandatory prayer in public school, a law that rules sodomy requires incarceration, or curiculums that preach the world was created less than 4,000 years ago?
An economic party with candidates that only stood for fairness in income distribution and common sense worker protections, might elect ten or fifteen Senators, a couple dozen Representatives – not enough to select the Senate Majority leader or Speaker of the House, but enough to create a swing vote that represented the people’s financial interests, a block that would need to be consulted for its support. For other citizens their choice might be a party devoted to environmental protection, promoting mass transit or enabling the labor movement.
A small third or fourth party might also be immune to the usual Washington pressures. There would be less need for advertising, when every party gets a proportion of representation and a voice in legislative deliberations. The small party would not try to control every aspect of our government. but instead help to craft national policy through discourse and cooperation with the other parties of like mind on particular issues.