Dominating parties squeeze out the little guys
After months of hard campaigning, the overwhelming hype of Election Night, and the plethora of analysis in its aftermath, the government, at first glance, is exactly the same after the election as it was before the day before. President Barack Obama will remain president, the Republican Party will control the House of Representatives, and the Democratic Party will still control the Senate. Indeed, it would be rather easy to conclude that, apart from very minor shifts in numbers, nothing really happened at all.
However, there is much more to be seen in this election than merely the balance of power between the two major parties. Many bemoan that politics nowadays are showing an increasingly partisan trend, with the two major parties becoming increasingly uncooperative. In such a polarized political climate, moderates are needed to bridge the gap between the two parties in order to get anything done at all; compromise is an imperative.
Despite the urgent need for moderates to build bridges between the two parties, the electorate has instead decided to push the parties even further apart. There are only three senators that vote with their party less than 66 percent of the time, according to the Boston Globe. These Senators are Susan Collins (R-ME, 45 percent party vote), Scott Brown (R-MA, 47 percent party vote), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME, 53 percent party vote).
Of this group, only Collins will remain in office after the election. Scott Brown was defeated by Elizabeth Warren of the Democratic Party, someone who is very unlikely to work with Republicans at all, let alone vote with them.
Olympia Snowe of Maine chose not to seek reelection, as she had grown tired of the increasingly partisan atmosphere of the Senate; instead, her seat will be filled by “independent” Angus King, the former governor of Maine, who is a Democrat in everything but name.
The second-most moderate senator remaining is Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who votes with her party 66 percent of the time. Of the 100 seats in the Senate, only one is filled by a centrist moderate.
A 2011 Pew Research Center Poll showed that about 35 percent of American registered voters are some form of moderate.
Moderates include Libertarians (small government seculars), Disaffecteds (highly cynical) and Post-Moderns (liberal on social issues, fiscally moderate). Despite the clear evidence that more than a third of voters are some form of moderate, only one of 100 Senators is a moderate. In short, this is a complete failure of the democratic system.
The American Election system is, obviously, deeply flawed; no system can be called a success when 35 percent of its voters only have one percent representation in the Senate. One of the primary issues in our system is voting itself – in the current situation, a voter votes for one candidate.
Because of this, there is an incentive for there to be only two candidates in an election, as a third may pull enough votes from one of the candidates to give the election to another.
For example, if a far-left Democrat, a left-leaning Independent, and a Republican all run in the same election, the Republican could win even if nearly twice as many left-leaning voters voted, as the left vote would be divided between two candidates, while the right vote would go solely to the Republican. This system perpetuates the political duopoly of the Republican and Democratic Parties, which each seek to create a solid, constant base of support, leaving Independents out to dry.
In effect, our system does indeed force Independents to vote for the “lesser of two evils” every election, as neither party shares all of the values of Independent voters, and Independent candidates do not have the massive supply of support and money that the major party candidates do.
Whether by the introduction of Instant-Runoff Voting (where voters rank candidates in order of preference, thus eliminating the “spoiler” effect) or the rise of a new, strong, moderate third party, or some other mechanism, there must be a change in American politics. No legislative body can legitimately claim to represent the entire population when an entire third of the populace is not represented at all.
Stefan Herlitz is a Collegian contributor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.