The Norman Transcript

Opinion

November 3, 2013

Vote needs reform

NORMAN — In shutting down the government, Congress reached a new level of dysfunction. While many pundits castigated individuals and parties, others more insightfully focused on institutional rules, such as the role of gerrymandering, closed primaries and campaign spending.

Others went further. Comparative politics scholar Juan Linz famously demonstrated that presidential democracies are prone to dysfunction, which the United States has largely avoided by having big tent parties that are “diffuse” and allow for internal dissent. Most healthy democracies instead combine parliamentary government with legislatures elected via party list forms of proportional representation. Under such rules, Germany, possessor of Europe’s strongest economy, just elected a broadly representative legislature and is forming a functional coalition government.

With the shutdown underscoring the incompatibility of rigid parties with our system of strong checks and balances, the Washington Post’s Dylan Matthews, Salon’s Alex Pareene, New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait, and Slate’s Matthew Yglesias all blamed presidentialism or suggested switching to parliamentary government. But not only does this drastic step require unrealistic constitutional change, it also clashes with what makes our politics truly exceptional – diffuse parties where individual legislators don’t just toe a party line. Most Americans dislike Congress so much today because they yearn for more examples of the idealism of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Even though we vote for individuals for Congress, we now have de facto party-based elections. Ticket-splitting has all but disappeared, reflecting a widening cultural and ideological gap between the parties. The result is a sharp decline in the number of competitive congressional districts and fewer internal differences within parties. The parties’ traditional big tents have collapsed, leaving few remaining “bridgebuilders” able to forge compromises.

If we accept such politics as inevitable, parliamentary government with party lists makes sense. But rather than abandon James Madison, we call for the restoration of the quintessentially American ideal of a candidate-centric federal republic. With a simple statute, Congress can eliminate the root cause of our party-dominated politics: winner-take-all voting rules that silence the minority.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • Help for rural America

    A drive through rural parts of the Southwest can be depressing. For sale and for rent signs are prevalent. Businesses along main streets have closed. Unless they are close to a major interstate highway, many communities are in decline....

    April 23, 2014

  • Embarrassment to Oklahoma, again

    The standardized testing that was halted in local schools Monday is another embarrassment to the state. The same thing happened a year ago and Oklahoma gave them another chance....

    April 23, 2014

  • Time to move on; exit of Sebelius is right choice

    From the moment it became obvious that healthcare.gov wasn’t working, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius became damaged goods for the White House....

    April 23, 2014

  • Happy birthday to us

    We don’t expect any cake and that many candles might be dangerous but today is the unofficial 125th birthday of Norman....

    April 22, 2014

  • Hero of Haarlem … for common good

    “Trudging stoutly along by the canal,” as the story goes, the 8-year-old son of a Dutch sluicer was returning home from delivering cakes to a blind man. Humming as he passed the dikes, he noticed that recent rains had made his father’s job ...

    April 22, 2014

  • Hate without end

    The news that a former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan is suspected of shooting and killing three people near Jewish community centers in Kansas seems at first glance like a disparaged past flaring briefly into the present. Americans like ...

    April 21, 2014

  • Reform is necessary

    Editor, The Transcript: Last year, the legislature passed laws reforming the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, which was a good start, but more is needed. Recent media reports have revealed that the ODVA employs M.D. and D.O. ...

    April 20, 2014

  • Keep your brain cells

    Editor, The Transcript: Hey kids. Four centuries ago, Shakespeare wrote about life’s seven great adventures. I forget his exact words, but they were something like this: 1. Our birth; none of us can remember it, but never the less, it is ...

    April 20, 2014

  • Don’t let moderation confuse you

    Jeb Bush’s recent compassionate comments on immigration show how far apart he is from the far right of the Republican Party....

    April 20, 2014

  • Priest’s execution should spur action

    In the hierarchy of saints, martyrs are on the highest rung of the celestial ladder, at least for me....

    April 20, 2014

Video
Facebook