Lee Drutman and Rick Pildes debate the causes of America's deep polarization and potential solutions to help pull us out of it.
"If we want to get nonvoters engaged, we need to find a way to help them feel connected to politics."
"The two-party system is breaking our democracy, and driving us all crazy."
"It is being called the radical idea to fix democracy in America, but can it work? The group pushing for a complete redesign of congress explains why this is important and how your vote counts."
Proportional representation could expand the two-party system in the U.S. and break us out of the binary us-vs-them conflict in our politics today.
According to a growing number of political-reform advocates, winner-take-all elections have outlasted their effectiveness and could prove ruinous for American democracy if left in place.
Like it or not, there is simply no way around organized parties in modern mass democracy. Something needs to organize power and arrange policy choices. And political parties are the most effective, transparent, inclusive vehicles for doing this.
Our system of single-winner elections puts tremendous pressure on politicians and voters to consolidate around two options. If we want more parties, we need better, fairer voting rules—not more protest candidates.
Political parties are the central institutions of modern representative democracy. They must also be at the center of efforts to reform American democracy.
America’s winner-take-all electoral system casts third-party candidates as spoilers—but what would it take to open the door to not just a third party, but a fourth or more?
“Political parties are the central institutions of modern representative democracy,” he said. “Without political parties connecting people to government, we have demagoguery, chaos.”
"I don't think our generation will tolerate the inability to bring about change."
Lee and Stephan Kyburz discuss proportional representation and Fix Our House's vision for a path to make it possible in the U.S.
A report from Fix Our House found that 90% of House races in last year's election were decided by more than 5 percentage points, meaning only 10% of races were competitive.
“At the heart of the dysfunction in Congress is America’s redistricting process and the fundamentally broken way we elect representatives,” states the report from Fix Our House, an organization that promotes proportional representation.
First in The Early: Just 10 percent of House races were competitive in last year’s midterms, according to a new report from the advocacy group Fix Our House.
The group proposed a new way of electing representatives, like using proportional representation that would let a political party’s share of votes in an election determine how many seats it holds in the legislature.
Democratic and Republican districts differ in important ways on demographic variables and policy views. Our winner-take-all system reduces these differences to a binary, hiding the diversity of districts and possible areas of overlap.
Dustin talks about his experience with reform movements at his alma mater and how it led him to take an interest in democracy reform.
Proportional representation is the key reform to better represent all Americans and break the us-vs-them divide in Washington.
"Our single-district system invites the judicialization of elections. Judges, not voters, then decide who wins... The solution is as simple yet transformative: A mode of proportional representation, with multimember districts, would solve the problem in one blow."
This is how democracies die: in extreme polarization. Winning and losing becomes more important than preserving democracy, and eventually one side turns to violence to “save the country.”
"We are going through is probably the fourth great period of transformation in American politics. . . as the wreckage continues, we will have the chance to build something new."
"What we really need is a more proportional system that allows for much broader diversity of representation across a much fuller political spectrum."
"The American elections are above all – as they have been for at least ten years – a tug of war for that handful of votes. Almost all the voters of the next election have already made their choice years ago: they have chosen a party."
"We tend to view our system as fixed, as unchangeable... but it's not. We've changed it throughout our history. We're not sleepwalkers fated to walk into a democratic collapse. We can choose."
Fix Our House Co-Founders Lee Drutman and Charlotte Hill write in The New York Times that swing voters who pay little attention to politics have outsized power in our elections thanks to our broken winner-take-all system.
In a multiparty democracy, more cooperation takes place because no party owns a dominating majority, and more people feel represented by their government.
If America's House districts had multiple representatives each, it would allow more Americans to be represented, and allow more political parties to become viable.
"If there’s one thing we know about America’s creaking democracy, it’s this: Whenever it seems fundamentally broken, people get together to try to fix it. That’s happening now."
Many of the problems attributed to gerrymandering are actually problems with districting, and more specifically with the use of the single-member district.
Americans are increasingly saying that they don’t like our two-party system, and they want more options.
"We should be able to have a democracy where people can vote their conscience... and not have to worry that they're throwing their vote away, or even worse, helping the other side."
Why would Orbán, the self-proclaimed champion of illiberal democracy, find inspiration in the U.S. electoral system? Simply put, our electoral system uniquely advantages authoritarians such as Orbán and rewards anti-democratic extremism.
“Now, we are going through this real moment in this hinge point in our politics in which the old order is clearly collapsing,” Drutman said. “It’s a moment of transformation. And we’ve got to figure out how to build something new that takes the best principles of American democracy and updates them for our modern era.”
Listen to Eli Zupnick on the America Trends podcast: "Everyone should be represented in Congress, even if they live in a place where the majority of their neighbors don't agree with them."
Instead of every political conflict becoming existential because it is all part of one grand zero-sum partisan death match, we need more small conflicts, each with different coalitions.
“This is a moment that is ripe for political reform,” Lee Drutman tells the Sun. “I think everybody believes the current system is broken.”
The decline of competitive districts is a problem that reflects deeper causes of partisan polarization and leaves the overwhelming majority of Americans in places where their votes don’t matter.
We need to understand why, despite shooting after shooting, the prospects for meaningful national gun reform just seem to grow more dispiriting.
"Multiparty democracies are more stable. They are more responsive. They represent diverse interests better. Economic inequality is lower. Parties are stronger. Voter turnout is higher. Compromise is more valued. Citizens who live in them are happier, and more satisfied with the state of democracy."
"Anybody who studies comparative electoral systems thinks that our system is really dumb."
"The more people see how gridlocked and dysfunctional and unrepresentative our democracy is, the more their appetite grows for reforms like this."
Lee Drutman weighs in on breaking news that Democrats are getting behind independent Evan McMullin in Utah in hopes of ousting GOP Senator Mike Lee.
"To disrupt the status quo requires both a bold optimism about longer-term possibilities and a commensurate willingness to gamble on the shorter term."
"We need real structural change to our system, because our system disincentivizes cooperation, promotes dysfunction, and it's just going to keep getting worse."
"Fix Our House believes proportional representation is the key to ending gerrymandering, breaking up congressional deadlock and reducing partisan divisions."
In this current crisis of democracy, it is very easy to focus only on the immediate threats. But we cannot just play defense.
Moderation and realignment are unlikely to respond to the challenges facing U.S. democracy. Transformation is necessary.
“There are major structural problems with a two-party system where one party simply rejects democracy. And the only way it’s going to change is if we make the structural changes to pull us back from the brink.”
The Talk Policy To Me podcast interviews Fix Our House Co-founder Charlotte Hill about the need for proportional representation in America.
If the future of American democracy feels uncertain, that’s because it is. So, what will the rest of the decade look like?
Bad as gerrymandering may be, the core problem is the single-member district. And that’s something we can change.
Zack Beauchamp and Lee Drutman discuss structural reforms to break American politics out of its doom loop of dysfunction.
Just what exactly are the roots of our current democratic decay, and what can we to do fix it?
The US's outmoded political structure, dominated by the two major parties, keeps diverse representation and pluralism just beyond reach.
A two-party system that by definition splits a country in half will reinforce and deepen identity polarization, pushing national politics even further into trench warfare.
Lee traces the decline of bipartisanship and explains why we need proportional representation
There is no reasonable or timely way to fix this broken system. But there is an alternative: more parties.
Even independent redistricting commissions are limited by the fact that Democrats cluster in cities while Republicans are widely dispersed. But there’s a solution.
Other democracies are polarized, but the U.S. is unique.
We need to reform the U.S. voting system to allow for new parties to emerge outside the existing two-party system.
A record number of Americans say Democrats and Republicans are doing such a poor job that a third party is needed, polling shows
A practical plan for making Congress more interesting, more effective, and more representative.
When citizens vote for parties rather than individuals, countries gain better health systems
Here’s a long-shot idea to fix our system and make our democracy more democratic.
John Adams worried that “a division of the republic into two great parties … is to be dreaded as the great political evil.” And that’s exactly what has come to pass.
The only way to prevent America’s two-party system from succumbing to extremism is to scrap it altogether.
A growing number of political-reform advocates. . . blame the current winner-take-all system for driving U.S. politics toward dangerous levels of polarization.
Single-member congressional districts make performative conflict easy and responsible compromise difficult, motivating each party to treat the debt limit breach as a weapon to use against the other, not as a crisis to be avoided.
With proportional representation, there would no longer be a need for so much litigation over gerrymandering, and there would be fewer opportunities for hard-fought election contests to turn into hard-fought legal contests.
Fix Our House released a new report on the 2022 redistricting cycle that was covered in the Washington Post Early 202 newsletter and The Hill.
To understand the new Congress and the current dysfunction on Capitol Hill, we need to look beyond the individual personalities in play and the 2022 midterms that elected them and consider the fundamentally broken way we conduct elections.
America’s binary two-party system turns what might otherwise be basic steps of governing into us-vs-them political warfare.
In order to protect our country from the still ever-present threat of political violence, we need to go further and adopt reforms that address the underlying unhealth in our political system.
The Supreme Court should not throw out 200 years of precedent based on a bogus theory that could devastate representation in the United States. But whatever the Court decides, Congress could avoid this problem entirely by empowering states to adopt proportional representation.
“Swing voters have gained a reputation for being the one remaining moderating force in our politics. But more often they are a mercurial mix of unorthodoxy and political uninterest — and they hold disproportionate power to decide the fate of the country.”
Most democracies “use some form of proportional representation to allow multiple points of view to be represented in a legislature according to their strength in the public.”
"If you tried to invent a fictional scandal to make the case for abolishing single-member districts, you would be hard pressed to outdo the real scandal that is now consuming Los Angeles and its political elite."
In case you missed it, yesterday The New York Times reported on an open letter from more than 200 leading democracy experts calling on Congress to reject its winner-take-all system of elections and adopt multi-member districts with proportional representation.
Today, more than 200 political scientists, legal scholars, and historians from academic institutions across the United States released an open letter calling on Congress to reject the United States’ winner-take-all system of elections and adopt proportional representation.
The House is supposed to be the voice of the people, but single-member districts with winner-take-all election rules allow a state’s representatives to be chosen by little more than half the voters, leaving the other half completely voiceless.
Donald Trump won 32% of the state in 2020 and 33% in 2016. And Massachusetts typically has a Republican governor, electing only one Democrat to the state’s highest office since 1992. In spite of that, Massachusetts Republicans will likely once again have no representatives of choice elected to Congress this fall.
America has more than just two kinds of people, and that diversity is part of our nation’s soul. We deserve an electoral system that respects that.
If the U.S. adopted proportional representation with multi-member districts, Florida and New York would send delegations to Washington that actually represent their communities.
Single-member congressional districts with winner-take-all elections ensure that most seats are determined by primaries and only the largest plurality wins, leaving giant portions of the country – including conservatives who don’t support Trump – voiceless in Congress.
The core problem is simple: single-member districts, by their very nature, leave too many voters unrepresented. Even when they aren’t intentionally gerrymandered, they prevent minority voters from having their votes turn into representation.
"As a scholar of history, I see this decade as a potential moment of transformation. The status quo is broken. There are those who want to burn it all to the ground. But I, at least, want to restore and renew the promise of liberal, republican democracy in America."
"In order to truly address the crisis of gun violence in America, we need to reform the electoral system that makes major legislation nearly impossible."
The Portland Charter Commission voted to give the people of Portland a chance to adopt proportional representation for the city government this November.
Report in Roll Call on the recent launch of Fix Our House, a new campaign for proportional representation in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the growing movement for proportional representation.
With Voting Rights Act protections stripped away and the number of majority-minority districts not increasing in proportion with minority-driven population growth, people of color in the United States are facing yet more barriers to fair representation in congress.
Fix Our House launched yesterday to promote proportional representation as an urgently-needed reform for the U.S. House of Representatives.
Brinkmanship and crises aren’t random accidents in our democracy – they are inevitable outcomes of an electoral system that incentivizes and rewards them.Read the Report
Fix Our House's analysis of the 2022 redistricting cycle and how proportional representation would make for fairer districts and more functional politics.Read the Report
Learn more about the benefits of multi-winner districts and proportional representation with this single-page summary.View