America’s binary two-party system turns what might otherwise be basic steps of governing into us-vs-them political warfare.
With proportional representation, the ever-escalating us-vs-them conflict can begin to fade away, replaced by shifting coalitions and cross-partisan cooperation – exactly what the framers of our Constitution intended.
WASHINGTON, DC – Fix Our House released the following statement in response to the announcement of President Biden’s 2023 Budget Proposal:
Today’s release of President Biden’s budget offers a prime example of how America’s binary two-party system turns what might otherwise be basic steps of governing into us-vs-them political warfare. As Politico Playbook explained this morning: “[The budget proposal] is a messaging exercise. . . the fight is the point.”
“Thanks to America’s winner-take-all electoral system that motivates each party to make legislating as hard as possible for the other, even the most straightforward tasks of governing turn into binary political conflict,” said Fix Our House co-founder Lee Drutman. “In a healthier democratic system, a budget proposal could primarily be a budget proposal and a starting place for negotiations. Instead, today’s proposal is a messaging exercise that is sure to be reflexively attacked by the other party.”
The stakes around this summer’s budget and deficit debate couldn’t be much higher. Experts are clear that failure to raise the debt ceiling would result in an economic catastrophe. And yet here we are again, playing chicken with the debt ceiling just like in 2011, 2013, and again recently.
The fact is that America’s two-party system incentivizes the us-vs-them conflict at the heart of the debt ceiling issue and disincentivizes the cooperation it would take to solve it. Neither party wants to be caught working with the enemy, and so the game of chicken escalates until one side backs down – or makes a tragic mistake.
If Congress were to adopt a system of proportional representation with larger, multi-member districts – as permitted by Article I, Section IV of the Constitution – the ever-escalating us-vs-them conflict will begin to fade, replaced by multiple parties with shifting coalitions and cross-partisan cooperation. In proportional systems, conflict is diffused across multiple dimensions and there are multiple ways to build coalitions and accomplish important tasks – like finding compromise on a budget, raising the debt ceiling, and preventing global financial collapse.