American democracy needs reforms that address the underlying us-vs-them conflict in our two-party system.
The binary choice that winner-take-all elections force onto voters is tearing American democracy apart. The solution: break the two-party doom loop with proportional representation.
WASHINGTON, DC – Fix Our House released the following statement in response to yesterday’s criminal referral from the Select Committee on the January 6 Attack:
The January 6 Committee’s hearings and final report played a crucial role in addressing the deadly insurrection that struck at the heart of American democracy. Yet 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 January 6 Committee took an important step forward in the work to protect our democracy, but that work is far from complete,” said Fix Our House spokesperson Dustin Wahl. “The way we currently elect Congress is pulling America apart at the seams. Winner-take-all districts make it impossible for viable third parties to form, fueling the zero-sum, two-party conflict that divides Americans and seems to justify more and more extreme actions in order to beat the ‘other’ side. If we want to prevent January 6-like events in the future, the best step we can take is to move towards proportional representation, breaking us out of this binary conflict and beginning to depolarize our politics.”
In a proportional system – where multiple candidates per district are elected in proportion to their party’s amount of support – parties and candidates would no longer be motivated to focus their entire campaigns on the negatives of the other side. Because the toxic “lesser of two evils” logic would no longer make sense, candidates would be motivated to appeal to every voter and focus on what they support rather than only on what they are against.
Proportional representation is a relatively simple solution compared to many other reforms Congress could pursue. Simply repealing a 1967 law mandating single-member districts would allow states to begin adopting healthier proportional systems themselves, breaking the binary conflict in our politics, solving the problem of gerrymandering, and ensuring that everyone – conservatives in liberal areas, liberals in conservative areas, and everyone in between – would have a voice.
The violent insurrection on January 6 was not only a reaction to one man; it was a logical apex of America’s constantly-escalating us-vs-them politics. Of course, those guilty of violence and of fomenting violence should be brought to justice. But as a next step, we need to get serious about reforming the system that incentivizes that kind of conflict in the first place.