Even majority support is not enough to pass national laws in what has become an anti-majoritarian system.”
“We need to understand why, despite shooting after shooting, the prospects for meaningful national gun reform just seem to grow more dispiriting.”
“A shift to proportional representation in the U.S. would open up new possibilities — not just on guns, but on climate, immigration and democracy itself.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – 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. Alongside efforts to address the climate, immigration, voting rights, and nearly every other attempt at major legislation in recent years, meaningful gun safety measures are a victim of the binary “us-vs-them” division that motivates the party in the minority to not compromise with the party in power.
Fix Our House Co-Founder Lee Drutman argues in Noēma Magazine that in order to address gun violence or any other major issue, we need to address the underlying political system itself — the two-party system and the single-winner district electoral system that preserves it. As long as the U.S. sticks with this system, it can expect its government’s paralysis to only worsen.
To get serious about addressing gun violence, leaders need to get serious about fixing the electoral system. If America switched from single-winner House districts to multi-winner districts with proportional representation – like most advanced democracies use – the binary “us-vs-them” conflict that currently has us locked in a self-repeating doom loop would splinter. New parties would be able to form, and Republicans in urban areas and Democrats in rural areas would once again have a chance to win seats and build coalitions to address the most pressing problems facing Americans.
“After every mass shooting in the U.S., there’s a familiar cycle: Grief, outrage and frustration, followed by helplessness and the predictable sinking feeling that it will happen again, and soon, because our political system is incapable of doing something — anything — to stop it. . .”
“It doesn’t seem to matter that majorities of Americans support common sense gun reform, or that majorities of Americans vote for the party that promises common sense gun reform. Even majority support is not enough to pass national laws in what has become an anti-majoritarian system. . .”
“The path to sensible gun reform isn’t just to elect more Democrats, lobby Republicans harder or donate to gun reform groups. We need to understand why, despite shooting after shooting, the prospects for meaningful national gun reform just seem to grow more dispiriting. . .”
“The way out involves the political system itself — namely, our binary two-party system and the single-member district electoral system that preserves it. Change that, and new possibilities open up. Not just on guns, but on almost every other issue that is gridlocked and divided now for the same reason. Climate. Immigration. Democracy itself. . .”
“If we break the binary and open up the party system by switching to multi-member districts with seats allocated through proportional representation (like most advanced democracies in the world already have), we can scramble and realign the divides that prevent progress on so many issues. It’s a straightforward solution that doesn’t require a constitutional amendment. . .”
“[I]magine, for a second, if instead of deciding between Democrats and Republicans this November, voters were instead choosing between six parties, representing a broader array of perspectives on a broad range of issues. Likely, there would be one hard-right MAGA party, which would also be the staunch gun rights party. But such a party would top out at around 20% — not enough to control anything on its own. . .”
“Other parties on the political right would be more open to modest gun reforms, since there would now be parties on the right that compete for voters in the professional class suburbs and even cities. In a proportional, multi-party system, politics is not zero-sum. Parties can work together. In fact, they have to work together. . .”
“The fastest way to proportional representation would be for Congress to pass a law, which it could do tomorrow. Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution gives Congress wide latitude in deciding the rules for its own elections, a power Congress has used throughout American history. Indeed, the only reason we use single-member districts today is because Congress mandated it. . .”
“Starting in 1994, the balance of power in Washington was now up for grabs every election. This changed the game. With potential unified government now perpetually in sight for either party, the party out of the White House had every reason not to compromise. Make the president’s party look bad, and the rest of the ticket would falter. Then your side could get back into power, and instead of getting half a loaf, get everything you want. But help the president’s party, and give him a win, and you undermine your team’s chances of getting back into power. . .”
“Thus began a new era of hardball zero-sum politics, deeper divides between the parties, and further nationalization of politics. These processes all feed on themselves. In a “doom loop” of escalating partisan polarization, tit for tat begets tit for tat, and high stakes beget higher stakes. Polarization forces everyone to take sides and sends most of the remaining moderates running for the exits. In the widening gyre, passionate intensity triumphs. . .”
“Intriguingly, while 81% of Republican respondents said they personally supported expanding background checks, only 57% said they supported the Senate passing a bill doing so. This disconnect is puzzling — until you understand that some Republicans just didn’t want to give Democrats and Obama a “win” — even if they agreed on the policy. . .”
“Almost two-thirds of Americans now say there ought to be more than two parties. Almost half of Americans prefer to identify as an “independent,” declining to affiliate with either of our two major parties. The great majority of Americans are open to significant reforms, and confidence in government has been on the decline. Widespread distrust in institutions and generalized discontent recurs periodically in American politics, and it is a reliable precursor to major institutional reforms.”