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NC State University Technician

A big win for someone is a big loss for America

By Isaac Tripp

November 4, 2004


It is election night, and the results are still far from clear as the votes continue to be tallied and displayed across the bottom of the screen on every major news network. However, one thing has been clear since the start of the campaign season: No matter who wins this election, America loses.


It has become increasingly obvious that our political system contains serious flaws. One of the most pressing (and least talked about) issues in politics is the Republican and Democratic stranglehold over American politics.


It is inconceivable to think that every issue can be divided into two parties that accurately represent the ideologies of all Americans. Few other democracies are locked in a two-party system like ours, and this needs to be ended with the inclusion of other parties in the political system.


The Framers of the Constitution did not design the government in the way that it now exists as a two-party system. They were attempting to create the first democracy of its kind and could not account for all future problems.


George Washington, in his farewell address, spoke of the "danger of Parties in the State." He warned that political factions could result in the downfall of American democracy. His successors ignored his advice by immediately creating the first political parties and starting the process that has led to the disaster that is modern politics. Nearly every other modern democracy has learned from our mistake and altered the system.


The danger Washington mentioned is readily apparent with the recent polarization of American society that has divided the population along party lines. People vote more for their party than for their beliefs about issues, and many beliefs are not represented by either party.


Money and special interests, rather than the benefit of society, play an all-too-important role in politics, and party loyalty is now more of a guideline for deciding legislation than progress. The result is that cooperation in Congress is about as common as a senator on Medicare, and bills are created that lose all effectiveness in trying to please both sides.


Both parties focus on negative campaigns, scare tactics and empty rhetoric, instead of facts and stances on real issues. Instead of choosing between the lesser of two evils, we should be able to select the best candidate for the job. Unfortunately, this won't happen until there are new ideas and competing parties participating in the election.


"But wait," you might be saying, "What about that guy Nader I heard about? Or the guy with big ears (Ross Perot) that ran in 1992 and 1996?" Well, it is true that third parties like the Greens, Progressives and Libertarians exist and have substantial followings.


However, our electoral system is set up in a way that third parties are marginalized. Democrats and Republicans have routinely excluded third parties from the presidential debates, thereby eliminating the threat of competition.


Furthermore, a vote for a third-party candidate is either a wasted vote or a vote that essentially helps the other side. This should be obvious to anyone who can remember the 2000 election where Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the presidency.


When there are more than two parties competing in an election, it is likely that one party will win with less than a majority. This happened in Vermont in 2002, when a Republican governor was elected with 45 percent of the vote over the Progressive and Democratic candidates. Despite the fact that the majority of citizens voted for a liberal candidate, a Conservative was elected. Clearly, the will of the majority of the people was not served by the election.


This problem can be solved with something called Instant Runoff Voting, a system which was implemented in Australia to solve precisely this issue. With IRV, you would list your preference for candidates in order (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc), and if there's no majority winner, the "instant runoff" would be recalculated and the votes for candidates who lost would revert to their second choice.


The result is that a vote for a third party candidate would not actually aid someone from the opposing political spectrum, like the Nader situation in 2000. If IRV were implemented in 2000, Nader's votes would have reverted to Gore (assuming he was the 2nd choice candidate), and Gore would have won the presidency.


Another change that needs to be made in the electoral process is the abolition of the Electoral College. This will serve the dual purpose of aiding third parties and abolishing an antiquated system that has little relevance today.


The Electoral College was originally instituted because the Framers of the Constitution feared the judgment of the people in an election, so Electors were chosen to select the president. Today the College serves little purpose.


According to Charles Frazier, political science professor at Meredith College, the Electoral College causes small states to be over-represented, "distorts the results, discourages third parties and pushes candidates to focus in swing states." The deleterious effect on third parties is obvious if one looks at the fact that Ross Perot garnered 19 percent of the popular vote in 1992, but failed to win a single electoral vote.


Life is not so simple as a D or an R, and politics shouldn't be either. We should not be forced to choose between the lesser of two evils simply because there are no other candidates. What is needed is the inclusion of more parties in the political process.

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