Zero-Sum Politics: Why America Needs a System for More than Two Parties – Part 1
President Obama is unpopular because he failed to turn the economy around. So now he faces the very real possibility he’ll lose his re-election campaign. Instead of just trying to make him more popular, the Obama campaign is also working on a strategy to make the Americans dislike, distrust and outright fear whomever the Republican nominee will be.
This strategy is nothing new. It is, sadly, part and parcel of our political system. When you have only two viable political parties in an election, you don’t need to be popular, you simply need to be less hated than the other guy. This is the zero-sum nature of our two party system.
This is why you have Congressional Republicans talking about preventing Obama from signing into law things the Republican Party actually support! Although this extreme obstructionism earns Congressional Republicans dismal job approval ratings, politically that doesn’t matter because the obstructionism tears Obama down even further, and as he goes down, so go the election prospects of his party.
This zero-sum politics is terrible for our country as a whole. It leads to bad policy outcomes, feeds poisonous political rhetoric, discourages cooperation, and encourages resentment of our government officials.
We don’t have to have a system of government that actually encourages these destructive zero-sum strategies. We could adopt another election system, such as proportional representation, or even instant runoff voting (IRV), that allows for more than just two parties in the running without worrying about the “spoiler” effect. When there are more than two parties, simply doing whatever-it-takes-to-make-the-electorate-hate the incumbent isn’t a winning strategy.
This Wednesday, 9/14, at 7:00 pm eastern time, Firedoglake is having a members webinar with Krist Novoselic and Rob Richie from Fairvote.org to discuss the problems of the current structure of our election system and the reforms that would fix some of these problems by giving voters greater choice.