Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Saturday, May 08, 2021

This week featured some prime political irony in the UK: After televised debates and sound-bite slips brought criticism that British national elections were becoming too Americanized, the poll results delivered the most un-American outcome of all in a no-majority “hung Parliament”.

So I guess this is the right time for Stateside gloating over our much-maligned two-party system. Except that, of course, its electoral underpinnings are the same as those of Britain’s:

Under the current system, voters in 650 parliamentary districts, called constituencies, choose a favorite from a slate of candidates. The candidate with the most votes wins the seat, regardless of how small a percentage of the overall vote the winner attracts, or the size of the margin between first and second place.

The system is similar to that used in most Congressional races in the United States, where there are fewer viable parties to contend with.

The alternative is proportional representation, which is favored in most of Europe and elsewhere. It allows regional and fringe parties to get seats at the table, although their main function is to build coalitions once they get there. And really, it still doesn’t prevent two or three main national parties from attracting the most votes, and ultimately calling the shots anyway.

The reason that’s not the case in the U.S. is because the Democrats and Republicans are “big-tent” parties, each encompassing left- and right-wing elements. The bipartisan approach is so ingrained into the political system here that divergent interests recognize that the only way to effect governmental action is by going through established party channels. That’s why a Tea Party movement doesn’t simply set up shop as a third party, and instead attempts to take over the existing GOP apparatus.

The alternative is the present UK situation, with the Liberal Democrats basically owing their king-maker role to protest votes against Labour. The Lib Dems now have the unenviable, but unavoidable, task of forming a ruling majority coalition with the Conservatives — a party with which they are philosophically opposed (save on a few tactical points). As the next few months of this disjointed joint government should demonstrate, it doesn’t make a convincing case for making third-party penetration more possible.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/08/2021 04:19pm
Category: Politics
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