How to Break the Two-Party System… with One Law

Washington warned in his Farewell Address that, among many other things that could destroy America, bipartisan politics was among the foremost. He foresaw that the two-party system would create career politicians who cared more about their party’s goals than their duty to uphold their oaths of office, and he believed such a system would shift the balance of power away from the people to the self-interested deal-brokers of party committees. Well, he was right.

What’s the big problem with the two-party system? Well, there’s an old saying that to escape a bear, you don’t need to run faster than the bear… you just have to run faster than whoever’s with you. And politicians know this better than most. You don’t have to uphold the Constitution to win an election, and you don’t have to adequately represent your constituency either. You just have to be more Constitutional and more conscientious than the guy you’re running against. And right about now, that’s a pretty low bar. Pretty much everyone in the conservative camp is crying out “Anyone But Obama,” and that means the RNC really doesn’t have to offer a presidential candidate of any significant distinction to escape the bear.

So how do we fix it? Most people believe voting third party is throwing away your vote, and they’re pretty much right. Aside from the fact that you might be able to rest easy at night knowing you “voted on principle,” a third-party candidate probably won’t ever win in the current political environment. Whether it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy or a case of media manipulation is irrelevant. I think the real answer is deceptively simple… if it could be implemented, which would be quite a legislative chore. It would involve changing the law on how we vote for candidates, but it would not fundamentally alter the voting process for those that are happy with the illusion of choice provided by the existing system. It’s a nascent idea at this point, and so I’m happy to entertain any possible complications or glitches the reader might foresee.

Here’s how it would work:

  1. Rather than voting for only one candidate, every voter would have to vote “yes” or “no” on every available candidate on the ballot, with the option of writing in a yes for a candidate that doesn’t show up on the ballot. If a voter thought every candidate met his criteria for the office, he could vote “yes” on all of them. If he thought none of them were sufficient to the task, he could vote “no” on all of them. Every “no” would cancel out a “yes,” and the candidate with the most net affirmations in the end would win.
  2. If any candidate received a net vote of “no” (the negatives outnumbered the affirmatives), he would be disqualified from the race.
  3. If no available candidate  achieved a net positive affirmation from the voters, all the candidates would be scrapped for that election cycle and the available parties would have to provide new candidates (who would already have been selected as alternates) until at least one of them achieved a net positive.
  4. If less than thirty percent of voters voted yes or no on a particular candidate, that candidate would also be disqualified (so no, you couldn’t vote a person in on one yes vote if all the other candidates ended up getting disqualified in a war of attrition).

It would be difficult to  implement this nationally, but it is not a terribly complicated system. If you wanted to vote for your two-party candidate, you could. This wouldn’t change anything for you. The beauty of the system, though, is that it would change things for voters that are not satisfied with either of the candidates the two parties provide. This allows the effectively disenfranchised to vote on an office even if no one they like is running for it. You could presumably vote “no” on every candidate. You could be entirely and completely fed up with the system, and yet still have a voice. It would also mean that voters would not need to vote for one candidate as a way of voting against a less desirable candidate. We could keep voting no until we got people that accurately and actually represented us. In other words, we could eat all the slackers, not just the slowest one.

I believe that, as trivial as this voting law may seem, it would actually break the two-party system. We might even be able to get some politician to sponsor it, if only we could convince him it was harmless.