Can we keep our republic?
Countries lose their constitutional republics to illiberal regimes when politicians undermine their court systems and their elections. Politicians feel those sorts of tactics are justified in the face of extreme polarization among their voters. Unfortunately, each new bending of the rules invites retaliation from the other side with still more rule-bending – until the whole system snaps.
Admittedly, it is hard work to get distrustful people to let go of their fears of the other side and open their minds to new ideas. It is hard work to put together ideas and policies that will convince someone to abandon their side and vote for yours. It is much easier for our leaders (and much of our media) to focus on their bases and keep adding fuel to the fires of polarization. “Easy” is not, however, another word for “right.”
Getting back to the idea that all Americans are worthy of respect is a big part of the solution. We can make that choice.
There may be some institutional solutions in need of attention as well. Our country has a degree of “winner-takes-all” built into many of its political institutions. One example can be found in Congress. Under current rules, the majority party leaders in the House and the Senate control most of the legislative agenda. This same rule holds in the state legislatures as well. When parties are polarized, the only way to fight majority control is to obstruct by any means possible, including through the filibuster in the Senate. Would things be less of a battle if the minority party of the year could control a proportionate share of the legislative agenda?
Another example of “winner-takes-all” can be found in our election procedures. Under current laws, in any election district, the candidate with the most votes is the winner. There is no representation for people who prefer other candidates from other parties. Yet, other countries have proportional voting systems in which almost everyone has some representation in their legislatures. To be sure, there are trade-offs and not all options fit within our system and laws. The only point here is that there are options that might help take the pressure off.
We have choices. We can support politicians willing to do the hard work to keep our republic. Or not.
Send us your thoughts. What would you change and why? Write to email@example.com.
Take a moment to check out the CFFAD website too – lots of learning opportunities await.