It's hard to be United States as a nation of winners and losers
Trounced. Defeated. Beat back. Captured control. A partisan air war. Winners and losers. That is a quick summary of the election headlines. Abuse, war and winners and losers. Punishment and reward. Divide and conquer. We are divided as a nation of winners and losers.
In the news, every election headline and every story has language selectively engineered to evoke an emotional response. Democrats vs Republicans. Liberals vs Conservatives. There is no middle ground. There is no common ground. There is only us vs them. All of that language sows competition, not cooperation.
Cooperation is the foundation skill of humanity. Everything we do, as humans, requires cooperation for our survival. Yes, there are some who say that humans survived by competition for limited resources. Well, if that's true, how is it that we have 7 billion people on the planet? Did we kill each other off for a sandwich?
You are reading this. You are hearing a voice in your head, speaking it. You speak and read English to understand these words. Language is a skill invented and adopted by humanity for one reason, and one reason only: more efficient cooperation. There is no better way to convey a thought or an idea than through language. This is true regardless of the medium used to exchange the idea. A common protocol is required to communicate ideas. We use language for cooperation.
So as I look at the results of the election, how they are described, how the campaigns are run, and how people respond to the results, I see winners and losers. Winners and losers cannot unite. As long as one side prevails to dominate the other side, there can be no common ground, no cooperation.
Just look at how our two major parties behave in Congress. Especially the Republicans. Refusing to hold hearings for a Supreme Court justice. Refusing to confirm judges for years. Shutting down the government. Denying funding for essential services. Giving tax cuts to the wealthy while cutting "entitlements" that people paid for already. Winners and losers.
There is a way to end the winners and losers conflict in the United States. It has already been proposed in the House, and it is called HR 3057, The Fair Representation Act. This one bill in Congress is loaded with the tools we need to distribute power more fairly as a nation, and as a union of states.
The Fair Representation Act is an acknowledgement by Don Beyer a Democrat from Virginia and at least five cosponsors of the legislation that what we are doing isn't working. It is a acknowledgment that winner takes all, first past the post elections are not working for us. It is a bill that would fundamentally change how we elect our representatives to the United States House of Representatives.
The Fair Representation Act features:
- Ranked choice voting with instant runoff
- Proportional representation with multi-member districts
- A ban on gerrymandering
Ranked choice voting is already in use in Maine. Proportional representation is already in use in Europe. Proportional representation requires much larger districts, which will blunt if not eliminate efforts by elected representatives to choose their own voters.
Here is a great article in The Atlantic that explains the bill, and the implications if the Fair Representation Act were to become law. But there is something more fundamental that is at stake: the end of the winners and losers divide.
With proportional representation, we can kiss the two party duopoly goodbye. No longer will libertarians, greens or other parties be forced to sit out the debates that are held in Congress. With multi-member districts, districts large enough to prevent gerrymandering, more political viewpoints will be heard. And that means that in a place like Utah, where Republicans have a near monopoly on power, they would have to answer to other parties in the debate.
With ranked choice voting, there are no wasted votes. People can vote based on desire. According to FairVote.org:
With ranked choice voting, voters can rank as many candidates as they want in order of choice. Candidates do best when they attract a strong core of first-choice support while also reaching out for second and even third choices. When used as an "instant runoff" to elect a single candidate like a mayor or a governor, RCV helps elect a candidate that better reflects the support of a majority of voters. When used as a form of fair representation voting to elect more than one candidate like a city council, state legislature or even Congress, RCV helps to more fairly represent the full spectrum of voters.
With ranked choice voting, candidates and sitting office holders are constantly reminded that they do not just represent the people who voted for them. They represent everyone in their district, which means they must listen to those other voters that didn't choose them as the first choice.
So with the Fair Representation Act, politicians can't choose their own voters and they have to listen to other voters who might not otherwise vote for them, and they have to fairly compete with third parties. That might require greater cooperation and there would be serious electoral consequences if they did not cooperate. No longer would there be safe districts.
By distributing power with the Fair Representation Act, big money in politics has to please more people from different parties and philosophies. War would be much harder to justify. The scope of the debates we now have would be much wider. This bill lowers the barrier to entry in Congress.
Democrats are the sole sponsors of this bill, and with their gains in the House last night, they are now in a much better position to promote the Fair Representation Act through committees in Congress and get it to the floor for a vote. This, in my opinion, should be the first thing they do.
The Fair Representation Act is a model for the rest of the nation to follow. With a lower barrier to entry into politics, people would feel empowered to participate in elections. With more parties in the mix and a better chance for them to win a seat, there would be far greater scrutiny of the election process, from ballot box to the servers that tabulate the votes, to the placement of polling places. This bill is a no-brainer.
I believe that Democrats must do this first, to put the Republicans on notice. Democrats must move this bill to force Republicans and Donald Trump, to justify why we should not change an election system that has failed us time and time again. Democrats and Republicans alike must justify why we should keep a system with a 97% re-election rate and a 21% approval rating for Congress. Let both major parties justify why we should keep a system where the members of Congress are not dependent upon the people alone.