The two-party winner-take-all nature of the american political system makes the stakes unnecessarily high.
When a loss means you’re party is shut out of executive power entirely for four years, and it doesn’t matter whether you lose by only one vote, or get no votes at all, the stakes are high. The prospect of no power, no influence, no seat at the table, no agenda advanced, humiliation and ostracism amps up the pressure to win at all costs.
This election demonstrated this so clearly.
The republican party was destroyed.
A week ago, the Republican party as we know it was destroyed. There were to be massive recriminations, soul searching, blame and finger pointing. They were headed for final defeat once and for all.
No wait, the democratic party was destroyed.
This week, the Democratic party was decimated. Its now lost, leaderless, with less power than they’ve ever had. There needs to be recriminations, soul searching, blame and finger pointing. They have been devastatingly and overwhelmingly defeated. They must figure out what went wrong.
Wait, wait, pollsters, pundits and media credibility is also destroyed.
Not only did the Democratic party suffer a massive loss, but the pollsters and pundits were massively wrong too. They too need to do some soul searching and self-reflecting.
None of that is true, except that it is
When I looked at the nearly completed election results it seems to tell a much different story. Polls predicted a close Clinton victory, in both the popular vote and the electoral college. And the result was an razor thin Clinton victory in the popular vote and significant electoral loss. But if you look at the electoral loss just a bit more closely, it suggests that a 100,000 or so votes would have swung the electoral college. So in reality she won a razor thin popular vote, and lost a razor thin electoral vote. That’s essentially true of the senate majority as well. The same amount of votes allocated just slightly differently and the democrats would have won both, but instead lost both. Its conceivable that it could have come down to one ballot in one swing state that could have decided both the presidency and the senate majority.
By the way aren’t all of those outcomes within the margin of error of every polling methodology.
Nevertheless, its winner take all, a one vote loss is just as bad as a blowout. Instead of a Republican ‘destruction’ we saw instead a Democratic ‘destruction’. We also had a polling error, so now everything we know about polling and science is wrong.
Every vote does matter, but not in a healthy way
Because those are the stakes, we get the need for massive voter turnout organizations, voter suppression tactics, roll purging, voter id laws, gerrymandering, hanging chads, legal challenges, October surprises, spin rooms, false-equivalence, media bias, vitriol, unsubstantiated accusations, gridlock, filibustering, putting party before conscience or country, outright lying, and a whole host of unhealthy tactics in the name of accumulating those oh so important votes.
Disenfranchisement ping pong
I’m not familiar enough with other democratic systems, parliamentary or otherwise, to know what works best. But I wonder, especially with the presidential election, if the losers got some kind of proportional influence then the stakes wouldn’t be quite so high. Maybe losers could earn cabinet appointments with electoral points. That might even legitimize third party candidacies. Admittedly, the idea is of the top of my head and may be impractical, and could have the adverse affect of leading to an escalation of parties trying to utterly annihilate each other. But the point is that we should probably diminish the spoils of victory and the severity of losing, when that’s not really reflective of the will of the people. Disenfranchising and stressing 50% of the population every 4-8 years seems unproductive, unless you’re working in an industry that benefits from it.