The Case for Multiparty Democracy Podcast #28

Lee Drutman

Lee Drutman joins the Democracy Paradox to make his case for multiparty democracy in the United States. Lee is a Senior Fellow in the Political Reform Program at New America. He discusses his most recent book Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop.
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Why Multiparty Democracy

Madison’s Federalist 10 makes an unusual case. He argued the size and diversity of the United States is a critical safeguard against the dominance of any single faction. Of course, it is well-known that the Founding Fathers were wary of all factions, political parties and, most of all, the tyranny of the majority. The American constitution is even described as counter majoritarian, because multiple avenues exist for entrenched minorities to prevail in the legislative process. But Madison was different. While he is credited as the father of the constitution, he was among the most majoritarian of all the founding fathers.

Still Madison was wary of strong, overwhelming majorities. He saw regional diversity as a check against majoritarianism. The size and diversity of the new nation meant any meaningful majority would be the result of significant compromise and deliberation.

Unfortunately, the two-party system, as it exists today, has undermined the Madisonian vision in Federalist 10. The two political parties fight for overwhelming majorities, but the inability of either party to prevail causes gridlock rather than compromise. Necessary reforms are stalled or delayed as they become rallying cries in a never-ending campaign cycle. This was never Madison’s intention.

Breaking the Doom Loop

Lee Drutman offers a solution to transform American democracy. His book Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multiparty Democracy in America argues for proportional representation of the legislature and ranked-choice voting for the Presidency. But his intention is not about any one reform. Instead, his goal is to produce a multiparty democracy where no single party commands an absolute majority.

You may recognize Lee Drutman from articles he has written in The New York Times, Vox, and Five Thirty-Eight. He is also a Senior Fellow in the Political Reform Program at New America and a cohost of the podcast Politics in Question alongside Julia Azari and James Wallner.

The idea of multiparty democracy in the United States can seem radical, but like most reformers Drutman is a traditionalist at heart. He finds his inspiration in Madison’s vision of the American political system. Rather than designing something novel, Lee believes his reforms bring America closer to the original aims of the Founding Fathers. The United States has grown in its size and diversity. Nonetheless, the two political parties have reduced politics to a single dimension. Ultimately, Lee believes a more diverse party system is necessary to represent a diverse population. It’s a Madisonian case for the challenges of polarization and partisanship.

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Thoughts on Suzanne Mettler and Robert Lieberman’s Four Threats

8 thoughts on “The Case for Multiparty Democracy Podcast #28

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  1. Multi Member Districts are at best an unnecessary evil. They are elitist/counter-human scale, polarizing, anti-feminist & an apparent attempt to reproduce Euro-style party-list Social Democracy
    They are unnecessary because of the tremendous transformative power of plain Ranked Ballot. It’s like legalizing addictive drugs before you’ve waited to see the effect of legalizing pot. They’re elitist because they will make it harder for the little guy to run, polarizing cause they will strengthen the power of organized interest groups, whether economic or ethnic, anti-Feminist caused they’ll prevent Women’s Equal Representation, one of each district’s TWO reps a woman. Yet women are the only PERMANENT affirmative category. The leadership of any chamber chosen by MMD would still have to be chosen by regular RB anyway, thereby forestalling their project.
    Win-Win TOP DEAD CENTER Ranked Ballot, voters ranking candidates in order of preference to find the most perfect compromise, would create such prosperity as would amount to virtual GLOBAL Reparations, so increase the relative cost of all mechanisms of oppression as to make them prohibitive,and mean noone would ever have to keep a job they didn’t like or approve of, ending thereby the need for lots of the welfare state AND armed forces, freeing lots for actual productive labor. Perhaps government will become so small noone will care so much how it’s chosen.
    Easiest to explain “Additive” RB is counting the first choices and then if noone has 50%, adding in the next, and so on, till someone, most exactly in the middle, finally does. RB is the Perfect Marriage of Freedom with an Eye for Justice and Justice with an Eye for Freedom.
    Let all for RB run on the single issue, promising an RB/”Organized Communications” based Citizens Advisory Board, write it in, or wear creamy orange. OC is small randomly assigned discussion groups electing reps to higher and higher random levels, till one small group, most exactly in the middle, remains.

    1. Thanks for writing and leaving a comment that took quite a bit of thought. I think ranked choice voting is a pretty sensible reform, but I’m not expecting the benefits and advantages you mentioned. I’m surprised you argue PR is anti-feminist. The data I have seen shows single member district systems elect fewer women. Probably more relevant is parliamentary systems have more female leaders than presidential systems. The UK elects its leaders through single member districts but has had at least two female Prime Ministers (Theresa May and Margaret Thatcher), while the US has not elected any female presidents. Something to think about.

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