The Case for Multiparty Democracy Podcast #28

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.

Lee Drutman

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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.

Related Content

William G. Howell and Terry M. Moe on the Presidency

Donald F. Kettl on Federalism

Thoughts on Suzanne Mettler and Robert Lieberman’s Four Threats

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