This post was to originally describe my ambivalent feelings towards our two current presidential candidates. But fuck that. Let’s instead explore a much more interesting subject: proportional representation.
For those who are unfamiliar and/or ignorant, proportional representation is the dominant democratic method across much of europe and, indeed, in those countries which Europe so kindly subjugated for many centuries. In the US, people vote for a candidate of their choice, and the one who gets the most votes (and has the nastiest TV ads) wins. This is the ‘first past the post’ system, and means voting for your local Libertarian candidate is irredeemably stupid. Under proportional representation you instead vote for an entire party, such as the Czech Erotic Initiative, and the split of parliamentary seats represents the proportion of strippers and porn fiends in the electorate.
One fun game is to try and figure out how our national shrine to the corrupt, Congress, would look under such a system. First of all, the US would simply not exist. The US senate, whereby each state receives its annual allocation of two seats, ensures that states like Vermont and New Hampshire, which are both insufferably small and useless, remain in the union with junkyards like Alabama. Democrats in Maine have very little in common with Democrats in Georgia, and in other countries would most likely be engaging in some healthy civil-war activities. But the framers of the constitution were nothing if extremely pragmatic, and created our constitution in a spirit of rationality that has not been seen since.
But say America still existed, and we had proportional representation. What would our congress look like? For a European equivalent, I would point more to Italy than the UK. The Britons have a mixed FPTP and Proportional system, ensuring that the Liberal Democrats are consistently screwed out of parliamentary seats in which they could scream profanity in a Cockney accent, which is the normal pastime of most British politicians. Instead we would look like Italy, where Communists, Porn stars, and Phalangists ensure that no govenment can be formed for more than 15 minutes without massive bribes and large quantities of strippers. Hence, a probable american Parliament:
In the Center, occasionally joining coalition governments
The Federalists – who believe a healthy Union involves a good many New York intellectuals telling the rubes in Missouri that Gay Marriage is a fundamental right. And that country music sucks.
The American League, which leaves the economics and nanny-stating to the other parties, and follows Teddy’s example of whacking recalcitrant allies with a very large stick. Often. Where it hurts. And having gigantic airplanes circling the globe at all times to drop the Constitution on ignorant African tribesmen.
On the Right: the Rally for the Republic
The Christian party, which abstains from voting in parliament, due to their belief that God is the Only Law. Also, they are illiterate.
The Confederate party. Akin to today’s Southern Republicans, they are the ones who increase government spending and then tell me that I can’t buy beer before noon on Sunday. I hate them so much.
The Libertarians – A little kooky, but the only group out of the bunch that won’t tell you what to do with your paycheck. But will usually offer you a small amount of pot on demand.
The Business Alliance – The capital gains tax must be cut. That’s it.
On the Left: The Democratic Forum
The Jesse Jackson Rainbow Coalition Movement for the Advancement of African Americans (formerly Negros) and other non-Caucasians – similar to the Hungarian party in Slovakia, or any minority party that usually receives 90% of the vote of their ethnic group. Always joins the coalition government, in order to ensure a steady flow of government jobs for their followers.
The Workers Party (Marxist) – Primarily White and stretching from Appalachia through Midwest, this party ensures that your Ford Taurus is both ugly and non-functional.
Le Partia Trabajo (Maoist) – Immigrant farm workers, unite!
The Party of Mothers – Will constantly nanny you and badger you until you finally leave the govenment-subsidized maternal home. Ensure that Bananas have a consistent curvature and are non-lethal.
This is, as can be seen above, non-serious and potentially pretentious. But it came to me today, as I contemplated how split both the Democratic and Republic parties are, that America really couldn’t function with a proportional system. We’ve managed to take some of the most disparate groups of people from around the world, both the filthy rich and desperately poor, and integrate them into a system that dictates power turn over every decade or so. Neither ‘coalition’ party particularly makes sense – why should people who believe abortion is evil be thrown together with those who think taxes should be cut? Why do black people vote for the same party as empty-headed socialites in Manhattan? And yet America still exists, churning out reality shows with gusto.
Proportional representation, and unicameral parliaments, make much more sense at a state level. Most states are single-party entities anyway, and the ideological battles take place in the party primaries. But that is for another post that I am not qualified to write.
In conclusion, I am reminded of my favorite political party, the Czech Friends of Beer. Elected to the Czech assembly in the early nineties, they realized that their single issue, making sure that beer is both good and widely available, was already supported by every other party in parliament. They took leave of public life and retired to the local pub, where political differences could be argued, then forgotten, over a cold pint.