Motion: The Two-Party System is Making America Ungovernable

This week's column at CAIVN takes a closer look at the Intelligence Squared debate on the two-party system.  Excerpt:
This week, National Public Radio and Bloomberg Television have begun airing the most recent Oxford-style debate sponsored by Intelligence Squared in which four well-known political commentators consider the proposition that “the two-party system is making America ungovernable." . . . Though the motion did not require Huffington and Brooks to argue in favor of an alternative to the two-party system, but rather only to prove its inadequacy, O’Rourke and Chafetz asked time and again: what is the alternative?  “Having lived in a country that has 14 parties [i.e. Israel],” said Chafetz at one point, “I can tell you that I didn’t find any that represented me.”  Neither Huffington nor Brooks, however, argued explicitly for a multiparty system, but instead called for modest reforms aimed at increasing political competition as well as voter participation, such as non-partisan primaries, ranked choice voting, and less restrictive ballot access laws.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the debate was the fact that it took place at all.  Mainstream political commentators do not often subject the two-party system to sustained criticism, and they are rarely forced to defend its very existence.  Indeed, the novelty of the debate was apparent in the obvious limitations of the arguments put forward on both sides of the issue.

Arianna Huffington asserted that the so-called spoiler problem associated with third party candidates can be overcome via the implementation of ranked choice voting, even though it has been demonstrated by advocates of approval voting that this is not in fact the case.  P.J. O’Rourke stated that the two-party system developed “organically” over the course of American history, completely disregarding the ways in which our political system has long been rigged by Democratic and Republican lawmakers at all levels of government to squash third party and Independent political competition.  Zev Chafetz absurdly claimed that “you can’t name an election that hasn’t had a third party candidate or more.” . . . .

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