Why Democrats should champion a multi-party system

See Disclaimer

Biden? Trump? For a divided nation fighting a pandemic, it matters profoundly which of these drastically different septuagenarians becomes our next president. But are they enough of a choice? Will enough of us care to choose? Would prospects of a broader range of choices make a difference?

A staggering 97 million eligible Americans did not vote in the 2016 presidential election. That’s far more than the 63 million who elected Mr. Trump or the 66 million who voted for Mrs. Clinton. It translates into a turnout of just 56%, leaving out 44 of each 100 eligible voters.

Low turnouts speak of political disenfranchisement! A recent Knight Foundation study found that the main reasons for not voting are that Americans “lack faith in the election system and have serious doubts about the impact of their own votes.” Unsurprisingly, support for our two major parties is low. In this January and February Gallup polls, only 54 to 59% of Americans self-identified either as Democrat or Republican, while 39 to 45% declared themselves independents.

This suggests that our political views are too diverse to fit into a two-party system. However, evolving to a system where multiple parties have a legitimate path to government, requires profound procedural, legislative, and Constitutional reform. Pragmatically, such reform can best be achieved if a major party champions it. But why would either major party want to end their historic duopoly? And how would they muster the power to do it?

If any, this is the time! Today’s Democrats could gain much from championing reform. Their ‘progressive’ and ‘moderate’ wings both have legitimate support, but don’t naturally belong in a same party. Their divergences might have cost Democrats the White House in 2016, could still hurt their chances in 2020, and—if not properly managed—might ultimately lead to self-implosion. Each Democratic wing would be best served by evolving into separate parties, free to compete or coalesce as needed to govern or be effective opposition.

Of course, this can not happen in 2020, for legal, logistical and strategic reasons. However, if Democrats make in 2020 a historical commitment towards a multi-party system, they could both defeat a dangerously unfit incumbent and boldly re-structure and re-energize their ideals for decades to come. To capitalize on the opportunity, Democrats must create a consensus platform, that unifies the party one final time. A platform capturing imaginations and turning progressives into enthusiastic supporters of a moderate nominee.

A promising and diverse cadre of future leaders showed enormous maturity in self-narrowing the field of Democratic candidates. Standing alone for weeks were two political elders, each a champion of one of the party wings, and each a prospective one-term president. With Sanders now endorsing Biden, these two elders must work together to best serve the country, in and beyond November. What better gift could they give future generations, than a platform that unifies all Americans by honoring their right to differ? And how better could Biden attract the passionate commitment of Sanders’ supporters?

A platform enabling each wing to independently thrive in a future multi-party system would be radically transformative for the Democrats. Importantly, such platform could also engage a game-changing percentage of the 97 million non-voters. To various degrees, most of those Americans lean left. If they vote in 2020, attracted by a newly open path to relevance, they would carry Democrats to the type of landslide victory—across presidency, Congress and state government—needed to enact major political reform.

How would Republicans fit in a post-2020 multi-party system? If they find the courage to formally separate principled conservatism from authoritarianism and bigotry, they might remain viable. Otherwise, they would—deservedly—struggle to be electorally relevant against strategic alliances of energized Democratic spin-offs or other newly viable parties (some of which would naturally occupy the moderate conservative space). 

To be clear, there are risks in multi-party systems. Furthermore, Democrats can win more conventionally. After all, they are our best hope for returning normalcy to a country damaged by an unfit president and his subservient party. And Biden is a natural unifier, with a range of powerful tools at his disposal—possibly even a cabinet of national unity.  But why not winning with a bold and powerful vision for a new political system, fit to support an evolving America thirsty for a better normalcy?

Biden and the Democrats should embrace this historic opportunity. As voters, we should unambiguously mandate and empower them to.

— Antonio Baptista


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s