Third Party Dreams and How to Achieve Them

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 20 2012 2:40 PM

Third Party Dreams and How to Achieve Them

Over at the Economist, M.S. takes one last whack at the misshapen pinata that was Tom Friedman's latest "deeeuhr, Mike Bloomberg" column. He/she makes the actionable point:

If Mr Friedman seriously wanted this to change, he could lobby for a constitutional amendment to establish proportional representation in one of the houses of Congress, which would make third parties viable.
Advertisement

You wouldn't actually need a constitutional amendment to get this going. The Constitution (Art. I, Sec. 2) only says this about the membership of the House:

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

If you wanted to turn the entire House (or Senate) into a proportional body, yes, you'd need to get amendin'. But there's nothing preventing the states from doing this right now. Two years ago, Washington state approved a half-measure, the "jungle primary," in which the top two finishers -- whichever party they're from -- advance to the general election. It didn't make much of a difference in 2010, but it theoretically allows an ultra-strong Green Party or Libertarian or (heh, heh) Americans Elect candidate for Congress to barrel into the November election against one of the major party candidates. If the Friedmanites were serious about rattling the two-party system, they'd invest the $9 million spent on Americans Elect's website on lobbying a state -- maybe a small one -- to try out instant runoff or proportional voting. Maine would be a good place to try it out, because in 2010, most voters went for a liberal Democratic or independent candidate and a rump ended up electing an extremely conservative Republican governor.

All of this assumes that the fool-and-his-money types that fund Americans Elect are in it for something more than -- top of my head -- a Mike Bloomberg candidacy that would pay off the mortgages of endless consultants.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 17 2014 4:08 PM How Teflon Is Vladimir Putin's Popularity?
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 1:59 PM Ask a Homo: Secret Ally Codes 
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 17 2014 4:10 PM Can These Women Fix the NFL? Or will the NFL fix them?
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 4:07 PM Kern Your Enthusiasm: The Genius of Jenson’s Roman
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 12:35 PM IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?