In this week's episode of You Don't Have to Yell, Douglas Amy, Professor Emeritus of Politics at Mount Holyoke College, discusses his new website - SecondRateDemocracy.com - which outlines 17 ways the United States is less democratic than other peer nations, and specific forms we can put in place to improve the responsiveness and effectiveness of American government.
America has long been credited with being the birthplace of modern democracy and, up until recently, was considered the model for countries transitioning from authoritarianism and other non-democratic forms of government. In recent decades, as more democracies have emerged out of the former autocracies of Europe. American institutions have fallen behind other nations in terms of its responsiveness to the will of its citizens and in its ability to actually govern.
Professor Amy ties this to 17 institutional factors that make America less democratic. While these issues range from the increasing abuse of power by the executive branch to lifetime appointment of Supreme Court justices, many have their root in America's winner-take-all system of elections, which tilt the incentives of elected officials to game the electoral system to their advantage, hardens partisan gridlock, and opens the door for undue influence by special interests.
The result, predictably, is low voter turnout and a government that spends more time fighting for a 1% electoral advantage over the other party than it does governing.
Reforms such as ranked choice voting and proportional representation can lessen this effect by removing the ability of the two major parties to carve congressional districts in their favor and giving voters the ability to choose something other than the lesser of two evils. Other major structural issues would still need to be addressed, but by putting more power back into the hands of voters, we could expect a government that's more representative of the opinions of the electorate than it is of the donor class.
You can find more of Professor Amy's works here:
- GovernmentIsGood.com - A site that examines how government improves the lives of Americans, as opposed to being a force that simply takes a little out of our paychecks.
- Real Choices / New Voices - A breakdown of the problems with America's electoral system, and how switching to a proportional system of representation could solve them. (Amazon)
- Behind the Ballot Box: A Citizen's Guide to Voting Systems - An examination of different electoral systems and how they stack up against each other. (Amazon)