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The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Our political system is stuck in the past

Just because the presidential election isn’t until next November doesn’t mean that the 2023 elections won’t hold some weight. Dozens of important races are happening across the country for governors and state legislatures; these elections will affect the livelihoods of millions, regardless of whether they’re federal or not. This season, it’s time to ask the age-old question again: Why is our political system stuck in the 1700s?  

The obvious answer lies with the Constitution. Most people can recognize how outdated many of the beliefs espoused by the founding fathers are. Despite ostensibly being a document written by the people for the people, “people” in this case really means White, rich landowners—this doctrine is ingrained in our political system. Systemic racism like that in the Constitution results in voter suppression of Black and Brown voters in America—egregiously, nearly one million eligible adults are disenfranchised in Florida, including one in six Black adults, according to the Guardian. [1] This isn’t just confined to Florida, but is a pattern across the country, especially in red states. 

The Constitution, in a perfect world, should be a living document, more so than constitutional amendments currently allow. The Second Amendment was written right after the Revolutionary War during a time when guns were inaccurate muskets prone to spontaneously exploding; the same logic can’t apply to the multitude of efficient firearms people have easy access to today.  

Even the founding fathers, however deeply flawed their political beliefs might have been, agreed that a two-party system would be the downfall of American politics. The breadth of human belief is simply too wide to be condensed into two cohesive parties. In 2021, a Gallup poll suggested that an astonishing 62 percent of Americans supported a third party; 50 percent of American adults identify as political independents, and just 37 and 48 percent of voters have a favorable view of the Republican and Democratic parties respectively. [2]  

The Republican party seems to have splintered into two factions: Trump supporters and “never-Trumpers.” The more extremist party members believe that Trump won the 2020 election and support the January 6 riots, going so far as to advocate for secession or assassination of prominent Democratic leaders, according to the Brookings Institute. [3] A similar division is happening in the Democratic party which pits moderate politicians like Joe Biden against socialist democrats like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  

Dismantling the two-party system would allow for more equal methods of voting. For example, according to the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network, many democratic countries outside of America utilize proportional representation systems, where the percent of the votes a party receives correlates directly with how many seats in Congress that party earns; in other words, if the Democratic party were to receive 50 percent of the votes, they would earn 50 seats in the senate. [4] This allows third parties to functionally earn seats; under the zero-sum system America currently uses, third-party votes are “wasted” if the candidate individually can’t earn a majority of votes.  

The electoral college disregards the will of the people in the same way; it’s a useless bureaucratic middleman that should have been abolished decades ago. If a candidate wins the majority of the votes in a state, regardless of the margin by which they win, all the electoral votes for that state go to them. This results in unpopular candidates who don’t win the popular vote still securing the presidency—Trump’s 2016 presidential victory is one of the most recent (and most infamous) examples of this, in addition to George Bush’s 2000 presidential race. 

According to NPR, members of the electoral college aren’t even required to cast their votes in line with the popular vote; in the 2016 election, several electors failed to cast their ballots for the candidate who won their state [5]. These “faithless electors” wield extreme power in small battle-ground states. A political scientist from Harvard University, Gautam Mukunda, told NPR, “The fact that in presidential elections people in Wyoming have [nearly four] times the power of people in California is antithetical at the most basic level to what we say we stand for as a democracy.” [5]  

The filibuster, too, is an outdated artifact of a past political system that only serves to allow the minority party—which, let’s be honest, is usually the Republican party—to obstruct and stall popular Senate bills. Most senators who support the filibuster are Republican, according to Ballotpedia, with the exception of socialist-turned Manchin Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, who infamously shot down a bill that would have raised the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour. [6] As it stands, the filibuster doesn’t serve to make minority voices heard; it stands to allow unpopular candidates to make decisions on behalf of the candidates American citizens voted for.  

It may seem like the system is simply too established to change, but there’s hope. In the past few years, several bills have been introduced to the senate that would discourage voter suppression and revise the political systems we currently use [1]. Certain states, like Maine, utilize ranked-choice voting, a system which allows third parties to flourish [4]. Across the country, Americans are pushing for change, and every political cycle, we get closer and closer to true democracy.

  

[1] Pilkington, Ed. (2020, Nov. 16). America’s flawed democracy: the five key areas where it is failing. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/nov/16/america-flawed-democracy-five-key-areas  

[2] Jones, J. M. (2021, Feb. 15). Support for Third U.S. Political Party at High Point. Gallup News. https://news.gallup.com/poll/329639/support-third-political-party-high-point.aspx 

[3] Gale, W. G. & West, D. M. (2021, Dec. 13). How seriously should we take talk of US state secession? Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/articles/how-seriously-should-we-take-talk-of-us-state-secession/ 

[4] Electoral Systems. (n.d.). Ace Project. https://aceproject.org/main/english/es/esf.htm 

[5] Liasson, M. (2021, June 10). A Growing Number Of Critics Raise Alarms About The Electoral College. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2021/06/10/1002594108/a-growing-number-of-critics-raise-alarms-about-the-electoral-college  

[6] Arguments for and against the filibuster, 2021. (2021). Ballotpedia. https://ballotpedia.org/Arguments_for_and_against_the_filibuster,_2021#Senators_against_the_ filibuster

About the Contributor
Elijah Horwath, Opinions Editor