This was a week that the divisions within the Democrats in the House exploded into full view. For a few days there, it was looking like the issue of Israel/Palestine was going to do some real political damage to this party, one which goes from anti-racist, open democratic socialists on one side to pro-corporatists like Bill and Hillary Clinton on the other.
This is what happens when you have a two-parties-only, winner-take-all electoral system with gerrymandered election districts and no proportional representation.
In other countries where electoral systems are much fairer, parties don’t have this problem, though all parties have internal differences. But internal differences are not the same thing as forced marriages of very different worldviews and politics.
There is a solution to this problem. The US electoral system could be transformed so that, as is done in many other countries with stable electoral systems, voters are able to vote for the party which they prefer in addition to the individual candidates they prefer. And once a party gets a certain percentage of that vote, usually 5%, it is then guaranteed a percentage of the seats in government equal to its share of the vote. This is called proportional representation.
It is because of proportional representation systems that the Green Party and other left-of-center parties have been able to be part of governments elsewhere in the world over the last 30 or so years. Germany is one of the best examples. The Green Party there has never received more than about 10% of the national vote, but when their vote percentage is combined with that of the liberal Social Democratic Party, it has sometimes been enough for them, together, to be a majority.
In the USA, those on the political left who are about winning a national Congressional race almost always have no choice but to run in the Democratic Party. There are exceptions, independent Bernie Sanders being the very big one, but so far no progressive third party effort, definitely not the Green Party, has been able to alter this dynamic, and there is zero likelihood that’s going to change in 2020.
There are, of course, many other reforms other than proportional representation that are needed to democratize our 19th century electoral system, but this is the one, imho, which would do the most to open up it up in a way which would have the most positive, inclusive and including impact.
Although this isn’t on the immediate political horizon, if Bernie Sanders becomes President, mobilizing many millions of new voters to the polls in the process and electing Democrats (and some progressive independents or Greens down ballot) all over the place with him, who knows what might be possible on this and so many other issues 22 months from now?
In the meantime, the Left needs to be smart about how it deals with the pro-corporate and moderate/centrist elements within the Democratic Party. We need to be principled about our positions on issues and defend them, as was done this week, at the same time that we act on the understanding that it is a strategic necessity that we forge a united front to prevent Trump’s re-election and defeat Trumpublicans everywhere we can.
Ted Glick has been a progressive organizer, activist and writer since 1968. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick.