The Corpus Callosum

Computer experts have been weighing in for years about design flaws in
electronic voting systems.  Now a computer expert goes a step
farther, saying the whole system is flawed.

From href="http://torvalds-family.blogspot.com/2008/10/stranger-in-strange-land.html">Linus’
Blog:

That’s when you also notice that the whole US voting
system is apparently expressly designed to be polarizing
(winner-take-all electoral system etc). To somebody from Finland, that
looks like a rather obvious and fundamental design flaw. In Finland,
government is quite commonly a quilt-work of different parties, and the
“rainbow coalition” of many many parties working together was the norm
for a long time. And it seems to result in much more civilized
political behaviour.

He’s entirely correct.  Take, for example the href="http://www.debates.org/">US Commission On Presidential
Debates.  It claims (on its website) to be
“nonpartisan,” but that claim is false.  It was established by
the Democratic and Republican Parties.  Its rules are crafted
to exclude third parties.  So it is bipartisan,
not nonpartisan.

According to href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commission_on_Presidential_Debates">Wikipedia:

In 1988, the League of Women Voters withdrew its
sponsorship of the presidential debates after the George H.W. Bush and
Michael Dukakis campaigns secretly agreed to a “memorandum of
understanding” that would decide which candidates could participate in
the debates, which individuals would be panelists (and therefore able
to ask questions), and the height of the podiums. The League rejected
the demands and released a statement saying that they were withdrawing
support for the debates because “the demands of the two campaign
organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter.”

At a press conference announcing the commission’s creation, Fahrenkopf
said that the commission was not likely to include
third-party candidates in debates, and Kirk said he personally believed
they should be excluded from the debates
. [emphasis added]

The Commission is run by former heads of the Republican and Democratic
National Committees, Frank Fahrenkopf and Paul Kirk,
respectively.   href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_J._Fahrenkopf,_Jr."
title="Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr.">Frank Fahrenkopf
happens to be a  href="http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/lobbyist.php?lname=Fahrenkopf%2C+Frank+J+Jr&year=2008">lobbyist
for the casino industry.   href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_G._Kirk,_Jr.">Paul
Kirk was a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/lobbyist.php?lname=Kirk%2C+Paul+G+Jr&year=1999">lobbyist
for the pharmaceutical industry.  

Listen to href="http://www.democracynow.org/2008/10/2/no_debate_how_the_republican_and">Amy
Goodman’s interview with George Farah, executive director and
founder of Open
Debates
, for some perspective on this issue.  

The two big Parties control their respective primaries and caucuses.
 They have the money to influence the media.  As a
result, the USA is only a sort-of democracy.  Every two years,
we get to decide which of the two major parties will be the primary
target of corporate influence.

Comments

  1. #1 Owen
    October 8, 2008

    Sure, from a Finnish perspective the two party system is a flaw, because they embrace a parliamentary system. But one need only look at Israel to see the sorts of flaws (un-democratic flaws at that) inherent in a parliamentary system: with upwards of fifty parties, and coalition governments, a small party with only one or two MPs that is part of a bare majority coalition gains huge power (basically, “pass our bill or we leave the coalition and your government collapses”). Sharon was forced to call early elections in 2003 because of right-wing religious conservatives who threatened to destabilize his government.

    Our Madisonian democracy is slow to act, slow to change, and leaves everybody feeling equally unrepresented. Which, really, is how a democracy of 300 million should behave. If somebody wins, somebody else loses, and that destabilizes everything.

  2. #2 Pierce R. Butler
    October 8, 2008

    There are multiple deep design flaws in the US electoral system, from the explicit (Electoral College; excessive power given to smaller states) to the implicit (founders vocally vehement against political parties per se, though creating same immediately when it came time to put their program into practice).

    That’s not counting the ones which have been fixed: voting only by white male landowners, senate appointed by state legislatures, slaves(!) undercounted in census totals, etc.

    Nor does it include the flaws recently added, particularly by unauditable electronic balloting & tallying systems, caging, and the mulligan stew of other dirty disenfranchisement tricks recently and currently deployed by the Republican Party.

    Not to mention the game-rigging which has become a traditional value: gerrymandering, castration of the press, strategic application of massive amounts of money, vigorous lying all around, etc, etc, etc.

    Democracy in the US is not dead yet – but the obituary notices are prepared, waiting only for a few blanks to be filled in. Only a few will bother to include relevant terms like oligopoly and imperialism – reports which require the citizenry to think aren’t good for ratings, you know.

  3. #3 Rob
    October 8, 2008

    I think the US has a lot to learn from various systems around the world – for starters, bring in a multiparty system like australias, the preferential vote and a few other changes.

    the founding fathers were so amazingly progressive in their scope and vision at the time that they founded america, however the system is stuck there – it is not designed for the type of country that america is today – the electoral system is open to too much manipulation through the power of the media and the 2 hegemonic parties

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.