Tuesday, April 04, 2006


So Israel just had elections. I've never heard of the guy who won, but the news blurb I saw said he is a 'centrist'. I have no idea what that means in the context of Israeli politics. I'm not even sure what it means in the context of U.S. politics any more. The interesting thing was what I heard the CNN reporter describing about how the Knesset works. I looked it up today and found this site.

In short, you don't vote for a candidate, you vote for a party. If any party gets at least 2% of the popular vote, then they get a guy (or gal) in the legislature (although the Knesset is not exactly like a legislature, they do some other stuff too). Beyond that, it's all proportional. Get a third of the votes, and a party gets a third of the seats. Simple, logical, and much more representative than some other systems I can think of.

I say, start calling up the state legislatures*. Let's get us some delegates, fire up a constitutional convention, and set up something like this for the United States. We won't call it a "Knesset", of course, because that sounds weird and foreign. We'll call it... I don't know, somebody will think of something. Israel has 6,276,883 people, and a 120 seat Knesset. Since the U.S. has a population of about 300,000,000, in order to keep the same proportions we'll need 5735 seats. Now that may seem like a lot, but remember- were abolishing the Senate, so we're sort of ahead by 100 seats at the get-go. We'll go from 535 lawmakers to 5735, which is only an increase of like 1050% or something. Salaries might be a problem, so we may not pay any.

The obvious advantage of this system will be that the Republican and Democratic parties will pretty much disintegrate. I'm not even sure which party would fracture more...

Republicans- All the libertarian leaning Republicans are out the door before the ink is even dry on the new constitution. The Libertarian Party triples in size. Pat Buchanan further decimates the Republicans by pulling millions into his Big Ole Party O' Foreigner-Hatin' Isolationism, or whatever he's calling it these days. Then the thumpers surge into the Heritage Party, or the Family Values Party, or whatever. Ross Perot's Reform Party would be back in a big way, trying to reform stuff.

And when the Republican Party was left with a couple of ten thousand members, all of them too old to understand what was going on, we'd look at the Democrats and see an even larger exodus. Bang! America would have a viable Socialist Party. And a robust Green party. A real labor party. And they would all hate each other.

But the fun would just be beginning. With it's tiny population, Israel still has 19 active political parties. Let me go out on a limb here and suggest that the American electorate is more diverse than Israel's. And with 300,000,000 people, we'd get great groups like:

The Transvestite Anarchist Party
The Jewish National Socialists
The Anti-Handgun but Pro-Shotgun Methodist Workers Party
The Kantian Monarchist Party

Heck, I'd move back to the States and start Chaon's Grand Ole Party of Beer, Chess and Lesbians. But I don't think any lesbians wold actually join, which would make me sad. Maybe Beer, Chess and Hippos would be better.

*There may be a way to do it without the state legislatures. Constitutional law not being my strong point, I'm not sure how Article Five of the Constitution comes into play. We may at some point have to give the Supreme Court a few knocks in the head, to bring them around to our way of thinking.


Red A said...

There are problems with proportional representation:

1. You don't get a local representative that will look after your local areas concerns...you get a national party list.

2. It can lead to coalition governments, and frequent changes in government...see Italy. or Israel.

3. Some PR countries end up with essentially two party systems, i.e. Germany, only that sometimes they have to make a deal with a smaller part (Greens or FDP) You may not kill the GOP/Dems...but end up with both of them doing deals with smaller parties that essentially are no different from the GOP doing deals with say the fundies...except that in a coalition government, you can't just make empty promises about banning gay mariage, because the fundy party could back out of your coalition...

4. It's a great way to get far right and far left parties into Congress...not to mention some countries they hand out state funding once they get 2%.

But it also has advantages...unfortunately, I have to go to China now...if you want to be really mind-humped, check out Australia's system.

Karl said...

If I ever want to be really mind-humped, I'll change my mind and not want that.