The winner takes it all

I’ve read often, especially from liberals, and especially when they’re in a down cycle in elections, that America ought to have a parliamentary style democracy, where the representatives appear in proportion to their votes, as opposed to the American “winner take all” system.  The thing with the winner take all system, though, is that it provides a marvelous stability.  We have open elections, we have checks and balances, and we have winner takes it all.  In this way, we avoid the chaos, the collapsed governments, and the power brokering that plagues so many other countries (with England and Israel easily springing to mind).

I just got a another reminder of the virtues of the winner takes all system when I read the Captain’s post about the problem that will face the Democrats if Hillary and Obama are not able to pull away from each other in the coming weeks.  As you may recall, the Dems divvy up delegates, a la the European parliamentary style, while the Republicans assign whole states to a delegate, in the way of an American election:

For months, the media speculated that the Republicans might have to deal with a brokered convention, but their primaries are designed to avoid it. John McCain has likely taken a commanding lead in the race, and unless Mitt Romney can start churning out 3-1 wins in the remaining proportional states, he won’t have much hope in a convention fight, let alone an outright win.

Democrats have 4,049 delegate that will attend the convention, but 796 of these are superdelegates. That leaves 3,253 elected delegates, of which 1,291 have already been assigned to one of the candidates. That leaves 1,961 delegates left, and the winner has to have 2,025 to gain the nomination. Both Hillary and Obama would need almost 1,400 of them to win — or 69%.

One of them would have to start winning all the proportionally-allocated states by more than a 2-1 margin the rest of the way through the calendar, at least if they wanted to win without the superdelegates. That looks like a complete impossibility. The Democrats will have to either broker a deal between Hillary and Obama to avoid a floor fight, or they will have to have the party establishment pick the winner. And the closer the two candidates are at the end of the process, the more divisive that outcome will be.

Those kinds of headaches I, as a voter, can live without.

One Response

  1. A lot of work has been done in recent decades on voting systems. One result is the realization that there is no such thing as a perfect voting system, some of the criteria are mutually exclusive.

    And you point out a criteria that usually isn’t even considered, more of a meta-criteria. But I think it’s one the Framers did consider, they were familiar with the parliamentary system after all, and deliberately gave us something else.

    I do wish we’d start experimenting with the approval system, though. Even though it has a problem with ties, it seams to avoid the vote splitting problem that plurality voting has.

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