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old hand

Registered: 02/14/04
Posts: 4,102
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Two party system?
    #3209433 - 10/03/04 11:43 AM (12 years, 27 days ago)


At the above post, there was alot of discussion about the unfortunate fact that we have a two party system here in the US. What wasn't talked about (much) was why we have only two viable parties.

The answer is simple: our system of one person, one vote inevitably leads to a two party system.

The analysis that follows applies only to winner take all elections in which there is only one elected representative, like the election for president - different analysis is necessary for multiple candidate elections

To see how this works, first we need a model of how people vote.
Let's say that for each candidate, each voter has an idea of how much he likes them.
For example, a voter could like Badnarik alot, be sort of neutral to Kerry, and hate Bush. Obviouslly, this voter could vote for Badnarik, who will lose, or vote for Kerry to keep Bush out of the White House.
Since few people will vote for Badnarik, whether they like him or not, the libertarian party can only become a threat for the white house if a major scandal or other disruption causes one of the other parties to become unviable.

The point is that this voting system makes a two party system very stable.
Consider the case where there are three equally viable parties, and that there is no correlation between who prefers one party over another. This year, and as long as all three parties are equal, there will be three people who could be elected president. However, as soon as one party starts to lag in the polls, people will start to desert that candidate for their second favorite, so that their most hated choice won't win - this has the effect of quickly eliminating the weakening party.
On the other hand, we see the effect of a two party system - it's very hard for one party to replace another, and even if it does there'll still be a two party system, just different parties.

Now, Alcalagon and the third party candidates favor Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). In this system, each voter ranks the candidates according to his preference. For example, the voter above could rank Badnarik 1, Kerry 2, and Bush 3 (ignoring other candidates).

The votes are counted as follows:
1) The candidate with the fewest -1- votes is eliminated
2) Voters that voted for the eliminated candidate have their -2- votes moved to -1-
3) If there is only one candidate remaining, he is the winner
4) Go back to 1)

In the example above, the voter could vote for Badnarik without hurting Kerry, and would.

However, this represents a special case where Badnarik CANNOT WIN the election. If the race was a genuine three-party race, the voter could hurt Kerry by voting for Badnarik.

Consider: some people vote -1-Badnarik -2-Kerry -3-Bush, some vote -1- Badnarik -2-Bush -3-Kerry, some vote Kerry, Bush, Badnarik; some vote Kerry, Badnarik, Bush.

In the first round, Kerry is eliminated, but not by alot. In the second round, Badnarik is eliminated, and Bush wins. It is possible that the voter above (who chose Badnarik first and Kerry second) could have kept Bush out of the White House by voting Kerry first.
When the 'third party' is small, IRV encourages people to vote for it; but, when it gets to be a threat to the other two candidates, it still has the potential to cause the party it is 'closest to' (the above example probably would have been more convincing with the Green party, where most Greens prefer the Dems to Reps but many Dems prefer the Reps to Greens) to lose to its 'most hated' opponent.

So, IRV enables a party to gain support, to a point, but it still strongly favors a two party system and makes a three-or-more party system highly unstable (remember, this only applies to those votes where there is a single candidate - the story is very different for multi-candidate elections like city council).
For a concrete example of this, look at Australia - they use single candidate IRV, and have two major parties - the conservative Liberal Party, and the liberal Labor Party.

Are there other choices?

Yes - two better choices are Approval voting and Condorcet voting.

In approval voting, each voter votes yes or no on each candidate, and the candidate with the most yeses wins.
Approval is better than IRV because it eliminates the bias toward a two party system. However, it is not perfect because it can result in the election of a second choice candidate. For example, say that most people prefer Badnarik to Kerry, but hate Bush, and a few people think Kerry's ok but don't care much for Badnarik or Bush. Kerry will get elected, but most people would have prefered Badnarik.
This problem results from the fact that people don't get to fully express their preferences under Approval voting - Which in my oppinion is still better than IRV where people fully express their oppinions but their oppinions aren't properly counted.

As far as the voter is concerned, Condorcet voting is identical to IRV (they number their preferences, 1, 2...). However, there is a difference in how the votes are counted. Each candidate is considered pairwise against each other candidate. For each voter, the higher ranked candidate gets a vote. The candidate that wins all the pairwise contests wins the election.

In the example above, where a voter in an IRV election enabled Bush to win by choosing Badnarik over Kerry, the voter could vote his preference without fear that he was enabling his most hated candidate to win. There are no conditions under which he would elect Bush by choosing Kerry over Badnarik or visa versa.

Condorcet suffers from the problem that it doesn't always determine a winner. Consider a vote in which there are three candidates (A, B, and C) and three voters, who vote as follows:
Voter 1 -1- A -2- B -3- C
Voter 2 -2- A -3- B -1- C
Voter 3 -3- A -1- B -2- C
The analysis:
A vs B: 2 votes A (1,2) 1 vote B (3) B loses
A vs C: 1 vote A (1) 2 votes C (2,3) A loses
B vs C: 2 votes B (1,3) 1 vote C (2) C loses

As you can see, no winner can be determined using this method, and some other method needs to be used. In real life, I expect that the situations where Condorcet fails to determine a winner will be fairly rare, because they will only occur when the vote is evenly split and the preference for one candidate over another has no correlation to other preferences (how many people actually voted Nader-Bush-Gore in 2000?).
So, if there's no clear winner, another method needs to be used to sort out the remaining candidates. But, we are in no worse situation, and generally better (candidates will have been eliminated), than we were before applying condorcet.

IRV is an alternative method of voting that's gaining some steam in the US. It is favored by both third-party candidates, and has some support among the less party-bound Republocrats.
It is better than our present method for enabling a more open voting and political system; however, it's still pretty shitty - one of the worse alternatives for a single candidate election, in fact.

If you want viable third parties, it is vital to change the voting system. Rather than moving to the mediocre IRV, which will perpetuate a two party system, though making it easier to change the two parties, let's switch to approval voting, or even better, Condorcet.

Edited by phi1618 (10/03/04 11:44 AM)

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Re: Two party system? [Re: phi1618]
    #3209439 - 10/03/04 11:47 AM (12 years, 27 days ago)

A two party system in America shows how corrupt this contry has become.

George Washington did not want political parties.

Agent 727

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Re: Two party system? [Re: phi1618]
    #3209450 - 10/03/04 11:52 AM (12 years, 27 days ago)


IRV is an alternative method of voting that's gaining some steam in the US. It is favored by both third-party candidates, and has some support among the less party-bound Republocrats.
It is better than our present method for enabling a more open voting and political system; however, it's still pretty shitty - one of the worse alternatives for a single candidate election, in fact.

    Slashdot Badnarik Interview

  • How can we change the system so people have the choice between multiple candidates and not just two?

  • It's a long, hard, uphill battle. A lot of Americans don't know that until the 1890s, the government didn't print ballots at all. Voters wrote their own, or used pre-printed ballots provided by the party of their choice. The adoption of the "Australian ballot" gave the politicians control of what choices were put in front of voters.

    Today, the Libertarian Party -- and other third parties, of course -- have to fight to get on the ballot. In some states, we have to gather enormous numbers of signatures. In others, we have to drag the state to court. We've been very active on this front. In 1980, 1992, 1996 and 2000, the Libertarian Party's candidates appeared on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This year, it's 48 states and DC -- we missed the signature requirement in New Hampshire and are in court in Oklahoma.

    A better question, of course, is how do we offer the American people REAL choices -- choices they can vote for without fearing that their vote will be "wasted" on a candidate who "can't win?"

    There are various alternative voting systems that address this problem.

    Instant Runoff Voting allows the voter to assign a rank to each candidate; if no candidate gets a majority of "first place" votes, then "second place" votes are counted, and so on, until someone gets a majority. This allows people to choose a "third party" candidate as their first preference, but still get a vote between frontrunners if their candidate loses.

    Personally, I prefer Approval Voting. In this method, each voter can select as many candidates as he likes -- he can vote for all the candidates whom he can live with. All of the votes are counted, and the candidate with the most votes wins. The result is that the winner is not necessarily "the most popular," but "the one that the most voters are okay with."

    Of course, the "major" parties don't approve of anything that might threaten to break their shared monopoly on power. That's why they've instituted the Australian ballot and draconian ballot access laws. But we'll keep fighting them until we win.

Great summary of some of the more talked about election methods. I agree wholeheartedly that both Approval and Condorcet Voting would be superior to Instant Runoff. All things considered though, I'd take IRV over what we have now in a heartbeat. Nice post!

?When Alexander the Great visted the philosopher Diogenes and asked whether he could do anything for him, Diogenes is said to have replied: 'Yes, stand a little less between me and the sun.' It is what every citizen is entitled to ask of his government.?
-Henry Hazlitt in 'Economics in One Lesson'

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Registered: 11/18/01
Posts: 1,280
Loc: Amerika
Re: Two party system? [Re: phi1618]
    #3211452 - 10/03/04 11:22 PM (12 years, 27 days ago)

We need a no party system. We should vote for people because of who they are as an individual. Screw the labels and open peoples minds. Issues would matter and people would be held accountable for their policies and their actions.

ash dingy donker mo gollyhopper patty popiton rockstop bueno mayo riggedy jig bobber johnathan pattywhacker gogboob t-shirt monkey.

There is such emotion in the distortion.

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Registered: 11/08/02
Posts: 32,665
Loc: Ripple's Heart
Re: Two party system? [Re: 1stimer]
    #3211522 - 10/03/04 11:38 PM (12 years, 27 days ago)

it's all a game of survivor.

they want to be a politician and stay on the island
as long as they possibly can.

to do this, they have to create alliances.

thus the party system is born.

why do you think mccain stumps for bush despite the
fact that he has spoken out about many of his policies?

it's because if he wants any love next time his seat is
up for a vote, he needs to tow the party line every once
in a while.

All I know is The Growery is a place where losers who get banned here go.

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Ten ThousandThings

Registered: 11/02/03
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Re: Two party system? [Re: phi1618]
    #3212241 - 10/04/04 02:09 AM (12 years, 27 days ago)

I say we go back to the days when the losing candidate was made Vice President. That would be interesting...

1. "After an hour I wasn't feeling anything so I decided to take another..."
2. "We were feeling pretty good so we decided to smoke a few bowls..."
3. "I had to be real quiet because my parents were asleep upstairs..."

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liberal pussy
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Re: Two party system? [Re: phi1618]
    #3213101 - 10/04/04 11:15 AM (12 years, 26 days ago)

the nation...


One cliche among Washington commentators has long been that the Republicans are the Daddy Party (the warriors, the tough-on-crime guys) and the Democrats are the Mommy Party (the gang that worries about health care, education, and such.) Bush was striving to be both Ma and Pa. Seeking the holy grail of most presidents--a strategic political realignment--Bush is attempting to turn the GOP into the Both Parents party, which smites enemies abroad and then tucks you in when the economy falters.

in this article..david corn compares the two political parties to traditional gender roles...as such..it should come as no surprise that the disappearence of these gender roles exactly paralells the convergence of the political parties..to the point where many ppl no longer see any real difference...bushs' purported role according to corn also matches that of a single parent..which..LION..has now become the norm for american families...

personally..i have always been highly skeptical of intergrational feminism..which posits that humans are inherently evil (=neoconservatism).. and that women are the same as men in this regard...if there are any other women here that dont share my skepticism..then you need only look as far as the bathroom mirror to explain why the two parties have become one...


"anchor blocks counteract the process of pontiprobation..while omalean globes regulize the pressure"...

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Carpal Tunnel
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Re: Two party system? [Re: phi1618]
    #3213314 - 10/04/04 12:47 PM (12 years, 26 days ago)

The answer is simple: our system of one person, one vote inevitably leads to a two party system.

In Canada we each get one vote, and we don't really have a two party system. The leaders of the countries have all been either liberal or conservative, but our provincial premiers have been NDP, bloc, alliance...

"I have no valid complaint against hustlers. No rational bitch. But the act of selling is repulsive to me. I harbor a secret urge to whack a salesman in the face, crack his teeth and put red bumps around his eyes." -Hunter S Thompson

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Yo Daddy!
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Re: Two party system? [Re: phi1618]
    #3213337 - 10/04/04 12:55 PM (12 years, 26 days ago)

I think the need and the call for a multi-party system is something that has come up only in the last few decades. Life is much more complicated and a simple 2 party system just isn't flexible enough any longer. Where 3rd (and 4th, 5th, etc) parties need to start is at the local levels. Only from there can they build up to the national level and eventually become viable presidential canidates. It will be a slow but worthwhile journey.

If we stick with just a 2 party system we will continue to stagnate into highly polarized and irrational groups, each party pushing each other to the extremes. Instant Runoff Voting would also go a long way to helping promote the advance of a multi-party system.

Happiness is a warm gun...

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old hand

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Re: Two party system? [Re: phi1618]
    #3213344 - 10/04/04 12:57 PM (12 years, 26 days ago)

Re MAGnum & 1stimer:

I agree w/ afoaf that political parties are more or less inevitable, because of the advantages they bring to candidates.

Washington was the only president without some affiliation, though early parties were loose affiliations based on common ideology, nothing like todays well organized parties.

Washington was a political ally of John Adams and the Federalists, who opposed Thomas Jefferson and the Democrat-Republicans.

Federalists were replaced by the National Republicans around 1820; both groups were similar in their support for a strong central government - one nation, vs. a collection of independent states.

However, the modern party system didn't start until after the 1824 presidential election.

In 1824, there were three credible presidential candidates - one national Republican and two Democrat-republicans. Of the three, Andrew Jackson got the most popular votes and the most electoral college votes. However, he lacked a majority of the electoral college votes (since they were split 3 ways), and John Q. Adams (National Republican) was chosen as president by the House of Representatives.

Andrew jackson's Democrat-Republicans were pissed. They organized the modern Democratic party, and totally wiped the floor with the national republicans in 1828 and 1832, taking over 2/3 of the electoral college votes in each election.

The Whig party was organized to oppose the democratic party, and ran its first candidate in 1836 (he lost).

The Whigs, having come from the National Republicans, were all about nation building, industrial activities: roads, railroads, and banks. Since the South was agriculturally based, the Whigs drew most of their support from the North.

During the 1850s, the Republican party was formed to oppose the spread of slavery (on religious grounds - the Republican party has had a Christian orientation since its inception.) Plenty of Northern Democrats changed allegience, but most Republicans were former Whigs, and the Whig party was pretty much killed by the formation of the Republican party.

The first Republican candidate for president was John Freidmont in 1856, and Abraham Lincoln won the presidency in 1860.

So, what's the point?

1) Political parties give their candidates a huge advantage over unorganized opposition (Andrew Jackson).

2)There have been only 3 major political parties in the history of the US: the Democrats, the Whigs, and the Republicans. The only time the parties changed was when there was an issue divisive enough to cause a civil war.

Conclusion - unless something (our method of voting) changes, we are forever stuck with the Republicans and Democrats.

re Annapurna1, on the similarities between todays Dems and Reps:

Republicans and Democrats are increasingly similar not because of the confluence of gender roles in society, but because there are only two parties - neither party has to worry about the more extreme people, they only have to consider the intrests of a tiny slice of undecided voters. Unionists and feminists vote democratic no matter how much they hate Kerry's nearly identical stance to the president on civil liberties and the war on terror; A radical christian who hates the presidents democratically cloned immigration policy is still stuck with the only viable candidate to oppose abortion rights. They are increasingly similar because they borrow positions that are popular with the critical segment of voters from each other.

If there were powerful third parties, this situation would change dramatically, because then the candidates would have to be responsive to their more radical constituents.


Honestly, I think your notion is pretty weird - I can't see any possible connection between the confluence of gender roles in society and the confluence of the positions of political parties, any more than, say, the position of the planets is related to our society here on earth.

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