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“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

— John Adams, Letter to Jonathan Jackson (2 October 1780)

Many Americans decry our two-party system. But how specifically could we address it? Is it written in law?

Not exactly. One of the causes is media treatment, like inviting only the two major party candidates to debate. Another is our social expectations.

But there’s more to it than that. There are major structural reasons for our partisanship. It’s in the game theory.

Here’s an example: even if a candidate only gets 51% of their district’s vote, they still win. Now they speak for the whole district, even those who didn’t vote for them.

This leads to extra high-stakes elections. You either win and get it all, or you lose and go home with nothing. No wonder campaigns can become so nasty (even when they’re supposed to be on the same team). No wonder politicians take money from groups they’d otherwise not owe favors.

And it’s this systemic pressure that entrenches a two-party duopoly. Individuals want a voice, but strategy says that picking a third party is “throwing away your vote”. Social choice theory shows how this entrenches a two-party landscape.

But a liquid democratic system is different. Instead of winner-take-all, representation becomes proportional. 51% of support from the electorate means 51% of voting power in the legislature.

Citizens become free to choose representatives right for them. Representation is no longer limited to those at the top of the ballot, picked by the party elite. And with much lower barrier to entry, we can work with many more ideas than the standard two-party platforms.

It’s silly to keep pretending there are only two sides. Liquid democracy offers us a way out. Join us.

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David Ernst


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