End the Political Duopoly of Congress
George Washington’s 1796 “Farewell Address” included a prescient warning about the “baneful effects” of political parties in which he observed that the parties “serve to Organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force — to put in the place of the delegated will of the Nation, the will of a party [who are] often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the Community.” That is, he warns us, the political parties will put their own interests above the “will of the Nation”.
Washington’s warning about the parties organizing “faction” refers to the fact that they will foment discord to advance their own interests. In fact, Madison defined faction as “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”
Sadly, we have been witnessing the full realization of Washington’s apprehensions: Partisan antagonism manifesting largely from manufactured outrage intended to replace dialogue with polarization, fueled by the need to raise vast sums of money to fund spectacularly expensive political campaigns in massive electoral districts.
Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible for a candidate to win an election to the U.S. House unless he or she is a member of one of the two dominant political parties. In many states, the primary barriers to entry for third-party and independent candidates are state-imposed ballot access regulations which are intended to preserve two-party dominance (an important subject which is outside the scope of this article). However, in those states that have few or no ballot access regulations, the massively oversized congressional districts are the primary impediment for either third-party or independent candidates. There are two reasons for this. First, the high cost of congressional campaigns in massive electoral districts necessitates financial and advisory support from one political party or the other. Second, the party’s brand provides an essential endorsement for candidates who are unknown to most voters living in their congressional districts.
As explained in this section, substantially reducing the size of congressional districts will finally enable independent and third-party candidates to be elected to the House of Representatives. While having greater political diversity in the House may not end two-party domination in general, it will certainly mitigate their absolute domain over Congress, give the voters more choices, and engender political diversity within the two parties themselves.