Proportional representation is not a new or an untested idea. It is quite common in other democratic governments around the world. Nor is this sort of change in the Constitution unprecedented. In a change necessitated by the rise of political parties, the Twelfth Amendment provided for the electoral college to cast separate votes for president and vice-president and provided a method for resolving elections in which no candidate received a majority of the electoral votes cast. Under the Seventeenth Amendment, direct election of senators by the voters within each state replaced election by state legislatures.
Our political process is in dire need of repair. Our elections have degenerated into a witches brew of fund-raising and advertising. Far too many of the ads paid for with the money raised are attack ads. Even the positive ads amount to nothing more than catch phrases designed by each candidate’s advisors to evoke a Pavlovian response from voters. Slogans, sound bites, talking points, and rhetorical platitudes, address the mood of the electorate, while carefully avoiding saying anything of substance.
Every candidate earnestly assures us that he or she will provide quality health care for all, improve education, help the U. S. achieve energy independence, support family values, and keep us safe from terrorists. Furthermore, they promise to cut taxes and balance the budget.
Like all good illusionists, they are careful not to reveal the details of how they plan to implement this amazing balancing act. Serious, in-depth discussions of the problems facing our nation and the issues of the day take place in forums on the Internet and in the op-ed pages of newspapers and magazines, but are missing in action during political campaigns.
This year’s hottest political buzz word is “change.” And the main thing voters want to change is the political culture in Washington. Approval ratings for Congress are even lower than for President Bush. (Not an easy feat ) Providing for proportional representation in the House of Representatives would make our government more responsive, more democratic, and more effective. Voters who are serious about wanting change should find out which candidates would support this amendment and vote for them.
A couple of footnotes:
1) If this amendment were to pass, it would need to include a provision to alter the Twelfth Amendment which provides for the House to elect the president with a vote by states if no candidate for president wins a majority of electoral votes. I would suggest having the House choose between the two candidates with the most electoral votes (instead of the top three), with each member (as opposed to each state) having one vote.