July 15, 2020

One way to dismantle structural racism in America: Disband the two-party system

Overview

The American two-party system doesn’t do enough for communities of color. And the two-party system is bolstered by winner-take-all elections. So, what can we do? George Cheung argues that America’s two-party system prevents communities of color from addressing structural racism. And the best way to fix that problem is to replace winner-take-all elections with proportional representation.

Generally, one dominant political party is hostile towards racial equity. This party disavows all things equality and undermine people of color’s ability to vote through voter suppression.

Meanwhile, the “other” dominant party takes voters of color for granted. Take for instance, Joe Biden’s recent gaffe on Charlamagne the God. Former Vice President Biden apologized but this sentiment isn’t necessarily new to many people of color.

This creates a system where people of color really feel like they don’t have a choice. And it creates a system that deincentivizes other political parties from forming.  This system results in two-political parties that don’t take the concerns of people of color seriously.

This two-party system dilutes the amount of representation people of color have in legislative power. Congress might be more diverse than any point in history but only 22% of members are people of color despite the fact that over 40% of America is non-white. This lack of representation is the lynchpin that bolsters structural racism.

The situation is made even worse, or even is supported by, winner-take-all elections. These elections allow for a single winner, no matter if the second place candidate earns as much as 49% or as little as 10% support. It creates a fictional divide, leads to a two-party system that minimizes racial and economic issues, and wastes the votes of millions of people.

A potential solution to this representation problem is a proportional, multi-party system for the House of Representatives. Instead of winner-take-all system, candidates from 4-5 parties could compete and hold power. The number of seats awarded would be based on the proportion of votes won. This kind of system creates space for the rise of new political parties, especially a party that embraces racial equity as its main value.

Proportional representation can flip two-party system and winner-take-all elections on their heads and create a representative, multiparty democracy to help lead the way to racial equity in America.

George and Matthew discuss race, power and electoral reform on NBC’s Think: Opinion, Analysis and Essays.