Tuesday, October 12, 2004

American Democracy (6)

You know the score by now, you need to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 & Part 5 Before going on. And, something I have forgotten, it all begins with Going Political : can't be without our governing metaphor, can we?

Now, next couple of posts are kind of tidying up, then I should wrap up, I think, by getting to the point I've been driving at. I may return to this theme soon(ish) we have an interesting book arrived in the library -
The American ballot box in the mid-nineteenth century / Richard Franklin Bensel.. Cambridge : Cambridge, 2004.
Which I hope may add some historical light. Certainly, It looked interesting on a flick through.

Anyway, I need to expand on my points. One thing that was brought back top me, on re-examining my old A-Leveltextbooks, is the idea that First Past the Post is prone to immense swings on small changes of votes.

Using the third of my Stateone examples, Party A gets 6 votes in 6 Seats (slight correction there) and Party B gets 9 votes in six seats, and 4 each in the other six. if just 6 people change their vote, A is utterly wiped out. Just over one twentieth of the electorate stand between Party B and total power.

I can recall Michael Moore in, I think, Downsize this making hay out of the fact that Gingrich et al were swept to a landslide of the back of about 20,00 voters changing sides in Congressional Elections. It's a silly argument, it ignores the hundreds of thousands behind those switching votes.

Anyway, this reminds me of the argument that brought me one of my early experiences of seeing through a lame argument. Someone was trying to make out - in an article I read for my A-Levels - that PR is undemocratic because it has disproprtionate chances of certain parties getting into government.

Say there is a split between 3 parties - A=45%, B=40%, C=15%.
We could form governments (51% + of the seats) - AB, AC, BC.
That is, with 15% of the vote Party C has a 66% chance (two of three options) of being in Government.

What this argument ignores, of course, is that C will not have 66% of the government posts. Further, it ignores the fact that under FPTP a party with 40% of the vote can have 100% chance of forming the government - far worse a distortion than any of the small parties holdiing the balance of power in PR Assemblies.

- as an aside, while I don't advocate PR myself, but rather direct democracy, I remain offended by the counter arguments erected by capitalist politicians - they're shit, and offensive to logic. It's all so frustrating. -

Indeed, IIRC, according to Tony Benn's diaries, Michael Foot was praying for a three way break in the vote in 1983, to sneak into government. I wouldn't be surprised - way things are going - if Tony Blair hasn't got that sort of thing in mind now.

Hpw this relates to the American elections is that when I started research on this series, Kerry was behind, but it seems a small swing - about 4% might be enough to give him a thumping victory. Such is a nationwide winner takes-all election.


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