Why are politicians so scared of their own parties’ radicalized extremes? How do we re-incentivize political collaboration? To answer these questions, we turn to political scientist Lee Drutman's two-party doom loop. Simply put, this is the theory that it’s our two-party system itself that undermines government efficacy and drives us apart.
It’s pretty straightforward to pinpoint the driving causes of this doom loop. The Political Empathy Project recognizes three big issues, specifically, that we need to address.
80% of all Congressional districts are currently considered ‘safe’ for one party — Democrats and Republicans have cooperated to corrupt fair systems, drawing ridiculous district lines and creating arbitrary third-party restrictions to ensure that primary elections are the only ones that truly matter in most legislative districts.
While it’s true that an estimated 66 percent of eligible Americans voted in the 2020 presidential election — a record turnout — that number is the exception, not the norm. In 2018, just 53 percent of eligible citizens voted, a number marking a four-decade high in midterm election turnout. American voter turnout is slowly increasing, but there’s a long way to go, and voter suppression still runs rampant through our electoral system — in fact, 11 million Americans are currently unable to participate in taxpayer-funded primary elections just because they’re not registered with either of our two dominant political parties.
100 percent of members of Congress who lost their 2018 primaries were defeated by challengers from the extreme left or extreme right. As select party activists and well-funded special interest groups gain control over party primaries, politicians escape accountability from the rest of their constituency.
It’s clear that our fundamentally broken electoral system is the most dangerous threat to our democracy. Our elected officials no longer serve the American public — where once political action and accomplishment were the keys to a successful political career, campaign politics now dominate the electoral landscape. Politicians are beholden not to their constituents, but to their donors: big money corporations, special interest groups, and party leaders.
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