• Description

For many Americans, anything besides our two-party electoral system is hard to imagine. Multiple parties and proportional representation, the main alternative, might seem more fitting for a parliamentary system than our presidential one. But the truth is, how a country elects its legislature and how it selects its executive are two separate decisions. Multiparty presidentialism—the system the United States would have if it adopted proportional representation—is common around the world.

In a sweeping new review of electoral system combinations published by New America and Protect Democracy, Scott Mainwaring, a leading scholar of presidential systems, and Lee Drutman, a prominent expert on proportional representation, conclude that multiparty presidentialism is the best fit for the United States. In particular, they find that it would:

  • Functionally eliminate gerrymandering, increasing the competitiveness of elections and decreasing electoral incentives to entertain extremism to defeat primary challengers;
  • Allow for parties and governing institutions to more flexibly respond to ongoing challenges; and
  • Attenuate hyperpartisan polarization by empowering compromise-oriented officials.

Democracy in the United States is an outlier in many ways—most democracies around the world use some form of proportional representation, and rarely is presidential democracy paired with a two-party system. This unique combination is exacerbating factionalism and political brinkmanship, pushing our democracy beyond inefficiency and towards autocracy.