If there’s one thing we know about America’s creaking democracy, it’s this: Whenever it seems fundamentally broken, people get together to try to fix it.
That’s happening now. We’re living through one of the United States’ periodic bursts of reformist energy, with various groups pushing to alter the structure of our elections even as — or rather because — millions of voters on both sides of our partisan divide question the integrity of the system.
The latest entry is a roster of more than 200 American political scientists who have put forward a sweeping proposal to change the way the United States has conducted its federal elections for nearly 250 years.
In a sharply written open letter to Congress published on Monday and shared in advance with The New York Times, the scholars tell lawmakers, “It is clear that our winner-take-all system — where each U.S. House district is represented by a single person — is fundamentally broken.” They call on Congress to “adopt inclusive, multimember districts with competitive and responsive proportional representation.”
The list of signatories includes nine of the 18 living U.S.-based winners of the Johan Skytte Prize, a prestigious Swedish award that has become a kind of unofficial Nobel for political science: Robert Axelrod, Francis Fukuyama, Peter J. Katzenstein, Robert Keohane, David D. Laitin, Margaret Levi, Arend Lijphart, Philippe C. Schmitter and Rein Taagepera.
“Our arcane, single-member districting process divides, polarizes and isolates us from each other,” the professors write. “It has effectively extinguished competitive elections for most Americans, and produced a deeply divided political system that is incapable of responding to changing demands and emerging challenges with necessary legitimacy.”