Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: American History

The Limitations of Proportional Representation

About 23% of Americans don’t like both Trump and Clinton. Many of these people are considering third parties, or would like to be considering them but don’t feel they can safely do so because of the American voting system, which makes it very difficult for third parties to win and ensures that people who vote third party get no say in the choice between the two major party nominees. Some people have talked about wanting to switch to proportional representation (PR) to break the stranglehold of the two parties on politics. Under PR, if 8% of the population votes for a Green or a Libertarian, 8% of the legislature is comprised of Greens or Libertarians. If no party is able to put together a majority of votes, parties have to cooperate in coalitions to get things done. PR is in Jill Stein’s platform and some libertarians have expressed enthusiasm for it as well. PR cannot really be applied to the presidential race, because the president can only be one person–he or she cannot be 8% Green. But for presidential races we could employ a ranked ballot system allowing for an instant-runoff. On this system if you voted for Jill Stein your vote could be transferred to Clinton after Stein is eliminated. This may sound intriguing, but PR is not a magic bullet and it can produce some very bad situations that we should consider.

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Who is the Most Qualified Presidential Candidate Ever?

Many Hillary Clinton supporters respond to accusations from Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump that Clinton is “not qualified” by counter-asserting that she is the “most qualified candidate ever”. Now, these people are often using “qualified” to refer to very different things–Sanders said Clinton was not qualified because she takes money from Super PACs and Trump says she’s not qualified because of her judgment, but when Clinton supporters use the term “qualified” they aren’t denying that she took Super PAC money or even necessarily arguing that she has good judgment. The claim that Clinton is most qualified is made as if it were a statement of obvious fact–it reads not like a nuanced argument about judgment but more like a fact claim about experience. Clinton is said to be “most qualified” because she has the most and the best experience of anyone, and the people saying this do so with a confidence that indicates they don’t think it’s close. This strikes me as a pretty bold historical claim, so I decided to investigate to see where Clinton ranks for experience and to see whether experience has a significant effect on the way historians think about a president’s performance.

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