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Message for the proportional represenation folks

Why do eight radicals hold power over the entire US House of Representatives?
David Daley

This is what happens.

Yes, yes, I know, the US is a two party – wings of one party if you like – system. But there’s no party discipline at all. Each seat decides, alone, who runs for it. There’s no national imposition of candidates. Thus we end up with woldly different views making int into the House. Just as we would with any system of PR. And that makes the weirdos the kingmakers. PR gives more power to the fringe groups that is.

Think of PR in the Commons. On the current voting intentions we’d have a big Reform group, a big Green one, and some combination of one – or even both – of those plus two of the three LibDem, Labour and Tory would be required for a majority. Well, probably.

And having either Reform or Green in government is going to lead to lower influence of the extremists, is it?

35 thoughts on “Message for the proportional represenation folks”

  1. The ‘bias makes you stupid’ idea is getting a lot of supporting evidence in the reporting on this.
    Most of the people voting to oust McCarthy and who are therefore mostly responsible for the current mess are Democrats. So why blame a handful of Republicans only? The answer is bias. The Democrats all voted for the mess and deserve condemnation for it.

    More generally it always useful to note when some people’s behaviour- making a choice and acting on it – are treated by commentators as facts about the natural world like the blueness of the sky, rather than as subject for moral evaluation. Such situations tell you a lot about the commentators lack of ethics.

  2. Paul Power is right. In PR or two-party systems it all comes down to a vote for or against. The problem with PR is not the casting vote issue but the formulation of the bill (or whatever) which is presented subject to that vote. As in the Greens never letting their agenda rest for a minute to deal with reality. As in the Libdem component of the 2010 coalition compromising the tories’ plans. It all goes wrong way before the vote.

    (And the republican rebels are trying to implement single-issue funding bills, avoiding the pork barrel which buggers all congressional spending.)

  3. 7 paragraphs in to “Why do eight radicals hold power over the entire US House of Representatives?”:

    It’s also true that Democrats – every one of whom voted against the speaker – provided the bulk of the votes that deposed McCarthy

  4. I can only agree. The eight Republicans would have been insignificant if it hadn’t been for the hundreds of Democrat votes.

  5. I couldn’t disagree more with the statement “there is no party discipline at all”.

    With the very lukewarm exception of Senator Manchin the Democrats in both houses are the epitome of discipline. Never forget Pelosi’s “If you want to know what’s in the bill you first have to pass the bill”. Every single one of them duly voted for it.

    That’s the problem. When Republicans hold majorities establishment squishes like Ryan and McCarthy make damned sure they don’t upset the apple cart by actually passing any Conservative legislation.

  6. A long time ago in a galaxy not so far away….

    “The SNP is a minority Government and we build concensus on an issue-by-issue basis, with different parties. Small parties in the Scottish Parliament, the Greens for example, they’ve only got two members of the Scottish Parliament but they use their influence very wisely to win big concessions.”
    Nicola Sturgeon in 2010

    (The Scottish Parliament uses the Additional Members System, a compensatory form of proportional representation, to elect MSPs. [wikipedia])

  7. This mess really isn’t an artifact of any flavour of election.

    It’s simply the result of a very small majority in a parliament in a black/white setting, allowing any small number of “rogues” to Make Waves over any issue.

    The opposition being hell-bent to park some pie in the face of the “ruling” faction at every conceivable oppportunity doesn’t help..

  8. PF: So you regard parties like Reform as *extremist* compared to Labour? Interesting, Tim….

    This is particularly bizarre given Tim’s strong erstwhile UKIP credentials.

    Richard Tice seems the archetypal nice chap in comfy slippers on a comfy sofa radiating extreme comfiness and an effective antidote to insomnia.

  9. “Extreme” as in “further from hte centre”. Which Ukip definiteively was, a long, long, way from the centre back then of accepted political centre. Overton Wndow stuff, not actually extreme as in let’s invade Poland.

  10. I tend to agree with Grikath. It’s the math not the system. We got the LDs being in coalition under FPTP.

    The next election might well be a coalition of Labour with SNP and/or the LDs. Hard to tell.

  11. PR gives more power to the fringe groups that is.

    We don’t have PR, but multiple minority fringe views are governing and ruining our lives. All from the left.

    Maybe it doesn’t make much difference what system you have. Maybe it just comes down to how engaged and dedicated people are. If most people just want to walk the dog, go down the pub and watch the telly then they don’t stand much of a chance against those whose religion / hobby is to organise to fuck people around.

    We rant. They do.

  12. It gets worse, Macheath. The Greens polled fewer votes in the Glasgow AM “region” than the Tories. The Tories. In Glasgow. Yet the bloke at the top of their list now sits as a “cabinet minister”.

    I could just about accept a party which won 8% of the overall vote becoming “kingmakers” if their Members actually won their seats outright. To take an example from Westminster, we all know that Northern Ireland is Different. People who might vote Tory on the mainland will likely turn to one of the Unionist parties over there. But the greenist insanity in Scotland is due to a party which didn’t break 12% of the vote, and fourth place, anywhere. (Outside Glasgow, they struggled to hit 9%. In the Highlands and Islands, they were fifth, on 7.4%. And won were awarded a seat.)

    For all the talk in the past of a “Tory-free zone”, the Conservatives even in their darkest days never fell below 19% overall in a Scotland-wide election. They remain the only one of the five parties currently sitting in Holyrood never to have held power there. They’ve never fallen lower than being the third-largest party. The Greens, as noted, are currently in coalition as the fourth-largest, as were the LibDems in the early days.

    Average turnout for Holyrood elections is around 55%. Can’t imagine why.

  13. Here’s an idle hypothetical. Suppose the next election is close with the tories not having an overall majority. Would they prefer a coalition with the libdems or Reform given each had a small number of seats? Seems to me it’s the LDs every time.

  14. I’d agree Rhoda. Reminds me of Dutton here in Oz. He took care to offer an alternative version of the voice, although I’d guess most of the Liberal party voters are definitely NOT in favour of it.

    But perhaps I’m just prejudiced because I feel that way myself.

  15. McCarthy has always seemed a bit out of his depth. Washington is a snake pit. McCarthy was a non venomous snake in amongst the venomous one.

  16. I seem to remember a general election (was it 2015?) when the SNP won 2 million-and-something votes and were rewarded with 40-odd seats in the House of Commons, while at the same election UKIP won 3 million-and-something votes and were rewarded with…no seats at all.

    This is the sort of nonsense PR is suppposed to prevent.

    But it seems no extant system of PR does not deliver other, possibly more damaging nonsense.

  17. Bloke in North Dorset

    The problem of extrapolating a PR result from a FPTP result is that voting patterns will be different, especially in FPTP secure seats. There’s not much point in voting in this seat, a bad result for the so called Conservative MP is less than 50% of the turnout.

    (When asked his 4 nominations for a UK Mt Rushmore for former PMs he included Blair but not Maggie)

  18. With FPTP you get the exact opposite result though. Often with worse results.

    A strong minority in Britain for more conservative Conservatives is wasted. It might as well not exist, even if it a quarter of the voters.

    Meanwhile in NZ our National Party dare not become too squishy a centrist party, because ACT will eat them. We’ve seen the same in Sweden, where they have an ability to vote away from the monoparty centre. It’s dragged the country right.

    So people on this site bleat about how wet and useless the Tories are, while simultaneously opposing the one thing that stops it.

  19. The biggest problem with PR is that the people vote and then the politicians decide who has won. No thanks.

  20. The biggest problem with PR is that the people vote and then the politicians decide who has won.

    From the voters’ point of view, how is that significantly different from FPTP providing a landslide to one side but it making no significant change in policy?

  21. “so called” Conservative MP … when asked his 4 nominations for a UK Mt Rushmore for former PMs he included Blair but not Maggie

    From his comments, I strongly suspect mine is the same – and no, not Dorset.

  22. O/T England were shite at rugby. Yet they think they can beat Portugal with an A team.
    Get your ticket Timmy.

  23. PJF @ 7.14, my brother made the point many years ago that most of the ‘meetings’, ‘forums’, ‘commitees’, ‘hearings etc are all held in the evening. Perfect timing for the Retired, Unemployed, Teachers, Councillors, 9 – 5 office wallahs, but fucking useless for a shift worker or someone who has to get up at 3 in the morning to go pick up his artic from the yard…..

  24. Two interesting developments in Das Reich :

    In Germany the AfD is now polling consistently above 20 %, more than any of the current governing parties.

    In Austria the FPOe Freedom Party is polling 30%

    Now no one in De will form a coalition with the AfD, but as is the way with such parties ( the last thing that they want/need is to be in power ) the uniparty ignoring them will just cause resentment and their support to grow as a protest. Moreover the liberal ( proper liberals not the clown show we have ) FDP have had to bite their tongues on a lot of legislation that is diametrically opposed to their ideology. Not sure that the price of power is worth their oblivion.

    If the FPOe win the election, then the uniparty has to deal with them.

    It is interesting to see the decline in the Socialist Parties of both countries.

  25. I strongly favour Instant Run-Off Voting (IRV) with single seat constituencies.

    One of the interesting things about IRV is that each political party can field more than one candidate without risk to the overall decision (or just the one).

    With IRV and multiple candidates from the same party, there is more democracy.

    With party lists, there is less democracy.

    Best regards

  26. Bloke Straddling the North Channel

    Personally I have no idea whether PR would improve or not the political situation in the UK (no matter what your political views, I suspect, at best, it would be a series of +ve and -ve things, but shrug). What is essential IMO is to avoid “list based” PR where the parties control who is on the list and the order. The NI solution of multi-seat constituencies with single transferrable vote at least allows the voter to chose in order of (decreasing) preference – if you want to ensure you get the vote done in 1 go – albeit you will have to wait a few days before the results are finalised; assuming manual counting.

  27. PJF: From the voters’ point of view, how is that significantly different from FPTP providing a landslide to one side but it making no significant change in policy?

    That describes the position the UK will be in at the next general election with both major parties favouring a big state and borrowing and taxes at so high a level that there will be little headroom for government spending to rise.

    In the past, though, (and also in the future with luck) a newly elected government would be saddled with its election manifesto, the contents of which influence HoL’s broad compliance with the government programme.

    Under PR, the legislative programme only emerges after the government is formed where that government consists of parties in coalition so horse-trading and political jockeying become the order of the day and the voters can jolly well lump it.

  28. @Chris Miller – “The biggest problem with PR is that the people vote and then the politicians decide who has won.”

    A great slogan, but in common with many great slogans, totally untrue. PR is a property of an electoral system. It is not itself an electoral system. It would be possible to have a PR system which behaves as you describe, but the standard ones require the parties to nominate the candidates in advance. And with STV the parties have very little influence after the election.

    @Nigel Sedgwick

    Multi-seat constituencies prevent a huge amplification of power. For example, if party A has 40%, B has 30%, C has 20% and the remaining 10% is the usual odd candidates, then a single-seat constituency elects the party A candidate. Repeat across the country an the parliamentary majority will often only represent a minority.

    @Bloke Straddling the North Channel – “avoid “list based” PR”

    Yes, very much so. It gives parties too much power at the expense of the electorate.

  29. Charles and others

    The Irish system was actually devised in preparation for Home Rule in 1914.

    That idiot Varadker for instances only just squeaked in on the third preference in his constituency, he is so unpopular.

    BUT a party can put up three candidates in a constituency and might well win all three seats. So in that respect it might just cement some of the “donkey wearing a rosette” effect we see in Britain.

  30. Charles at October 8, 2023 at 6:21 pm comes back to me (specifically by name) on multi-seat constituencies.

    On this issue, consider the following – using the example of UK general elections. Seat in constituencies cover from 650 one-seat constituencies to one 650-seat constituency; though presumably most suggestions on multi-seat are towards the lower end of the 1 to 650 range. Considering this range can help us clarify the issues, under two main headings.

    (i) MEANING. What does it mean to chose the election system from between constituencies with say 1-seat, 2-seat and 20-seat? Also what does it mean to have 15-seat constituencies rather than 20-seat. Certainly 1-seat offers a single winner clearly identified with their constituency; also clearly identified as the one important political person who has the duty to represent the view(s) and needs of every individual constituents. With (even as few as) 20 MPs for a constituency, such responsibility is so spread that constituents are extremely likely to feel they have no single important person with potential to take their side: just a mash of those recognised as (actually defined as) less important.

    (ii) VOTER EFFORT. The more seats in a constituency, the more important it is (with Instant Run-off Voting) that every constituent evaluates things (effectively by a multiplicity of candidate pair-wise comparisons), rather than only determining their ranking of the top few candidates (for run-off purposes) in a 1-seat constituency. Such evaluations impose a seriously unrealistic effort on every single voter. Consider for example (UK general election) the extreme case of five 130-seat comparisons; this requires every voter to be somewhat interested in and contributing through their comparisons rank-1 with rank-2 down to rank-129 with rank-130 – and down to far enough beyond 129 with 130 for run-off purposes. Even with modest multi-seat constituencies, the voter think-load becomes untenable.

    I hope the above points help clarify the issues.

    Somewhat aside, the motivations of those who favour multi-seat constituencies are often (even usually) those looking to have more ‘proportional’ representation: that is with some winning candidates having such weak support that IMHO they should never be elected.

    Best regards

  31. TYPOGRAPHICAL CORRECTION: [In the following clause it should be “constituencies”, not “comparisons”.]

    [[Consider for example (UK general election) the extreme case of five 130-seat COMPARISONS; …]]

    Best regards

  32. Results in regional elections in Germany at the weekend :


    CSU 37 %
    Freie Waehler 15.8 %
    AfD 14.9 %
    Greens 14.4 %
    SPD 8.4 %
    FDP 3.0 %

    The CSU had the same % as the last election. Greens and SPD lost heavily. AfD and FW gained at their expense.
    The Freie Waehler are a kind of Reform Party analogue to the right of the CSU. The present govt is a CSU FW coalition.


    CDU 34 %
    AfD 18.4%
    SPD 15.1 %
    Greens 14.8 %
    FDP 5 %
    Leftists 3 %

    CDU and AfD both heavily gained at the expense of everyone else. The current govt is a CDU Green coalition. Despite the clear victory the prime minister, Rhein, has a tough decision to make as he might not be able to command a majority with a single coalition partner. We have to wait for the seat allocations.

  33. @Chris Miller – “The biggest problem with PR is that the people vote and then the politicians decide who has won.”

    A great slogan, but in common with many great slogans, totally untrue. PR is a property of an electoral system.

    It seems to be a highly accurate description of what happens under most PR* systems in Europe (e.g. Belgium, Germany, …). The point is that PR will very often (far more so than FPTP) result in a ‘hung parliament’, so the various parties then horse trade policies for a seat in the ministerial BMW and the electorate can go hang. See 2010 in the UK.

    * but I expect you will claim that it’s not ‘real’ PR, which has never been tried …

  34. @Nigel Sedgwick – “MEANING”

    Having an N-seat constituency means voters must cast their vote by rating candidates “1, 2, 3, …” where it is adviseable they get a fair bit past N. That gets rather onerous when the constituencies have too many seats. An N-seat constituency also means that 1/(N+1)+1 votes will guarantee a candidate is elected (e.g. 5 seats with 100 voters means 17 votes is enough – because 5*17 100, so six cannot). There is little point in trying to make small minorities get representatives elected as they will have too little influence. With FPTP or other single seat constituencies the problem of constituents is that their representative may be idealogically completely opposed to what they want and therefore totally useless to them. And if you have multiple representatives elected from the same party in the same constituency, they are likely to be much more responsive to the voters as they are not only competing against candidates from opposition parties but also against those from their own.


    The thing only seriously unrealistic is your suggestion of such huge constituencies. A reasonable size is about five seats. That provides adequate representation of any reasonably popular view without being unmanageable.

    The motivation for a proportional system is to make the views of those elected more accurately reflect those of the electorate. That is the basic principle of democracy. If you don’t want a system which reflects the views of the electorate, just make me dictator and be done with it.

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