Thursday, February 9, 2012

Winner Take All Politics in Indiana

The Right-to-Work bill in the Indiana state legislature and the Indianapolis Redistricting bill in the city-council share something in common: they are examples of the majority party doing whatever they want, despite the objections of the minority. A little of this is expected, since that what it means to “win” a majority of seats—you get to make the decisions. However, in the U.S. political system, the majority is not supposed to become a dictator. They are supposed to take the minority voice into consideration, and work with the minority party to create laws that make the system work. The majority is responsible not only making the decisions, but just as equally they are responsible for not disenfranchising the minority. In both of these bills, disenfranchisement of the minority is what has happened. In both cases, the proposed bills created strong objections by the minority, who have been completely locked out of the process of shaping the law or adding amendments to make the bills bipartisan, and thus reflect the will of the public.

This is a fundamental distinction between the U.S. political system, and a winner-take-all system, as they have in Haiti, where the winner of an election gets 100% of the power. There is no “sharing” of power. Our political founders intentionally created a system whereby there is power-sharing. The consequences of winner-take-all politics is that the minority party gets 100% shut out of all decision-making, and their only outlet for opposition is revolution. This is exactly what we see in winner-take-all countries—constant revolution followed by violent repression. Have we seen hints of that in Indiana? Can the floods of protesters at the statehouse, followed by a revising of the regulations to limit the numbers of protesters, be seen as a foreshadowing of a winner-take-all political road? Winning an election means far more than the ability to do what you want. With power comes responsibility. The majority party has a responsibility to hear and implement the voices of the entire citizen base, 40% of whom did not vote for the current state legislature, and 55% of whom did not vote for the city-council who enacted Indianapolis redistricting. The winning party has a responsibility for creating stability and community-building, not wild partisan swings as each side gets kicked out of office for wildly swinging us from side to side, creating discord and unpredictability. Let’s not become Haiti.