Commentary & Analysis

Sick of the Circus? Get Rid of the Clowns.

American politics are commonly referred to as a “circus”. Showtime’s hit political docuseries is even called “The Circus”. What troubles me most about this term is not how trite it’s become, but how none of us question it. It’s now just widely accepted that those in elected office should serve as entertainers, rather than representatives. 

Foolish behavior is tolerated, and even expected, of our country’s leaders. While an offensive comment, a lie, or just plain negligence used to end political careers, the bar is now so low that we just laugh along. We shake our heads at the latest political flub, maybe make a meme and shrug it off when the next scandal comes around. 

Americans need a serious government, not a punchline. We’ve just entered the recovery process from a horrific pandemic. The country is more politically divided than ever. Now, we’re facing a global crisis that has the potential to upend global diplomacy as we know it. And yet, It feels like Congress has gone from the heart of global democracy to a clown car full of jokers. Many of you are as fed up as I am. How did we get these clowns, and how do we get rid of them?

To understand how more “clowns” come to power, and thus prevent it, we must fix our broken election process that gives them an advantage.

Analysis shows more people are running in primary races with each election cycle. Perhaps, due to the treacherous state of affairs, we are all more politically active. While political engagement is fantastic, our current voting system is not equipped to handle eight candidates in a crowded primary (insert clown car metaphor). The more candidates in a primary, the more likely outrageous and unpopular candidates are to win under plurality voting. When you can only select one candidate, you’re forced to choose between numerous similar options. This can create vote splitting, diluting the popular votes enough between smart, capable candidates that the wild card actually ends up winning. It’s how some of our more outrageous politicians in this country have risen to power—the ones no one seems to like, the ones who would rather make a scene than make a real difference.

The solution is simple: change how we vote. There is no viable reason why voters should not be permitted to choose one or more candidates. This method, called approval voting, eliminates the vote splitting issue. It allows the true favorite to win, and gives an accurate reflection of support. By not forcing voters to pick just one candidate, and instead, one or more, results are reflective of actual sentiment and popularity. There are no games, no “wasting” of votes, and it still leaves the floor open for many enthusiastic candidates of different ideologies to put their names in the hat. 

Those who would profit off circus-style politics don’t like approval voting. Maybe it takes some of the fun out of it. But after the last several years, could you live without the vitriol on cable news? Could you live without name-calling? Could you live without the “how did they get here” candidates? I would be glad to.

Our country was founded on sacred principles, and our political system deserves dignity. But more importantly, our electorate deserves to have their voices represented by the politicians that are actually most popular and approved of by the most people. That’s how we’re told democracy works. Limiting voters’ decisions on a crowded ballot is just giving them a free ticket to a circus they don’t want to attend, with clowns they don’t want to watch–much less trust with the future of this nation.