Lee Drutman, "Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multiparty Democracy in America" (Oxford UP, 2020)


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There are quite a few authors writing about the problems facing American democracy and how best to solve those problems. Many of the problematic issues devolve to the question of representation – and how to shift or change the American political system so that it better represents the voters themselves and the plurality of perspectives and opinions across the country. Lee Drutman’s new book, Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multiparty Democracy in America (Oxford UP, 2020) dives into both the problems with the current political dynamic and the possible solutions. As the title indicates, Drutman’s analysis investigates the current binary “doom loop” of two internally consistent parties, and the elected officials who rarely have to compromise within the Madisonian system set up to compel compromise. Drutman’s examination takes the reader through the historical shifts in terms of the parties themselves and American political development, and how Americans have come to find themselves in this “doom loop.” Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop also explores contemporary “toxic politics” and the existential threat that every election seems to pose for parties, partisans, those in elected office, and ultimately for the country itself and public policies. Ultimately, Drutman proposes a number of reforms that, without amending the Constitution, could, as he says, break this doom loop and open up opportunities for more actual representation. Following the examples of a number of cities in the U.S. and the state of Maine, Drutman posits that electoral reform, especially options like ranked choice voting, would shift the dynamic during campaigns, and would lead to coalition building and compromise by lawmakers and elected officials in office. The final section of Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multiparty Democracy in America makes the case for how a multiparty system in the United States would work without amending the political institutions established by the Constitution. This is, ultimately, an optimistic book with a variety of proposals designed to untangle some of the persistent knots within the American political system.

Lilly J. Goren is professor of political science at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is co-editor of the award winning book, Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics (University Press of Kentucky, 2012).

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