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Advantaging Authoritarianism: the U.S. Electoral System

Overview

America’s authoritarian faction is both more extreme and more successful than similar movements in other advanced democracies. Yet despite its ascendency, this faction does not enjoy broad-based support. So what explains its outsized success?

In Advantaging Authoritarianism: The U.S. Electoral System & Antidemocratic Extremism, Protect Democracy examines the links between escalating antidemocratic extremism and the U.S. electoral system: “one uniquely translating limited factional support into outsized political influence.” In particular, it interrogates how specific features of the U.S. electoral system may be structurally favoring political extremism, such as by exaggerating one party’s electoral wins over the other, diluting minority voting power, weakening competition between the major parties, preventing an electorally viable new center-right party, and rewarding extreme factions at the ballot box, among other effects.

As political scientist Robert Dahl once observed, the U.S. system, “natural as it may seem to us, is of a species rare to the vanishing point among the advanced democracies.” Advantaging Authoritarianism examines its anomalous features; the ways in which those features are aggravating extremism; and how various reforms could help to turn the tide. While the authoritarian threat confronting the U.S. is a near-term crisis, successfully confronting it will also require long-term, structural solutions.

Report: Advantaging Authoritarianism

For a PDF version of Advantaging Authoritarianism: The U.S. Electoral System & Antidemocratic Extremism, click here.

 

 

Event: How America's Electoral System Benefits Authoritarianism, and How We Can Fix it

On February 2nd, 2022, Protect Democracy, Unite America, and R Street hosted a discussion panel on how features of the U.S. electoral system are exacerbating America’s authoritarian threat. While those concerned about U.S. democracy justifiably focus on the current far-right campaigns to curtail voting rights nationwide and interfere with election administration, the roots of antidemocratic extremism run much deeper. A report by Protect Democracy argues that, unlike most other major democracies, the U.S. electoral system—single-member plurality—is structurally and uniquely advantaging authoritarianism: diluting minority voting power, weakening competition between the major parties, preventing an electorally viable new center-right party, and rewarding extreme factions at the ballot box.

This event was on-the-record and included open questions from the audience. The panelists answered questions about the ways in which America’s electoral system anomalous, the challenges our electoral system presents to democratic resilience, and how we can structurally reverse the authoritarian tide.

Watch the Recording.

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