With Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropping out of the presidential race, the ‘Never Trump’ movement ever growing, and dozens of Republicans committing their support — however reluctantly — to likely democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, the American democratic system is tearing at the seams. The country once hailed as a beacon of democracy is now anything but. At this crucial turning point, the US could stand to learn a thing or two about democratic governance from its allies — especially Israel.
The two-party system in and of itself is inherently undemocratic. By limiting political parties to only two mainstream voices, the majority of voters — who would likely identify somewhere in the middle — are forced to compromise on key political issues. To win the presidential nomination, politicians are often forced to be on the absolute fringes of the political spectrum, alienating those who are not so extreme. This tendency is ever-present in the Republican party, where nominees seem to drift back to the center after becoming the nominee. Remember when everyone criticized Romney for being a ‘finger in the wind’ candidate? That’s the ultimate manifestation of this principle.
In Israel, like many European countries, boasts dozens of political parties. Israelis can vote for any of 34 parties, meaning they have a variety of options to choose a party with with they uniquely identify, from the absolutely secular to the ultra-religious, representing the entirety of the political spectrum. Secular, left-wing, Arab? Got it. Religious Zionist, Modern Orthodox? Got it. Center, secular, nationalist? That too.
In the US, however, the options are limited. The Republican party is home to moderates, Tea Partiers, Libertarians, and highly-religious conservatives. Conversely, the Democratic party is home to socialists, secularists, liberals, and the subsumed Green Party. It’s nearly impossible to reconcile the multitude of opinions found within each party, and so voters are forced to compromise their views. In other countries, representation is possible for even the most focused groups. The democratic system is Israel is so open to this that parties like Balad — an Arab nationalist, anti-Zionist party — is still a viable party that is represented in Knesset. In the US, this option simply doesn’t exist.
What we’re left with now that only three candidates remain is, simply put, a mess. Republicans find themselves torn between voting for Donald Trump — who many have expressed does not represent their views or those of the republican party — or Hillary Clinton, who is not even a Republican. Many analysts have predicted for months that Clinton will be the next president, and these predictions seem even more accurate now that the field has narrowed. Republicans see Clinton as part of the Washington elite, a former member of the Obama administration that many disdain, and as a powerful former Secretary of State who put the lives of Americans in Benghazi in grave danger. However, she’s seen as a much more moderate option than both Sanders and Trump, who gravitate towards extremes. Trump’s anti-immigration, sometimes-hawkish-sometimes-not foreign policy, and anti-gun control policy makes him a perplexing conservative.
On the other hand, Bernie Sanders’ platform is about as left as American politics has been in decades — Sanders’ is pro-choice, favors diplomacy over military force, and wants to break up the Wall Street banks. These polar opposites make Hillary Clinton seem like a moderate, and thus a more favorable choice. Too many now are reluctantly supporting her not by choice, but in the hope that the US won’t be ruined by an extremist, whether right-wing or left.
What the US could learn from Israel (and really, most other states in the world) is that representation needs to be manifested in a way that is democratic and open to the dozens of views in a country, not through two catchall parties. While systems like Israel’s are flawed in their own rights, the fact of the matter is that individuals are more likely to find a political party or leader with whom they truly identify, and who can represent them. The US lacks this, and its broken system is tearing the country apart.