Volume 96, Number 4

October 2021

Elections, Political Parties, and Multiracial, Multiethnic Democracy: How the United States Gets It Wrong

Lee Drutman

How can self-governance work in a diverse society? Is it possible to have a successful multiracial, multiethnic democracy in which all groups are represented fairly? What kinds of electoral and governing institutions work best in a pluralistic society? In the United States today, these are not just theoretical concerns but fundamental inquiries at the core of an urgent question with an uncertain answer: How does American democracy survive?

This Article looks for an answer by placing the United States in a broader context of multiracial, multiethnic democracies around the world. The basic argument is straightforward: The majoritarian politics of single-winner electoral districts and the two-party system it produces is bad for both minority representation and, by extension, for democracy itself. A more inclusive and stable democracy requires a proportional system of voting and more than two parties. This Article thus proceeds in three parts. Part I takes a broader look at the theory of multiracial, multiethnic democracy, with a particular focus on the role of parties and elections in sustaining or undermining multiracial, multiethnic democracy. Part II looks more closely at minority representation in the United States through the lens of the American party and electoral system and its deep inadequacies in supporting multiracial, multiethnic democracy. Part III argues that proportional representation is the logical solution for the United States if it wants to have a chance at being a stable multiracial, multiethnic democracy.