Tuesday, September 3, 2013


noun: Government by those who seek division at the expense of the governed

Bifurcracy is a made-up word, combining bifurcation – the division of something into two branches or parts – and democracy, a system of government by the whole population. Recently, when reading about the political environment in Russia, I've seen a lot of the word kleptocracy – a government that takes advantage of governmental corruption to extend the personal wealth and political power of government officials and the ruling class.

It would be a far stretch to suggest that the United States is anything like Russia, where political bosses are tantamount to mafia godfathers. But our form of democracy lends itself to two political or ideological divisions, where those divisions attempt to entrench and fortify themselves against additional division at the expense of voter choice and participation.

This year's race for governor in Virginia is a case in point. There are three candidates for governor on November's ballot. Yet at a recent forum in Arlington sponsored by the Consumer Energy Alliance, only the candidates from the two major parties attended. At an upcoming summit in Fairfax sponsored by the Virginia Small Business Partnership, only the big two are scheduled to appear. And then there's the televised debate on September 25 sponsored by Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, hosted at Capital One headquarters in McLean, and moderated by NBC News political director Chuck Todd. Guess what? Yup.

Part of the reason for two-party dominance is our "first-past-the-post" system of voting where the winning candidate need only collect more votes than any other. Because a strong third candidate can take away from the top two candidates, the top two political parties seek to limit competition. As I wrote during my campaign for Congress in 2012, a "recognized political party" in Virginia must have a "state central committee composed of registered voters residing in each congressional district" and must have "received at least 10 percent of the total vote cast" in the two preceding elections. Such politically motivated electoral restrictions run counter to the American standard of fair play and opportunity.

In a meritocracy, the electorate chooses legislators on the basis of ability. But just as the economic tenets of the free market require that sellers and buyers have complete information, a free election must involve free and complete exchange of information between all candidates and voters. We are owed no less.