Thursday, February 20, 2014

be careful what you wish for

In 1950,the American Political Science Association published a major study by its leading scholars complaining about the state of U.S. politics and calling for parties that stood for clear and different policies, in contrast to the amorphous parties of the day. Well, now we have polarized parties with sharply clashing views, and few incentives to cooperate on much of anything. Gridlock, anger, public disgust with Congress.

Now a British professor, Robert Ford,  points out that Britain has what many say America needs, and it's just as bad there.
As America grapples with the problems of polarization, centrist politics, perhaps launched by a third party, looks like an enticing panacea. This is an illusion: moderation may solve some problems, but in deeply divided societies like America and Britain, it cannot be achieved without marginalizing many voters. Pushing unresolved conflicts out of the system may produce calmer politicians, but it also produces angrier voters, who may turn against the democratic system which denies them a voice. In politics, everything comes with a price. Moderation is no exception.
Yes, but... What Ford overlooks is the huge difference between a presidential and a parliamentary system. A majority in parliament is power to do just about anything. In America, even a president and congress of the same party can be checked by the unelected supreme court. Voters may be unhappy in both countries, but only one can still govern.

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