A lot of what we do is describing and explaining problems: political conflicts, protests, wars. The Atlantic Sentinel tries to help readers understand the news better, often by looking back and placing events in an historical or international context. But sometimes we have ideas to improve things. You’ll find those stories under better democracy.
Regular readers know I believe the two-party system in America is one of the root causes of the country’s many political problems: extreme partisanship (but weak parties), polarization, a politicization of the judiciary and an unwillingness by lawmakers to rein in presidents of their own party, to name the four most urgent.
Taking judicial appointments out of the hands of politicians (in most other democracies, judges appoint their own) could help depoliticize the judiciary and take the sting out of the culture war that keeps the two-party system in place.
In my most recent column for World Politics Review, I argue that other European countries should welcome the chance to be “Dutchified”. Political fragmentation is often interpreted as a sign of political crisis, and indeed the transition from a two- to a multiparty system can be a bumpy ride, but the Netherlands proves it produces better outcomes.
There is no reason this shouldn’t be true for the United States as well.
Forcing Americans to make an either-or, left-or-right choice every election has bred extreme partisanship (but weak parties) and polarization. It has politicized the judiciary and led to a stalemate in Washington, where lawmakers are unable to tackle major issues, such as entitlement reform, and unwilling to rein in presidents of their own party.
If the only alternative to extremism in your own party is the other party, most will choose extremism.
Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Alina Polyakova write for the Brookings Institution that Europe’s political fragmentation threatens to lead to paralysis.
With anti-establishment parties, mostly of the right, taking a quarter of the vote, remaining parties are forced into ever broader and more unwieldy coalitions that fail to address such complex issues as sluggish economic growth, immigration and defense. As voters become frustrated with a lack of results, they could look to “more effective” strongman models of the type embodied by China and Russia. The authors give Germany and Sweden as examples.
Britain’s youngest political party is growing. The Independent Group (TIG) has attracted eight lawmakers from Labour and three from the Conservatives. A ninth Labour member of Parliament, Ian Austin, has left his party but not (yet) joined the new centrist group.
Few good things come out of Washington DC anymore, but today is an exception.
The Trump Administration is banning bump-fire stocks, which effectively turn semiautomatic weapons into machine guns. Owners will have three months to turn in or destroy their devices.
The Senate has voted 87-12 in favor of criminal justice reforms. Prison sentences for drug crimes will be lowered, judges will be given more discretion in sentencing low-level offenders and inmates will be allowed to serve more time in halfway homes or under house arrest.
California, Illinois, New York and Texas have 30 percent of the American population between them. Yet because they are late in the primary calendar, they have almost no say in the selection of presidential candidates.
Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have only 3 percent of the population, yet because they are first in line to vote they have disproportionate power in the process. If a candidate fails to win at least one of the first three primary states, he or she usually drops out.
Dylan Matthews cautions in Vox that ending the Trump presidency will not fix, or even substantially ameliorate, most of the problems plaguing the American political system.
They were mounting for years before he took office — indeed, they made him possible — and they will continue to plague us for years after he leaves.
Matthews shares some of my ideas for fixing American democracy, including abolishing the Electoral College and moving toward proportional representation. He also suggests eliminating midterm elections and introducing public financing for elections.
Don’t tell conservatives, but what we’re talking about is making the United States more like a European democracy.