Policing in America Is Broken. There Are Solutions

Oakland California police
Police in Oakland, California at night, May 1, 2015 (Thomas Hawk)

Since George Floyd, a black man, was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, cops have been caught on video arresting and beating up Americans for speaking out or doing nothing at all, driving their cars into a crowd, tear-gassing peaceful protesters and bystanders, and arresting and attacking journalists.

The New York Times puts it well: “Facing protests over use of force, police respond with more force.”

They are being egged on by President Donald Trump, who has described the protests as “acts of terror”, called on governors to “dominate” the streets and threatened to deploy the military; Republican senators, who have suggested the police commit war crimes to suppress the protests; and conservative media, who portray all demonstrators as far-left radicals. Read more “Policing in America Is Broken. There Are Solutions”

A Better Way for Democrats to Elect Their Presidential Candidate

Elizabeth Warren
Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts gives a speech in Bloomfield Township, Iowa, January 19 (Phil Roeder)

Democrats in the United States need to rethink how they elect their presidential nominees.

The problem with the current system is not just that two of the first four contests are caucuses, in which few voters can and want to participate; the first two states, Iowa and New Hampshire, are so rural and white that they hardly represent the Democratic electorate nationwide.

Iowa’s Democrats needed days to tabulate their votes this year, undermining confidence in the process. Nevada’s did better, but they still needed a full day to incorporate the results of four days of early ranked-choice voting into the outcome of the in-person caucuses.

The result: talented politicians of color, notably Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, felt they had to end their presidential bids before the first votes were even cast. Center-left candidates with little chance of winning the nomination, such Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, did reasonably well in Iowa and New Hampshire and are now making it harder for more viable moderates to break out.

By the time eighteen states and territories will have voted next week, on Super Tuesday, and 1,499 of the 1,991 delegates needed to win the nomination will have been allocated, the socialist Bernie Sanders, the top choice of one in four Democrats nationally, could be close to unbeatable.

Surely there is a better way? Read more “A Better Way for Democrats to Elect Their Presidential Candidate”

The American Dream Could Use Some European Inspiration

Copenhagen Denmark
Cyclists in Copenhagen, Denmark (iStock/Leo Patrizi)

One can tell two very different stories about the American economy.

In one, growth is robust, unemployment is at its lowest in half a century and the stock market is booming. This is the story President Donald Trump likes to tell.

In the other, two in five Americans would struggle (PDF) to come up with $400 in an emergency. One in three households are classified as “financially fragile“. Annie Lowrey writes in The Atlantic that American families are being “bled dry by landlords, hospital administrators, university bursars and child-care centers.” This is the story Bernie Sanders and the Democrats tell: for millions of Americans on seemingly decent middle incomes, life has become too hard.

Sanders’ solution is to bring “democratic socialism” to America. He cites European countries like Denmark and Sweden as inspiration. They’re not bad places to imitate — but they have actually moved away from socialism and toward a mix of free markets and the welfare state. It is why they rank among the freest and most competitive (PDF) economies in the world.

Americans can learn from the Scandinavian experience, if they get the balance right. Read more “The American Dream Could Use Some European Inspiration”

It’s Too Hard to Remove an American President

Donald Trump James Mattis
American president Donald Trump and his defense secretary, James Mattis, arrive for a NATO summit in Brussels, July 12, 2018 (NATO)

If Donald Trump’s allies in the Senate vote to acquit him next week, they will prove it has become too hard to remove a president in the United States.

Trump withheld congressionally mandated aid from Ukraine to coerce the country into investigating the son of his Democratic rival, former vice president Joe Biden. Trump broke the law and abused his power to help his reelection.

Yet not a single Republican member of Congress voted to impeach him. Not a single Republican senator is expected to vote to remove him from office. Read more “It’s Too Hard to Remove an American President”

Don’t Try to Take Politics Out of Important Decisions

Washington DC
View of Washington DC with the United States Capitol in the distance, February 17, 2015 (Matt Popovich)

When politics becomes dysfunctional, there will be a temptation to remove it from important decisions.

This only makes the dysfunction worse.

Politics is what we call decision-making in a democratic society. Taking politics out of some decisions falsely suggests there is a consensus for a certain policy or delegates the decision to technocrats. Either is undemocratic. Read more “Don’t Try to Take Politics Out of Important Decisions”

America’s Rigid Two-Party System Is What Its Founders Feared

United States Capitol Washington
Skyline of Washington DC at night (Shutterstock)

Lee Drutman, a political scientist, argues in The Atlantic that America has become the rigid two-party system its founders feared.

The authors of America’s Constitution wanted to make it impossible for a partisan majority to ever unite and take control of the government, which it could then use to oppress the minority.

The fragile consent of the governed would break down, and violence and authoritarianism would follow. This was how previous republics had fallen into civil wars and the Framers were intent on learning from history, not repeating its mistakes.

They separated powers across competing institutions to prevent any one faction from dominating others. But they did not plan for the emergence of political parties, let alone just two parties. Read more “America’s Rigid Two-Party System Is What Its Founders Feared”

Election Shows Britain Needs Electoral Reform

British parliament London
Westminster Palace in London, England (Unsplash/Matt Milton)

The outcome of Britain’s general election on Thursday underscores the need for electoral reform.

Support for the Conservatives rose from 42.4 to 43.6 percent, but in terms of seats they went up from 317 (48.7 percent) to 365 (56.2 percent) out of 650.

Martin Sandbu of the Financial Times argues this hardly qualifies as a landslide. Boris Johnson “played the electoral system better” better than his predecessor, Theresa May. Read more “Election Shows Britain Needs Electoral Reform”

Moderates in America Should Not Give Up on Political Reform

Washington DC
View of Washington DC with the United States Capitol in the distance, February 17, 2015 (Matt Popovich)

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.

What are moderates to do? I propose reform.

Ideally, these various changes would break up the Democratic-Republican duopoly. Countries in Northwestern Europe prove that multiparty democracy produces better outcomes. Read more “Moderates in America Should Not Give Up on Political Reform”

Five Parties Are Better Than Two

United States Capitol Washington
United States Capitol in Washington DC (Shutterstock/Orhan Cam)

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.

But what if there was another alternative? Read more “Five Parties Are Better Than Two”

Political Fragmentation Need Not Lead to Paralysis

Swedish parliament Stockholm
Parliament House in Stockholm, Sweden (iStock/Blue Jay Photo)

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 be tempted to try the “more effective” strongman models of China and Russia. The authors give Germany and Sweden as examples.

I think this is too pessimistic. Read more “Political Fragmentation Need Not Lead to Paralysis”