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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 be tempted to try the “more effective” strongman models of 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.