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.
American president Donald Trump and his supporters have learned one lesson of the Iraq War: To quash legitimate concerns about an ill-advised military operation, call the patriotism of your critics into question.
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.
The center-left Socialists and center-right People’s Party are used to alternating in power. They split 80 percent of the votes as recently as 2011. But Spain hasn’t been a two-party system since 2015, when Podemos (“We Can”) on the far left and the Ciudadanos (“Citizens”) on the center-right took one out of three votes between them.
Alberto Mingardi of the libertarian Bruno Leoni Institute in Milan argues in Politico that the “deep roots” of Italy’s coalition chaos lie in an electoral system that makes it hard for any one party to govern.
It used to be Republicans in the United States who fantasized about raising turnout to win national elections.
As recently as 2016, Texas senator Ted Cruz, then a presidential hopeful, suggested that there were millions of evangelical voters waiting to be activated by the right candidate. (No prize for guessing who he thought that candidate was.)
Social justice warriors can be their own worst enemies.
For the first time, an openly gay man is running for president in America — but queer activists like Greta LaFleur and Dale Peck (whose article was pulled from The New Republic for its obscenity) are still unhappy. Pete Buttigieg is white, married and middle-class, and therefore somehow not gay enough.
The current United States Congress is the most diverse ever, but for Massachusetts congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (one of the Democratic lawmakers President Donald Trump shamefully told to “go back” to their own countries, no matter that she was born in Ohio), this isn’t enough:
We don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice. We don’t need black faces that don’t want to be a black voice. We don’t need Muslims that don’t want to be a Muslim voice. We don’t need queers that don’t want to be a queer voice.
If you thought the point of equality and liberation was that gender, sexual orientation and skin color would one day no longer matter, well, you’re just blind to your own oppression or an Uncle Tom for the patriarchy, heteronormativity, white supremacy — pick your poison. Read more “How to Lose Friends and Influence People”
The left-versus-center feud in the Democratic Party is spilling out into the open. House speaker Nancy Pelosi has urged progressive lawmakers not to tweet out their grievances. New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the most popular among them, has accused Pelosi of “singling out” newly elected women of color.
The immediate cause of the quarrel is a $4.6 billion border bill I praised here last week as a rare bipartisan compromise. Ocasio-Cortez was one of four Democrats who voted against it. So did Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib and Massachusetts’ Ayanna Pressley.
Other Democrats weren’t happy with the deal either. It doesn’t go far enough to improve conditions in detention centers, but at least it makes money available to provide migrants and their children with basic sanitation and medication. Among the critics were Washington state’s Pramila Jayapal and Wisconsin’s Mark Pocan, co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Pocan even disparaged the bipartisan “Problem Solvers Caucus”, which is trying to find a solution to the border crisis that both parties can live with, as the “Child Abuse Caucus”.
But even they calculated that Democrats were unlikely to get anything better by Republicans, who still control the Senate and the presidency. Pelosi herself argued that the migrant children — who have suffered abdominal conditions at the hands of Donald Trump’s border enforcement agency — had to “come first” and Democrats should not let the perfect become the enemy of the good.