Don’t Try to Take Politics Out of Important Decisions

Washington DC
View of Washington DC with the United States Capitol in the distance, September 28, 2017 (Ted Eytan)

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

Washington DC
The sun sets on Washington DC (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”

Don’t Call Your Opponents Traitors

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump attends a World War I memorial in Suresnes, France, November 11, 2018 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

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.

It sometimes works — but only briefly, and it hurts you more than helps in the end. Read more “Don’t Call Your Opponents Traitors”

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

The United States Capitol in Washington DC
The 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”

Spain Better Get Used to Multiparty Democracy

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez greets Albert Rivera, leader of the Citizens party, outside his residence in Madrid, October 16
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez greets Albert Rivera, leader of the Citizens party, outside his residence in Madrid, October 16 (La Moncloa)

With no party or bloc winning a majority in Spain’s Congress on Sunday, the country’s politicians need to finally come to grips with coalition politics.

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.

This pattern has now been confirmed in four elections in as many years and still the old parties continue as though nothing has changed. Read more “Spain Better Get Used to Multiparty Democracy”

Italy’s Problem Is Not Its Electoral System

The facade of the Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian parliament, in Rome
The facade of the Palazzo Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian parliament, in Rome (Shutterstock)

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.

I think the roots actually go deeper than that. Read more “Italy’s Problem Is Not Its Electoral System”

Don’t Count on Turnout

American voters
Voters listen to a speech by Democratic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine in Davidson, North Carolina, October 12, 2016 (Hillary for America/Alyssa S.)

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.)

Now the left is falling for the same delusion. Read more “Don’t Count on Turnout”

How to Lose Friends and Influence People

Democratic congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts speaks at an event in Cambridge, September 8, 2018
Democratic congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts speaks at an event in Cambridge, September 8, 2018 (Warren for President)

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”

Don’t Blame Nancy Pelosi for Doing Her Job

House speaker Nancy Pelosi meets with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg at the United States Capitol in Washington DC, April 3
House speaker Nancy Pelosi meets with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg at the United States Capitol in Washington DC, April 3 (NATO)

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.

Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib and Pressley can disagree, but to suggest that their ethnicity played a role in Pelosi’s decisionmaking does a disservice to a woman who, in the last Congress, voted more left-wing than 80 percent of House Democrats. Read more “Don’t Blame Nancy Pelosi for Doing Her Job”