I don’t comment in writing on American politics. It’s not my business, it’s not under my control (or influence even), and fussing about it does nothing to make my life better.
Today, though, I’m posting a link to an article about American politics because I think it offers an interesting perspective for Canadian politics even though we don’t have the two-party system that Drutman would like to see changed in the USA.
My take-aways for Canada?
First, if we invest more power in provincial and local governments (as opposed to federal), we can simultaneously achieve three things:
- Lowering the scope of any given decision, thereby lowering the value of lobbying and the potential for corruption
- Responding better to regional differences
- Increasing our own leverage over our elected representatives
Second, we can limit intense take-no-prisoners partisanship if we do these things:
- Refuse to demonize people with whom we disagree (even strongly)
- Accept intra-party differences of opinion rather than suppressing them in the name of party discipline
- Expect the same or better from our representatives
To give you an idea of the article, here’s an excerpt:
Take what happened in the presidential debate last week. President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden did little to conceal their disdain of one another. And although the debate marked a low point in our national discourse, it was a crystallization of a long-developing trend: loathing the opposing party. . . .
So how did we get to this point?
Broadly speaking, there are three trends that we can point to. The first is the steady nationalization of American politics. The second is the sorting of Democrats and Republicans along urban/rural and culturally liberal/culturally conservative lines, and the third is the increasingly narrow margins in national elections.
The combination of these three trends has turned Washington, D.C., into a high-stakes battle where cross-party compromise is difficult, and both sides are increasingly holding out for complete control.
Funny, I was just thinking about this the other day. Although Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich were famously at odds publicly, they worked together to get things done. I’m fairly certain it had its start there but then very much accelerated in the next administration with the Democratic naked loathing of W, which continued unabated through both terms. Obama did nothing to bring sides together (he talked a good game but that was it and the other side wrote him off early as a lightweight). Which brings us to 2016 and the hereafter.
Wade – I guess different observers would cite different offences or turning points, here and there. But loathing is bad for the loather, the loathed, and society at large I’d say. No matter how it arose, the challenge is how to walk it back.
Just for starters — there is another list of 450 progressive achievements despite great opposition by the GOP.
Barbara – Thanks for the link.
Politics is always a matter of selecting between, or among, imperfect candidates. Thinking about Obama reminds me that as soon as he was elected Mitch McConnell said that their job was to make him a one-term president, so to what extent he attempted to bring sides together is debatable, but Trump has more interest in keeping sides apart than he does in bringing anything together.
Tom – Fault on both sides, I’d say. The question for Canadians is how to improve our own environment, which can get pretty heated.
A statistic floats up from memory: the 50 richest individuals in the US own more than the 194 million poorest people in a population of 331 million. The political parties appear to have divided along a line that distinguishes those who care more about maintaining the 50 than about improving the lot of the 194 million. What happens in the coming US election is going to have a tremendous influence on our Canadian lives — like the pandemic that knows no borders.
Laurna – I think that statistic is close, at least. I don’t agree with your characterization of the two parties, but we agree that self-government is hard, ongoing work, for sure.