Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another Modest Proposal: Create A Multiparty System

This Steve Benen post on the House Democratic and Republican Whips getting their troops in line makes the U.S. House of Representatives sound a bit too much like a lower house in a parliamentary system.  Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer "has been whipping against the Boehner bill very hard" while Speaker Boehner apparently "told his caucus this morning, “Get your ass in line.”

So we will be left with a situation that has the Republican House pass a debt ceiling bill that won't pass the Democratic Senate or be signed by a Democratic President.  Meanwhile, a Democratic Senate will pass a debt ceiling bill that won't pass the Republican House.

If Congress is going to act like a parliament, then the U.S. needs to change its two-party system to a multiparty system.  In the current situation, a multiparty system would keep the Tea Party tail from wagging the Republican dog.  A multiparty system also might allow for more libertarian and liberal alliances to slow down the assault on civil liberties.

I may be guilty of what Paul Krugman has taken to calling the "cult of centrism."  Jim Hightower has written There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos: A Work of Political Subversion.  I have a faint memory of  Dick Armey uttering the latter sentiment as well. 

In an act of presumption, I'm going to disagree with a a Nobel Laureate and beloved populist and conservative icons.  All seem to believe that one ought to avoid the center of the road and drive on the shoulder of the road or the ditch.  Driving on gravel roads has taught me that the ridge on the shoulder frequently pulls drivers into the ditch and the ditch is filled with rabid skunks and rattlesnakes.

Krugman is right when he asserts that the current system provides "no penalty for extremism; no way for most voters, who get their information on the fly rather than doing careful study of the issues, to understand what’s really going on."  A multiparty system might not have strict penalties for extremism, but it would also provide no rewards.  It would allow voters to drive rather than deal with dead or dangerous wildlife.

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