Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Minor Musing About Parliamentary Practices And The 17th Amendment

A few days ago, Dr. Blanchard speculated that netting seats may be "the only thing we care about anymore." Coincidentally, Kevin Drum provides a major reason for that political callousness:
For all practical purposes, we live in a pseudo-parliamentary system of governance, and the only thing that matters in Congress is what party you belong to.
I've long thought Congress began morphing into a de facto parliament with Gingrich's Contract with/on/for America. Northeastern liberal Republicans and Southern conservative Democrats were endangered species before then but now they are extinct.

Conservatives nationally and in South Dakota now want to repeal the 17th Amendment. They claim that repeal will increase the influence of states. These same conservatives seem content with conservative Republicans voting en masse to stop every Obama initiative simply because it's an Obama initiative.

Repealing the 17th Amendment will do little to reduce the Republican embrace of a pseudo-parliamentary system. In fact, it seems a blatantly obvious move to increase Republican numbers in Congress. Currently, Republicans control the legislatures in 27 states; Democrats control only 17. Those numbers would give Republicans 54 seats. Nebraska's unicameral legislature would probably send two more Republicans. Republicans would then need to get 4 of the 10 Senate appointees from the states with divided legislatures to have a 60 vote majority in the Senate.

Meanwhile, electoral college trends show Democrats should have an easier time keeping the Presidency. Nate Silver provides a helpful graphic.

Parliamentary systems work because the head of state and head of dominant party are the same person. Parliamentary practices won't work with a federal system that seems be destined to have divided government more the foreseeable future.

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