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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

On Chait on Yglesias on Our Possibly Doomed Presidential System

Jon Chait tries not to give in to Matt Yglesias council of dispair. His post has the otimistic title There’s a Chance American Democracy Is Not Doomed
During the Obama era, a number of liberal writers, including this one, have grown fascinated with the prophecies of the late political scientist Juan Linz. Noting that presidential systems (as opposed to parliamentary ones) have a persistent tendency to collapse into coups, Linz argued that failures were endemic to their design. They created two elected bodies, both of which could claim popular legitimacy, without any strong mechanisms for settling power struggles between them.

Matthew Yglesias surveys American political history and its rising polarization through the prism of Linz’s analysis, and concludes that our political system is doomed. The U.S. was the exception to the otherwise-universal worldwide trend of presidential systems falling apart only because its unusually loose parties lacked the motivation and partisan willpower to push their powers to the limit. Now it is only a matter of time until a crisis brings it down.

I don't want to sound naive, but I think that we should consider all conceivable possibilities, and, therefore, even the possibility that the public will actually pay attention to what politicians do. I don't think it is a necessary implication of the presidential system that people blame the president for obstruction by the other party in Congress.

The chutzpa strategy worked fairly well for Republicans so far. but that doesn't mean that it will continue to work when they have majorities in both houses of congress.

Also a horrible recession is a good time to be in opposition. The logic of Yglesias's rather convincing argument depends on his belief that politicians will believe that obstruction was the key to mid term victories. If the Republicans two land slides were due to economy dependent disatisfaction, the pattern of apparantly rewarding obstruction might not endure long enough to destroy the constitution.

OK now I want to sound naive. Most politicians aren't one hundred percent focused on their party's chances of winning the next election. Some want power to use it to change the world. Others want to be favorably described by future historians. Mitch McConnell is extraordinarily focused. In a way he is selfless -- he doesn't seem to mind being called the epitome of everything wrong with Washington by the Washington Post Editorial board so long as Republicans win the next election. The desire for elite approval from the very serious village centrists at least makes politicians pay attention to the perceptions of people who pay attention to what they do.

I'm not sure if I can pin my hopes on Fred Hyatt, but I do want to end this comment with the phrase to save the presidency it takes a village.


Thornton Hall said...

You are right to focus on the media, but I don't think VSP centerists are the solution.

In the days of newspaper monopolies we were told that every black person in LA was a rioter. Not a peaceful protester among them. Today, the protests in Ferguson were called protests.

Newspaper monopolies led to self-satisfied, Pulitzer winning, source-cultivating, W-trusting dopes. Their days are numbered.

reason said...

Yes, but presidential systems are still lousy. And I thought they had one in France too?