Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Imagine That

I'm stealing this from Matt Yglesias, who took it from John Holbo:

Suppose you have a two-party system.

One of these parties enjoys/enforces total party discipline, the other, not: members of the latter party side with their own, or cross the aisle, on individual issues/votes, as conscience or self-interest dictate. Let’s call the completely disciplined party the Partisan Party. The completely undisciplined, the Bipartisan Party (to reflect its principled commitment to always keeping the door open to the higher value of bipartisanship!)

Over time, both parties will push positive proposals/ legislation. Quite obviously, the Bipartisan Party will be at a tactical disadvantage, due to its lax discipline. Less obviously, it will have an ongoing optics problem. All the proposals of the Partisan Party will be bipartisan. That is, a few members of the other party will, predictably, peel off and cross the aisle to stands with the Partisans. None of the proposals of the Bipartisan Party, on the other hand, will ever be bipartisan. No Partisan will ever support a Bipartisan measure. In fact, all proposals of the Bipartisan party will face bipartisan opposition – as a few Bipartisans trudge across the aisle (there are always a few!) to stand with the Partisans. Result: the Partisan party, thanks to its unremitting opposition to bipartisanship, will be able to present itself as the party of bipartisanship, and be able to critique the Bipartisan Party, with considerable force and conviction, as the hypocritically hyperpartisan party of pure partisanship.
Takes an awfully big imagination... or access to any form of U.S. media whatsoever.


emawkc said...

You lost me when you wrote:

"Suppose you have a two-party system."

The "two parties" we currently have bot work toward the same goal: Expanding the role of their parties and the federal bureaucracy to "solve" all of America's problems. If we ever get a party interested in governing, I'm on board.

Nate said...

Emawkc, if I'm reading you right, you prefer that the government not try to solve the nation's problems?

emawkc said...

The problem is that 1) politicians aren't interested in solving problems, 2) the government continually creates problems when they try to solve problems, 3) the American people have been conditioned to believe that only the Federal Government can solve problems (which leads us back to #2).


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