Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What Europe Doesn't Understand About American Democracy

Wrote a post earlier today on the frustrations of the EU bureaucratic element, who cannot believe they have to wait until a representative government body (in this case, the U.S. Senate) debates a climate change bill before they get a climate change bill.

More frustration from the hard-left at the Guardian, who are also fretting over America's right to representation:

But it must be recognised that it's not just Obama's shortcomings that are causing the problem. The very structure of the American political system is at the heart of these failures. For example, thwarting Obama on a regular basis is an unrepresentative senate where "minority rule" prevails and undermines what a majority of the country may want. With two senators elected per state, regardless of population, California with more than 35 million people has the same number of senators as Wyoming with just half a million residents. This constitutional arrangement greatly favours low population states, many of which tend to be conservative, producing what one political analyst has called "a weighted vote for small-town whites in pickup trucks with gun racks."

Hmm...I'd love to meet this racist "political analyst", sounds like another Brit to me. But what our frustrated Europhile does not understand is that the Senate was put into practice specifically for this type of circumstance - that is, to slow down wholesale changes in society, made in the heat of political passion, by the more reflexive House of Representatives. True as well is that if smaller states such as Wisconsin and the Dakotas could simply be outvoted at every turn, and had no real say in their lifestyle or destiny, they would have no reason to stay in the Union. The Senate binds us together by making change incremental, and more representative when it does occur.


Pile on to that an uncompetitive, winner-take-all electoral system, marinated in money and special interest influence, and the sclerotic US political scene is deeply troubling. None of these anti-democratic structural features are going away any time soon. Unless Barack Obama is able to demonstrate a better level of political skill than he has shown so far, everyone needs to fasten their seatbelts. The world is about to enter a challenging phase where the US – the undisputed leader of the free world for the past 60 years – is going to rapidly cede its place at the head of the line.

It appears that the wheels may be coming off the world's post-war leader, and not even Barack Obama can stop it happening.

Again, the electoral system helps give the smaller states an more powerful voice in the government (and isn't that liberal in and of itself? "A seat at the table" kind of thing?) and has helped the United States avoid the fractious elections of places like Israel and Italy, where unity - and governments - last all of six months before new political fissures rend old partnerships. The electoral college puts us "all in" together, despite a very slight loss of individual representation (do you think my Republican vote in New Jersey was worth a damn last year?).

But the US political scene is in trouble, and we are ceding our place at the front of the line. But blame these problems not on the sytem, but on a president who has created dozens of little czars that answer to no one, who has affected the takeover of massive parts of the US economy, and who has questionable allegiance to the nation's core values and partnerships, preferring heavy-handedness over persuasion and honest debate. Blaming the system is ironic at this point - after all, isn't that the very thing Obama is working to change? And if you question the results, should you not be questioning his methods and philosophies?

And is it not his methods - a preference for appeasement overseas and for government control at home - that is causing this nation to "cede its place"? And why does our British friend feels that only more authoritarianism will fix it?

Funny that the media - who has the most to lose - is arguing the most reverently for "soft tyranny". Let's hope they don't get their way, and let's hope the Brits - and the rest of the EU - realize what is is that kept America so strong all these years - and their nations so prosperous and safe...

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