Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bipartisanship Tradeoff

Andrew Sullivan has a post, citing a post by Yglesias about the differences between the British and American political systems, more specifically the way the British parliamentary system differs from the American federalist system. 
[T]he system they have in the UK where you can simply sweep opposition objections aside is actually the right way to do bipartisanship. Call it bipartisanship by alternation. When Labour wins the election, Labour has the chance to implement a bold agenda creating and expanding programs in a way that they think will make Britain a better place to live. Then when the Tories come in, they’re able to be brutal in their efforts to pare back or eliminate things that they think aren’t working. Over the long term, you get a trajectory where programs survive if and only if they’re so widely regarded as successful that no mainstream party would dare abolish them.
Yes, in the parliamentary system used by the Brits and of course us, given a majority, a stable coalition or a toothless opposition afraid to oppose, the government can ram through its ideas and bipartisanship is purely a matter of the opposition being able to do the same thing four years later if the party in power over-reaches and government changes hands.

Of course in Canada the so-called 'opposition' Liberal Party is ideologically the twin of the British Liberal Party that has so easily and comfortably joined the Conservatives in a program of massive cutbacks that predominantly affect the poor and protect the rich.  If the NDP was like Labour, a real and likely governing option for the voters to choose from, we would see the same alliance between our Conservatives and Liberals to keep them out of power.  We already see something similar provincially in BC and Saskatchewan where the various strains of neo-liberal and conservative leanings have merged together into default right wing parties.

Proportional Representation would probably be the best way to merge the best features of both systems and truly reflect the wishes of the majority, which explains why the elites oppose it so bitterly.

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