Friday, January 29, 2010

Democracy American-style: Recipe for Chaos

Americans ought to just stop lecturing the rest of the world about democracy.

Even though the Democratic Party in the US has an historically huge majority in both the Congress and the Senate, as well as a Democratic president, the political system is virtually in lockdown. It seemingly is incapable of passing legislation that delivers much needed reform, for example on health. 

There is no such thing as party discipline. Moderates and conservatives on both sides of the aisle just do want they want to do and vote how they want to vote. They answer to popular opinion in their home state, or, more accurately, opinion as whipped up by shock jocks.

If an Australian political party had the sort of majority in both houses as the Democrats enjoy in the US, they would be in seventh heaven. Reformist and bold legislation would be passed by both houses without drama, and the government would face the verdict of the people if it got things wrong (as happened to Howard on Work Choices).

It's a ruthlessly efficient numbers game. Legislation gets through. Reform gets done. No bullshit necessary. If the Opposition doesn't like it, tough. Appeal to the people and get yourself elected next time around.

In the US however, Obama faces almost impossible odds. Because he has, after the Massachusetts election, only 59 (yes, 59) out of 100 Democratic senators, he is highly unlikely to be able to get his health care reforms through. He is forced to appeal to bipartisanship, that is, appeal to angry Republicans who hate him and everything he stands for. 

I'm no expert on US politics. But I do recognise systemic failure when I see it.

Americans - no more lectures to the rest of the world please. 

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