Political barriers to effective government

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Political barriers to effective government

Postby omgryebread » Wed Sep 26, 2012 2:51 am UTC

So we all know government is often inefficient. I'm not really interested here in comparing government to market systems or in discussing economic reasons that government is inefficient. What I'd like to talk about is the political barriers that can delay or stop government from acting efficiently.

One example is this:

There is a policy that is widely popular on both sides of the aisle. Sure, there are some extremes on one or both ends that don't like it, but by and large, even the base of both parties agrees that this policy should be enacted. At the very least, opposing it would be so bad politically that a side desperately doesn't want to oppose it. It should be easy to get done, right?

Except there's no benefit to enacting it, politically. The bill would have broad bipartisan support: hard to run on something when your opponent is for it, too. So what's a politician to do?

Poison the bill. Attach a rider that your opponents cannot vote for. Take immigration for high skilled people in technology fields. Both parties want it: there's no significant special interests opposed, and big business really wants it. Passing the bill would indeed benefit the politicians who did so: donations, makes them look better to centrist voters, they can show off how bipartisan they are. Yet there's something even better than this: aligning all those interests with you, against your opponent.

So if you're a Republican, throw in a bill that increases the number of visas for high skilled immigrants, but lessen the number of visas given normally. If you're a Democrat, only introduce the policy in comprehensive immigration reform bills. That way, you can be on the record voting for it, while your opponents are voting against it.

If you're in the minority: great! The big bad majority hates this popular policy. If you're in the majority, you could let the bill pass. But you might get some of the minority decide to cut their losses and vote for the bill: they can't stop the poisonous part of the bill, so they'll swallow it. They'll blame you for attaching it. Might give a primary problem, sure, but in the general, you can't run on how you voted for this great thing (they did too), and they'll attack you on poisoning the bill.

But wait! Parliamentary procedure is here to save the day. There's a procedure under which a bill can be introduced in a way that will require a super majority to pass. All your peeps can vote for it, and you give the opposition the dilemma again.
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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby EdgarJPublius » Wed Sep 26, 2012 3:39 am UTC

Sounds like Texas politics.

This last legislative session, we had two pieces of legislation that both would have likely passed independently, if by narrow margins. Then, some lawmaker got the bright idea to piggyback one on the other and the whole thing crashed and burned as some of the other legislators who supported both bills voted against the combined bill because they didn't like the idea of having one as a rider on the other and particularly didn't like the legislator who had stuck them together.
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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby Zamfir » Wed Sep 26, 2012 5:58 am UTC

This is kind of unavoidable in negotiations though. Especially if you are constantly negotiating with the same people. You can't just accept everything that you consider on the whole good. Because if you do, other people will craft proposals that are just good enough for you, and plenty good for them.

You need a credible threat to block such deals, in order to get more out of them than the bare minimum. You need to be able to say 'I like his deal, you like this deal, but you like it more than I do. If we don't move closer to my position, I will still call it off'

The only way to get that credibility is if you sometimes do walk out on deals that you would have preferred going through. That looks stupid in those individual cases, but it makes perfect sense on the whole.

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby EdgarJPublius » Wed Sep 26, 2012 6:40 am UTC

Sure, that's what omgryebread is saying, that legislatures basically have other motives than passing 'good' legislation.

In this case though, there was no 'deal'. There were two completely separate bills going their merry way through the process of becoming law, both with adequate support (IIRC, the 'host' bill had already passed both houses, but in different versions that had to be rectified) and one was added as a rider to the other (during the rectification process) for no real reason.
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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby VannA » Wed Sep 26, 2012 7:24 am UTC

This is, more explicitly, a problem with party based politics, in my opinion.

Remove the parties, treat all votes as conscience votes, remove bill sponsoring, promote problem-based legislative crafting, and use a 3rd body of staff from multiple skillsets to draft legislation. Make politics about examining legislation and it's consequences, and less about gaining or losing favour.

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby Derek » Wed Sep 26, 2012 8:06 am UTC

VannA wrote:Remove the parties, treat all votes as conscience votes, remove bill sponsoring, promote problem-based legislative crafting, and use a 3rd body of staff from multiple skillsets to draft legislation. Make politics about examining legislation and it's consequences, and less about gaining or losing favour.

FTR, all votes in the US are effectively conscience votes. The party whips don't have enough power to force otherwise. This doesn't mean politicians won't still usually vote along party lines though.

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby leady » Wed Sep 26, 2012 9:04 am UTC

What is being described is effectively unique to american politics, so the obvious solution is to stop the ability to create bills by inclusive yet partisan commitees

For all its flaws the standard parlimentary system avoids this problem with ease - the UK regularly passes laws with complete house support (normally bills like "should teachers be able to kick childrens teeth out" etc - but the principle is there)

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby Zamfir » Wed Sep 26, 2012 9:14 am UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:Sure, that's what omgryebread is saying, that legislatures basically have other motives than passing 'good' legislation.

Tthat's not quite what I meant. Even if their pure motive is to pass good legislation overall, they can still go for less than best outcomes in particular cases, if that helps them pass better legislation on the whole.

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby Chen » Wed Sep 26, 2012 11:50 am UTC

leady wrote:What is being described is effectively unique to american politics, so the obvious solution is to stop the ability to create bills by inclusive yet partisan commitees

For all its flaws the standard parlimentary system avoids this problem with ease - the UK regularly passes laws with complete house support (normally bills like "should teachers be able to kick childrens teeth out" etc - but the principle is there)


I suspect even in the states there are plenty of bills that pass with large support from both sides. Its just we don't hear about them because they are not big, high profile issues. Clearly on the high profile issues there's going to be more complicated negotiating as is the case presented. It would be interesting to know what percent of bills fall into which category though. If its a small number then I wouldn't be too concerned about this. As Zamfir said, its how negotiations work.

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Sep 26, 2012 1:17 pm UTC

omgryebread wrote:Except there's no benefit to enacting it, politically. The bill would have broad bipartisan support: hard to run on something when your opponent is for it, too. So what's a politician to do?

Poison the bill. Attach a rider that your opponents cannot vote for.


IMO, this is a symptom of a two party system. Such a situation *can* arise in a multi-party system, but it's less likely that everyone will be for the same thing, so it's much less frequent. In a two party system, the sides are very adversarial, and the primary political enemy never changes. So, things like cooperation end up being the exception, not the norm...and if sabotaging cooperation to gain an advantage is an option, they'll do it. In a multiparty system, coalitions are a pretty common thing, so some degree of compromise is necessary, and the party you're working against now may not be the party that's always the prime opposition. So, cooperation is a bit more viable in many options.

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby EdgarJPublius » Wed Sep 26, 2012 5:39 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:
EdgarJPublius wrote:Sure, that's what omgryebread is saying, that legislatures basically have other motives than passing 'good' legislation.

Tthat's not quite what I meant. Even if their pure motive is to pass good legislation overall, they can still go for less than best outcomes in particular cases, if that helps them pass better legislation on the whole.


Right, except that 'better' is the enemy of 'good enough'. The real-world result of shooting down 'good' legislation to try and pass 'better' legislation is that no legislation is passed. Nobody is willing to compromise and instead everybody shoots down the sort of legislation they ought to be compromising on to prove it.
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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby Zamfir » Wed Sep 26, 2012 9:28 pm UTC

EdgarJPublius wrote:
Zamfir wrote:
EdgarJPublius wrote:Sure, that's what omgryebread is saying, that legislatures basically have other motives than passing 'good' legislation.

Tthat's not quite what I meant. Even if their pure motive is to pass good legislation overall, they can still go for less than best outcomes in particular cases, if that helps them pass better legislation on the whole.


Right, except that 'better' is the enemy of 'good enough'. The real-world result of shooting down 'good' legislation to try and pass 'better' legislation is that no legislation is passed. Nobody is willing to compromise and instead everybody shoots down the sort of legislation they ought to be compromising on to prove it.

Well, that's the part I don't get. How do you determine the correct amount of legislation to be passed? How can you tell when compromise towards a new situation is better than the status quo?

I mean, it would be easy for voters to end the US gridlock. They could vote for members of congress who run on a track record of compromise, and against those who stick to a hard line. Perhaps that will still happen. If not, isn't that an indication that the political gridlock reflects a more wider (and balanced) disagreement among the population? If people genuinely disagree on the way forward, it might be better to pause than to move ahead in some triangulated average direction.

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Wed Sep 26, 2012 11:30 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:This is kind of unavoidable in negotiations though. Especially if you are constantly negotiating with the same people. You can't just accept everything that you consider on the whole good. Because if you do, other people will craft proposals that are just good enough for you, and plenty good for them.

You need a credible threat to block such deals, in order to get more out of them than the bare minimum. You need to be able to say 'I like his deal, you like this deal, but you like it more than I do. If we don't move closer to my position, I will still call it off'

The only way to get that credibility is if you sometimes do walk out on deals that you would have preferred going through. That looks stupid in those individual cases, but it makes perfect sense on the whole.

Perhaps this is unavoidable, but it seems unambiguously worse for the citizens that are represented by these negotiations. The main problem is is that the ability to hold up overall progress for the sake of a fringe cause isn't something that's exclusive to any one idea - if everyone starts holding up blatantly good policies in an attempt to push their particular cause, absolutely no one wins. It's strictly preferable to have good policies to be passed on their own, then let politicians quibble about which controversial pet ideas in side negotiations.

...

I do agree though that this isn't necessarily that hard of an issue to resolve - it's ultimately up to the voters to vote for politicians willing to support a good bill for it's own sake, not based off of how well it suited their particular interests. To be honest, I'm a little surprised to see you bring this up, omgryebread - in the past, I recall you essentially saying that you'd never vote republican regardless of the candidates because their ideas are just wrong to you (apologies if I'm misreading you on this). I'd think if you want to cut down on cases like this immigration bill, you'd have to be willing to support someone who prizes the overall functioning of government over what specific politics that functioning represents.

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby BattleMoose » Thu Sep 27, 2012 3:19 am UTC

Ultimately there seem to be no accountability or negative consequences (for the politicians) for activities such as poisoning a bill or sabotaging good legislation to obtain an advantage. Such activities don't serve the public interest but then again for the most part the public doesn't seem to care. The public or electorate is failing at holding politicians accountable for poor behavior.

Also, it is the issues that are polarized that get a lot of media attention and it is within those issues that politicians can get media coverage and increase their profile. Politicians don't get much traction for cooperating on issues that will quietly be passed and do public good and thus aren't rewarded for doing their job well.

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby Tyndmyr » Thu Sep 27, 2012 1:31 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Well, that's the part I don't get. How do you determine the correct amount of legislation to be passed? How can you tell when compromise towards a new situation is better than the status quo?

I mean, it would be easy for voters to end the US gridlock. They could vote for members of congress who run on a track record of compromise, and against those who stick to a hard line. Perhaps that will still happen. If not, isn't that an indication that the political gridlock reflects a more wider (and balanced) disagreement among the population? If people genuinely disagree on the way forward, it might be better to pause than to move ahead in some triangulated average direction.


In theory, perhaps. Realistically, for congressional elections, there are exactly two candidates in most cases. One's a dem, one's a repub. So, actual selection based on this issue is extremely minimal.

If the desire to compromise outweighed all other factors, including party lines, then sure, it would happen. However, we all know that's an unrealistic expectation, and in general, the republican who sees the value in compromise is still going to vote for the uncompromising republican over the compromising democrat.

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby sigsfried » Thu Sep 27, 2012 3:04 pm UTC

But you might hope in Primaries that those willing to compromise would do well, in reality that doesn't appear to happen. Though I am only vaguely aware how that works, given that I am not American.

This isn't a uniquely American problem, but it does seem to be a bigger problem in America than anywhere else. I think there are two major factors, the first is the lack of a non partisan chair, and the second is the primary system.

The lack of a non partisan Chair in legislative bodies means the Chair has to have very little power to prevent the abuse of that power. Compare with the Speaker of the House of Commons, who gives up party loyalties and is expected to act in a non partisan way. True it doesn't work perfectly, but it does allow for the Speaker to have substantial power and prevent abuse of the system. He can for example dismiss members from the chamber if they are abusing the process (The UK does not entirely avoid filibusters but there have been somewhere between seven and twenty in the last hundred years),

The primary system means that to be in a position to be elected you must first gain support of just your party, as people are inclined to believe that the majority share there beliefs many don't feel the need to go for someone particularly centrist. On top of that elected members have to constantly look over there shoulder and not do anything that would effect their standing in the primaries, even if the independents would approve of it. After all it is no good having an overwhelming majority of independents, and therefore likely to win reelection, if you fall to some challenger (who inevitably will criticise you for not following the party principles well enough).

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby Derek » Thu Sep 27, 2012 3:53 pm UTC

sigsfried wrote:The primary system means that to be in a position to be elected you must first gain support of just your party, as people are inclined to believe that the majority share there beliefs many don't feel the need to go for someone particularly centrist. On top of that elected members have to constantly look over there shoulder and not do anything that would effect their standing in the primaries, even if the independents would approve of it. After all it is no good having an overwhelming majority of independents, and therefore likely to win reelection, if you fall to some challenger (who inevitably will criticise you for not following the party principles well enough).

This is true for closed primaries. Some states have open primaries, where anyone, regardless of party, can vote in primaries. I think they can only vote in one party's primary though. This obviously leaves an opening for members of one party to vote for a bad candidate in the primaries for the other party, but this doesn't seem to happen very much, and it lets independents or moderates cast their primary vote for their preferred candidate regardless of party.

There are also a few examples where a popular moderate candidate has lost his primary, but won running as an independent. For example, Joe Lieberman. More often this just splits the party vote though.

And what alternative do you propose (other than eliminating first-past-the-post)? My understanding is that in most European countries, including the UK, candidates are nominated by the party elite. Is this really better than having them nominated by the party members? It also makes the candidates beholden to the party, not to their constituency, so they're less representative.
Last edited by Derek on Thu Sep 27, 2012 4:11 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby sigsfried » Thu Sep 27, 2012 4:08 pm UTC

In the UK the central party normally produces a short list that the local party chooses from. That said yes the whips are more powerful but that is mostly down to funding, political parties rather than individuals normally fund the campaign. How the local party chooses is normally a combination of the local party leadership and the wider local party. Party membership is rarer though in the UK.

There are also a few examples where a popular moderate candidate has lost his primary, but won running as an independent. For example, Joe Lieberman. More often this just splits the party vote though.


There are a handful of cases of this in the UK too.

EDIT: Also it should be said that any attempt to increase the effectiveness of government might sacrifice some of the current political culture,

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby Ixtellor » Thu Sep 27, 2012 7:10 pm UTC

To the OP:

1) Solution: pass legislation right after the elections. This occurs frequently. We will probably see it happen with the US "Fiscal Cliff" problem we are facing.

2) Your making some unproven assumptions. Many people believe that slow legislation is the best legislation. Let it simmer for a while, and if its actually important and popular, it will eventually get done with bi-partisan support. Some people feel the rush to pass legislation in the short term is what causes a lot of long term problems. See No Child Left Behind. See the Resolution granting Bush the ability to 'deal' with Saddam.

3) The Parties call votes for the legislation to put the other side on the record, with some frequency. Then if a member of Party B opposes it simply because it helps Party A, in the next election the party A challenger can use the vote.

I don't think you properly appreciate of the US House of Represenative and how insignificant the minority party is.
Its not as if the minority can just poison the bills at will. The majority can automatically reject all amendments, practically at will. (In the house)
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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby omgryebread » Fri Sep 28, 2012 2:12 am UTC

Bubbles McCoy wrote:I do agree though that this isn't necessarily that hard of an issue to resolve - it's ultimately up to the voters to vote for politicians willing to support a good bill for it's own sake, not based off of how well it suited their particular interests. To be honest, I'm a little surprised to see you bring this up, omgryebread - in the past, I recall you essentially saying that you'd never vote republican regardless of the candidates because their ideas are just wrong to you (apologies if I'm misreading you on this). I'd think if you want to cut down on cases like this immigration bill, you'd have to be willing to support someone who prizes the overall functioning of government over what specific politics that functioning represents.
So yeah, don't get me wrong. I'm really partisan. I would rather a government that did nothing than passed conservative bills. That being said, I'm perfectly willing to vote in primaries for Democrats willing to compromise. This is accompanied by a hope that Republicans will vote for Republicans willing to compromise. Ultimately, it's little more than hope. I'm still for effective government, and I like looking into ways government could be more effective, without, of course, sacrificing too many of my ideals for it.


VannA wrote:This is, more explicitly, a problem with party based politics, in my opinion.

Remove the parties, treat all votes as conscience votes, remove bill sponsoring, promote problem-based legislative crafting, and use a 3rd body of staff from multiple skillsets to draft legislation. Make politics about examining legislation and it's consequences, and less about gaining or losing favour.

Implement national service, with a focus on localised humanitarian works, and service with the public sphere.
That's... neat and all, but it's not really practical. I mean, there's no way from where we are to that point.

In addition, the more technocratic you make your government, you neccessarily reduce the voter's influence on decisions. I mean, to my understanding economists aren't so worried about the supply side of gas and its price, yet voters are. There's benefits to that of course, but you do have a to draw some line where you want effective technocratic government to end and less effective republican government to begin. (Republican as in form of government, not party.)

leady wrote:What is being described is effectively unique to american politics, so the obvious solution is to stop the ability to create bills by inclusive yet partisan commitees

For all its flaws the standard parlimentary system avoids this problem with ease - the UK regularly passes laws with complete house support (normally bills like "should teachers be able to kick childrens teeth out" etc - but the principle is there)
The whole thing I described is probably unique to US politics, but we do pass plenty of bills with wide house support. Mostly "statue of this dude, buy this building, sell this land" kind of things. I agree that committees are pretty terrible: a bill can hang their forever, without getting to the floor for an actual vote. This gives leadership, especially in the House, enormous power. I suspect this is an intra-party issue as well: at some points in the past Congress, Boehner seemed like his grip on his own party was slipping. The real crisis over the debt ceiling wasn't between the parties, but within Boehner's own caucus.

Tyndmyr wrote:IMO, this is a symptom of a two party system. Such a situation *can* arise in a multi-party system, but it's less likely that everyone will be for the same thing, so it's much less frequent. In a two party system, the sides are very adversarial, and the primary political enemy never changes. So, things like cooperation end up being the exception, not the norm...and if sabotaging cooperation to gain an advantage is an option, they'll do it. In a multiparty system, coalitions are a pretty common thing, so some degree of compromise is necessary, and the party you're working against now may not be the party that's always the prime opposition. So, cooperation is a bit more viable in many options.
To an extent, I'll agree. But multiparty systems have their own barriers. Smaller caucuses within the parties can't hold up things as well as a junior partner in a coalition can. The Tea Party Caucus can't threaten to collapse the Republican majority and force elections. About the worst they could do is challenge Boehner for the Speaker's position in 2013. Which they can't do outside of backrooms: an actual challenge in the voting would mean a Speaker Pelosi.


Derek wrote:This is true for closed primaries. Some states have open primaries, where anyone, regardless of party, can vote in primaries. I think they can only vote in one party's primary though. This obviously leaves an opening for members of one party to vote for a bad candidate in the primaries for the other party, but this doesn't seem to happen very much, and it lets independents or moderates cast their primary vote for their preferred candidate regardless of party.
I think open primaries are a very good thing. They do open the possibility of cross-party sabotage, but I can really only think of one election where that may have had an effect, which was the rather absurd case of Fred Tuttle.* The great thing about open primaries is that it would lessen the most extreme parts of the party. These tend to be candidates in very safe seats. For example, it would actually make sense in a lot of cases for a Maryland Republican to vote in the Democratic primary to choose a more moderate candidate with a chance of winning, rather than the Republican with no chance at all. (For congressional races, this really only applies if you live in the sixth district. Moderate Democrats can win in the first, but Republicans have a chance there. All other districts, you're probably not going to get a moderate Democrat.)

There are also a few examples where a popular moderate candidate has lost his primary, but won running as an independent. For example, Joe Lieberman. More often this just splits the party vote though.
This happens mostly with incumbents. It's certainly a threat to parties, since it tends to make the candidates veer towards the center without a party to whip them.


Ixtellor wrote:To the OP:

1) Solution: pass legislation right after the elections. This occurs frequently. We will probably see it happen with the US "Fiscal Cliff" problem we are facing.
Yeah. That certainly works, but it's not exactly a solution when you have about a year after a presidential election and even less after a midterm.

2) Your making some unproven assumptions. Many people believe that slow legislation is the best legislation. Let it simmer for a while, and if its actually important and popular, it will eventually get done with bi-partisan support. Some people feel the rush to pass legislation in the short term is what causes a lot of long term problems. See No Child Left Behind. See the Resolution granting Bush the ability to 'deal' with Saddam.
That's an opinion, not an assumption. I understand the like of slow legislation, but I don't agree. Slow legislation also lets it get riders attached, committees wrangle over it, media loses interest, and worst of all, elections hit. Health care has been a serious problem for decades. A push for reform started in the Clinton era, and didn't happen until 2009.


I don't think you properly appreciate of the US House of Represenative and how insignificant the minority party is.
Its not as if the minority can just poison the bills at will. The majority can automatically reject all amendments, practically at will. (In the house)
The minority can still introduce bills. They just won't get it to the floor, which isn't as bad for the majority, of course.


*Fred Tuttle was a candidate for Senate in Vermont in 1998. His opponent in the primary was basically a carpetbagger from Massachusetts who didn't actually know much about Vermont. After the Republican Party tried to get him off the primary ballot, he won the primary pretty handily, and then promptly endorsed his opponent in the general election.
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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby Whammy » Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:08 pm UTC

Man I really need to start talking more on these forums cause it's threads like this that I get all excited about..seriously, I think the last thread I talked in was months ago about the primaries...

Anyway, the discussion above me is actually pretty interesting cause a this moment I'm taking a Political Parties and Interest Group class this semester and the US party system is really...odd to say the least. Effectively speaking, parties in the US really don't have that much power compared to parties in, say, Europe and other parliamentary systems. Some of the points mentioned here brought up in my class have been mentioned already; primaries (gives the decision of candidates from party leaders to the people which weakens the party's control over a candidate), institutional reasons (for example,omgryebread mentioned with coalitions and the threat of forcing elections which give politicians really good reason to behave like what their party wants), and a bunch of other reasons I'd have to dig up my notes for and would take a while to list.

The point of all it though is that, in the US, politicians don't owe much to the parties and instead rely primarily on their own organizations and staff (though parties are starting to get a little more control by providing technical support and infrastructure). With this independence from the parties outside of an ideological interdependence, they rely on the people in their districts instead for power...and people tend to like their congressman even if they hate Congress. After all, it's not my poor Reps. fault if a bill he pushed for was held up in committee/voted down/perverted by someone else/the other party blocked it/etc etc. In effect, you have a situation with 435 people in the House/100 in the Senate, all acting independent of each other for the most part, and only willing to compromise if they can get something done that makes them look good to the people in their district (the rest of the country be damned; after all, they don't vote for me).

Also, and my main reason for posting,I wanted to address this:

There are also a few examples where a popular moderate candidate has lost his primary, but won running as an independent. For example, Joe Lieberman. More often this just splits the party vote though.


Yeah...that won't work cause most states have "Sore loser laws" to prevent such things. It worked for Joe Lieberman cause, well, CT is one of the few states to not have those kind of laws. Apparently the Gary Johnson is suing in Michigan due to those laws, so if it ends up at the Supreme Court something might change. Till then, you get one shot at one party's primary (most states ban you from running in the primary of another party in some shape or form, which prevents fusion candidates); if you lose, well, sucks for you.

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby Zamfir » Sun Sep 30, 2012 1:13 pm UTC

Whammy wrote:Anyway, the discussion above me is actually pretty interesting cause a this moment I'm taking a Political Parties and Interest Group class this semester and the US party system is really...odd to say the least. Effectively speaking, parties in the US really don't have that much power compared to parties in, say, Europe and other parliamentary systems. Some of the points mentioned here brought up in my class have been mentioned already; primaries (gives the decision of candidates from party leaders to the people which weakens the party's control over a candidate), institutional reasons (for example,omgryebread mentioned with coalitions and the threat of forcing elections which give politicians really good reason to behave like what their party wants), and a bunch of other reasons I'd have to dig up my notes for and would take a while to list.
.

I think this is more complicated than this. For example, in parties where the party leadership determines candidates, there are typically regular elections among the party members to choose the party leadership. Sometimes directly, sometimes through a district system. It's rather hard to keep a mass movement running for long, if the rank and file cannot influence the decisions taken higher up.

Another point is that in PR systems, parties disappear. They can shrink while other parties take their position in the landscape, or some of their members (including high ups) split off and form a new party. So while it is probably true that PR-system parties act more cohesive than the American parties, that doesn't make those party organizations (and their leadership) necessarily more powerful. Voters, members and even candidates have a far easier option to leave the party if they do not agree to its current stance, and this acts as a heavy constraint on the power of the party as organization.

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Oct 01, 2012 3:16 pm UTC

omgryebread wrote:To an extent, I'll agree. But multiparty systems have their own barriers. Smaller caucuses within the parties can't hold up things as well as a junior partner in a coalition can. The Tea Party Caucus can't threaten to collapse the Republican majority and force elections. About the worst they could do is challenge Boehner for the Speaker's position in 2013. Which they can't do outside of backrooms: an actual challenge in the voting would mean a Speaker Pelosi.


Oh, it's far from a panacea, I agree...and personally, I feel the Tea Party is too close to the republican party as is, I'd like to see more differentiation. However, they can also break on a lesser degree. Supermajorities and the like have power, and refusing to break/support a fillibuster. And of course, breaking unity as a voting block can have impact...especially depending on committee positions involved. There's some potential options here, but they won't be fully realized until there's a fairly healthy diversity of parties, which we just don't see today(the tea party really just being republicans with a twist).


On the proportional representative issue...the issue arises that not all candidates of a given party are equally desirable. If the party selects the candidates, then my vote ends up being made more on party lines than on specific folks running, so there's a certain tradeoff in accuracy. PR isn't entirely bad(especially for minority parties), but there are reasons to not like it.

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby Zamfir » Mon Oct 01, 2012 5:41 pm UTC

Tyndmyr, I find that strange. Whatever you like about a US style district system, accuracy surely can't be it.

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Oct 01, 2012 6:04 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Tyndmyr, I find that strange. Whatever you like about a US style district system, accuracy surely can't be it.


As a whole, the system does not provide a lot of accuracy, no. However, in certain niche respects, the system is optimized for accuracy, and in other respects, it's optimized for entirely different features, resulting in a very incoherent system as a whole.

Voting for an individual candidate over a party provides more support for those who like some candidates within a party and not others...this *can* be a strength, but if you want to optimize accurate selection of individuals...you generally want a better starting point than two candidates, each selected by factions of his side of the electorate. You also probably wouldn't want first past the post, as that has a lot of strategic voting aspects to it, which would inhibit accuracy.

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby omgryebread » Mon Oct 01, 2012 6:12 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:Tyndmyr, I find that strange. Whatever you like about a US style district system, accuracy surely can't be it.
Why not? US districts generally get representatives who are like them. An area with a lot of moderates is going to get a moderate candidate. A rich California district is probably going to get a socially liberal Republican who is against farm subsidies, while a poor farming district might get a social conservative who is very for them. Both are going to be Republicans, and the party leadership in Congress has to deal with that, since they have very little power over the individual politician.


Something that would greatly improve US politics is open primary elections. It's really unlikely that Republicans win anything statewide in Maryland. (It happens, though last time was pretty much 4 years of nothing, since the legislature blocked him on almost everything.) It basically means that the Democratic primaries are the actual elections, but we've prevented a bunch of people from voting in them. An open primary would allow Republicans to vote for whichever Democrat they like more.


Okay, maybe this isn't actually an improvement for me, in this specific case, since I quite like the politicians that we get without Republicans voting. That being said, it would probably ease political tension and also means that places like Texas might get more reasonable Republicans. (Though I'm not sure how productive voting in Maryland primaries it would be for Republicans: our primaries are generally about which very liberal Democrat you like more.)
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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Oct 01, 2012 6:25 pm UTC

omgryebread wrote:Something that would greatly improve US politics is open primary elections. It's really unlikely that Republicans win anything statewide in Maryland. (It happens, though last time was pretty much 4 years of nothing, since the legislature blocked him on almost everything.) It basically means that the Democratic primaries are the actual elections, but we've prevented a bunch of people from voting in them. An open primary would allow Republicans to vote for whichever Democrat they like more.


I'd be cool with that. Realistically, in the current situation, if you're non-democrat and want to influence something in MD...you register democrat.

Having open primaries would at least mean that registered people would accurately reflect their leanings, and give somewhat more information as a whole.

Okay, maybe this isn't actually an improvement for me, in this specific case, since I quite like the politicians that we get without Republicans voting. That being said, it would probably ease political tension and also means that places like Texas might get more reasonable Republicans. (Though I'm not sure how productive voting in Maryland primaries it would be for Republicans: our primaries are generally about which very liberal Democrat you like more.)


Yeah, in this particular scenario, it's only going to matter in a coupla districts. MD is sufficiently overwhelmingly democrat that it shouldnt matter THAT much. There's red pockets, but the state overall is blue as hell.

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby bantler » Mon Oct 01, 2012 7:06 pm UTC

omgryebread wrote:
Zamfir wrote:Tyndmyr, I find that strange. Whatever you like about a US style district system, accuracy surely can't be it.
Why not? US districts generally get representatives who are like them. An area with a lot of moderates is going to get a moderate candidate. A rich California district is probably going to get a socially liberal Republican who is against farm subsidies, while a poor farming district might get a social conservative who is very for them. Both are going to be Republicans, and the party leadership in Congress has to deal with that, since they have very little power over the individual politician.


I assume Zamfir was talking about Gerrymandering skew.

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby Whammy » Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:09 am UTC

Zamfir wrote:
Whammy wrote:Anyway, the discussion above me is actually pretty interesting cause a this moment I'm taking a Political Parties and Interest Group class this semester and the US party system is really...odd to say the least. Effectively speaking, parties in the US really don't have that much power compared to parties in, say, Europe and other parliamentary systems. Some of the points mentioned here brought up in my class have been mentioned already; primaries (gives the decision of candidates from party leaders to the people which weakens the party's control over a candidate), institutional reasons (for example,omgryebread mentioned with coalitions and the threat of forcing elections which give politicians really good reason to behave like what their party wants), and a bunch of other reasons I'd have to dig up my notes for and would take a while to list.
.

I think this is more complicated than this. For example, in parties where the party leadership determines candidates, there are typically regular elections among the party members to choose the party leadership. Sometimes directly, sometimes through a district system. It's rather hard to keep a mass movement running for long, if the rank and file cannot influence the decisions taken higher up.

Another point is that in PR systems, parties disappear. They can shrink while other parties take their position in the landscape, or some of their members (including high ups) split off and form a new party. So while it is probably true that PR-system parties act more cohesive than the American parties, that doesn't make those party organizations (and their leadership) necessarily more powerful. Voters, members and even candidates have a far easier option to leave the party if they do not agree to its current stance, and this acts as a heavy constraint on the power of the party as organization.


Oh yeah of course it's going to be more complicated (seriously, we're in like week two-three of discussing different reasons for a two-party system and no end in site), but generally speaking the parties in a parliamentary system are more powerful and more cohesive than those in a presidential system. The incentives are just stronger in a parliamentary system for parties to act cohesively than in a presidential; fear of early elections due to failure of coalitions (the stick), possibility of getting an executive position (stick), free-tv time tends to be given to the party not individual candidates (okay that's not necessarily parliament only...).Also, the need for majority government and the ability to join in a coalition gives minor parties the ability to influence policy by offering their support and votes to the other parties, which obviously is useless in a plurality system. And of course this isn't the ONLY reason for whether or not third parties work, just one out of many, many, many......seriously I think we're up to like 15 different possible variables in my class >_>

I just bring up the institutional reasons theory just because single-member plurality districts tend to be brought up as THE reason (of course they are a potential reason for lack of third parties) yet Canada and UK use them as well but have third parties *shrug*.


...now I wish I could post part of my professor's dissertation (he wrote on this sort of thing) but I forgot ProQuest requires a fee. Dangit. Being a college student spoils me sometimes cause I can just get to these things through the library XD. I can at least offer the abstract if anyone is interested =P.

bantler wrote:
omgryebread wrote:
Zamfir wrote:Tyndmyr, I find that strange. Whatever you like about a US style district system, accuracy surely can't be it.
Why not? US districts generally get representatives who are like them. An area with a lot of moderates is going to get a moderate candidate. A rich California district is probably going to get a socially liberal Republican who is against farm subsidies, while a poor farming district might get a social conservative who is very for them. Both are going to be Republicans, and the party leadership in Congress has to deal with that, since they have very little power over the individual politician.


I assume Zamfir was talking about Gerrymandering skew.


Well, gerrymandering isn't inherently bad if you are wanting to increase third party representation if the support for a third party is concentrated pretty heavily in one particular area as to form a plurality and/or majority and you form the district lines in such a way as to make that a "safe district" for them...which of course is never gonna happen cause whoever is drawing district lines is gonna draw them in a way to benefit their party and protect incumbents XD.

Still, if support for a minor party is concentrated in one area, then a district system is gonna be more helpful than a multimember. Actually, the city my university is in in had to go from multimember to single-member districts for council elections in the past cause minority groups were underrepresented as the white plurality just voted for all the white candidates. Breaking it up into districts at least gave minority groups some representation.

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Re: Political barriers to effective government

Postby Tyndmyr » Wed Oct 03, 2012 1:53 pm UTC

Whammy wrote:
bantler wrote:I assume Zamfir was talking about Gerrymandering skew.


Well, gerrymandering isn't inherently bad if you are wanting to increase third party representation if the support for a third party is concentrated pretty heavily in one particular area as to form a plurality and/or majority and you form the district lines in such a way as to make that a "safe district" for them...which of course is never gonna happen cause whoever is drawing district lines is gonna draw them in a way to benefit their party and protect incumbents XD.

Still, if support for a minor party is concentrated in one area, then a district system is gonna be more helpful than a multimember. Actually, the city my university is in in had to go from multimember to single-member districts for council elections in the past cause minority groups were underrepresented as the white plurality just voted for all the white candidates. Breaking it up into districts at least gave minority groups some representation.


I assumed he was speaking more generally about the numerous features of our electoral system that obscure accuracy. Gerrymandering is one of these, but certainly not the only one. Gerrymandering mostly just introduces a skew in favor of whoever redrew the districts last(though the skew does fade over time as populations change). It's certainly not desirable if accuracy is a priority.


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