People in this country have different roles in the political process. And you and I have a particular one. And our particular one is to inform people, to try to explain to people how things are working and how they’re not working, and to give them a realistic idea of why. I talk to business leaders, too, and I talk to a lot of people in American politics. I talk to a lot of politicians. I talk to pundits. I talk to cable news people. I talk to all of them. And I almost never meet the structural pessimist, actually. All I meet, as far as I can tell, are people who think we just need more “leadership.” We need a president willing to stand up and fight. We need a leader who will finally take advantage of the moment and push this country forward. We need somebody willing to make the tough choices. And I find it borderline irresponsible.Klein also mentions the dangers of a center-left presidential candidate for those who care about liberal policy goals.
Let’s say that Barack Obama runs against Rick Perry and against Matt Miller’s candidate. Do you think there is no risk in a world where Matt Miller’s candidate gets 22 percent of the vote, a remarkable showing, and throws the election to Rick Perry? You don’t think that is a risk at all?Hans Noel has been mentioning this possibility a lot recently, and it deserves more attention than it's gotten.
Anyway, loyal readers of this blog will know that I'm partial to Klein's arguments, but it's a really informative dialogue, and if you have relatives who sound more like Miller (as I do), you'll want to learn this stuff before Thanksgiving.
Okay, dialogue number two: John Sides' discussion with.. well... himself, in preparation for a panel last night with some serious political elites on the topic of whether American politics is broken. Sides addresses the most important question: what do we mean by "broken"? Political observers love to claim that the system is broken, but they rarely explain what they mean, and the meaning has important consequences:
Q: What does “broken politics” mean?
A: People tend to mean one of two things. First, the political process is broken. Complaints about process involve different things—incivility, hyper-partisanship, gridlock, and so on. This is a complaint about means to ends. Second, they mean that the political system is unable to reach certain ends, which means people’s preferred policies. So politics is broken when the government can’t pass certain pieces of legislation, for example.
Q: Why does this distinction matter?
A: For two reasons. First, I think complaints about broken politics tend to involve the latter more than the former. Even when people complain about process, their complaints typically arise because their policy goals have been stymied. Complaints about gridlock usually don’t mean that people want just any policy to pass; they want their preferred policy to pass. Second, the two meanings of “broken politics” can imply very different solutions. If your concern is incivility or partisanship, then your solution is more consensual forms of decision-making. If your concern is policy, then you may not necessarily need to care about process. The easiest way to enact landmark legislation is often (mostly?) to get large partisan majorities and leverage their power, even at the risk of incivility or hyper-partisanship.I give the Enik Gold Seal to both pieces. Please read.