Is our political system broken?

There’s a reasonably — but only reasonably — interesting debate about this question at the Economist. I don’t find any of the arguments especially convincing but I’m glad that people are openly asking this question in a conservative magazine.

Personally, I would argue that that the Republican party and the permanent government (think tanks, media elites, etc.) are clearly broken, while the Democratic party is only, at worst, marginally more dysfunctional than it has historically been. Over all, that makes for a broken system.






102 replies
  1. 1
    Fstop says:

    I would suggest that the very notion that anyone would consider Sarah Palin a credible voice, much less a national candidate, should answer that definitively. But see my new blog, heh.

  2. 2
    srv says:

    What’s with all these Captain Obvious posts?

  3. 3
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    Is our political system broken?

    Answer: If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

    What a question. That would be a “yes”.

  4. 4
    Elizabelle says:

    Thanks Doug. Have bookmarked The Economist item and will read it later.

    I would ask “is our political system fixable?”

    And concur with your assessment, but add that the Democratic party needs to take on succinct messaging and be less dysfunctional. Yes, there is room for differences and debate, but the dysfunction is a luxury Democrats (and we) cannot afford in the face of a malignant Republican party and a plutocracy that already exists, but is not commonly recognized.

    Scary times.

  5. 5
    DougJ says:

    @srv:

    It’s obvious that our society is in a death spiral? (I won’t pretend the other two posts I wrote today aren’t obvious.)

  6. 6
    Warren Terra says:

    As long as the Republicans maintain a united front behind the notion of no compromise even on the most banal and noncontroversial of issues, of not letting any business proceed when they’re not wholly in charge, and the system let’s them enforce this position, the system is at least half broken – it’s only remaining functionality is in the Republicans’ direction. And they have kittle interest in governing, even according to their own awful ideas about what government should do.

  7. 7
    sukabi says:

    the answer to your question is a resounding YES!!! the better question is, can it be repaired?

    and now for your traveling pleasure, a PSA from the TSA

  8. 8
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

     

    Is our political system broken?

    No more so than it was in the 1850s.

    Oh, wait..

  9. 9
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    @DougJ: I agree with your last point in the post. The Democrats are not really all that different in some ways from before. The Republicans are however, and it’s the Democrats’ seeming inability to fully grasp that fact that’s a big part of why it’s so completely broken.

    Personally, I don’t exclude the Democrats in the White House from that evaluation of the Democrats by the way, as I know many here do.

  10. 10
    sukabi says:

    and your assertion about the Democratic party being only marginally more dysfunctional than is the norm, is actually a pretty sad statement in its self…. from an earlier thread, you should read this link and let us know how the D’s are going to recover politically if they don’t get rid of these guys and clean their shit up

  11. 11
    Jody says:

    They are asking it in the sense that they mean “broken” as in “lack of bipartisanship”. By which they mean if Obama would just cave to all their demands everything would be great.

  12. 12
    Paul in KY says:

    Off topic, but I hope all the Juicers have a great & safe Thanksgiving.

  13. 13
    General Stuck says:

    Any political system is only as viable as the participants allow it. The founders, while well intentioned, initially recognized we have two large groups of people living within our borders, with vastly different views of the world and inherent values for living in it.

    So they created a democratic republic with numerous valves to open and close for making political lurches to and fro less likely. Or change to be slow in coming. The Senate was the prime example of one of these engine governors, and divided government and shared powers with three co equal branches being another.

    It took over 200 years for one of those two groups of citizens to find and then be willing to exploit these well intentioned political jake breaks for the purpose of barely disguised sedition and revolt. And once again, while the eternal dispute in world views is front and center, the fuel behind this revolt is racial, and related to white supremacy, currently over what tribe will rule this country. And the white majority natives seem to agree with their own tribe.

    The new white republican slogan should read something,

    Give Me Power Or Give Me Death

  14. 14
    eemom says:

    It’s obvious that our society is in a death spiral?

    Yes. And deservedly so, in my grim opinion.

    I would like to share your optimism that demographics are gonna come to the rescue, but I can’t.

    We are a reeking, filthy, lying plutocracy.

  15. 15
    suzanne says:

    Of course our political system is broken.

    This girl I went to high school with posted on Facebook this morning about how awful it is that President Obama wants to freeze raises for the troops while Congress gets a pay raise.

    This dumbass thanks Jesus when she finds a shoe sale. Literally. Not making that up.

  16. 16
    suzanne says:

    @sukabi: I still think the best thing to do is to request the pat-down, should you get selected for extra scanning, then fake an orgasm when they touch your crotch.

    That shit’ll end right quick.

  17. 17
    Splitting Image says:

    The biggest problem with the U.S. system is that there is no mechanism for completely annihilating a deserving political party.

    Here in Canada, the Progressive Conservatives were sufficiently despised in 1993 that they were reduced from a majority of Parliament to a caucus of two seats in one night. A lot of people don’t like the fact that the first-past-the-post system distorts each party’s level of support, but the results are often dramatic enough that even David Broder might be able to see them.

    This can’t happen in the U.S. The “historic” defeat of the Democrats in 2010 would be barely a blip in Canada, and reducing either of the two ruling parties to two seats in Congress is impossible. God knows one of them deserves it.

    The closest thing the U.S. has is the Electoral College, but even three consecutive blowouts in 1980, (especially) 1984, and 1988 didn’t dislodge the Democratic majority from Congress. This means that no matter how bad it looks for one of the two parties, they will always be in a position to come roaring back. And that means that no matter how discredited that parties’ pundits and hangers-on are, they always come roaring back too.

  18. 18
    Maude says:

    AP headline: Expert network firm worker charged.
    Nope, the system is working.

  19. 19
    freelancer says:

    @Paul in KY:

    Off topic, but I hope all the Juicers have a great & safe Thanksgiving.

    Paul in KY is off in a bathroom right now, slitting his wrists because of the despair on BJ today.

  20. 20
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    Instead of broken, I think it would be more accurate to describe our political system as currently being locked in a condition of reciprocal zugzwang, which causes control to see-saw back and forth between the two political parties without either one being able to accomplish enough to either: (1) discredit the other party, or (2) discredit themselves, for a substantial enough period of time to get much done. Neither party has built up enough trust and credit with the American people to make this anything other than a zero-sum game. And the American people with their short attention span and leaky memories bear much of the blame for this state of affairs.

    The Reps can’t govern and the Dems can’t persuade. In order for something different to happen one of the parties has to improve to the point where it can do both, or one of the parties has to decay to the point where it can do neither.

  21. 21
    MTiffany says:

    Sully is surprised that he agrees

    with both Peter Wehner and Matthew Yglesias on many points.

    Heh, indeed.

  22. 22
    JGabriel says:

    DougJ:

    … the Economist … a conservative magazine.

    I don’t know that The Economist is a “conservative” magazine. They did, after all, endorse Clinton in ’02, Kerry in ’04, and Obama in ’08.

    They’re a London-based publication, and while the term “centre-right” is abused here in the US by association with increasingly far right views, I think it’s an appellation that actually fits The Economist better than “conservative” does.

    .

  23. 23
    DonkeyKong says:

    The system works for the top 2%. Nothings broken.

  24. 24
    New Yorker says:

    I think the problem is actually a result of two right-wing coups over the last 30-40 years.

    First, the right has convinced working-class whites that their real adversary is not their corporate overlords, but working-class non-whites. Thus, working-class whites waste their time going after “welfare queens” and illegals from Mexico rather than the horrific employment practices of Wal-Mart. I don’t know how to fix this, but if it could be fixed, we could probably have a working class energized like those in France or Germany that keeps a reasonable social safety net going.

    Second, the mainstream media has been so bullied by the whole “liberal media” nonsense that they’re too scared to question GOP nonsense any longer, no matter how much that nonsense goes against what sane people call “reality”. I think this problem will correct itself as the mainstream media goes extinct.

    Solve these two issues (I know, easier said than done), and “the system” is fixed, I think.

  25. 25
    Brachiator says:

    Personally, I would argue that that the Republican party and the permanent government (think tanks, media elites, etc.) are clearly broken.

    In California, the Republicans clearly haven’t learned anything. A recent poll focusing on Latinos and Asians indicates that these groups are receptive to some Republican proposals, especially related to business. A good background article and link to the poll can be found here. On the other hand, some of the GOP agenda, especially its views on immigration, are so repulsive that it helped insure Republican defeat on a statewide level in the recent gubernatorial election. How bad was it?

    Whitman did run some Chinese-language campaign ads, says Jane Junn, professor of political science. But it looks like her interpreter did too good a job, because Asian-Americans were like, fuck that, voting her down 61 to 37. Latino voters kicked her to the curb even harder: Only 15 percent went for Whitman.

    Despite this, some Republican groups are planning an Arizona style immigration initiative for the 2012 ballot.

  26. 26
    DougJ says:

    @JGabriel:

    They made those endorsements? I look at it from time to time and I like it, but the politics strike me as a cross between Toryism and glibertarianism.

    But Megan McArdle endorsed Obama in 08 too.

  27. 27
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @JGabriel:

    I don’t know that The Economist is a “conservative” magazine. They did, after all, endorse Clinton in ‘02, Kerry in ‘04, and Obama in ‘08.

    I think of the Economist as being over and above everything else a magazine of neoliberal economic policy opinion. Clinton was a neoliberal, I’m not sure about Kerry given that he never made it to the WH (and I’m not sufficiently familiar with his Senate record to parse it in terms of economic policy but I’d guess that he is also neoliberal), and Obama is giving every indication of being a neoliberal as well.

  28. 28
    General Stuck says:

    @General Stuck:

    It took over 200 years for one of those two groups of citizens to find and then be willing to exploit these well intentioned political jake breaks for the purpose of barely disguised sedition and revolt

    Of course, the lead up to the great civil war was likely the first time largely the same group (now spawn) from the same part of the country also used/abused the system for sedition and revolt that ended up in open civil warfare. But of course nothing like that could happen today in modern well scrubbed murican society. They wouldn’t put up with all the noise and racket disturbing their concentration while watching Dancing With the Stars.

  29. 29
    Tom_23 says:

    Ala Atrios.
    Yes. “This has been another edition of simple answers to simple questions”
    The “brokeness” stemsback to at least the Clinton Whitewater investigation / impeachment.

  30. 30
    Elizabelle says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    No more than in the 1850s. Oh, wait …

    Laughing here.

    And that’s the kind of messaging the Democrats should take up.

    Pithy, funny and those with a brain will finish the thought (“and what followed in the 1860s? How did that work out for them?”)

    Those without a brain will call Democrats “elitist” and shift to the other foot while waiting to have their copy of “America by Heart” autographed. Starbursts ensue.

    PPS: when they say “elitist”, we should immediately say “intelligent.” Which does not require an ivy education or even any money.

  31. 31
    General Stuck says:

    OH!

    and a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

    This year, I am just thankful I live only a few miles from the Mexican border.

  32. 32
    Jay says:

    I’d certainly agree that the Republicans are a public train wreck, and the Democrats can still put forward a coherent public face, but as soon as the cameras turn off they all work for the same deep-pocketed contributors.

  33. 33
    WyldPirate says:

    @General Stuck:

    It took over 200 years for one of those two groups of citizens to find and then be willing to exploit these well intentioned political jake breaks for the purpose of barely disguised sedition and revolt. And once again, while the eternal dispute in world views is front and center, the fuel behind this revolt is racial economic, and related to economic white supremacy, currently over what tribe will rule this country. And the white majority natives economic elite seem to agree with their own tribe.

    There. Fixed.

    Race is just a tool in all of this nonsense going on today. It’s a way to stir up the rabble and keep them at each other’s throat so the country can be pillaged with less interference.

  34. 34
    General Stuck says:

    And for you Libertarians out their, remember.

    Get your own Thanksgiving Turkey, that fucker is MINE

  35. 35
    srv says:

    @DougJ:

    It’s obvious that our society is in a death spiral?

    We haven’t been one society since forever.

    We will never get to where we need to go until we let them go.

  36. 36

    My comment on this downstairs got blocked becuz I forgot that soshulism is embargoed. But Todd Akin, R-Bumfug MO, took to the House floor to school us all in how the Pilgrims came to America because … wait for it … they’d already tried soshulism!

  37. 37
    General Stuck says:

    @WyldPirate:

    Race is just a tool in all of this nonsense going on today. It’s a way to stir up the rabble and keep them at each other’s throat so the country can be pillaged with less interference.

    Ever hear the term, Thou doth protest too much?

    Now tell us again why you hate Obama like the plague.

  38. 38
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Brachiator:

    Despite this, some Republican groups are planning an Arizona style immigration initiative for the 2012 ballot.

    Well, why not? After all, Prop 187 was a roaring success for Republicans.
    /snark

  39. 39
    Jamie says:

    and the battle between the ineffectual and the incompetent continues. film at 11.

  40. 40
    Brachiator says:

    @Mnemosyne:
    RE: Despite this, some Republican groups are planning an Arizona style immigration initiative for the 2012 ballot.

    Well, why not? After all, Prop 187 was a roaring success for Republicans.

    Too true. The Republicans insist on doubling down on their stupidity. Despite all the warning signs in these polls and their defeat in the California November elections, they firmly believe that they just have an image problem, not a policy problem.

    And with that, I am off to start my holiday.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you.

  41. 41
    kdaug says:

    The great tidal wave of home-schooled children will be able to vote in ever-increasing numbers in the next few years. Most will also home-school their children.

    The stupid expands, the hope diminishes, and the Republican’s hold solidifies.

  42. 42
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Personally, I would argue that that the Republican party and the permanent government (think tanks, media elites, etc.) are clearly broken

    I would argue that the current Republican party is perfectly representing it’s base. The problem isn’t our political system: the problem is the steady rightward drift of a large percentage of the electorate over the last twenty years, a community that has given up science, reason, rational thought and the fundamental ideals of America for whatever it is they “believe”.

    In short, Buckley died and the Birchers took over. But not necessarily in that order.

    I was talking to my rightwing mother the other night and happened to mention that some mutual Facebook friends had defriended me. She asked me why and I said, “Well, they got offended when I made fun of them for suggesting Obama is the AntiChrist.” And mom said, “He isn’t the AntiChrist, Son.” Needless to say I was overjoyed that my insanely religious folks had finally given up on their most insane and pernicious idea, the imminent prophetic fulfillment of The Book of Revelations. She continued, “He can’t be the AntiChrist, he’s married. The AntiChrist will be single.”

    Sigh. It’s like arguing with someone over the color of the pretty unicorn.

  43. 43
    Anonymous At Work says:

    @DougJ in Comment #4,

    I think Death Spiral covers it pretty well, being a good middle-ground between Yglesias’s future and Wehner’s present visions. The line between the two is very clear and logical and full of the proper incentives to keep people from straying too far. The only sad point about the debate was that Wehner “won” in the sense of the moderator’s call; Yglesias “winning” might have added more oomph to the building, but not winning, cause to reform our political institutions before it’s too late.

  44. 44
    WyldPirate says:

    @General Stuck:

    Ever hear the term, Thou doth protest too much?
    Now tell us again why you hate Obama like the plague.

    Yes, and I call bullshit and send you a hearty Thanksgiving fuck you.

    Similar sorts of insanity were going on during the Clinton administration. Are you now going to claim that that was because Bubba was the first “Black President”?

    Or how’s about Ronnie Raygun kicking off his campaign in Philadelphia Mississippi with his “welfare queens in Caddies” and big “:black bucks buying T-Bones with food stamps”?

    Ever hear of divide and conquer you dumbshit?

  45. 45
    catclub says:

    @General Stuck:
    Give me power or we all die.

    FTFY

  46. 46
    patrick II says:

    @General Stuck:
    @WyldPirate:

    Is it ok if I agree with both of you? Just for different groups of people. For the right wing’s educated and economic elite racism is a tool to manipulate the rank and file. The bone-deep racism of the rank and file is what makes it susceptible to that manipulation in the first place.

  47. 47
    Zifnab says:

    @kdaug:

    The great tidal wave of home-schooled children will be able to vote in ever-increasing numbers in the next few years. Most will also home-school their children.

    How many children are actually home schooled, though? And how is home schooling radically different from Christian Academies or segregated schools or the suburbs in general? I don’t see this as a particularly big issue.

  48. 48
    General Stuck says:

    @WyldPirate:

    Are you now going to claim that that was because Bubba was the first “Black President”?

    What I am claiming is that you are My Pet Goat easy to read.

  49. 49
    JGabriel says:

    @DougJ:

    They made those endorsements?

    Yep. Here’s the links: Obama in 2008, and The Economist’s history of endorsements before that.

  50. 50
    catclub says:

    @New Yorker:
    “First, the right has convinced working-class whites that their real adversary is not their corporate overlords, but working-class non-whites. Thus, working-class whites waste their time going after “welfare queens” and illegals from Mexico rather than the horrific employment practices of Wal-Mart. I don’t know how to fix this, but if it could be fixed, we could probably have a working class energized like those in France or Germany that keeps a reasonable social safety net going.”

    I am not all finished but Zinn’s Peoples History of the US
    seems to repeat ths again and again, starting in the 1630’s,
    so it is not new. Plans for fixing it are therefore also not new.

  51. 51
    General Stuck says:

    @patrick II:

    I covered your point with this

    And once again, while the eternal dispute in world views is front and center, the fuel behind this revolt is racial, and related to white supremacy, currently over what tribe will rule this country.

    The world view difference for economic belief is included in the old south aristocracy and it’s caste system of two classes, and of course the two legged farming equipment.

    It was an Oligarchy of sorts, that is manifested in our current politics with the neverending right wing assault on the middle class. They are gumming up their works for the new Oligarchy.

  52. 52
    JGabriel says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    I think of the Economist as being over and above everything else a magazine of neoliberal economic policy opinion.

    Fair enough. I pretty much agree with that.

    .

  53. 53

    @Just Some Fuckhead:

    “He can’t be the AntiChrist, he’s married. The AntiChrist will be single.”

    SHOW US THE MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE!!!!!

    See how easy that is?

  54. 54

    @catclub:

    But we did at one time have a robust worker’s movement. Granted it was in the 20s and 30s but still … what the hell happened?

    Today for some reason the husband was singing the “Look For The Union Label” jingle, which planted an earworm, which prompted me to find this oldie but goodie on YouTube.

    That jingle is positively seditious in this day and age of Glenn Beck anti-union fearmongering.

  55. 55
    srv says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead:

    “He can’t be the AntiChrist, he’s married. The AntiChrist will be single.”

    This explains so much.

  56. 56

    Y’all know what “The AntiChrist will be single” means, don’tcha?

    GAAAAAIIIII!!!!!

  57. 57
    New Yorker says:

    @catclub:

    I’m sure it’s not new, but something right happened from the days of FDR through the 1960s. I think the working class had a lot of power for a while. The GOP in the Eisenhower days had all but given up on trying to crush the New Deal.

  58. 58
    srv says:

    @Zifnab:

    How many children are actually home schooled, though?

    3 percent or more, and they’ll all be voting unlike the barefoot post-hippies kids.

    Given they’re probably mostly in heavily gerrymandered disctricts, they won’t matter so much.

  59. 59

    And to you young whippersnappers who weren’t around back in the ’70s, that “Union Label” jingle and ads were pretty ubiquitous when I was growing up … so much so that it was hilariously parodied on Saturday Night Live in the 70s.

  60. 60

    @srv:

    Umm … a lot of those homeschooled kids are barefoot hippie soshulist types who don’t want the crap peddled as education in the public schools today.

    I know quite a lot of them. It’s not all Fundiegelicals teaching about Adam and Eve and their pet dinosaur.

  61. 61
    PeakVT says:

    Our political culture is completely broken, by which I mean the cultural norms that made everyone (who was allowed to) work together during the Cold War are gone. Without an existential external threat, the deeply divided country has turned on itself. More specifically, our political system is broken because it is practically impossible to force reform on the Senate, which was the main impediment to good legislation during the past two years due to its self-imposed super-majority requirement. It might get around to reforming itself; but then again it might not.

  62. 62
    celticdragonchick says:

    @General Stuck:

    Ever hear the term, Thou doth protest too much?

    Are you calling wyldpyrate some sort of a race baiter?

    If so, I would like to see your supporting evidence. I have not seen anything of the sort in his/her posts.

  63. 63
    suzanne says:

    @WyldPirate:

    Yes, and I call bullshit and send you a hearty Thanksgiving fuck you.

    Wow. Dinner at your house must be a blast.

  64. 64
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Southern Beale:

    But we did at one time have a robust worker’s movement. Granted it was in the 20s and 30s but still … what the hell happened?

    What happened was very effective propaganda that tied unions to scary foreign immigrant labor radicals.

    History repeats.

    The book to read on this is:
    Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Become White. The Strange Journey from Ellis Island to the Suburbs

    Not an easy read, but well researched and documented.

  65. 65
    celticdragonchick says:

    @WyldPirate:

    That was a bit over the top, kiddo.

    Not that I am any example, since I am guilty as well…

  66. 66
    John Bird says:

    @Southern Beale:

    I was one of those kids. I went to public school for a bit and then took control of my own education under a home-schooling license. I’m in a dual master’s program so obviously something went terribly wrong along the way but I’m hardly a Creationist.

    However, I was able to do what I did because of state laws that existed, and still exist, primarily to protect and shelter incompetent conspiracy-theorist parents who actively prevent their children from learning. You only had to look at the biology textbook advertisements we started getting in the mail to figure that one out.

    My privilege happened on the backs of thousands of children I’ve never met who will never get the chance to recover from setbacks in their basic knowledge and experience. In a turn of rank hypocrisy, I now wonder if we shouldn’t ban home schooling entirely.

  67. 67
    kdaug says:

    @Zifnab:

    How many children are actually home schooled, though?

    From this, 1.7 to 2.1 million in 2002-2003, growing at a rate of 7% to 15% per year.

    And how is home schooling radically different from Christian Academies or segregated schools or the suburbs in general?

    This one’s easy. In a normal school of any sort, you have multiple people teaching different subjects which – one hopes – they have some level of knowledge about, and a curriculum devised by others who have a generally higher level of knowledge about the respective subject than the teachers.

    So unless ol’ mom has multiple degrees in education, math, history, science, english, et.al., the level of education is gonna be, em, less good.

    And if, as has been my experience, the parents pulled their kids out of public school because the school wouldn’t teach that the world was 6000 years old or comport to some other religious dictates, so that they can personally teach their kids that said dictates are, in fact, the way the world is – well, that’s kind of compounding the problem.

    A growing army of Palinites.

  68. 68

    @celticdragonchick:

    Thanks … will check it out ….

  69. 69
    General Stuck says:

    @celticdragonchick:

    No, I am not calling Wildlythang a race baiter. His consistent dismissal, as in his correcting my post to dismiss what anyone with half a brain can see is non stop race bating from the right, is very curious indeed.

    I am not calling anyone anything here. My personal opinion from reading this jackasses posts since commenting here, is that he may well be our first liberal cracker. If such an animal does exist. Add that to the spectacular, and seemingly visceral hatred of Obama, in about every comment, whether Obama is the topic or not, and again, my personal impression, that mr. widly may well have some racial problem with Obama. I have been saying this consistently for any so called liberal spouting the odious meme that Obama is a wimp, or weak, or whatever. And I will continue to do this, as it occurs.

  70. 70

    @John Bird:

    However, I was able to do what I did because of state laws that existed, and still exist, primarily to protect and shelter incompetent conspiracy-theorist parents who actively prevent their children from learning. You only had to look at the biology textbook advertisements we started getting in the mail to figure that one out.

    Yes but a growing number of people who are not the wackadoodle conspiracy nut crowd are doing this too. And those biology textbook advertisements will be changing faster than many think.

    The nutters who keep their kids out of school for religious reasons have always been there and I don’t think the numbers have changed all that much. I know TONS of people on other side of the political spectrum doing this, or forming their own “schools.” Started in the 70s with the hippies. As the country tilts rightward and there are more scandals like the Texas text book one, you will see more lefties following the model.

  71. 71
    jacy says:

    @kdaug:

    I have hope that a great number of those homeschooled will be too dumb to figure out how to register to vote, let alone find their way to a polling place.

    Barring that, aren’t those kind of people eventually just going to end up in their own little compounds, eschewing the rest of the world, crafting things out of sticks and sewing homespun and growing fat on tater-tot casserole?

    Hey, a girl can dream.

  72. 72
    Dennis SGMM says:

    Is our political system broken?

    Is our bloggers learning?

  73. 73
    Martin says:

    At the risk of going too ‘market forces’ here, it’s really important to examine the external influences on the political process.

    While there’s always been villagers and a chattering class and so on, cheap and widespread media has created disincentives for politicians to act in the best interest of government that never previously existed in this magnitude. Just as the paparazzi causes celebrities to make bad decisions (or at least perpetuate the appearance of a bad decision) the current political spotlight does the same for politicians.

    And the incentives for politicians has hardly kept pace. There’s little reward for someone who puts the public interest ahead of individual or partisan gain. There’s no media really willing to point out ‘hey, this guy did something that was good for the country, but he’s going to get attacked unfairly and mercilessly for it’. So what we’ve wound up with is a Lindsay Lohan political climate. Why should they do the right thing when they get more mileage pimping for Goldman and camping out with Sean Hannity calling Obama a Marxist?

  74. 74
    jacy says:

    @Southern Beale:

    Despite my previous comment, I fully realize that all homeschoolers aren’t the crazy jump-for-jesus types. Funnily enough, my best friend homeschooled her kids for two years because she wanted a more rigorous foundation for learning, but also because she didn’t want them exposed to the jump-for-jesus types in public schools. She’s a kind of militant agnostic.

  75. 75
    kdaug says:

    @jacy:

    Or shooting moose and calling each other “Mama Grizzlies”

  76. 76
    Zifnab says:

    @kdaug:

    So unless ol’ mom has multiple degrees in education, math, history, science, english, et.al., the level of education is gonna be, em, less good.

    Most teachers have a degree in “education”, not in the subject that they teach. And I know a fair number of friends who have teacher parents. So the idea that parents can give their children a satisfactory basic eduction isn’t completely radical. Particularly when the kids are in the K-8 range.

  77. 77

    wrong question, Doug.

    the more important question is, “does this modern, technologically-enabled economic system that is a global phenomenon have any counter that the non-elites may employ and thus prevent global neofeudalism?”

    amurka has *always* been a fucked up place, when it comes to rights and freedoms. there’s pretty much no time in which increased freedoms for one group have not come at the expense of another. start with the Native Americans, and take it from there. any time it’s ever been “good” in this country, it’s also been pretty shitty for the people who made it good for those enjoying the goodness.

    but what we’re witnessing today? it has more to do with the way that modern technology like the internet, nukes, television, computers and cell phones are allowing a tiny, tiny global elite to shape policy and social conditions for a huge majority beneath them. today’s “american” elites are barely that; they have homes in Jackson Hole, Antigua, and Gstaad and fly back and forth between them on private planes skipping out on TSA altogether while the rest of us get porno-groped. they manipulate markets with computers, causing “booms” and “crashes” in various industries at the drop of a hat, and with no connection to the actual market conditions. they buy politicians in several countries at the same time, and for cheap, and get those politicians to collude to govern according to the will of the elite. they start and end wars in resource-rich countries, fought by people in countries who consume those resources but hardly understand how they are being manipulated to fight. they literally own the mass media, and employ the best and brightest to come up with ever-more effective methods of propaganda and mind control. they poison our children and our environment with drugs and substances that make us slower and less reactive and more compliant and unquestioning.

    the problem isn’t the american government. the problem is the creation of a new global elite so far above us Little People that most of us don’t even perceive they exist.

  78. 78
    kdaug says:

    @Zifnab:

    Yeah, but most teachers – except first-year ones – learn a decent amount about the subject they’re teaching as the years roll on. And they tend to stay at the same grade level, so a fifth-year teacher of science to fourth-graders has a grasp of the specific needs of that specific age of kid on that specific topic.

    Expecting a parent to possess those skills, for all subjects, and for all age levels of their kids, while rejecting outside curriculum guides seems a bit of a stretch.

  79. 79
  80. 80
    suzanne says:

    So Bible Spice said to Glenn Beck, ‘We gotta stand with our North Korean allies.”

    Let’s give this woman the nuclear codes!

  81. 81
    jacy says:

    @suzanne:

    Hell, let’s make her ambassador to North Korea right now!

    Tell her that the position comes with all the bendy straws she wants and a lifetime supply of glitter nail polish and put her on a plane.

  82. 82
    srv says:

    @Southern Beale:

    Umm … a lot of those homeschooled kids are barefoot hippie soshulist types who don’t want the crap peddled as education in the public schools today.

    I know quite a lot of them. It’s not all Fundiegelicals teaching about Adam and Eve and their pet dinosaur.

    That’s why I mentioned bare foot post-hippie kids. The ones who didn’t get Whooping Cough vaccinations and are dying for the cause in Marin.

    If they are a significant majority of the home tribe, then just another example of the failure of librul government education. Unless they’re getting lots of gun practice to offset their peers.

  83. 83
    Elie says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    Exactly this.

    Some of y’all talk like you don’t have anything to do with how or why the “system is broken”…

    But a lot of progress has been made with that broken system.

    Now mind you, I have no illusion that we are living in heaven. Very far from it. But if the measure for progressives is, well, progress, we have made some.

    Was just reading great book about Henrietta Lacks, the black woman who in the 1950s had the misfortune to have and die of cervical carcinoma. Her tumor cells were harvested and their vigor allowed biological and medical science to advance with experiments on her tumor’s cell line.

    She was treated in the Jim Crow reality back then…something that for the most part has disappeared (again, not perfectly, not without work, but more black people today have a better experience than she did)

    150 years ago, my ancestors were owned. Period. We may be “owned” now as well in more subtle, incidious ways, but no more so than our white and brown brethren..

    It does no good to talk about what is broken except as a means to identify what to fix and how to fix it. We also cannot let imperfection or needing to work on something difficult and enormously frustrating, stop us from positivity and being able to commit our energy to the real likelihood that we can actually improve things — and have.

    Ok, ok — its much easier to critique. Also a little fun and the source of good and funny comments. But day after day the FDL firebaggers, repubs and others come here for the soul purpose of demoralizing and diminishing… aint dealing with them enough? My question is not whether the system is broken, but how can we remain energized to deal with all the messaging that tell us its broken and robs us of the motivation to keep going forward?

  84. 84
    suzanne says:

    @jacy:

    Tell her that the position comes with all the bendy straws she wants and a lifetime supply of glitter nail polish and put her on a plane.

    And let’s give her a cackle of rads, too!

  85. 85
    John Bird says:

    1) The Economist is a silly magazine to be talking about whether a system is “broken” or not. If you need to know why, simply say the name of the magazine out loud to yourself.

    2) Obviously the government is broken. The Senate is a ludicrous system. The body created for deliberative debate both a) no longer debates and b) uses its power for endless debate to prevent deliberation.

    The Electoral College is also an archaic farce, the equivalent of if we interpreted the Constitutional power of regulating commerce to allow Congress to ban automobiles. As some states are realizing, it can be easily converted into a more representative system without any amendment to the Constitution.

    On the whole, our political technology is out of date, and since the day Lyndon Johnson left office, we have lacked the will to adopt and improve government solutions from other countries. This is indisputably an issue where America has fallen behind in technology and why we have tolerated it, I will never know. Nothing in our Constitution demands it.

    Some progress has been made; even North Carolina has been flirting coyly with alternatives to first-past-the-post voting.

  86. 86
    Elie says:

    @Zifnab:

    As important in my opinion is the socialization experience outside the home with diverse people.

    We have a diverse country and society. Kids who are taught and socialized (in a manner of speaking) in small, isolated groups may have a small isolated way of relating to the world and their roles as citizens of a vast country.

    We have ben able to integrate many different ethnic and cultural immigrants largely due to our public school system.. to send everyone back into isolation will actually I believe prevent us from rising to the challenges we face in the future.

  87. 87
    slag says:

    while the Democratic party is only, at worst, marginally more dysfunctional than it has historically been

    I’m not sure that the party is any more dysfunctional. I can’t say that for certain since my frame of reference is limited, but it’d be hard to convince me that real progress hasn’t been made within the party. Nominating a black man and then getting him elected President of these United States of America? Huge improvement!

    I’d probably grant you “differently dysfunctional”. And that may apply all the way around.

  88. 88
    John Bird says:

    @Elie:

    I agree with this. I do not know how I would have been affected if I had begun my home-schooling life without years of immersion at public school beforehand; all I know is that the social connections I had with kids who were still in traditional classrooms probably made what I did possible.

  89. 89
    PanAmerican says:

    @New Yorker:

    That old strange fruit.

    An interesting history of what is now the City Colleges of Chicago’s Washburne Culinary Institute.

    The salient bit:

    ….Washburne handled all of the vocational apprenticeships within the Chicago Public Schools. However, problems began to arise. Prior to the mid to late 1960s, the school was primarily white. When the school began to be desegregated, unions began to pull programs. There were 17 different unions at the school in 1965. A mere 13 years later, the number of unions had been cut nearly in half, with 8 remaining. By the time of the school’s first closure in 1993, only 2 programs remained.

  90. 90
    Elie says:

    @John Bird:

    Our children need to interract with each other and with those who they may not experience in their day to day life.

    I went to public schools in Chicago. We had poor kids, rich kids, white, brown and everything….

  91. 91
    srv says:

    @Elie:

    We have a diverse country and society. Kids who are taught and socialized (in a manner of speaking) in small, isolated groups may have a small isolated way of relating to the world and their roles as citizens of a vast country.

    You talking about a home or Kansas?

  92. 92
    Jean says:

    @suzanne: yeah, what’s that about? I’ve seen several posts on FB, just cut and paste jobs of that charge.

  93. 93
    Bob Loblaw says:

    @Elie:

    But day after day the FDL firebaggers, repubs and others come here for the soul purpose of demoralizing and diminishing… aint dealing with them enough? My question is not whether the system is broken, but how can we remain energized to deal with all the messaging that tell us its broken and robs us of the motivation to keep going forward?

    You remind me of Calvin wanting to live blissfully ignorant of anything even remotely unsettling or difficult to think about, which I, and I agree with Hobbes here, say is a “pretty silly and irresponsible way to go through life, don’t you think?”

    I’m so sorry the world doesn’t shower you with positivity and good feelings and harmony 24/7. If your self-esteem can’t handle that, maybe you just need to grow up.

  94. 94

    DougJ wrote:

    Over all, that makes for a broken system.

    Doug, I would suggest wiping the cobwebs from your eyes. America has gone off the cliff:

    Torture.
    People dying from lack of health insurance.
    Insane military expenditure.
    Disgraceful public discourse.
    Shocking level of unemployment.
    Systemic political corruption.
    Wanton ignorance (i.e. poor education).
    Two wars.
    Bombing raids with high “collateral damage”.
    Cruel prisons.
    The death penalty.
    Abuse of secrecy.
    Spying on Americans in America.
    Cover-up of previous administration high crimes.
    High murder rates.
    Huge social injustice.
    World’s biggest polluter.
    Privatised military.

    The American political system is broken, probably beyond repair for the foreseeable future. But if you are a political junkie or political journalist, I guess you’ve got to believe in the system to some extent.

  95. 95
    fasteddie9318 says:

    I vote broken. I honestly don’t think the founders ever conceived of a time when one of the country’s two major political parties would decide that their best political tactic was pure, unadulterated obstructionism, regardless of the policy in question, and that the press would be so eunuched as to be completely unable to call them on it. They crafted a political system whose functioning demands at least the barest minimum amount of compromise and consensus-building, and when one political party simply refuses to engage in either, they can very easily take derail the train (witness the 1860s, and while I don’t think we’re headed toward another open shooting civil war, we’re in the ballpark in several respects).

  96. 96
    Nick says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Well, why not? After all, Prop 187 was a roaring success for Republicans.

    The Arizona Immigration law WAS and that is not snark.

  97. 97
    jcricket says:

    @Nick: what do you mean it was a success in Arizona?

    Prop 187 was a success – it passed. It brought out the GOP to vote that year. It was later declared unconstitutional, but more important it cut in half the number of Latinos voting GOP.

    California went from swing state to reliably Democratic in the span of 4 years and never looked back.

    Look at the demographics of Arizona, or Florida, or Texas. What do you think will happen in the 4-8 years after the whities band together and pass Arizona style immigration laws?

    This is definitely a case of not playing long-ball on the Republicans part. Unless they manage to somehow disenfranchise all the Latinos in this country and repeal birthright citizenship, the GOP’s embrace of xenophobia is an electoral timebomb.

  98. 98
    Chris says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    The Reps can’t govern and the Dems can’t persuade. In order for something different to happen one of the parties has to improve to the point where it can do both, or one of the parties has to decay to the point where it can do neither.

    This.

  99. 99

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    Dems can’t persuade.

    Obama persuaded well in 2008.

    The problem is that 2008 was too rare, and that Obama didn’t follow through. The USA was ripe for ethical and logical improvement, but Obama chose not to do it.

    All we’ve been hearing since then is excuses.

  100. 100
    mclaren says:

    @chicago dyke:

    Perhaps the single best description of the problem I’ve heard on this site.

    For the bottom 99.999%, the American political system is broken — for that ultra-wealthy top 0.001%, it works beautifully.

    To add to Chicago Dyke’s points, there’s another layer of massive dysfunction going on atop the takeover of public policy and the economic system and the media by the billionaires like David Koch and company.

    The entire global economy has hit a series of walls — we’re rapidly heading towards Peak Oil, we’re in the middle of massive global warming that’s faster and worse than any of the models predicted, the culture of the automobile is dying worldwide, with the implosion of the Soviet Union communism disappeared as a means of keeping the worst excesses of capitalism in check so now the moderator rods have been pulled out of capitalism and it’s melting down, automation is rapidly replacing not just factory workers but knowledge workers worldwide courtesy of algorithms and AI programs (examples include automated stock trading and robots performing surgery), the modern nation-state is rapidly losing its legitimacy and all nation-states worldwide are fragmenting into smaller tribal groups (as Martin van Creveld has pointed out), traditional war between nation-states with a monopoly on legal mass violence by nations that was codified in the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 is now transforming into fourth generation warfare (see William S. Lind, also Martin van Creveld’s book The Transformation of War) and instead we're now seeing insurgenies and super-empowered individuals employing mass violence indiscriminately against other groups, resulting in the end of the American Way of War and the collapse of the ability of traditional armies to (in the words of Clausewitz) use “war as an extension of politics by other means.”

    The result of this transformation in warfare is splinter groups perpetuate violence that can never be stopped and goes on and on and on until the nation-state disintegrates, and traditional armies seem to be incapable of stopping the process. Look at how impotent the supposedly mighty U.S. army was in Somalia and in Iraq and now in Afghanistan. What's especially troubling is that lower-level versions of the Taliban insurgency that's shattering Afghanistan and the warlord battles that broke up Somalia and Liberia now appear to be taking place in America, with entire groups in America talking openly about seceding and forming new countries (Christian dominionists, the recent secession talk in Texas, etc.).

    On top of all this, it's clear that the planet's carrying capacity has been reached. Scientists estimate that all fish will be fished out of the sea within 50 years. Planetary rainforest and ocean-based phytoplanton essential for scrubbing CO2 from the earth's atmosphere is being wiped out at a startling rate. Ecosystems containing potential new medicines are being destroyed at a rate of hundreds of acres per minute. We're currently in the middle of one of the greatest mass dieoffs of species since the last great dieoff that wiped out 80% of spieces on earth, but this time the mass dieoff is the result of human pollution and strip-mining and global warming.

    When you put all these trends together, you get a picture of a massive transition to something new. It's clear that global civilization, not just America, can't keep going the way we are.

    For one thing, we're going to have to make a massive wrenching transition to non-oil-based power. That's going to produce a shattering tectonic change in the global economy and global society. For another, we're clearly going to have to shift to totally renewable resources, and this challenges the very basis of capitalism as we know it — when everything gets recycled and every resource is renewable, the disposable throw-it-away-and-buy-a-new-one consumer culture that has served as the heart of global capitalism since the invention of the assembly line in 1914 is simply going to have to go away.

    The entire concept of "corporate profits" is probably going to have to be abandoned in a completely renewable-resource society. The entire concept of economic growth as a positive value in and of itself — indeed, even the possibility of economic growth in a world that’s polluting and strip-mining and oil-drilling and global-warming tiself to death — will have to be abandoned.

    So we’re facing a transition into a world that is different in every possible way from the one that we’ve lived in. Every form of social and economic organization we know of is shattering and breaking apart and disintegrating, from the nation-state (threatened by 4GW and splintered by the divisive factionism of the internet and mass media) to traditional capitalism (which will be ended by global warming, Peak Oil, a shift to a renewable-resource-based civilization, and the rise of open source peer production systems like Wikipedia that eliminate profit from the equation entirely) to traditional armies (impotent against 4GW insurgencies, they’ll evaporate without traditional nation-states to fund them) to traditional political parties (irrelevant in a world where people are tied to tribal groups more closely by their social media than by the voting booth) to traditional economies of scale and corporate consolidation (which will end long before we drill the last barrel of oil or fish the last tuna frmo the sea, because we’re hitting global limits on economic expansion and resource depletion).

    The traditional college is in an economic death spiral (tuition has risen 7x faster than even housing prices and obviously can’t continue, even as automation and offshoring destroys the market for upscale high-pay high-wage jobs of the kinds college grads are training for), traditional armies worldwide are rapidly transitioning away from human soldiers toward unmanned drones and robots, “knowledge work” is rapidly dropping in value to zero as it becomes increasingly easy to download via darknets or bittorrent the products of knowledge work (operating systems, movies, music, books, all are now digitized and available essentially for free despite increasingly frantic efforts on the part of software companies and Hollywood and the record biz to stop the downloading), newspapers are watching their economic lifeblood drain away (Craigslist is destroying newspapers’ profit center, the classified ad), book publishers and TV networks and record companies are disintegrating under the onslaught of filesharing…just about every form of social and economic organization in the modern world is falling apart and collapsing and imploding into economic non-viability.

    What we’re transitioning into, no one knows. What we do know is that current institutions like political parties and newspapers and giant multinational corporations and unions and TV networks and colleges and traditional armies are all becoming completely dysfunctional in the new world of the 21st century because they’re like fish pulled out of water to gasp and flop in the desert. Old forms of social and economic organization like the workers union or the giant corporation or the newspaper now longer function in the new environment of the 21st century, with instant capital outflow across transnational borders, knowledge workers getting replaced by computer programs, newspapers getting eaten alive by the internet and coporations slamming up against global limits in resource depletion and basic limits like Peak Oil and global warming.

    So the dysfunction isn’t just limited to America’s politcal parties. We’re seeing most of our current forms of social and economic organization breaking down and falling apart in the new technological and social environment of the 21st century driven by transformational trends like open source peer production (linux, wikipedia, DIY “maker” websites, corwdsourcing: in short, zero-profit community-based production of goods) and the internet (craigslist and twitter and youtube and blogs and hulu.com and bittorrent replacing newspapers and TV networks and book publishers and record companies) and 4GW replacing and conclusively defeating traditional armies, even as nation-states continue to lose their legitimacy (the “gate rape” backlash is a perfect example of how nation-states lose their political legitimacy even faster the more they try to retain it) because nation-states are increasingly incapable of meeting the basic needs of their citizens (what good is the nation of America to you if you can’t get a job and your army can’t win wars anymore and your county can’t even pave the roads or keep your streetlights runnning?).

  101. 101

    Long ago, I came to the conclusion that our system is broken. It took me a long time to come up with what I think would be better, however.

    Here it is: policy by jury trial. It has the added benefit of making the Senate into something actually useful.

    Take a gander. It’s not going to happen soon, or ever, but it is a solution that would probably work and solve a lot of the problems with our political process.

    You’re welcome. Also, I love this blog.

  102. 102
    Paul in KY says:

    @freelancer: There’s alot of despair to go around, but I had to leave work.

    I want to live a long time, so in my old age I can say ‘I told you so!’.

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