Monday, August 13, 2012

Political lessons from the United States

I've my regular Canberra Times column out today, 'Political lessons to learn from the United States'.

The 'Obamacare' decision by Justice Roberts has been hailed as a victory for the Democrats. But is the judgement quite this straightforward? And what does this say about partisan politics closer to home?  A sample:
Both parties might want to reconsider whether their team's policies and possible victories are worth affirming. Otherwise, they are pushing institutions, but not the ideas and values those institutions are supposed to uphold.
Indeed, the general loss of confidence in major political parties suggests that this is already happening among Australian voters. Many don't want more powerful party machines: they want vision, and they are not seeing it. 
The United States also suggests one possible result of this: political parties transformed into apparatuses for vote acquisition, manned by narrow extremists. The US voluntary voting system complicates the analogy: it's often the zealots who show up at the ballot box, and organise others to do the same. 
And, as American author and political commentator David Lebedoff has recently noted, US candidates sitting safely in gerrymandered seats have to appeal to the party men or lobby groups, not their more moderate constituencies. 
But the portrait remains frightening: parties stacked with rabid mandarins, while ordinary voters turn off. This withdrawal then further impoverishes the parties, and political life more generally.
(Image: Time)

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