14 October 2009

Snow(e)blind: Coalition Government in America?

The elevation of Senator Snowe to the status of a national heroine yesterday was a pretty contemptible display. I have no problem with her voting for the Democratic health bill, but the idea that her superfluous vote somehow legitimates the measure more than the already existing majority did disgusted me. The Democratic party from the President down, as well as the allegedly liberal media, have in effect endorsed the notion that Bipolarchical coalition rather than majority rule is the governing principle of the United States. The majority party's desperation not to appear "partisan" despite the electorate's grant of power to rule on its own betrays the extent to which partisanship has become an extra-constitutional organizing principle of American politics. A sufficiency of voters has decreed over the past three years that Democrats do not need to consult or compromise with Republicans in order to govern the country, but Democratic leaders have decided that they must. They've enabled the spurious argument that the Republican party is a constituent element of the United States that is entitled to a degree of representation bordering on the Polish liberum veto despite the outcome of recent elections. To Republicans themselves, the idea that one Senator's vote makes the bill bipartisan must seem even more ridiculous than Democratic efforts to compromise with a party that only had power to complain and lie. But they benefit just the same from the universal concession that their party must be consulted even when it hasn't earned the right. And they will argue hereafter, as they already have, that no policy to which they haven't consented is really legitimate, no matter what the Constitution says.

The American Bipolarchy is a historically accidental coalition of parties, each of whose efforts to manipulate the electoral system to its own benefit has benefited both parties to the effective exclusion of ideas and interest groups outside of a "mainstream" of fundraising entities that finance political advertising. It isn't a matter of conspiratorial collusion except insofar as it's motivated by a shared sincere belief that any "third party" must represent a dangerous form of extremism. Neither party has reason to disrupt a state of affairs that benefits both in turn, but neither would really object to the destruction of the other -- or so one assumes until one reads news like yesterday's, which reminds the reader that one partner in the Bipolarchy seems to be more naive than the other. I suspect that many if not most Republicans would happily see the "Democrat" party destroyed or at least turned into a harmless clone of Republican conservatism. Democrats, on the other hand, seem to acknowledge that there is such a thing as the Bipolarchy -- and that it's a good thing. That comes with being liberals, I suppose. But there are numerous voices and interests who, by Bipolarchy logic, belong on the Democratic side of things, yet feel that they were not consulted on health care reform -- and because they did not belong to the official opposition, they didn't have to be. The party that they're told is theirs was more solicitous toward a single opposition Senator than toward many more people who are supposedly their natural constituents, and that supposedly makes the end product more representative. That's how representative government works in this country.

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