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The obligatory Iowa caucus post

Iowa has been done to death elsewhere, so I am not going to peer at the tea leaves, but rather take as my starting point an item at Deutsche Welle:

"The Iowa caucuses kicked off a long, costly presidential primary season in the United States. European experts said they find the US system to be unnecessarily drawn out, expensive and outdated".

That opening paragraph takes some beating for chutzpah, but one of D-W's experts goes further. A lot further:

"In parliamentary systems, people vote for political parties, which in turn decide who will fill leadership posts. Unger said he feels the US would be better off if it moved to a proportional system similar to what is used in Germany, where parties get a number of seats in parliament based on their votes. This allows for a broader range of political parties to be represented in government, which is important for a lively democracy, Unger said".

Unger is "an expert on US politics and a professor at the John F. Kennedy Institute, which is part of the Freie University in Berlin", which makes his take on the US scene all the odder. Yes, the Dems and the GOP have pretty well everything sewn up nationwide, but the Libertarians, Greens and other parties do get elected to office too, just as third and fourth etc parties can and do make breakthroughs in other FPTP countries.

That is not an especially interesting observation, but what the good professor does not seem to have taken on board is quite how protean the two parties are, both over time and from state to state. How much does Ron Paul have in common with Romney, or Joe Lieberman with Jesse Jackson, for instance?

In summation, could the US's democracy be any livelier?


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Blogger Ed said... 2:59 pm

It's BECAUSE there is no party "list" that the US has such a good system.

The UK, alas, has the worst aspects of FPTP and the worst aspects of the continental list system...  

Blogger Newmania said... 4:21 pm

Its odd isn`t it what experts everyone is on the US. I do not agree with Ed, the system is only part of it its the way the people interact with it that counts and I like the way ours works with a couple of tweaks

What difference would a better system make to Kenya ?  

Blogger Croydonian said... 4:43 pm

Tempting though it is, I am not going to stray into Godwin's Law territory, but you would think Germans would be wary of holding up their model as better than that of the US.

N - I suspect that nothing would have done the trick for our unfortunate Kenyan friends.  

Blogger Novlangue said... 5:27 pm

What gets me is the high-n-mighty Guardian, which routinely presents the US as a terror-diktatorship, and then follows the primaries with frenzied obsession. Surely their party line shd be that they're a waste of time, as G.Bush will arrest the winner of the Dem. primary and send her to Guantanamo?

J. Pilger  

Blogger flashgordonnz said... 6:26 pm

Funny: I thought the German system (and French, "British", Dutch, etc., systems) effectively consists of unelected commissioners headquartered in Brussels.  

Blogger scott redding said... 8:24 pm

Is the US system "unnecessarily drawn out" -- well, it seems to take 16 months. Is it expensive -- it takes tens of millions to run for Senate, let alone President, but it needn't be that way if there was more free political air time on TV and radio networks. Is their system "outdated" -- only parts of it. The electoral college, yes. But, I rather like the idea of caucuses and record turnout and people standing in the corner of gymnasiums in midwestern winter.  

Anonymous verity said... 9:27 pm

Scott Redding says: "But, I rather like the idea of caucuses and record turnout and people standing in the corner of gymnasiums in midwestern winter."

But as they're in a gymnasium, they wouldn't have to stand. They could shoot a few hoops. Well, the tall ones could.  

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