Avoiding gridlock & frustration with the political system
Welcome to The Fulcrum’s daily weekday e-newsletter where insiders and outsiders to politics are informed, meet, talk, and act to repair our democracy and make it live and work in our everyday lives.
It’s the institutional design, stupid! With a parliamentary system, America could avoid gridlock and instability
As the fifteen votes for the US House Speaker’s position make clear, the political system is mired in gridlock, both between parties, and internally within the Republican party. Short of holding repeated votes to effect a leadership resolution there is not much else that can be done.
Republican representatives have promised, and Democrats expect, a gridlock in Congress as the House can and will slow proceedings. Much is made of the political climate and polarization bringing about this situation and we often hearken back to days when cooperation was the norm. However, while polarization has exacerbated the problem, fundamentally, this is an issue of institutional design.
The McCourtney Institute for Democracy’s most recent Mood of the Nation Poll asked Americans what law they would choose, in their own words, if they could enact any law at the start of the new Congress. The results show that Americans are eager for political and electoral reform, especially instituting term limits.
Poll director Eric Plutzer, Ph.D., noted, “I think it says a lot that term limits and similar reforms are the first things that come to mind for so many people. Many Americans are prioritizing fixing the system over any particular policy that might contribute to security, freedom, equality or prosperity. That’s a symptom of deep frustration with government and how it has been functioning—or not—lately.”
Why do the two main political parties do so poorly with some large groups of voters? This episode explores how in recent decades Democrats have been losing rural America by growing margins. In 1996, Bill Clinton carried nearly half of all rural counties. But in 2020 Joe Biden won majorities in fewer than 7% of these counties.
This episode's guest is Chloe Maxmin, a progressive Democrat from rural Maine, who was the youngest woman ever to serve in Maine’s Senate. She was elected in a conservative district in 2020 after unseating a two-term Republican incumbent in a region that twice voted for Donald Trump by large majorities.
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