Britain is also blessed with a functioning political culture. It is dominated by people who live in London and who have often known each other since prep school. This makes it gossipy and often incestuous.I have thought for some time that we have a paralyzed political system here in America . Part of it is our constitutional system of checks and balances. Constructed over two centuries ago for a tiny national government with much more vigorous state governments, we now have the reverse, and it's just not working. Nothing gets done, except to make things worse by pandering to the electorate. No one is held accountable.
But the plusses outweigh the minuses. The big newspapers still set the agenda, not cable TV or talk radio. If the quintessential American pol is standing in his sandbox screaming affirmations to members of his own tribe, the quintessential British pol is standing across a table arguing face to face with his opponents.
British leaders and pundits know their counterparts better. They are less likely to get away with distortions and factual howlers. They are less likely to believe the other party is homogenously evil. They are more likely to learn from a wide range of people. When they do hate, their hatreds are more likely to be personal and less likely to take on the tenor of a holy war.
The British political system gives the majority party much greater power than any party could hope to have in the U.S., but cultural norms make the political debate less moralistic and less absolutist. The British press also do an amazing job of policing corruption. The media go into a frenzy at the merest whiff of malfeasance. Last week, for example, a minister was pummeled for saying clumsy things about rape.
Tuesday, as President Obama visits London, we will get a glimpse of the British political culture. We Americans have no right to feel smug or superior.
We are just such a huge country. England is the size of my state of North Carolina. The governing of such an enormous country cannot be done properly from D.C. We need to return more power to the states (and communities and individuals too) and shrink the federal government.
And we need accountibility for political parties in governing. With split government such as we have it (with the executive in one party's hands, the House of Representatives in another, and the Senate basically in the hands of any one Senator who can gum up the works with holds and threats of filibuster!), very little gets done. (This is not to mention the extent to which rich corporate interests control the politicians and their agenda.)
I'm for giving one party the control of the Congress and Executive branches, and then when they screw up, replace them with the other party. I don't how to achieve that, but right now, I'm so angry with the Democrats, that I'm for giving the Republicans the power and letting them do it. At least, the party in power will have both the power and the responsibility to move things forward.
True federalism and more power to one party at a time (whatever this principle is called). Therefore I'm intending to vote next year for sensible conservative and libertarian candidates, but no warmongers and global interventionists of either party (I'm talking to you, neo-cons and liberal interventionists!). As you know, right now that means Jon Huntsman for President.
I reserve the right to change my mind tomorrow.