Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Are Democrats Institutionally Constrained to be Wussies?

I was thinking about this the other day and wanted to bounce it off the inter-tubes.

If Republicans are the party of the status quo (or reactionaries) and the Democrats are the party of progressivism and the US constitution's system of checks and balances (and supermajority requirements in the Senate) lead to a strong bias in favor of the status quo, are the Democrats doomed by the institutional context of the US government to be a bunch of wussies? That is, are they doomed to forever come up short of their supporters' expectations?

Republican have less of this problem. If they do nothing other than block changes to the status quo, they can make a real claim of success to their base. It is only when the Republican base starts demanding a return to the policies of the 19th century that Republicans run into the same problem that the Democrats always have.

And of course this means that the Republican base will ALWAYS be more supportive of their party when it is in the minority. Democrats look at their party in minority and complain (unreasonably) about how the Democrats don't do anything to advance the cause of progress. Republicans though see intrinsic value in obstructionism. Since our system is designed to favor exactly that strategy, Republicans have an advantage.

What do you think?


The Law Talking Guy said...

I'm not sure that you even need the constitutional analysis. Any political party which can succeed with less will please its supporters more easily than one that must do more.

Raised By Republicans said...

Well, sure. But the fact that our institutional structures are heavily biased against change makes any party based on proposing and achieving change doubly disadvantaged.

USWest said...

Interesting idea. I see RBR's point. But is it a bit more complex that this? After all, we do have mechanisms for change in our system so long as there is the will. We have succeed in change. So I ask: Is it the institutional structures, or the nature of people? Humans by nature are suspicious of change. The Democrats are the party of change and hope. And they sell this so hard that they raise everyone’s expectations beyond reason.

Democrats say, “Join us and create the changes that will help you achieve your goals.” The Republicans say, “Stay with us, and one day maybe you too will be like us.” That’s big message difference. So now consider who joins these parties. Those who join the Democrats are builders; those who join the Republicans are strivers. In either case, they are all dreamers.

And in general, the masses are naive and they scare easily. Those people who worshiped Obama and thought he’d revolutionize our country were very naive. It isn’t, LTG, that Republican’s expect less, it’s that they have a lower tolerance for bullshit and prefer the simpler message. “Change is bad. It will hurt you.” That is much easier for Mr. Joe Naive to understand than the fineries of health care reform and it much easier than promising people universal health insurance.

Raised By Republicans said...

"Stop Change" is also the default setting on our governmental structures. That's now the case in all democracies. In parliamentary systems where single party governments are the norm (like Greece or the UK - present gov't excepted), even conservatives actually have to produce. In the US being obstructionist is easy to base your party platform.

USWest said...

Our government structures were created by people who wanted to make sure the possibility for revolution was minimized. Sweeping change causes instability. That's why we haven't had a political history like the French-5 Republics, empire,dictatorship, etc. But I disagree that "stop change" is the default setting of our structures- if by that you mean three branches of government. The default is "careful change" or "incremental change". I do agree that Democrats are at a disadvantage, but I remind you we held majorities for 40 years in Congress. So how disadvantaged were we? Maybe back then, our structures were more open to change?

Perhaps the Republicans have a slight advantage in such a system. But the Democrats have the power to influence or even control the discussion, and ultimately win out. I'm thinking of things like the Civil Rights movement, gay rights, the Green Revolution. But we've not had sweeping change since the Great Depression and WWII, and incremental change is a harder sell to liberal party fringe. But that isn't the fault of our structures, rather of the parties themselves. It's the parties that control the structures- they could choose to manipulate the controls differently and to allow for more sweeping change. But they don't want to.

That said, when these parties join forces, change can be fast. I am thinking of the PATRIOT Act for example.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I do recall some wag remarking that the problem with trying to use a legislature to make change is that it is trying to use as an engine something that was designed as a brake.

USWest said...

You may have heard about how the government bought all the first run copies of Anthony A. Shaffer's memoirs about Afghanistan and destroyed them? The result was that everyone rushed to buy the book. Some of the few 1st runs that have gotten out have sold for as much as $2500. So the commentator joked that this was Obama's innovative way of stimulating the economy- and since it involved the DOD, which is an executive agency, he didn't need to go through the obstructionists in Congress to do it. He suggested that the Administration find other "national Security reasons" to purchase other products.