Monday, April 26, 2004

Divided Government a Conservative Value - Who Knew?

Fortune.com presents "A Conservative Case for Voting Democratic"

Send this to all your rich friends, who for some odd reason still support Bush. The basic message is that giving either party complete control of the Federal government and the vaults empty rapidly. It is highly unlikely that the Dems can retake Congress, at least not the House, and given the number of retirements in the Senate, probably not that body either. So to restore any semblence of divided government in order to restrain spending, the Dems must take the White House.

It is rather disturbing that the Federal government is so incapable of restraining itself when not divided by party. It makes one wonder what is wrong with the design of our government or political system that representatives are unable to restrain themselves.

Parlimentary systems are by definition undivided to a large degree, yet they do not have the same problems restraining spending. I think it may have more to do with our districting method than our governmental structure. By making representatives only answerable to local and state electorates, our system fails to make anyone in the Congress responsible to a national electorate. This is a big mistake in a national government. Everyone ends up looking out for their slice of the pie, and no one is watching to make sure that the slices add up to a single pie. If we really wanted fiscal restraint and the efficiency of undivided government, then one or both chambers of Congress must be elected from a national multi-member district.

Such a reform would consquently make all elections for that chamber competitive, rather than the tiny minority of competitive races presently. It would also make party discipline a much more highly valued trait than it is currently. With single member districts, candidates are fairly entrepreneurial, as they can afford to buck the party if they can still win their primary. But in a national multimember district, the voters elect a Party slate, rather than a member. There are not popular primaries. The Party leaders select the party ticket. The result is a much stronger ability to discipline representatives via the Party than in a single member district. Of course, it also allows third parties to compete effectively for seats, so the the system would never be adopted by the current governing bodies.

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