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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Positive Polarization?

Pietro Nivola of Brookings finds virtue in partisan conflict:
Maybe, among the many inflated expectations that we attach to the Obama presidency and should temper, those about the advent of “post-partisanship” ought to be lowered, drastically. In other words, get over it. The rough-and-tumble of our party politics is here to stay. What’s more—and this is even greater heresy—not everything about that fact of political life is horrible.

So far, so good, but he seems to support a crude majoritarianism:

But a political order in which technically just over 7 percent of a legislature—that is, a sub-group that possibly represents as little as 10 percent of the population—can have the last word, as our Senate arithmetic can imply, raises serious questions of democratic accountability and even legitimacy. Let’s face it; making a regular practice of putting, in effect, veto-power in the hands of a minority is hard to square with a government of the people, by the people, for the people.
On this point, Nivola seems to overlook James Madison's argument that there must be more to republican government than the rule of 51 percent. As William Connelly of Washington and Lee University explains in a forthcoming book, the Madisonian system invites both compromise and confrontation, and generates both heat and light. In order to prevail in this system, a leader needs to marshal arguments and assemble coalitions. It it not enough -- and should not be enough -- to shut down debate by saying "I won."