Monday, May 10, 2010

Another European Thing Our Republic Probably Doesn't Want

Today the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is in a pickle. Without a single party winning a majority of seats in Parliament, and even though the leading third party actually declined in the most recent election, it now awaits one or the other of the two major parties to make a deal with number three to form a coalition.

And it looks like the coalition will be formed by the party that lost the most seats and now stands in second place.

For those who thought that the 2000 US Presidential election was a travesty that nearly destroyed democracy, such stories of parliamentary systems are instructive.

All democracies are limited by the reality that views change, coalitions shift, majorities are usually narrow, and stupid is stupid even if the majority says otherwise. When elections are especially divided and narrow, their outcomes must be decided by rule of law settled prior to the election. That's not to ensure that "democracy" prevails but that the losers agree that they lost even if they lost very narrowly.

In this country, we've agreed to abide by the rules of the Constitution, including the Electoral College with all its mathematical absurdities. In parliamentary systems, voters' divided choices can be remixed by politicians cutting deals for coalitions, but all still per rules agreed upon in advance. It is precisely that social contract to which all agree--to abide by the election's outcome, no matter how close--that makes decent government possible over generations.

1 comment:

Bryan D said...

And marmite. Don't forget marmite.