Americans tend to see the typical European parliamentary system as fragmented and fragile. We feel smug when we see coalitions fall apart after a few months or witness the tortured negotiations about putting one together in the first place. Twenty political parties? Really?
But, I’m starting to think they are on to something. For us to get something done, we need House, Senate, and President to agree … And the Senate probably needs 60 votes out of 100. The result is paralysis, the impossibility of passing budgets or doing anything substantive for years at a time. For better or worse, this is how the Founders designed things. We call it “checks and balances”. We call it normal.
In a parliamentary system, when politicians cannot agree on an agenda, they have new coalition negotiations. The sytem highlights the paralysis and then goes into overdrive until a majority agrees on the next steps. The country waits with baited breath to see what the new coalition will be and the new agenda. Here, it’s more like “don’t hold your breath”.
Maybe there is something to be said to giving the winners of the most recent election free rein to implement their policies? At the next election, you vote them out if you don’t like the results. No excuses about “we were going to do all these great things but those other guys wouldn’t let us.”