Saturday, March 31, 2018

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Lee Drutman points out that Donald Trump's presidency represents an entirely foreseeable result of a two-party, first-past-the-post electoral system:
(C)ontrary to claims that American political parties have to appeal broadly to win, they only need to win a quarter of the voting-age population to gain unified control of government in Washington, and their presidential nominee needs to win far less than that. Lest you think I’m picking on Republicans, the same was true (roughly) of Democrats in 2008.

Part of this is because unlike in Germany, where voter turnout hovers closer to 80 percent, American voter turnout is usually in the mid-50s in presidential elections, and closer to 40 percent in midterms (an international laggard). Many US voters don’t bother to vote because neither of the two parties appeals to them, or because they live in a safe state where their vote doesn’t matter, or because by comparative standards, there are significant hurdles to voting in the United States (such as more complicated registration, or voting being on a workday instead of on a weekend).

In short, there is nothing structural about a two-party system that guarantees moderate parties that have to appeal broadly.
In the debate about whether democracy is in decline in the West, there’s some important cross-national variance. In a response to the widely discussed democratic decline findings of Roberto Foa and Yascha Mounk, Pippa Norris compared support for democracy across Western democracies and found whatever cohort decline existed, it was largely limited to Anglo-American democracies, which tend toward two-party systems.

By contrast, in parliamentary democracies with proportional voting, there has been no consistent erosion in support for democracy. As Norris argues by way of explanation, “parliamentary democracies with PR elections and stable multiparty coalition governments, typical of the Nordic region, generate a broader consensus about welfare policies addressing inequality, exclusion, and social justice, and this avoids the adversarial winner-take-all divisive politics and social inequality more characteristic of majoritarian systems.”
- Joe Romm notes that any business case for fossil fuel power continues to crumble based on the decreasing cost of both solar and wind power, and the battery storage needed to use them most effectively.

- Ben Parfitt highlights the illegal building of 92 fracking dams in British Columbia - along with the province's disappointing response which seems limited trying to validate their construction.

- Susan Delacourt discusses the potentially large - but difficult-to-verify - role that big data plays in Canadian politics. And Colin Horgan offers an unnerving look at the type of personal information collected by Facebook and Google.

- Finally, Sandy Hudson comments on the unfair and racially-tinged burden the corporate press has placed on Jagmeet Singh (but not on his fellow federal leaders). But it's particularly worth noting - contrary to the spin being placed on Singh's leadership by other commentators - that Singh has the highest net public impression among the leaders of the official federal parties, and that the NDP is near the upper end of its typical polling range.

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