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October 02, 2014
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Long division


Conservative historian Francis Fukuyama said in a recent article in The American Interest, “A well-designed democratic political system should mitigate underlying social disagreement and allow the society to come to a consensus on important issues. There is plenty of evidence, however, that the U.S. political system does exactly the opposite: It actually magnifies and exacerbates underlying conflicts, and it makes consensual decision-making more difficult” (www.the-american-interest.com/article.cfm?piece=1114). CNN’s Jack Cafferty said in response to the Pew study, “The polarization of America is like a cancer that is slowly killing us. And like many forms of cancer, there appears to be no cure.”

So what should be done? Paradoxically enough, I would like to suggest that the solution lies in having more political parties—or rather, in having a political system that allows more parties to participate in meaningful and effective ways. I think that citizens, given more points of view to choose from, would find the extremes less attractive. Power would be spread more widely, and therefore more thinly. Rather than a linear spectrum, pulling citizens to one end or the other, we would have a circular one.

A true multiparty democracy has its own problems, of course—just ask anyone who lives in Italy, or Israel—but it should be eminently clear by now that the old two-party system is no longer adequate to address the problems that face us as Americans.

I mean, I don’t want to suggest that our present system is destined to lead us into a new civil war...

No. I take that back. That is exactly what I mean to suggest. Somebody prove me wrong.