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Pining For White Supremacy

By Matthew Yglesias on February 17, 2010 at 2:31 pm

"Pining For White Supremacy"

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Gerald Seib has an article about how the real problem with the Senate isn’t the filibuster, it’s polarization. This is a widely held sentiment, and I think it’s almost never expressed by people who would favor returning the South to an apartheid system, but it just can’t be emphasized enough that the rise of well-sorted political parties is a well-understood phenomenon, it is a return to the historical norm, and its cause is equal rights for black people:

House_and_senate_polar_46109 1

Again, to be clear, none of the (many) people who you hear wandering the streets of Washington DC pining for bipartisanship of yore actually think it would be better for the South to become a one-party state dominated by white supremacists who enforce their rule with systematic terrorist violence. But the existence of such a system is, as a matter of fact, the reason we used to have a relatively unpolarized US Congress. To substantially depolarize Congress, you need some systemic change that’s comparable in magnitude—messing around with who has dinner where or how often people fly home is just far too puny.

I can think of basically two viable responses to the current situation. One would be to change how the legislature operates to make its rules better-suited to an era in which well-sorted parties is the rule—i.e., 50 votes and you win. Another would be some kind of substantial alteration in the electoral system (IRV, perhaps) that shook up the two main parties.

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