two-party system

Biting Our Collective Nails

Our leaders are being irrational. Once again Americans are approaching a “fiscal cliff” and we’re waiting to see if Congress and the White House will reach a compromise that prevents another recession. I’m not sure if this irrationality is “unintentional” or if it’s being used as a strategy in the game of chicken between Democrats and Republicans. In one version of that game, two drivers speed toward each other and certain mutual destruction, and the one who swerves to avoid collision at the last minute is considered a coward. It can be smart (even rational) for one player to signal that he is “crazy” enough not to change direction, so that the other player will. But in our case these drivers have millions of people in the cars with them, so-called fiscal hostages.

English: Two Knights Jousting Deutsch: Ritterl...

English: Two Knights Jousting Deutsch: Ritterlicher Turnier-Zweikampf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Political scientists have used this game to explain nuclear “brinkmanship” during the Cold War, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, but it also applies to the neglected and disparaged art of political compromise–especially when a serious deadline looms. (more…)

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American Hyper-Partisanship

Dishing it out

Dishing it out (Photo credit: ArtBrom)

Last night, President Obama and Governor Romney made news by being civil to each other. At the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York, they laughed at themselves and each other and praised each other’s families. This stood out because, the rest of the time, the gloves are off. We have no reason to think that will change after election day. The negative campaign ads will end, but the accusations, meanness, and hyper-partisanship won’t.

With plenty of exceptions, Democrats and Republicans will probably continue to paint the other side as liars or fools—especially as we approach the “fiscal cliff.” But instead of working to find common ground and solve our serious problems through compromise, I suspect that too many people on each side will go on attacking anyone who thinks differently. (more…)