American democracy is doomed, por Matthew Yglesias:
America's constitutional democracy is going to collapse.
Some day — not tomorrow, not next year, but probably sometime before runaway climate change forces us to seek a new life in outer-space colonies (...).
Very few people agree with me about this, of course. When I say it, people generally think that I'm kidding. America is the richest, most successful country on earth. The basic structure of its government has survived contested elections and Great Depressions and civil rights movements and world wars and terrorist attacks and global pandemics. (...)
But voiced in another register, my outlandish thesis is actually the conventional wisdom in the United States. Back when George W. Bush was president and I was working at a liberal magazine, there was a very serious discussion in an editorial meeting about the fact that the United States was now exhibiting 11 of the 13 telltale signs of a fascist dictatorship. The idea that Bush was shredding the Constitution and trampling on congressional prerogatives was commonplace. When Obama took office, the partisan valence of the complaints shifted, but their basic tenor didn't. Conservative pundits — not the craziest, zaniest ones on talk radio, but the most serious and well-regarded — compare Obama's immigration moves to the actions of a Latin-American military dictator. (...)
To understand the looming crisis in American politics, it's useful to think about Germany, Japan, Italy, and Austria. These are countries that were defeated by American military forces during the Second World War and given constitutions written by local leaders operating in close collaboration with occupation authorities. It's striking that even though the US Constitution is treated as a sacred text in America's political culture, we did not push any of these countries to adopt our basic framework of government.
This wasn't an oversight.
In a 1990 essay, the late Yale political scientist Juan Linz observed that "aside from the United States, only Chile has managed a century and a half of relatively undisturbed constitutional continuity under presidential government — but Chilean democracy broke down in the 1970s." (...)
Still, Linz offered several reasons why presidential systems are so prone to crisis. (...)
In a parliamentary system, deadlocks get resolved. A prime minister who lacks the backing of a parliamentary majority is replaced by a new one who has it. If no such majority can be found, a new election is held and the new parliament picks a leader. It can get a little messy for a period of weeks, but there's simply no possibility of a years-long spell in which the legislative and executive branches glare at each other unproductively.
But within a presidential system, gridlock leads to a constitutional trainwreck with no resolution. The United States's recent government shutdowns and executive action on immigration are small examples of the kind of dynamic that's led to coups and putsches abroad.
There was, of course, the American exception to the problems of the checks-and-balances system. Linz observed on this score: "The uniquely diffuse character of American political parties — which, ironically, exasperates many American political scientists and leads them to call for responsible, ideologically disciplined parties — has something to do with it."
For much of American history, in other words, US political parties have been relatively un-ideological and un-disciplined. They are named after vague ideas rather than specific ideologies, and neither presidents nor legislative leaders can compel back-bench members to vote with them. This has often been bemoaned (famously, a 1950 report by the American Political Science Association called for a more rigorous party system) as the source of problems. It's also, according to Linz, helped avert the kind of zero-sum conflicts that have torn other structurally similar democracies apart. But that diffuse party structure is also a thing of the past.