Tuesday, July 05, 2005

England & America

Now let's see about England and America. I'm guessing that what I know about these is considerably less than about Ireland.

England has almost a three-party system. Labour, the Conservative Party, and Liberal Democrats are the three parties, but the LDs are yet to fully become a power. Most of the elections come down to competitions between the other two. Parties like the UK Independence Party are far-right, and very much minority. At present, the Labour government is behaving in a manner much more like the Conservatives, especially with regard to foreign policy, under the leadership of Tony Blair.

The US definitely has only a two-party system - while there are some minor parties and independents, they're almost completely insignificant. The two parties are the Democrats (centrist), and the Republicans (right-wing). At present the Republican party is in control. The system in the US affords a great deal of power to the winner of the presidential elections - more so than in any other country in the West, as far as I know. The current president is George Bush. It's an understatement to say I'm not keen on Bush. Quite apart from any of his actual policies, he makes far too many decisions based on his own opinion and religious beliefs to be considered good.


At Wednesday, July 06, 2005 1:39:00 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Democrats are leftist not centrist. There are moderates in both of the parties which help to center the issues.

At Wednesday, July 06, 2005 1:52:00 p.m., Anonymous Katherine F. said...

It's the United Kingdom, not "England" -- I wouldn't normally nitpick this (I talk this way myself sometimes), but this is politics you're talking about, and the distinction is very important politically. Scotland has its own parliament, Wales has its own assembly, and Northern Ireland... well, the less said about that, the better. But you get the picture.

The only significant parties outside the Lib-Lab-Con triangle are the nationalist parties (Plaid Cymru and the SNP). This is not a coincidence. The dominance of England (and within England, the dominance of the South, and within the South, the dominance of London) is deeply resented. Take the fox-hunting debate, for instance. Why was this so bitter and protracted? Because it was seen as symbolic of the detachment of London-based MPs from the lives of rural constituents, and the willingness of "townies" to impose arbitrary rules on country folk.

If you look at a political map of the British Isles, it's very noticeable that pretty much all of rural England is true Tory blue, while the cities are Labour red. Scotland and Wales used to be all red too (in 97); don't know if that's changed.

The American political system is insanely complicated, and has all sorts of weirdnesses about it that don't really make sense. For instance, the fact that the members of the President's cabinet are unelected. I didn't realise this was the case until I saw The Fog of War -- Robert MacNamara went straight from being president of the Ford Corporation to being Defense Secretary. Because the President said so. I mean, seriously. WTF?

At Wednesday, July 06, 2005 8:33:00 p.m., Blogger harmfulguy said...

You might be interested in this LiveJournal post about the differences between American legislature and party structure, and those of European parliamentary governments. The president isn't always so powerful under our system, since the legislature can fall to a different party. At the moment, though, not only is everything in the hands of the Repubs, but they're making more of an effort than I've ever seen to lock out any alternative voice.

The Dems may be liberal by US standards, but the mainstream segment of our political spectrum skews to the right compared to European definitions.

At Friday, May 26, 2006 2:23:00 p.m., Blogger Publius said...

American Politics can usually be boiled down to having 3 underlying elements that explain most differences they have with other systems of 'democratic governance'

Structural Conservatism: American institutions are structured in such a fashion that power flows upward, not downward; the rural interest is always over-represented, and institutions almost always trump people.

Money: The day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year operation of American politics is geared around a vicious cycle of the pursuit of money. This keeps the two largest parties in a superior position. Historically speaking, the predominance of parties has only really experienced upheaval during periods of economic fear. The top two parties are by no means constant, as about once a century one of the prominent ones is either replaced or ideologically renovated to accomodate a new internal majority.

Seperation of Powers: American governance is designed to promote contention and slow action. The lack of centralized authority makes all processes extended, all changes incremental, and all decision-making capacity diffuse.

Presidents, in the American System, consequently, are *far* less powerful than Prime Ministers or Parliamentary heads of Government. Presidents simply recieve the bulk of press coverage as they are singularly identifiable individuals, unlike Congressmen--its easier to talk about 1 person than about 435.


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