0 thoughts on “Separation of powers is ruining this country

  1. Pingback: Steven White

  2. Maybe he prefers a more semi-presidential arrangement with Congress in control of the civil service:

    Bob believes governmental accountability can only be achieved if the party that controls the legislative branch also controls the departments of government. History has proven that the legislature and executive constantly ‘pass the buck.’

  3. Unless he advocates keeping a popularly elected president alongside a PM responsible to the House, there is nothing ‘semi-presidential’ about what he advocates.

    From the sparse information in the NYT and at Kelleher’s own site (the page Jack linked to), it seems like he wants an Australian-style system to me.

    And the remarks made by some about his proposal making Nancy Pelosi the head of government ignore the likely fact that there is no way the Democrats win a national House election in a parliamentary system if Pelosi is their leader. So, she wouldn’t be. Or Republicans would win.

  4. The details are admittedly sketchy, but his proposal has the air of a cabinet responsible to a PM that is responsible to the House.

    What are the Australian-style details you see in his proposal? I’m not very familiar with the workings of cabinet accountability there.

    Finally, do you think a D win under parliamentarism is impossible because Pelosi would damage Democratic viability, or is the reason more structural?

  5. If the cabinet, or its head, is responsible to the legislature, that’s parliamentary. By ousting the PM on a vote of no-confidence, the ministers (even if formally responsible directly to the PM) presumably would be ousted at the same time. That is, strictly speaking, parliamentarism, not semi-presidentialism. The latter is defined as a system of a separately elected, fixed-term presidency, alongside a PM and cabinet responsible to the legislature.

    Australia is a federal, bicameral parliamentary system in which the states have equal representation in the senate. The house (though not the senate) is elected in single-seat districts. So, if the USA were converted to parliamentarism without any other major changes, it would resemble Australia more than any other country, institutionally.

    As for Pelosi as PM, it just seems to me that the Democrats would need someone with broader appeal than she has. The structural point is that under parliamentarism, a party would win or lose control of the House on the basis of its appeal as the ruling party. All politics would not be so local as they are now in the USA (even granting the occasional relatively ‘nationalized’ congressional election, such as 1974, 1994 or 2006). Republicans have made some effort to use Pelosi against the Democrats in more conservative swing districts. It seems not to have much of an effect. My expectation is that it would be much more effective if the Dem House leader really were the national chief executive, and not merely the head of one chamber of congress.

    Also on the structural point, it is unlikely Democrats could have held the House majority for 40 years under a parliamentary system. Unable to elect separately a Republican president, if voters wanted a change in direction, they would have needed to elect a Republican House majority in, say, 1968 or 1980.

  6. I’m not sure it helps the cause of parliamentary forms of government to have them proposed only by perennial gadflies like Kelleher. Makes for a good blog thread, though.

    In a field of six candidates, 36 percent is a respectable showing. Even so, the fact that he got nominated makes this primary a poster child for IRV/alternative vote.

  7. Somewhere (i.e. another blog) I noted the irony that a candidate who shares my advocacy of executive-legislative structural reform was nominated only because of an electoral system that I advocate abolishing.

    But as for gadflies and 36-percenters, I’ll take taboo-breakers wherever I can get them.

  8. Matthew, a shift to full parliamentarism, has its own problems as a quick google on the terms “Westminster system’ and “elective dictatorship” will show. Visualise, for example, the contrasting positions of George Bush II and John Howard. Bush, due to congressional pusillanimity in both parties, has got much legislation without a lot of opposition. Howard, by contrast got all his legislation more or less automatically.

    There’s a cheerful romanticism in a lot of US writing about parliamentarism which assumes that governments are actually held accountable. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    The last time government changed hands on the floor of the House of Representatives in Australia was in 1941, although prime ministers were sacked by their own party caucuses in 1971 and 1993. What actually happens is that the executive totally dominates the house and the only real check on the executive is the possibility of the Senate rejecting a bill.

    I’d suggest a better way to achieve your ends is a mutual suicide provision by which the president and the house of representatives could could call a special election at which both the presidency and the house would be up for grabs.

  9. Alan, I will trade systems with you!

    Of course, no one should make one’s case for parliamentarism on expectations that governments will change on the floor of parliament!

    Seems Alan is recommending a system like that used briefly in Israel, though without such that country’s extreme PR, it would presumably function rather differently.

  10. Actually allowing the president to be sacked by the legislative caucus of his own party would not be a bad idea, either. It would probably induce a great deal more discipline in executive conduit than the theoretical possibility of losing a vote of no confidence. What I would think equally important is having a separate head of state and transferring the deference, ceremony and majesty that surrounds the chief executive to a nonpartisan head of state.

  11. “a shift to full parliamentarism, has its own problems” -> Not necessarily; it depends on HOW that parliament has been elected!

    Colomer sorts “from
    lower to higher degrees of concentration of power:
    1. parliamentary-proportional (e.g. Germany, the Netherlands);
    2. checks and balances (e.g. United States, Indonesia);
    3. semi-presidential (e.g. France, Poland);
    4. presidentialist (e.g. Argentina, Mexico);
    5. parliamentary-majority (e.g. United Kingdom, Canada).”

    See also Tom Rounds reaction
    on checks-and-balances:
    “the US approach is an 18th-century attempt to solve problems that could not really be solved until PR was devised in the 19th century”

    (I hereby nominate ‘Dikes and Votes’ for ‘PRESERVED FRUIT’)

  12. Rather than Australia, I believe his design is based on the British model. He has been writing and speaking about this for more than 35 years, so I’m sure there is additional detail out there to be found.

  13. Oh, I am willing to believe that his idea is based on the British model. What I meant is that if someone wants to see what a model of parliamentary federalism might look like if the USA were ever to go that way, the place to look is Australia.

    (Unless, of course, federalism is also ruining this country. Which it might be. But there are many ways to do “federalism” aside from the US way.)

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