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Jonathan Chait on the Government Shutdown — New York Magazine


Illustration by Oliver Munday

In a merciful coincidence, Juan Linz didn’t fairly reside to see his prophecy of the demise of American democracy borne out. Linz, the Spanish political scientist who died final week, argued that the presidential system, with its separate elections for legislature and chief govt, was inherently unstable. In a well-known 1990 essay, Linz noticed, “All such systems are based on dual democratic legitimacy: No democratic principle exists to resolve disputes between the executive and the legislature about which of the two actually represents the will of the people.” Presidential techniques veered finally towards collapse in all places they had been tried, as legislators and executives vied for supremacy. There was just one notable exception: the United States of America.

Linz attributed our puzzling, anomalous stability to “the uniquely diffuse character of American political parties.” The Republicans had a great deal of moderates, and conservative whites in the South nonetheless clung to the Democratic Party. At the time he wrote that, the two events had been already sorting themselves into extra ideologically pure variations, leaving us the place we stand at present: with one racially and economically polyglot get together of center-left technocracy and one ethnically homogenous reactionary get together. The latter is at the moment trying to impose its program by risk upon the former. The occasions in Washington have given us a peek into the Linzian nightmare.



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