Third party to the rescue?

Not so much.  Excellent post from Ezra Klein (thoroughly endorsed by smart political parties scholars on FB) on the folly of looking for a mythicial third party to improve our current political situation.  (I also like that he extensively cites Ron Rapoport– one of my very favorite people):

The question I get more than any other about American politics is: The Democratic Party and the Republican Party both suck. Don’t we need a third party to fix this?

Well, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, it depends what the meaning of “this” is.

If you think the problem with American politics is that there are ideas that are popular among voters but suppressed by the two major parties, then a third party could potentially help a lot.

But if you think the problem with American politics is that Congress is gridlocked, the president seems powerless to do anything about it, and Americans are increasingly frustrated, then a third party might well make things worse.

Political scientist Ronald Rapaport wrote the book on third parties. Literally. It’s called Three’s a Crowd, because of course it is. And the key thing he found about third parties is that “they need some sort of unique agenda. There has to be a reason why you’re going to support a third party.”

Third parties are a political weapon: they force the system to confront issues it might otherwise prefer to ignore. Take Ross Perot, the most successful leader of a third party in recent American history. “People like to think of Perot as being centrist. But he was not,” says Rapoport. “He was extreme on the issues he cared about. And with Perot, it was economic nationalism and balancing the budget.”

It’s worth stopping on that point a moment. In Washington, the yearning for a third party is often by elites — and for elites. It’s for the third party of Unity08, or No Labels, or Mike Bloomberg, or Simpson-Bowles. It’s a third party of technocrats: fiscally moderate, socially permissive. A third party of sober moderates. A third party of things people in Washington already care about.

That third party won’t work. The space for a third political party — if it exists — isn’t in Washington’s zone of elite agreement. It’s in the zones of popular agreement that elites have little patience for. America’s unaffiliated voters aren’t moderates. They are, by Washington’s standards, extremists — they’re just extreme in a way that blithely crosses left and right lines, then doubles back on itself again. They support single-payer health care and tax cuts. Or they’re against gay marriage but for a living wage. Or they’re for open borders and cuts to social spending. Or they want a smaller military and sharp restrictions on abortions. [emphasis mine]

Not to mention Duverge’s Law.  There’s a lot that’s wrong with our current politics, but it simply not going to be solved by any third party that is going to appeal to any decent-sized segment of both elites and voters.  We need our existing parties to fix what’s wrong.  Especially one of them.

Too much protest?

Really enjoyed this post from Seth Masket bringing some historical perspective to current protests:

I’ve been thinking a lot about Martin Luther King Jr.’s admonishment while observing heated discussions about the wave of protests across the country in the wake of recent grand jury acquittals in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York. Many have complained that looting in Missouri, traffic blocking in New York, divisive protests at National Football League games, student walkouts in Denver, and so forth are unhelpful and counterproductive to the cause of racial equality and harmony. Even if some are legitimately outraged by police violence against unarmed African Americans, they seem to say, why can’t those people be more like King, marching peacefully and winning over the majority of sympathetic whites?

It’s also worth remembering that King himself wasn’t always the non-controversial saint he’s revered as today. Back in 1966, according to Gallup, 63 percent of Americans had a negative opinion of King, while just 33 percent had a positive opinion of him. Today, 95 percent of American hold a positive opinion of King. Also, according to a 1966 Harris poll, 50 percent of whites felt that King was “hurting … the Negro cause of civil rights,” while only 36 percent thought he was helping.

King is remembered very selectively, and conveniently, today by those urging moderation among protestors. But we should remember that King and the movement he led were, even if non-violent, disruptive. They were challenging. They broke laws. They made whites uncomfortable. [emphasis mine]

Damn good points.

Photo of the day

From the first of In Focus‘ year in photo galleries.  Great gallery– you are getting three today.

Sightseers look at a frozen rock face along the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore of Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake, near Cornucopia, Wisconsin, on February 14, 2014. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, about 94% of Lake Superior was covered with ice at the time, enabling thousands of people to visit the islands on foot for the first time since 2009. (Reuters/Eric Miller)

An Afghan National Army soldier looks out from a rocky overlook as soldiers with the U.S. Army’s 2nd Battalion 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division patrol below on March 31, 2014 near Pul-e Alam, Afghanistan.(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Afghan refugee girl Nazmina Bibi, 7, poses for a picture, while playing with other children in a slum on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, on January 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)


How bad cops hurt good cops

Love this Jamelle Bouie take.  After describing a litany of questionable police shootings, he writes:

The common thread in all of these isn’t police violence as much as it’s the sudden use of force [emphasis in original]. The victims never have a chance to react. Instead, police enter, weapons drawn, ready to kill. And when they do kill, they almost never face criminal charges. On Wednesday a grand jury declined to indict Officer Pantaleo with any charges in the death of Garner, despite video of his escalation, his use of an illegal chokehold, and his history of racial bias. Likewise, grand juries declined to press charges against the officers who killed Crawford, and the St. Louis police department is dragging its feet in the investigation of the officers who killed Powell. Prosecutors have yet to make a decision in the case of Officer Manney, and while the Rice shooting is still under investigation, the odds are that those officers will escape charges as well, despite the fact that the officer who used his weapon—Timothy Loehmann—had been described as “unfit for duty.” It’s only in South Carolina that the officer is facing trial for his actions.

That sudden use of force is what is so disturbing in both of the Ohio shootings (the 12 year old and the man in Walmart).  In both videos it seems that the victims were basically given no chance to “surrender” their air rifles before being shot (and it’s not like they were brandishing them at the police).  Anyway, Bouie continues:

But while we should ask the legal system if “black lives matter,” we should also ask police departments to explain themselves and their training. Take away the implicit racial bias, the unfair treatment, and pervasive overpolicing, and you’re still left with a world where police are empowered by law to use force and are ready to use it without serious provocation. And worse, this is bolstered by a police culture that expects absolute obedience from ordinary citizens, regardless of the circumstances or situation. “[H]ere is the bottom line,” wrote veteran officer Sunil Dutta in an August op-ed for the Washington Post, “if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton, or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you.” If any reaction—even the nervousness and fear that come with a police stop—is legitimate grounds for violence, then violence is practically guaranteed. And given the heavy policing in black and Latino communities, this means minorities are at the greatest risk for victimization…

Changing the culture of policing to de-emphasize violence and leave room for ordinary human behavior won’t be easy, but it’s possible. And it doesn’t have to lead to more crime. In Philadelphia this year, police have shot and killed just three people, compared with 12 by this point in 2013 and 16 by this point in 2012. What changed? The culture, and specifically, the department’s approach to the use of force. After a local news story found a spike in officer-involved shootings despite a drop in crime, the police commissioner invited federal officials to examine the department’s practices as part of a “collaborative review.”

The full report isn’t public, but the recommendations included new directives involving the use of force—in which officers state that they “hold the highest regard for the sanctity of human life” and the “application of deadly force is a measure to be employed only in the most extreme circumstances”—and intensive training designed to de-escalate confrontations before they turn deadly. “As the new policies have been phased in,” notes, “the total number of shootings to date—fatal and nonfatal—has plummeted from 48 in 2012 to 35 in 2013 and to 18 so far this year, according to the department.”

If police departments are as committed to protecting communities as they claim, then they should welcome these steps. Bad cops—violent cops—hurt the profession as a whole. They create mistrust, and it make it hard for good officers to do their jobs. And on the other end, a legal system that won’t prosecute bad officers or hold them accountable for errors—or even record and document police shootings—is one that generates anger and hostility. [emphasis mine]

Yes, yes, yes!  And what is so especially frustrating.  That well-meaning prosecutors and well-behaved police officers do themselves such a disservice by sticking up for the miscreants.  Bad cops who abuse and kill the civilians they are supposed to be protecting do not deserve the loyalty of their fellow officers.  And when they receive it, it very much makes it appear that even otherwise well-meaning cops are not overly concerned with police brutality conducted in their name.  It’s great to see that a difference can be made when police forces are willing to try and change their culture.  Hooray for Philly– the whole country needs this.

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