Friday, October 19, 2012

Can polarization be mitigated?

At the Politics to the Extreme conference I attended earlier this week, a few papers focused on possible "remedies" for excessive polarization in legislatures. Frank Mackaman of the Dirksen Congressional Center talked about the Civility Initiative in the U.S. House. This was an effort to get people talking across party lines, presuming that would translate into people voting across party lines. These proposals basically went nowhere -- even a proposal to offer Hershey's Kisses in the Cloakroom didn't make much progress. Anyway, you can see Mackaman's talk here.

I spoke about California's recent experience with the top-two primary. You can read the paper here and see my talk here. Basically, I'm not predicting huge changes in legislative partisanship as a result, but it's still a bit early to tell, and the reform has already shaken up the political system a bit in the primary.

But here's another interesting story, forwarded to me by Jon Robinson. Did you know that the 2010 elections left Oregon with a split lower house -- 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans? And the parties came up with an interesting solution: a dual speakership, one Democratic and one Republican. The results have been impressive:
The two leaders negotiated a clear set of rules that would govern House operations. They also made a commitment to sit down together to solve problems -- and to stay seated until both sides had a solution they could agree on.
The beginning, says Hanna, was “tough.” But the two legislative sessions presided over by co-speakers Roblan and Hanna rank as among the most productive in Oregon’s history, with balanced budgets, a sweeping health reform overhaul, state and congressional redistricting, and a successful school reform package.
I'm generally of the mind that partisanship isn't necessarily a problem, and to the extent it is, it's rather hard to make it go away. But Oregon's experience is encouraging.

3 comments:

  1. I'm generally of the mind that partisanship isn't necessarily a problem, and to the extent it is, it's rather hard to make it go away. But Oregon's experience is encouraging.




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  2. These proposals basically went nowhere -- even a proposal to offer Hershey's Kisses in the Cloakroom didn't make much progress.

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