The Consociational Model

Lijphart’s article discusses constitutional design and government organization in regards to divided societies in which he recommends a “consociational model” in which political institutions share power among different identity groups. He claims that the power sharing model is the only model able to be adopted by divided societies. While describing his “one-size fits all” model, Lijphart highlights nine areas in which constitutional writers have choice and gives his opinion on how to craft the most effective constitution for a divided state.1

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines wants to change the constitution in order to both introduce federalism as well as change the central government from a presidential system to a presidential-parliamentary one, however people suspect he may have an ulterior motive. Duterte believes that federalism will move money and power away from Manila to poorer parts of the country and foster peace between the diverse groups the country inhabits. Duterte also hopes that the parliamentary system will foster party politics. Despite Duterte’s wishes, he has found difficulty finding support in Congress. Critics of Duterte worry that the controversy about the transition of the constitution will lead to a corruption of the executive branch.2

Is democracy an effective regime of government for countries with significant diversity and if not, what would be a better regime?

India and Nigeria are both countries with very diverse populations and a history of political unrest that has improved with the implementation of a democratic regime. One of the leading political problems both these countries face is whether or not groups (based on things such as ethnicity, religion, party, etc.) are receiving representation in the government. There are many factors to take into consideration when it comes to ensuring individual group receive representation in a democracy. Constitutions determine whether or not there is a system of power sharing. There can be both a division of power between central and local governments (federalism) or power sharing between parties which is determined in the elections. A proportional representation system allows voters to elect representatives based on parties whereas in a member district system votes elect representatives based on the individuals.


 

  1. Arend Lijphart, “Constitutional Design for Divided Societies” Journal of Democracy 15(2): 96-109 (2004) Found in J. Tyler Dickovick, Jonathan Eastwood Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017) 177-186.
  2. “The president of the Philippines wants to change the constitution” The Economist, June 30, 2018. https://www.economist.com/asia/2018/06/30/the-president-of-the-philippines-wants-to-change-the-constitution.

 

Perks of Parliamentary

Clay Risen analyzed the effectiveness of a parliamentary system using the German example in his article “German Lessons”. He considers how some Americans fantasize over the German system because their many parties allow for greater representation and they must work together in coalitions. For years Germany had three major parties: the CDU, the SPD, and the FDP. As people got frustrated with their parties, they left and created new parties. Germany now has six major parties, which is troublesome because when it comes to grand-scale decision making, each party is based on specific personal preferences, and therefore cannot make decisions about such important issues. Risen argues America’s two-party system is better because each party covers a broad spectrum of ideals, making it more efficient in decision making. (1) 

 

An article published by the Jerusalem Post talks about how in Germany the police attempted to ban an alt-right group from marching on the anniversary of the Kristallnacht. The far-right group blames all the Muslims in Germany for violence inflicted upon Jews. Chancellor Merkel allowed for a great number of Muslim migrants in 2015, which led to the creation of a new political party in Germany; the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party argues that Islam does not coincide with the constitution of Germany. (2)

 

Is a multiparty, parliamentary system of government less effective at decision making than a two-party, presidential system?

 

There is no definite answer to this question. A lower number of parties causes each party to be responsible to have a certain stand on a variety of issues. As seen in the U.S., though, this can create a stalemate in Congress as each party does not want or does not know how to cooperate and compromise with the other party. A parliamentary system allows for this cooperation, but the parties comprising the coalition governments might not have a firm stance or be able to make a difference on certain issues.

(1) Clay Risen. “German Lessons” Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

(2) Reuters. “Merkel Commemorates Nazi Kristallnacht Against Jews With Synagogue Speech” Jerusalem Post. (November 9, 2018)

Cultural norms in relation to political representation

In “Is gender like ethnicity? The political representation of minority groups” by Mala Htun, the author analyzes the politics of gender and ethnicity and its effect on various electoral systems before introducing the best system to represent these two types of groups. The author describes how gender is a crosscutting group, meaning that it does not smoothly coincide with other social structures, class, or geography. This type of crosscutting group is best represented in government using quota systems, which can be within the parties or legislature-wide. Many countries introduce quotas with the hope that they will be a temporary stop on the road to equal representation of women in the legislatures. On the other hand, coinciding identities tend to drive party membership and voting patterns and are best suited to reservation systems that go around the parties and alter the electoral system to be more just.

In Ireland, the introduction of gender quotas by regulating the party candidates in 2016 has lead to many more women participating in politics. However, Ireland’s spot on the gender representation world ranking has been seriously declining in recent decades and the quotas did not seem to win women actual seats in the legislature. Some theorize that this has to do with the long-standing Irish sentiment that a woman’s place is in the home. However, the numbers are more encouraging in local governments, where women hold about 20% of the positions that govern at the county level.

Can cultural forces to keep women out of politics be so strong that even quotas fall short of their goal to better represent women?

Cultural norms can be beneficial or harmful for women based on their location and regime type. For example, in the UK, it is normal to see women in the workplace (even if not always in the highest-paying roles), which makes participation in politics a small step forward rather than a shocking sight. In addition, powerful figures like Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May have paved the way for other women in politics, so a quota system might be effective. However, some authoritarian societies like China have gender inequality rooted in the system so deeply that many Chinese parents have aborted or killed newborn Chinese girls since they have thought to be of less value than sons. In a society like this one, even quotas might not be effective since women aren’t very empowered even outside of politics.

Sources:

Htun, Mala. “Is Gender like Ethnicity? The Political Representation of Identity Groups.” Perspectives on Politics 2, no. 3 (2004): 439–58. Found in Dickovick, James Tyler, and Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. p255-268.

Demolder, Kate. “Ireland Needs to Elect More Women and This Is How We Achieve It.” IrishCentral.com. January 23, 2019. Accessed January 27, 2019. https://www.irishcentral.com/opinion/irish-politics-women-for-election.

Democratization

Henry Vaule

9/20/18

AP CG

Memo #3

 

With the recent increase in the democratization of many nations across the world, there has been a multitude of new forms of democracy. These new democracies vary in their style which has led many political scientists to question how each democracy should be labeled. This resulted in a new form of reviewing democracies called analytic differentiation. This new structure of evaluation allows political scholars to view each individual democracy instead as a more broad concept. Also, this analyzation has prompted many to challenge a multitude of these newer democracies.

 

One of these democracies that has been put into a spotlight by political scholars is Ghana. Since its transition to democracy in 1992, Ghana has had issues with free and fair voting and transitions of power. In the Newspaper, Modern Ghana, The Dean of Studies and Research at the Institute of Local Government, Dr. Eric Oduro-Osae states that Ghana’s democracy has so far been successful but many of the checks and balances have failed. He believes the failures of these checks has led to the increasing income gap in the country. His report suggested that the upper class earns more in a month than what the poor will earn in 1,000 years. This drastic difference is partly due to the corruption in the government that has benefited the wealthier in Ghana. Ghana can also not stray away from these corrupt leaders because it is harder to communicate to the general population because Ghana has high illiteracy rate and unlike larger and more powerful democracies, Ghana cannot distribute political information in an abundance ways.

 

Should the U.S. step in and aid these democracies in their process in democratization?

 

Although the U.S. has a history of interfering in these transitions because they refuse to give these countries time to become democratic, our government should not “help” these nations because it can take many years for a democracy to fully develop. Also, there is now various way to view or analyze a democracy, so the U.S. should not “jump the gun” and force the other country to accept our aid in their democratization.  

Anim-Appau, Felix. “Ghana’s Democracy Widening Inequality Gap.” Modern Ghana, Modern Ghana. (20 Sept. 2018.) www.modernghana.com/news/883925/ghanas-democracy-widening-inequality-gap.html.

Conflicts Within the Democratic Process

Henry Vaule

AP CG

2/7/19

Memo #14

According to The Atlantic and many other news outlets, Russia hacked the 2016 election. These hackers attacked the U.S. through social media, propaganda, and the Democratic Party. Both Facebook and Twitter found thousands of fake Russian accounts that had been influencing American voters. This caused confusion for many as there were limited credible news sources. The information that was stolen from the Democratic’s email servers was then given to Wikileaks. Many news sources spread this stolen information and thus helped the Russians. Overall, Russia was able to damage and humiliate America’s democratic system.

In his ongoing quest to diminish and belittle America’s political influence in the world, Putin has recently exchanged military and financial aid for Venezuela’s oil reserves. Also, Putin has publicly supported Venezuela’s current socialist president, Nicolas Maduro. This support directly contradicts America’s current situation with Venezuela as Trump has recognized the self-declared president, Juan Guaidó as the true leader.

How can America and Russia maintain a peaceful political relationship while Russia is secretly attempting to influence American politics?

Although it seems that Russia has been the main culprit of influencing one another’s politics, both America and Russia are guilty of this crime. Since the end of the Cold War, America and Russia have found ways to attack each other without actually fighting a war. This discrete battle usually takes the form of each country attempting to manipulate struggling governments like Venezuela. However, this recent cyber attack marks one of the first times of a direct attack in many years. Especially considering the importance of this election, Putin and his assumed fleet of hackers have definitely crossed a line and American-Russian relations are at an all-time low for the twenty-first century.

Julia Ioffe. “What Putin Really Wants.” The Atlantic. (December 11, 2017.) https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/01/putins-game/546548/.

“Putin Taunts Trump: 400 Russian Military Contractors Sent to Venezuela in Support of Maduro.” The Washington Times. (February 04, 2019.) https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/feb/4/vladimir-putin-backs-nicolas-maduro-military-contr/.

Bipartisanship in a deeply divided nation

In Pietro S. Novela’s “In Defense of Partisan Politics”, he describes the way that America has become more partisan in recent years and decades. In the past, there were factions within political parties like the liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats, and laws were passed by throwing together coalitions. Now, voters and their representative stay along party lines. To Novela, bi-partisanship is unattainable, and Americans need to accept that. He also mentions that the national electorate is just as excited about the democratic process despite the newfound partisanship.

Is bi-partisanship truly dead in America?

In the Washington Examiner’s “Media bands together to back CNN and Jim Acosta in lawsuit against Trump” by Melissa Quinn, she describes the White House’s ban on reporter Jim Acosta. After Acosta asked a question that Trump didn’t like, his staff sent a young woman to take the microphone from him. When he refused, she began to wrestle him for it, and the White House revoked his press pass on the grounds that he had inappropriately treated this young woman. CNN is suing the White House for violation of his First Amendment right to free speech and Fifth Amendment right to due process. Sixteen other news companies have backed CNN in their suit, including their ideological nemesis Fox News. This is a refreshing example of American bi-partisanship and how both sides of the aisle can team up to protect the fundamental institutions that the U.S. holds so dear.

Sources:

Nivola, Pietro S. “In Defense of Partisan Politics.” Brookings. July 28, 2016. https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/in-defense-of-partisan-politics/.

Quinn, Melissa. “Media Bands Together to Back CNN and Jim Acosta in Lawsuit against Trump.” Washington Examiner. November 14, 2018. Accessed November 16, 2018. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/media-bands-together-to-back-cnn-and-jim-acosta-in-lawsuit-against-trump.

Transistion into an Authoritarian Regime

Henry Vaule

AP CG

11/14/18

Memo #11

Authoritarianism is in it’s most basic definition is “a form of government or regime that is non-democratic”. Even though we all have the privilege to live in a democratic society, many places still have an authoritarian ruling regime. Throughout history, an authoritarian rule has been the norm for multiple regimes, all with different variations. These regimes have traditionally been centered around one individual or a small group of elites. Today, new authoritarian regimes are often formed after a coup or a democratic breakdown, which is the transition from a democratic to a non-democratic regime. If a current authoritarian leader is removed, the process of authoritarian persistence may occur. This is the ongoing continuation of an authoritarian regime, such that democratic transition does not take place. This processes can often occur in less developed countries such as Nigeria. Between 1979 and 1983, Nigeria experienced a brief period of democracy, however after this regime failed, an authoritarian leader once again regained power.

Although American politics appears to distance itself from authoritarian regimes, many of these regimes have been discretely influencing our politics for years. In a recent article by Bloomberg Government, it was revealed that multiple authoritarian regimes have been investing millions in lobbying. These regimes hire companies to have their country promoted. Saudi Arabia, a country that has had numerous human rights issues, apparently spent $24 million in lobbying since the beginning of 2017.

How should America interact with unstable Authoritarian regimes?

Once a stable relationship has been established between America and the Authoritarian regime, America should respectfully feel free to trade or establish deals with this country. However, these regimes should have no influence on America’s politics through the abused lobbying system.

James Tyler, Dickovickand Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Integrating Theories, Methods, and Cases. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.)

Jodie, Morris. “Authoritarian Regimes Pay Millions to K Street Lobbyists.” Bloomberg Government. (January 09, 2019.) https://about.bgov.com/blog/authoritarian-regimes-pay-millions-k-street-lobbyists/.

PR or SMD? It’s not all the same to me…

In Andrew Reynolds and John M. Carey’s “Getting Elections Wrong”, they argue against Meisburger’s defense of a single-member district system (SMD). Reynolds and Carey believe that proportional representation (PR) can be highly effective, and they debunk his idea that PR is only possible in established countries that have parties and strong ideologies. They also explain the PR has been successful in Tunisia post-Arab Spring, and that the PR system best represents minority groups.

Is proportional representation successful in reflecting the will of the people on crucial and divisive issues such as healthcare?

In The Star Vancouver’s November 1 article “Proportional representation could create a better health-care system, advocates say”, Cherise Seucharan says that British Columbia residents are choosing between a PR and SMD system of representation. The article says that PR provides the best system of election for healthcare, and does not affect the country’s economic growth. An expert she interviewed even stated that PR leads to “seamlessly integrated” healthcare in a society. It can be hard to tell which system will best reflect the will of the people but in terms of health care in Canada, it is the best option. However, it remains to seen how it would fair for other issues and in other countries with distinct cultures and characteristics. For example, in the United States, a change to a PR system could seriously dismantle the laws and ideas America has considered fundamental. To illustrate, the majority of Americans support further gun control legislation, and this change to the Second Amendment would actually be a reality in a PR system.

Sources:

Reynolds, Andrew, and John M. Carey. “Getting Elections Wrong.” Journal of Democracy. April 17, 2012. https://www.journalofdemocracy.org/article/debating-electoral-systems-getting-elections-wrong.

Seucharan, Cherise. “Proportional Representation Could Create a Better Health-care System, Advocates Say.” Thestar.com. November 01, 2018. https://www.thestar.com/vancouver/2018/11/01/proportional-representation-could-create-a-better-health-care-system-advocates-say.html.

Free Speech, Free Lies

In Lance Wallace’s The Importance of Critical Thinking he discusses the difficulty groups with differing opinions have when engaging in meaningful conversation. Wallace believes the reason for this is that people often think in the black and white rather in the more difficult grey area. In addition not everyone is comfortable with the skill of critical thinking.  The solution Wallace suggests to this problem is that people need to be more open-minded.

While the internet has created the ideal space for free speech to prosper with sites like Wikipedia, reports show that free speech may be under attack. Governments have taken control of several news outlets and increased the censorship within social media. Corruption has also taken its toll on free speech with reporters and journalist from countries like Mexico being assassinated for speaking their mind. As well as corruption and government interference in media, the difficulty people have with indifference and opposing opinions has also affected the freedom of speech. Many western democracies thrive on free speech which pushes authoritarian regimes to cripple it.

 

Why is critical thinking essential to a democratic society and how can be used to protect free speech?

 

According to the procedural  definition of democracy, there is a set of political rights and civil liberties that determine if a democratic society is truly democratic. Although the political rights mostly have to do with elections, civil liberties address that strong democracies need to allow freedom of speech, access to information, and the ability to assemble. If a democracy increases the restrictions of these freedoms it would be considered democratic breakdown. This freedom of opinion and the expression of that opinion is what allows the multiple party aspect of a democracy to be successful. Critical thinking and an open mindedness allows there parties to debate and coexist peacefully.


  1. Lance Wallace, “The Importance of Critical Thinking,” The Atlantic, (May 9, 2009).
  2. “Under Attack,” The Economist, (June 4, 2016). https://www.economist.com/leaders/2016/06/04/under-attack