No matter which country you look at, the politics are terrible. I mean, really awful. We could blame it on greed, or lust for power, or the Internet, or fake news, or whatever cause you choose. It doesn’t matter. It’s all bad.
There is a hierarchy of bad governments with totalitarianism as probably the worst, closely followed by military dictatorships, and so on, but I was raised to believe that constitutional democracy was the best of a bad lot. In the UK they also have the monarchy, but the royals are pretty much just decorative these days.
So, when I came to Canada, I was fully in accordance with it having a constitutional monarchy because that is what I was used to. Having the Queen as a sort of cherry on top with the Senate and the House of Commons doing the actual work of government was something I was quite comfortable with. The government may change every few years, but the Queen provides some sort of constancy. I’m not really sure what good she actually does, but constancy feels good.
Having a constitutional democracy means that the people can form political parties any time they like. For most of my life, the two main UK political parties have been Labour and Conservative, but they cannot rest on their laurels because they have lots of competition. In 2019 there were 408 (yes, four hundred and eight!) registered political parties in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. If they want, Brits can vote for the Raving Loony Green Giant party or the Fancy Dress Party. I kid you not. As it turns out, though, only ten parties are currently represented in the UK House of Commons.
In Canada in 2019 there were five parties elected to the federal parliament. Although the Liberals won the election, they did not have more seats than the other parties put together. So, they have to negotiate. In order to get any bills passed, the Liberals have to get some of the members of some of the other parties on board.
This makes perfect sense to me. It means that no one party gets to call all the shots. They have to come to some sort of agreement with enough non-Liberals to make anything happen. In the process, they have to get to know each other and understand what motivates people from different political points of view. They don’t have to agree on everything, but they have to agree on enough and make sufficient concessions for their proposals to get the go-ahead.
In the United States, every election comes down to just two parties. There are some other, minor, parties (including Libertarian, Green, and Constitution) but they generally throw their weight behind either the Democratic or Republican candidate.
This system seems to be the least satisfying of the constitutional democratic systems. Whoever wins does not really have to negotiate with anyone else. They don’t have to listen to or understand any other points of view and they don’t have to care about any political goals other than their own.
Admittedly, that is a little bit better than trying to negotiate with 407 other parties, but not by much.
If we can agree that a constitutional democracy is the best form of government, can we also agree that there should be fewer than four hundred and eight parties but more than two? I’m not saying that either ten or five parties is ideal, but given how diverse our societies are, more of us should be represented in our governments. At the same time, we need to have more negotiations and mediation between groups to keep anyone’s ego from getting too big. We also need to burst a few influence bubbles, but we can leave media issues for another day.
If the elected politicians all have to get together and reach consensus or compromise on issues, they may get to understand and even perhaps to like one another. You never know.