Ode to Lijphart and Democratic Dreams [political poetry]

  1.                   Professor, I have learned that—that I am confused…
  2. Hello, my friend. Who was your muse?
  3.                   ‘Twas brainhand; rather, footemouth. No! Lijphart!
  4. ‘Tis a wise muse. How are you confused?
  5.                    For you told me that Democracy is engaged
  6.                    Behaviorally, attitutudinally, and constitutionally.
  7.                    But Lijphart uses Dahl’s Polyarchy!
  8.                      Democracy is not of 3 tenets made.
  9.                         Not 3—but 8!
  10. Hmmm. You are bemused. Eight?
  11.                                Note: first is               the right to vote,
  12.                            Seconded by the           right to be elected.
  13.                      Three is the right of       political parties to compete.
  14.                      Four: free and fair elections adorned forevermore.
  15.                       Fifth: freedom of association is no longer a myth.
  16.                    Six: freedom of expression is infused into the public.
  17.                  Seven: information from all sources are tolerated.
  18.                         Weighty eight! Institutions depend on votes!
  19.                                 The political society! There are eight!
  20.                                       Isn’t this how democracy is made?
  21.                                                  What do you SAY!?
  22.                                                             Daresay!
  23. Recall: of you I made one request.
  24. “Continue to learn” ‘twas all I asked.
  25. So now learn this: humble student of mine,
  26. Democracy’s defined differently every time.
  27.                           Now I’m not confused, but aghast!
  28.                           Political Science as a field won’t last!
  29.                           Arbitrary topics and fabricated anomalies!
  30.                           Must be nice to mold your research to your dreams!
  31.                           To make reality appear just as you think it seems!
  32. Most political scientists agree,
  33. that only very recently,
  34. did a few Governments
  35. deliver “democracy.”
  36. Tis why Dahl created Polyarchy
  37. Think about the history of the United States…
  38. Still in D.C.,
  39. they doth protest
  40. not having “the vote”
  41. On their license plates.
  42.                             Sir, this headache will last.
  43.                             I know millions of Blacks-
  44.                             Didn’t have the RIGHT to vote,
  45.                                    in America,
  46.                             Just about a grandfather ago!
  47.                             Leave me alone!
  48.                             Go “Research”!
  49.                             Go define according to your own design!
  50.                             So I’ll continue to learn that your field is mired!
  51.                             That you are fully political, and, void of science!
  52.                             I am sick and tired
  53.                            Of intellectual liars!
  54. You are more than just bemused, but angry too.
  55. Let’s get back to Lijphart, you passionate fool.
  56. Let’s carefully examine his range of democracy,
  57. And I am sure that you shall see—
  58.  That our field is much like surfing:
  59.    To stand on a moving floor,
  60.         Well, that’s not easy.
  61.                             Please excuse my lack of congeniality.
  62.                             Without our conversations I…
  63.                              I would know nothing…
  64.                             ‘bout regimes—
  65.                             ‘bout democracy.
  66.                              I am truthfully wired
  67.                              To seek knowledge—
  68.                              I too am sometimes inspired.
  69. Political scientists are quite careful to explain
  70. Their “model” for the public to carp or praise.
  71. Lijphart said that Dahl’s eight “democracy” rungs
  72. Had to continue for 19 years, regardless of thugs—otherwise,
  73. Withheld from the “study” it was.
  74.                              I know, I read.
  75. So you read Lijphart’s book on government forms:
  76. Patterns of Democracy in thirty-six countries—so explore:
  77.          The “consensus” and “majoritarian,” err, structures.
  78.                              A bog-standard majoritarian model
  79.                                  is within the U.K.,
  80.                              Of consensus are Switzerland
  81.                                  and the European Union today.
  82.                              Consensus is more democratic
  83.                              Than the majoritarian way.
  84. Right.
  85.                              The majoritarian model consigns power to the cabinet.
  86.                              Comprised of party members,
  87.                              From the House of Commons, and
  88.                              If a singly party governs the Parliament,
  89.                              Like in the U.K.,
  90.                              Where one party has been quite dominant,
  91.                              Then power remains;
  92.                                   strong—
  93.                              ‘Till a vote of no confidence reigns.
  94. Go on.
  95.                               A two-party system is largely the norm
  96.                               In a majoritarian style, structural show.
  97.                               Both parties may be quite similar, in fact,
  98.                               Differing on economics, or ethnicity, or…
  99. Don’t use the word structure, please.
  100. Or I foresee another contentious opening…
  101.                               Also descriptive of the majoritarian mold
  102.                               Is the pluralist method called “first past the post.”
  103.                               Here, the candidate with the most votes wins
  104.                               Even if it’s only 1 more vote…
  105.                               Than 10 other candidates.
  106. What do some political scientists think of that?
  107.                              That this “manufactures majorities”[i]
  108.                              That it’s loved by the two major parties.
  109.                              ‘Tis making disproportional representation.
  110.                              Smaller parties are reduced to getting the coffee.
  111. Right on.
  112.                              The “majority” party thus plays
  113.                              While the opposing party waits…
  114.                              Interest groups fray.
  115.                              ‘Tis a Free-for-all sight!
  116.                              From Article 19 to Charter88,
  117.                              From Oxfam to OutRage! To Christian Aid’s light!
  118.                              We see pressure and suspense,
  119.                              Rather than a compromised fate.
  120.                              Whence “Compromise” lay dying
  121.                              Since they’ve pummeled the others’
  122.                                                                                               Rightful place.
  123. Good. Good.
  124.                               Another thing about the majoritarian approach
  125.                               Is that a unitary and centralized government denotes
  126.                                      Public policy.
  127.                               A unicameral legislature…
  128. What about the U.K.?
  129. And the House of Lords?
  130.                                The House of Lords is to public policy;
  131.                                   A possible delay.
  132.                                They may, for a year, hold policy at bay—
  133.                                But then it becomes law,
  134.                                Regardless of what they say, so,
  135.                                   No obstacle do they place.
  136. Oh, yes. That’s true.
  137.                                Finally, there may not be a written constitution
  138.                                For the people to view.
  139.                                Thus there is an absence
  140.                                Of judicial review.
  141.                                And since the cabinet holds so much power;
  142.                                O’er institutions the executive towers—
  143.                                Like controlling the central bank…
  144.                                ‘Tis true about the U.K.
  145. Some call all that the Westminster Model.
  146.                                And now would you like a few words,
  147.                                About democracy as a consensus model?
  148.                                    That Lijphart observed?
  149. Good idea. Let’s hear.
  150.                                 Democracy means participation by all,
  151.                                 So elections should account for parties ‘at are small,
  152.                                 Whereas people vote for a party to hold seats,
  153.                                 So that the will of the people accounts for defections
  154.                                    and treats—
  155.                                 All parties equally.
  156. What does that mean?
  157.                                  When you go to the polling place,
  158.                                  Under consensus you indicate,
  159.                                  The party to which you most agree.
  160.                                  The vote totals are then translated
  161.                                        to a proportional-
  162.                                   Representation scheme.
  163.                                  This clearly makes for multiple parties,
  164.                                  Coalition cabinets, power-sharing presidents,
  165.                                  Federal and decentralized governments.
  166.                                   There’s a constitution
  167.                                   And judicial review.
  168.                                   A bicameral institution
  169.                                   Bank independence too.
  170. You say that you are confused?!
  171.                                   Consenus embraces interest group corporatism,
  172.                                      ‘Tis called concertation.
  173.                                   Whence labor, government, and business
  174.                                       Sign tripartite pacts; I mean,
  175.                                   ‘Tis functional compromises.
  176.                                      Moving forward they all are,
  177.                                   Consensually decided.
  178.                                       Do you see?
  179.  Indeed!
  180.                                   So Lijphart analyzed 36 democracies,
  181.                                   His evidence favors consensus in chapter 16.
  182.                                   But it seems that we are out of time.
  183.                                   At a later date I’ll unwind…
  184. Tell me, with your new knowledge,
  185. About the Americans.
  186. Do you know?
  187. Is it more of a consensus show?
  188.                                     Mostly, but professor, I must go.
  189. And they claim to be the oldest democracy.
  190. Am I wrong?
  191.                                     ‘Tis true
  192. But what of their national elections?
  193.                                       Constitutionally: ‘Tis a ruse.
  194. Yes. Why is that?
  195.                                      The Congress persons are elected from the states,
  196.                                      And the President is elected by state representatives.
  197.                                      The President is elected through the Electoral College
  198.                                      “This forms a single-purpose disposable parliament.”[ii]
  199.                                      State electors choose a President!
  200.                                          I must admit,
  201.                                     Gore won the peoples’ vote,
  202.                                          but was never President.
  203. What could be done?
  204.                                      Change the constitution…
  205.                                      Though I have an admission,
  206.                                      That ‘twill never happen.
  207. Or perchance…
  208.                                      State’s could voluntarily cast
  209.                                            Their electoral votes
  210.                                      For the future Gores
  211.                                            Who win by a nose.
  212. Is the United States truly a democracy?
  213.                                      Indeed!
  214.                                      Americans are free.
  215.                                      As best can be,
  216.                                      Considering reality!
  217. But there are no national elections? Like China?
  218.                                      I cannot here remain.
  219.                                      I must catch a plane.
  220.                                      And need tons of time for the TSA…
  221. Go, my friend. We shall meet again.
  222. I’m off to watch the U.S. surfing open.
  223. To see the Detroit Surf All Stars hang ten!
  224. I heard they were at Mavericks!

[i] Page 15. Quote attributed to Douglas W. Rae (1967, 74).

[ii] From Dr. Deegan-Krause, lecture, 2011.

Content from: Lijphart, A. (1999). Patterns of democracy : government forms and performance in thirty-six countries. New Haven: Yale University Press.


3 thoughts on “Ode to Lijphart and Democratic Dreams [political poetry]

  1. Pingback: In Search of Ideological Congruence « Political Pipeline

  2. Pingback: Poli-Sci “Parties” Poetry Book « Political Pipeline

  3. Pingback: Surfing via Political Pipeline | Political Pipeline

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