Changes in the American political system: Tea Party and political narrowcasting

I watched Fareed’s Take on CNN about the success of small interest groups in the United States – like the Tea Party. I recommend to watch this video on YouTube, because it’s very instructive and gives a good overview of the changes in the political system of the United States. But in „European“ ears Fareed Zakaria’s comments about the „European parties“ sounds a little bit funny. We have different political systems, of course. Great Britain is not Germany. In Germany it is for a party very difficult to dominate all levels of legislation. Even a big people party have to compromise to build a government coalition or to find support in the second chamber, the Bundesrat… After Adenauer it is for a single party no longer possible to rule all levels („durchregieren“). I think Zakaria oversimplified „European“ politics in the end of his take, even for the American audience. – Here is a summary:

The result of ideologically pure parties is abysmal

Why is the Tea Party able to dominate Washington? We have plenty of ideologically charged movements come to Washington before, but once in Washington, the system encouraged compromise. But over the last few decades, the rules organising american politics have changed. They now encourage small interest groups to capture major political parties. We call it political narrowcasting. Redistricting has created safe seats. Most house members are only challenged from the extreme right and left. The incentive is to abandon the base. Party primaries have to been taken over by a small group of activists who even push popular senators to extreme positions. Changing in congressional rules have also made difficult to enact large compromise legislation. After the Watergate scandals the Congress opened committee meetings and so it is become more open to lobbyists, money and special interests. Political polarisation has been fueled by a new media which is also narrowcast. American parties seem to become more ideologically pure and coherent like European parties as some political scientists long hoped. The result is abysmal. America does not have a parliamentary system like Europe in which one party takes control of all levels of political power and acts its agenda. Power in the United States is shared by a set of institutions with overlapping authorities. People have to cooperate for the system to work. One thing on which the founding fathers all agreed was that adversarial political parties would bad for the American republic. But politics can be changed. Republican Mikey Edwards suggests in an essay in the Atlantic Magazine a series of reforms.

Fareed Zakaria was born in India on January 20, 1964. He went on to receive a B.A. from Yale College and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. In 2010, Foreign Policy named him one of the top 100 global thinkers. For more information see Zakaria’s website:

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