Accountability and Political Support Issues Within Democracies

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Adolino and Blake's piece explored and made comparisons of the economic and political structures in large, industrialized nations. By first breaking down influences by social cleavages, interest groups, political parties, electoral systems, etc., the task of identifying influences becomes more manageable and productive. For instance, it is easier to predict how many major parties will compete in a national election if we can determine whether SMDP or proportional representation is used. Adolino and Blake also spent a great deal of time using the metrics discussed previously to perform an in-depth comparison of the United States, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, and the EU. I was particularly interested in the section describing the United States' political and economic structures, and comparing them to the United Kingdom. Strengths of the United States presidential, federal system are flexibility in implementation and design of policy, public participation during the policy-making process, and (in my mind) appropriate judicial review. The weaknesses of this system are quite concerning, and include having unclear lines of political accountability and potential for crippling gridlock. Adolino and Blake also note the increasing trend of two-party systems competing in a "contest" to appeal to the median voter. This leads to less polarizing party topics, and the increase of "catch all" parties attempting to represent a wider base of voter interests. Anyone who had a pulse during the last election cycle can remember these contests unfold.

Easton touched on the issue of accountability and political support as well, albeit less so than Adolino and Blake's piece. Easton described political systems as a, "system of activity," in which sources of inputs such as supports and demands ultimately decide the outputs of decisions and policy. A combination of demands by people and organizations that must be met, and support in terms of actions undertaken to ensure operation of these demands create the inputs for a political system. Easton argues that support for a government or groups such as political parties is built up in reserve. So although an individual may not always support outputs, there has been enough agreement in the past for the individual to still offer support.

Do large, two-party systems act as centrists because of tendencies to appeal to the median voter, or because it is easier to identify and ultimately hold accountable those who represent entire districts under SMDP? How will centrist US political parties threaten reserve support?

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