POLARIZATION WHY? Howard...

POLARIZATION WHY? Howard Kurtz reports that "a group of political strategists who have spent years firing heavy artillery at each other came together at the Hay-Adams Hotel yesterday, put aside their weapons, decried the polarized state of debate in America and vowed a new approach to peaceful coexistence." My first instinct is to say that any Democrats (and, for that matter, Republicans) who have any of the strategists in question working for them ought to fire them all immediately. Obviously, there's absolutely no place for people who don't like partisanship running partisan political campaigns. It'd be like hiring a soccer coach who thinks the World Cup is boring -- whether or not he's right, you don't want him anywhere near your team.

That said, it always strikes me as remarkable that nobody ever seems to wonder if there might be actual structural reasons for the rise in political polarization that can't be overcome through a website. When you think about it, after all, polarization is the default state of a political system organized around zero-sum competition between two parties. America used to be less polarized because it used to have the functional equivalent of a multiparty system, thanks to the existence of racial segregation in the South. So should we bring back segregation in order to open up more possibilities for cross-cutting coalition politics? That seems like a bad idea. Should we amend the Constitution to create a parliamentary system with proportional representation? I actually think that would be a good idea in many ways, but obviously it's wildly impractical. So what are you going to do? Nothing, it seems.

--Matthew Yglesias

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