Quirk: Last week, OpenCanada posted its summer reading list. What’s on yours?

By: /
25 July, 2012
By: Paul Quirk
Phil Lind Chair in US Politics and Representation, Department of Political Science, University of British Columbia

For Canadians who follow international affairs closely, no topic is more pertinent than the state of American politics. Think it looks bad? Two leading commentators on American politics are here to explain, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism (Basic Books, 2012). In readable prose, with no more than a tad of academic jargon, Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein explain the origins and demonstrate the disastrous consequences of the “asymmetric polarization” of American party politics. Cited as nonpartisans for more than thirty years, they show that while Democratic politicians and voters have become significantly more liberal, Republicans have become a great deal more conservative – and willing to hold the entire country and its economy hostage in pursuit of their extreme positions. As a result, a political system designed by the Founders to provide checks-and-balances instead produces partisan warfare, and a government incapable of addressing serious problems. Although they are hardly optimists about the near-term, Mann and Ornstein conclude with a thorough canvassing of potential strategies for ameliorating the situation, focusing mainly on electoral reforms that could help moderates make a comeback. For additional assessments, OpenCanada.org readers should check out the blurbs from Bill Clinton, Paul Volcker, and many others on Amazon.com.

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Journalism in Canada has suffered a devastating decline over the last two decades. Dozens of newspapers and outlets have shuttered. Remaining newsrooms are smaller. Nowhere is this erosion more acute than in the coverage of foreign policy and international news. It’s expensive, and Canadians, oceans away from most international upheavals, pay the outside world comparatively little attention.

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