Broken: A Primer on American Political Disorder
ow that the 2012 campaign is over, we would do well to turn attention in earnest to the problems the United States faces, none of which are the slightest bit closer to resolution as a consequence of the election.1 Never has an American presidential race been so devoid of serious debate and genuine ideas as this one was, and this at a time when our need for real analysis and bold proposals is greater than ever. The country is in real trouble—not on account of some foreign adversary, but because our political system has become broadly dysfunctional. The recent election season, far from improving things, rather stands as a symptom of the dysfunction.
Strong views on the sources of contemporary American political dysfunction certainly exist, but just as certainly there is no consensus as to which view is correct—and one cannot readily remedy a problem unless one has first figured out what it is. This is obviously no easy task, or someone would have already done it.
Why has this task been so hard? There are several reasons, but a key one is that it’s not obvious what we need to know. We have a levels-of-analysis problem, and we need a Goldilocks Solution for it. Some fixes are too superficial: Just repair the campaign finance system, or persuade politicians to be less partisan and more civil and all will be well, some say. But they won’t, and the fact that we cannot achieve even these modest objectives points to something deeper having gone awry.