Power-Sharing

There is a dry, but very deep, humor in a bipartisan delegation from the U.S. Congress urging an end to the sabotage of government in Northern Ireland, where one party is exploiting a power-sharing agreement by refusing to participate in necessary compromise.

I may not have all the details exactly right, but my general understanding is that government in Northern Ireland essentially guarantees participation for multiple political factions, backed up by a powerful veto on even the formation of government after the questionably-meaningful elections.

Any readers probably don’t need me to spell this out, but… that’s all too similar to how American government works, or rather doesn’t work, given the similar sabotage ongoing, here.

For the purposes of this post, the details of Brexit and the Northern Ireland Protocol and the Good Friday Agreement are largely extraneous. The essential point is that the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), one of the political factions with a guaranteed place within and veto over Northern Ireland government, is now pursuing its agenda by taking governance itself hostage. Quoth The Guardian: “The DUP has thwarted the formation of an executive and assembly at Stormont in protest at the protocol.”

It is especially funny that the DUP are offended at members of the US Congress calling on them to release the hostages, given that the US Congress is in its own affairs as inspiring a model as the DUP could wish for.

In practice, America’s national government or at all events the legislature has been a power-sharing coalition arrangement for many decades. This is not a written rule, anywhere, but in practice it has obviously been honored more than various written rules. Hurdles aside, people get to vote politicians into or out of office, and vote parties into or out of majorities, but both major parties got a veto on legislation no matter what. After decades of deterioration, at the beginning of 2009, the Republican Party committed itself to sabotage. No bargaining, no cooperation, just paralyzing whatever they couldn’t break. But, just as importantly, the Democratic Party (and for that matter most of America’s institutions) had no response to this irresponsibility except to sputter “that isn’t how it’s supposed to work.” Any recognition of and adaptation to the reality of sabotage, since, has been no more than limited and entirely inadequate. In 2006 and 2008, voters gave Democrats an enormous mandate to govern, and in different ways both Democrats and Republicans then rejected that.

But some of them jetted off to Northern Ireland to deliver a bipartisan scolding about how the same shit is simply not on, for the DUP. Sadly, if anyone in the DUP mocked the ludicrous contrast between what the American Congress does, and what its members asy the DUP must do, I have not seen reports of it.

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