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The 2012 election will not solve Washington’s problems

By Ezra Klein,

Vote View Politico poobahs John Harris and Jonathan Allen say the era of bipartisan compromise is over, or at least both sides believe it to be. That seems right. But they also quote Kevin McCarthy, the third-in-command for the House Republicans, predicting that the issues paralyzing Washington will get decided in the election. “2012 is going to be the argument for the size and scope of what they want America to be,” he says. He’s wrong.

If this was the United Kingdom or France or some other country with a parliamentary system, McCarthy would, for the purposes of wielding power, be correct. There would be an election, one side or the other side would win, and the winners would implement their agenda. But we don’t have a parliamentary system.

Instead, the election is likely to be close. If Obama wins, he will face a Congress that is likely to be controlled in part or in full by Republicans. If Romney wins, he will face a Congress in which Democrats have, at the least, sufficient strength to mount filibusters in the Senate. Whichever side loses will have lost with a vote share in the high-40s, so it will be impossible to argue that the American people have decisively chosen one philosophy or another. Whichever side wins will take partial control of a gridlocked and polarized political system.

The debate, in other words, will not be settled. The stalemate will not be over. And a political system built for an era of bipartisan compromise will continue to struggle in an age of harsh polarization.

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